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Chapter 45 A CONJUGAL SCENE

  • As Athos had foreseen, it was not long before the cardinal came down. H_pened the door of the room in which the Musketeers were, and found Portho_laying an earnest game of dice with Aramis. He cast a rapid glance around th_oom, and perceived that one of his men was missing.
  • "What has become of Monseigneur Athos?" asked he.
  • "Monseigneur," replied Porthos, "he has gone as a scout, on account of som_ords of our host, which made him believe the road was not safe."
  • "And you, what have you done, Monsieur Porthos?"
  • "I have won five pistoles of Aramis."
  • "Well; now will you return with me?"
  • "We are at your Eminence's orders."
  • "To horse, then, gentlemen; for it is getting late."
  • The attendant was at the door, holding the cardinal's horse by the bridle. A_ short distance a group of two men and three horses appeared in the shade.
  • These were the two men who were to conduct Milady to the fort of the Point, and superintend her embarkation.
  • The attendant confirmed to the cardinal what the two Musketeers had alread_aid with respect to Athos. The cardinal made an approving gesture, an_etraced his route with the same precautions he had used incoming.
  • Let us leave him to follow the road to the camp protected by his esquire an_he two Musketeers, and return to Athos.
  • For a hundred paces he maintained the speed at which he started; but when ou_f sight he turned his horse to the right, made a circuit, and came bac_ithin twenty paces of a high hedge to watch the passage of the little troop.
  • Having recognized the laced hats of his companions and the golden fringe o_he cardinal's cloak, he waited till the horsemen had turned the angle of th_oad, and having lost sight of them, he returned at a gallop to the inn, whic_as opened to him without hesitation.
  • The host recognized him.
  • "My officer," said Athos, "has forgotten to give a piece of very importan_nformation to the lady, and has sent me back to repair his forgetfulness."
  • "Go up," said the host; "she is still in her chamber."
  • Athos availed himself of the permission, ascended the stairs with his lightes_tep, gained the landing, and through the open door perceived Milady puttin_n her hat.
  • He entered the chamber and closed the door behind him. At the noise he made i_ushing the bolt, Milady turned round.
  • Athos was standing before the door, enveloped in his cloak, with his ha_ulled down over his eyes. On seeing this figure, mute and immovable as _tatue, Milady was frightened.
  • "Who are you, and what do you want?" cried she.
  • "Humph," murmured Athos, "it is certainly she!"
  • And letting fall his cloak and raising his hat, he advanced toward Milady.
  • "Do you know me, madame?" said he.
  • Milady made one step forward, and then drew back as if she had seen a serpent.
  • "So far, well," said Athos, "I perceive you know me."
  • "The Comte de la Fere!" murmured Milady, becoming exceedingly pale, an_rawing back till the wall prevented her from going any farther.
  • "Yes, Milady," replied Athos; "the Comte de la Fere in person, who come_xpressly from the other world to have the pleasure of paying you a visit. Si_own, madame, and let us talk, as the cardinal said."
  • Milady, under the influence of inexpressible terror, sat down without utterin_ word.
  • "You certainly are a demon sent upon the earth!" said Athos. "Your power i_reat, I know; but you also know that with the help of God men have ofte_onquered the most terrible demons. You have once before thrown yourself in m_ath. I thought I had crushed you, madame; but either I was deceived or hel_as resuscitated you!"
  • Milady at these words, which recalled frightful remembrances, hung down he_ead with a suppressed groan.
  • "Yes, hell has resuscitated you," continued Athos. "Hell has made you rich, hell has given you another name, hell has almost made you another face; but i_as neither effaced the stains from your soul nor the brand from your body."
  • Milady arose as if moved by a powerful spring, and her eyes flashed lightning.
  • Athos remained sitting.
  • "You believed me to be dead, did you not, as I believed you to be? And th_ame of Athos as well concealed the Comte de la Fere, as the name Milad_larik concealed Anne de Breuil. Was it not so you were called when you_onored brother married us? Our position is truly a strange one," continue_thos, laughing. "We have only lived up to the present time because w_elieved each other dead, and because a remembrance is less oppressive than _iving creature, though a remembrance is sometimes devouring."
  • "But," said Milady, in a hollow, faint voice, "what brings you back to me, an_hat do you want with me?"
  • "I wish to tell you that though remaining invisible to your eyes, I have no_ost sight of you."
  • "You know what I have done?"
  • "I can relate to you, day by day, your actions from your entrance to th_ervice of the cardinal to this evening."
  • A smile of incredulity passed over the pale lips of Milady.
  • "Listen! It was you who cut off the two diamond studs from the shoulder of th_uke of Buckingham; it was you had the Madame Bonacieux carried off; it wa_ou who, in love with de Wardes and thinking to pass the night with him, opened the door to Monsieur d'Artagnan; it was you who, believing that d_ardes had deceived you, wished to have him killed by his rival; it was yo_ho, when this rival had discovered your infamous secret, wished to have hi_illed in his turn by two assassins, whom you sent in pursuit of him; it wa_ou who, finding the balls had missed their mark, sent poisoned wine with _orged letter, to make your victim believe that the wine came from hi_riends. In short, it was you who have but now in this chamber, seated in thi_hair I now fill, made an engagement with Cardinal Richelieu to cause the Duk_f Buckingham to be assassinated, in exchange for the promise he has made yo_o allow you to assassinate d'Artagnan."
  • Milady was livid.
  • "You must be Satan!" cried she.
  • "Perhaps," said Athos; "But at all events listen well to this. Assassinate th_uke of Buckingham, or cause him to be assassinated—I care very little abou_hat! I don't know him. Besides, he is an Englishman. But do not touch wit_he tip of your finger a single hair of d'Artagnan, who is a faithful frien_hom I love and defend, or I swear to you by the head of my father the crim_hich you shall have endeavored to commit, or shall have committed, shall b_he last."
  • "Monsieur d'Artagnan has cruelly insulted me," said Milady, in a hollow tone;
  • "Monsieur d'Artagnan shall die!"
  • "Indeed! Is it possible to insult you, madame?" said Athos, laughing; "he ha_nsulted you, and he shall die!"
  • "He shall die!" replied Milady; "she first, and he afterward."
  • Athos was seized with a kind of vertigo. The sight of this creature, who ha_othing of the woman about her, recalled awful remembrances. He thought ho_ne day, in a less dangerous situation than the one in which he was no_laced, he had already endeavored to sacrifice her to his honor. His desir_or blood returned, burning his brain and pervading his frame like a ragin_ever; he arose in his turn, reached his hand to his belt, drew forth _istol, and cocked it.
  • Milady, pale as a corpse, endeavored to cry out; but her swollen tongue coul_tter no more than a hoarse sound which had nothing human in it and resemble_he rattle of a wild beast. Motionless against the dark tapestry, with he_air in disorder, she appeared like a horrid image of terror.
  • Athos slowly raised his pistol, stretched out his arm so that the weapo_lmost touched Milady's forehead, and then, in a voice the more terrible fro_aving the supreme calmness of a fixed resolution, "Madame," said he, "yo_ill this instant deliver to me the paper the cardinal signed; or upon m_oul, I will blow your brains out."
  • With another man, Milady might have preserved some doubt; but she knew Athos.
  • Nevertheless, she remained motionless.
  • "You have one second to decide," said he.
  • Milady saw by the contraction of his countenance that the trigger was about t_e pulled; she reached her hand quickly to her bosom, drew out a paper, an_eld it toward Athos.
  • "Take it," said she, "and be accursed!"
  • Athos took the paper, returned the pistol to his belt, approached the lamp t_e assured that it was the paper, unfolded it, and read:
  • Dec. 3, 1627
  • It is by my order and for the good of the state that the bearer of this ha_one what he has done.
  • Richelieu
  • "And now," said Athos, resuming his cloak and putting on his hat, "now that _ave drawn your teeth, viper, bite if you can."
  • And he left the chamber without once looking behind him.
  • At the door he found the two men and the spare horse which they held.
  • "Gentlemen," said he, "Monseigneur's order is, you know, to conduct tha_oman, without losing time, to the fort of the Point, and never to leave he_ill she is on board."
  • As these words agreed wholly with the order they had received, they bowe_heir heads in sign of assent.
  • With regard to Athos, he leaped lightly into the saddle and set out at ful_allop; only instead of following the road, he went across the fields, urgin_is horse to the utmost and stopping occasionally to listen.
  • In one of those halts he heard the steps of several horses on the road. He ha_o doubt it was the cardinal and his escort. He immediately made a new poin_n advance, rubbed his horse down with some heath and leaves of trees, an_laced himself across the road, about two hundred paces from the camp.
  • "Who goes there?" cried he, as soon as he perceived the horsemen.
  • "That is our brave Musketeer, I think," said the cardinal.
  • "Yes, monseigneur," said Porthos, "it is he."
  • "Monsieur Athos," said Richelieu, "receive my thanks for the good guard yo_ave kept. Gentlemen, we are arrived; take the gate on the left. The watchwor_s, 'King and Re.'"
  • Saying these words, the cardinal saluted the three friends with an inclinatio_f his head, and took the right hand, followed by his attendant—for that nigh_e himself slept in the camp.
  • "Well!" said Porthos and Aramis together, as soon as the cardinal was out o_earing, "well, he signed the paper she required!"
  • "I know it," said Athos, coolly, "since here it is."
  • And the three friends did not exchange another word till they reached thei_uarters, except to give the watchword to the sentinels. Only they sen_ousqueton to tell Planchet that his master was requested, the instant that h_eft the trenches, to come to the quarters of the Musketeers.
  • Milady, as Athos had foreseen, on finding the two men that awaited her, mad_o difficulty in following them. She had had for an instant an inclination t_e reconducted to the cardinal, and relate everything to him; but a revelatio_n her part would bring about a revelation on the part of Athos. She might sa_hat Athos had hanged her; but then Athos would tell that she was branded. Sh_hought it was best to preserve silence, to discreetly set off to accomplis_er difficult mission with her usual skill; and then, all things bein_ccomplished to the satisfaction of the cardinal, to come to him and claim he_engeance.
  • In consequence, after having traveled all night, at seven o'clock she was a_he fort of the Point; at eight o'clock she had embarked; and at nine, th_essel, which with letters of marque from the cardinal was supposed to b_ailing for Bayonne, raised anchor, and steered its course toward England.