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Chapter 67 CONCLUSION

  • On the sixth of the following month the king, in compliance with the promis_e had made the cardinal to return to La Rochelle, left his capital still i_mazement at the news which began to spread itself of Buckingham'_ssassination.
  • Although warned that the man she had loved so much was in great danger, th_ueen, when his death was announced to her, would not believe the fact, an_ven imprudently exclaimed, "it is false; he has just written to me!"
  • But the next day she was obliged to believe this fatal intelligence; Laporte, detained in England, as everyone else had been, by the orders of Charles I, arrived, and was the bearer of the duke's dying gift to the queen.
  • The joy of the king was lively. He did not even give himself the trouble t_issemble, and displayed it with affectation before the queen. Louis XIII, like every weak mind, was wanting in generosity.
  • But the king soon again became dull and indisposed; his brow was not one o_hose that long remain clear. He felt that in returning to camp he should re- enter slavery; nevertheless, he did return.
  • The cardinal was for him the fascinating serpent, and himself the bird whic_lies from branch to branch without power to escape.
  • The return to La Rochelle, therefore, was profoundly dull. Our four friends, in particular, astonished their comrades; they traveled together, side b_ide, with sad eyes and heads lowered. Athos alone from time to time raise_is expansive brow; a flash kindled in his eyes, and a bitter smile passe_ver his lips, then, like his comrades, he sank again into reverie.
  • As soon as the escort arrived in a city, when they had conducted the king t_is quarters the four friends either retired to their own or to some seclude_abaret, where they neither drank nor played; they only conversed in a lo_oice, looking around attentively to see that no one overheard them.
  • One day, when the king had halted to fly the magpie, and the four friends, according to their custom, instead of following the sport had stopped at _abaret on the high road, a man coming from la Rochelle on horseback pulled u_t the door to drink a glass of wine, and darted a searching glance into th_oom where the four Musketeers were sitting.
  • "Holloa, Monsieur d'Artagnan!" said he, "is not that you whom I see yonder?"
  • D'Artagnan raised his head and uttered a cry of joy. It was the man he calle_is phantom; it was his stranger of Meung, of the Rue des Fossoyeurs and o_rras.
  • D'Artagnan drew his sword, and sprang toward the door.
  • But this time, instead of avoiding him the stranger jumped from his horse, an_dvanced to meet d'Artagnan.
  • "Ah, monsieur!" said the young man, "I meet you, then, at last! This time yo_hall not escape me!"
  • "Neither is it my intention, monsieur, for this time I was seeking you; in th_ame of the king, I arrest you."
  • "How! what do you say?" cried d'Artagnan.
  • "I say that you must surrender your sword to me, monsieur, and that withou_esistance. This concerns your head, I warn you."
  • "Who are you, then?" demanded d'Artagnan, lowering the point of his sword, bu_ithout yet surrendering it.
  • "I am the Chevalier de Rochefort," answered the other, "the equerry o_onsieur le Cardinal Richelieu, and I have orders to conduct you to hi_minence."
  • "We are returning to his Eminence, monsieur the Chevalier," said Athos, advancing; "and you will please to accept the word of Monsieur d'Artagnan tha_e will go straight to La Rochelle."
  • "I must place him in the hands of guards who will take him into camp."
  • "We will be his guards, monsieur, upon our word as gentlemen; but likewise, upon our word as gentlemen," added Athos, knitting his brow, "Monsieu_'Artagnan shall not leave us."
  • The Chevalier de Rochefort cast a glance backward, and saw that Porthos an_ramis had placed themselves between him and the gate; he understood that h_as completely at the mercy of these four men.
  • "Gentlemen," said he, "if Monsieur d'Artagnan will surrender his sword to m_nd join his word to yours, I shall be satisfied with your promise to conve_onsieur d'Artagnan to the quarters of Monseigneur the Cardinal."
  • "You have my word, monsieur, and here is my sword."
  • "This suits me the better," said Rochefort, "as I wish to continue m_ourney."
  • "If it is for the purpose of rejoining Milady," said Athos, coolly, "it i_seless; you will not find her."
  • "What has become of her, then?" asked Rochefort, eagerly.
  • "Return to camp and you shall know."
  • Rochefort remained for a moment in thought; then, as they were only a day'_ourney from Surgeres, whither the cardinal was to come to meet the king, h_esolved to follow the advice of Athos and go with them. Besides, this retur_ffered him the advantage of watching his prisoner.
  • They resumed their route.
  • On the morrow, at three o'clock in the afternoon, they arrived at Surgeres.
  • The cardinal there awaited Louis XIII. The minister and the king exchange_umerous caresses, felicitating each other upon the fortunate chance which ha_reed France from the inveterate enemy who set all Europe against her. Afte_hich, the cardinal, who had been informed that d'Artagnan was arrested an_ho was anxious to see him, took leave of the king, inviting him to come th_ext day to view the work already done upon the dyke.
  • On returning in the evening to his quarters at the bridge of La Pierre, th_ardinal found, standing before the house he occupied, d'Artagnan, without hi_word, and the three Musketeers armed.
  • This time, as he was well attended, he looked at them sternly, and made a sig_ith his eye and hand for d'Artagnan to follow him.
  • D'Artagnan obeyed.
  • "We shall wait for you, d'Artagnan," said Athos, loud enough for the cardina_o hear him.
  • His Eminence bent his brow, stopped for an instant, and then kept on his wa_ithout uttering a single word.
  • D'Artagnan entered after the cardinal, and behind d'Artagnan the door wa_uarded.
  • His Eminence entered the chamber which served him as a study, and made a sig_o Rochefort to bring in the young Musketeer.
  • Rochefort obeyed and retired.
  • D'Artagnan remained alone in front of the cardinal; this was his secon_nterview with Richelieu, and he afterward confessed that he felt well assure_t would be his last.
  • Richelieu remained standing, leaning against the mantelpiece; a table wa_etween him and d'Artagnan.
  • "Monsieur," said the cardinal, "you have been arrested by my orders."
  • "So they tell me, monseigneur."
  • "Do you know why?"
  • "No, monseigneur, for the only thing for which I could be arrested is stil_nknown to your Eminence."
  • Richelieu looked steadfastly at the young man.
  • "Holloa!" said he, "what does that mean?"
  • "If Monseigneur will have the goodness to tell me, in the first place, wha_rimes are imputed to me, I will then tell him the deeds I have really done."
  • "Crimes are imputed to you which had brought down far loftier heads tha_ours, monsieur," said the cardinal.
  • "What, monseigneur?" said d'Artagnan, with a calmness which astonished th_ardinal himself.
  • "You are charged with having corresponded with the enemies of the kingdom; yo_re charged with having surprised state secrets; you are charged with havin_ried to thwart the plans of your general."
  • "And who charges me with this, monseigneur?" said d'Artagnan, who had no doub_he accusation came from Milady, "a woman branded by the justice of th_ountry; a woman who has espoused one man in France and another in England; _oman who poisoned her second husband and who attempted both to poison an_ssassinate me!"
  • "What do you say, monsieur?" cried the cardinal, astonished; "and of wha_oman are you speaking thus?"
  • "Of Milady de Winter," replied d'Artagnan, "yes, of Milady de Winter, of whos_rimes your Eminence is doubtless ignorant, since you have honored her wit_our confidence."
  • "Monsieur," said the cardinal, "if Milady de Winter has committed the crime_ou lay to her charge, she shall be punished."
  • "She has been punished, monseigneur."
  • "And who has punished her?"
  • "We."
  • "She is in prison?"
  • "She is dead."
  • "Dead!" repeated the cardinal, who could not believe what he heard, "dead! Di_ou not say she was dead?"
  • "Three times she attempted to kill me, and I pardoned her; but she murdere_he woman I loved. Then my friends and I took her, tried her, and condemne_er."
  • D'Artagnan then related the poisoning of Mme. Bonacieux in the convent of th_armelites at Bethune, the trial in the isolated house, and the execution o_he banks of the Lys.
  • A shudder crept through the body of the cardinal, who did not shudder readily.
  • But all at once, as if undergoing the influence of an unspoken thought, th_ountenance of the cardinal, till then gloomy, cleared up by degrees, an_ecovered perfect serenity.
  • "So," said the cardinal, in a tone that contrasted strongly with the severit_f his words, "you have constituted yourselves judges, without rememberin_hat they who punish without license to punish are assassins?"
  • "Monseigneur, I swear to you that I never for an instant had the intention o_efending my head against you. I willingly submit to any punishment you_minence may please to inflict upon me. I do not hold life dear enough to b_fraid of death."
  • "Yes, I know you are a man of a stout heart, monsieur," said the cardinal, with a voice almost affectionate; "I can therefore tell you beforehand yo_hall be tried, and even condemned."
  • "Another might reply to your Eminence that he had his pardon in his pocket. _ontent myself with saying: Command, monseigneur; I am ready."
  • "Your pardon?" said Richelieu, surprised.
  • "Yes, monseigneur," said d'Artagnan.
  • "And signed by whom—by the king?" And the cardinal pronounced these words wit_ singular expression of contempt.
  • "No, by your Eminence."
  • "By me? You are insane, monsieur."
  • "Monseigneur will doubtless recognize his own handwriting."
  • And d'Artagnan presented to the cardinal the precious piece of paper whic_thos had forced from Milady, and which he had given to d'Artagnan to serv_im as a safeguard.
  • His Eminence took the paper, and read in a slow voice, dwelling upon ever_yllable:
  • "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"
  • The cardinal, after having read these two lines, sank into a profound reverie; but he did not return the paper to d'Artagnan.
  • "He is meditating by what sort of punishment he shall cause me to die," sai_he Gascon to himself. "Well, my faith! he shall see how a gentleman can die."
  • The young Musketeer was in excellent disposition to die heroically.
  • Richelieu still continued thinking, rolling and unrolling the paper in hi_ands.
  • At length he raised his head, fixed his eagle look upon that loyal, open, an_ntelligent countenance, read upon that face, furrowed with tears, all th_ufferings its possessor had endured in the course of a month, and reflecte_or the third or fourth time how much there was in that youth of twenty-on_ears before him, and what resources his activity, his courage, and hi_hrewdness might offer to a good master. On the other side, the crimes, th_ower, and the infernal genius of Milady had more than once terrified him. H_elt something like a secret joy at being forever relieved of this dangerou_ccomplice.
  • Richelieu slowly tore the paper which d'Artagnan had generously relinquished.
  • "I am lost!" said d'Artagnan to himself. And he bowed profoundly before th_ardinal, like a man who says, "Lord, Thy will be done!"
  • The cardinal approached the table, and without sitting down, wrote a few line_pon a parchment of which two-thirds were already filled, and affixed hi_eal.
  • "That is my condemnation," thought d'Artagnan; "he will spare me the ENNUI o_he Bastille, or the tediousness of a trial. That's very kind of him."
  • "Here, monsieur," said the cardinal to the young man. "I have taken from yo_ne CARTE BLANCHE to give you another. The name is wanting in this commission; you can write it yourself."
  • D'Artagnan took the paper hesitatingly and cast his eyes over it; it was _ieutenant's commission in the Musketeers.
  • D'Artagnan fell at the feet of the cardinal.
  • "Monseigneur," said he, "my life is yours; henceforth dispose of it. But thi_avor which you bestow upon me I do not merit. I have three friends who ar_ore meritorious and more worthy—"
  • "You are a brave youth, d'Artagnan," interrupted the cardinal, tapping hi_amiliarly on the shoulder, charmed at having vanquished this rebelliou_ature. "Do with this commission what you will; only remember, though the nam_e blank, it is to you I give it."
  • "I shall never forget it," replied d'Artagnan. "Your Eminence may be certai_f that."
  • The cardinal turned and said in a loud voice, "Rochefort!" The chevalier, wh_o doubt was near the door, entered immediately.
  • "Rochefort," said the cardinal, "you see Monsieur d'Artagnan. I receive hi_mong the number of my friends. Greet each other, then; and be wise if yo_ish to preserve your heads."
  • Rochefort and d'Artagnan coolly greeted each other with their lips; but th_ardinal was there, observing them with his vigilant eye.
  • They left the chamber at the same time.
  • "We shall meet again, shall we not, monsieur?"
  • "When you please," said d'Artagnan.
  • "An opportunity will come," replied Rochefort.
  • "Hey?" said the cardinal, opening the door.
  • The two men smiled at each other, shook hands, and saluted his Eminence.
  • "We were beginning to grow impatient," said Athos.
  • "Here I am, my friends," replied d'Artagnan; "not only free, but in favor."
  • "Tell us about it."
  • "This evening; but for the moment, let us separate."
  • Accordingly, that same evening d'Artagnan repaired to the quarters of Athos, whom he found in a fair way to empty a bottle of Spanish wine—an occupatio_hich he religiously accomplished every night.
  • D'Artagnan related what had taken place between the cardinal and himself, an_rawing the commission from his pocket, said, "Here, my dear Athos, thi_aturally belongs to you."
  • Athos smiled with one of his sweet and expressive smiles.
  • "Friend," said he, "for Athos this is too much; for the Comte de la Fere it i_oo little. Keep the commission; it is yours. Alas! you have purchased i_early enough."
  • D'Artagnan left Athos's chamber and went to that of Porthos. He found hi_lothed in a magnificent dress covered with splendid embroidery, admirin_imself before a glass.
  • "Ah, ah! is that you, dear friend?" exclaimed Porthos. "How do you think thes_arments fit me?"
  • "Wonderfully," said d'Artagnan; "but I come to offer you a dress which wil_ecome you still better."
  • "What?" asked Porthos.
  • "That of a lieutenant of Musketeers."
  • D'Artagnan related to Porthos the substance of his interview with th_ardinal, and said, taking the commission from his pocket, "Here, my friend, write your name upon it and become my chief."
  • Porthos cast his eyes over the commission and returned it to d'Artagnan, t_he great astonishment of the young man.
  • "Yes," said he, "yes, that would flatter me very much; but I should not hav_ime enough to enjoy the distinction. During our expedition to Bethune th_usband of my duchess died; so, my dear, the coffer of the defunct holding ou_ts arms to me, I shall marry the widow. Look here! I was trying on my weddin_uit. Keep the lieutenancy, my dear, keep it."
  • The young man then entered the apartment of Aramis. He found him kneelin_efore a PRIEDIEU with his head leaning on an open prayer book.
  • He described to him his interview with the cardinal, and said, for the thir_ime drawing his commission from his pocket, "You, our friend, ou_ntelligence, our invisible protector, accept this commission. You hav_erited it more than any of us by your wisdom and your counsels, alway_ollowed by such happy results."
  • "Alas, dear friend!" said Aramis, "our late adventures have disgusted me wit_ilitary life. This time my determination is irrevocably taken. After th_iege I shall enter the house of the Lazarists. Keep the commission, d'Artagnan; the profession of arms suits you. You will be a brave an_dventurous captain."
  • D'Artagnan, his eye moist with gratitude though beaming with joy, went back t_thos, whom he found still at table contemplating the charms of his last glas_f Malaga by the light of his lamp.
  • "Well," said he, "they likewise have refused me."
  • "That, dear friend, is because nobody is more worthy than yourself."
  • He took a quill, wrote the name of d'Artagnan in the commission, and returne_t to him.
  • "I shall then have no more friends," said the young man. "Alas! nothing bu_itter recollections."
  • And he let his head sink upon his hands, while two large tears rolled down hi_heeks.
  • "You are young," replied Athos; "and your bitter recollections have time t_hange themselves into sweet remembrances."