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Title:      D'Artagnan (1928)
Author:     H. Bedford Jones (James O'Brien) 1887-1949
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0300911.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          June 2003
Date most recently updated: June 2003

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      D'Artagnan (1928)
Author:     H. Bedford Jones (James O'Brien) 1887-1949


This story augments and incorporates without alteration a
fragmentary manuscript whose handwriting has been identified as
that of Alexandre Dumas, and as such authenticated by Victor
Lemasle, the well known expert of Paris. So far as can be
learned, it has remained unpublished hitherto.

No romantic tale can be attached to this manuscript, though one
is tempted to weave a fantastic and plausible prologue after the
fashion of Rider Haggard.  The Thounenin will, whose existence in
a French collection of old documents possibly suggested the story
to the author, has been secured and is in the possession of the
publisher. This sheet of old vellum, stamped with the arms of
Lorraine and signed by Leonard, hereditary grand tabellion of the
province, is in itself a curiosity.

In here presenting a complete story, the writer has no apologies
to offer.  Nothing can be learned about this tale from the life
or literary remains of Dumas.  The child about whom it centers
will be recognized as the Vicomte de Bragelonne, hero of the
later novels of the series, whose parentage is very plainly set
forth by Dumas in "Twenty Years After." The publisher, who is the
owner of the manuscript in question, is of course fully informed
as to what portion of this novel is from the pen of Dumas, and
what from the typewriter of

H.  Bedford-Jones.
Ann Arbor, April 1, 1928




I.    Introducing a Queen, a Soldier and Rogue
II.   Proving That Neither King Nor Minister Ruled France
III.  Mention the Devil, and He Appears
IV.   A Marshal Arrives, a Lieutenant Depari
V.    Four Letters Are Sent, One Arrives
VI.   In Which Athos Utters Predictions
VII.  Miracles Are Sometimes Unwelcome
VIII. In Which a Gentleman Proves to Be Good Woman
IX.   A Naked Man Has No Choice
X.    The Extraordinary Adventure of  the Comte de La Fere
XI.   The Still More Extraordinary Adventures of M. Du Vallon
XII.  In Which D'Artagnan Accomplishes Two Things for Others,
      One for Himself
XIII. One Means of Admission to the Order of the Holy Ghost
XIV.  Instead of One Father, Two Appear
XV.   Two Depart, Three Remain
XVI.  The Astonishing Effect of a Kick Upon a Dead Man




On the second Thursday in July, 1630, the  ancient city of Lyon
had become the second capital of France. Louis XIII and Cardinal
de Richelieu, who had been with the army in Savoy, were returned
to Grenoble; the court and the two queens had come to Lyon. Paris
was empty as the grave, and between Lyon and Grenoble fluctuated
all court business, since Marie de Medici, the queen-mother,
acted as regent while Louis XIII was on campaign.

On the south side of the Place des Terreaux, overlooking the
Saone to the left and the Rhone to the right, stood the vast
convent of the Dames Benedictines. This massive building, of
which today only the directory remains, rang loud with voices and
glittered bravely with gay costumes and weapons.  Musketeers
guarded the high gates, coaches thundered in the paved courtyard,
and at the river-bank below the fair green gardens waited gilded
barges; in truth, at this moment two queens of France were
residing within its walls.

In an upper room, beside a tiny fire that burned in the
wall-hearth to dispel the chill of  morning, sat a woman who read
a letter in some agitation. Despite the tapestry adorning the
walls, and the handsome curtains of the bed, the room bore an air
of severity and plainness which spoke of the conventual

The woman who sat in this room was about thirty; that is to say,
at the height of womanly perfection; the velvety softness of her
skin, her powdered chestnut hair, and her beautiful hands,
combined to make her appear much younger.  Pride mingled with a
gentle sadness in her features; a certain lofty majesty in her
mien was tempered by kindliness and sweetness. Her eyes were
quite brilliant, yet now a cloudy phantom of terror was gathering
in their liquid depths, as she read the disturbing phrases of
this letter:

"Though it grieves me to trouble you, yet you must be placed on
guard. Knowing this goes direct to your hand, I write plainly and
trust you to destroy it at once.

"In 1624, six years ago, one Francois Thounenin was a cure at
Dompt; he there made his will. In the following year he was
transferred to Aubain, near Versailles, by the influence of my
family, of which he was a relation. Two years ago he died in this
same village of Aubain.  Before dying, being on a visit to
Dompt,he made a codicil to his will; it was incorporated with the
original document deposited at Nancy.  This addition, made in the
fear of death, concerned a certain child. We knew nothing of the
codicil naturally.  Thounenin died soon after it was made, and
learning of this, we arranged for the child.

"This will has been taken from the archives. The fact was learned
at once, pursuit was begun and I have every reason to believe
that the document will be recovered and destroyed. That it
concern you were impossible; yet I fear, my dear friend, lest it
be made to concern you! I am closely watched, my friends are
suspect, it is difficult for me to do anything.

"If possible, send me a messenger whom you can trust. I may have
no other chance to write you by a sure hand, yet it is imperative
that you be kept informed of danger or -- of security.  Adieu!
Destroy this.


The woman who wrote this letter was Marie de Rohan, Duchesse de
Chevreuse, the most able and determined of Richelieu's enemies.
The woman who read it was Anne of Austria, Queen of France, the
most beautiful and helpless of Richelieu's victims.  When she had
read the letter, the queen let it fall upon the flames in the
fireplace; in another moment it had become a black ash lifting
upward on the draught. Her head falling on her hand, the queen
fell into agitated reverie.

"Good God, what can this mean -- what is it about -- what will
they attempt next against me or my friends?" murmured Anne of
Austria. Her beautiful eyes were suffused with tears. "And what
can I do -- whom can I send -- in what person can I trust, when I
am allowed to see no one in private except by express

At this instant a tap at the door roused her, caused her to
efface all trace of emotion. Into the room came Dona Estafania,
the only one of her Spanish attendants now remaining at her side.
She curtseyed to the queen from the doorway.

"Your Majesty, the courier is here for the despatches. Madame the
Queen-mother requests that if yours are ready, they be sent

"They are lying on my secretary," said the queen. Guessing from
the formal address that the messenger was waiting, she added:
"This courier -- he is at hand?"

"Yes, madame," said Dona Estafania. "He is M. d'Artagnan, a
gentleman of the Musketeers --"

"Ah!" murmured the queen. "Wait --"

At the mention of this name, a swift pallor leaped in her cheeks
and then was gone in a suffused red half concealed by her rouge.
Perhaps she remembered this name; perhaps other days came
before her eyes in this moment; perhaps the memory  of dead
Buckingham pierced her sharply.

"He is alone?" she asked quickly, impulsive

"Yes madame."

"Ask him to enter. Get the letters. Close the door. You may

Next instant d'Artagnan, booted and spurred knelt above the
queen's hand and touched it with his lips.  Smiling she looked
down at his eager face, brimming with devotion.

"Artagnan -- you depart for Grenoble?

"With despatches for His Majesty, madame."

"Mine are ready -- give them to me, Dona Estafania, if you

From her lady she took the sealed letters and handed them to
d'Artagnan, who bowed and placed them in his pocket.

"Monsieur," said the queen, her voice a trifle unsteady, "would
you serve me?"

D'Artagnan looked at her in astonishment.

"With my life, madame!" he exclaimed, eagerly.

"I believe you," she said. "Indeed, I think that I have some
reason to believe you. I am accused of forgetting many things, M.
d'Artagnan -- but there are many things I only seem to forget."
Once more a slight pallor came into her face.  "M. de
Bassompierre has declared openly that he serves the king, his
master -- and holds it to be the duty of a gentleman to recognize
such service as superior to any other."

D'Artagnan bowed, and his eyes flashed a little.

"Madame," he responded vibrantly, "thank God I am M. d'Artagnan,
and not M. de Bassompierre!  A Marshal of France serves the king.
A simple gentleman serves a lady. If Your Majesty has the least
need of service -- impart it to me, I implore you! It is the
greatest happiness of my life to lay my service at your feet,
holding you second only to God Himself!"

Truth shone in the eyes of the young man, sincerity rang in his

"Ah, M. d'Artagnan!" exclaimed the queen softly. "If only you
were in the place of M. de Bassompierre!"

"Then were I unfortunate, madame, since he is with the army and
not here."

The queen caught a warning gesture from Dona Estafania. Time was

"Good." From her finger she took a ring and extended it. "Take
this to Dampierre, give it into the hand of Madame de Chevreuse,
tell her I sent you. That is all. She will give you a verbal
message for me, I think. Go when you can, as you can obtain
leave; return when you can. I am powerless to help you -- if I
tried, you would fall under suspicion --"

D'Artagnan came to his knee, kissed the fingers she proffered
him, and rose.

"Madame," he said simply, "my life is yours, my honor is yours,
my devotion is yours!  For the trust you confide in me, I thank

The next moment, he was gone. The Queen relaxed in her chair,
trembling a little, looking at her one faithful woman with
frightened eyes.

"Ah !" she murmured. "I acted too impulsively, perhaps -- I have
done wrong --"

"You have not done wrong to trust that young man, madame,"
said Dona Estafania. "His uniform answers for his courage; his
face answers for his devotion. Be at ease. He will go to

The queen bowed her head.

D'Artagnan, whose horse was waiting saddled in the courtyard,
had no time to see Athos, who was at the Musketeers' quarters.
The letters from Anne of Austria and Marie de Medici, the
queen-mother, were of imperative haste, admitted of not a
moment's delay -- their importance might be judged from the fact
that they were confided to an officer of the guards instead of to
the post courier.  D'Artagnan, therefore, had no choice but to
mount and ride for Grenoble, where the king and the cardinal
were stopping. It was now past noon; he must reach Grenoble
before the following midnight.

In five minutes he was leaving the convent in the Place des
Terreaux; in ten minutes he was passing the gates of Lyon.

As he rode, it seemed to him that the very few  moments in the
chamber of the queen must have been a dream -- but no! He wore
a ring to prove them real, and glanced at it. The ring was a
large sapphire surrounded by brilliants; obviously, it was no
ring for a cavalier to be wearing. Beneath his shirt, d'Artagnan
wore a scapulary which his mother had confided to him upon her
deathbed; as he rode, he loosened the chain of this scapulary,
threaded the ring upon it, and replaced it.  As he had said, the
service of the queen came indeed next to the service of God.

"Well, I have leave due me -- I can ask for it, take Athos,
depart for Dampierre!" he thought with eagerness. "How things
work out, eh? Excellent! And to think that I have seen her, have
twice kissed her hand, have looked into her eyes -- to think that
she remembered me, after all! That she had not forgotten! Ah,
damned cardinal that you are, to persecute this angel from

He rode on, blind and deaf to all around him,  lost in an ecstasy
of blissful reverie.

France was at war with the Empire -- with Spain, Italy, Savoy,
with all the countries that comprised the empire of the
Hapsburgs.  Richelieu and the king, who had been together with
the army and had conquered all Savoy, were returned to noble; the
two queens had brought the court to Lyon, and Louis XIII besought
his mother to come to Grenoble, hoping thus to patch up the
bitter enmity between her and Richelieu. Marie Medici refused,
and this refusal was being taken to Grenoble by d'Artagnan.

Since he was not riding his own horses, he changed at every
post-house and spurred hard; because of the rains, the roads were
in places almost impassable, and despite all his effforts,
d'Artagnan could not make great speed. His consolation was that
another in his place would have made no speed whatever.

When darkness fell on the following day, he was still six leagues
from Grenoble, had been unable to get a fresh horse at the last
station, and was in despair.

"Die, then," he muttered, seeing a long rise ahead, and put in
his spurs. "Die if you must, but reach Grenoble ere midnight!"

Thin fantastic moonlight touched and glimmered on the dark Lizere
river to the right, fille the trees to the left with strange
shadows, broke clear and white on the sharp dust of the high
ahead. The road pitched upward here, then broke down through a
long descending ravine flanked by dark tree-masses.

At the crest of the rise, d'Artagnan drew rein; next instant, a
cry of dismay came to his lips. The quivering gasp breaking from
the horse, the animal's terrible shudder, told him the truth --
the poor beast was dying on its feet.

Abruptly, the sharp crack of a pistolet burst from the darkness
ahead. This was followed by the fuller roar of an arquebus, and
the loud cry of a man in mortal agony.

The cavalier reached for a pistolet and would have reined in, but
the dying horse was now plunging forward, bit in his teeth,
breath whistling, hooves thundering down the declivity and
re-echoing from the trees. Sharp cries of alarm sounded ahead,
men called one to another, then came the clatter of hastily
departing riders.

"Robbers, pardieu!" muttered d'Artagnan, peering forward. "And
they must have caught someone just ahead of me --"

His horse quivered, uttered one strange and awful cry, then came
to an abrupt halt with feet braced wide apart, head hanging to
the very road, its whole body trembling. The poor beast was

D'Artagnan dismounted. He perceived that his approach had
frightened the robbers from their victim. Ahead of him in the
open moonlight a man's figure was outstretched; he still gripped
in one hand the reins of his horse, standing over him. The
horse turned its head and gazed questioningly at the approaching

The man on the ground was senseless. D'Artagnan hastened to him,
disengaged the reins from his hand, raised his head. The
unfortunate traveller had been shot through the body; his clothes
were drenched with blood, and be was dying. The moon-light
brought out the details of his face, and his rescuer could not
repress a gesture of repugnance; this face was brutal,
treacherous, with heavy black brows meeting above the eyes.

"A lackey in his master's clothes," muttered d'Artagnan. "Or a
rascal --"

As though the sound of human speech had penetrated his brain, the
dying man opened his eyes and stared vacantly upward. His lips
moved in faint words.

"I have discovered everything -- everything!  Bassompierr -- du
Vallon -- that false priest d'Herblay -- the evidence! The
document was sent to London for safety -- it will reach Paris in
a week -- we have them all! And above them all, she -- she
herself --"

The voice failed and died. At these names, d'Artagnan started
violently. His face changed.  One would have said that sudden
terror had come into his very soul.

"Du Vallon -- Porthos!" he muttered. "And d'Herblay -- Aramis!
Ah,ah -- what is this, then? Is it possible?  Am I dreaming?

Abruptly, the dying man clutched at his sleeve, tried to come
erect. Now his voice rang out in anguished tones, clear and loud
with the unmistakeable accent of death.

"Pere Joseph!" he cried out. "I can report everything -- Betstein
is the guardian of the child!  A false birth certificate was
forged by the priest Thounenin -- the child is in the abbey of
the Benedictines at St. Saforin. The prior knows the ring -- I
had the copy made! I have a letter from d'Herblay -- he was
wounded, du Vallon was killed -- took papers -- His Eminence must
know -- send Montforge to Paris -- to Paris --"

The man coughed terribly, groaned, then relaxed from the spasm.
Perfect consciousness came to him.  He fastened wild eyes upon
the face above.

"Where am I?" he muttered. "Who are you?"

"I am M. d'Artagnan, lieutenant of --"

"Ah, Jesus!" groaned the man, and shuddered as death tore out his

D'Artagnan rose. In one hand he held a plain gold seal-ring,
incised with a device unknown to him. In the other hand he held
two letters and a small packet of papers, sealed heavily. He
looked at the seal in the moonlight; it was the seal Aramis had
habitually used.

Aramis -- Porthos! Bewildered, dazed, doubting his own senses,
d'Artagnan looked at the two letters.  One he could not read, but
he could recognize the tiny, perfect, beautiful script of Aramis.
The other was a heavy scrawl, its words standing out clearly
enough in the rays of the moon; the short message covered a whole
sheet of paper, so black and pregnant was the writing:

"M. l'Abbe' d'Herblay;
   Write me no more. See me no more. Think of me no more. To you,
I am dead for ever.
                                            Marie Michon."

"What the devil!" exclaimed d'Artagnan. "Marie Michon -- that's
the lady-love of Aramis, then! Chevreuse, no less. Oh, fiend take
it all -- what I have uncovered here?"

He became pale as death, recalling what the dying man had said.
Porthos dead, -- Aramis wounded!  Athos had received a letter
from Aramis only a month previously; Aramis was then bound on a
journey to Lorraine for reasons unstated. Porthos had left the
service, had married, was somewhere in the provinces.

With a swift motion, d'Artagnan tore the letter of Marie Michon
into tiny fragments and cast them on the breeze. The packet he
stowed carefully away -- he must destroy this sacred packet,
still under the seal of Aramis. The first letter he studied again
but could not read in the pale moon-light, and this he pocketed
also. The ring, he slipped on his finger.

"Singular!" he reflected with agitation. "What secret did this
miserable spy carry to the grave?  Bassompierre, the greatest
noble in France, lover of a thousand women -- my poor stupid,
honest Porthos -- my crafty, shrewd, intriguing Aramis?
And she  -- she herself -- what did the rascal mean by those

A terrible conjecture flashed across his mind.  The dead man was
obviously one of the spies of the silent Capuchin who was
Richelieu's secretary, who had organized his system of espionage,
without whose advice Richelieu seldom acted -- his Gray Eminence,
Pere Joseph le Clerc, Sieur du Tremblay.

"She herself!" D'Artagnan repeated the words as though stupefied
by their import. "Above them all -- she herself!" His tone, more
than his words -- what had he discovered, then? To what woman did
he refer? Who is the child? Who is Betstein?" He passed a hand
across his brow; it came away wet with cold perspiration. "Well,
at least he spoke the truth -- he has now discovered everything
in life and death itself!"

He turned, glanced around, went to his own horse. The poor beast
stood in the same fashion, feet wide apart, head low, dying on
foot. D'Artagnan took from the saddlebags the despatches he
carried, thrust one of the pistols through his sash, then went to
the horse of the dead spy.

"An excellent animal!" he observed. "Evidently, this is one of
the dispensations of providence the clerics so often mention.
That rascal fell among other rascals at the exact moment my horse
gave out; he obligingly told me his mind and went his way to the
greatest of all discoveries. I step into his stirrups -- and my
letters reach the king by midnight, after all!  Decidedly
Providence is tonight acting much more gracefully toward Louis
XIII than toward his minister of war, the amiable Richelieu!"

D'Artagnan mounted. But, finding himself in the seat of a much
taller person, it was necessary to adjust the stirrups.

"Now," he said reflectively, as he worked at the leathers, "if
the good Athos were in my place, he might think it his duty to
carry word of all this to his Gray Eminence -- hm! It would be
most polite of me, no doubt -- but what the devil can be in this
letter from Aramis? It's not like our clever Aramis to confide
his neck to a letter! Why is the name of Porthos linked with that
of Bassompierre? Most mysterious of all, who is Betstein, and
whose child does he guard in conjunction with a Benedictine
prior? Undoubtedly, M. de Richelieu might answer all these
questions   but I prefer to seek elsewhere."

Again recurred to his mind those significant words: "above them
all, she -- she herself!" It was as though he spoke of the
highest of women -- but no, that were leaping too far at a
venture!  Besides, there were two queens in France. More likely
some intrigue of Bassompierre was concerned.  The marshal had
just emerged from a scandalous three-year-suit before the high
court of Rouen, and his intrigues with great ladies had resulted
in more than one pledge of affection. At this thought, d'Artagnan

"Vivadiou! I'm making much out of little." He glanced down at the
dead man, crossed himself, and gathered up his reins with a sigh.
"If only you had uttered a few words more, my good rascal!
However, I give you thanks -- your secret is safe with me.  Away
now -- to Grenoble!"

And driving in his spurs, he was gone in a whirl of moonlit dust.



In the summer of 1630, all France was bubbling with war, treason
and civil strife.

True, La Rochelle was fallen, the Protestants were crushed,
England was brought to terms -- this was yesterday. Today,
Richelieu was leading the army in Savoy to victories against the
Empire; yet he was standing on a precipice, and at his back all
the winds of France were gathering to blow him over the verge.

He was just discovering the fact, as he was just learning that
the deadliest enemies of France were within her frontiers.

Louis XIII, son to Henry of Navarre, was nominal ruler of France.
Marie de Medici, widow of Henry of Navarre, could not forget that
her husband had actually ruled France. Armand du Plessis, the
virtual ruler of France, intended that France should rule Europe.
Here were three sides of a triangle -- extremely unequal sides.

Louis was a king at once cruel, jealous, and ambitious to be
known to posterity as "The Just."   He feared the personal power
of Richelieu the man, trusted the statecraft of Richelieu the
Cardinal, and did not hesitate to place his armies in the band
of Richelieu the Minister. The king was afraid of his mother,
detested his brother the Duc d'Orleans, distrusted the great
nobles about him, and was wise enough to let responsibility rest
on worthier shoulders. And the queen-mother also hated Richelieu
furiously and vindictively. She hated him for having stripped her
of power and destroyed her influence over the king; she hated him
for carrying war into her beloved Italy; she  hated him because
he did well what she had done  so badly; she hated him because he
was Richelieu and she was Marie de Medici. And most of all she
could not forget that in the beginning it was she herself who had
raised him from obscurity. So around the queen-mother gathered
all the festering rancor of enmity, supported by the princes of
the blood and the nobles of France.

Richelieu, on the third side, began to realize his insecurity. He
had subdued the queen-mother,  humiliated the queen, Anne of
Austria, crushed the Vendomes, stamped out the Huguenots, and
driven Chevreuse into exile.  He was the victor, but he was not
the master. The storm of envy, hatred and malice was checked, but
it was secretly gathering force against him.

The sole strength of Richelieu was that none guessed his
strength. The princes had lands and wealth and rank; the great
nobles bad positions of power; the Duc d'Orleans, heir to the
throne, had immunity; Richeiieu had only a man, a simple Capuchin
friar. It was keenly significant that this Pere Joseph was
confidential secretary to the cardinal, while his brother, M.
Charles du Tremblay, commanded the Bastille.

This friar was the only man in France who wanted nothing, who
refused everything, who could be given neither reward nor place
because he accepted none. He served Richelieu; this was his sole
honor, dignity and ambition. Nothing was done in France without
his approval, and everything that he advised was brought to pass.
The minister depended on the friar's diplomacy, the cardinal
depended on the friar's sagacity, the general depended on the
friar's knowledge of men and armies; the cardinal who wore the
red robe depended on the friar who wore the gray robe.

In the quarters occupied by Richelieu at Grenoble, these two men
were alone together.  This Pere Joseph who had caused the siege
of La Rochelle, who had written a commentary on Machiavelli, and
who was the mainstay of his master, was large, well-built, and
marked by smallpox. Once his hair had been flaming red; learning
that the king had an aversion for this color, he became white
before his thirtieth year.   His eyes were small, brilliant,
filled with hidden fires.

Richelieu, far more imposing in appearance, was at this time at
the height of his physical powers.   He was handsome, and knew
the worth of this quality to the full; he was proud, and used
pride as a mask when need was; above all, he was sagacious -- and
his sagacity was best proven by the fact that his relations with
his secretary were never ambiguous, never strained, never open to
misunderstanding from either side.  Just now his aristocratic
features were thoughtful; the penetrating gaze he bent upon Pere
Joseph was disturbed and even melancholy.

"My friend and father," he said, "I believe that affairs are too
threatening for me to remain away from Paris. The queen has not
provided an heir to the throne; intrigues are rife, the king
insists on joining the army. I shall plead ill-health, give the
command to Crequy or Bassompierre, and return to the capital."

Pere Joseph was used to these sudden decisions.

"Excellent, Your Eminence, excellent!" he returned in his dry,
phlegmatic voice. "The king's confessor writes that you should
take this action. It would be your best possible course.
Unfortunately, it would not particularly advance the interests of

"Do the interests of France then demand that I should be deposed
from the ministry?"

Pere Joseph, who had been writing at a secretary, pushed away the
papers from before him and folded his lean, powerful hands on the
desk, and regarded the cardinal.

"Your Eminence has been too much occupied in the field, perhaps,"
he said smoothly, "to take thought to other matters. Have I your
permission to expound them?"

"Proceed, preacher!" Smiling, Richelieu settled himself in his

"Then consider." The voice of the Capuchin came as from a
machine, unemotional, steady, inflexible. "In making war upon the
House of Austria, as we now do, Your Eminence picked up the
threads of policy dropped when Henri IV died; very good!
Personally, I consider that the welfare of France demands that
you retain your present position. I argue from this base."

Richelieu inclined his head slightly, as though to signify that
this base was entirely acceptable to him. The Capuchin went on.

"Those who would depose you -- the two queens, and certain great
houses -- are more bitter enemies of France than her external
foes; because, like the Duc de Rohan, they set personal affairs
before the good of their country. It becomes plain, Monseigneur,
that France must no longer be a house divided against itself."

"Provided these enemies of Prance can hurt her."

"They can. With Your Eminence leading the army, one serious
reverse would be the signal for them to strike."

"Granted," said Richelieu, "if there were danger of such a

"Within two months it will happen."

The Cardinal gave his secretary a look of startled astonishment.

"Casale is under siege by the Imperial forces," continued Pere
Joseph. "Our relief army is insufficient; the city must
infallibly be taken.  This will be a serious blow to France, and
a more serious blow to Your Eminence. A certain policy has
occurred to me," and he touched his pile of papers, "toward which
end I have drafted a scheme for your approval."

"Tell it to me," said Richelieu. "The ear is less liable to
deceit than the eye."

"Very well. In the first place, something occurs next month which
everyone in France has forgotten. The Imperial Diet will meet at

"That I know," and Richelieu frowned slightly, intently. "What
of it?

"By law, the Emperor is strictly forbidden to make peace except
with the approval of the Diet."

"Peace? Who has talked of making peace?"  exclaimed Richelieu.

"I trust Your Eminence will find it worthy of consideration. I
have every reason to believe the Emperor would find an immediate
peace with France highly acceptable -- if the matter were rightly
presented at Ratisbon. Everything depends on the presentation."

"It would," said Richelieu drily. "The Diet would refuse."

"Your pardon -- the Diet could be made to accept," said Pere
Joseph. "On the other hand, I find that Gustavus Adolphus, who is
the deadliest foe of Austria --"

Richelieu started. "The arch-heretic! The arch-enemy of Holy

"And the arch-general of all Europe," added the Capuchin. "He
might welcome a treaty of alliance with France, provided it were
rightly presented -- as before. In other words, France makes
peace with the House of Austria on the one hand, and on the
other, an alliance with the bitterest foe of the House of

"And gains -- what?" demanded Richelieu. He knew well that the
four secretaries of Pere Joseph were closely in touch with the
entire political and religious affairs not only of Europe, but of
the whole world.

"Time to order her internal affairs, Monseigneur.  A humiliating
reverse in the field is avoided.  By the end of summer, the
Minister is in Paris again -- and none too soon for the welfare
of France. His Majesty insists on being with the army. The army
is notoriously unhealthy, even now it is being decimated by fever
and sickness."

"Ah!" Richelieu's brow knotted. "Ah! If the King should die --"

"God forbid!" exclaimed the Capuchin piously. "If the King should
die, then Monsieur his brother would rule France."

Richelieu stared at him in a singular manner. The Duc d'Orleans
on the throne, meant the Cardinal de Richelieu in the Bastille.

"And all these possibilities," said the minister slowly, "might
be averted --"

"By proper attention to the sitting of the Diet at Ratisbon."

"The King would never consent."

"Let His Majesty command the victorious campaign in Savoy, and he
will consent to anything.  Besides, the influence of the queen,
Anne of Austria, will here come to our help."

Richelieu remained thoughtful for a space. He began to perceive
the value of this advice, though he knew that any treaty with
Austria must be galling in its terms. Peace with the Emperor
would mean external peace for France --

"Such a peace could not endure," he muttered.

"Monseigneur, we ask only that it endure until spring."


"Also, no one in France would believe that peace could be
obtained. And it could only be obtained by the right man."

"True again. We have the right man -- Bassompierre. He has served
as ambassador to Spain and England," murmured the cardinal
reflectively. "He is wealthy, popular, of the highest
attainments. He is beloved on all sides --"

"Greatly beloved," corrected the other drily, and Richelieu
smiled.  Bassompierre had been the rival of Henry IV more than
once; and if the Duchesse de Chevreuse had seduced princes,
Bassompierre had seduced queens.

"True, Bassompierre is attached to the queen-mother," said
Richelieu slowly. "And --"

"He is the second captain in France, Your Eminence being the

"But he is not ambitious. He would perform this duty admirably."

"Most admirably, Monseigneur, since he has been secretly married
to the Princesse de Conti."


Richelieu started out of his chair, stared at Pere Joseph with
incredulous eyes.

"The sister of Guise? Impossible! Secretly married?"

"To the princess who bore him a son some years ago."

The minister lowered himself into his chair again, almost with a
gasp, as he perceived the gulf opening before him. Bassompierre,
marshal of France, who laughed at dukedoms and was content to be
Colonel General of the Swiss Guards, content to be the greatest
gambler, lover and spendthrift in France -- if this man were no
longer content, then beware!

King's favorite, devoted to the two queens, yet fully trusted by
Richelieu, the Marshal de Bassompierre was the first and most
powerful gentleman of France, ever holding aloof from intrigue
and plot. Now that he was secretly married to the sister of the
Duc de Guise, all was changed. He was instantly suspect. The
princes had won him over to their side.

Bassompierre," went on Pe~re Joseph, "has in his house six
caskets of letters, and the keys of these caskets never leave
him. This, Monseigneur, is significant. He is a Lorrainer by
birth. His influence is extraordinary. True, he has never been
ambitious, and therefore has never been feared. But now --"

"But now!" The red minister roused himself.  "I see. Who, then,
can go to Ratisbon? Who posesses the acumen to fool the German
princes, play with them, wind them around his finger?"

"That is for Your Eminence to say, if the proposal meets with
your approval."

Richelieu gave him a sharp look. "Peace is imperative?"

"At any cost, Monseigneur."

"Very well. You shall go."

Pere Joseph assumed intense surprise. "Monseigneur, you jest!  In
my simple robe, to present myself among princes, electors,
ambassadors, illustrious men?  No, no! I am too humble a person
for such a duty."

It was characteristic of Richelieu that he would hear this man
to the end, would weigh his advice and judgment, would accept his
findings -- and then exercise his own eagle swoop of authority
and thought.

The revelation of Bassompierre's marriage to the Princesse de
Conti had startled him, alarmed him, roused him. That
Bassompierre had been her lover, that she had borne him a son,
meant nothing; that he was now allied to the House of Guise meant
everything. With a flash, Riche]ieu perceived how urgent was the
danger enveloping him.

Everything else must be abandoned; he must lay aside his
statecraft, and bend every effort to meet the threat from inside.

He knew only too well that the envoy to Ratisbon must be a
consummate juggler, or all was lost. The German princes, who
dreamed of crushing France, would not readily consent; Louis
XIII, who dreamed of being another Henri IV, would not readily
consent. Richelieu could handle the business at home -- but the
man handling it at Ratisbon must be another Richelieu abroad.

"Enough!" he exclaimed. "My friend, you go to Ratisbon.  Bulart
de Leon, now Ambassador to Switzerland, will go as envoy; you'll
be associated with him, and the work will be placed in your
hands. Let Bulart de Leon glitter among the princes -- let the
written treaty come from your pen and brain. You are the man."

"As Your Excellency desires," said the Capuchin humbly.

His eyes glowed with a flame at thought of the intrigue to pass
between his hands at Ratisbon. This man, who could read the very
heart and thought of other men around him, could have asked
nothing greater than the chance to hoodwink all the princes of

"And the treaty with Gustavus Adolphus?"

"Is in your hands as well," said Richelieu impatiently. "Come!
This means that you'll be at Ratisbon for weeks, perhaps months;
you must depart at once, and I'll secure full authority for you.

Fortunately, Bulart de Leon is now at Lyon with the court.  We
must send for him. But -- but --"

The minister's voice died away, his energetic eye became
thoughtful; his long, slender fingers tapped on his chair-arm. He
had always apprehended that in any approaching crisis, which
would certainly come sometime, from some unexpected angle, with
hidden enemies exerting every intrigue against him, he would be
cut off from the man who had arrested the Marshal d'Ornano,
humbled the Duc d'Orleans, discovered the conspiracy of Chalais,
and who was openly accused of having caused the murder of
Buckingham. How could he dispense with this man, at this moment?

When Richelieu was roused, his decisions were swift.

"My friend," and his eye flashed once more, "everything hinges on
Ratisbon; it is in your  hands. You'll be given full powers to
sign for France.  As for matters here at home -- well!  The one
thing is settled.  Let us now proceed to other things. Your

"Is simplicity itself." The brilliant eyes of the friar, alight
with exultation, once more became narrowed, thoughtful,
penetrating.  His steady and inflexible voice showed no emotion;
he might have been expounding theological points which admitted
of no dispute. "Only one person can dismiss ministers -- the


"Therefore, the king must not dismiss you. If necessary, you must
dismiss yourself."


"He must realize clearly that his power depends upon you."

"He does."

"You must become friendly with the queen-mother."

"Impossible. Marie de Medici will hate me to the death."

"You must love your enemies. She is great, because another queen
is allied with her -- the  Queen of France.  The Austrian and the
Italian are together against you"

A hint of pain shot through the eyes of Richelieu.  He had
humiliated the Queen of France, he had humbled Anne of Austria --
but he loved the woman.

"Marie de Medici is the central point of enmity against me," he
said slowly. "She would like to see Gaston d'Orleans on the
throne. While they live -- "

"Gaston is a greedy fool," said Pere Joseph.  "He yields to

"Marie de Medici yields to nothing."

"What does not yield, can be broken," said Pere Joseph, and now
the cardinal looked at him attentively, expectantly. "Louis does
not love his mother, but he fears her. He does not love his
queen, but he listens to her.  Your safety demands two things;
first, that the queen-mother and the queen be separated. Second,
that the king be left without these insidious voices, always
whispering against you. It is possible to exile Marie de Medici.
But with Anne of Austria --"

Richelieu lifted his head, and his glance was stern.

"What do you dare suggest?" he demanded in a sharp, angry voice.
"When one speaks of the Queen of France --"

"One speaks of a woman, Monseigneur," said the other, and added:
"who hates you."

There was a little silence. Richelieu was struggling with
himself, but these last words stung him deeply. He knew that
behind all this advice was something definite.

"A woman who hates," he said gloomily, "cannot be reconciled."

"She can be deprived of all power to injure, now or later."

"Fh?" The cardinal started slightly, and his gaze rested on the
Capuchin for a moment. Then he made a slight gesture as of
assent. Another man would have hesitated, but Pere Joseph obeyed
the tacit command.

"By chance, Your Eminence, my attention was drawn to the royal
abbey of Benedictines at St. Saforin," he said in his inexorable
voice.  "The prior of this abbey is one Dom Lawrence, of the
Luynes family, an excellent man, most discreet. When M. de
Bassompierre was Ambassador to England, Dom Lawrence accompanied
him as chaplain. This, if you will recall, was before the taking
of La Rochelle, while the Duke of Buckingham still lived."

At this name, Richelieu's face slowly drained of its color.
Before him seemed to rise the phantom of dead Buckingham, that
handsome, proud, reckless man, who doomed to disaster everyone
and everything he touched.  The minister made an impulsive
gesture, as though exorcising this spectre.  The terrible look he
bent upon Pere Joseph would have made a prince tremble, for a
prince would have had much to lose. Pere Joseph, who had nothing
to lose, received it calmly.

"Be careful, my friend," said the minister in a low voice. "I do
not choose to hear idle conjectures."

"Monseigneur," returned the Capuchin imperturbably, "I have only
facts to offer. When one speaks the truth alone, the care belongs
to God. If you desire me to be silent -- "

"Speak," said Richelieu.

Pere Joseph laid his hand upon anumber of written reports,
enclosed in a vellum cover.

"I utter only the truth, here written, Your Eminence;  I leave
conjectures to you alone!: Imprimis, Dom Lawrence is prior of St.
Saforin, at which place is a school for the children of the
provincial nobility. In this school is a boy of about four
years.  This boy was left with the prior last year by a lackey,
whose master also left a sum of money for his care, and who
promised to send from time to time to ask after him. Any
communication regarding the boy is to be sent to M. Betstein, in
care of a jeweler in Rue Gros, at Paris."

A smile touched the lips of the cardinal.

"One must admit," he said ironically, "that M. de Bassompierre
provides well for the gages of devotion -- "

"I have not said that M. de Bassompierre was providing for
anyone,"  said the Capuchin. "I am stating only facts,
Monseigneur; and now I must remind you of another fact for some
time overlooked. On the night of October 8, 1626, while  M. de
Bassompierre was in London as ambassador, he paid a secret visit
to York House, where the  Duke of Buckingham then lived. He went
unaccompanied, without lights, and remained for a long time
closeted with the duke."

Richelieu was silent for some moments, as though searching the
meaning behind these words.

"Your catalogue of facts, my dear Pete Joseph, seems very
unconnected," he said.

The Capuchin bowed his head in assent. "Undoubtedly, Your
Eminence. Let us return to the boy. His name is inscribed on the
abbey rolls as Raoul d'Aram. His family is unknown. I found there
were certain marks on the clothing he wore when he came to St.
Saforin. By means of these marks, commonly placed on garments by
the makers, we found that the boy came from Aubain, a village
near the royal forest of Verrieres, on the southern road to

"You appear to have extraordinary interest in this boy," said the
minister drily.

"The interest, Monseigneur, would appear to have extraordinary


"At Aubain the name of d'Aram was unknown," continued the
Capuchin. "I found, however, that such a boy had been in care of
the curate of Aubain, who died a year ago. His housekeeper, who
had taken charge of the boy, died about the same time. The boy
was then taken to St. Saforin.  The curate was a distant relative
of Mme. de Chevreuse -- a man named Thounenin, of Dompt."

"Ah!" The gaze of the Cardinal at once became alert, attentive.
He had no more bitter enemy than Marie de Rohan, Duchesse de
Chevreuse, now exiled to her estates.

"Your Eminence may recall," pursued the Capuchin, slowly choosing
his words, "that some four years ago Her Majesty the Queen was
very ill of a fever at the Chateau of Versailles."

"I recall the fact perfectly." Richelieu was now all attention.
"She caught this fever from Chevreuse, whose life was despaired
of, but whom it pleased God to spare.

"For further mischief," added the Capuchin.  "Good. I have only
one more fact to present rather.  I allow you to present it to
yourself, and if there are any conjectures to be drawn, I leave
them to you. I beg you to recall the precise date of the secret
interview which took place in the gardens of Amiens between Her
Majesty and the Duke of Buckingham.  That is all, Monseigneur."

The pallor of Richelieu's thin features became accentuated.  For
a moment he sat absolutely motionless, then a deep and angry rush
of color swept into his face. Step by step he had followed the
exposition of fact -- and now that he had the clue, he was
speechless. He rose from his chair,  paced up and down the room
with quick and nervous tread, then swung on his secretary.

"Monsieur, this is absolutely incredible!" he exclaimed. "It is
an impossibility!"

"I am not aware to what Your Eminence refers," came the cool
response. "However, I assure you that when a man -- or woman --
is well served, nothing is incredible or impossible."

Richelieu made a brusque, impatient gesture.

"This is important -- no rhetoric, if you please!"  The harsh and
bitter ring in his words told how deeply he was stirred. "I
remember now -- Madame de Chevreuse was the devoted nurse of Her
Majesty at the time! She herself, barely recovered from illnes
 -- ah! If this be true -- if this be true --"

He stood silent, staring at the tapestried wall, his long fingers
intertwined in a grip that whitened the knuckles. His face was
tortured by a thousand emotions. Suddenly he turned.

"Look you," he said crisply. "The intimation that this is the
child of Her Majesty -- it is blasphemy! Worse, it is impossible.
The child could not have been carried unobserved -- it could not
have been born unobserved! It could not have been disposed of --"

Upon his agitated words struck the inexorable voice of the
Capuchin, like a bell of steel.

"Your Eminence, consider. You have surmised a certain conclusion
from my facts. It is not at all impossible. Chevreuse is a very
able woman. Surely she could contrive what any fish-merchant's
daughter could contrive?"

"Bah! The Queen is the center of a thousand eyes --"

"For which Chevreuse could manufacture thousand blindfolds.
Besides, this cure received the child from her own hands; his
silence was bought. On his deathbed he added a codicil to his
will which stated these facts."

"What!" The cardinal bent a sharp, astounded gaze upon him. "Does
such a will exist?"

"It does; so, at least, I have been informed.  The will was
abstracted from the archives; the loss was discovered -- it was
sent to England for safety.  It is now on the way here -- is
possibly in Paris at this moment.  Provided Your Eminence is
sufficiently interested to hear the steps I have taken, I may
place all the threads of this affair in your hands -- "

Richelieu resumed his chair with a nod of assent.  The slightly
satirical accent of Pere Joseph delighted him; this secretary
was by no means humble except in public, for Pere Joseph knew his
worth and stood firmly upon it. Richelieu liked this sort of man
-- in private.

"There is a woman named Helene de Sirle, daughter of a gentleman
killed at La Rochelle; a most able woman, devoted to Your
Eminence.  You may have heard of her?"

The Cardinal's brows lifted slightly. "I have heard something
of such a person. What was it -- she lives alone -- hm! I have

To Pere Joseph, it was perhaps obvious that His Eminence had
forgotten nothing.

"Who lives alone in a small chateau in the Parc du Montmorenci
outside Passy -- quite so. She has means. She has relatives in
Lorraine. She is never in the public eye, yet she has an
extensive acquaintance."

"Indeed!" said Richelieu, veiling the bright flash of his eye.
"Such a woman should be of use, upon occasion.

"She is," said Pere Joseph drily. "We dare not employ the usual
channels in regard to that document; it is to be delivered to her
upon reaching Paris. Further, she has undertaken to gain
information about the child at St. Saforin."

"For what purpose, and from whom?" demanded Richelieu.

"In the event that we desire to take possession of the child.
From a gentleman who has twice visited St. Saforin and spoken
with the child, who is suspected of being in constant
correspondence with Chevreuse, and who is known to be a friend of
Bassompierre. One Abbe d'Herblay, at one time, I believe, a

"Ah!" said Richelieu. "D'Herblay -- one of the Inseparables, they
were termed! I remember the man. When will you have more definite

"A messenger from Mlle. de Sirle should have arrived today; he
will certainly arrive tonight," said Pere Joseph. "He will bear
full details verbally, and any documentary evidence that has been

Richelieu nodded thoughtfully.  "After all, it is not
impossible," he said. "Bassompierre  and  Buckingham were warm
friends.  He, acting for Buckingham; Chevreuse, acting for her
 -- hm! No, you are right; where one is well served, anything is
possible. Ah -- someone is arriving below -- "

"Our messenger, no doubt."

From the courtyard rose the sounds of a rider being admitted,
greeted, welcomed. The minister struck a bell, and a lackey

"Find out who has just arrived. Bring him here."

In two minutes the lackey returned.

"Your Eminence, M. d'Artagnan, Lieutenant of  Musketeers, has
just arrived with despatches from the court at Lyon. He will be
brought here immediately."

The lackey withdrew. Richelieu waited, a slight frown upon his
brow.  A knock, and d'Artagnan entered, saluted, stood at

"Ah, M. d'Artagnan! We are happy to have you with us again!" said
the Cardinal affably.

The musketeer bowed. "Your Eminence does me too much honor. It is
I who am proud to find myself again near the person of Your

"I think, Pere Joseph," and Richelieu turned, "you desired to ask
M.d'Artagnan something?"

"Ah, yes! Perhaps, monsieur, on your way from Lyon you
encountered a gentleman named M. Connetans?"

"I have never heard the name," said d'Artagnan, and I encountered
no one upon the road except a dead man, some leagues from here."

"A dead man?" The Capuchin was suddenly agitated.  "Describe him,
if you please -- "

"Gladly, monsieur. He was unknown to me, and had not long before
been attacked and shot by robbers, evidently. His horse was close
by, mine was dying. I took his animal and came on -- "

"His description?" interrupted the Capuchin anxiously.

"A tall man, since I had to shorten his stirrups.  He had a
rather brutal face marked by very black brows meeting above his
eyes. I could do nothing for him, and did not delay."

Pere Joseph seemed overcome, and Richelieu intervened.

"Thank you, monsieur," he said, with the graciousness he could so
well summon at command.

"You are, I believe, attached to duty with the court?"

"Yes, Your Eminence. My company has the honor of acting as Her
Majesty's guards at Lyon."

"Then I shall see you again, I trust. We will not detain you
further -- good night, monsieur!"

D'Artagnan departed. The Capuchin lifted a suddenly tortured

"My man -- waylaid by robbers  -- ah, destiny is unkind!" he

The cardinal affectionately laid his hand on Pere Joseph's
shoulder. "You complain of destiny? I shall make destiny complain
of me, I promise you!"

"Then, Monseigneur, you find my facts worthy your interest?"

"All facts are worthy of interest," said the cardinal. "And they
may even make conjectures worthy of interest, my friend and
father! By the way, you did not chance to notice the gold ring
upon the hand of M. d'Artagnan -- graven with the arms of-"

"I noticed nothing," confessed Pere Joseph. "I was agitated,
Monseigneur. The ring -- whose arms, did you say?"

Richelieu told him. The two men looked one at another for a long,
silent moment.



His despatches delivered, d'Artagnan found himself taken in
charge by Comte de Moreau, a gentleman of the king's household.
Moreau carried d'Artagnan to his own quarters, bedded him on a
couch in his own room, wakened him in the morning, and insisted
on accompanying him to a nearby tavern for the morning draught.
At any other time this pressing hospitality would have delighted
our lieutenant of musketeers, but at the moment he found it
devilish inopportune -- he had a letter in his pocket which he
was burning to read, and could find no opportunity of perusing it
in private.

He did, however, deposit the sealed packet upon the fire in their
quarters, and watched it go up in flames. Whatever might be in
that packet, was evidently the secret of Aramis alone; the letter
was a different matter.

"His Majesty and the Cardinal are quartered in the Hotel des
Lesdigue'res," said Moreau, when they had dispelled the remnants
of slumber with good wine of the countryside. "If you wish to
attend the king's levee -- "

"Not I," said d'Artagnan. "With all the thanks in the world, my
friend, I beg to decline the honor. I've had nothing but risings
and beddings for a month past; dressings and undressings,
paintings and powderings -- plague take it! I hoped our company
would go with the army; instead, we dance attendance on two
queens and court officials."

Moreau laughed. "You're in good company at all events -- how
Bassompierre would envy you!  And seriously, you're in luck.
Fever is widespread in the army, and before the summer's over
we'll hear more of it. Then you'll not come?"

"Not for a bit," said d'Artagnan. "I'll show myself later.  Don't
let me detain you if duty calls, I beg of you!"

Moreau departed. At this instant a group of officers entered, and
d'Artagnan sighed in vexation as they came to the next table,
close by. He ordered another bottle of wine, resolving to
out-drink them; his uniform made him conspicuous in the streets,
and he strongly desired the privacy of the tavern in order to
read the letter in his pocket -- the letter from which he hoped
to get some explanation of the strange and tragic words of the
dying man.

Then, as he waited, he grew interested in the talk at the next
table. One of the officers had come from Lyon to join the king;
the other three had come in the suite of the Cardinal from the
army, and gossip was rife from both directions.

Listening, d'Artagnan, who never despised current knowledge,
learned a large number of things.  Bassompierre was expected to
arrive here any hour, any day. The marshal was extremely annoyed
because he shared the command of the army with Schomberg and
Crequy, and had complained hotly to the king, but without result.

Everywhere intrigue was raising its head, against everyone in
sight, and was openly discussed. Chiefly it arose from Marie de
Medici, who took the part of Savoy. She was furious because
Richelieu had conquered practically the entire dukedom, and now
it was said she intended to prevent the king from rejoining the

"Bah!" exclaimed one of the Cardinalists. "The Italian woman
hopes that Casale will fall, then she'll blame Richelieu and stir
up trouble. Ten to one she'll flatter Bassompierre and try to
disaffect him!"

"Well, if she has a pretty maid of honor to do the flattering,
she may succeed!" observed another, and there was a laugh.
"What's this about the queen-mother coming here, eh?"

"Rumor," and another shrugged. "I hear that His Majesty has sent
for her, hoping she'll come and patch up matters with His
Eminence. Not likely, with Marillac at Lyon! That rascal hates
everything red -- "

"Your pardon, gentlemen," spoke up the king's officer with
dignity. "M. de Marillac is the Keeper of the Seals and a high
official of France. I do not care to sit and hear him thus
miscalled; what is more to the point, he is a relative of my

"Your pardon, M. Constant -- we did not know that," came the
response in chorus, for everyone was in too good humor to stand
on punctilio. One of the officers lifted his flagon. "A health to
all the royal family, ministers, officials and what not in
France! And damnation to the enemy Austrian!"

"Which Austrian?" cried another, laughing.  "The enemy in France
or the enemy in Austria?"

The mustaches of d'Artagnan began to quiver.

"Whichever you like!" returned the officer. "Peste, gentlemen --
where's the difference?"

"Difference enough, Montforge!" came the laughing response.
"Confidant of our good Pere Joseph, conducting private
campaigns in Paris while we're conducting public ones with the
army --, faith, you may not know there's a difference, but we do!
Ill talk, my friend, ill talk! I don't believe half this gossip
about Imperialist intrigue going on court --

"The devil you don't!" exclaimed Montforge.

He was a large and powerful man, very handsomely dressed and
armed. "I'll wager M. Constant here can bear me out -- he's fresh
from Lyon! Eh, my friend? Isn't it true that the Austrian in
France is more to be feared than all the Austrians in Italy and
the Empire put together?"

"I'm afraid I don't quite get the point, gentlemen," said the
king's officer, with an air of embarrassment. "There are no
Austrians in France."

D'Artagnan's eyes were very bright and gleaming now.

Peste!" said Montforge, with a guffaw. "Come, come, talk's free
on campaign! You know well enough that the Austrian in the
Louvre fights against us -- "

A sudden deluge of wine stopped his words, choked his voice,
filled his eyes and face and dribbled down over his fine apparel.
With an amazed and angry oath, he leaped to his feet and wiped
his eyes.

D'Artagnan bowed profoundly.

"My compliments, gentlemen, my compliments!" he exclaimed
gravely. "Upon my word, this is a most unfortunate occurrence!
You see, gentlemen, I was sound asleep, and thinking that I heard
someone traduce Her Gracious Majesty -- "

"Devil take you!" roared out Montforge, "Enough of this
pleasantry! You confounded little rogue of a Gascon, is this some

D'Artagnan twirled his mustache and inspected the cavalier

"Just what I was asking, indeed! Do you know, monsieur, I begin
to believe that it was?"

In the eyes of the Gascon, in the steady, implacable gaze,
Montforge read the truth. He became deadly pale, and bowed

"Very well, monsieur. I perceive that you belong to the
Musketeers; you will, therefore, have no compunction in rendering
me satisfaction?"

"With all my heart, monsieur!" replied d'Artagnan. "I am M.
d'Artagnan, lieutenant in the company of M. Rambure's. May I have
the honor of knowing with whom I speak?"

He perceived instantly that his name had created an impression.

"This is M. le Comte de Montforge," said another officer, and
introduced the group. "You have friends here,monsieur?"

"Undoubtedly," said d'Artagnan, "but since I arrived only last
night, I'm somewhat at a loss whither to direct you. I -- I -- I
-- "

A species of stupefaction descended upon him.  His voice failed.
He staggered back a step and remained staring, his jaw fallen.

Into the inn room had just entered a man of large build. His
boots, cloak, garb, all bespoke recent arrival -- he was covered
with dust from head to foot. He flung hat and cloak upon a
settle, raising a cloud of dust, and showed that he bore his left
arm in a sling. "Wine!" he cried out, in a voice that
reverberated under the rafters and rang back from the copper
kettles about the fireplace. "Wine! Food!  Name of a name of a
name -- must I die of thirst and hunger and fatigue because you
lazy dogs of scullions can't -- for the love of the good God! Am
I dreaming or -- or -- "

His eyes had fallen on the group about the tables -- the group,
who in turn were gazing at him, following the petrified stare of
d'Artagnan, who thought he was looking at a ghost. The large
man's mouth flew open and stayed open. His eyes protruded.  Then,
just as d'Artagnan moved to cross himself, he took two enormous
strides across the room and swept an arm about the musketeer.



For the moment, all else was forgotten -- the scene around, the
group of officers, the furious and livid  Montforge -- in this
genuinely amazing meeting.

Porthos, living or dead, was the last person d'Artagnan expected
to see here in Grenoble. In the previous year M. du Vallon had
left the service, marrying the 800,000 livres of Madame
Coquenard, and had disappeared from sight. And here he was, dust
covered, huge, tears on his cheeks at sight of d'Artagnan -- not
a ghost at all, but indisputably alive.

Tears were likewise on the cheeks of d'Artagnan, though not from
the same cause. The one-armed hug of Porthos came near to
crushing in his ribs.

"While this," observed Comte de Montforge mockingly, "is
extremely touching, it is aside from the matter under

Porthos released d'Artagnan and turned. His naturally haughty
countenance took on a look of ineffable scorn.

"And who," he inquired, "is this insect passing commentaries upon

"This, my friend," said d'Artagnan, "is M. le Comte de Montforge,
who also dislikes my fashion of passing commentaries,and who is
about to do me the honor of teaching me his own manner with the
sword-point. Gentlemen, I am happy to present my friend, M. du
Vallon, late of the company of M. de Treville. If you will
arrange the meeting with him, I shall be very glad, as I am eager
to have speech with him before presenting myself to His Majesty.
Time presses.

However bewildered he might have been, Porthos was quick to
comprehend the situation, and with his most magnificent bow,
assumed the duties of second.

"At your most humble service, gentlemen!" he exclaimed. "I am
sorry to say that my left arm is disabled by the knife of a
scoundrel rascal, but  - "
"This is between me and M. de Montforge alone," interposed
d'Artagnan, and sat down again to his wine.

"The devil!" he ejaculated to himself. "Am I going to have a
chance to read this letter or not?  Still, if I do it now, it
will lend me the appearance of being entirely at my ease --"

He glanced around. Porthos had joined the companions of
Montforge and was talking with them. Montforge was drinking and
eyeing the winestains on his magnificent doublet. Removing the
letter from his pocket, d'Artagnan looked at the superscription.
He read, in the very fine, beautiful writing of Aramis:

"Mlle. Helene de Sirle,
            Parc de Montmorenci."

"Hm! Parc de Montmorenci -- that might be anywhere," reflected
d'Artagnan, "but it must be the one at Passy. Therefore, Aramis
is at Paris.  Vivadiou! Something learned."

He turned over and unfolded the letter. Before he had glanced
at the writing, a heavy step interrupted him, and he looked up
as -- Porthos approached.

"Ha! At once, all together, to a spot nearby.  Agreed?"

"Agreed," said d'Artagnan, and sighed as he pocketed the letter.
"Decidedly," he said to himself, "if this devilish interference
proceeds much farther, I shall have to kill someone!"

The six men left the tavern in company and in silence. A hundred
yards away was the College of the Recolets. Behind the rear wall
of this enclosure was the Rue du Dauphine, and across the street
was the charming little park and garden where Marie de Medici had
been triumphally received on her way from Italy to  marriage with
Henry IV. At this hour of the morning, the park was entirely
deserted, and few were passing along the streets.

"Admirably conceived, this spot!" exclaimed Porthos grandly.  "In
the city yet not of it eh, my dear d'Artagnan? A pretty spot for
foot-work -- what excellent clipped grass!"

The party halted. D'Artagnan turned to the count.

"My dear M. de Montforge," he said, "it were a pity if any
misapprehension of my own should cause vexation. It may be that
you had no intention of casting aspersions upon a lady whom I am
very honored in serving -- "

"A truce to politeness, monsieur!" exclaimed Montforge angrily.
"What you heard, you heard.  What you did, you did. The devil fly
away with apologies! En garde!"

"En garde, messieurs," echoed Porthos.

"One moment, gentlemen!" interposed M. Constant, the king's
officer, looking a trifle nervously from d'Artagnan to Montforge.
"I must say that if this difficulty could be composed, it were
much the better course, in view of the edict against duelling. M.
de Montforge's remarks -- "

"Have nothing to do with it!" snapped that gentleman, angrily.
"M. d'Artagnan emptied his winecup in my face -- there's the crux
of the whole thing!"

"Good! Excellent! Via crucis, via crucis!" boomed Porthos, who
was proud of his scanty Latin. "En garde, messieurs -- "

The two swords crossed. The two men parried, feinted, tested each
the other.

In this moment, a singular prescience seized upon the soul of
d'Artagnan. Perhaps the astounding meeting with Porthos had set a
spark to his imagination; perhaps his agile mind was somewhat
disturbed at finding Montforge an absolute master of his weapon,
whether in French or Italian style. He did not know Montforge,
had never heard the man mentioned among the skilled blades of the
court; and this was singular in the extreme.

Over the crossed steel he saw two blazing black eyes, intrepid as
his own, proud as his own, confident as his own; in them he read
a determined enmity. Ere this, he had looked into eyes afire with
the intention of killing; he knew as he stood there that
Montforge meant to kill him. Across his mind flashed the memory
of other men; of Jussac, of Count de Wardes -- above all, of
Rochefort the implacable.

Another Rochefort here -- from some unguessed source it came to
him that he had here entered upon something deeper than he knew,
something that must go farther than he wished, unless he killed
the man before him. "Kill this man -- kill him swiftly!"  The
mental warning fairly screamed at the ears of his soul.

D'Artagnan fought with his back to the street. He was entirely
absorbed in his adversary; he saw nothing save those savage black
eyes, he felt nothing save the pressure of blade against blade,
he heard nothing save the sharp click and slither of the crossed
steel. Still wet with morning dew, the grass underfoot sent up a
sharply sweet fragrance as it was crushed by their stamping

Angered by those flaming eyes, d'Artagnan suddenly abandoned the
defensive and began to exert himself. He worked into a shrewd
and merciless attack, so agile, so vibrant with energy, as to be
irresistible. He saw a look of intense astonishment and dismay
sweep into the face of Montforge, saw his enemy give back --saw
him slip suddenly in the grass and go all asprawl, his blade
flying afar. With an effort, d'Artagnan checked himself midway of
a lunge, and drew back.

"When you are ready, monsieur," he said calmly, sure of himself

Montforge came to one knee, then paused, staring. No one had
moved to pick up his rapier, nor did he reach out for it.
D'Artagnan glanced surprisedly at the others -- saw Porthos
agape, the image of consternation, saw the others apparently
paralyzed, saw they were not looking at him or at Montforge, but
at a point behind him, on which every eye seemed fixed with a
species of stupefied fascination.

"The devil!" exclaimed d'Artagnan, and turned.

"Not in person, at all events," said a man who had approached
behind him -- a man who had turned into the park from the street,
and who was accompanied by two gentlemen.

This man was Richelieu.

"Well, gentlemen," said the cardinal, sweeping an icy eye over
the group, "I confess that you have conspired to present me with
a surprise this fine morning. Montforge -- d'Artagnan --
Constant "

His gaze rested on Porthos for an instant as though he half
recognized the large man.

Porthos bowed.

"M. du Vallon, Your Eminence, late of the company of M.Treville."

"Ah!" said the Cardinal. "I remember you.'

Porthos paled at these ominous words. Montforge rose, in some
agitation, and drew out a handkerchief, with which he wiped
perspiration from his brow.

"Your Eminence," he said, "I beg that you will absolve these
gentlemen; any blame connected with this scene rests upon me
alone, for I challenged M. d'Artagnan."

"Ah!" said d'Artagnan to himself, throwing Montforge a glance of
admiration. "I could love this man -- if he did not hate me!"

"Yes?" said Richelieu drily. "Each of you, no doubt,imagined that
the other was an enemy of France -- eh, gentlemen?"

D'Artagnan bowed. "Exactly, Monseigneur."

"Your Eminence has discerned the truth," said Montforge, his
dark face slightly pale. None knew better than he that Richelieu
was most to be feared when he jested.

There was an instant of silence, while the cardinal looked from
one to the other. Then he spoke, slowly, gravely, as though the
affair were to be held in abeyance, not forgotten.

"Justice, gentlemen, is said to be blind. It is my desire that
you two gentlemen shake hands and end this matter."

Blank astonishment greeted these words. "So!" thought d'Artagnan,
with the rapidity of light.

"Our honest cardinal has something to be gained by not hanging
us!" Sheathing his rapier, which he was still holding, he turned
and held out his hand to Montforge.

"Come, monsieur!" he said with a smile. "This gentleman is our
superior in rank, since he is minister of war. He is our superior
in intelligence, since he is a cardinal. And certainly he is our
superior in wisdom, since he gives us very practical advice which
had occurred to neither of us! Upon my word, monsieur, I think we
should grant his desire!"

"With all my heart," said Montforge, and shook hands heartily.
But the look he gave d'Artagnan belied his words.

"Excellently done, gentlemen!" said Richelieu. "M. de Montforge,
I desire your company in my cabinet within ten minutes, if you
please. M. d'Artagnan, may I inquire whether you return to Lyon?"

"I do not know, Your Eminence," said d'Artagnan. "I have not
yet presented myself to His Majesty."

"Then, if you will have the kindness to present yourself to me in
an hour's time," returned the cardinal, "I should be very happy
to have the honor of a little conversation with you."

D'Artagnan bowed profoundly.

When the cardinal had departed Montforge approached d'Artagnan,
who was adjusting his uniform cloak, and regarded him intently.

"Monsieur, I trust we shall have the pleasure of a future

D'Artagnan's smile, which could add so much charm to his
features, leaped out straightway.

"By all means, monsieur -- let us leave it to the finger of
destiny! I only trust you will not suffer for your very frank
avowal of blame."

Montforge shrugged, as though it were of no moment. "Very well,"
he said, and bowed. "We shall, then, meet again."

D'Artagnan noted that this was uttered as a statement of fact

"Where to?" asked Porthos, as they came to the street together.

"To the tavern, pardieu!" said d'Artagnan. "We're an hour
together, at all events. Well, old friend, I see that the red
minister remembers you, eh?"

"Yes, devil take him!" said Porthos, twirling his mustache
complacently. "He remembers that little scene on the road outside
La Rochelle, eh? Come   you're with the king here? I thought your
company was at Lyon with the court?"

D'Artagnan whistled to himself. "You did, eh? And who put that
thought into your head, I wonder? Cautiously, here --
cautiously!" he reflected to himself. Aloud, he replied; "It is,
it is -- I arrived here last night with despatches. When I've
seen His Eminence, I'll probably know my future plans. But have
you repented matrimony!  You must be going to join the army,
since you're here -- and whence comes your wound?"

"From the devil," said Porthos seriously. "By the way,here's your
handkerchief. You must have dropped it when His Eminence
appeared. I retrieved it."

"Handkerchief? I haven't one to my name," said d'Artagnan.He took
the bit of cambric which Porthos handed him, and stared at it,
while the giant clapped him on the back.

"Ha! Up to the old tricks of Aramis, are you! I know a lady's
kerchief when I see it, comrade! And deuce take me but it's got a
monogram! Here, give me a look -- "

"Go to the devil," said d'Artagnan, and laughed as they turned in
at the tavern entrance. He thrust the kerchief swiftly away, for
he had perceived one thing, and remembered another.

He remembered that Montforge had wiped his face with a
handkerchief. And on this bit of cambric he perceived the
monogram "H de S." -- the initials of Helene de Sine. Montforge
had dropped this handkerchief, therefore -- therefore a hundred
conjectures! He thrust them all out of his bewildered brain and
bent his thought on the more important thing: the letter in his
pocket, as yet unread.

Porthos, finding himself thick and grimy with dust, departed to
the pump. He was bursting to talk, but disgust at his own
condition was stronger, so he left d'Artagnan to order the wine.
Alone for the moment, the musketeer drew the letter from his
pocket and unfolded it, and now there was none to interfere. He

       "Dear Mademoiselle: The bearer of this letter
        is a friend to be trusted. I have received
        terrible news, and I am ill. Meantime, my
        friend will serve you as would I myself, had I
        the honor to be at your side.

"So!" D'Artagnan pocketed the letter, with some dismay. "Nothing
learned.  Who is the friend of Aramis from whom that rascal took
this letter?  Ah -- the ring! I'd be fool to present myself
before the cardinal-Vivadiou! But I was wearing that ring last
night -- ah, well, he would not have observed it."

None the less, as he put the ring in his pocket, his face was a
little pale at remembering how he had appeared before the
cardinal and Pere Joseph on his arrival -- he had certainly worn
the ring, like a fool! An uneasy conscience whispered that the
conversation desired by Richelieu might be on the subject of the
dead spy. Now Porthos came stamping in, seized a flagon, and
emptied it at a draught. When he sat down, the bench groaned
beneath him.

"Ah! Ah! Embrace me, d'Artagnan!" he exclaimed gustily. "This is
good, this is like old times -- wine and sword of a morning, and
a hard night's ride behind! Why the devil have you degenerated
into a post courier? You, a lieutenant, bearing despatches?"

"A courier to the king, with letters from the two queens.

"That explains it. Our noble Athos -- where is he?"

"In Lyon. He talks of leaving the service, drinks his Spanish
wine as usual, and has the devil's own luck at dice. If you knew
our company was with the court in Lyon, why didn't you drop in to
see us?"

This confused Porthos, who seized a bottle and emptied another
flagon. D'Artagan began to watch him closely, though without
seeming to do so.

"I wasn't in Lyon ten minutes," said the giant, and bellowed at
the host for more wine and food.  "Listen, comrade! Last week I
came to Paris.  Madame du Vallon is thinking of buying a property
in Picardy; she went to look it over. I came to Paris to handle a
certain business for her. There -- what, think you, happened to
me? Guess!"

"Certainly not a love-affair, to the husband of eight hundred
thousand livres!" and d'Artagnan laughed. He was all on the alert
now -- he had a conviction that Porthos was not entirely
confiding in him. This rendered him curious, precautious to tell
what he himself knew.

"Something different -- I was robbed," declared Porthos,
reddening with anger. "Robbed!  Three men set upon me, got a
noose about my neck, strangled me. I pounded one on the head
and felt his skull go smash; I kicked a second, and he was dead
the next minute. But the third -- ah, The third!  The abominable
rascal! The black-browed scoundrel! What do you think he did?
He sat on my back and used a knife on me, tried to murder me!
True, it only tore the flesh of my arrn, but between the loss of
blood and the strangulation, I became unconscious. He robbed me
and fled."

"Not to Grenoble, surely?" exclaim d'Artagnan.

"Exactly! You have guessed it. Listen!  By good luck I saw him
leaving Paris that same night.  I called for a horse, followed
him. I have money, you understand! I rode after him like a
madman; the horse died under me. I got another horse.  Mile by
mile, inch by inch, I gained upon him. I entered Lyon not five
minutes after him -- upon my word, it is the truth!  Instead of
stopping there, the unspeakable devil changed horses and had
gone when I got to the posthouse. My horse was played out, there
was not a fresh animal to be had. I took a tired one, and the
brute went bad on me halfway here -- has been limping in since
midnight. The man's here ahead of me -- you must help me find
him, trace him!"

"With all my heart," said d'Artagnan. "Who was he?"

"I don't know. He was a tall man with the face of a rogue.  He
had heavy black brows that met above his nose -- eh? What? You've
seen him?"

D'Artagnan started.

"Black brows that met -- diantre! Did he ride a piebald horse?
Did he have a cloak of dark blue or black slashed with silver?"

Porthos leaped from his seat. "You know him?  Come! Take me to
him, this moment! Up!"

"He is dead," said d'Artagnan. "Sit down, sit down, comrade --
your man's dead! You should have seen him lying in the road as
you came, for I must have been just ahead of you.  He died in my
arms --"

"Pardieu! I saw nothing of him!" cried the amazed Porthos, and
then sank back on the bench with an expression of utter dismay
and consternation. "Mon Dieu, I am ruined, ruined! Now what shall
I ever say to Aramis?"



"So you have seen Aramis?" asked d'Artagnan quickly.

Porthos swallowed hard, and turned a wild gaze upon the Gascon.

"I am a fool," he said thickly. "I have said too much. I promised

"I think, my dear Porthos," said d'Artagnan coolly, "that you and
I have been somewhat in company in other days, and I have never
heard you complain of having trusted me too much. Ma foi! If you
have no confidence in me --"

Porthos began to swear horribly.

"For the love of the saints give me time, give me time!" he cried
out in despair. "My dear comrade, you don't understand! Listen to
me. I met Aramis in Paris. He was in terrible straits; he had
been flung into the depths of despair, he spoke of killing
himself -- Aramis! Can you fancy such a thing? He was gloomy as
the foul fiend! I don't know exactly what had caused it."

"I think you do," said d'Artagnan -- to himself. Aloud: "Yes?"

"Well," and here Porthos began to flounder,  "Aramis gave me a
packet of money to deliver -- a sum he had collected for some
lady, I know not what it was. I promised to take it to her.  He
made me swear not to breathe his name -- "

D'Artagnan laughed. He saw that the giant was genuinely
overwhelmed at being unable to confide in him, and he was melted

"So the robbers took the money, eh?" he asked.

"Anything else?"

"No -- it was some gold in rouleaux," said Porthos, but reddened
a trifle as he spoke. "The devil of it is that I don't know the
exact amount. They sprang upon me just after I left poor Aramis."

"He was not wounded when you left him?"

"He? Wounded?" Porthos stared. "Not in the least, except in

With an air as though he were glad to escape further questioning
for the moment, Porthos applied himself to the food and wine that
was set before them.

D'Artagnan whistled to himself -- he began to see a good many
things. Aramis had received a letter from his Marie Michon, which
had stricken him.  He sent Porthos to Mlle. de Sine, whoever this
might be; not with money, but with a letter. Porthos was
attacked, robbed, left for dead; Aramis was then attacked,
wounded, robbed, and the black-browed spy set forth for Grenoble.

But now -- Porthos was still lying about it! Very well, then --
he would not get his letter back very readily. In what net of
intrigue had Aramis enmeshed this huge man with a child's heart?
D'Artagnan felt a twinge of anger at the thought. It was all
very well for Aramis to indulge his own bent for intrigue, but it
was not right for him to ensnare poor simple, honest Porthos.

"Tell me what you know of this man-you say he died on the road,
in your arms?" said Porthos.  "Tell me, I conjure you! Did you
get my rouleaux of gold from him?"

"I did not look to see if he had any," said d'Artagnan drily, and
with truth. Since Porthos stubbornly concealed all mention of the
letter, the less said the better.  Aramis, he reflected, has
drawn our big comrade into some conspiracy; since Porthos is the
worst possible conspirator, let him now remain out of it for his
own good!

D'Artagnan told of finding the dead man in the road, taking the
fresher horse, and coming on to Grenoble -- exactly as he had
told Richelieu. Upon hearing this tale, Porthos was plunged into
the depths of despair. He himself had seen nothing of the dead
man or of d'Artagnan's horse, and the inference was plain.

"The robbers returned to their prey after you had passed," he
said gloomily. "They plundered the man, flung him into the river,
and took your horse away. Ah, miserable wretches! If I had you
under my hands, I'd wring your cursed necks!  My friend, I am

"Why?" asked d'Artagnan.

"Because the lady was to confide a mission to me in place of
Aramis," said the other. "I swore that I would take the money to
her, accept an errand from her -- and now! I am ruined."

"On the contrary,' said d'Artagnan,  you are saved."

"Saved?" Porthos stared at him, "In what way?   How do you mean?"

"Eat, drink, fortify yourself, my friend," and d'Artagnan
gestured toward the file of scullions bringing further dishes and
platters. "Talk when alone."

The magnificent bellows of Porthos had set everyone to running,
and now were produced capons, a brace of ducks, the excellent
sausages for which Grenoble was renowned, pastries, venison; dish
followed dish, bottle pursued bottle, and in between details of
the service d'Artagnan expounded details drawn largely from his
own fertile imagination.

"You need not hesitate over confiding in me,  my friend," he said
confidentially. "Perhaps I know more of the whole affair than you
suppose -- more, perhaps, than you yourself know! Picture our
Aramis, now, engaged in helping a great man, a friend of his -- a
Marshal of France, now with the army -- you comprehend?"

"Ah, ah!" cried Porthos in amazement. "You know about that?  Then
Aramis wrote you, eh? He said I must be most particular not to
mention the name of Bassompierre --"

"Then don't mention it," said d'Artagnan, twirling his mustache
complacently. "Aramis receives a letter from his lady-love; it
throws him into consternation, into despair! Everything pales
before this. Nothing matters. He is disheartened, talks of
suicide, entering a monastery, taking the vows and writing a
thesis for ordination --"

"Upon my soul, his very words!" exclaimed the staring Porthos,
but for all his amazement he did not forget to attack the
fortifications now before him.

"Well, then -- Aramis encounters you. He knows your valor, your
disregard of odds -- he has reason to know them! And he also
knows your modesty, your hesitancy at undertaking anything of
dubious nature, your reluctance to push yourself forward is it

Porthos deftly removed half the breast of a duck, placed it in
his mouth, and nodded complacently.  Being anything but modest,
he loved to picture himself possessed of this virtue.

"Would Aramis mention these qualities?" pursued d'Artagnan. "No!
He feared lest you beg him to select a braver, abler man.
Instead, he merely asked you to do him a small favor -- deliver a
sum of money to a lady, and accept a commission from her. He
parts from you. A few moments afterward, you are set upon,
brought to earth like a Hercules assailed by base foes -- and you
are robbed.  Why? Because you had been spied upon. It was
suspected that he had given you this money. In fact, no sooner
had you parted than he in turn was assaulted, attacked, badly
wounded, and plundered also. You comprehend?"

The eyes of Porthos opened tremendously, but, his mouth being
filled with duck-breast, he could only nod amazed comprehension.

"You killed two of the rascals," pursued d'Artagnan. "The third
escaped, went to attack Aramis, thinking you were dead. He
presently took to the road.  He had the best of horses waiting
everywhere for him, he was known wherever he went --"

"Who -- who the devil told you all this?" blurted out Porthos,

"I reconstruct, my friend. Now, this man was not fleeing from
you, as you think -- on the contrary,  he was hastening to reach
another man, riding like mad to bring this other man the money he
stole from you, the papers he stole from Aramis you comprehend?
They were vitally important. He stayed not to eat nor sleep, but
rode, leaped from horse to horse, spurred from hill to hill,
never looked behind!  At Lyon he inquired the road to Grenoble,
climbed into the fresh saddle, and was gone. Why? Because he was
bringing his loot to a man here,"

"Eh?" Porthos, who had just drunk an entire bottle of wine at a
draught, set down his flagon an stared afresh. "A man -- here?
Bringing them -- pardieu! I never thought of that! Who told you

"The man to whom he was bringing them," said d'Artagnan placidly.
"Last night when I arrived he asked after such a courier, whom he
was expecting hourly. He described the man, I recognized the dead
man in the road -- "

The veins swelled in the forehead of Porthos.   His nostrils
distended, a flood of color rushed into his face. He brought down
one fist on the board and the impact smashed half the crockery.

"His name!" he thundered. "Who is this man?  I'll attend to him!
His name, instantly!"

"Armand, Cardinal de Richelieu."

This name froze Porthos into stone. He did not move, his eyes
remained fastened upon d'Artagnan; but the color slowly drained
out of his face.

"Ah! Ah!" he said slowly. "But that is impossible! That -- that
would mean -- would mean --"

"Exactly," said d'Artagnan. "That would mean your assassin was a
spy who no doubt supposed you to be engaged in some intrigue
against the Cardinal."

"I see it all," said Porthos, and his head fell in dejection. "I
am lost."

"How so?"

Porthos paused, gulped at his wine. Still he lacked the
imagination to confess everything and obtain a spiritual
absolution from his friend.

"The money,"  he said, wiping his lips. "Without it, I could not
reach the lady -- it was my ambassadorial letters. Now I cannot
place myself at her service in the stead of Aramis. And you heard
what the Cardinal said to me, my dear d'Artagnan?  The tone of
voice in which he spoke? Yes, his spies must have been on my
trail. He remembers me, indeed!  Leave me, d'Artagnan; leave me,
for I am a lost man. I may be arrested any moment, taken to a
royal chateau -- Mont St. Michel, the Bastille, Vincennes!"

The gloom, terror, utter despondency of Porthos drew a slight
smile from d'Artagnan.

"My dear Porthos," he said, calmly tasting his wine, "did you
ever know me to deceive you, to feed you with false hopes, to
desert you?"

"You are the soul of honor and of friendship," said Porthos

"Did you ever know me to break a promise to you?"

"The thought is inconceivable."

"Good. Then I bid you hope. I promise you that in this matter you
are no longer alone. I must go to the Cardinal at once. Well! I
shall ask for leave, which is overdue me, both for myself and for
Athos. Your assassin is dead, your gold is gone, instead, you
gain two friends. Aramis is wounded in Paris -- that man told me
so before he died in my arms. He uttered your name -- dead -- and
that of Aramis -- wounded. You see? At Paris, I swear to you upon
the faith of a gentleman that we shall gain access to the lady,
we shall convince her that we are to be trusted, we shall make
good for you all you have lost. Do you believe me?"

Having the means of access to the lady now inside his pocket,
d'Artagnan could very well make this promise.

Porthos lifted his head, stared incredulously at him.

"D'Artagnan! You would do this -- for me?"

"All for one, one for all!" exclaimed d'Artagnan.  "You would do
as much for me. Agreed?"

Porthos sprang to his feet, seized d'Artagnan in a warm embrace,
and tears started from his eyes.

"My friend, my friend!" he cried out with emotion. "Ask of me
what you will -- I am yours! What you will -- anything -- "

D'Artagnan freed himself from that dangerous embrace.

"Then I ask that you remain here until I return from my
conversation with His Eminence," he said coolly. "If leave is
granted me, we may have to depart at once.  You need sleep?"

"I need nothing, since I have found you," exclaimed Porthos.
"That is to say, I need everything -- but I can do without
anything. Go with God, my friend -- I await you!"

D'Artagnan caught up his cloak and departed in some haste for
the palace.

He was at once uneasy and at rest mentally. He was at rest on the
subject of Aramis, for he was confident that he had pieced the
truth together. He was uneasy on the subject of Richelieu, for
now it seemed certain that the Cardinal would desire further
details regarding the dead man in the road. He cursed his own
imprudence for having borne that ring on his finger the previous
night; whatever the ring was, whatever it meant, he should have
exercised discretion.

"What a devilish imbroglio!" he reflected, as he made his way to
the Hotel des Lesdigue'res.

"Aramis is wounded. Porthos receives a letter from him, to Helene
de Sine, whoever she is; he is robbed of it. I take it, and the
papers of Aramis, from a dead man. Comte de Montforge, evidently
a Cardinalist agent, loses a handkerchief which bears the
initials of this same lady. Richelieu, instead of clapping a
penalty on us for duelling, sweetly commands us to be friends --
and summons us to his cabinet! Decidedly, this affair is going
take some very careful stepping."

As he came to the entrance of the palace, horseman came dashing
out of the courtyard and passed d'Artagnan with a wave of the
hand.  It was Montforge, booted and spurred.

When the musketeer was ushered into the presence of Richelieu, he
found Pere Joseph present as on the previous night. And at the
very first moment, a cold shiver passed over d'Artagnan, for he
thought he saw both men glance at his left hand where he had worn
the ring.  However, the Cardinal seemed anything but angry,
greeted him affably took his arm and walked with him to the
window that overlooked the courtyard.

"Look,  M. d'Artagnan, and tell me what you see."

D'Artagnan looked down. "Your Eminence, I see guards on duty, I
see a very handsome jennet being groomed by the stables. I see a
superb horse being saddled -- ah, what an animal! A horse fit for
a king, indeed!"

He fell silent in admiration. Richelieu pressed his arm and

"That animal belongs to you, M. d'Artagnan. Come, I wish to ask
you something. Do you by any chance recall how you happened to
receive a commission as lieutenant?"

D'Artagnan felt fate upon him. "Certainly, Monseigneur; from your
own hands -- a kindness for which I have never ceased to be

"In ten minutes I go to the king," said Richelieu. "I am going to
ask him something else for you.

"For me, Your Eminence?" stammered d'Artagnan. Richelieu regarded
him with a smile, and did not fail to read the caution behind his

"Of course, with your permission only. If -- "

His voice died. He flung a glance through the window and now
stood silent, looking down at the courtyard; the affability of
his features was instantly changed to alert tenseness. A sound of
voices rose to the room -- shouts, greetings, cheers, the
resounding  hollow  smash  of  pike-butts grounded on the stones.
D'Artagnan, looking, saw a file of dusty guards drawing up in
line, while a number of handsomely dressed cavaliers rode into
the courtyard, headed by a slightly stout gentleman with a large
nose, a gay smile, and magnificent armor.  He was saluted on
all sides with respect and hearty cordiality, and the Cardinal's
guards presented arms.

"Pere Joseph -- here!" exclaimed Richelieu. The gray secretary
was already approaching the window, and now laughed shortly as he
glanced out.

"So Bassompierre arrives! Monseigneur, you need not hasten to
your audience."

Richelieu drew back, made a gesture. "Leave me with M.
d'Artagnan, if you please."

When they were alone, the Cardinal turned from the window and
looked at d'Artagnan.

"Monsieur, I suppose you wonder whether I go to ask the king for
a lettre de cachet or a captaincy on your behalf? Come, confess!
We have met before today."

"I am entirely at the service of Your Eminence," said d'Artagnan,
with a composure he was far from feeling. "If I have done nothing
to merit a cell, certainly I have done nothing to merit a

Richelieu regarded him steadily for a moment.

"No evasions, monsieur. We are alone. Shall we be frank?"

"If Your Eminence pleases, most gladly."

"With your permission, I shall ask the king to grant you an
indefinite leave, in order that you may perform certain services
for me. Do you wish to accept?"

D'Artagnan bowed, partly in order to hide the relief in his face.

"I am honored by the choice, for in serving Your Eminence, I
serve the king --"

"A truce to compliments," interrupted Richelieu brusquely. "I
know you of old, M. d'Artagnan. I desire a man who is attached to
His Majesty, a gentleman of finesse, of discretion -- I might
almost say that I desire the service of an enemy rather than of a

"Then I cannot have the pleasure of serving you, Monseigneur,"
said d'Artagnan. "I am not your enemy. Even had I the wish, I
could not aspire to such a height."

The eye of the Cardinal was penetrating. "You are aware, perhaps,
that Madame de Chevreuse is exiled from Paris to her estates at
Dampierre. You are aware, I imagine, of a good deal that cannot
be put into words -- that princes are ambitious, that mortal life
is frail, that those who are great and wealthy and respected
today, may be in chains tomorrow.

D'Artagnan trembled inwardly-more at the half-mocking tone of
Richelieu than at these words.

"Gossip runs to that effect, Your Eminence," he returned

"A despatch now awaiting His Majesty's signature goes to the
Keeper of the Seals at Lyon," pursued Richelieu. He was in a
dangerous humor this morning, as d'Artagnan perceived; this man
who ruled France could not always rule himself -- he had even
been known to strike Cavoie, the captain of  his guards, as he
had been known to take the Chancellor of France by the throat.
"From Lyon you will seek Madame de Chevreuse at Dampierre, to
whom you will deliver a verbal message. You will then return to
Paris and deliver a letter for me.  After which, you will be
free -- that is to say, if you accept.

D'Artagnan bowed. He did not miss the indescribable tone in
which those singular final words were uttered, nor the piercing
regard of the Cardinal.

"I am most happy to serve Your Eminence," he said quietly.

"I must warn you, monsieur," said Richelieu  slowly, "that in
delivering this message to Madame de Chevreuse, you will find it
a dangerous matter."

A disdainful smile touched the lips of d'Artagnan.

"The danger, Monseigneur, is for those who oppose me.

"Ah, Gascon!" Richelieu broke into a short laugh. "Yet there is
greater danger in the delivery of the letter -- it goes to a lady
so beautiful that all who know her fall in love with her at

This touched d'Artagnan's all but mortal hurt and spurred him to

"From such risk, Monseigneur, you and I are alike immune; you, by
reason of the cloth, and I, by reason of a loss I have not

The Cardinal was silent for a moment. Perhaps he, too, had not
forgotten Constance de Bonacieux; perhaps he had not forgotten
Milady, who, as his agent, had poisoned the unhappy Constance and
torn d'Artagnan's heart asunder. After a moment be lifted his
head, moved to his secretary, sat down before it and wrote a
few lines. Sanding them, he folded and sealed the letter, and
addressed it. Then he extended it to d'Artagnan.

"The letter; a personal matter for which I give you thanks."

"I am honored, Monseigneur. And the verbal message?"

The Cardinal spoke reflectively, with a certain air of savage and
cruel assurance.

"You may say that you had it from my lips, but couch it in these
terms: 'His Majesty has learned all and is taking the child under
his own protection.  Be very quiet during the next six months. If
you indulge your liking for letters and visitors   you are lost.'
That is all. Repeat the message, monsieur, if you please."

D'Artagnan repeated it, word for word, but he could not keep a
note of astonishment from his voice. Richelieu, watching him
narrowly, smiled as though gratified by the effect of his words.

"You think, perhaps, I am sending a warning?  No, monsieur; I am
sending a threat."

This was true. Richelieu never sent warnings his purposes were
guessed only after they were accomplished.

"Pardon, Your Eminence," said d'Artagnan. "I do not think
regarding such matters. They pass directly from ears to lips,
without reaching my brain; and they are then forgotten."

"Very well, monsieur. When can you start?"

"The moment I receive my despatches."

"They will be ready in five minutes. Wait below.  The horse
standing there is a present for you -- a token of my gratitude
for your kindness.  You ride alone?"

"With a friend, Monseigneur -- a M. du Vallon, formerly of the
Musketeers, whom I encountered this morning."

"Ah, yes -- Porthos, is it not?" Richelieu smiled, and this smile
struck terror into d'Artagnan, so singular was its quality. "You
will, perhaps -- want to have a word with M. de Bassompierre, who
has just arrived from the army?"

"I, Monseigneur?"  D'Artagnan looked surprised.  "Not at all. I
am not one of M. de Bassompierre's gentlemen -- I know him very
slightly, indeed."

"Indeed!" echoed Richelieu. "Very well; that is all, monsieur."

D'Artagnan bowed and departed. When he found himself outside the
room, he was trembling, as  though he had just emerged from some
terrible danger.

Scarcely was he gone, when Pere Joseph entered the room and
addressed the Cardinal.

"Monseigneur, His Majesty awaits you -- he is being barbered

"Good. And Bassompierre?"

"Is, I think, going to Paris at once."

"So? My friend and father," and Richelieu tapped his arm
affectionately. "I have accomplished two things within a very few
minutes. First, Chevreuse is eliminated from whatever may happen
within the next few months."

"Then Your Eminence has accomplished a miracle."

"Second, that dangerous young man who wore a ring yesterday and
does not wear it today, will cause no further trouble."

"So?" The Capuchin looked doubtful. "He is a better man than
Montforge. He may -- escape."

"In which case he will fall into a pit from which there is no
escape. See to it that he is provided with a purse when the
papers are sent him."

Pere Joseph looked astonished at this unwonted liberality, for at
this period Richelieu was niggardly with money. He had twice
received Marion de l'Orme, the most famous hetera of Paris; he
received her most magnificently on each occasion; after the
second time, he sent her a purse by his lackey Bournais. She
opened it, found a hundred pistoles, threw them into the street,
and told the story to everyone.

Going directly to the courtyard, d'Artagnan paused to peep at the
letter given him: all his curiosity had been keenly aroused. He
glanced at the superscription. This letter was addressed to
Helene de Sirle, at the Parc du Montmorenci.

With a bewildered air, d'Artagnan went to the horse that a groom
was holding, and mounted with scarcely a glance at the superb
animal. He sat waiting, a thousand conjectures flashing across
his mind. One thing was clear -- his mission ended with the
delivery of this letter.

"Therefore," he reflected, "once my errand's done I'm free to
help Porthos. And the Cardinal sends me to the same point, to the
same person, as the Queen!  Now, if I had Athos to advise me in
this -- ah, fool that I am!"

It had just occurred to him that since Athos was at Lyon, there
was nothing to prevent him from taking Athos with him. And at
this admirable inspiration, d'Artagnan could scarce control his
eagerness to be off, pick up Porthos, and depart.

Abruptly, as he sat there, a terrible memory rose before him. The
words of the dying man recurred to him with sinister emphasis:

"Above them all, she -- she herself!"

She herself! A child in the abbey of St. Saforin, guarded by an
unknown Betstein; Aramis and Bassompierre and a plot -- what was
it all?  How did a child enter into it? Was this the same child
mentioned in Richelieu's message? Sudden relief came at the
thought.  "Ah!" he murmured, wiping a trickle of sweat from his
eyes. "Then it's a question of Chevreuse, not of the Queen --
excellent And here, I see, are my despatches --"

A secretary approached him, handed him a packet of letters and a

D'Artagnan turned his horse and twirled his mustache as the
magnificent animal bore him from the courtyard and past the
guards saluting at the gates. He returned their salute, and two
minutes later was on his way to rejoin Porthos.



At the moment d'Artagnan and Porthos left Grenoble, the affairs
of France were in divers hands and conditions. The Imperialists
had captured Mantua by assault and Casale was under siege; on the
other hand, the army had swept all before it in Savoy and
Piedmont, hence the queen-mother was more than ever  furious
against Richelieu.  Both the king and the cardinal had left the
army for the best of reasons -- the plague. Louis XIII, never a
robust man, had come to Grenoble and paused there, with illness
creeping upon him. He had intended to rejoin the army, but it
began to look as though he would rejoin the court instead.

The queens were at Lyon, and Paris ruled itself.  Bassompierre
arrived at Grenoble more in guise of a triumphing Caesar than a
grumbling general.

He found the king at his levee, and was received most joyfully by
Louis, who was at the moment in the hands of his hairdresser.

"Ha! Our beloved marshal foregoes the pomps of war to rejoin us!"
exclaimed the king, as Bassompierre knelt to kiss his hand.
"Come, Francois, tell me something! I hear that when you entered
Madrid as our ambassador, you rode a mule. Is that true?"

"Faith, sire, entirely true!" and Bassompierre chuckled. He was
extremely handsome, and was wearing superb armor, expressly
donned for the occasion.  His hearty, genial laugh, his air of
breezy frankness, swept into the room like a freshening breath of
morning, "A mule of the finest Andaluzian strain, sent me by the
Emperor; a mule to make a bishop weep with envy  -- "

Well, well," interrupted Louis, "I never thought to see the day
when an ass was mounted upon a mule!"

Those around broke into laughter. Bassompierre  swept the king a
low bow.

"True, very true," he rejoined. "But all things are possible to
those anointed of the Lord! Upon that occasion I was, naturally,
representing Your Majesty."

The superb audacity of this reply delighted the king, who burst
into laughter that ended the business of his hairdresser.

"Francois, you have a tongue in a thousand -- I love you for it,"
he cried gaily. "They say you would sooner lose a friend than a
good jest, Francois! Be careful you do not lose a friend in me!"

"God forbid, Your Majesty!" said Bassompierre devoutly. "For
then I should have to seek a friend in His Eminence."

"Impossible, Betstein, impossible!" Louis laughed heartily, and
according to his custom used the German form of Bassompierre's
name, as a token of familiarity. "Our good cardinal has no maids
of honor at his court."

"In such case," said the audacious Lorrainer, "let us both return
to Lyon, sire, and be at our ease!"

Louis chuckled at this thrust. It was no secret that the king was
madly but virtuously enamored of Mlle. de Hautefort, maid of
honor to the queen. Leaning back in his chair, Louis resigned
himself again to the hands of his hairdresser.  He was handsome,
in his thinly cruel fashion, but his temper was extremely uneven;
he rose to a certain largeness of spirit only with Bassompierre.

This man, who alone could jest with the king on even terms, moved
among the gentlemen present, his impressive personality
dominating them all, even his enemies. Of these he had not a few.
The polished and imposing presence, the very force of character
which so contributed to his success as courtier or gambler, lover
or ambassador, assured him the solid testimonial of envious foes.

One of these gentlemen, who fancied the raillery of the king
betokened a change in the marshal's fortunes, thought the
occasion opportune to intrude a suave hint of intrigue. He turned
to Bassompierre.

"So, monsieur, we are to judge that you have joined the party of

"Eh?" said Bassompierre, astonished, "I? And why should you think
that, monsieur?"

The other shrugged. "Why not, indeed, after the tender manner in
which you embrace his sister, the Princesse de Conti?"

"Ho!" Bassompierre inflated his cheeks in hearty laughter.
"Nonsense, my dear monsieur, nonsense!  I assure you that I have
embraced your wife with far greater warmth -- and I do not love
you any the more because of it!"

The king broke into a roar of mirth in which all his gentlemen
joined, and in the midst of this mirth, the cardinal was
announced. Richelieu entered, saluted profoundly, kissed the
king's hand,  and greeted Bassompiere very warmly. Now, as it
chanced, Louis remembered d'Artagnan and asked where he was.

"He has just departed, sire," said the cardinal.  "He received
your letters for the court, and was next moment in the saddle."

"Ah! A pity I missed him!" said Bassompierre.  "I like that young
man. He is impetuous, he is afraid of nothing, he is a good
officer. Above all, he is faithful."

"You admire faithful men more than faithful women, eh?" jested
the king.

"Faith, sire, it's all one to me!" Bassompierre's laughing brown
eyes twinkled, and he twirled the waxed points of his mustache.
Then, meeting the eye of Richelieu, he sensed a coming attack,
and fell silent with disconcerted surprise.  How he had offended
the minister, he could not conceive.

"M. le Marechal wears armor," said the cardinal smoothly.
"Surely, sire, he does not fear the weapons of enemies here?"

An ominous hint. Bassompierre was too old a courtier to show his
astonishment, however; the king, rising from the chair, took his
arm affectionately.

"Eh, Betstein? Surely you have no such fear in our presence?"

"Alas, sire -- I have great fear of assassination,"  admitted
Bassompierre, who was no man to refuse a challenge from the
cardinal or any other. At the word, there was a stir. The king's
hand fell, his face changed. Those around stood frozen, and
Richelieu's eye held a satiric gleam of triumph. With that word,
Bassompierre had wrecked his future -- all felt this to be

"Assassination!" echoed Louis. "In our presence? Explain
yourself, monsieur!"

Bassompierre bowed.

"Sire, His Eminence is, as usual, entirely right.  Regard this
corselet -- expressly made for me, never worn until this morning!
You will observe, sire, the remarkable gold inlay, the supreme
lightness yet excellence of the steel!"

"It is indeed magnificent," said the king coldly.  "I doubt
whether its like is in our own armory.  But, Francois, if you
seem to doubt our ability to protect -- "

It was coming. Another instant, and Bassompierre would be
dismissed, sent to his estates, ruined! He intervened, coolly.

"Pardon, sir -- you misapprehend. Assassination is indeed my
greatest fear; but not for myself. I wore this corselet in the
hope that you would deign to accept it from me, wear it, and so
set at rest all the fears that have weighed upon me! This bit of
steel is too beauteous for me -- only the son of Henri Quatre
could wear it fittingly!"

And with a gesture, Bassompierre unbuckled the corselet.

The king was astonished, delighted, charmed as a boy with a new
toy. The cardinal bit his lip with vexation. Although slightly
large for Louis XIII, the corselet proved a fairly good fit, and
the king insisted on wearing it immediately. He discovered that
it became him admirably, and was put into excellent humor. So,
when Bassompierre requested permission to go to Paris it was
granted instantly.

"As you like, Betstein, as you like," said the  king. "But, I
order you -- tell us her name!"

"Her name, sire, is Chaillot," said Bassompiere, giving the title
of the magnificent estate he had recently purchased.  "I go to
build my home, hoping that some day I may have the honor to
entertain Your Majesty there."

"See that you build your house upon the rock,  my dear marshal,"
said Richelieu drily. Bassonpierre smiled at him.

"Monseigneur, it shall be built upon a stone!" he said, playing
on his own name.

"When one builds a house," said the cardinal reflectively, "the
next step is to bring home the bride. You are not, by any chance,
thinking of marriage?"

In these words, Bassompierre perceived that his secret marriage
had become known to the cardinal.  He passed off the question
with a jest, but ten  minutes afterward he took his leave of the
king and retired.

"If I remain here? I am a lost man!" he said to his secretary.
"The horses, swiftly -- let us ride for Paris!"

He little dreamed that because he did not remain here he was,
indeed, a lost man. These things lay in the future.

When Bassompierre and his princely suite were half a league out
of Grenoble, there came riding after them a gentleman of the
king's household, a distant relative of the marshal. Catching up
with them, he drew Bassompierre to one side the road.

"News for you, monsieur," he said. "Do you know an officer of
Musketeers named d'Artagnan?"

"I know of him, at least," said Bassompierre curiously. "Why?"

"He precedes you to Paris."

"That is no news."

"He carries a letter."

"I carry fifty. Did you spur after us to tell me this?"

"To tell you, monsieur, that I was standing in the courtyard when
he drew out this letter and looked at the superscription, which
was written in the hand of Richelieu."

"Ah!" murmured Bassompierre. "And did it concern me?"

"That, monsieur, I leave to you. I saw the writing; the letter
was addressed to a certain Mlle. de Sirle."

Bassompierre became pale as death.

"Impossible!" he ejaculated. "Richelieu never heard of  her!"

"On the contrary, monsieur, Richelieu met her at the hotel of the
Duc de Montmorenci, and is said to have visited her since then."

The pallor of the marshal became a deep and angry flush.

"So! But it is impossible. The Cardinal -- " He checked himself
abruptly, smiled, and held out his hand with a swift change of
manner. "My thanks, my thanks! It was good of you to think this
matter might concern me, but I assure you it does not.  I am
sorry you have lost your time and trouble, my friend."

"I have not lost it, monsieur, since I have gained your thanks,"
said the other, and so turned about and rode back to Grenoble.

Bassompierre continued his way but with this difference -- he now
rode at headlong speed.

D'Artagnan and Porthos gained Lyon without pause. Upon reaching
the artillery barracks where the Musketeers were quartered,
Porthos dismounted, staggered, and was only saved from falling by

"My friend," he confessed, "I have been in the saddle four days
and nights. I need sleep. I need salves and ointment. For the
love of heaven, show me a bed and leave me!"

D'Artagnan took him to his own quarters, then delivered his
despatches,learned that Athos was on duty, and sought out M.
Rambure's, the captain of his company, whom he found at table.

"Monsieur," he said with his simple directness,  "As you know, I
bore letters to His Majesty at Grenoble. There I had the honor of
seeing the Cardinal."

"Peste!" exclaimed Rambures, facetiously. "And you're not in the
Bastille, my dear fellow?"

"On the contrary, I'm on my way to Paris at the request of His
Eminence, who promised me leave, advised me to make haste, and
authorized me do what I liked. Therefore, with your permission, I
should like my friend M. Athos to ride with me."

"Gladly, M. d'Artagnan, gladly. But come! To Paris -- for the
cardinal? Just between ourselves, when did M. du Plessis obtain
the services of His Majesty's guards?"

"By convincing the guards, monsieur, that they were acting in His
Majesty's interests."

Rambure's broke into laughter. "Good, good!  Put in the
application -- I'll attend to it. Take our good Athos and go when
you desire. Sit down and help me finish this bottle of wine; the
guard will be changed in ten minutes, and you can then gobble
Athos and run. What news from the army?"

D'Artagnan made himself comfortable.

"None that I know of -- I got into Grenoble late, and left early
in the morning.  By the way, Rambure's, do you happen to know a
gentleman of the cardinal's household named Montforge?"

The captain, who was a Gascon like two-thirds of the guards,

"Hm -- yes, I've heard the name! Of course he's the man who
killed Aubain, Guise's fencing  master, last year.  Isn't he some
relative of Mme. de Chavigny? You know, the complaisant lady who
bore His Eminence a son -- tut, what scandal!"  Rambure's
laughed. "Here's long life to you, and wishing I were going to
Paris in your company!"

D'Artagnan knew already that Montforge was an excellent blade;
he knew already that the man was a favorite of Richelieu; so,
having learned nothing, he presently departed to find Athos, and
came upon him just going off duty. Athos embraced him warmly, as
though he had been absent four months instead of four days.

"Ha, my son -- back already?  What news?"

"Every sort imaginable," said d'Artagnan.  "Come over to that
auberge and settle down to talk it out in comfort -- "

"Unfortunately," said Athos, "I have been assigned to escort
their majesties, who go riding in the park in half an hour."

"Bah!" D'Artagnan beckoned to another gentleman of the
Musketeers, who was approaching. "You are on leave, my dear Athos
-- you ride to Paris with me. M. de Bret will take your place and
be glad to do it."

This proving true, the two friends repaired to the auberge across
the street.

"To Paris?" said Athos, and then shrugged.  "Good! As well one
place as another."

Such was the philosophy of the Comte de la Fere at this period.

Since that terrible night on the banks of the Lys, when
d'Artagnan, Lord de Winter, and the Three Musketeers had
witnessed the execution of Milady, Athos had once more sunk into
the depths of his own negligence toward life. He had no ambition.
He lived for nothing. He drank huge quantities of his favorite
Spanish wine, spoke little, appeared drowned in a dark and
mysterious sadness. Yet neither wine nor melancholy affected this
man outwardly -- this man who, so far as others were concerned,
lived as a perfect model of chivalry and honor. His voice
retained its soft liquid quality, his features retained their
indefinable air of nobility, of sweetness, his wrist retained its
marvelous flexibility; all this despite his more frequent turning
to the material side of life -- to tavern debauches where he
uttered scarce a word, to steady drinking until Grimaud took his
arm and led him  home. It seemed as though Athos had resolved to
drown all that lay behind and ahead of him.

As the two friends turned in at the tavern, a man suddenly
appeared in front of them and blocked the way. This man was
Grimaud, the lackey of Athos.

Athos motioned him aside, but Grimaud did not budge.

"Well?" asked Athos. In reply, Grimaud drew a letter from his
pocket and presented it. This letter was addressed to the Comte
de la Fere.

"Who brought this?" demanded Athos in astonishment. Grimaud,
trained to silence, shrugged to indicate his ignorance.
D'Artagnan, who knew that Athos never wrote or received a letter,
was astonished.

"Bah!" said Athos. "Your news first, d'Artagnan.  Come!"

They entered the auberge and settled themselves in a corner.
When the wine was brought and they were alone, d'Artagnan took
the ring and letter from his pocket. He handed the ring to Athos,
whose amazing knowledge of heraldry had ere this astonished him.

"Do you know whose arms these are!"

Athos smiled slightly. "Certainly. They belong to the man who
would have been married to the daughter of the old Constable de
Montmorenci, had he not neglected the etiquette of paying a visit
to the Duc de Bouillon, nephew of the Constable. In consequence,
she was married to Conde -- "

"I am not a historian," interrupted d'Artagnan.  "Whose are these

Athos drank deeply. "They belong to the man who refused to be
made Duc d'Aumale."

"His name?"

"He has two."

"Devil take you!" said d'Artagnan impatiently.  Athos, seeing
that he was in earnest, at once lost his jesting manner.

"Pardon, my son -- yet you astonished me by your ignorance! This
man is captain of the Chateau de Monceaux; a knight of the Ordre
du St. Esprit; he refused a bribe of 100,000 crowns; he played
tennis with Wallenstein before Emperor Maximilian; he outdrank
the canons of Saverne; he won a wager of a thousand crowns from
Henri IV; he was given the honor of having fifty guards; he
refused the Duchy of Beaupreau; he was made Marshal of France --"

"Ah! ah!" exclaimed d'Artagnan in stupefied astonishment. "You
cannot mean Schomberg -- "

"Certainly not. I mean Bassompierre -- whose name originally was
Betstein, the same name in Germanized form."

D'Artagnan was overcome with stupefaction.  Betstein!

"Read this," he said, and handed the letter of Aramis to his
friend. Athos glanced at it, and pushed it away a little with his

"I have a letter of my own, not yet read," he said. "A gentleman
does not read the letters of others, my son.

"A soldier reads the correspondence of the enemy," said

"True," said Athos, and picked up the letter. A slight pallor
came into his face, and his eyes darted a fiery glance at
d'Artagnan. "A letter -- to a lady -- and in the hands of Aramis!
And you say -- an enemy --

"Read it," said d'Artagnan calmly. "It contains  no secrets."

Athos met his gaze steadily for a moment, found it serene and
unclouded, nodded slightly, and opened the letter.

"I have read it," he said.

"Good. Now -- can you conceive to whom it refers?  To what

The singularly imperturbable eyes of Athos rested on him, and
then that sweet and expressive smile touched the lips of the
older man.

"Ah, my son! I know the suppressed eagerness burning in you!
Were it not impossible, I would say that the bearer of this
letter -- this friend of Aramis -- must be also a friend of ours.
Porthos. But that is impossible."

D'Artagnan was seized with wonder at this evidence of insight.

"Athos -- you  are divine!"  he  exclaimed.  "Porthos is at this
moment asleep on my bed. Come -- here is the whole story."

And he poured out all that had happened since he had left Lyon
for Grenoble.

Athos listened, tapping with his long and beautiful fingers on
the letter he had received but had not opened. He showed no
astonishment at what he heard -- only a miracle could make Athos
lift an eyebrow. But, when d'Artagnan repeated the words uttered
by the dying spy of Richelieu, the gaze of Athos became
singularly penetrating, alert, alive. The names of Porthos and of
Aramis still had power for him. When the tale came to the meeting
with Porthos, his gaze showed interest.  When it came to the
interrupted duel, it revealed satisfaction.

"Ah, my son, I am proud of you!" he said quietly, and those words
thrilled d'Artagnan above all praise from Richelieu or Louis
himself. "I have heard of this Montforge -- a man of noble blood
and ignoble speech and deed.  Continue."

D'Artagnan finished his recital, and the eye of Athos began to
sparkle. D'Artagnan showed Richelieu's letter to Helene de Sirle,
and was about to repeat the verbal message to Chevreuse, when
Athos checked him.

"Tut, tut -- that message is sacred!"

"But I have no secrets from you, my friend."

"That is not your secret."

"True." D'Artagnan reflected. "Richelieu said the message was not
a warning, but a threat, and was extremely dangerous to me as the

A disdainful smile touched the lips of Athos.

"Undoubtedly. Chevreuse is the most dangerous woman in France, as
Richelieu knows to his cost; she stops at nothing, stoops to

"Well, leave that aside. What do you think of  the other matter?"

"I think Bassompierre is facing destruction," and Athos drank an
entire goblet of Malaga as though it were a duty.

"No, no -- I mean the business of the child! That's why I wanted
to repeat the message -- it has a vital connection."

"So?" Athos looked thoughtful. "You think Porthos knows all about

"I have not asked him. Theories are wasted time."

"Exactly my opinion. Let's dismiss the whole affair for the
moment -- ride to Paris, then to Dampierre -- or to Dampierre
first. We can go by way of Bourg-la-Reine and circle back to
Paris. Once there, we deliver your letter to Mlle. de Sirle
and Porthos delivers his."

"Or we for him. I promised to gain him admission to her

"You must give him the letter."

"And confess that I kept silent about it?"

"Not at all. Give it to Grimaud." Athos turned  and crooked his
finger. As though by magic, Grimaud came forward and stood before
the table.  Athos handed him the letter.

"M. Porthos."

Grimaud had not heard of Porthos in above a year's time, but said

The horses, immediately after supper tonight," said Athos,
Grimaud gave d'Artagnan an inquiring look.

"No, I have a new mount," said d'Artagnan. "Go to my room first."

"Ah!" Grimaud started. "Then M. Por--"

"Silence, you villain!" commanded Athos.

Demanding pardon with a profound bow,  Grimaud departed on his
errand. D'Artagnan laughed; he understood perfectly. Grimaud
would put the letter in the pocket of Porthos, who would discover
it upon wakening.

"So we have money, horses, freedom, and we ride upon business for
the queen and the Cardinal -- excellent!" said Athos, taking all
this as a matter of course. "Aramis is wounded; you destroyed the
packet taken from him -- better still!  That spy said he had had
this ring with Bassompierre's arms made -- I wonder why? Bah! No
use wondering.  Ride and discover."

"Have you forgotten your own letter?" asked  d'Artagnan.

With a careless shrug, Athos picked up the letter, found the seal
illegible, and tore open the folded paper. It was a very stout
paper, a sort of parchment; the letter had been sent on from the
Hotel of the Musketeers at Paris.

Reading the letter, Athos did not change his expression, but the
color slowly drained out of his face and was replaced by a mortal
pallor. He lifted his eyes, looked at d'Artagnan, and spoke with
visible effort.

"Do you -- do you remember a man -- an Englishman -- " his
voice failed. D'Artagnan, startled, leaned over the table.

"You do not mean -- Lord de Winter?"

Athos inclined his head and pushed forward the letter.
D'Artagnan, stupefied, turned it about and read:

            "M. Athos: Lest one letter fail, I send four,
           to you and to your three friends. I shall be in
           Paris, at the Hotel of the Marquis de St. Luc,
           Place Royale, on July 30th.

D'Artagnan looked at the letter, then looked at Athos, then at
the letter again, with a puzzled frown. Something was lacking
here -- he did not know what. On that fateful night beside the
River Lys two years ago, when Milady was executed, a fifth
man had stood beside the four friends. She, who had been the
mistress of d'Artagnan and the wife of Athos, had also been the
sister-in-law of Lord de Winter; this woman was dead, but she had
left frightful memories behind.

"What does he mean?" Athos passed a hand across his pallid brow.
"I do not want to see him. Why should he write the four of us --"

"Ah, ah!" exclaimed d'Artagnan, and lifted his voice. "Host! A
lighted candle -- name of the devil, be quick about it!" He
looked at Athos, his eyes sparkling. "My friend, 1 have just
thought of something -- this signature is well below the body of
the letter -- "

The inn-keeper brought a lighted candle and departed. When he was
gone, d'Artagnan held the letter above the flame. Words appeared,
written in the thick paper with secret ink and momentarily shown
by the heat:

       "He is dead; she remains. Come, if you would
               save her!"

D'Artagnan lifted his head and regarded Athos, who had read the

"He -- ah! That means Buckingham. And she --  then it's a
question of the queen -- "

"Silence, foolish tongue!" exclaimed Athos  severely. "Of course,
of course!  This Englishman is faithful and a gentleman. But St.
Luc is brother-in-law to Bassompierre! I do not understand this
at all -- "

"Therefore dismiss conjecture, accept your own medicine, and
don't waste time!" D'Artagnan held the paper in the flame and
watched it burn. "One letter out of four arrived. This is the
twenty-fifth of July. We must ride to Dampierre first; that's
understood. If we're to be in Paris on the thirtieth --"

"We must leave this evening," said Athos. "Except that Porthos
needs sleep, we should leave now, this moment!"

D'Artagnan rose. "Good. Pray wait for me at  my quarters -- make
yourself at home there, my dear Athos. I may not return until

"Oh!" Athos looked at him with a touch of  sadness. "That pretty
little lady in Rue de Grenoble, eh? Well, well, I do not repeat
my warnings."

D'Artagnan flushed slightly. It was true that Athos had warned
him, though for no particular reason; if he had ignored the
warning, he had not forgotten it.

"One romance begins, another is ended," he said lightly. "Do not
reproach me; the lady has treated me well and I cannot leave her
like a bumpkin without saying farewell. And, since her husband is
the equerry of the Duc de Lesdigueres, and with the army -- "

"All is safe," concluded Athos satirically. "Go with God or the
devil, my friend! I have nothing to live for except your
friendship, so come back safe."

And Athos drained another flagon of Malaga at one draught.



For above a year d'Artagnan had remained faithful to the memory
of  his devoted Constance, who had been poisoned by Milady; but
when one is young and ardent, wounds heal swiftly.  It must be
confessed that Sophie de Bruler was an excellent agent of
healing. Her little house in the Rue de Grenoble was discreet,
charming, even rich; her husband in earlier years had fought in
Hungary against the Turks and had brought home two wagon-loads of
booty. Sophie herself was, like other young wives of elderly
warriors, inconsolable in the absence of her lord, and did not
rebuff the attempts at consolation which d'Artagnan made. In
person she was small, with the most brilliant brown eyes in the
world, and her graceful, supple figure was the envy of half the
ladies of Lyon. If our hero had in some wise consoled her for the
absence of her knightly husband, then she had offered him no
little consolation for his own deeper and more bitter loss.
D'Artagnan was not in love with her, but he made love as though
he were, and at moments he almost deceived himself in this

Although his coming was unexpected, he did not hesitate on this
account.  The house being on a corner, there was a garden gate
opening on the side street; to this gate, d'Artagnan possessed
the key.

Letting himself in at this gate, he found the garden empty. The
afternoon was late, but darkness was still an hour or two away.
Knowing that the little bell attached to the gate gave warning of
each arrival, he eyed the windows as he crossed the garden,
hoping to catch sight of the fair Sophie.  No one appeared,

He knocked at the door, which was instantly opened to him by the

"Come in, monsieur," she said. "Madame saw your approach and
sent me to tell you that she would not keep you a moment. She is
engaged with her notary. Will you enter the little salon!"

Giving her his hat and cloak, d'Artagnan stepped into the tiny
reception salon near the entrance -- a very handsome little room
hung with yellow satin and containing a superb Titian which M. de
Bruler had removed from a Hungarian altar.

"Peste! Madame is devoted to her notary!"  thought d'Artagnan.
"This is the third time in two weeks she has been engaged with

However, since Sophie was managing the affairs of her absent
husband, she had some excuse for her attachment to business.

D'Artagnan, indeed, had not waited five minutes when the
femme-de-chambre appeared and said her mistress would receive

"She has been suffering all day from a migraine and is in her
chamber," she said. "If monsieur will follow -- "

D'Artagnan pressed a coin into her hand.

"You need not show me the way," he said eagerly. "I know it
already, my good woman -- "

And he sprang for the stairway.

Sophie de Bruler, wearing a charming negligee of sky-blue silk
encrusted with silver stars, reclined on a chaise-longue near a
table on which were documents, ink, quills and sand-sifter. The
walls of the room were covered by that magnificent set of
tapestries designed by Rubens and representing the rape of
Lucrece and the fall of the Tarquins, for which M. de Bruler had
refused 40,000 crowns.

The room was in disorder, as was invariably the case. The
curtains of the tall carven bed in one corner were drawn. On the
tables was heaped a medley of bottles and boxes and toilet
articles -- pomades, mirrors, perfumes, powders; clothes were
everywhere, flung about carelessly. The one quality lacking to
Madame de Bruler was neatness.

D'Artagnan parted the curtains, stood on the threshold an
instant; then, with the rapidity of light, was across the room
and kneeling beside his mistress. He pressed his lips to hers,
she returned the embrace warmly, yielding to his ardor with a
passionate abandon that enchanted him. Then, suddenly, she drew
away, looked into his eyes, smiled.

"Ah, in what a state you find me!" she exclaimed. "This terrible
room -- always in confusion, always at sixes and sevens! I am
ashamed, my dear d'Artagnan -- "

"Let love assoil your shame, then," he returned quickly. "I ride
to Paris and beyond, my fair one -- a long journey, a long
errand! I may not return.  Before leaving, I stole an hour or two
to see you, to mingle my tears with yours, to protest my devotion
-- "

"Ah, horror!" she exclaimed. "You -- leaving?  Impossible! Cruel
that you are, to greet me with such words! Here, sit beside me,
tell me you are only jesting -- "

"Alas, would that I were!" responded d'Artagnan, obeying her
command. "Are we alone?"

"Absolutely, my treasure!" she replied, touching his hair with
caressing fingers.  "Georgette has orders not to disturb us until
supper is served.  Ah, my hero -- surely you were jesting?"

D'Artagnan drew her to him. "Jesting? No, unfortunately! So come
-- let us forget tomorrow in today!"

"Gladly -- if you trust me a little!" she returned, with a warm
response to his kisses.

"Eh? Trust you -- my source of all happiness?"  D'Artagnan was
astonished, and broke into his quick, kindling smile. "With my

"Then why do you go to Paris -- after you swore to me you would
be here all summer? The court is not leaving."

"Ah!" he exclaimed. "I go because I am ordered, not because I
desire it."

"On duty or on errands of love?"

D'Artagnan laughed. "On errands of state, believe me!  Love and
duty I leave here."

"Liar!" she said, her brown eyes very merry and bright. "You go
to see a lady, I wager!"

"Oh! That is true," said d'Artagnan, disconcerted. "But I also go
to see another lady, and I have never seen either of them in my
life, so -- "

"So," she mocked him, "you'll see them and forget me

"No, I swear it!" cried d'Artagnan impulsively.

"My sweet love, not for any lady save the queen whom I serve,
would I forget you! And to tell the truth, I think my main errand
is to be with a man, an Englishman -- "

He checked himself abruptly. It seemed to him that the tapestry
to one side had waved a little, as though a draught of air were
in the room; this trifling matter had the effect of halting the
indiscreet disclosure he had been about to make in self defense.

"An Englishman!" exclaimed Sophie, opening her eyes wide. "Not
truly! A monster!"

"No," and d'Artagnan laughed. "A nobleman.  And besides, I shall
not go alone. I shall have with me -- "

Something checked him again -- some instinct, some inner
warning. He drew the yielding lips of Sophie to his, held her in
a passionate embrace. And, as he released her from this embrace,
he saw the tapestry move for the second time.

The blood in the veins of d'Artagnan turned to ice. He scarce
realized that Sophie had drawn him down beside her, that she was
covering his face with kisses.

"So you do love me!" she cried softly. "Foolish woman that I am,
I thought your mission was concerned with the will of Francois
Thounenin of Dompt, of whom a kinsman in Lorraine wrote me!
Swear to me that you would not imperil yourself in that affair!"

With an effort, d'Artagnan collected himself.

"Thounenin of Dompt!" he repeated, astonished. "Upon my honor, I
have never heard the name -- I know nothing about it!"

Sophie thought him merely amazed at her knowledge. A shallow
woman, absolutely unfitted for the part she was playing, she
could not see that to this man such an oath meant the exact
truth.  With an air of making a vast impression, she reached out
and took a small paper from the table nearby.

"See, where I copied it from my kinsman's letter!" she exclaimed.
"The will drawn up by Thounenin before Leonard, hereditary grand
tabellion to the Duchy of Lorraine, on May 29, 1624 -- the will
which is now being so much talked about -- "

D'Artagnan, to whom all this talk meant nothing, was staring at
the paper, thunderstruck. He did not regard the words written
there, but the paper itself.  It was an Italian paper, made with
an intricate and heavy watermark -- the identical paper used by
Richelieu in writing Helene de Sirle. This sheet, therefore, must
have come from the very desk of the cardinal at Grenoble.

"My angel, your kinsman is singularly well informed," said
d'Artagnan, without the least evidence of his surprise.

"So he should be, my love, since he is one of the Duke's
gentlemen! I was worried lest you become involved in the business
and draw down the anger of the great Cardinal -- "

"Be assured," said the young man. "What beautiful paper this is
-- Italian, I think?"

Sophie shrugged. "I do not know. It was one of a few sheets my
notary left."

She drew d'Artagnan's lips to hers. Under cover of a long
embrace, he deftly contrived to fold the fragment of paper in his
fingers; then, slipping it into his cuff, he pressed the perfumed
curls of Sophie against his shoulder and covered her eyes with
impassioned kisses.  Looking up as he did so, he again perceived
a slight movement in the tapestry -- and beneath its edge, at the
floor, caught a glint as of a sword-point there.

"Athos did well to warn me!" thought d'Artagnan.

Having no inclination for the role of Samson, he glanced swiftly
about -- not neglecting, however, the beautiful woman who was
sighing in his arms and stirring as with passionate abandon.

The only weapon in sight was a long Turkish poniard, inlaid with
gold and gems. It hung by the window, barely a foot from the
suspicious point in the tapestry.  Since the chamber had, so far
as he knew, only the one door, and escape from the window was
impossible because of its height above the ground, d'Artagnan
realized that he must act swiftly and shrewdly if he were to
escape. He no longer doubted that Sophie was acting as a spy,
or had a spy concealed behind her hangings. This paper had been
given her, doubtless in order that she should question him about
the will of Thounenin; she bad blundered in putting it into his
hands. So this was why she had been so curious about his errand!

"My angel, I am about to show my confidence in you," said
D'Artagnan, caressing the silken locks that fell about his breast
and watching the tapestry narrowly as he spoke. "True, I can have
no secrets from you!  Know, then, that I have been given an
important mission by His Eminence the Cardinal."

"Ah!" The lovely arms of Sophie tightened about him. "By
Richelieu himself?"

"Himself," repeated d'Artagnan. "A conspiracy has been discovered
at Paris -- a conspiracy to kill the king, place the Duc
d'Orleans on the throne, and arrest the cardinal. Well, then! I
go to seize the leaders of this conspiracy. It is the way of our
great cardinal, my angel, to strike when least expected -- to
foresee the blow aimed at him and launch a stroke which will
paralyze it.  An excellent fashion, I assure you, and one which I
myself endeavor to imitate whenever possible -- as for example
-- "

While speaking, he had gently loosened the clinging arms that
enfolded him. Now, with one sudden and agile spring, he gained
the window, grasped the Turkish poniard, ripped it from its
hangings, and unsheathing it, thrust it with all his strength at
the tapestry.

Swift as he was, his blow was evaded.

The tapestry was flung aside, a man there leaped back from the
blow, a sword glittered and drove at the heart of d'Artagnan. One
piercing shriek burst from Sophie -- but d'Artagnan had no time
to look at her.  He had missed his blow, but with the dagger he
caught and parried the sword-stroke aimed at him -- and he
recognized the man facing him.

It was the Comte de Montforge.

"Ah,  villain!"  cried  d'Artagnan  furiously.  "Assassin that
you are -- "

Montforge laughed, pressed in upon him. Having only the poniard,
d'Artagnan could scarce hope to defend himself for long against
the rapier that sought his throat; he darted backward, holding
the longer steel in play. A table overturned with a crash.
Montforge struck against a chair, was momentarily flung off
balance -- and like a panther, d'Artagnan leaped in upon him and
struck him full above the heart.

The poniard shattered. Montforge was unharmed.

"Mail!" cried d'Artagnan. "Coward as well as villain -- "

He hurled the hilt of the poniard into the eyes of Montforge,
gained the door with one leap, and slammed it behind him as he
darted for the stairs.

He encountered none of the domestics. Burning with mortification,
with fury, with shame, he caught up his sword, bared it, turned
and ran back up the stairs to encounter Montforge on an equal
basis. When he burst into the room again, however, Montforge was
not there. Sophie lay upon the couch, in a faint; a turned-back
corner of the tapestry disclosed another door, now locked, by
which Montforge had evidently departed.

D'Artagnan, raging, retraced his steps, took up baldric, hat and
cloak, and in another moment was out in the Rue de Grenoble.
Darkness was falling, there were no passers-by, the street was
empty.  Then, recalling the side street by which he himself had
entered, d'Artagnan ran to the corner.

"Ah!" he cried out. "Scoundrel -- wait!"

At the little garden gate, Montforge was just mounting into the
saddle of a horse. He gave d'Artagnan one glance, flung a mocking
laugh at him, and thrust in his spurs.  He was darting away
before d'Artagnan could reach him, another laugh trailing back.
With a furious curse, d'Artagnan put up his sword and bent his
steps toward his own quarters.

"The devil!" he exclaimed, torn between bewilderment and chagrin.
"Here's our precious notary, then -- ah! Athos, you were right,
as always!"

When he came to his own quarters, Grimaud was before the door.

"The horses are ready?" asked d'Artagnan.  Grimaud made a sign
of assent, and d'Artagnan went into the room.

Porthos was sitting on the edge of the bed, eyes still heavy with
sleep. Athos sat beside the window, flinging dice idly with one
hand against the other. At sight of d'Artagnan, Porthos uttered a
sharp exclamation.

"Ah, my friend! Imagine! I am a fool -- I was never robbed at
all! I came to myself, found my -- my belongings, my rouleaux of
gold, inside the lining of my cloak --"

"Wait!" Athos rose. He had perceived the disordered attire, the
changed aspect, of d'Artagnan; now, as the latter dropped his
cloak, Athos pointed to a slit in his sleeve. "What has happened?
Then my warning was not futile, after all?"

"My dear Athos," said d'Artagnan gloomily, "your warning saved
my life. So you have found your money, Porthos? Good. Listen, my
friends!"  He broke off momentarily. He had only told Porthos of
his mission to Dampierre, not of the letter to Mlle. de Sirle.
"First, I must tell you that, besides my errand to Dampierre, M.
de Richelieu confided a second mission to me. This was to
deliver a letter to a certain Mlle. de Sirle at Paris -- "

"Eh? What's that?" Porthos opened his eyes wide. "Why, it was to
her that -- that -- "

"That Aramis sent you? Excellent. We shall kill two birds with
one stone. Now listen attentively, my Porthos! And you, Athos --
you shall hear how well founded was your warning -- "

He told them everything that had happened at the house of Sophie
de Bruler.

Porthos, not comprehending the half of it all, uttered
ejaculations of fury and wonder; Athos, who understood everything
perfectly, said nothing until d'Artagnan had finished. Then he
held out his hand.

"The paper -- you saved it?"

"Here it is." D'Artagnan gave him the folded paper.

"Your letter to Mlle. de Sirle?"

From the inner pocket of his tunic, d'Artagnan took the
Cardinal's letter.  Athos glanced at it, then returned it.

"Very simple, my friend. This notation is in the hand of
Richelieu himself.  Montforge had it from him; was probably
showing it to Sophie, instructing her what to ask you about, when
you arrived. You comprehend?  Richelieu suspected you knew
something about it, and took this means to find out more.
Undoubtedly he suspects you learned something from the dead man
in the road."

D'Artagnan felt the sweat start on his forehead.  That accursed
ring, bearing the chevrons of Bassompierre! It was on his hand
now -- no harm in wearing it, since the damage was done.
Montforge had come to Lyon and had persuaded Sophie to make him
talk if possible.

"Then -- then why should he send me to Dampierre on an errand of

"Perhaps he desired to make your errand dangerous."

D'Artagnan wiped his brow,  as he remembered that interview with
Richelieu -- the strange air and narrow looks of the Cardinal.
And that message about the child -- yes, yes! Richelieu had been
testing him, had been trying to see whether he knew anything!

"Strange about this will of a Lorrainer," said  Athos, frowning.
"You know nothing about it, D'Artagnan?"

"Nothing, upon my honor."

"But I do!" cried Porthos.

The others turned to him, astonished. The giant lifted his head,
groaned, flung out his hands like a man forced to a certain
confession despite himself.

"Come, come, I lay bare everything -- peccavi, peccavi, my
friends!" he said in a hollow voice, looking at them with
strained and bloodshot eyes.  "Aramis mentioned this will to me.
It was connected with my errand -- I know not how.  Nor do I know
what it is. He merely mentioned the name.  D'Artagnan, my friend,
I am a miserable sinner; I lied to you. It was no money that I
lost, but a letter to Mlle. de Sirle. I humbly beg your pardon,
my friend; you see, I swore secrecy to Aramis, and even though it
hurt me, I could not tell you."

D'Artagnan could not keep down a laugh, amazed as he was to find
the Thounenin will somehow connected with this affair.

"Porthos, I'll pardon you if you will pardon me,"  he said. "I
told you of finding the dying spy in the road -- well, I took a
letter from him -- several letters, in fact. He carried your
letter, and others he had taken from Aramis, bearing our friend's
seal. These I destroyed. Your letter was unsealed, and I read it.
I did not give it to you, because you denied having lost anything
except money. However, I had Grimaud place the letter in your
cloak. Are we quits?"

"Ah! Ah!" Porthos leaped to his feet and the floor trembled.
"Embrace me, my friend! I am a new man -- I am ashamed of myself!
There are no secrets now between us -- among us three -- "

"Among us four," corrected Athos gravely.  "Listen, my friends!
We do not know the position of Aramis in this matter; we do not
know in what we are mixing.  All we do know is that we are to
meet Lord de Winter in Paris on July 30th -- and I suggest that
we wait not another moment in Lyon, but take our horses and go."

"Go -- where?" asked Porthos.

"To Dampierre, first. We ride thither with d'Artagnan."

"And why?" queried Porthos, knitting his brow.

"I have an errand there from Richelieu," said d'Artagnan. "And
first, I had an errand there for the queen -- a secret errand.
Now I can guess something of it -- a dreadful guess! Yes, my
friends, we ride for the queen, I promise you!"

"Ah!" the frown of Porthos vanished. "That resolves everything.
Once more we are together, then.  Once more, as in the old
days -- all for one, one for all!  Agreed?"

"Agreed." Athos turned to d'Artagnan. "Consider, my son! Who was
with you and the Queen?"

"Her Spanish woman," said d'Artagnan. "No one else."

"She gave you an errand to Chevreuse, you say?  Then the Spanish
woman has been bought over by Richelieu, depend upon it. A
courier followed you to Grenoble. What did Richelieu do? He
pardoned you for duelling. He presented you with a superb horse.
He sent you to Chevreuse with a verbal message -- and to Paris
with a letter. You see his intent?"

"Devil take me if I do!" said d'Artagnan. "He was most gracious
to me -- and yet all the while I had a premonition of danger -- "

Athos uttered a short, ironic laugh. "We who are about to die,
salute! You are doomed."

"Impossible! You cannot mean that he would send me to be killed"

"My son, my son, did Montforge have sword drawn or not?  Answer."

"Yes," said d'Artagnan, and reflected. "Athos, you are
magnificent -- you always pierce to the truth of things, make
them plain as day! Yes, the scoundrel did his best to kill me.
But why should Richelieu give me a letter to deliver in Paris, if
he meant to kill me en route?"

"Our Cardinal knows you, my son. If one trapfails, he has another
ready -- you carry the means of it in your pocket. And in all
this affair we shall find, not only Aramis, but the Comte de
Montforge, vitally concerned. I predict it!  Remember,  the
handkerchief he dropped; his fury against the queen; his
connection with the Cardinal's household; lastly, how he came
direct to Sophie de Bruler and all but trapped you! That man is

"So." D'Artagnan turned pale. "Well, Athos, I cannot let you go
with me."

"Bah!" exclaimed Athos. "Have you observed in me any great
attachment to my life? Nonsense!  Porthos, here, should not go.
He has married a wife -- "

"Name of ten thousand devils!" thundered Porthos, shaking his
fist in the air.  "You are my friends -- that's enough! I go --
we all go! And if the Cardinal tries to stop us, then so much the
worse for the Cardinal!"

"Admirable!" D'Artagnan broke into a laugh.

"In this sentiment, then, let's be off!"

"None too soon," said Athos. "I make another prediction. I
predict that, since Montforge undoubtedly knows your errand, he
will be ahead of us."

"So much the worse for Montforge," said d'Artagnan in a low

Twenty minutes later, having paused for a bite and a sup, the
three friends were mounting and riding forth, with Grimaud behind



SINCE the night when a group of men witnessed the execution of
a woman beside the River Lys, one of those men had vanished from
human ken.

Aramis resigned from the service, and with him the Chevalier
d'Herblay disappeared. A few letters came from him; he was bound,
he said, on a journey to Lorraine. Then silence. It was rumored
that he had taken orders, had become a Sulpician; Athos, at
least, believed this profoundly.

While Athos, Porthos and d'Artagnan were spurring for Orleans,
to reach Dampierre more swiftly by avoiding Paris, and while
Marechal de Bassompierre was killing horses in the endeavor to
reach Paris, peculiar conversations were going on in an upper
room of the Croix de Bernay -- that famous tavern so pleasantly
situated a short day's ride south of Paris on the Orleans road,
where the western highway crossed.

This upper room was large, commodious and comfortable. Upon
a couch by the window half-reclined Aramis; under his hand was a
species of bed-side table, bearing paper, ink, quills and sand.
He was clad only in a loose black gown, which revealed bandages
about his chest. His features were pale and sunken; from time to
time he paused, as though the effort of writing overtaxed his
strength. A crucifix hung on the wall just above his couch.

A knock, and Bazin entered. As once before, Bazin perceived his
master wounded both in mind and in body and turned from things of
this world to things of the next; the joy of Bazin was, however,
tempered by the fact that his master's wound was this time no
slight matter.

"Monsieur!" exclaimed Bazin in dismay, on seeing his master's
occupation. "Monsieur -- you are not writing, surely! Any
exertion has been forbidden -- and here is the chirurgeon below,
and the Cure of Bernay with him -- "

"Excellent, my good Bazin, excellent," said Aramis in a faint
voice. "Bring them up at once."

He laid aside his quill and sank back on his pillows.

A moment later Bazin ushered the two men into the room. The
chirurgeon came to the couch and shook his head as he regarded
his patient.

"This is bad, very bad!" he declared, without responding to the
greetings of Aramis. "You see, M. le Cure, he has been writing!"

"Exactly," said Aramis, and smiled at the reverend gentleman.
"Monsieur, I had an excellent idea last night for the thesis of
which we were speaking yesterday -- "

The chirurgeon intervened brusquely. "Your pardon, gentlemen --
I must demand silence. M. le Cure, look at this poor man! Regard
his pallor, regard his eye, regard his weakness; you can see for
yourself. He is sinking."

"God preserve us!" exclaimed the cure', and crossed himself.
"Surely, monsieur, you cannot mean that -- that -- "

"That this excellent young man is doomed," said the chirurgeon
firmly. "That, monsieur, is precisely my meaning. In ten minutes
the reaction from his efforts will take place and will produce
fever. With sunset, this fever will die out. By midnight, he will
be in a coma of exhaustion. If he lives until sun-rise, he will
die tomorrow afternoon. I have no hesitation in making this
prediction to his face -- for he has disobeyed my most particular
commands. He has undone all my work."

"In the service of God," added Aramis. "Besides,  my friends,
there is really nothing to cause you such distraction. If it be
the divine will, I am content to die."

"You are too devilishly content," said the blunt man of medicine.
"You make no effort to recover.  Your will is not at work. I've
bled you and bled you -- and what good does it do?"

"It makes me weaker, I can assure you," said Aramis. "As for the
wound -- "

"The wound cannot heal when fever comes upon you," said the
other. He produced certain vials and called for water, which the
anxious Bazin fetched.  When he had mixed a potion, he entrusted
it to the lackey. "Give your master a spoonful of this every
hour," he said, and took up his hat. "Gentlemen, I bid you good
day. I shall return toward sunset and change the dressings."

With this he departed, very angry because of his unheeded
instructions. On the stairs, Bazin followed and waylayed him.

"Monsieur," begged the poor fellow, with tears in his eyes, "tell
me the truth, in the name of God!  Do not make me suffer. My
master is not -- ah, surely there is some hope for him?"

"My good man, I cannot deceive you," said the physician, not
unkindly. "He has been at work there for an hour or more; the
results are evident. He cannot live more than a day."

"Jesus!" exclaimed Bazin in horror. "Can nothing help him,
nothing save him?"

"Nothing but a miracle," said the other.

"Then I shall pray for the miracle," said Bazin.

With a shrug, the physician went his way.

The cure, meantime, sat beside Aramis and felt his brow.

"True, there is fever," he said, compassionately.

"My dear Abbe' d'Herblay, I am distressed beyond words -- "

"Nonsense!" said Aramis, with a wan smile. "That man was right,
my friend. I have no will to live. I have been hurt, wounded,
more grievously in spirit than in body. My thoughts are no longer
fastened upon things of this earth. Come, let me read you this
thesis! I have the idea of confounding the followers of
Jansenius, of placing his infamous book, the 'Angustinus', in the
light of schismatic heresy. To this effect -- but hand me those
sheets, I beg of you -- let me read to you -- "

The cure assisted him to sit up a trifle, handed him the written
sheets, and watched him anxiously.  With his charming smile,
Aramis thanked him, and selected his first sheet.

"Here we have it, my father -- you will note that I say nothing
of Jansenius at the opening: in fact I have given the thesis a
distinct general title."

In his low, clear voice he began to read:

                    NEW SCHISMS OF THE WEST

  Three great schisms have occurred from the establishment of the
  Christian religion to our day. The schism which separated the
  Greek Church from the communion of the Roman Church, and which,
  begun by Photius in 802, was finished by the Patriarch
  Cerularius in 1053, is called the Eastern Schism. That
  which took place after the double election of Urbain VI and
  Clement VII in 1378, is called the Great Western Schism. Last,
  the Schism of England, which separated the English from the
  Roman communion under Ilenry VIII in 1534; from this the
  Anglican Church took its rise.

  Photius was born at Constantinople. He had been ambassador to
  Persia, and First Secretary of the Emperor Michael, when he was
  exalted to even greater height -- to the Patriarchate of
  Constantinople in place of Ignace, recently deposed. Pope
  Nicholas I was opposed to his intrusion and anathematised him
  in his councils; on his side, Photius gathered his bishops and
  anathematised the Pope. The Greek Emperor, Basil the
  Macedonian, re-established Ignace and Photius did not resume
  the functions of the Patriarchate until after -- "

M. le Cure' intervened.

"Enough, enough, my dear Abbe'," he said gently though firmly. "I
perceive the scholarly trend of this thesis, and can well imagine
how you will turn it to present-day value -- I beg of you, read
no more! Let me peruse the work at my leisure.  Linguam
compescere, virtus non minima est -- it is not the least of
virtues, to restrain the tongue -- "

"Ah!" exclaimed Aramis. "That reminds me   the text I have
chosen for this thesis, my dear cure!  I really must have your
opinion in the matter -- "

There was a knock at the door. To the impatient word of Aramis,
in came Bazin, looking extremely agitated, and holding a letter
in his hand.


"Monsieur!" implored Bazin, desperate.  "I swore that you were
not here, that you were ill, that you were dying -- but they had
already learned you were here.  Two confounded cavaliers -- I
mean, two gentlemen -- they asked me to bring you this letter --"

"Very well, give it to me," said Aramis. He sighed and fell back
upon the pillows. "What are letters?" he said, after looking at
the superscription. "I have nothing to do with the things of this

None the less, he tore open the missive, and a little color came
into his face as he read it. The letter was one of the four sent
by Lord de Winter; in all respects it was a duplicate of that
which Athos had received.

"Singular!" murmured Aramis, and looked up.

"Bazin, you say this was brought by hand?"

"One of the gentlemen said he had fetched it from your former
lodgings in Paris, monsieur," said Bazin, in terror at this new
contact with the oldlife. "He is most anxious to have speech with

"Who is he?" said Aramis.

"A stranger, monsieur, masked."

Aramis handed him the letter, with a gesture of  resignation.

"Take this, burn it, destroy it, eat it -- what you will. It is
nothing to me."

The cure rose. "My dear friend," he said, "let me have these
sheets you have written -- let me read this admirable thesis at
my leisure! 1 shall make place -- if you have a visitor, then see
him by all means. You should not be here, alone and friendless,
desperately ill -- "

"I have more than I deserve," said Aramis in a gloomy voice.
"What is the world, after all? A place where anger breeds anger,
where wrong begets wrong -- litem paret lis, noxa item noxam
parit! And have I not brought all my misfortune upon myself by
forgetting the first maxim of a devout man -- nemo militans De --
no servant of God should mix in secular affairs? Take the thesis
if you like, my friend. Return soon to me. Bazin! Show M. le
Cure' out and fetch in this cavalier who seeks me -- "

Bazin had been holding the letter over a candle. His sharp eyes
did not fail to sight the hidden writing, and a subdued groan
broke from him as he comprehended its import and read the
signature of Lord de Winter. He said nothing of this to Aramis,
however; the last scrap of the letter curling up, he pinched out
the candle and showed the good cure to the door.

"Winter!" murmured Aramis, left alone, and stared out of the
window at the trees. "That Englishman! Well, it has nothing to do
with me. I am finished -- everything is finished. Let the dead
bury their dead. When she -- "

Two tears gathered in his eyes and slowly rolled upon his cheeks.

The door opened. A cavalier entered, turned, calmly pushed Bazin
outside, then closed the door and turned the key. He approached
the couch.  Aramis was astonished to see that he was masked.  He
had fair hair, a mustache and goatee of the same; his hands were
as beautiful and as elegantly tended as those of Aramis himself.
Blue eyes glittered through the mask. His garments were of blue
velvet, and a magnificent diamond sparkled on his right hand.

"Be seated, monsieur," said Aramis. "I am, as you see, too weak
to rise -- "

"You are the Abbe' d'Herblay?" asked the stranger.

"I am. And you?"

"I am the Chevalier Nemo," and white, beautiful teeth showed as
the stranger smiled and sat down.

"No One!"  repeated Aramis, frowning slightly.  "I do not like
this,  monsieur -- "

"Your pardon; a few questions, monsieur, and I give you my true
name," said the other. His voice seemed touched with emotion.
"Your lackey has told me of your condition -- have I your
permission to speak frankly?"

The head of Aramis sank back. "What you like, what you like," he
said. "I have no secrets. I have no will to live. I have --

"My poor -- " began the other, then checked himself. "Two days
ago, monsieur, I was in Paris. I was speaking with MIle. de

Aramis started slightly, then essayed a feeble shrug.

"What of it?" he murmured. "She is a beautiful woman, monsieur,
and wicked as she is beautiful.  Everyone who knows her, loves
her instantly; she lives by love, in fact."

"And you, monsieur?"

"I? I am impervious to love," said Aramis with a trace of
hauteur. "I have eschewed the vanities of  this world. All is
vanity, folly, crackling of thorns under a  pot!"

"Precisely," said the other. "Monsieur, you are ill -- "

"No," said Aramis. "I am dying."

The visitor was silent for a moment, as though in restraint of
some deep emotion.

"Then allow me to mention private matters, for which I promise
you entire justification," he rejoined. "You are, I believe, a
friend of Mlle. de Sirle."

"Of  that woman!" The lip of Aramis curled slightly. "You do not
know me, my friend. She is the most dangerous person in Paris."

"As you warned M. de Bassompierre."

Aramis turned, if it were possible, even paler than before.

"How do you know these things?"

"I am coming to that. First tell me -- you sent a friend to
render Mlle. de Sirle a certain service?"

Aramis hesitated. "Yes. I could not go myself; I had just
received a letter which wrecked my entire life. So I sent a
friend, for reasons of my own. Three hours afterward I was
wounded and robbed, and was brought here. Are you content?"

His voice had become very weak. His eyes closed.

"And where is your friend?"

"I know not," murmured Aramis. "What matter? Porthos can take
care of himself. I sent him -- she would make use of him -- he
would tell me everything. Such was my intent. Then -- the letter.
Then -- the wound. I came this far from Paris -- and I am dying.
What matter?"

"Ah! I understand now," said the visitor. "I should have known
that La Sirle could never entangle you. This letter you received
-- it was, perhaps, from a lady named Marie?"

Aramis looked up, started slightly, and regarded the stranger

"You -- you come from her?"


Aramis turned his face away.

"No matter," he said. "Nothing matters. I am a dead man, and
have no hope in this world; say your say and get you gone, for I
feel weakness upon me, and all these things have passed out of my
life forever."

Again his eyes closed. It was, indeed, symptomatic of his utter
weakness and dejection that he should consent to thus mention
names with a stranger. Nothing could have been farther from the
usual discreet, even secretive, nature of Aramis, who never let
his right hand know what his left hand was about.

Now occurred one of those strange things which never happen for
the world to see -- those queerly silent things which pass
unknown and unvisualized.

Two tears escaped from beneath the vizard of  the stranger, as he
looked down upon the changed form of the man upon the couch.

"My poor Aramis!" he said in a new voice -- a low, rich, ringing
voice that broke upon the silence like a chord of music. With a
swift gesture, the stranger removed his mask, plucked hard at
false goatee and mustache, pulled them away -- revealed himself
smiling, blue-eyed, soft and dimpled of face as any woman.

Aramis had turned at that voice. One low cry burst from his lips.
His eyes widened, and he came to one elbow, staring terribly, the
pallor of death in his face.

"You!" he cried in a strangled tone. "You   Marie -- "

"I, Marie -- Marie of Tours -- Marie de Rohan -- Marie de
Chevreuse -- Marie who loves you -- ah, my poor, poor Aramis!
Could you not have guessed that my frightful letter was only a
blind for the eyes of others?"

And with a magnificent, impulsive gesture, the speaker was upon
her knees and holding the head of Aramis in her arms, against her
breast, as she might have held that of a child.

This woman, in whose person were united the most princely names
of France, was the sole enemy of Richelieu who could meet him on
equal ground, word for word, act for act, genius for genius --
and defy him. Against this woman all the power of the great
minister was as naught. He might humble her, he might exile her,
he might treat with her as with an equal, but he could never
outwit or destroy her.

At this moment, in this room, her effulgent beauty was at its
zenith. Those dazzling charms which, five years later, were to
seduce an emperor, and after another five years a viceroy, were
in this moment at the height of their perfection. Only supreme
beauty can indulge in passionate tears and yet remain undimmed.
As Marie de Chevreuse knelt beside the couch, her tears of pity
warm upon the face of him she believed dying, this most beautiful
woman of France had never appeared so resplendent, of such
sublime loveliness. Marie de Chevreuse, who could swear like a
trooper, could weep like an angel.

Outside in the corridor, listening at the locked door, was Bazin.
When he heard this cry and this name burst from the lips of
Aramis, he straightened up, he staggered, he put out one hand to
the wall for support and with the other he crossed himself

Then, with a wild and stricken air, he hastened down the corridor
with trembling steps, and presently was in the courtyard. A
dust-covered coach stood there, a coach bearing no arms nor
insignia.  Beside it was the horse of the physician, who had
stayed his departure in order to cleanse and bind up the hurt of
an hostler kicked by a horse. The chirurgeon was washing his
hands when Bazin approached him, and he turned in sharp alarm.

"What?" he exclaimed, startled by the lackey's air. "Your master
is not dead already?"

Bazin groaned. "Ah, monsieur, you are a terrible man!" he
responded. "You bade me pray for a miracle, and I prayed and --
and -- "

The physician surveyed him in puzzled wonder.

"And what, my good man?"

"And the miracle happened, monsieur!" exclaimed Bazin in a
hollow voice.

"The devil! You do not appear to be very happy about it."

The casement of the upper room was flung open. The voice of
Aramis floated down.

"Bazin! Name of the devil, where are you? Come and pack! We
are leaving at once!"

From the inn-room came the companion of Mme. de Chevreus --
an elderly, shrewd man in the attire of a valet. The host, whose
account had evidently just been paid, brought him to the

"Monsieur," said the valet, "will you have the goodness to inform
me of the amount of your fee in the case of the sick man above?"

The physician did so, and then followed Bazin up the stairs,
jingling the money in his pouch. The door of the upper room was
standing open. The stranger, again masked, mustache and goatee
again in place, was supporting Aramis and helping him dress. The
physician paused at sight of his patient's changed aspect.

"I see you are right," he said to Bazin. "The age of miracles has

Aramis looked at him and laughed. "Monsieur, I grieve to
disappoint you! But devil take me if I intend to die today or
tomorrow either!"

"Obviously." The physician looked at the sparkling eye, the
heightened color, the sudden animation and laughing eagerness of
his late patient.

"Well, monsieur, at least take the potion I left for you -- and
if your wound reopens, bid your lackey pray once more but don't
waste the time of a chirurgeon, for your case will be hopeless.
Bon voyage, monsieur."

And, with a bow, he departed.

Bazin, now aiding Aramis into his shirt, murmured a low and
despairing word.

"But the thesis, monsieur -- the thesis on the Great Schisms! M.
le Cure has those precious sheets and he is departed -- "

"To the devil with him and the thesis!" said Aramis. "Get my
things packed and stowed, saddle the horses, ride mine yourself.
I go in the coach."

"To Paris, monsieur?" queried the unhappy lackey.

"Name of the devil, no!" and the masked stranger broke into a
ringing, merry laugh. "In the other direction, my good Bazin --
you don't remember me, eh? Very well, then. At least you'll
remember the place whither we go! To Dampierre."

Bazin uttered a strangled sound-a combined response and groan.
And, furtively, he crossed him self and rolled his eyes to
heaven. Monsieur Bazin was a devout man yet he did not
congratulate himself on having brought a miracle to pass.



Riding north and west, d'Artagnan and his companions were
followed by only one lackey. Porthos had left his plump
mousqueton to act as squire for Madame du Vallon. Planchet, the
former lackey of d'Artagnan, was now a sergeant in the guards,
and within the past week his successor had been trounced and
discharged for theft; thus, d'Artagnan was without a lackey.
Grimaud, the silent servant of Athos, alone followed the three.

They rode from Lyon to Nevers without a halt, and came into the
charming capital of the Nivernais with staggering horses and
parched throats. They went to the post-tavern, turned over their
horses to the hostlers, and stumbled into the inn-room for dinner
before seeking rest for the night.  Grimaud, after his custom,
remained with the horses to be certain they received proper

          "Ah!" Porthos sighed as he lowered himself into a
chair, which groaned beneath him. "We are at Nevers. From Nevers
we ride on to Melun.  From -- "

"Not so fast!" said d'Artagnan, with a cry of joy as bottles and
food began to rain upon the table. "From here we ride to

"Eh?" Porthos opened his eyes wide. Athos, who cared nothing
about their road, was pouring wine.

"But Orleans is not the road for Paris!"

"We do not go to Paris," said d'Artagnan. "We go to Orleans,
thence to Longjumeau. There we head west for Dampierre."

"An excellent program!" Athos lifted his flagon.

"To a safe journey!"

Presently Grimaud entered, came opposite his master, and paused
until Athos looked up. Then Grimaud put out a hand as though
taking a horse's reins, looked the imaginary animal up and down,
and turned his head, speaking to an imaginary person.

"This is the horse, as described."

His gaze came to rest upon d'Artagnan.

Athos dismissed him with a gesture, and looked at his two
friends. D'Artagnan was frowning, Porthos was gaping in

"You see -- the Cardinal gave you a horse, my dear d'Artagnan!"
said Athos quizzically. "A beautiful horse, a horse in a
thousand! An hostler takes his bridle, turns and says that this
is the horse as described. Voila'! The description is known.
Montforge has passed this way ahead of us -- and has left men
behind! Beware!"

And having said, he refilled his flagon.

"Well," said d'Artagnan after a moment, "and what do you expect?"

"Naturally, the unexpected," retorted Athos, with a shrug. "Why

"Good. I'm too weary to care what happens."

None the less, d'Artagnan questioned the grooms and hostlers
carefully, inquired after a cavalier of Montforge's description,
and learned exactly nothing. The three comrades slept soundly
that night, and were off with sunrise.

Despite this disturbing incident, nothing happened to justify the
expectations of Athos. The towers of Orleans smiled sunnily upon
them of a midday, and they bore straight on to make another five
leagues of the northern highway ere night.  They considered that
if anything happened, it should come at Orleans; thus, once
past that city, they took small thought of any peril.

Porthos had discarded his sling, for his wound no longer
incommoded him. He had secured a huge horse of Norman strain,
which might have served some mail-clad Roland as destrier; this
animal had no speed, but bore the weight of Porthos like a
feather. With his great figure, his gallant air, his enormous
horse, Porthos was the admired of all beholders, and was taken to
be a duke at the very least.

Late on a warm summer's afternoon they came into Longjumeau,
with the silver thread of  theYvette glistening along the valley
below.  They avoided the post-tavern here, lest it prove
dangerous. Instead, they sought the Pomme d'Or, rode into the
courtyard of this hostelry so famous for its wine and fowl, and
Porthos at once vanished inside to look over the situation and
command a fitting dinner. Athos, who was somewhat particular
about his rooms, departed with the host to inspect the proffered

D'Artagnan approached the horse4rough, which an hostler was
filling from the pump, and held his wrists beneath the flow of
water to cool his blood, for the day was hot and the highway was
thick with dust despite its paving of stone flags.  At this
instant a coach passed in the street, outside the wide-open
courtyard gates. The coach was white with dust, the four horses
were flecked with lather, and its pace was rapid. D'Artagnan
glanced at it as it rumbled past.

Framed in the window of this coach he glimpsed the face of a man
-- a man who was looking straight at him, a face suddenly agape
with recognition, a face he knew and that knew him. Then it was
gone, rolling away down the street toward the bridge.

In that coach-window had been framed the face of Aramis.

For a moment d'Artagnan remained absolute petrified with
astounded incredulity. Pale and haggard the face had been -- yet
he recognized it instantly, and knew he himself had been
recognized.  And no word, no halt! By nature very curious, he was
instantly aflame.

He gained the gateway with one leap and stood staring down the
street. The coach went on without pause; indeed, the postilion
was whipping up the horses as though the occupants had ordered
more speed.  It whirled on toward the bridge and the city gates.
Evidently, Aramis had no intention of stopping.

With an oath, d'Artagnan turned, and ran like a madman toward
the horses, which the staring Grimaud and a groom were
unsaddling. His own animal was being led to the stables. He
disdained the horse of Porthos, and instead caught at that of
Athos, as yet saddled and bridled. He tore the reins from the
hand of Grimaud, flung himself into the saddle at a bound, and
one glance told him that neither Porthos nor Athos were in sight.

"Aramis!" he cried to Grimaud. "I have seen Aramis -- "

His startled horse plunged, leaped, turned at the pull of the
bridle and went out of the courtyard like an arrow. D'Artagnan
had his sword, and the pistols of Athos were at the saddle; he
was bare-headed, and his cloak reposed with his hat.

As he came thus plunging out into the street, the people there
scattered with cries of fright and anger. The horse slipped,
recovered; d'Artagnan thrust in his spurs and sent the frightened
animal hurtling in the wake of the coach, unheeding the shouts of
those he barely avoided. Luckily, the street was not blocked
ahead, and he had a clear way.

In his haste, in his furious concentration upon the coach ahead,
our Musketeer did not perceive two cavaliers who had dismounted
in the street outside the Pomme d'Or and were conversing. They,
however, did not fail to observe his sudden emergence and his mad
gallop toward the bridge.

"It is he!" exclaimed one, and they hurriedly mounted and rode

D'Artagnan had no trouble in sighting his quarry, once he gained
the bridge and was across the Yvette. The coach had not taken the
northern highway for Paris, but that to the west, a road leading
to Palaisau and beyond.  It had gained on him. He sighted it half
a mile away, climbing the higher ground there, dust rolling out
behind it in a great cloud.

"The devil!" said d'Artagnan, putting in his spurs. "They're
whipping up -- can it be that Aramis does not want me to catch up
with him?  Bah! There's too much at stake to pause upon his sly

Tired though his animal was, it responded nobly to his urgings.
The coach had passed beyond his range of vision long ere he had
in turn reached the uplands, but the heavy dust it raised showed
that he was gaining. Here on level ground, however, four horses
had the advantage over one, already wearied by climbing the rise,
and with dismay d'Artagnan perceived his animal to be flagging.

At a bend in the road he caught sight of two figures behind. So
thick was his own dust that he could see only that they were
riding furiously, gaining on him fast.

"Ha! Grimaud and Athos, no doubt!" he reflected, and then gave
his attention to the road ahead. He determined to expend his
horse in one last, supreme effort, and if he could not come up
with the coach, a bullet would at least drop one of its horses.
It was vital that Aramis be halted, that an explanation be
obtained, at any and all costs.

To this end, d'Artagnan drew from their holsters the two pistols
at his saddle, which were already loaded, and made shift to prime
them, as he rode.  He had just primed the second pistol when he
became aware of a rider close behind him, and turned.

At this instant the man behind him fired a pistol. The bullet
tore the hat from the head of d'Artagnan, but did not injure him.

Only then did he perceive his mistake -- this rider, and the
other slightly in the rear, were strangers! The second man held a
pistol drawn, ready for use. Without hesitation, d'Artagnan
raised the weapon in his own hand. As he pressed the trigger,
his horse stumbled. His bullet missed the first man, but struck
the horse of the second.

"Assassins!" exclaimed d'Artagnan. His horse stumbled again, then
pitched forward and fell. Unprepared,.he was flung clear of the
saddle and sent rolling in the dust of the road.

Catlike, d'Artagnan was upon his feet almost instantly -- only to
pause there in sharp dismay. In the fall, his right shoulder had
been struck; for the moment, his arm was next to useless, numbed,
paralyzed. The first rider had just dismounted, and, sword out,
was running at him. The second, flung by his wounded horse, was
on his feet and plucking at his sword.

"Assassins!" cried d'Artagnan, furious. "Do you know you are
dealing with a royal officer?"

He had no reply, except a snarling grin. Both men, he perceived,
were bretteurs, or bravos of a certain type very common at this
period -- veterans of  the wars in Italy and Germany, men used to
every trick of arms, who would cut a throat for a pistole and do
it with all the address of long practice.

With an effort of the will, d'Artagnan's numbed fingers closed on
his sword-hilt and bared the blade. It was high time; the first
bretteur was already lunging at him. There was now no doubt
whatever -- this was no mistake, but deliberate assassination.
D'Artagnan knew he was dealing with men who were unscrupulous,
pitiless, who would either kill or be killed.

Avoiding that first lunge by a miracle of agility, d'Artagnan
engaged the sword of the bretteur with his own rapier, and at the
very first pass, perceived his adversary to be a master of the
weapon after the somewhat rough style of the army. For a moment
he could do no more than hold the defensive. The shock of a rude
fall unsettles the nerves and affects those delicate sensitory
ganglia whose messages control the brain of a swordsman.

"Flank oblique, Carabin!" cried out the bravo suddenly.

"Understood," replied the second, who had come up, and he fell
upon d'Artagnan from the left side.

"Cowards!" cried d'Artagnan, finding himself thus engaged by
two men at once.

"No, monsieur -- good workmen," replied Carabin, with a grin.

D'Artagnan fell back a step, the better to hold both swords in
play. He was himself again; the dazzling rapidity of his thrusts
and parries astonished and angered the two bretteurs, who
redoubled their efforts. The sun was setting; in this reddish
light their blades took on a copper tinge, and their eyes seemed
glowing with infernal fires.  Carabin began to work around to the
rear of the Musketeer, but the agility of d'Artagnan defeated his
purpose. And now the anger of d'Artagnan passed into that furious
ecstasy which seized upon him in battle, uplifting him above all
thought of peril. The dust raised by their tramping feet, the
hoarse breathing of men, the bloodshot eyes and snarling lips,
the sweat that streamed from brow and neck, the clink and click
of blades, the sharp death glinting there at their throats -- all
this swept through the veins of d'Artagnan like wine.

He broke into sudden laughter. Still engaged with the first man,
he avoided a lunge from Carabin and then, with the flashing swoop
of a falcon, was away and entirely clear of Carabin.  In this
momentary respite he hurled himself upon the first bretteur with
fiery abandon. It was his only chance, as he now saw -- to cope
with both at once was impossible. He must kill one of them
swiftly, then finish with the other one.

Ten seconds passed before Carabin could work around the
Musketeer, returning to the attack.

In this ten seconds, the rapier of d'Artagnan flashed before the
eyes of the first bretteur like the white fire of a thunderbolt.
The blades crossed, met, clung as though magnetized together.
Suddenly, with the rapidity of light, d'Artagnan disengaged --
and dashed the hilt of his sword into the bretteur's face; almost
in the same motion, it seemed, he leaped sideways and ran the
dazed man through the throat.

The second was upon him with a howl of rage and fury.

"Coward!" roared Carabin, seeing his comrade clutch at his throat
and fall. "That was not the act of a gentleman!"

"Certainly not," returned d'Artagnan coolly, as he engaged,
parried, riposted. "I am not dealing with gentlemen, but with
good workmen. My faith, but I'm a good workman myself, my

"Work, then," growled Carabin, "for you'll feed the devil's fires

And he attacked with a ferocity, a grim determination, that
alarmed d'Artagnan. Here was a better swordsman than the first;
one, also, who knew every trick of camp and field and put them
into play -- his business was not to fence, but to kill.

D'Artagnan, however, had been on more than one campaign; also,
the hotel of the Musketeers was not a place where one played with
blunted rapiers. Thus, he was not caught asleep when the bretteur
produced a poniard in his left hand and, forcing up the rapiers,
drove in at him with the shorter weapon -- vainly.

The minutes passed; the sun dropped from sight. Still the two men
fought there about the dead bretteur, two horses watching them
amazedly, the third dying with slow and shuddering coughs.  Twice
the point of Carabin touched d'Artagnan, once in the arm, once in
the throat -- mere touches, scarce sufficient to draw blood.
Trick foiled trick, riposte answered lunge; about them the dust
rose in a continual cloud, suffocating them, as their feet
stamped the earth, and their breath came in hoarse pantings.
D'Artagnan was astonished, and grew more furious every moment
-- that a mere bretteur, a bravo, a hireling assassin, should
thus withstand a Musketeer, was intolerable!

Abruptly, so swiftly as to be past the eyesight, a thrust went
home. Carabin staggered, recovered; the sword fell from his hand;
he stood there staring terribly upon d'Artagnan, as blood gushed
out across his sweat-stained shirt.

"Ah!" he exclaimed hoarsely. "You have -- you have -- killed me
-- "

His knees gave way and he pitched forward, and lay still, for a
moment. Then his eyes opened. He came to one elbow, panting, the
pallor of death growing in his face.

D'Artagnan stood holding his sword, gulping fresh air into his
lungs as the dust-cloud thinned and dissipated on the evening
breeze. There was no sound save the cough of the dying horse and
the rattling breath of the dying man. Presently d'Artagnan
sighed, looked at his rapier, found no blood upon it, and
sheathed it.

"Water!" gasped out Carabin. "On -- my saddle -- "

"With all my heart," said d'Artagnan.

He strode to the bretteur's horse and removed a leathern bottle
hung at the saddle, which was still half full of liquid.  He
unstopped it, came back to the dying Carabin, and knelt, holding
the bottle to the man's lips. Then Carabin drew back his head.

"You are a swordsman, my friend," he said faintly. "It is a
pleasure to be killed by such a man. Your name?"

"D'Artagnan, lieutenant in -- "

"Ah! You are d'Artagnan -- the man who killed Jussac -- then it
is no disgrace! My only regret is that I have failed in my
errand. More water -- "

D'Artagnan leaned forward, held the leathern bottle again to the
man's lips. But this time the hand of Carabin moved -- the hand
that still held the poniard.  Almost at the same instant, the
other had clutched d'Artagnan by the sleeve.

Overbalanced by this clutch, pulled forward, d'Artagnan fell
across the legs of Carabin. The poniard missed its stroke -- tore
the skin of d'Artagnan's neck, no more.

"Scoundrel!" he exclaimed, trying to wrench from that dying grip.
"If -- "

Like a flash, the bretteur uplifted himself. A cry of despair
broke from his lips -- he was dying in the very act! With one
desperate, superhuman effort, he dashed his clenched hand into
the face of d'Artagnan, and fell back dead.

The hilt of the poniard struck d'Artagnan between the eyes. He
fell face down, and lay like a man mortally stricken.

Two hours passed.

When d'Artagnan came to himself, it was with a vague and
wandering bewilderment. Grotesque dreams had seized upon him, and
for a space he thought himself still in dream. He was numb with
cold, for he found himself stripped to his shirt; the stars
blinked overhead, and in his ears was the sound of rude, harsh
voices in dispute.

"Keep the gold, then, and give me the silver,"  said one voice.
"You know very well I dare not have any gold. I'll take the
silver and this coat."

"It's a good coat," objected another. "It isn't bloody like the
others. And these boots are of fine leather -- "

"Leave them, fool!" broke in a third. "Do you want questions
asked of us?  These boots are dangerous. Leave them. Give Louis
the silver and the coat -- "

"There's a letter or a paper in the pocket," said the first.
"Here -- throw it away and leave it. What about this man's

A hand pawed the throat of d'Artagnan, and he saw a shape above
him, blotting out the stars.

"Something hard under the shirt!" exclaimed the man. "By the
saints, this one is still warm -- "

D'Artagnan stirred suddenly, sat up. He comprehended that some
peasants had come upon the scene and had looted the bodies. He
saw three figures, but when he opened his lips to speak, cries of
fright broke from them, and all three fled into the night.

"Fools ! Dolts! Come back!" cried d'Artagnan. "I'll not harm you
-- "

Useless; they were gone. He rose, cursed them, tried to pursue
them. His feet were bare and he stumbled into a patch of briars.
With fresh curses he returned to where the other two bodies
gleamed white and naked under the stars. In some dismay he forced
himself to grapple with the situation.

His boots lay nearby; except for these and his shirt, he was
naked as the two bretteurs. He drew on the boots, then retrieved
Richelieu's letter and his own papers, which had been flung to
the ground. At one side he found his baldric and sword. The
peasants had not dared carry off anything which might cause
questions to be asked of them later on. Thus, they had not
touched the two horses, which were cropping the grass nearby.
They had borne away every scrap of clothing, however.

Except for a bruise, d'Artagnan found himself unhurt. His money
was gone; his saddle-bags were emptied. He had, however, his own
horse, now rested and recovered, also an extra horse with
equipment. The sale of this animal would provide him with clothes
and money.

"Alas, where is Athos?" he murmured. "Surely he and Porthos would
have followed -- ah! They must have taken the other road, the
Paris highway! Well, no matter. We have a rendezvous in Paris
with Milord de Winter -- that's understood. Meanwhile, I must
press on to Dampierre and find Madame de Chevreuse. And now  --
back to Longjumeau, or ahead?"

His hesitation was brief. If he returned to Longjumeau, he would
doubtless find his companions gone; and his appearance in such
costume would provoke mirth, to say the least. Much better to
follow the road westward and get clothes in the first village he
reached. So, taking the reins of the dead bretteur's horse, he
mounted, grimaced, and started out along the road.

He looked back at the two white things in the starlight. Not they
were to blame, he knew well -- but Montforge. Curiously, he found
himself angered; not by what had happened, but by the fact that
he had so nearly lost the ring beneath his shirt. He might, he
reflected, yet have need of the queen's jewel -- money did not
come to one out of the air!

Thus thinking,  he came to a crest and, some distance ahead, saw
the yellow-gleaming lights of a village.



The village of Champlan was small. Aside from the church, the
only building of any consequence was the inn, to which d'Artagnan
directed his horse. A lantern burned above the gates, which were

In the courtyard, near a blazing cresset, stood a coach which a
groom was washing. At sight of  this coach, d'Artagnan drew rein
in astonishment -- it was the same vehicle which he had been
pursuing that afternoon!  So, then, Aramis had halted here!

No sooner did this thought strike into his mind, than a man, the
only person in sight except for the groom, turned from the coach
and peered at him.  This man, who was somewhat elderly, had the
appearance of a lackey.

"So, you have come!" he exclaimed, then started in surprise at
the aspect of d'Artagnan as the latter came into the circle of
light. "Name of the devil! I told the fool to fetch a surgeon --
not to drag him out of his bed!"

D'Artagnan was alert to the situation. A surgeon had been hastily
summoned, probably from the next village or town; he recalled the
haggard face of Aramis at the coach window, knew Aramis was

"Ergo," he reflected as he dismounted, "I cease to be a musketeer
-- and become a surgeon!"

"Good!" he said to the man. "A wound, I understand?  Clothes do
not matter. It is true that I was brought out of bed -- so much
the better!  Where is the patient?"

"Diantre! Clothes matter more than you think, perhaps -- but it's
your business, not mine," and the lackey grinned wryly. "You look
like a soldier rather than a physician, my friend."

"Undoubtedly Mother Eve made some similar remark to Adam, the
first time she saw him clad," returned d'Artagnan crisply. "Well,
does the patient die while you talk? Lead on!"

The impatience in his voice checked the lackey, who perceived
that he was dealing with a gentleman. D'Artagnan was in a hurry,
indeed. Any of  the inn-folk would  know  he  was  not the
expected surgeon.  The one groom in sight was a half-witted lout,
fortunately, who paid no heed to what was said.

"Come," said the lackey, turning to the stone stairs that
ascended the inner wall of the courtyard. "My master is at
dinner. His friend has a bad wound, which has been slow in
healing, and the jolting of the coach today has hurt him
terribly. If the wound has opened, he is a dead man; we have not
dared to look, as yet."

"Fear not," said d'Artagnan. "I have a balsam of oil and rosemary
which has the miraculous virtue of curing all wounds that do not
touch the heart!. I promise you I will cure him."

Then he remembered that he had lost everything, including his
vial of that balsam, whose recipe his mother had had from a
Bohemian, which he ever carried with him. However, this could not
be helped, and since he knew the recipe by heart, he could have
more of the balsam prepared for the patient.

The lackey guided d'Artagnan to the upper corridor, upon which
an open doorway emitted a blaze of light. In the hallway were
grouped scullions and chambermaids, while into the open doorway
the host of the inn was himself bearing a platter holding an
enormous roast duck, almost a goose in size.  Obviously the
friend of Aramis was about to sup well.

The door of the room adjoining this was opened by the lackey, and
d'Artagnan entered. One glance around showed that he had reached
his goal. Upon the bed lay Aramis, senseless, loosely wrapped in
a black gown. No one else was in the room, and one poor candle
burned dimly beside the bed.

In the wall was a door which opened into the adjoining room. The
lackey went to this door, knocked, and opened it at a curt

"Monsieur," he said to the unseen friend of Aramis, "the
physician is here, but he came literally in his shirt. If you
wish to order that he be clothed -- "

"Name of the fiend!" cried out d'Artagnan angrily. "Clothe
yourself, lackey, and let your betters alone! Shut the hall door
and keep those women outside. I'm here to work, not to parade
myself. Vivadiou! Time enough for clothes when there's nothing
else to do. Be off! Have my horse looked after. Bring clean
cloths and water. Fetch more candles. Lively!"

The lackey scuttled hastily out. A burst of  laughter sounded
from the adjoining room. Into the communicating doorway strode a
laughing cavalier, masked and hatted, who held a candelabrum in
one hand.

"Here are lights, M. Aesculapius!" he exclaimed gaily. "And if my
friend recovers, I promise you six pistoles; if he dies, six
inches of steel!"

"To the devil with your pistoles, your steel, and yourself,"
snapped d'Artagnan, who was now bending over Aramis and laying
bare the bandaged chest. "So! He's in bad shape, but I've seen
him in worse. We must have warm water to remove these wrappings
-- they're blood-hardened. Well, my friend, at whom are
you staring?"

The cavalier in the doorway was inspecting d'Artagnan in some

"Sword and shirt -- your costume, monsieur, might be bettered!"
he said merrily. "Shall I lend you a pair of breeches to go with
that sword?"

D'Artagnan was removing his baidric. With it came a portion of
his tattered shirt. He surveyed himself ruefully.

"Well, well, monsieur, I shall attend first to my patient, then
to myself," he replied, not knowing whether to be angered or

"And so, my Gascon," returned the cavalier, "you have seen this
gentleman in worse shape, have you? May I ask where?"

D'Artagnan could have bitten off his tongue. "I said I had seen
others in worse shape," he replied. "I see a pair of breeches
there on a chair if you'll have the goodness to retire to your
dinner and leave me to my work, I'll be obliged."

"With all my heart, most testy physician!" said the other
mockingly, swept a low bow, and stepped back into the other room.
"And, when your work is finished, perhaps you will do me the
honor of joining me."

"Ah!" exclaimed d'Artagn an. "Since I haven't eaten this
afternoon, I'll be glad to do so, monsieur."

The other closed the door. D'Artagnan reached for the breeches
on the chair, which fitted him passably. As he put them on, there
was a tinkIe -- the chain of the scapulary around his neck had
parted.  Doubtless a link had given way during his exertions that
afternoon. The sapphire ring of the queen fell upon the floor.

D'Artagnan picked it up, placed it on the litt1e finger of his
right hand, pocketed the scapulary, and buttoned up the breeches,
just as the lackey entered with a tray. He motioned to the
bedside table.

"Put it there. Now, help me with these bandages.  Removing them
will hurt him, and that will bring him to his senses. Have the
fresh cloths ready."

The bandages were undone. The wound was bathed in warm water, the
cloths came away. A low word broke from d'Artagnan at sight of
the wound. Then he saw the eyes of Aramis flicker open and stare
up at him.

"Vivadiou! It's angry, but has not broken open,"  he exclaimed.
Then, at the ear of Aramis: "Quiet, comrade! Let your mind be at
rest. That sealed packet and that letter from Marie Michon have
been destroyed. All is safe. If you hadn't run away from me,
you'd have learned it sooner. Quiet,  now!"

The stare of Aramis, at these words, passed into a look of
wide-eyed incredulity, of stark amazement. However, Aramis had no
chance to appease his curiosity or wonder, for he was being
deftly bandaged afresh.

"No talking," said d'Artagnan to him, mindful of the lackey. "Set
your mind at rest and go to sleep. I'll be here in the morning,
and if you'll have the goodness to tell this lackey that I'm a
doctor to your taste, all will be well."

Aramis quite understood, and a faint smile touched his lips. He
looked at the lackey.

"Tell your master that we stay here for the night, or that I do
at all events," he said. "I must speak with this gentleman in the

"Very good, monsieur," said the lackey, and held the water while
d'Artagnan rinsed his hands.

"But I do not know where this gentleman can sleep -- we have
taken every bed in this tiny country inn!"

"Bah! Your master and I will share a bed," said d'Artagnan
carelessly. "Aramis, no more talk!  I'm dining with your friend.
By the way, since he is masked, do you care to tell me his name?
I can allow you two words, at least."

Aramis regarded him with a rather amused uneasiness.

"Alas, my dear d'Artagnan, I regret that the secret is not mine
to impart -- "

"Keep it to yourself, then," said d'Artagnan brusquely. The
lackey had already taken his departure, apparently in some
agitation. "Listen, my friend! Porthos is close by. All goes
well. I'm on my way to Dampierre, and we'll talk in the morning.
So turn over and sleep!"

"Wait!" exclaimed Aramis. At this moment, however, the door
between the two rooms opened, and the cavalier appeared, still

"I hear your voice, M. d'Herblay -- excellent! This is indeed a
worthy physician, even if he came in his shirt, and a torn and
bloody shirt to boot!  Come, my Aesculapius, come and join me,
and let our friend here sleep."

D'Artagnan, nothing loath, followed into the adjoining room. The
lackey, already there, held a chair for him, at a table
bountifully spread.

Once seated, d'Artagnan, who was extremely curious, turned all
his attention to his host, but found himself completely baffled.
Certainly, here was no one he knew. The cavalier retained his
mask and his hat, upon which was a magnificent plume; his
garments were of the most beautiful quality, and the lace at his
throat and cuffs was superb Mechlin. The voice of the cavalier
was a thin contralto of peculiar timbre; and this gentleman,
observing the frank curiosity of d'Artagnan, lightly touched his

"Monsieur, you will pardon my singular speech!  Some years ago
I was wounded in the throat, and my speech has been affected
since. To judge from your attire, you came hither from the bed of
another patient -- or perhaps from your own bed?"

D'Artagnan, noting the flash of jewels, concluded that he was
speaking with some noble.

"You have hit it, monsieur," he replied, with his frank and
winning smile. "To be more exact, two patients -- who tried to
rob me. Vivadiou! They came close to doing it, too."

"So that explains it!" The cavalier appeared to be vastly amused.
D'Artagnan was eating and drinking while he talked. "As to
sharing a bed with you, monsieur, I regret to say that I am not
in the habit of accepting such proposals. We might indeed share
this room, which has two couches -- "

"Better still," rejoined d'Artagnan, his mouth  full. "Having
recently slept with two dead men, I prefer not to sleep with any
man at all for some time to come."

The masked cavalier laughed heartily, showing white and perfect

"I have never tried that novelty," he observed, "although I
understand that the late Queen Margot put the prescription into
effect at one time. Now, if we -- "

He paused suddenly. D'Artagnan, in lifting his winecup, had
passed his hand near the candles; the sapphire on his finger
blazed suddenly. He saw that the cavalier observed it, and
quickly turned the bezel inward, but too late.

"Monsieur -- that ring!" exclaimed the other, leaning forward,
the color ebbing from his face.  "It is most astonishing, but if
I mistake not, it is well known to me -- "

"Impossible," said d'Artagnan, in swift alarm. "It was a gift to
me from a lady, long ago, and I wear it in memory of her."

At this instant came a knock at the door. The lackey opened,
there was a moment of agitated conversation, then the lackey came
to the table and bowed to his master, respectfully.

"Monsieur, it seems that another physician has arrived -- there
has been some mistake -- "

"Pay him and send him away," said the cavalier, who seemed in
some agitation. "Go out, shut the door, leave us alone! Devil
take you --" he hurled a volley of oaths at the lackey, who
hurriedly went out of the room and shut the door.

D'Artagnan, however, observed that these oaths seemed to come
from emotion rather than anger.  The masked cavalier turned to
him quickly.

"Monsieur," he said, "will you permit me to ask you one question?
You are no surgeon, yet you have done your work well. Who you
are, I care not. But I should like to ask you whether, on the
inner side of that ring, there are not engraved the words 'Dolor
hic tibi proderit ohm'?"

"Hm!" said d'Artagnan. "I have not forgotten my Ovid, at all
events -- 'this grief will some day avail you,' is it not?  Well,
monsieur, a very pretty motto there -- "

"Damnation take you, will you answer my question?" snapped the
cavalier. D'Artagnan leaned back in his chair, twirled his
mustache, and met the angry blue eyes behind the mask.

"Come, come, monsieur!" he said, coolly. "This ring is no concern
of yours, I assure you."

"According to your own statement," said the other, with an effort
at self-control, "you are the King of France, monsieur! Having
the honor of knowing our good Louis, I find it hard to credit
your words."

"Eh? My statement?" exclaimed d'Artagnan in dismay.

"Exactly. The only lady who could have given you that ring is Her
Majesty the Queen."

D'Artagnan took the ring from his finger and looked inside it.
The words were indeed graven there. He had already pocketed the
gold signet-ring, and now he pocketed the sapphire and pushed
back his chair.

"Monsieur," he said with a curious deadly severity, "do you
insist that I tell you whence comes this ring, and my connection
with it?"

"Insist? I demand!" exclaimed the other imperiously. D'Artagnan
now knew beyond a doubt that he was dealing with some noble of
the court, perhaps with the Duc d'Orleans himself, who had seen
that ring on the queen's hand, and who knew it intimately.

"Very well, monsieur, I comply with your request," said
d'Artagnan. "And, having told you what is not my secret, I shall
then kill you."

Upon these words he stood up and drew his sword. The masked
cavalier did not move.

"Speak!" he commanded, evidently disdaining the threat as mere

"With the greatest of pleasure, monsieur," said d'Artagnan
politely, and selected the exact point of the other's throat for
his thrust. "That ring was given me by Her Majesty, to show
Madame de Chevreuse as surety that I was Her Majesty's messenger.
I regret, monsieur, that I must now keep my word, which is never
broken -- "

And with the rapidity of light, before his purpose could be
guessed, he thrust his rapier to the point he had selected.

This thunderbolt of a lunge could not be escaped -- but it could
be evaded.

The masked cavalier had been playing with a long carving-knife;
he whipped it up, half-parried the blow -- the rapier of
d'Artagnan, instead of piercing his throat, merely touched his
ribs, scarce letting blood, and tore itself clear. From the
cavalier broke a singular cry, and he fell sideways in his chair
as though dead.

D'Artagnan, poised for a second thrust, stood gaping down at his
senseless figure.

"The devil! I cannot very well kill an unconscious man," he
murmured. "Still, it must be done. First, let me see with whom
I'm dealing. After all, if this is some prince of the blood who
is protecting Aramis, I might -- "

He laid his sword on the table, lifted the fainting cavalier, and
removed the mask. The face thus exposed was unknown to him. He
loosened the cavalier's garments, felt the wound -- and abruptly
recoiled. The wound itself was nothing -- it was scarce bleeding,
in fact -- but d'Artagnan had placed his hand upon the least
expected object in the world.

"So, my Aramis!" he murmured, then checked his amazement,
collected himself.

He swiftly replaced the kerchief he had disarranged, buttoned the
tunic again, put the mask again in position, and over the
cavalier's brow sprinkled a little water.  One glance at the
sparkling jewels, the beautiful hands, the dull gold masses of
knotted hair, told him all that was necessary to confirm his
discovery. Until this moment the cavalier's hat had remained in
place;  d'Artagnan straightened it, found that it was pinned
fast, and chuckled.

The blue eyes opened beneath the mask, and d'Artagnan stepped
back a pace.  He seized his rapier and placed its point at the
throat of his host.

"Not a word!" he commanded. "Monsieur, you see that I am not to
be trifled with. Luckily for you, I remembered just in time that
you were protecting my friend Aramis. Instead of killing you, I
turned the point, gave you a bare scratch, and now I shall be
very glad to have a little further speech with you. I am M.
d'Artagnan, lieutenant of Musketeers -- your name?"

The cavalier straightened, touched his side, grimaced. His gaze
searched the impassive countenance of d'Artagnan, then his lips
parted in a smile.

"Thank heaven for your memory, monsieur, tardy as it was!" he
exclaimed. "So you are the friend of Aramis, who followed us this
afternoon?  I guessed as much. I am the Chevalier de Moreau, a
relative and intimate of Madame de Chevreuse; in fact, all her
business passes through my hands. She is at this moment very ill
and can see no one. Thus, monsieur, your message would have to be
delivered to me in any case. A few words with Aramis will
convince you that I am speaking the truth."

D'Artagnan lowered his sword.

"And the ring, Chevalier -- "

"Was one given the queen by Chevreuse," said the other quietly.
"I myself had the stone mounted for Madame."

D'Artagnan sheathed his weapon and bowed. He now knew with whom
he was dealing.

"Monsieur, will you accept my apologies?" he said. "If you will
permit me to look at the wound I was so unfortunate as to give
you, I -- "

"No, no, it is nothing," said the chevalier, and laughed, a
trifle maliciously. "But you yourself are wounded, M. d'Artagnan
-- at least let me -- "

D'Artagnan blinked, at recollection of earlier passages with the

"Bah! Mere scratches, my dear chevalier, not worth attention," he
said. "Well, shall we resume our dinner? I believe, in view of
what you say, that I may confide my messages to you.

"Absolutely, I assure you," said the chevalier, and drained a
glass of wine. "I am forced, in the illness of Mme. de Chevreuse,
to handle all her affairs."

"Then," said d'Artagnan, "you may be able to tell me what name
was signed to a letter, not long ago received by M. d'Herblay --
a letter which told him never to see the writer again, never to
speak with the writer, never to think of the writer?"

The chevalier turned pale. "Monsieur, how do you know of such a

"It was taken from Aramis when he was attacked and wounded. The
man who took it, and other papers, died in my arms. I destroyed
these papers, recognizing the seal of Aramis."

"Ah!" A breath, as of intense relief, escaped the chevalier. He
rose and held out a hand to d'Artagnan. "Monsieur, you are an
honorable man. I salute you."

For a moment d'Artagnan pressed those soft yet strong fingers,
and felt a magnetic current pass through his veins. Then,
resuming his seat, the chevalier continued.

"The letter was signed by the name of Marie Michon."

"Exactly," said d'Artagnan. "Now," and he poured more wine,"we
may come to business. I have two errands to Madame de Chevreuse
-- one from a man, one from a woman. Choose!"

"Ladies first, always!" said the chevalier gaily.

"Good." D'Artagnan touched the sapphire on his finger. "Her
Majesty gave me this ring to show Madame, asked me to bring
whatever message might be given me. That was all."

"Hm!" The chevalier reflected. "I can speak for Madame here, I
believe. Tell Her Majesty that the will of Thounenin is being
sent to Paris by way of London, but a sure friend is on guard.
The moment this will is seized and destroyed, danger ceases. I
dare not communicate with her; Marshal de Bassompierre will let
her know the outcome."

"For the ears of all the court to hear?" asked d'Artagnan drily.

"In four words which she alone will understand: 'God loves the
brave.' Understood?"

D'Artagnan inclined his head. "The message will be delivered,
monsieur. May I ask whither you are taking my friend Aramis?"

"To the Chateau of Dampierre. He is in need of care; his recovery
will be slow."

"Lucky Aramis!" thought d'Artagnan to himself. "Beloved by one
of the greatest ladies of France, the most beautiful woman in
Europe -- who would wish swift recovery in such a case?"

The chevalier drew from his finger a large ring ornamented with a
small magnificent diamond of the most exquisite quality.

"If you please, M. d'Artagnan, give me the token of Her Majesty,
and accept this, instead, as evidence to her that your mission
was fulfilled. She will recognize the jewel, since it was a gift
from her. And now -- your second errand?"

"Is less agreeable, I fear." D'Artagnan slipped the ring on his
finger, but not without a sigh. The Queen's jewel had been to him
more than a jewel merely. "His Eminence Cardinal de Richelieu
sent me to Dampierre with a verbal message."

The other stiffened perceptibly, fastened a sharp and alert gaze
upon d'Artagnan.

"A verbal message? From his own lips?"

D'Artagnan assented. "It is not impossible," he said, "that His
Eminence had learned of the mission confided to me in secret by
Her Majesty. In fact, I have every reason to believe that I was
not expected to reach Dampierre alive. However -- 'me voici!'"

"And the message?" The chevalier leaned forward in breathless

"It is this, from the lips of His Eminence: 'His Majesty has
learned all and is taking the child under his own protection. Be
very quiet during the next six months. If you indulge your liking
for letters and visitors -- you are lost.' That is all."

The effect upon his listener was extraordinary. Across the face
of the chevalier spread a deadly pallor; his lips parted in a
gasp, and then he uttered a cry of mortal anguish -- a low
piercing cry, as though these words had stricken him to the very
heart. His head fell forward -- he had fainted, for the second

"The devil!" D'Artagnan rose, hearing a knock at the door. He
opened, found the lackey there, and beckoned. "Look to your
master -- he has fainted.  No harm done. I'll see to my patient."

He knew that the lackey was, of course, in the secret of his

Passing into the next room, where the candle still burned dimly,
d'Artagnan closed the door, then looked down at Aramis. To his
gratification, the latter was sleeping soundly and peacefully,
with a half-smile which lent his features an almost angelic

"Ah, my dear Aramis, one can forgive a duchess for loving you!"
murmured d'Artagnan to himself. "You have your faults, yes, but
to accompany them you have a heart of gold. And where, I wonder,
is honest Bazin? Strange that he did not come with you.

"I am here, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said a voice.  D'Artagnan
started. From the floor at the foot of the bed uprose the
melancholy figure of Bazin. "I was seeking a physician, and when
I came back with him, you were here."

D'Artagnan burst into laughter, which he checked instantly for
fear of waking Aramis. He knew very well with what feelings Bazin
regarded him, and he made haste to set the lackey's mind at rest.

"Well, my good Bazin, I have not come to drag your master back
to a secular life, I can assure you.  As a matter of fact, he
will be very lucky if he hangs on to any sort of life, for his
wound is a bad one; but I imagine he will have the best of care,
at Dampierre."

"He will, monsieur," said Bazin, with a sort of groan.

"I have, it appears, appropriated his breeches -- I came with
only my shirt," said d'Artagnan. "Can you find me some clothes,
any clothes at all?  I have no money, but I have an extra horse
which seems to be a good one. If you can arrange to sell this
horse for me in the morning -- "

"I can arrange everything, monsieur," said Bazin. "Do you go to
Dampierre with us?"

"Unluckily, no. I leave you here, and I leave as quickly as I can
get clothed."

"Then, monsieur," said Bazin, brightening visibly, "I will
arrange it. As for clothes, my master has a whole portmanteau in
the coach, and I recall that his clothes fit you perfectly. Since
he will have no use for riding-boots, you might as well take

"Good," said d'Artagnan. "Then I will bid you good night."

He returned to the adjoining room; but, upon entering, found it
empty. He glanced around in astonishment. At this instant he
caught sharp voices from the courtyard. Leaving the room, he came
out upon the stone staircase just in time to see two horses dash
from the gateway and go into the night at a gallop. The host was
ascending the stairs, and held up both hands at sight of

"Ah, monsieur, they have gone!" he exclaimed. "The gentleman left
his coach and postilion to bring the wounded gentleman in the
morning, and said that you were to have his room in his place --"

"The devil!" muttered d'Artagnan. "So she fled on getting that
message, did she? My dear M. de Richelieu, I congratulate You on
effecting more with a dozen words than I could with my

And, with a sigh, he turned back.



Left at the Pomme d'Or, Athos and Porthos learned from Grimaud
what d'Artagnan had cried out, and how he had departed. They lost
no time in following; unluckily, the horses had to be saddled.
Upon reaching the bridge, they made inquiries, and a soldier
there declared he had seen a horseman answering the description
of d'Artagnan take the highway north to Paris.

At the best pace possible, they followed this false scent, but
saw nothing of their comrades, naturally enough. When darkness
fell, they rode into the Croix de Berny, their horses staggering,
and realized that they had come amiss. Inquiries revealed that
d'Artagnan had certainly not been seen at the Croix.

"Supper, wine, a bed!" declaimed Porthos, stamping into the main
room. "Capons, beef -- ah, what a hearth-spit I see there, and
loaded too! Not so bad, Athos! Our lieutenant no doubt took that
road bearing to the left from Longjumeau, eh?"

Athos nodded, gestured Grimaud to see to the horses, and followed
Porthos inside. Once seated,  he emptied two goblets of wine
before speaking, then regarded Porthos fixedly.

"Do you know what day this is?" he demanded severely.

"That I do; Tuesday, thanks to the saints, and no fish until
Friday!" rejoined Porthos carelessly.  "Only, I wish d'Artagnan
were sitting here. We must go back to Longjumeau and take that
cursed western road, comrade."

"We cannot," said Athos gloomily. "Tomorrow is the thirtieth of

"Eh?" Porthos wiped his lips and stared at him inquiringly.
"What of it?"

"You forget. Lord de Winter will be expecting us in Paris
tomorrow. His errand is of the most supreme importance -- we know
this already."

"Pardieu! You are right, Athos. But are we then to abandon poor
d'Artagnan? We can find him at Dampierre, certainly -- "

"Our business lies ahead," said Athos, with an air of finality.
"D'Artagnan knows the place and date of appointment; he will be
there, if he is alive. We, on the contrary, are not yet at

"Bah!" exclaimed Porthos. "Half a day's ride away, my friend!"

"In six days the entire world was created," rejoined Athos. "In
half a day, I assure you, Richelieu can undo a large part of the
work of creation."

And he applied himself to the wine and food before him, without
further remark, until the meal was finished. Then, regarding
Porthos with the noble yet indefinably sad air which told of
strange thoughts in his soul:

"My friend, I have a presentiment -- and you know that I am never
deceived. I feel that this meeting with Lord de Winter holds for
me either a terrible grief, or a great happiness, I cannot tell

The eyes of Porthos widened; and before he could reply, Athos had
left the table.

Next morning they left the Croix de Berny at an early hour,
passed through Chambord without incident, passed Arcueil, and
were almost within sight of Chatillon when the huge Norman horse
of Porthos suddenly went lame. Inexplicable as it seemed, there
was the fact -- the animal had apparently strained a ligament or

"Ah!" exclaimed Porthos, purpling with abrupt anger. "You recall
-- we baited the horses back there at Arcueil? And those grooms
crowding around? Pardieu! I'll wager a pistole -- "

Athos made a sign to Grimaud. The latter sighed, dismounted, held
his stirrup for Porthos, and himself took the Norman.

"Forward!" said Athos. The two friends rode on, and ere reaching
Chatillon had lost poor Grimaud to sight. They were only a short
distance from the gates of Chatillon when two men, who had been
standing with their horses at the roadside, mounted and rode into
the town ahead of them.

"Did you see that?" said Athos. "They were awaiting us. They bear
word ahead. Porthos, we must separate here."

"And why, if you please?" demanded Porthos in some wonder.

"One of us must keep that appointment with Lord de Winter," said
Athos, and drew rein. "if we go on together, we shall both be
stopped -- depend upon it! Therefore, separate here. You ride to
the east, enter Paris by the Porte St. Antoine.  I will ride
west, make Issy, cross the Seine and enter from Passy. You

"I comprehend this," said Porthos, puffing out his cheeks. "if
they watched us enter Chatillon, they will certainly watch us

"Yes, but by separating, we divide their forces, throw their
plans awry, and gain greater chance of winning through," said
Athos calmly. "Bourg-la-Reine lies ahead; from there it is just
two leagues to Paris. It is not yet noon   we need not reach the
Place Royale until tonight. You know the rendezvous? The Hotel de
St. Luc."

"Well, then," said Porthos reluctantly, "I shall wait here for

"Do so,,' said Athos. "Farewell! Until tonight."

And, without looking back, he turned into a side street and was
lost to sight.

Athos knew very well that no one wished to prevent any of them
meeting Baron de Winter, for this rendezvous was probably known
to no one, and would give no suspicion. It was far more likely
that d'Artagnan had been seen to leave Grenoble with one friend,
and Lyon with two friends and a lackey. Their road had been
roundabout; thus Montforge, easily ahead of them, could have made
dispositions to kill them all.

"And that is undoubtedly his purpose," reflected Athos. "Why, we
do not yet know.  He has his orders; that is enough. Ah,
Richelieu! You are powerful; but when you turn your power against
the honor of a woman, forces of which you know nothing will blunt
your weapons! Once before, you pitted yourself against four men
who had only heaven to assist them, and you lost. Be careful lest
this time you destroy yourself!"

Crossing the Seine at Issy, Athos mounted the heights of Passy
and took the Paris road. It was now noon; he had seen no
indication of any further danger, and he was hungry. At the
Auberge de la Pompe just outside Passy, he turned in and ordered
his horse fed, and commanded a meal for himself. He was in funds,
since d'Artagnan had shared Richelieu's purse with his friends.

Athos was in the act of mounting, at the gate of the inn, to
resume his journey, when a voice arose from a throng of
country-folk returning from market at Passy.

"M. le Comte! M. le Comte!"

Athos paused. A man broke from the throng and ran to him -- an
elderly man with an air of respectability, who came up to him
with an expression of astonished joy.

"Ah, M. le Comte!" he cried out. "To find you here -- "

"I believe you mistake," said Athos coldly. The other halted

"Mistake? Monsieur, do you not recognize me -- do you not know
Gervais, your father's old steward, now the steward of your
uncle? No, no!  Monsieur, you are the Count de la Fere"

Athos glanced quickly around, then he held out his hand to the
older man, and his warm smile lighted his face.

"Ah, Gervais!" he said affectionately. "It is indeed you? But
you have changed terribly -- "

The steward seized his hand and kissed it, with tears upon his
cheeks. Before he could speak, Athos checked him, gave his horse
to a groom, and led Gervais into the inn. He demanded a private
room, and in two minutes they were alone.

"Ah, monsieur, I have searched all Paris to find you!" cried the
old steward in agitation. "What luck, to see you here on the
road!  No one knew what had became of you. Some say you are with
the army, some say you are dead -- "

"Gervais, I am dead," said Athos, with his air of inflexible
calm. "Whence come you?"

"From Roussillon, monsieur! I have a message from your uncle. He
is very ill, he will not live long; he begs you to come to him.
He sent me to find you -- he has no one of his own blood in the
world, you alone are left -- "

"I, I only remain!" said Athos, and lowered his head. "Yes, that
is true."

"I have been in Paris for a week, searching everywhere," went
on Gervais. "Yesterday I came to see a cousin of mine, who lives
here near Passy, who has a farm here. Monsieur, you will come
home with me! Say you will come   "

Athos raised his head. His features were composed; one would have
said they were of marble, so cold and bloodless had they become.

"My good Gervais, the Comte de la Fere is dead," he said calmly.
"Athos, the Musketeer, alone remains -- "

"Monsieur," pleaded the old man, "you have a duty. Ah, pardon me
-- it is true! Your uncle is dying. He begs only to see you.
Whether you are dead or alive, I implore you to come and speak
with him!"

"Ah!" said Athos. "Yes, one has a certain duty -- " He sighed,
and suddenly clasped the withered hand of the steward. "Gervais,
look you: I am engaged in a matter not my own. I cannot answer
you here and now. You have money?"

The other made a gesture in the affirmative. "Also, monsieur,
I have a thousand livres which your uncle sent, thinking you
might have need."

"I do not wish his money; keep it," said Athos coldly. "Come to
the Hotel of the Musketeers, or rather the Hotel de Treville, in
the Rue du Vieux-Colombier, precisely at noon tomorrow. Ask for
M. Athos, you comprehend?  If I am not there, come the next day
at noon, and the next. For the present, I am not my own master.
The first day I am free, you will find me."

The faithful steward uttered a cry of joy.

Ten minutes later, Athos was once more riding toward Paris. He
rode carelessly, blindly, not looking whither he was going; he
was steeped in reflection, and his features wore an expression of
gloomy bitterness. He was quite lost to everything around. The
country-folk on the road avoided him carefully. His distinguished
air, his garb, and above all the magnificent horse he bestrode,
the horse which Richelieu had presented to d'Artagnan, showed
them that he was some noble best left alone.

At the point where the road dipped down under the hill of La
Chaise, to seek the banks of the Seine, his horse suddenly halted
of its own accord.

Athos lifted his head. This little glade, enclosed by trees, was
empty save for a coach which stood directly ahead of him. A rear
wheel was broken. In the coach, thus tilted to one side, sat a
young woman, magnificently dressed, and of the most dazzling
beauty. She was staring at Athos; by the terror in her eyes, by
the pallor of her features, he perceived that she was in great
fear. A glance around showed him that she was absolutely alone.

Approaching the coach, Athos doffed his hat and bowed in the
saddle, with that absolute grace of which he alone knew the

"Madame," he said, "I see that you are in some distress. If I may
have the honor of assisting you, I beg that you will consider me
entirely at your service.

At these words, the terror passed from her eyes, and she clasped
her hands together.

"Ah, monsieur -- you are a gentleman -- will you have the
goodness to remain until my servants return with another coach?
Two soldiers just passed by; if they had not discerned your
approach, they would have robbed me --"

"Be at rest, madame." Athos dismounted and bowed again. "My name
is Athos, of the Musketeers; you are safe. If you will tell me of
what regiment those soldiers were, I shall see that they are
punished as they deserve."

"I do not know, monsieur -- I was too terrified to observe! I am
the niece of M. d'Estrees, who is with the army. Our tiny chateau
is close by -- if you will have the goodness to escort me home, I
shall be eternally grateful!"

Athos assented with his air of grave courtesy.  To himself he
thought that never had he seen so beautiful a woman as this girl,
for she was little more than a girl. Athos was a person who
looked upon women with a jaundiced and critical eye; but this
creature delighted him.  Her fresh completion, her air of frank
innocence, told that she was not of the court; her hair, of a
rich golden yellow, was unpowdered; her eyes were of a limpid and
serene blue. Above all, she radiated that indescribable charm
which is the attribute of one woman in ten thousand, and which
not one man in ten thousand ever encounters.

Before he could more than assent, however, a coach appeared,
coming from the direction of Paris. The coachman drew up, the
postilion opened the door, with bows to Mlle. d'Estrees and
glances of curiosity at Athos.

"If mademoiselle will enter -- "

"Good," she said. "This gentleman will escort me -- you will
bring his horse, Francois."

Athos handed her into the other coach, followed, and sat by her
side.  He felt somewhat ill at ease; the closeness of this
charming girl, the air of frank abandon with which she turned to
him, provoked singular feelings within him.

"You are a gentleman of the Musketeers?" she asked. "Ah,
monsieur, how fortunate you came when you did! My father was in
your corps -- well, shall I make a confession? When I saw you, I
said to myself: 'That is no ordinary man!  He is some great
prince in disguise.' Confess, monsieur -- I  was right? Athos is
the name of a mountain, not of a man."

"You are well versed in geography, mademoiselle," said Athos, and
turned to her with that noble and singularly charming smile which
he rarely showed, and then only when he was with someone who
pleased him greatly.  "We are all princes in disguise, my child,
but too often the disguise -- "

"Tiens! What sort of talk is this?" she broke in with a gay
laugh. "My child, indeed! My reverend gray-haired father --
nonsense, monsieur! I am no babe, and you are no philosopher. But
there is our chateau ahead; come, confess, is it not a pretty

"It is adorable!" exclaimed Athos.

"Then you will enter with me, drink a glass of wine, allow your
horse to be rubbed down, allow my cousin to thank you for your
kindness, and if you are polite you may kiss my hand."

"With all my heart, mademoiselle," said Athos, and for once his
grave manner was somewhat lightened. Her arch words, her laughing
eyes, her youth and innocence, affected him in an extraordinary

During this brief conversation the horses had been pushed hard,
and the coach approached a little chateau set in a small and
evidently ancient park, closely crowded by surrounding buildings,
yet all having the air of being far in the country.  Two enormous
oak trees quite shrouded the entrance gates of stone; the chateau
itself proved to be a small structure but of very beautiful
proportions, in the style of those erected during the reign of
Francois I -- that is to say, a century earlier.

Athos alighted, handed Mlle. d'Estrees from the coach, and she
spoke to the servant who appeared at the doorway.

"My cousin -- he has not departed yet?"

"I think he has gone to the stables, mademoiselle, to select a

"Good! Tell him I wish to see him, and that we have a guest."

The servant departed. Athos was by this time very curious, and
willingly accompanied the young lady into the house. He knew
the name of d'Estrees, but he did not know that anyone of the
name could be living here; the former mistress of Henry IV had
bequeathed her children a title, and not a name.

Athos asked no questions, however. In a day when Chavigny was
twitted to his face upon being sired by Richelieu, Athos
possessed a singular delicacy and refinement, which was not the
least of his virtues.

Having ordered wine, his hostess led him to a small library
having only one window, high in the wall, and completely lined
with books from floor to ceiling.

"This is our coolest chamber on such a day,"  she stated. "Also,
it is my favorite room. Further, I desire to look up the name of
Athos in an atlas."

"Then I may save you the trouble," declared Athos. "It is the
name of a mountain in Greece, inhabited solely by anchorites, who
admit no woman to their inclosure."

"While you, monsieur, by force of contrast -- "

Athos smiled. "I, mademoiselle, present neither contrast nor
conformity. But what an admirable library! When you shall have
read all these tomes, I dread to think of how scholarly you will

"Oh, I have read them all," she rejoined. "That is to say, all
except the Plato, which I find dull.  And apparently I do not
look the scholar, to judge by your observation!"

A servant entered with a magnificent salver of massive silver, on
which were exquisite Venetian glasses and wine in a beaker of
chased gold. Athos glanced at the shelves of books closest to
hand; he was astonished to see the most handsome bindings, and
among others the works of Rabelais in the superb binding designed
by Fevart for Henri II. The Greek, Latin and French authors were
mingled indiscriminately; Montaigne nestled cheek by jowl with
a royal Book of Hours of the XIV Century encased in a
jewel-studded box from the hand of Pierre Lovat.

Mademoiselle d'Estrees poured wine, and extended a glass to
Athos, then raised her own.

"To the broken coach," she exclaimed gaily, which led to so
fortunate a meeting! Ah -- I hear my cousin -- I pray you to
excuse me for one instant, monsieur -- "

And setting down her untouched glass, she left the room hastily.

Athos held his glass to the light, sniffed the bouquet of the
wine, which was his favorite Malaga -- then checked himself as he
was on the point of sipping. His eyes had caught a few grains of
white powder on the tray at the foot of the beaker; the more
singular, as the salver was highly polished.

Setting down his glass, Athos glanced around.  A frightful
suspicion seized upon him. He turned, went to the door, opened
it, looked out into the hall.  No one was there.  He caught an
echo of low voices from a half-closed doorway beyond, and stepped
softly toward it. The voice of a man came to him with astonishing

"You fool! It's the wrong man -- pardieu, they picked the right
horse, though! The pair of them must have exchanged horses."

"Is it my fault, then?" came the tones of Mlle. d'Estrees, but
now singularly low and sullen. "We got the message, did our part
well -- "

"Finish it, then -- I've no time to waste, Helene!" returned the
man. "I must be off at once. You say no admission can be gained
without the ring?  Well, I must get a ring made, since the one
you sent is lost."

"Be sure it bears the arms of Bassompierre!" cautioned the woman.
"And remember, they have guards at St. Saforin!"

The other laughed curtly. "Bah! I'll take the child to Grenoble
 -- no news today?"

"None from London as yet. Marconnet came this morning from Lyon
 -- it is rumored that the king is ill," said the woman's voice.
"If you have trouble, bring the boy here. But have a care!
Bassompierre is in Paris -- he will be here today or tomorrow."

"Tonight or tomorrow night, you mean," and the other laughed
again. "Here -- I've no more time to waste. I will take a look at
our man; if he has not drunk your potion, then we must put a
sword into him -- "

Athos, who had listened to this conversation with incredulous
horror, made his way back to the library. He caught up his glass
and emptied it behind a bookshelf, then replaced it and sank into
a chair, closed his eyes, relaxed as though drugged.

The terrible paleness of his features assisted  the delusion.

He was as though frozen in a sort of nightmare.  What he had just
overheard, made it clear to him where he was, who this woman was,
and how he had been entrapped. This girl, whose innocence had so
appealed to him, was the Helene de Sirle of whom d'Artagnan had
spoken; the ring mentioned was the ring on d'Artagnan's hand. The
horrible realization left him benumbed, incapable of thinking or
acting; for the moment he could only play his part supinely.

"He has it, pardieu!" said the man's voice at the door. "Good;
I am off. Marconnet will take care of this one for you. The
address of the goldsmith who made the other ring?"

The girl's voice responded, inaudibly. Footsteps receded.

Athos opened his eyes, sat up, sweat starting on his brow. Only
now did it occur to him that the man must have been Montforge. He
went to the window, and caught sight of a cavalier mounting and
knew the man must be departing.

"Just God!" murmured Athos in a sort of desperation, sweeping a
terrible look around the room.  "Into what sort of hands have I
fallen? Well there is only one way out."

He drew his sword. The trembling which had seized upon him
passed, and was resolved into a cold and deadly anger. Since
meeting the broken-down coach upon the highway, much time had
elapsed; the afternoon was beginning to wane.

To gain the entrance, Athos was forced to pass the length of the
hall. As he came to the door of the room where he had heard the
conversation, a lackey came out, saw him, stopped in
astonishment.  Athos lifted his rapier.

"Not a sound!" he commanded sternly. "Turn around, lead the way

Instead of complying with this order, the lackey caught a poniard
from his belt and at the same instant sent a cry ringing through
the house. The rapier of Athos drove into his throat, too late to
check that cry of alarm.

"The devil himself," said Athos, freeing his weapon, "has
evidently supplied servants for this house!"

He strode hastily to the entrance -- then checked bimself.
Helene de Sirle, as he now knew her to be, stood at the foot of
the steps. She had doubtless been saying farewell to Montforge,
and had heard the lackey's cry; swift, shrill orders were coming
from her lips, and Athos caught sight of three men running across
the garden, their weapons bared.

"It is he -- kill him!" cried out the young woman in a tone of
indescribable ferocity, and moved as though to lead her three
men up the steps to the portal.

Athos perceived that he was trapped. Outside, near where the
coach still stood waiting, he saw the horse he had ridden, but he
was unable to reach the animal. With a swift motion, he caught
hold of the open doors, swung them shut, and dropped a bar into
place just as the three men hurled themselves upon the barrier
with angry cries. The doors trembled, but did not give way.

Turning, Athos made for the wide staircase winding to the upper
floor. He had recognized at a glance that his one hope of leaving
this place alive lay in reaching his horse; but the cries of
domestics ringing through the lower part of the house showed that
he could not seek another entrance or even make use of a window.
He dashed up the stairs, and was halfway to the upper floor when
a pistolet exploded below.

Athos staggered, lost his balance, fell upon hands and knees.  At
the same instant a man with bared sword appeared at the head of
the stairs.  "Marconnet!" came the cry from below. "Monsieur
Marconnet -- kill that man!"

"Gladly," responded the man above and, descending a step or
two, darted a thrust at Athos.

The latter, however, had realized his peril, had heard the cry,
knew that the man above was the courier arrived from Lyon that
morning. He still held his own sword; parrying the lunge as he
rose, he engaged Marconnet with a ferocity augmented by the
sounds of men ascending the stairs behind and below him. Another
moment, and he would be taken in rear.

That moment did not arrive.

A terrible cry burst from Marconnet. The rapier of Athos entered
his stomach from below, and emerged beneath his shoulder-blade;
before the steel could be plucked out, the unfortunate man
plunged headlong, as though shot from a catapult, and his body
was hurled upon two servants in the act of attacking Athos from
behind. They were swept from their feet, carried downward, and
came to the floor below with a crash, punctuated by cries of

Athos, catching up the rapier dropped by Marconnet, darted on to
the top of the stairs. He had lost his hat; the pistol-ball had
caught it away, ploughing a slight gash across his scalp from
which the blood was running freely.

Having already made up his mind exactly what he was to do, Athos
started down the upper corridor to gain one of the rooms giving
upon the front of the chateau. A door opened, a femme-de-chambre
appeared, and uttered a scream at sight of this stranger, sword
in hand. Athos pushed her back into the room, slammed the door
upon her, darted to a door farther on, and hurling himself into
the room, closed and locked the door again.

"The devil!" exclaimed a voice. "What means this, monsieur!"

Athos whirled. He had gained the room which he desired, whose
windows opened upon the front balcony of the chateau -- but
this room was not empty. It was a magnificent chamber. A massive
oak bed, sculptured with passages from the lives of famous women
and draped with the most exquisite of brocades and satins,
occupied one entire end of the room. At one side was a long
dressing table of mahogany, holding perfumes and pomades, linting
with jeweled trifles -- that of a lady, beyond question.

Standing before the windows was a pale and half-clothed young man
who had apparently just left the bed to draw the curtains when
the alarm was sounded. He had caught up a sword, and bared the
blade as he addressed Athos. The latter recognized him as a
wealthy young noble of the court, one M. Sourens, who was rapidly
acquiring a reputation for extreme profligacy.

"Your pardon, monsieur," said Athos, having turned the key in the
lock. "I did not know this room was occupied. If you will have
the goodness to let me pass --"

"Pass as you came," said Sourens heatedly. "Ventrebleu! To have
canaille like you rushing into one's room -- out of here before I
chastise you, scullion!"

Athos became very pale, "Monsieur, if your chastisement is as
out of date as your oaths," he said with contempt, "it is
scarcely to be feared.  Stand aside, if you please."

He advanced toward the window, but Sourens flung himself before
the glass, angrily.

"Devil take you, I'll teach you how to speak to a gentleman -- "
and he attacked the intruder swiftly, viciously.

Athos met the attack with a slight smile of disdain, and for a
moment held the infuriated young man in play. Cries and the stamp
of feet were resounding through the building.

"Monsieur," said Athos politely, as the blades rasped, "I have
no desire to harm you, but it is imperative that I leave this
house at once by way of your window. I ask you to give me
passage, in default of which I must kill you."

Maddened by the calm contempt in the air of Athos, the other
heaped oaths upon him.

"Gallows bird!" he concluded. "Sneak-thief -- I suppose you are
some bretteur of the faubourgs, are you? Pass, indeed! You break
into the room of Mlle. de Sirle and then -- "

"Ah!" said Athos with an expression of satisfaction. "Since you
appear to be occupying her room, monsieur, it is evident that you
have no right here. Therefore I must keep my word."

And he ran the young man through the heart, composedly stepped
across his body, and wrenched open a window.

The sun was just setting. Before him was a balcony, the gardens
some twelve feet below. No one was in sight outside; the coach
and horse still stood there, unguarded. Obviously, everyone was
searching through the house.

Athos thrust the borrowed sword into his own sheath, lifted the
baldric over his head, and cast it into a flower-bed below. Then,
bestriding the rail of the balcony, he leaped after it.

Inside, the chateau was filled with confusion, but no one thought
to look out in the gardens for the intruder. Athos picked up
baldric and sword and mounted. In less than a moment he was
riding toward the entrance gates, which stood wide open.

"Decidedly," he observed, "I do not envy d'Artagnan his errand to
that young lady!"

He swayed suddenly, caught himself from falling, and passed a
hand across his eyes. Then, settling his feet in the stirrups, he
was between the gates and out in the road, where people began to
stare at him, bare-headed and hurt as he was.

He forgot that he himself had not yet entered Paris.



Since everyone knew that M. de St. Luc was with the King, and his
hotel in the Place Royale was closed for the summer, there was
some astonishment in the quarter when, on the thirtieth day of
July, servants appeared, the gates were opened, and the shutters
flung back. However, in this vicinity of hotels and residences of
the nobility, nearly all of which were shut up, there was none to
ask questions.

On the morning of this day, a traveling coach entered the
courtyard of this hotel. A gentleman of stern features, sober but
rich attire, and wearing  pistols beneath his cloak, alighted.
This gentleman was Lord de Winter, Baron Sheffield. The steward
of M. de St. Luc approached and bowed deferentially.

"Milord will find everything ready," he said. "The larder is
stocked, the beds are aired; the orders from our master are to
obey you as himself.  We are at your service, monsieur, and we
trust  you will have no reason to be dissatisfied with us."

Lord de Winter nodded. "Very well. In the course of today I
expect four gentlemen who will ask for me here. They may come
together or singly. They may come at noon or midnight. I desire
to have ready for them the most sumptuous banquet possible, with
the finest wines."

"At what hour, Milord?"

"At whatever hour they come," said Lord de Winter.

"And if they delay until evening, monsieur will dine -- "

"On bread and milk only, in my own chamber."

So saying, he retired to the chamber prepared for him, and rested
most of the day.

The afternoon drew on, evening came; lights were put out, the
banquet was ready, no guests arrived. At nine o'clock Lord de
Winter supped lightly in his own room on bread and milk.  He was
served by his lackey, who spoke a sort of French, but who only
shrugged when the anxious steward questioned him about the
expected guests.

"My master has invited them," he said. "They will arrive."

At ten o'clock Lord de Winter, who had been seated by an open
window, appeared upon the grand staircase and encountered the

"I hear a horse at the gallop," he said. "Let us descend."

The steward thought him mad. They descended to the courtyard,
where cressets had been lighted, and were just in time to see an
exhausted horse come through the gates and halt, trembling. The
rider alighted; he was bareheaded, but so covered with dust from
head to foot as to be unrecognizable.  He took two steps, and

"M. de Winter!" he exclaimed in a croaking voice.

"By the love of the saints!" exclaimed de Winter. "It is M.

And he caught d'Artagnan in his arms, embraced him warmly, then
assisted him to enter and ordered a bath prepared and garments
laid out from his own wardrobe. D'Artagnan, who had ridden all
day at breakneck speed, had killed his horse; but he had arrived.

He bathed hurriedly, dressed, and was being conducted to the
salon where Lord de Winter awaited him, when the steward entered.

"Monsieur, there is a gentleman below -- he came on foot, and he
appears to be covered with blood. He asked for you --"

D'Artagnan turned, gained the courtyard at a bound, and clasped
Athos in his arms. Athos was, it is true, covered with blood, and
he had arrived on foot, for excellent reasons. Upon entering
Paris he had suddenly fainted, had fallen from his horse, and for
two hours lay in the house of a surgeon whither he was carried.
Upon regaining consciousness, he had forced his way from the
house and had come to the Place Royale afoot, like a man blind
and deaf, answering none who spoke to him.

Athos, in turn bathed and with the wound across his scalp dressed
anew, presently joined d'Artagnan and Lord de Winter. The latter
was filled with curiosity, but said nothing.  Athos paused in the
doorway and regarded his friend.

"D'Artagnan, you did not fulfill your errand at Dampierre?"

"I did," said d'Artagnan, "but I did not go to Dampierre. Two men
attempted to kill me; I killed them. Unfortunately, one of them
hit me a blow between the eyes -- I think it is quite discolored.
Peasants, in passing, took me for dead, and stripped us all.
However --"

"You did not find Aramis?"

"Yes. All is well. But you, my friend -- you, Athos! I have
never seen you in such a state?"

Athos shrugged. "Bah! I fell from my horse and struck my head,
that is all. I separated from Porthos, and left Grimaud with him.
They have not arrived?"

At that instant Grimaud arrived, alone. He was brought into the

"Speak," said Athos. "Where is M. Porthos?"

The unhappy Grimaud spread out his hands.  "God knows, monsieur!
We halted at a tavern just inside the gates.  Two other gentlemen
were there; both were masked. M. Porthos joined them, and I think
he is drunk by this time. Half a dozen more gentlemen arrived
just before dark, and were ordering supper when their servants
forced me to leave."

"How?" exclaimed Athos. "Masked, you say?  Were the other
arrivals masked also?"

"Two of them were masked, monsieur, besides the first two."

"This is singular!" murmured d'Artagnan. Lord de Winter smiled.

"Good -- we will not await Porthos, then. And Aramis?"

"Is wounded, but in the care of friends. He does not join us."

"Then let us proceed to supper, my friends -- to supper, and
to what we have to say. For, to judge from what I have seen and
heard," he added, "each of us has a good deal to recount."

"That is true," said Athos in a grave voice. "But not before

The three passed into the stately dining-hall, built by the
Gerard de St. Luc who was said to have slain the Duke of
Burgundy, Charles the Bold, at the siege of Nancy in '477.  Here
they were served with a supper, or rather a banquet, composed of
the most marvelous dishes that could be concocted by the finest
chefs in PariS -- that is to say, in the entire world.

Athos accepted all this as a matter of course; he drank the
superb wines as though they were common vin rouge, he left half
the delicate foods almost untasted. He was preoccupied, weighed
down by one of his dark moods. D'Artagnan, on the contrary, was
astonished at each new course, relished each fresh wine with
gusto, and could not contain his admiration.

"This is no dinner, my dear baron, but a feast!" he exclaimed.
"You are the soul of generosity."

"That, my dear d'Artagnan," said Lord de Winter, "is because I
come here to appeal to generosity."

Porthos did not arrive. Presently the table was cleared, save for
wine, fruit and nuts, and the baron's English lackey closed  the
doors and took up his station outside. Lord de Winter passed
Athos a carafe of old Xeres wine, and spoke.

"With your permission, my friends, I shall first tell you my
story; then, if you will, tell me of your adventures. You
received one at least of the letters I sent, and you discovered
what was written with secret ink. Therefore, you know that I
referred to Her Majesty the Queen."

Athos pushed away the carafe of Xeres, which he had been in the
act of lifting.

"It is a brief thing to tell, but not one to write in words,"
resumed the Englishman. "You gentlemen were friends of the late
Duke of Buckingham; you were in his confidence; therefore it was
to you I turned. As you may or may not know, I have friends in
Nancy -- I am, in fact, distantly related to Duke Charles of
Lorraine. One of these friends, who is also a friend of Madame de
Chevreuse, recently wrote me of a very serious matter. I at once
wrote you.

"Ah! Ah!" exclaimed d'Artagnan, his eyes widening. "You cannot
mean -- no, it is impossible!  Not the Thounenin will!"

As though by a thunderbolt, the calm of the phlegmatic Englishman
was shattered.

"What!" he cried. "You cannot know of it already -- "

"Be silent, my son," said Athos suddenly, to d'Artagnan,"until
our host first tells us everything. Then we, in turn, will
complement his tale with what we know. Rather, with what we have
heard; for we know little."

"Very well," said de Winter, recovering. "A village cure near
Versailles, a relative of Madame de Chevreuse, received from her
an infant, some four years since -- a newborn child. He was given
money and precise directions for the care of the child.

Being in Lorraine about a year ago, knowing himself facing death
from an incurable malady, he added a codicil to a will which he
had made in 1624. This codicil of two pages, written on vellum,
told of the child and its origin; I may say that this cure firmly
believed that the infant had been born of Her Majesty, who had
been seriously ill at this time, at Versailles, under the care of
Madame de Chevreuse."

At these words Athos to whom any slur upon the honor of the queen
was a blasphemy, became livid.

"This cure," went on the Englishman, "made incautious statements
in his will. They are statements which, if this document came
into the wrong hands, might work incalculable harm to Her
Majesty. As an Englishman, it was no affair of mine; as a
gentleman, it became my affair. Further -- "

"Ah, ah!" cried out d'Artagnan, unable to control himself. "This
is the child which is under Bassompierre's care!  This is the
document which is on the way to Richelieu!"

"On the contrary," said Athos, whose aspect was frightful, "this
child is now being taken from St. Saforin by agents of the
Cardinal! But stop. Continue, monsieur. It appears that each of
us has important contributions to make to this dossier."

Inexpressibly astonished by this knowledge on the part of his
guests, Lord de Winter inclined his head and pursued his story.

"Further, gentlemen, I know absolutely that this is not the child
of Her Majesty. You will remember that I was in the confidence of
the late Buckingham. Also, when M. de Bassompierre was Ambassador
to England, I knew him intimately.

There is a secret regarding this child, and I impart this secret
to you upon your honor as gentlemen.  This child was not born of
the queen, but of Madame de Chevreuse. The fact was so strictly
concealed, that the cure in question leaped to the wrong
conclusion. However, if his will is obtained by enemies of Her
Majesty, there will undoubtedly be a terrible injury done an
innocent lady. That is why I wrote you I cannot act in this
matter; you can act freely. I know your devotion to Anne of
Austria as queen and woman, I know your chivalrous natures, and
above all I know of what you are capable."

"Good," said Athos. "But remember, we know very little.  Can you
tell us where that paper or document is now?"

"I can tell you everything," said Lord de Winter, with a trace of
agitation. "That is why I asked you to meet me here. I can tell
you who the man is that carries the document, where he is,
whither he is going. The agents of Richelieu who extracted the
document from the archives were caught, almost in the act.
While they escaped, they could not send the paper to France.
They sent it to England for security, and to cover their own
traces. The man bearing it to Paris left London for Calais the
same day I left. At Dover he was arrested on a false charge,
search was made for the document. It was not discovered, but he
missed his passage to Calais, and I got ahead of him. I have
remained ahead of him. Sometime tonight a messenger will arrive
to tell us exactly where he now is, what road he is taking to
Paris, and how many are with him."

"Excellent!" cried d'Artagnan. "We ask no more depend upon it,
monsieur, that document is as good as destroyed this moment!"
Athos looked at the Englishman with a species of admiration.

"And it was to tell us this, monsieur," he said, "that you sent
for us, that you came to Paris, that -- "

"No, no!" broke in de Winter. "It was not for this. It was
because I, like you, cannot see the honor of a woman whom I
revere made a pawn for politics by an unscrupulous prelate!"

There was a moment of silence. Then the Englishman looked at

"I have finished, monsieur. It is your turn."

D'Artagnan began to tell with eagerness and vivacity of all that
had happened to him since leaving Athos and Porthos at
Longjumeau. At last he himself understood everything, or nearly
everything, and he kept back only one item -- Richelieu's verbal
message to Chevreuse.

"I may say this much," he concluded. "The message spoke of the
child, and upon receiving it my masked cavalier first fainted,
then fled like a startled rabbit. And here is her diamond, to
prove my tale. But you, Athos -- come, tell us about this fall
from a horse!"

"With pleasure," said Athos. "More especially as it has a direct
bearing upon our entire errand and, I fear, a very terrible

He told of his encounter with Helene de Sirle, of what he had
heard and done at her house; but he said nothing of meeting his
uncle's steward, Gervais. D'Artagnan heard the tale with anxiety;
Lord de Winter only nodded from time to time, as though he were
no longer to be amazed by anything these extraordinary men might

"So, my friends," said Athos in conclusion, "we may be certain of
two things in regard to the Comte de Montforge. He has been
ordered to destroy us, or at least d'Artagnan; and he has been
ordered to carry off this child from the abbey of St. Saforin."

"Very good," observed Lord de Winter calmly.  "I believe we may
now sum up? The document, then, is on its way to Paris, where it
will be handed over -- "

"To Mlle. de Sirle," said Athos, as the other paused. "The child
is at St. Saforin. How came he there? Why did Marshal de
Bassompierre assume his guardianship?"

"For several reasons," replied Lord de Winter. "Bassompierre is a
Lorrainer and friendly with Chevreuse. I myself know this lady
well, and she, who might be expected to take most interest in the
child, takes none. After its birth, she desired never to look
upon its face. True, she makes provision for the child, but she
is a selfish woman who cares not who loves her so long as she is
not known as the mother of illegitimate children. In such case,
you comprehend, the Duc de Chevreuse might very well abandon her,
and Richelieu would certainly hold her in his power."

The brow of Athos was dark and gloomy. "Her attitude toward this
child is a crime," he said.  D'Artagnan stared, for he had seldom
heard Athos so speak of a woman. "She denies herself a son.  She
denies the child a parent. She places others in danger. What a
woman! Bah!"

Lord de Winter shrugged. "Well, whoever may have been the father
of the child, which is a somewhat vexed question, there are the
facts. He was placed in St. Saforin under the name of Raoul
d'Aram -- "

Athos started so violently that his arm knocked over the carafe
of Xeres wine, which d'Artagnan recovered.

"What is that? What is that?" cried Athos in a low but piercing
voice. "Raoul d'Aram! Do you comprehend, d'Artagnan? This
explains everything! Aramis is a friend of Bassompierre; he has
been a lover of Chevreuse for years; the boy, named Raoul d'Aram
 -- "

He fell silent, staring at the others. Lord de Winter nodded
again. D'Artagnan swore.

"Diantre! And he is helpless, unable to leave his bed, caring
nothing for the child -- ah, Aramis, what a pretty mess your
gallantry has entangled us in! And this scoundrel Montforge is
now on his way to St. Saforin, Athos?"

"Yes, my son; but rest assured -- he cannot proceed there until
he has a ring made like the one on your finger. That requires
time. He cannot get the ring before tomorrow night at the
earliest.  We shall be ahead of him."

"Ahead of him?" D'Artagnan looked at Athos inquiringly.

"Certainly," said Athos with his calm air. "Our errand is
twofold. We have, first, to meet this messenger from London,
kill him, secure the document, and destroy it. Second, we have to
carry off this boy from St. Saforin."

D'Artagnan looked at him with incredulity; Lord de Winter with
stupefied surprise. Athos met their gaze with his rare smile,
whose high nobility was touched with sadness.

"My friends," he said, "I confess to you, I am tempted to
perceive the finger of God in all this affair. Our endeavor is
first to defeat the schemes of Richelieu, that man whom ambition
has blinded to honor; by defeating him, we save Her Majesty.
Good! Aramis has abandoned this child to the care of a friend.
The boy faces a terrible destiny; he is without a father, he is
without a mother, yet his father and his mother are of the
noblest blood in France!"

"Bah!" said d'Artagnan uneasily. "It is no hindrance to be a
bastard, my friend. Look at Orleans, who drove the English out of
France! Look at the Duc de Vendome -- "

"I am looking, at this instant, at the son of Aramis, who is
my friend," said Athos, with so noble an air, so lofty and severe
a tone, that d'Artagnan fell silent. "In order to accomplish our
task, I propose that we first carry off this boy, cause him to
vanish utterly from the sight of Richelieu or any other. I will
then provide him with a father, with a mother, with a name. In
brief, I will myself adopt him."

"You!" cried d'Artagnan in amazement.

"You?" echoed the Englishman, as though not crediting his ears.

"I," said Athos calmly. "My friend," and he turned to d'Artagnan.
"I have determined to leave the service and retire to a small
estate. Heretofore, I have had nothing to live for; now, it would
seem, I have found a son. He will bear the name of my estate of

There was a knock at the door. The English lackey opened.

"My lord," he said to his master, "Franklin has arrived."

"Bring him," said Lord de Winter, and turned to his guests. "My
messenger, gentlemen."

A dust-covered cavalier appeared, saluted, and at a command from
Lord de Winter spoke in French.

"Milord, our man stopped at Compiegne for the night. I rode on.
He arrives in Paris at noon tomorrow, at the earliest probably
not until later, for he is exhausted."

"Good," said de Winter. "You learned nothing about the document
we failed to discover?"

"I learned nothing," said Franklin. "But when he came to
Compiegne, he removed the pistol from the right-hand side of his
saddle, and carried it to his room with him."

"Eureka!" exclaimed d'Artagnan. "The paper is in the barrel of
that pistol."

The messenger was dismissed, and the doors closed.

"Well, my friends," said Lord de Winter, "I must depart in two
days for Venice -- I have an errand there for the King of
England. While I remain here, this house and all I have or can
borrow, are at your service."

"Thank you, monsieur," said Athos. "We have need of nothing,
except the name of the man who bears that document."

"His name is the Comte de Riberac."

"Ah!" exclaimed d'Artagnan, half in consternation."Riberac --
whose brother was killed at La Rochelle -- whose relative is
Madame de Combalet, niece of Richelieu -- whose --"

Athos burst into a laugh -- a thing almost unknown for him.

"Whose pistol carries the honor of Her Majesty!" he intervened.
"That is enough for us. You know him by sight, I think?"

"Yes," said d'Artagnan, who perceived that Athos had formulated
everything clearly in his own mind. "Proceed, I beg of you! Your
judgment is unsurpassed, Athos! Give the orders and I will obey."

"You honor me, my friend. I propose that you deal with this
gentleman, secure the document, deliver your letter to
Mademoiselle de Sirle. I, on my part, shall take Porthos and
Grimaud, and go to St. Saforin -- it is a short half-day's
ride from Paris. We shall need your ring."

"Here it is," and d'Artagnan handed the circlet of gold to Athos.
"And since I, for one, have some need of repose, when does this
program go into effect?"

Athos reflected. "Your share is to you; mine to me. I will ride
to St. Saforin tomorrow evening, remove the boy early next
morning, and return to the Hotel de Treville to await word from

"Very well," said d'Artagnan. "I will sleep until noon tomorrow,
then ride out on the Compiegne road and meet M. de Riberac."

And if you miss him?"

"Then I will find the document at the chateau of the lady."

"Be careful, my son!" Athos bent a terrible look upon his friend.
"You do not know of what that woman and those around her are
capable! She serves the Cardinal, who is probably her lover;
Bassompierre is certainly her lover; she would deceive an angel
from heaven with her airs of innocence! Be careful!"

"I promise it, Athos," said d'Artagnan, alarmed by these words.

Again there was a knock, and the lackey opened the doors.

"My lord," he said, "a gentleman is here by the name of Monsieur

There was a cry of acclaim from all three. A moment later Porthos

M. du Vallon had this peculiarity; when he was extremely drunk,
he was apparently in perfect control of his faculties, but in
reality had not the least consciousness of anything except what
passed through his brain on the instant. He entered the room,
bowed ceremoniously to Lord de Winter, and gazed blankly at Athos
and d'Artagnan. He was, if possible, more magnificent than ever
in his bearing.

"This is most extraordinary, gentlemen," he declaimed in a loud
voice, without noticing the greetings of anyone. "Here I left you
on your way to the Hotel de Chevreuse, and I find you awaiting me
here! However, I do not try to understand anything. Ah,
messieurs, so you have unmasked?  Monsieur," and he bowed
profoundly to Lord de Winter, "you will, I promise you, have no
reason to regret attaching me to the service of Your Highness."

"Heavens!" d'Artagnan broke into a laugh, and pulled at the
Englishman's sleeve. "He is drunk -- he takes you for the Duc

Porthos turned to Athos, and bowed again.

"Monsieur le Comte," he declaimed, "it is an honor to have shared
your enjoyment of that exquisite Chablis, and your views upon the
subject of His Eminence the Cardinal."

"Ah!" said Athos, amused. "It seems that I have become the Comte
de Soissons!"

Porthos twirled his mustache magnificently, and bowed to

"I did not need a whisper from M. de Bassompierre to penetrate
your identity, but be assured, monsieur, it is entirely safe with
me!" he said loftily. "None shall know that you are in Paris. If
any inquire of me, I shall say: "Certainly! M. le Duc de Guise is
spending a few days at my country house.' But I do not see our
honest Bassompierre, that dear friend of my comrade d'Herblay --
well, well, let us see if this wine can match the Chablis --"

And coming to the table, he seated himself amid the laughter of
the three men, and with a perfectly steady hand poured himself
wine, and sipped it.

"Excellent," he exclaimed. "Excellent! Gentlemen, damnation to
the Cardinal, happiness to our new king -- and may it prove true
that the king is dead!"

And Porthos gravely drank the toast he had proposed.

The laughter of the three listeners froze into a frightful
silence, which d'Artagnan was the first to break.

"Porthos!" he said severely, leaning forward.

"Awake -- for the love of heaven guard your tongue, think of what
you say! Do you not know me?"

Porthos set down his glass.

"That is admirable wine -- the bouquet is magnificent," he
observed, and regarded d'Artagnan with a blank stare. "Gentlemen,
you did well to meet me. You do well, M. le Duc, to appreciate my
qualities and ask my advice. Yes, I heard rumors at Grenoble that
the king had not been well, but devil take me if I expected such
news as this. I presume, Monsieur," and he turned in a stately
fashion to Lord de Winter, "I presume your first  move will be to
arrest Richelieu? Ah, yes -- I believe you mentioned something of
the sort. I desired to carry the order of arrest -- you had
promised it to my friend M. de Bassompierre, was that it? Yes,

Lord de Winter sat stupefied. Athos, bending his penetrating gaze
upon Porthos, had turned pale. D'Artagnan, who sat there staring
with his mouth open, suddenly moved as though a fly had stung

"Ah!" he said. "Those masked gentlemen -- no, no, it is
impossible! He is the victim of some hoax!

He is drunk and -- "

"He is nothing of the sort," said Athos. "You think this news
about the king is quite reliable, M. du Vallon?"

"Eh?" said Porthos, transferring his stare to Athos. "You ask
me that, M. le Comte? You yourself showed me the despatch,
brought from Lyon by your own cousin -- upon my word, monsieur,
if you were not the Comte de Soissons I should imagine you to be

And he poured himself more wine, very gravely.

"Monsieur," he said to Lord de Winter, applying to that gentleman
the title usually accorded the king's brother, the Duc d'Orleans,
"it has pleased Your Highness to consult me about your plans. I
will even carry my advice a step farther.  I advise you to marry
Her Majesty the Queen immediately, and thus secure the throne by
making peace with Austria. You could not do better than create M.
d'Artagnan a Marshal of France, and my friend the Comte de la
Fere would make an admirable Minister. For myself, I desire
nothing; I believe, however, that a mere barony would quite
delight Madame du Vallon. I beg, Monsieur, that you will think
over this advice very seriously."

Cold sweat started upon the brow of d'Artagnan, and he saw in the
face of Athos something like terror.

There was now no doubt that by some chance Porthos had
encountered the greatest enemies of Richelieu, who were supposed
to be far from Paris. By what magic of wine or talk he had
insinuated himself into their company and penetrated their
identities, was impossible to say; ordinarily the most simple
fellow in the world, Porthos when in liquor had a certain

D'Artagnan could picture that scene at the tavern; unfortunately
it was far from being incredible. Gaston of Orleans was a
dissolute fool always turning to some new prank or eccentricity,
careless what he did or said. Soissons was a popinjay who blew in
any wind and was headstrong in the wrong direction. Guise,
learning that the king was dying, was capable of anything. That
they had amused themselves with Porthos was evident. The very
improbability of their discussing such matters with him was the
surest proof of it having occurred, particularly where Orleans
was concerned.

"If this has happened," murmured d'Artagnan, "it means the

"On the contrary," said Athos, who had recovered himself, "if it
has happened, it may mean power and honor! Reflect; it is clear
that the Comte de Soissons has news that the king is dying or
dead. Therefore, the Duc d'Orleans ascends the throne -- "

"We must sober M. Porthos and drag the truth out of him," said
Lord de Winter.

"Impossible!" said d'Artagnan, with a gesture of despair. "I
know him, monsieur. One more drink, and he will be asleep.  When
he wakens, all memory of what has happened will be utterly gone
from his mind."

"That is true," said Athos.

In another five minutes, indeed, Porthos dropped his chin on his
breast and fell sound asleep.

Porthos, however, had not been deceived, nor had he deceived.

At the exact moment he was creating d'Artagnan a Marshal of
France, terrible things were happening in Lyon, where the king
had some time since joined the court. Attacked by dysentery and
fever, Louis XIII was informed that medical skill could do no
more for him, and he could not live another day.

He confessed, and receiving the Viaticum from the hands of Pere
Suffren, bade farewell to his mother, his wife, and Richelieu.
The court ordered mourning. Anne of Austria meditated upon the
future and at her bidding Countess de Fargis wrote Gaston
d'Orleans and mentioned a marriage between them. Marie de Medici
sent couriers in every direction and prepared for her triumph
over the Cardinal, a triumph which would know neither scruple nor

As for Richelieu, he saw the abyss opening under his very feet,
and was utterly powerless to save himself. "I do not know," he
wrote that night to Schomberg, who was in command of the army,
"whether I am alive or dead."

Thus did history, in these heroic days, hang upon the life or
death of a king.



When d'Artagnan wakened, at noon the next day, he found at his
bedside a magnificent suit of blue and silver-cloth; lying upon
it was this note:

   "My Friends:
   I have gone to Chaillot with M. de Bassompierre,
   and I shall make peace for M. Porthos provided he
   forgets everything that happened to him last night.
   Memory would be excessively dangerous for him. The
   king is believed to be dying. I shall await word
   from you; go, with God!


D'Artagnan asked after his friends. Grimaud appeared with word
that Porthos was snoring, Athos still asleep.

"I have orders to waken them at two o'clock, monsieur."

Obey, then. I shall be gone. One moment -- where is the convent
of St. Saforin?"

"Halfway between Paris and Soissons, monsieur."

Obviously, Athos had ordered Grimaud to inform himself on this

D'Artagnan bathed and then dressed in the superb habiliments
provided, finding that they fitted him to a marvel; and in the
courtyard discovered a horse being saddled for him. This horse,
presented to him with the compliments of Lord de Winter, was even
finer than the one given him by Richelieu, and now lost somewhere
in Paris.

When he had eaten, d'Artagnan examined his sword, inspected the
letter for Mlle. de Sirle, and rode for Passy and the Compiegne

He was unhurried, and appreciated to the full the glances of
admiration which his magnificent costume and his royal steed drew
from every side.  He did not fail to note, however, an
undercurrent of excitement in the streets, and he knew the reason
full well.

"Pardieu! Rumors have spread," he muttered. "And what is this?
Bassompierre's liveries!"

He encountered six of the finest horses imaginable, each one
caparisoned with real splendor, in charge of two grooms wearing
the Marshal's livery.  He halted them, curious.

"Will you have the goodness to tell me the reason of this?"  he
inquired. "I understood your master was at Chaillot today."

The grooms, seeing that this young man, so regally mounted and
attired, had recognized their liveries and must be some great
noble and friend of Bassompierre, did not hesitate to answer him.

"We are taking them as relays, monsieur. Our master leaves at
dawn tomorrow for Lyon, and has wagered a thousand pistoles that
he will reach Lyon before midnight tomorrow."

Thanking them, d'Artagnan rode on, stupefied with astonishment at
such prodigality. Bassompierre had better reasons than a wager
for reaching Lyon, he perceived -- but why, then, was not the
marshal leaving today instead of tomorrow?

"If I were M. de Bassompierre," thought d'Artagnan shrewdly, "I
would be finishing my journey tomorrow morning instead of
beginning it! However, I suppose he has the best of reasons for
remaining here; and it is lucky for Porthos that he is! Our
friend must have learned some pretty secrets last night, and if
he ever breathes one of them, he is a lost man.

He need not have worried, however. When Porthos wakened, he had
not the slightest recollection of his last night's adventure.

It was not yet two o'clock when d'Artagnan, past the barrier, was
upon the Compiegne road. A word with the guards showed that the
Comte de Riberac had not yet entered Paris, but this did not mean
that he had not reached Passy, which at that time was well
outside Paris. So, at a slightly quicker gait, d'Artagnan rode
on. He knew Riberac, and could not miss his man, who would be
unsuspecting any danger so close to his journey's end.

With his characteristic curiosity, d'Artagnan sought out the
chateau of Mlle. de Sirle, and slowly rode past, admiring the
situation of the little park. Then he had reason to curse his
imprudence, for as he came opposite the gates they opened and a
cavalier rode forth and drew rein in surprise.

"M. d'Artagnan!" he exclaimed. "It Is you, indeed?"

D'Artagnan recognized Sieur de Roquemont, lieutenant of the
Cardinal's guards and a close relative of Chateauneuf, at this
period the most able of all Richelieu's supporters. He noted
that Roquemont seemed quite disconcerted at the encounter, and
wondered what on earth this gentleman could be doing in Paris.

"Good morning, my dear Roquemont,  he rejoined with entire
aplomb. "A happy meeting, indeed! I fancied you were in Savoy,
becoming another Bayard!"

"And I," said Roquemont, opening his eyes at d'Artagnan's horse
and equipment, "fancied you were in Lyon with the court!"

"So I was," said d'Artagnan, twirling his mustache, "but at the
present moment I am on my way to Calais, and in two days I shall
be in London.

What news from the army?"

"Faith, I know not!" and Roquemont shrugged. "I have been in
Paris for ten days, and am even now starting for Lyon. Au revoir
and bon voyage, monsieur!"

"And to you," rejoined d'Artagnan, and rode on his way.  "Ah,
liar!" he said to himself. "You lied to me -- even as I lied to
you! Now there's something in the wind. You were astonished to
see me, therefore you knew nothing about me or my errand. That,
it seems, lies in the hand of the Comte de Montforge. But what
the devil are you doing at this house?"

He was uneasy. Roquemont, he knew, was a man of savage character;
it was Roquemont who had dragged from his bed and killed the
unfortunate Villeroy; it was Roquemont who, according to report,
had coolly held a pistol to the dying body of Concini and
finished the assassination. With such a man, anything was

However, Roquemont lay behind, Riberac ahead; d'Artagnan rode on.
The day, which had begun brightly, had now become overcast; rain
threatened, and d'Artagnan, who had no cloak to cover his
magnificent suit, scowled at the unkind heavens.

At three-thirty, d'Artagnan was in the open, flat country just
beyond Bourg-Royale. The fields were empty, no one was in sight
along the road; but ahead, a growing spurt of dust indicated a
rider spurring to reach Paris before the storm arrived.
D'Artagnan drew rein, inspected his pistols, loosened his sword
in the sheath, and waited. A single rider was coming toward him.
Presently, recognizing his man, d'Artagnan moved his horse into
the road.

Riberac, at sight of this impassive figure blocking his way,
slowed his pace, and then drew rein a few feet distant, staring
at d'Artagnan.

"This is a strange meeting, M. d'Artagnan!" he exclaimed.  He was
a pleasant young man, rich and handsome, destined for high

"I regret, monsieur," and d'Artagnan bowed slightly in the
saddle, "that the meeting was inevitable."

"Your words are also strange, monsieur," said Riberac, "and so is
your tone. You cannot have come on purpose to meet me?"

His hand dropped to the pistol on the left side of his saddle.

"Be careful, monsieur!" said d'Artagnan. "I have two pistols
here, you have only one."

"Ah!" Riberac checked himself, regarded d'Artagnan fixedly. "So
that is it!"

"That is it, monsieur. It is with the greatest regret in the
world, I assure you, that I must ask you for that pistol."

"Your regret is only equalled by mine, monsieur, in refusing it,"
said Riberac, and then dismounted and drew his sword.

D'Artagnan did likewise, for he was dealing with a very polite
gentleman. Riberac, who had great confidence in himself, smiled
with assurance.

"I must warn you, monsieur," he stated, "that I have been taking
lessons from the Italian fencing-master of the Prince of Wales,
in London."

"And I," said d'Artagnan, "have been killing those who give
lessons.  En garde, monsieur!"

The blades crossed.  At the second pass, D'Artagnan's rapier
drove through the heart of Rierac, who fell backward and was dead
before he struck the ground.

This victory gave d'Artagnan no satisfaction; rather, it filled
him with sadness.  He went to Riberac's horse, drew the
right-hand pistol from its holster, and inspected the weapon.  A
wooden plug was in the muzzle.  Removing this, he presently
extracted a tightly-rolled length of vellum.

"In this matter," he reflected, "I cannot afford to make any

He unrolled the vellum, and found it to consist of three sheets,
folded in the center and sewed together. A glance at the outer
page showed him that this was the will of Francois Thounenin of
Dompt. He examined the remainder of the pages. The center sheet
proved to be a codicil to the will -- undoubtedly the document of
which he was in search.  He removed the outer sheet and placed it
in his pocket. The other two sheets he rolled again and held in
his hand.

"These," he reflected, "must be destroyed. The first sheet, which
holds nothing of peril to anyone, must be sent to Madame de
Chevreuse as evidence that the work is done. Good."

He mounted and retraced his way along the road toward Paris. In
half a mile he came to an inn at a cross-roads. Dismounting, he
entered. A fire was burning below the spit in the hearth, and
going to it, he placed the rolled sheets of vellum on the flames,
watched them writhe and fall into ashes, and then turned to the
host of the inn.

"Monsieur," he said, "half a mile from here a gentleman lies in
the road, dead. He is a noble, a man of family, and a favorite of
Cardinal de Richelieu. I advise you to send for his body,
communicate with the authorities, and forget having seen me.

And with this he returned to his horse and mounted.

He had been successful in his mission. The document was
destroyed, the queen was saved -- but d'Artagnan felt no
exultation. On the contrary, he vowed that upon returning to
Paris he would have ten masses said at St. Sulpice for the
repose of  the  soul of Comte de Riberac, who had been a gallant
gentleman. Upon reflection, however, he changed this vow to one
mass only; for one would undoubtedly be as efficient as ten, and
at one-tenth the cost.

At five o'clock that afternoon, with rain still threatening and
black clouds massing, d'Artagnan rode into the little park
occupied by the chateau of Helene de Sirle. He found the gates
standing wide open, as though he were expected. As he entered,
the first spattering raindrops began to fall.  A groom came to
take his horse, and a lackey appeared as he mounted the steps to
the entrance.

"Mlle. de Sirle?" he inquired. "I am M. d'Artagnan, Lieutenant of

"Will you have the goodness to enter, monsieur?" said the lackey.

D'Artagnan followed him. Here was the identical house Athos had
described -- the curving staircase, the corridor, the dark
library of which d'Artagnan had a glimpse in passing. He was
ushered into a charming little salon, hung with yellow satin, and
filled with the most beautiful furniture and bibelots.

Our Musketeer was distinctly on his guard; he was alert, wary,
suspicious. The tale of Athos was vividly in his mind, in each
terrible detail. The beauty and peace of this charming place only
served to enhance his caution. Yet, when his hostess appeared, he
was staggered; susceptible young man that he was there arose
within him a cry of protest against such things being possible of
this creature.

She was younger than the tale of Athos had led him to suppose
very young, indeed, pale and beautiful, in her delicate features
an air of vivacity which was tempered by a frank and
openinnocence -- the most charming thing in the world to the eye
of d'Artagnan.

"You desired to see me, monsieur?" she asked in a low and musical

"Yes, mademoiselle -- I have the honor to be the bearer of a
letter from His Eminence, Cardinal Richelieu -- "

"Ah!" She started, and broke into a smile that dazzled the young
man. "Then it is my sister Helene you desired! I am Eugenie de
Sirle, monsieur. I regret that my sister went to Paris this
morning and has not yet returned. Give me the letter -- I will
place it on her escritoire."

Having no instructions restricting the delivery of the letter,
d'Artagnan produced it.

"One moment, monsieur, if you please," said she, and departed
with a lithe step and so radiant a smile that d'Artagnan
remained spellbound where he stood. That smile -- did it promise
anything?  Instinctively he twirled his mustache, brushed a speck
of dust from the silver facing of his coat, and his heart leaped.

Danger was suddenly banished -- the perilous woman was away, his
name had created no impression and was evidently not known to
this girl. He was, therefore, running no immediate risk.

"Decidedly," he reflected, "I am not a foo1! When a woman looks
at me, I can read the message in her eyes -- if there is one
there. If I leave this house instantly and ride away, what good?
I am in the enemy's country, and it is the first rule of war to
profit by the enemy wherever possible! And what delicious -- "

He checked his thoughts, and decided that he must be a fool after
all. Yet he could not gainsay the hammering of his pulses, the
flame of his imagination, caused by the eyes of this girl. That
she was not the lady of Athos' tale, caused him inexpressible

It must be confessed that Monsieur d'Artagnan had not wasted his
time since coming to Paris. It was a period when a young and
gallant man was appreciated to the full, and was indeed more
sought after than seeking; a period when the privilege of the
aristocracy was unlimited, and when impulse was better
comprehended than discretion. It is true that the unperfumed feet
of Bassompierre cost him the love of a queen; but to atone for
this the gallant Lorrainer made more than one conquest at first

Eugenie returned and came up to d'Artagnan.

"Will you not sit down, monsieur?" she said sweetly. "I believe
my sister will return soon, and she will not forgive me if I let
you depart. Or perhaps you would prefer a turn in the gardens --
the rain ceased almost as it began, and the house is oppressive."

A turn in the gardens was exactly to the mind of d'Artagnan.
What could be more attractive than those secluded paths among the
lilacs. with this charming creature on his arm! He hoped, his
hope became conviction; his conviction became daring.  In a word,
ambition seized upon him.

At the rear of the gardens, built against a corner of the walls,
was an exquisite little pavilion, furnished in the most superb
manner imaginable. A patter of rain was heard on the leaves;
conducting his companion to the shelter of this pavilion,
d'Artagnan was soon left in no doubt whatever as to her feelings
for him or her capability of affection. He was transported to the
seventh heaven; his heart was bursting with happiness.

Suddenly, an expression of fright crossing her face, she escaped
from his arms.

"Oh!" she murmured. "My sister -- I hear the gates opening! If we
are discovered here then you are lost, I am lost! You do not know
of what she is capable!"

D'Artagnan flung himself at her feet.

"Only tell me where and how our happiness may be completed!" he
implored fervently, and seizing her hand, covered it with kisses.
She lifted him, gently.

"Come, then -- there is not a moment to lose!" she exclaimed
breathlessly. "I hear the coach entering -- you must remain here
hidden, wait!"

"With all my heart," cried d'Artagnan, bursting with joy at this
prospect of happiness. He followed her to a small room, adjoining
the bedroom of the pavilion; this little chamber was built
against the corner of the garden walls, had no window, and was
furnished as a tiny household chapel -- apparently little used
for this purpose, however.

"I will come for you later -- this pavilion is my own abode,"
whispered the girl in some agitation.  For one brief moment she
yielded as d'Artagnan clasped her in his arms; her lips sent the
wine of passion leaping through his veins; then she was gone, and
the door closed.

Next instant the young man was transfixed -- he heard, outside, a
short peal of merry laughter, as the lock of the door clicked.

"A pleasant wait to you, Monsieur d'Artagnan!" came a faintly
mocking voice. "You shall have the pleasure of Tantalus in
hearing how another enjoys what you desire -- turn the crucifix
on its pedestal. A pleasant evening, monsieur!  We were expecting
you -- "

And with another peal of laughter, the lady departed.

D'Artagnan was absolutely frozen with horror for a moment; he was
incapable of movement; he could feel her kisses burning his lips
while her words sent ice into his very soul.

Too late, he recalled the warnings of Athos, and a groan burst
from him. This was no sister, then, but Helene de Sirle herself;
she had caught him in a network, had trapped him like a sturgeon
in the fisher's weir! He thought of her beauty, of her innocence,
of her half-timid, half-yielding embrace -- and with an oath, he
flung himself at the door.

It was massive, locked, unyielding.



When the first emotion of d'Artagnan had passed, he sat down upon
a prie-dieu in the darkness, and, faced by a situation of extreme
peril, almost at once regained all his coolness and aplomb.

At this moment d'Artagnan was extremely dangerous.  It is the
prerogative of youth that it may overlook insults, forget hatred,
forgive injury; but when its self-steem is wounded, vengeance is
invariably exacted. D'Artagnan had seen himself in possession of
the fruits of a superb conquest -- only to find it delusion. He
had arrived here fully warned, exercising extreme caution;
without the least effort, he had been tricked and duped by the
very person he had supposed vanquished. His person was unharmed,
but his vanity had received a blow that penetrated to every fibre
of his spirit.

"Good!" he said calmly. "At all events, I now know with whom I am
dealing. There is a score to settle on behalf of Athos, and a
score to settle on my own behalf. Certainly she has not poisoned
me; if I am in prison, at least I have my sword."

He set about thinking how he could use this sword.

When he first entered this room, there had been a little light;
an opening six inches square, high in one wall, supplied air.
Now darkness had completely fallen, and from the little opening
he could hear the steady thrum of the beating rain. At this
instant a flash of lightning lighted up the chapel.  Except for
the prie-dieu on which he had been sitting, and a small altar
against one wall, the place was bare. Above the altar hung an
ivory crucifix.

Catching sight of this crucifix by light of the bolt, d'Artagnan
remembered the last words his jailer had flung at him. Plunged
once more into intense darkness, he made his way toward the spot.
What she had meant by turning the crucifix, by her mocking words,
he could not tell.

His groping fingers encountered the ivory image, seemingly fixed
in the wall. He found that it turned about, apparently upon a
hinge or pivot. Exploring, he discovered that the crucifix opened
from the wall like a door, leaving a slot in the stones, an inch
wide and three inches high. The meaning of this remained
inscrutable, for it was quite dark, contained nothing, and his
fingers could not reach through the hole.

"Cadedis! I'm a rat in a trap," he reflected, found his way back
to the prie-dieu, and sat down, gloomily. There was only one
egress from this chamber, and that was blocked solidly by the
massive locked door.

The prisoner was, as has been said, entirely calm. He was even
cheerful; for the chief portion of his mission had been
accomplished. The essential part of the Thounenin will was
destroyed, the plans of Richelieu were checkmated, the queen
was saved. Having leisure to consider private affairs, d'Artagnan
considered them.

"If I could get out of this place," he murmured, "I would find
myself without a horse; for it would be impossible to get my own
animal from the stables. On the other hand, I would find no
difficulty in getting away, since this storm drowns out
everything. But I do not desire to escape, since I have my sword.
I cannot kill that woman, since she is a woman; besides, she
deserves a very different sort of fate -- "

His reflections were interrupted by a ray of light falling across
his prison cell. This ray came from the slot in the wall, which
he had left open.

Starting to his feet, he approached the opening, and a sudden
trembling seized upon him. He heard the voice of Helene de Sirle,
and her voice wakened in him all the emotion he had felt in her
presence, at her kisses, at the pressure of her fingers. True, he
burned to avenge himself, but when it is a question of a woman, a
gentleman has other means of vengeance than a sword.

Putting his eye to the hole in the wall, d'Artagnan repressed an
exclamation. This opening pierced through to another chamber in
which a tapestry had just been drawn aside, giving him a view of
the room, bright with candelabra. This room was a salle-a-manger;
directly before d'Artagnan was set a table, with places for two,
glittering with gold and silver dishes. At this table, but with
her back to him, sat Helene de Sirle; and, facing d'Artagnan,
Marshal de Bassompierre.

D'Artagnan stared in utter amazement. He knew Bassompierre too
well to be mistaken; he knew that somewhat stout figure, that
powerful, gay countenance with its carefully brushed mustaches,
far too well. Bassompierre had laid aside a cloak, and wore a
magnificent suit thickly sewn with seed pearls -- similar to the
famous suit for which he had paid fourteen thousand crowns, but
certainly not the same, since Bassompierre never wore the same
suit more than once.

A moment later the tapestry was drawn on the other side of the
hole, and d'Artagnan was again in darkness.

Through the aperture d'Artagnan could now hear everything, but he
could see nothing.

Biting his nails in fury, he made his way back to his seat. He
comprehended now the full extent of the lady's cruelty -- and
he comprehended a good deal besides. This, for example, fully
explained why Bassompierre had remained for the night in Paris.

"And I -- I must sit here like a snail!" thought d'Artagnan in
despair and rage.

His chagrin was complete. From the adjoining room he could hear
the voices plainly, now low, now high; he could hear the suave,
merry tones of Bassompierre, he could hear the soft laughter of
Helene de Sirle, he could even catch the savor of the exquisite
viands that were served -- viands which Bassompierre, one of the
first epicures of his day, applauded with vehemence.

Further, d'Artagnan could comprehend even more than this. From
what he had seen of this pavilion, knowing that his prison-cell
lay in a corner of the wall against which the pavilion was built,
he understood that its bedroom lay on the opposite side.  His
cell, in effect, lay between dining-room and bedroom. The cruelty
of the fair one was complete.

As the moments passed, d'Artagnan felt his own hunger more
acutely, for he had not eaten since leaving the hotel of St. Luc.
Evidently Bassompierre was not sparing the wine, for its effects
sharpened the tones of both hostess and guest, and gay sallies
were interspersed with bursts of laughter. D'Artagnan pricked up
his ears, as he heard a well-known name uttered.

"Richelieu? Bah! You have dismissed the servants, I think?"

"We are alone, my love," returned the voice of Helene.

"Listen, then! You have heard rumors today?" said Bassompierre.

"That the king is ill."

"Ill? Ventre de St. Gris!" cried Bassompierre, who affected the
favorite oath of Henri IV. "He is better than ill, upon my honor!
He is dying -- at this moment he is doubtless dead. That is why I
spur to Lyon tomorrow -- that is why I must leave you with dawn,
my sweet charmer! Death of my life -- who is king, think you, but
Gaston of Orleans? Well, I bear his order to arrest Richelieu.
There's a secret for you! A kiss for it -- a kiss!"

D'Artagnan sat transfixed. So the Duc d'Orleans, who would be
king the moment Louis XIII was dead, had given Bassompierre an
order for Richelieu's arrest! This explained everything; the
gathering of the princes, the mad haste in which Bassompierre was
riding at dawn.

"Orleans has signed the order?" came the voice of Helene sharply.

"Doubtless. It will be awaiting me at the Hotel de St. Luc, with
my horses and gentlemen," said Bassompierre, whose tongue was
thickening. "But come! One more glass of this marvelous vintage
and then, my charmer -- and then Paradise!"

D'Artagnan almost lost sight of his own chagrin in view of what
he had just heard. Chaillot lay outside Paris.  Bassompierre had
come here to Passy, and at dawn would go to the Hotel de St. Luc
-- ah! This meant that the Englishman was concerned in the matter
somewhere! Well, so much the worse for Richelieu, at whose door
lay the assassination of Buckingham.

Suddenly d'Artagnan started to his feet. He had remembered
something -- he had remembered meeting with Sieur de Roquemont
outside these gates. And Helene de Sirle was certainly the agent
of Richelieu. A dreadful suspicion seized upon the young man; he
stood trembling, indecisive, hesitant.

At this moment a cry sounded from the other room -- a cry, the
sound of a laughing struggle, the sound of a glass smashing on
the floor. A peal of thunder, a vivid lightning-stroke, drowned
all else.  In the ensuing silence, he heard the laughing voice of
the lady.

"No, no -- impatient lover!" Another laugh, and d'Artagnan judged
shrewdly that not Bassompierre alone had misused the wine. "I
demand five minutes of grace, M. le Marechal, before surrendering
my defenses!"

"I  demand an unconditional capitulation!" thundered
Bassompierre, and roared with laughter. "Good, then -- you have
five minutes of grace, no more! But I have no guide to Paradise,
my angel -- "

"The door will lie before you, monsieur," came the answer, and
then an interval of silence.

D'Artagnan comprehended. Helene de Sirle had preceded her lover.
With a muttered oath, the young man came back to his own
situation, and cursed his own blind folly.

"Charming creature!" soliloquized Bassompierre's voice. "A
charming repast, charming food, a charming end to the evening --
let the tempest howl, and devil take all poor souls who lack the
luck of Bassompierre! One more glass -- "

D'Artagnan considered speaking through the aperture, giving the
marshal warning -- but of what?  Bassompierre was, to put it
bluntly, drunk; and when in liquor, was famed for his blind
rages.  Undoubtedly he would be unable to think or act
coherently. Before d'Artagnan could decide, the moment of
opportunity had flown. He heard Bassompierre stumbling from the
next room into the corridor.

"Fool that I am!" exclaimed d'Artagnan in despair.  What mattered
the marsbal to him, after all? His own fate was the thing at
issue. He ground his teeth at thought of the chagrin Helene de
Sirle was heaping upon him --

The key was turned in the lock of his door.

D'Artagnan started to his feet, his rapier bared. Had they come
to assassinate him, then? Undoubtedly. He had witnessed the
prelude to the comedy; now, in refinement of cruelty, her men
were about to put an end to him.

The door opened, showing the corridor dimly lighted.  Against
this background was a single figure, that of Bassompierre.

"My love, you are devilish modest!" said the marshal, taking a
step forward. Then he recoiled, as the rapier of d'Artagnan
touched his breast; the cloak fell from his hand, and he stood

"Not a sound!" said d'Artagnan, confident that he was safe
against recognition in the darkness of the oratory. "One word,
one call, and you are a dead man. Fool that you were, to prate of
your errand at Lyon! Do you not know that my mistress is the
chief agent of Richelieu in Paris -- that Richelieu is her

A choked exclamation broke from Bassompierre.

"So you bear an order to arrest Richelieu!" pursued d'Artagnan.
As he spoke, he moved around the intruder. "In with you! Come
forward! You are too late, M. de Bassompierre -- my mistress
holds an order from Richelieu to arrest you."

"Who are you?" murmured the unhappy Bassompierre, overwhelmed by
these words, and realizing that he had fallen into a trap.

Without response, d'Artagnan slipped through the doorway, closed
the door, and turned the key in the lock. Bassompierre was

D'Artagnan looked about. There had been no alarm; everything was
peaceful. A hanging lamp burned dimly in the corridor. The door
to the little dining-room stood open.  The door at the end of the
corridor was closed, half shadowed by a turn. The mistake of
Bassompierre, to one who did not know the situation of the rooms,
was entirely natural.

On the floor lay the cloak of Bassompierre, still wet with rain.
D'Artagnan picked it up, shook it out, wrapped it around him.
Upon it was fastened the cross of the Order du St. Esprit, an
order to which only Princes of the Blood and very great nobles

"Good!" murmured d'Artagnan, and his pulses leaped swiftly.
"Cruelty for cruelty -- humiliation for humiliation -- mockery
for mockery! That is justice."

And he passed to the door at the end of the corridor, tried it
softly, found it unlocked. It opened upon modest darkness,
indeed, but not upon complete darkness. Beside the heavily
curtained bed, there burned a candle.

Wrapped in his cloak with its splendid insignia, d'Artagnan
advanced and extinguished the light  A soft laugh sounded in the
room, thrilling him to every nerve of his being, inflaming him

In his excitement, in his burning passion for vengeance,
d'Artagnan had not thought to lock the door behind him. His
dread suspicions were forgotten; his caution was flung to the
winds; in the blind ardor of youth, intoxicated by enjoyment of
the most delicious vengeance imaginable, he forgot all else.

He even forgot the unfortunate Bassompierre, with whom he had
exchanged places.(Since the memoirs of Bassompierre were written
under the eye of Richelieu, it is obvious why they contain no
mention of this incident.)

Outside, the storm swept past in its fury, the rain lessened and
died into the thin drippings of  trees. In the dining-room of
the pavilion, the candles burned down to their sockets, guttered
and died out. The hanging-lamp in the corridor alone shed light
in the darkness.

D'Artagnan, who had fallen into a heavy slumber, was suddenly
awakened by that unknown sense which so often comes to our rescue
in the depths of night. By his side, Helene de Sirle slept with
the quiet and regular breathing of a child.

A board in the floor creaked lightly. Someone was in the room.

Startled, wide awake on the instant, d'Artagnan was aware of a
dim light showing through the bed-curtains. He did not hesitate;
as the curtains, on one side of the bed, were abruptly jerked
away, he flung himself to the other side, across the sleeping
figure of Helene de Sirle. A sword plunged at him, and another --
two men stood there, a third holding aside the curtains.

There was a cry, a choked scream. D'Artagnan, throwing himself
over the far side of the bed, had a frightful vision of Helene de
Sirle writhing half upright, pierced by the two blades intended
for him -- then he was on the floor, scrambling cat-like to his
feet, darting to his clothes and sword at the foot of the bed.

Oaths resounded, shrill curses. One of the three men rushed to
the doorway, blocked it, the two others hurled themselves on
d'Artagnan. Naked, he bared his rapier as they came upon him,
and recognized one of the two as Roquemont.

"Ha, assassin!" he cried, and engaged both blades at once.

From Roquemont burst a cry of dismay, of rage, of consternation.
"It is not he -- it is not our man! In upon him finish him

For reply, d'Artagnan's rapier pierced the throat of Roquemont's
companion. The third bravo, darting forward from the doorway,
attacked the young man in the rear. Only a miracle of agility
saved him.

D'Artagnan now comprehended everything perfectly. It was
Bassompierre these three assassins had sought; they had arranged
with Helene de Sirle, had planned to murder him while he slept at
her side. The species of horror which had enveloped d'Artagnan,
upon seeing those bloody swords torn from her body, passed into a
furious rage.

"So you sought Bassompierre, eh?" he exclaimed. "Cadedis!
Murderers of women, you have found retribution instead!"

As he spoke, his point touched the third assassin in the groin,
and the man sank to the floor, groaning. D'Artagnan faced
Roquemont, laughed wildly, and pressed in a furious attack that
drove his opponent backwards until he stood against the bed and
could retreat no farther.

"Good!" cried d'Artagnan. "You shall die with her whom your base
blade murdered, you dog!"

Roquernont rallied, cursing heartily; the superb attack of
d'Artagnan dazzled him, held him mercilessly rooted to the spot.
Sweat streamed down his face, his lips drew back from his teeth;
d'Artagnan's point touched his breast and blood gushed out. He
fought on. At his back, the torn bed-curtains revealed the figure
of Helene de Sirle, lying dead in a terrible crimson tide.

Suddenly d'Artagnan lunged, lunged again, uttered a sharp cry of
triumph. Roquemont dropped his blade. Pierced through the heart,
he flung out his arms and fell backwards and lay half across the

A terrible sound caught the ear of d'Artagnan.  He turned, saw
the wounded man half rising from the floor, coughing horribly.
Without hesitation, as he would have pierced a snake, he drove
his rapier through the throat of the assassin.

"Justice!" he exclaimed, and stood leaning on his rapier, until a
sudden trembling seized upon him. With a choked cry, he turned to
his clothes and dressed, hurriedly. Cold horror of this place of
death spurred him, froze his very marrow.

Dressed, he caught up Bassompierre's cloak, seized his bloody
rapier, and strode down the corridor to the chapel door.  This he
unlocked, threw open.

"Are you there, M. de Bassompierre?" he ex-claimed.  Quickly,

Bassompierre, dagger in hand, stumbled into the doorway. At sight
of d'Artagnan standing with dripping blade, he stopped short,
blinked, then recoiled a step.

"Ha! It is M. d'Artagnan!" he exclaimed in astonishment.

"Is this your cloak, monsieur?" D'Artagnan extended the garment,
which the other took. "I was in time to save you, then -- they
came to kill You, monsieur! Go and look in the room yonder -- "

Bassompierre was bewildered, yet comprehended that he was in no
immediate danger. He did not comprehend everything; d'Artagnan
did not desire that he should comprehend everything, in fact.  He
went to the door of the bedroom, and took a step inside. A low
cry burst from him. He turned, came back to d'Artagnan, and his
eyes were starting from his head.

"She -- dead -- who killed her -- "

"How do I know?" D'Artagnan laughed harshly. "Come -- let us get
out of here and talk later! Have the goodness to follow me,
monsieur -- "

Still holding his sword, he led the way out into the rain-wet
gardens, and directed his steps toward the stables, with
Bassompierre at his side. Under the lantern in the doorway of
the stables was a sleepy groom, three saddled horses waiting at
hand. D'Artagnan pointed to them with his crimsoned sword.

"The horses of your assassins, monsieur!" Then, advancing upon
the groom, he put his point at the man's throat. "Up! Walk in
front of me, see that the gates are open! Assassins have murdered
your mistress, but I have avenged her. Forward!"

He drove the groom before him. Bassompierre, mounting into the
saddle, followed with the horses.  Reaching the gates, they found
these unlocked and unguarded; the terrified groom opened them.

A moment later, the two were away from the chateau, in the
darkness of the road. Here Bassompierre drew rein.

"I do not understand this, monsieur -- except that you have saved
my life," he exclaimed warmly. "If I can in anyway repay you -- "

D'Artagnan brought the horses stirrup to stirrup.

"You can, monsieur," he said simply. "Madame de Chevreuse desires
to send a message of four words to the queen. These four words
will inform Her Majesty that she has for the moment no more to
fear from her enemies."

"Ah, ah! Chevreuse -- noble creature! Then she sent you?"
exclaimed Bassompierre. "Yes, yes, by all means give me the
message! I comprehend perfectly. The four words?"

"God loves the brave."

"They shall be delivered."

"Thank you, monsieur. And allow me to say that my friends, one of
whom is Lord de Winter, are about to place the child in better
security than St. Saforin affords at the moment. He will be taken
care of."

"Ah! Death of my life?" cried Bassompierre, who could no longer
contain his amazement. "M. d'Artagnan, you overcome me -- "

"We must part, if you are to gain Lyon tonight," and d'Artagnan
turned his horse before any further explanations could be made.
"Farewell, monsieur!"

"Farewell -- and accept my thanks," came the voice of
Bassompierre, already half swallowed up in the dawn-darkness. "I
am in your debt -- believe me, I shall not forget it!"

D'Artagnan, who now heard cries of alarm rising within the park
of the little chateau, put spurs to his horse.

"And I," he said to himself, "owe you a good deal -- for the loan
of your cloak! Our accounts are balanced, my dear Bassompierre."

He rode -- but not toward Paris.



There were at this period two Saints Saforin -- the village of
the name, lying close to the highway, and the royal abbey which
owned the village and many other fiefs. The abbey, however, lay a
league distant, and was gained by an indirect road.

On May 3, 1542, Francois I rode out of Paris with a single
companion, on one of those pleasant excursions so beloved of that
amorous monarch. He had a rendezvous at the village of St.
Saforin with a lady of the vicinity who had promised to entertain
him fittingly in the absence of her lord.

Unluckily, the king was misdirected, took the road to the abbey,
was recognized, and was that night entertained by the worthy
prior instead of by the charitable lady.

Athos and Porthos, on the contrary, asked directions from a
country lout who knew much of village wenches and little of
monasteries or abbeys.

Toward midnight they found themselves in the village of St.
Saforin, with rain pouring down and thunder rolling across the
hills. To gain the abbey that night was an impossibility.

"Very well," said Athos calmly, and looked at Grimaud. "Sunrise!"

At sunrise, they were breaking their fast and the horses were
ready. An hour later they were dismounting before the entrance of
the abbey.

Some years previously the abbacy had been conferred upon a
gentleman of Picardy, who drew his revenues and did not trouble
his head about the place whence they came. The direct rule of the
abbey was in the hands of the prior, Dom Lawrence, a distant
connection of the Luynes family and in earlier years a boon
companion of Bassompierre in the campaign of Hungary against the

Athos and Porthos were conducted into a reception room by a
black-clad lay brother upon whom the rule of silence had not yet
been imposed.

"Dom Lawrence will be with you in a few moments," he said, and
left them.

Porthos was vastly impressed by the well-ordered place, with its
massive walls and its air of indomitable strength. Wine was
brought them, and he tasted it with appreciation.

"This is excellent!" he observed. "I perceive that these monks
know how to live. Athos, my friend, drink! You are pale. Does the
fact that you are about to become a father so weigh upon your

"I was thinking of d'Artagnan," said Athos. "Ah! Here is Dom

Dom Lawrence Was a very spare and vigorous man of sixty. He
gravely inclined his head to the bow of his visitors, dismissed
Porthos with a glance, and then gazed fixedly at Athos.

"I am at Your service, gentlemen," he said. "But, if I am not
mistaken, I have met one of you at least -- a long time ago."

The pallor of Athos became accentuated.

"This, Dom Lawrence, is M. du Vallon," he replied. "As for me, I
am named Athos, formerly of the company of M. de Treville, now of
the company of M. Rambures."

"Eh? Eh?" Dom Lawrence frowned slightly. The lofty countenance of
Athos seemed to bring other memories before him. "Of the
Musketeers?  But, my dear monsieur, I am quite certain that I
have had the honor of meeting you, not recently, but in the

"It is entirely Possible," said Athos. "Louis XIII married Anne
of Austria at Bordeaux on Nov.28, 1615 -- that is to say, fifteen
years ago.  Upon that occasion I was a page of the Duc d'Orleans;
and you, if I mistake not, were the father confessor of -- "

He paused. Across the face of Dom Lawrence flashed a look, almost
of terror, as though some frightful scene had suddenly recurred
to his mind.  His eyes widened upon Athos.

"I remember now, M. le Comte," be said in a low voice, and he
bowed as though he were silently saluting a person whom he
reverenced. "You desired to see me, you and your friend?"

Athos took from his finger the gold ring with the arms of

"You recognize this ring, undoubtedly? I have come to take away
the boy."

The prior started. "Ah! Monsieur, as to his departure I have no
orders. I can allow you to see him, certainly -- "

"Pardon me,  intervened Athos. "Dom Lawrence, I come to take the
boy as my own son; he is the son of one of my oldest friends."

"Unfortunately, monsieur, the gentleman who placed him here gave
strict orders -- "

Again Athos intervened. "Within a short time, perhaps within a
few minutes, other men will arrive on this errand. They will bear
a forged ring; but they will bear the orders of Cardinal
Richelieu as well.  As for M. de Bassompierre, you need not
worry. We act on his behalf and would bear a letter from him had
he been given time to write one."

At the name of Richelieu, a look of alarm flashed into the eyes
of Dom Lawrence.

"The Cardinal -- knows the boy is here?" he ejaculated.

"Worse; he he has sent to get him," said Athos calmly.

There was a moment of silence; struggle was depicted in the face
of Dom Lawrence, who knew that he would not dare refuse the child
to an order of the Cardinal. As for Porthos, to whom the veiled
past of Athos was ever revealing new surprises, he stood staring,
yet wise enough not to open his mouth.

"Monsieur," said the prior suddenly, "I remember certain events
in the past; I can read your face as you stand before me. Do you
swear upon your honor that all you say is true?"

"Upon my honor, and upon the Christ, it is the truth," said Athos
firmly, and so lofty and serene was his clear gaze that it would
have removed doubt from St. Thomas himself.

"It is your purpose to adopt this child, then?"

"No; it is my purpose to make him my own son," said Athos.

Dom Lawrence summoned a lay brother, gave him certain
instructions, and motioned to chairs.

"We shall not keep you long, gentlemen.  As to the boy, I can
only say, M. le Comte, that I have studied his character well,
and I believe him worthy to become your son."

"Then keep the confidence as sacred," said Athos solemnly. "No
one must know this, no one must suspect where the child has gone!
M de Bassompierre alone will know. As to the child I already know
already what his character is, since I know his parents."

"Ah!" said the prior, and regarded him searchingly.

The next moment, a lay brother led in a child  of four years.
Porthos could not repress an exclamation of surprise and
admiration; Athos rose to his feet ceremoniously. The boy, young
as he was betrayed in his features a singular beauty and
loftiness of character. He wore a miniature cavalier's suit, and
bore at his side a tiny Sword.  He bowed to the prior -- a bow
of such grace and dignity that the eyes of Athos lighted up.

"M. d'Aram, said the Prior, "I wish to present M. Porthos, and
the Comte -- "

He checked himself; with a glance at Athos, who concluded the

'The Comte de la Fere."

The boy bowed to Porthos, then to Athos -- his gaze remained
fastened upon the latter.

"Ah!" he exclaimed curiously. "Now I know something I have long
desired -- "

He checked himself; and flushed.

"Yes, my Son?" said the prior, with a smile.

"I was about to say," said the boy, still looking at Athos,"that
I now know what a gentleman looks like."

"Eh? Eh?" exclaimed Porthos, puffing out his cheeks in mock
anger. "And I, then -- am I not a gentleman, eh?  And honest Dom
Lawrence, here?"

The boy turned and regarded him with perfect composure.

"Monsieur, you are a soldier," he answered.  "Dom Lawrence is a
monk. That is not the same thing."

"The thought is to the mark, if not the words!" cried Athos in
delight, and kneeling, held out his arms. "My son, my son --
embrace me!"

The boy looked at him, turned very pale, and his eyes widened.

"What, monsieur!" he stammered. "You -- you are not the father I
have prayed for -- "

"My son," said Athos, in a grave and solemn voice, "I am the
father you have prayed for; you are the son I thought never to
hold in my arms!  Dom Lawrence, I ask you to give this union the
blessing of God; and I swear before Him that from this day
forward I will be such a father to this boy that he may all his
life remember me with love, respect, and reverence."

And as he spoke, tears came from his eyes and bedewed his cheeks.
With a short, sharp cry the boy was in his arms, and they
embraced warmly. Dom Lawrence, himself visibly moved at this
singular emotion, lifted his arm above the two, and his fingers
made the gesture of benecdiction.  As for honest Porthos, he was
also dabbing eyes, but of a sudden he fell upon his knees and
held out his arms to the boy.

"Name of the devil, I say the same thing!" he thundered terribly.
"Embrace me! If everyou stand in need of a father, if ever you
need money, strength, help -- devil fly away with me if I don't
supply all this and more! My son, I am your second father!"

And he, too, folded the boy in his arms.  Dom Lawrence, who had
looked stern at these resounding oaths, perceived that they went,
as it were, by contraries; and a smile came to his lips.

Athos rose. "We must be off," he said.

"May I saddle a horse or mule for -- "

"No." Athos shook his head, and took the hand of the boy. A smile
came to his lips -- a smile of ineffable sweetness and serenity.
"My son, you will ride in my arms, for we may have to ride fast.
If I cannot carry you, my faithful Grimaud will -- "

"Ha!" cried Porthos. "He is a flea, this little one! I could
carry him on my hand -- here, my son, step to my hand!"

And in a moment he held Raoul, who stood upright, on the palm of
his hand; and then he extended the hand and held the boy at arm's
length, with scarcely an effort.  Laughing, Athos caught up the
boy and set him on the floor.

"Come, Raoul!" he said. "Say adieu to Dom Lawrence. You have
clothes, perhaps, toys, things you would fetch?"

Raoul looked up at him, smiled, pressed his hand.

"There is nothing in the world I lack, my father, now that I have
found you!" he said, with an expression of such heartfelt
affection that Athos turned pale from very emotion.

The farewells said, Dom Lawrence went with them to the courtyard.
Athos signed to Grimaud to bring up the horses. As he did so,
there was a sudden commotion at the gate, a shout, and into the
courtyard came a horse covered with mud and lather, staggering
with exhaustion; from the saddle slipped d'Artagnan, his
blue-and-silver garments splashed with mud from neck to boots.

"Ah! I rode hard to find you here!" he exclaimed. "All is well."

"Good." Athos presented him to Dom Lawrence, then looked at the
foundered horse. "You cannot ride that poor beast a rod farther
 -- "

"Let that be my care," broke in the prior. "A moment, gentlemen
-- I will  myself select a fitting horse from the stable -- "

He hurried away. Athos turned, pointed to d'Artagnan.  "My son,
let me present a man whom I am proud to call my friend, and whom
you may ever call your friend with the same pride.  M.
d'Artagnan, this is my son Raoul, Vicomte de Bragelonne."

D'Artagnan dropped to one knee, his face beaming, and embraced
the boy. As he rose, Athos gave him a swift look of

"And your errand?"

"Accomplished," said d'Artagnan. Then his face changed, as he
looked from man to boy. He suddenly realized that never again
would Athos address him with the title which had so charmed and
warmed him with its affection -- the title of my son.

"You met no one on the way here -- Montforge, for example?"

"No," said d'Artagnan. He put hand to pocket, and drew forth the
outer sheet of the Thounenin will. Silently, he held it before
the eyes of Athos, who changed countenance.

"What? You have not preserved that document -- "

"The outer sheet alone; the remainder I destroyed."

"And the bearer -- Riberac?"

D'Artagnan made the sign of the cross. Dom Lawrence was
approaching; behind him came a lay brother, leading a beautiful
horse, saddled and bridled.

"With my compliments, M. d'Artagnan," said the prior. Then, as
the four mounted, he handed up Raoul to the arms of Athos; he
lifted his hand, and they bared their heads to his benediction.

Another moment, and with Grimaud following they were out of the
courtyard of St. Saforin and riding Parisward.

"Athos, my friend, you appear like a new man," said d'Artagnan.

"I am a new man," said Athos gravely. "Did I not predict that
from this meeting with Lord de Winter would come either a great
happiness or a great sorrow? Well, it has come, as you can see
for yourself. But tell us all, d'Artagnan! What happened at that
house last night? Why did you ride to join us here, instead of
keeping the rendezvous in the Vieux Colombier?"

"Merely to join you, I think. Terrible things have happened,
Athos." And, while Porthos crowded close to hear them  better,
d'Artagnan began to recount his adventures since leaving the
Hotel de St. Luc.

As the tale proceeded, Porthos uttered admiring ejaculations;
Athos listened in silence. D'Artagnan concealed nothing, but
poured forth his story as it had happened.

"Ah, my friend," said Athos, when it was finished, "I fear you
did wrong, very wrong -- "

Raoul twisted about in his arms, and looked up at him with an
expression of childish surprise.

"Mon pere, you told me you were proud to call this gentleman your
friend. How, then, can you say that he did wrong? I think he was
another Bayard!"

Athos, usually pale, flushed deeply; d'Artagnan was frankly
embarrassed, then both of them broke into a laugh as their eyes

"And," said d'Artagnan, "since I saved the life of a Marshal of
France -- "

"My dear d'Artagnan," cried Porthos in admiration, "I always said
you yourself deserved a marshal's baton! This proves it. Then we
have succeeded to perfection! The document burned, everything as
we would have it! Yet there is one thing we have forgotten."
"And what is that?" demanded d'Artagnan.

"We ride to Paris. Montforge rides from Paris.  Ergo, we are
fairly certain to meet."

This was true, and the fact had been entirely overlooked. While
thus conversing, they had drawn into the highway, from the road
leading to the abbey, and now Athos turned and beckoned Grimaud.
He made a gesture to ride in advance, touched his pistols, and
Grimaud comprehended. The faithful fellow, who was staring with
all his eyes at Raoul, put in his spurs and rode on as a

"Let us suppose," said d'Artagnan, a trifle uncomfortably, "that
the king is not dead. My dear Athos, do you imagine that our
activity in this little matter will be remembered by His
Eminence? Or, more specifically, my activity?"

Athos shrugged. "Remembered, yes; by Montforge, with whom you
must some day settle accounts, also. Punished -- no.  Should the
king live, Richelieu will be engulfed in a terrific struggle with
the Queen Mother and the princes. He knows you are not his enemy,
but a servant of the Queen. Since his agents failed to destroy
you, he is apt to leave you alone. If he loses the fight, you
have nothing to fear. If he wins, he will be so busy sending the
Bassompierres and Marillacs to the scaffold or the Bastille, that
he will not think of lesser folk."

D'Artagnan nodded, and felt some assurance that Athos spoke the

Grimaud remained half a mile in advance, far enough to give
them plenty of warning in case he encountered trouble.  No
danger appeared, however.  Noon was drawing on when before them
appeared the inn of Le Moine Qui Keude -- an ancient wayside
tavern occupying the triangle between forks of the road.

"Faith!" exclaimed d'Artagnan, staring at the swinging sign. "Is
this French or English?"

Athos smiled. "In Champagne, my friend, they say keude for
cueille. This is the famous auberge where Henry V of England
halted on his way to Paris; it was here that Henri III of
France first met the charming Lais; and it is here that we shall
stop for a bite if you will ride on and bring Grimaud back."

D'Artagnan touched up his horse and rode past the curious old
tavern, which stood apparently to itself between the two roads,
the adjacent buildings being at some distance.

He caught up with Grimaud, recalled him, and turned back. This
required some little time, for Grimaud had been well in the lead.
When they rode into the courtyard of the Plucking Monk, the
others had entered the auberge and a groom was baiting the
horses; also, a cavalier was in the act of mounting and riding.
He saluted d'Artagnan as he passed, and rode forth, but not for
Paris; instead, he headed north, and spurred as though in haste
to reach Soissons before night.

"Who was that man?" d'Artagnan asked the groom who took his

"I do not know, monsieur. He stayed the night here."

D'Artagnan turned to the inn entrance. He heard the voice of
Porthos inside, and was on the point of entering when Grimaud
halted him. To his surprise, he saw that Grimaud was in some

"Well? Name of the devil, you need not be dumb with me! What is

"That -- that man, monsieur!" said Grimaud, in a sort of croak,
and pointed after the lately departed rider.

"What about him?"

"Nevers, Arceuil, Paris!" said Grimaud, with an expression of

Athos had appeared at the doorway and was listening.

"Eh?" said d'Artagnan, perceiving him. "You heard, Athos? Grimaud
says that he saw this same man, who had just departed after
spending the night here, at Nevers, Arceuil, and Paris! And I
remember now, he rode away at a gallop."

Athos motioned him inside. To Grimaud he made a gesture which the
lackey perfectly understood; Grimaud went to eat and drink

D'Artagnan, following his friend, was astonished by the perfect
composure of Athos, who betrayed not the least alarm or haste.



The interior of the Plucking Monk was astonishing. The structure
had originally been built during the English wars; the doors were
of iron-bound oak, at least a span thick, and the interior had at
some time been nearly gutted by fire.

It was one large room reaching to the roof, and lighted only by
two small, high-placed windows.  To the right of the hearth was a
narrow doorway,  the only means of egress to the kitchens and
upper buildings; for here was a sharp slant of the ground, so
that the front of the auberge was lower than the rear, and there
were two steps in the floor.

This hearth was of enormous size. Across its front ran a spit of
iron, seven feet in length, which fitted into sockets at each
end; these sockets were supplied with chains and weights, and
when the weights were raised the spit would turn for an hour at
a time of itself. At one side, leaning against the chimney, stood
a spare spit, a sharpened bar of iron which would have served
Goliath for a bodkin.

In this dark, gloomy, ancient room, whose stones were blackened
by the smoke of centuries, Porthos sat at a massive oaken table
before the fireplace -- a table eight feet in length and carven
magnificently.  At the head of the table Raoul was placed, avidly
watching while the fat host inspected the fowls browning on the
spit and basted them.

"Fetch bread and wine, instantly," said Athos to the host.

Porthos looked at him, surprised, and glanced at d'Artagnan. The
latter, comprehending that Athos did not wish to speak before the
boy, made a gesture which Porthos understood.

"My son," and Athos held out his hand to that of Raoul, "I am
about to make a request of you.  Some important business detains
me and these gentlemen here. Therefore, I am going to ask that
you go on to Paris with Grimaud. I will follow you soon, rejoin
you, and together we will go to our future home."

"A little thing to ask, mon pere," replied the boy, smiling. "But
I do not like to leave you so soon after finding you!"

"It will not be for long, I promise you," said Athos.

Porthos gaped in astonishment at all this.  Grimaud stumbled in,
wiping his lips, and came to the table. Athos regarded him
sternly, and for once did not spare words.

"Grimaud, you have served me faithfully; upon your service today
depends your entire future. Succeed, and you shall never lack.
Fail, and I myself will kill you. Do you comprehend?"

"Perfectly, monsieur," said Grimaud, with a bow.

"Very well. You will take my son, here, to Paris.  Proceed to the
Hotel of the Musketeers. At noon tomorrow, or at noon of whatever
day you reach there, Gervais will arrive."

This was altogether too much for the taciturnity of Grimaud.
"Monsieur!" he exclaimed. "Not -- not Gervais   your father's
steward -- "

"The same," said Athos. "If I do not arrive within three days,
you and Gervais will take the Vicomte de Bragelonne home to my
uncle, and he will become the Comte de la Fere.  However, I will
arrive. That is all."

He turned to the boy. "My son, you have heard.  Eat quickly; you
must depart at once."

Raoul began to eat the bread which had been placed on the table.
Grimaud departed; in five minutes he reappeared at the entrance
with a sign signifying the horse was ready. Athos took Raoul by
the hand and conducted him to the doorway.  There the boy looked
back, and bowed.

"Au revoir, messieurs!" came his sweet, boyish voice. The others
bowed. Then they looked at each other as they removed their

"What the devil does this mean?" demanded Porthos.

"The devil," said d'Artagnan.

Athos came back into the room. "There is no one coming as yet,"
he observed, and advancing to the table, sat down calmly as
though nothing remained to be said.

"Well, well!" said d'Artagnan testily. "I confess that I do not
comprehend all this, my dear Athos.  We see a gentleman
departing; we find that he stopped here for the night; Grimaud
had seen this man at Nevers, at Arceuil, and at Paris.

Athos smiled at him gently. "So, my son, I take warning! Why was
that man here? We do not know -- not to watch us, certainly.
Since Grimaud has thrice encountered him, he was obviously
watching us upon those occasions, however. Therefore, he is a
Cardinalist. Where Montforge is, we do not know. You did not meet
him on your way from Paris; but his errand is certainly to get
hold of Raoul. Good! Where the danger is unseen, it is

"Eh? Eh?" Porthos opened his eyes wide. "So that is it -- that
man! I thought I had seen him somewhere, myself. But, Athos --
regard! Why do we not all of us ride with the child?"

"They want him, not us," explained Athos. "That man was stationed
here for some purpose; I think, to take the child and ride on, in
case Montforge and his companions were pursued after getting the
boy. You comprehend? Ile recognized us, he knew we had got ahead
of them. Therefore Montforge must have been ahead of us after
all, perhaps was delayed or caught by the storm.   At all events,
that man must have ridden to bring him up."

"And," added d'Artagnan, "we would have to do some hard riding to
reach Paris ahead, eh?"

"Exactly," affirmed Athos. "I chose to place Raoul in safety.
In case Montforge comes, he will think Raoul is here. I do not
care to be pursued all my life, my friends; I must meet this man
and kill him. It is no longer your affair. Mount, I counsel you,
and ride."

"Bah!" said d'Artagnan. "You forget I have my own account with
him. Porthos, leave us! Ride after Grimaud -- "

"Will you have the goodness to go to the devil?" roared
Porthos angrily. "One for all -- all for one!  Am I a fool, a
coward, a poltroon? Devil fly away with me if I leave you!
Besides," he added thoughtfully, "there is nothing to show your
fine theories are right, Athos."

Athos shrugged. "Granted. We shall wait an hour; if no one
arrives, we go on our way."

"And if they do come, then?"

Athos only shrugged again, and said nothing.

D'Artagnan could very well imagine that the man who had spent the
night here knew exactly whither he was riding. He eyed  the huge
room, and laughed shortly.

"Athos," he said, "we could hold this fortress against an army!
Here are the capons, the wine is good; what more do we lack?"

"Pistols," said Athos laconically. "All our powder was wet in
that accursed rain last night."

So saying, he applied himself to the meal set before them. He was
entirely composed; but in his composure was something terrible.

D'Artagnan was by no means composed. He knew that in Montforge
they had an adversary as crafty as he was determined; a man no
doubt armed with powers from the Cardinal, who would stop at
nothing to accomplish his end. As he ate and drank, d'Artagnan
thought; and the result was a sudden exclamation which made the
others look up.

"Vivadiou! I forgot something. Host!" At his call, the fat host
came hurriedly. D'Artagnan laid a gold piece on the table. "Come,
my friend! Another like this if your memory is good. The
gentleman who was here last night did not give his name?"

"No, monsieur. He arrived just before the storm and went to his
room, and remained there."

"Then you have rooms? Where?"

"There, monsieur." The host pointed to the rear door. "Two good

"Ah! And this man said nothing about any companions?"

"Nothing, monsieur. True, he expected a company of gentlemen this
afternoon and inquired if I had plenty of fowl ready. As you can
see, monsieur, we were making the extra spit -- "

"Gentlemen? How many?"

"A score or more, monsieur."

"Ma foi! From Paris?"

"No, monsieur. I think he said they would be riding for Paris."

D'Artagnan, in consternation, looked at Athos.   The latter,
however, calmly took out his purse and put it in the hand of the

"There is payment in advance, my good man."

"In advance, monsieur!"

"Exactly. For the damage that will be done here.  You may leave

The host was so astonished that he quite forgot to ask after the
other gold piece promised by d'Artagnan.

"You see?" said Athos. "A score of men at least, perhaps more.
Montforge could not get the ring made, or would not wait for it.
He went to seize the boy, took plenty of men, and depended on his
authority from Richelieu. We may yet have to hold your army in
check, d'Artagnan."

"Good. We are at your orders, my dear Athos."

"Then I propose that as soon as we appease our hunger, we inspect
our defenses."

Porthos was already raising an entrenchment of bones and empty

In twenty minutes the three friends quitted the table and began
their examination. As Athos pointed out, they could hope to hold
only this main room of the inn; therefore they looked first at
the small doorway by the fireplace. This was regrettably weak,
being a makeshift door without bar or bolt. Porthos remedied the
lack by overturning the oak table and placing it against the
door, whereupon the host appeared with loud wails.

"Be off," d'Artagnan said to him. "Be off, or you will be lucky
to escape with your hide!"

"But send us more wine first," added Porthos.

"Alas, monsieur, 1 cannot reach the cellar -- you have blocked
the door!"

"Then go around, dolt!" cried d'Artagnan angrily. "You have been
well paid in advance; get the wine and set it in the courtyard."

They examined the main entrance, and here found that the double
doors, iron-mounted, were almost fitted to withstand grenades.
The courtyard was small. Along one side were stables, a high pile
of manure before them. On the other flank were the pump and
troughs. At the apex of the triangle were the gates, solid
barriers on well-oiled hinges.  The inn entrance occupied the
base of this triangle.

"The walls can be climbed," said Athos, sweeping a glance around.
"D'Artagnan, you will open the pourparlers, while we stand ready
to shut the gates. We will defend the courtyard first, since our
aim is to gain time. When we can no longer hold this position, we
will retreat to the inn."

"That is," added Porthos, "if the enemy appears!"

"They have appeared," said d'Artagnan, and pointed to a large
body of men just sweeping around a bend in the road, a
quarter-mile distant.  Applying themselves to the gates, the
three friends closed one, leaving the other slightly ajar; beside
this, Porthos stood in readiness with the beam of wood which
served to hold both closed.

Seeing these preparations, and sighting the horsemen approaching
at a gallop, the host and hostlers were no longer in doubt as to
what portended; they vanished hastily. Athos eyed the enemy.

"Twenty-three or four," he said. "Good! When the attack opens,
gentlemen, I will retire and hold the rear entrenchment; for they
will certainly surround the place and attempt entrance from the

"And I," said Porthos, indicating the pile of manure, which lay
close to the wall, "will hold this side. The other to you,

D'Artagnan advanced to the half-open gate. The enemy were now at
close quarters; sighting d'Artagnan, they drew rein, perhaps
expecting to be greeted by pistol-shots. At their head d'Artagnan
recognized the Comte de Montforge, with the cavalier who had
lately departed from the tavern. The others, he perceived, were
neither gentlemen nor soldiers, but hastily gathered riffraff of
Paris -- lackeys, bretteurs, anyone who could ride and use sword.

While his men dismounted, Montforge rode on alone and halted a
few paces from the gateway.

"Good morning, M. d'Artagnan," he said.

"And to you, monsieur," responded d'Artagnan politely. "You have
come, no doubt, to finish our interrupted conversation?"

"Unfortunately, monsieur, that is not the case.  I am engaged in
an errand for His Eminence, and until it is finished, am not my
own master."

"In that case, monsieur," said d'Artagnan, "pray do not let me
detain you."

Montforge became very angry.

"Monsieur," he exclaimed sharply, "let me warn you that I am
acting by the express orders of His Eminence."

"Who is not the ruler of France," said d'Artagnan calmly. "As you
may know, monsieur, I am an officer of Musketeers, whose officers
take rank over those of other corps.  However, I must confess
that your words cause me extreme astonishment.  One would imagine
that I am obstructing or hindering you, when I am doing nothing
of the sort. In fact, monsieur, I shall be only too glad to
further you in every way possible, since I have only the
liveliest good feeling toward His Eminence."

Montforge listened to this speech with suppressed rage, but
managed to control himself. He was about to speak when the bellow
of Porthos broke forth from the wall to their right.

"Far enough, gentlemen! Halt, or I fire!"

In effect, several of Montforge's companions had come close.
D'Artagnan was astonished to see the figure of Porthos looming up
above the wall, in his hands a huge old-fashioned arquebus. This
weapon had been hanging above the fireplace in the tavern, and
besides being at present empty, had certainly not been used since
the time of the League; the enemy, however, were not aware of
this, and promptly halted.

"You were about to say, monsieur -- ?" prompted d'Artagnan.

"That you have misunderstood me," returned Montforge. "Or rather,
you know very well what I want. I have an order from His Eminence
to arrest the person of a boy named Raoul d'Aram."

Monsieur," said d'Artagnan, "that is interesting information; but
do you expect me to believe the word of an assassin?"

A tide of red suffused the face of Montforge.  Then, taking a
paper from his pocket, he came close to the gate and handed it to

"Let us cease this byplay, monsieur," he said acidly. "You took
this child from St. Saforin; he was seen to arrive here with you;
he is inside this place. There is my authority, and I demand in
the name of the Cardinal that you deliver him to me."

D'Artagnan opened the document and found that Montforge spoke the

"Very well, monsieur," he said, with a bow, as he returned the
paper. "I have every respect for the orders of His Eminence, I
assure you."

"Good. You will deliver the child at once?"

"Eh?" D'Artagnan assumed an expression of surprise. "I? But, my
dear M. de Montforge, this order has nothing to do with me! The
boy is not here, I assure you! He is now on the way to Paris; if
you hurry after him, you have every chance in the world of
catching him!"

"Bah!" said the other, with a gesture of contempt. "I am
astonished, monsieur, that a gentleman of your reputation would
stoop to lies!"

"No less astonished, monsieur," returned D'Artagnan, "than I am
that a gentleman of your name would acquire the reputation which
you possess.

The angry features of Montforge went livid at this thrust. "Then
you refuse to obey the orders of the Cardinal?" he cried.

"No, monsieur," said d'Artagnan. "I refuse to obey the dictates
of a dishonored assassin."

With the rapidity of light, Montforge drew a pistol from its
saddle-holster and fired.

Artagnan, however, had glided into the opening behind him; the
bullet struck the planks and was deflected. At the same instant
the gate swung shut and Porthos hurried from his perch to help
with the beam. It fell into place.

Athos departed to the interior, Porthos to his  pile of manure.
From outside, sounded shouts and orders. The assailants crowded
close about the gates, found them solid, and being unable to
force an entrance, sought to create one.

The first man to reach the top of the wall did so, unluckily for
himself, opposite Porthos. The giant, whirling the heavy arquebus
about his head like a feather, loosed it suddenly; the missile
struck the unfortunate man, knocked him from  the wall, and when
his comrades ran to him, they found his body a crushed and
lifeless mass.

The battle of Le Moine Qui Keude was open.



The wall of the courtyard was ten feet in height.  Within two
minutes, the head and shoulders of a man appeared on the side of
Porthos; another appeared opposite d'Artagnan. They then remained
stationary, without attempting to scale the wall.

"Come, descend!" roared Porthos, who had drawn his sword. "Over
with you, rascals!"

"We are too polite, monsieur," said the man on his side, and he
turned to look back at his comrades who supported him. "They have
no pistols," he said. "Quickly!"

The man opposite d'Artagnan said nothing, but took a pistol
handed to him, leveled it at d'Artagnan, and fired.

The bullet pierced the musketeer's hat.

"Another!" exclaimed the man.

D'Artagnan ground his teeth with rage. He perceived instantly
that without powder they could not defend the courtyard. The
enemy had no intention of risking a hand-to-hand combat when
these two men on the wall could shoot down the defenders without
peril to themselves.

"Back, Porthos!" he exclaimed sharply. "Take shelter!"

Am I a crab to run backward? Name of the devil!" cried Porthos
furiously. "We held the Bastion St. Gervais against an army --
cannot we hold this fortress against a rabble?"

His adversary on the wall grinned at him and raised a pistol upon
the parapet.

"Here is a flea too large to miss!" he observed.  "Vive le

The explosion of the weapon drowned his words. Porthos, as though
buffeted by an invisible hand, was knocked backward and rolled to
the bottom of the manure pile. D'Artagnan ran to him, but Porthos
rose, holding the hilt of his sword. The bullet had struck the
blade and shattered it.

"Vive le Roi!" bellowed Porthos."Cowards! Traitors! Murderers --"

At this instant the man on the right flank fired again.

Porthos spun around, took two or three steps, and then fell
headlong at the inn entrance. Dropping his weapon, d'Artagnan
caught him by the shoulders and dragged him inside. The face
of Porthos was covered with blood.

"Athos! To the doors!"

"Impossible," came the calm response of Athos.  "I am --"

There was a crash. The massive table, blocking the small door
beside the hearth, flew backward and fell to one side. The door
behind it was carried off its hinges. D'Artagnan saw the end of a
beam forced into the room, carried by several men, who stumbled
along with it.

Athos, standing beside the opening, lunged as coolly as though he
were in a salle d'armes. The first man fell forward on his face.
The second plunged across him, clutching at his throat. Above and
across them fell the beam.

"Hail, Mary!" screamed the third man, as Athos' sword transfixed

Fascinated by this spectacle, d'Artagnan suddenly turned to his
own flank. In the courtyard, two men had dropped over the walls
and were unfastening the gates. Pulling Porthos farther inside,
d'Artagnan closed the massive doors of the inn, dropped the bar
in place, and caught at his sword as the voice of Athos reached

"D'Artagnan! They are preparing to fire -- "

Two or three pistols were discharged together, the balls
whistling through the chamber and flattening on the stone walls.
After them, a man came rushing through the opening, sword in
hand; he hesitated before the obscurity of the place, and Athos
ran him through the heart. This made the fourth body upon the

"Good!" said Athos coolly. "They burst down our door, and replace
it with their own bodies. That is fair. Porthos -- he is dead?"

"I do not know," confessed d'Artagnan. "I think he is."

A tremendous clang resounded through the room. The enemy were
battering at the closed doors.

"Inside, there!" As the summons came to them through the
half-closed passage, d'Artagnan trembled with fury; he recognized
the voice of Montforge. "Surrender at once, or I will give no

"It is we who make offers; we do not receive them," returned
Athos imperturbably.

"Fire!" shouted Montforge.

A number of pistols were discharged. Athos staggered, turned half
round, then took two steps and dropped into a chair by a table
against the side wall.

"Athos!" With a terrible cry of grief, d'Artagnan ran to his
friend. Athos, lifting his head, pushed him away.

"Quick, to your post!" he cried. "I am not yet dead -- "

And laying down his sword upon the table, he tore open his shirt
and calmly began to bandage two wounds, one in his thigh, the
other in his left shoulder. A thunderous sound re-echoed through
the room; the massive doors were beginning to bend beneath the
battering of the men outside.

D'Artagnan darted to the rear entrance. He was barely in time;
two men were scrambling over the pile of bodies, and with a cry
of joy d'Artagnan recognized one of them as Montforge.

"This time you will not escape me, assassin!"  he cried.

For response, Montforge lifted a pistol and fired; but the powder
flashed in the pan. His comrade flung himself upon D'Artagnan,
slipped in a pool of blood, and spitted himself upon the rapier
of the musketeer as he fell. He lay upon the floor, coughing
terribly in the fumes of powder, and presently coughed no more.

No others came through the rear entrance.

Dropping his pistol, Montforge attacked d'Artagnan, sword inhand.

"Now for your comb, my cockerel!" he exclaimed mockingly. Then he
staggered -- the rapier of d'Artagnan struck him exactly over the
heart, but it did not pierce.

"So!" cried d'Artagnan furiously. "I forgot that you were a
coward and wore mail beneath your shirt -- "

"In the throat, my son!" came the voice of Athos, who was
watching them. "In the throat!"

Montforge turned his head for an instant, and saw Athos sitting
at the table.

"Your turn next, my friend," he cried.

For an instant, d'Artagnan despaired of his life, so deadly was
the attack of Montforge that now overwhelmed him. For all his
skill, he could scarce parry those incredible lunges, those
ripostes which rippled from a wrist of steel. He was driven back,
was forced to remain upon the defensive; and all the while there
thundered a louder and louder clamor as the doors began to yield,
their ancient iron hinges bending and breaking.

Suddenly the foot of d'Artagnan slipped. He fell heavily upon
hands and knees; the rapier was dashed from his hand by the force
of his fall.  Montforge drew back a pace. Then, as d'Artagnan was
in the act of rising, he leaned forward and plunged his sword
into the young man's breast.

A terrible cry burst from Athos, as he saw d'Artagnan fall

Next instant, Montforge found himself confronted by a frightful
spectacle -- a man, half naked, blood upon shoulder and leg,
whose eyes blazed from a livid countenance. So awful was the
aspect of Athos in this instant that Montforge recoiled a step.

"Assassin!" cried Athos, and engaged that sword, wet with the
blood of d'Artagnan.

In this moment Athos, ever a magnificent swordsman, was swept to
superhuman heights by his grief and fury.  Thrice his blade swept
about the blade of Montforge, thrust it aside, lunged for the
throat; thrice Montforge evaded those inimitable attacks.
Suddenly the arm of Athos moved. His blade seemed to curl about
that of Montforge, then tore it from the latter's hand and sent
it flying across the room.

"Life for life!" said Athos in a hollow voice, and drove his
point into the throat of Montforge.

He drew the blade clear of the falling man. For an instant he
looked down at Montforge, then he threw the weapon aside.

"I have dishonored my sword for the first time," he murmured,
"but I have avenged my friend."

And quietly, with a smile upon his lips, he came to his knees,
drooped, fell forward.

At this instant the doors at the entrance sagged down. The
cross-bar held, but the hinges of one door burst, and those of
the other cracked. The enormous mass of wood and iron swung
inward at one side; it checked, caught, hung there by the
cracked hinges of the other door, giving access to those without
by the one open side. They attempted to shove it down, but it
resisted. They gave up the effort and flooded into the room.

"Ah! ah!" cried the first man in, as he stumbled across the
figure of Porthos. "Here is the big rascal I purged with a leaden

And he kicked the body of Porthos heavily. At this kick, Porthos
opened his eyes, but no one perceived him, for the scene before
them had now drawn the attention of all those men, and with
confused oaths and cries they hastened across the room.

The scene was frightful; it appeared that no living person
remained to greet them.

D'Artagnan lay upon his face, a trickle of blood coming from
beneath his arm. Athos lay across the legs of Montforge. Behind
them, the dead men and the fallen beam were piled in the rear

"The captain is dead!" cried one of the throng in consternation.

"They are all dead!" cried another.

"Name of the devil, then who pays us?" shouted a third. "Get the
captain's purse, take what we find!"

And all of them with one accord clustered about the body of
Montforge, to plunder the dead.

Near the entrance, Porthos came to one knee, then gained his
feet. He was almost unhurt; the ball that stunned him had barely
cut the scalp, letting blood but doing no worse damage. As now,
among those struggling, plundering figures, he saw the half-naked
form of Athos and the fallen body of d'Artagnan, his eyes
distended, a flood of color rushed into his face, and from his
lips burst a wild and horrible cry.

"Murderers -- you shall pay for this!"

Unarmed as he was, he rushed forward.

Next instant, even through the madness of his despair and rage
he could perceive his folly, for they heard his cry and swung
about, snarling like wolves.  Swords glittered; a pistol crashed
out, but the ball went wild. Porthos, evading the lunge of a
rapier, caught sight of the huge spit leaning against the
fireplace. He hurled himself toward it, reached it, and grasped
it in both hands.

This pointed bar of steel, which one man could scarce lift,
whirled about his head like a sliver of wood. The nearest bravo,
rushing upon Porthos with sword extended, was struck full across
the face by this terrific weapon.

A fearful scream burst from the others. Instead of crowding
forward, they crowded back, away from this giant who flung
himself upon them, face empurpled, foam slavering his lips.
Porthos was in the grip of one of those convulsive rages in which
he was no longer a man but a destroying angel.

He leaped among them, striking.

Now in the obscurity of this room, through the fumes of powder,
ascended fearful and hideous sounds; the revolting reek of fresh
blood stank in the nostrils of men. Amid the rising cloud of dust
might be discerned frantic shapes rushing to and fro. The
piercing sharpness of cries and screams followed swift upon
thudding crunches as that grisly weapon fell, now here, now
there, crushing out life and human shape.

Panic fell upon these men; they crowded about the entrance, and
there Porthos fell upon them and scattered them, and slew two as
they fought madly together at the narrow opening. At this, their
blind panic was changed into the instinct of the wild beast to
destroy that which is destroying him. Their weapons had been
flung away or dropped. None the less, they came crowding upon the
dim and terrible figure of Porthos gripping at him before and
behind; he thrust the pointed bar and transfixed one man so that
he screamed and writhed like some helpless beetle dying upon a
pin, but there the steel spit was torn out of his hand and lost.

In this chamber of dust and blood and death, the one uprose among
the dozen that tore at him, a giant among pigmies. Suddenly
something was seen to move in the air above their heads, and
there sounded a rushing as it were of wings, and the pitiful
terrified wail of a man sharply rising. Then they fell back from
around him in mad horror, for Porthos, stooping, had plucked up a
man by the ankles and was swinging him about his head, and
beating with this flail of flesh and bone upon those before him,
and crushing them down. Upon this, they fled.

And now, abruptly, the madness went out of Porthos.  He dropped
the broken body from his hands, wiped the blood and sweat out of
his eyes, and stood peering around him in a sort of
half-comprehending abhorrence. A trembling seized upon him.  A
dying man was shrieking at his feet, and he turned away, crossing
himself with shaking hand.

"Mon Dieu, what have I done!" he groaned.

He went to the doors, wrenched at them. In a spasmodic effort he
put forth his strength and tore them from the remaining hinges;
the mass of iron and wood swung at him, he checked and turned it,
and with a heave of his shoulders sent it over with a resounding
crash. He stumbled out into the sunlight, wiping his streaming

Upon his benumbed brain broke sharply the remembrance of Athos
and d'Artagnan. He turned, went back into that place of death,
and presently bore forth the body of Athos in his arms; the body
breathed, and with a sob of relief Porthos laid it down and went
back inside. He paid no heed to the remaining assailants, nor
cared that these were escaping by the rear entrance. He searched
until he found d'Artagnan, picked him up, and carried him
outside, where he set him down beside Athos.

Panting, he stood and gazed around with blood-shot eyes. From the
interior of the inn came a low groaning of stricken men. From
outside the wall of the courtyard lifted the sound of men
running; five figures came into sight through the shattered
gates, making for the clump of grazing horses. There were five
survivors of Montforge's party.

Porthos paid no heed to these things. He went to the pump,
plunged his head into the trough, and, dripping, brought back
water which he dashed over Athos and d'Artagnan. The latter
stirred, moved, and suddenly sat up, blinking around.

"Ma foi! Where am I?" he exclaimed. "Is that you, Porthos?"

Porthos, seeing that d'Artagnan was not greatly hurt, was
kneeling over Athos and bandaging the two wounds of the latter.

"Yes, it is I," said Porthos gloomily. "I thought you were dead,
my friend."

"Evidently I am not," said d'Artagnan, and surveyed himself. "Ah!
There's a scrape along my ribs at least -- "

He opened his clothes, to disclose a wound, alarming in
appearance but not at all dangerous, where the sword of Montforge
had glided along his ribs.

"My new suit is certainly ruined," he observed. "Well, I must
obey the example of M. de Bassompierre, who never wears a suit
more than once or twice!"

He drew from his pocket the folded vellum sheet of the Thounenin
will. It was disfigured by a cut where the sword had passed
through, and was stained with blood, but was none the less

"Good!" said d'Artagn an. "And Montforge where is he?  What has

"He is dead," said Porthos. He suddenly desisted from his work,
and began a frantic search of his person. He explored pockets,
looked everywhere; at length he stared at d'Artagnan with an
expression of such terror that d'Artagnan, despite his wound,
struggled to his feet.

"What is the matter, Porthos?" he exclaimed in alarm. "What has

"Ah!" Porthos uttered a groan. "I am lost!"

"Why, in  heaven's name? You are hurt?"

"I am lost," repeated Porthos in a sepulchral voice, and showed
a broken silver chain which he had taken from beneath his shirt.
"The portrait of Madame du Valon, which I swore never to remove
from about my neck -- well, it is gone!"

D'Artagnan gaped at him, then suddenly broke into a laugh.

"It is no laughing matter, I assure you," said Porthos. "You do
not understand these things -- "

D'Artagnan laughed the harder. At this instant he perceived that
Athos had opened his eyes; and kneeling, he clasped the bandaged
figure in his arms.

Porthos departed to search for his lost portrait, but he did not
find it.


The three friends reached the Hotel de Treville late the
following afternoon, for it was necessary to obtain a coach
before Athos could be transported. Thanks to the miraculous
balsam of d'Artagnan, his wounds promised to be in no way
serious, but they effectually prevented him from keeping the
saddle for some days.
At the hotel of the Musketeers, they learned that Grimaud and
Raoul had arrived, had met Gervais at noon, and had departed with
him. Since Athos did not know the whereabouts of his uncle's
steward, it was necessary to await his return on the following

They discovered, further, that Mousqueton had thrice arrived in
search of Porthos, and on the third occasion the former Madame
Coquenard had come also, promising to return very shortly. At
this news Porthos was in some consternation.

D'Artagnan had his wound dressed anew, and immediately after
dinner that night prepared two missives. The first contained no
writing; it held only the outer sheet of the Thounenin will, and
was addressed to Mme. la Duchesse de Chevreuse, at her chateau of
Dampierre. As Athos rightly said, the sword-thrust and the blood
staining the document told their own story.

The second epistle was a letter addressed to His Eminence
Cardinal de Richelieu. In it d'Artagnan wrote:

  I have the honor to report that the two errands
  which you had the goodness to confide to me, have
  been performed.

  The verbal message was delivered. There was
  apparently no response, since the person to
  to whom it was addressed was subject to fainting
  spells. The letter to a person in Paris was also
  delivered. As Your Eminence said nothing of any
  answer, I did not await one but departed immediately.

  I regret that I have not the honor to deliver
  this report in person, owing to a wound received
  at the hands of certain bretteurs who attacked
  me. I await your orders, Monseigneur, being
  your very humble and very obedient servant,


D'Artagnan showed this letter to Athos, who read it

"You must rewrite it."

"How?" said d'Artagnan. "What have I misspelled?"

"Nothing. You must change the wording to read 'a severe wound
. . . which confines me to my bed.' It will make an excellent
impression upon His Eminence. No one knows exactly what happened
among you, Bassompierre, and Mile. de Sirle -- except
Bassompierre, who does not know all. Richelieu will probably deem
you sufficiently punished. If he discovers that Raoul was not the
son of Her Majesty, but of Chevreuse   well, you may be entirely

"But I am not confined to my bed   "

"Confine yourself for the night. Our complaisant surgeon will
gladly add a notation to this effect."

"But you, Athos -- "

"I leave the service, my son. As soon as I am able to write, my
resignation goes in. There is nothing to fear, believe me! If the
king dies, Richelieu is lost. If the king lives -- then greater
men than you and I are lost, and in the stench of their blood we
are forgotten, I promise you!"

D'Artagnan did not entirely agree with this reasoning, but he
perceived the force of the advice, and promptly followed it.

Neither he nor Athos saw Porthos again at this time, for when
they arose next morning, it was to learn that a coach had arrived
very early, a lady had alighted and asked for Porthos, and that
Porthos, summoned from his bed, had mounted into the coach with
the lady and departed. He did not leave so much as a note for his
friends, but Grimaud, who witnessed the scene, said that  Porthos
had flung both arms toward heaven as though in supplication, and
had then meekly obeyed the orders of the lady.

A week later, Athos departed for his estates, d'Artagnan for his

Upon the day Louis XIII was expected to die at Lyon, at almost
the very hour predicted for his death by the physicians, he
unexpectedly recovered; but he made his mother a secret promise
that as soon as peace was concluded with the Empire, he would
dismiss Richelieu.

The court returned to Paris, the king going to Versailles, the
queen-mother to her palace of the Luxembourg. She dissembled, and
pretended great friendship for the Cardinal. Alarmed by this,
Richelieu investigated, heard of the promise made by Louis XIII,
and despatched a courier to Ratisbon ordering Pere Joseph not to
sign the treaty.

It had already been signed. Marie de Medici sent imperatively for
her son.

On the morning of November tenth, the king arrived quietly at the
Luxembourg, accompanied only by Bassompierre. Richelieu, already
warned, made haste to be present at this interview, but when he
reached the Luxembourg, it was too late. The doors of the
ante-chamber were locked. The king and Marie de Medici were alone
in the latter's cabinet; orders were given that no one was to be
allowed entrance.

Here in the heart of this vast palace, secure from the disturbing
influence of Richelieu or others, Marie de Medici indicated the
desk beside the window, and commanded her son to sit down and
write the dismissal of the Minister. Louis, who feared the tongue
of his mother above all things, yielded and took his seat.

At this instant a small door opened in the wall.  The door led by
a private passage into the chapel of the Luxembourg, and had not
been locked. In the opening was framed the scarlet-clad figure of

"He is here -- all is lost!" exclaimed the king.

Pretending not to hear these words, Richelieu smiled and came

"Your Majesties, I believe, were speaking of  me?" he observed.

Marie de Medici was infuriated by the audacity of this man whom
she had raised to power.  The intrusion upon her privacy outraged
her pride; the upsetting of her plans kindled her virulence; she
flew into a paroxysm of rage and unloosed upon Richelieu all the
floodgates of her hatred and wrath.

She berated him, reproached him, accused him, in a storm of the
most violent passion imaginable. Her storm of fury could not be
checked nor averted. Richelieu fell upon his knees before her;
his excuses, even his tears, only added fire to her rage.
Perceiving himself lost, he rose and demanded permission to

The king dared not reply. The queen-mother loosed a fresh storm
of passion. His features livid,  Richelieu bowed and quitted the

Upon the following day, the king signed an order placing Louis
de Marillac in command of the army, as Marie de Medici had
demanded; this order recalled Schomberg and La Force, who were
Richelieu's adherents. Louis XIII then departed for Versailles;
he was followed by Michel de MarilIac, named by Marie de Medici
as Minister in the place of Richelieu. The great Cardinal had

That day, the hotel of Richelieu was deserted. The entire court
thronged to the Luxembourg, paying their addresses to Marie
de Medici, complimenting her, surrounding her with adulation.
The Spanish Ambassador was overjoyed. Anne of Austria smiled for
the first time in months. Couriers were sent forth to carry the
news to Madrid, Vienna, London. All Paris rejoiced at the ruin of
the hated Cardinal.

Richelieu perceived that he was lost. He prepared to take refuge
at Le Havre; his mules, laden with his most valuable effects, set
forth upon the Pontoise road. He gave orders to prepare his
coach. He was on the point of departure, when St. Simon arrived
from Versailles ordering him to the presence of the king.

When Richelieu arrived, Louis XIII ordered that they be left
alone together.

Marie de Medici was holding triumphant court at the Luxembourg,
surrounded by the nobles of the realm and throngs of sycophant
courtiers; she was intoxicated by victory, and paused at nothing
inventing her hatred of the fallen Minister. And at the same
moment, the king was signing orders at Versailles which were
being dictated by Richelieu; unknown to any, not only was the
Cardinal reinstated in power, but this power was made absolute.
Marshal de Marillac was arrested and sent to Paris a prisoner.
Michel de Marillac was deprived of the seals and banished. This
eleventh of November, 1630, was named by Bassompierre "The Day of
Dupes"; unfortunately for himself, he was one of the dupes.

Richelieu had turned disaster into triumph; and those who had
caused his disaster, now paid.  The Duc de Guise fled into exile.
Marie de Medici was arrested, to die in exile. Those about her
were struck down right and left. Bassompierre, warned, might have
fled; he preferred to go home and destroy the six thousand
love-letters he bad received from ladies. He spent the next
twelve years writing his Memoirs in a room of the Bastille, of
which he had at one time been the Governor.

On the morning after the arrest of Bassompierre, d'Artagnan was
summoned to the cabinet of the Cardinal. He first destroyed all
his letters and papers, then obeyed the summons.

"Good morning, M. d'Artagnan," said Richelieu affably. "I
understand that you escorted M. de Bassompierre to the Bastille

The young man bowed."I had the honor, Your Eminence, though it
was Sieur de Launay who executed the order of arrest."

"I sent for you, monsieur, hoping you might enlighten me upon a
certain subject. You have, I perceive, quite recovered from your
recent wound?"

"Your Eminence does me too much honor in remembering such
trifles," returned d'Artagnan, feeling a cold chill.

"Not at all, not at all," said Richelieu, smoothly.  "It has
been brought to my attention, monsieur, that a Musketeer of your
company has left the service and assumed the title of the Comte
de la Fere. Is not this the gentleman known as Athos?"

"Yes, Monseigneur," replied d'Artagnan, whose brow was now beaded
with perspiration.

"Ah!" said Richelieu musingly. "He has, it appears, adopted a
son, the Vicomte de Bragelonne."

In these words, d'Artagnan perceived that the Cardinal knew

"Your Eminence," he said, in a sort of desperation, "only those
who are truly great can know the meaning of generosity. My
friend Athos is the noblest man alive; he is incapable of the
least deceit, pettiness or dishonor; he is even incapable of
ambition, which is the most petty of all things in his eyes. If
Your Eminence would have the graciousness to grant Athos a
recompense for his years of service, I believe he would
appreciate it above all things."

"How?" asked Richelieu, with a slight frown.  "A recompense?
A pension, you mean?"

"Not at all, Monseigneur," said d'Artagnan. "Your Eminence is a
statesman, a minister, a great man; but before these things, a
cardinal. If Your Eminence would but send the son of Athos your
benediction, I am certain that Athos would esteem it above all
other things!"

Richelieu looked truly astonished. His gaze rested upon the
features of d'Artagnan, and then, with one of his rare impulses,
he smiled and held out his hand to the young man.

"Monsieur," he said, "there are less charming things in the world
than the frank audacity of youth. I shall accept your advice in
this matter. Have you nothing to ask for yourself?"

"Faith, Monseigneur," said the astonished d'Artagnan, "there is
nothing I need, since you do me the honor of commending me!"

This interview cost d'Artagnan above three hundred crowns.  Among
the papers he had destroyed was a receipt from his tailor; two
weeks later, the tailor claimed his bill for the second time, and
having burned the receipt, d'Artagnan was forced to pay again.
However, he did not regret the loss.


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