List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Raoul, indignant, turned round frowningly, flushed with anger and his lip
curling with disdain.  The Chevalier de Lorraine turned on his heel, but
De Wardes remained and waited.

"You will not break yourself of the habit," said Raoul to De Wardes, "of
insulting the absent; yesterday it was M. d'Artagnan, to-day it is the
Duke of Buckingham."

"You know very well, monsieur," returned De Wardes, "that I sometimes
insult those who are present."

De Wardes was close to Raoul, their shoulders met, their faces
approached, as if to mutually inflame each other by the fire of their
looks and of their anger.  It could be seen that the one was at the
height of fury, the other at the end of his patience.  Suddenly a voice
was heard behind them full of grace and courtesy, saying, "I believe I
heard my name pronounced."

They turned round and saw D'Artagnan, who, with a smiling eye and a
cheerful face, had just placed his hand on De Wardes's shoulder.  Raoul
stepped back to make room for the musketeer.  De Wardes trembled from
head to foot, turned pale, but did not move.  D'Artagnan, still with the
same smile, took the place which Raoul had abandoned to him.

"Thank you, my dear Raoul," he said.  "M. de Wardes, I wish to talk with
you.  Do not leave us, Raoul; every one can hear what I have to say to M.
de Wardes."  His smile immediately faded away, and his glace became cold
and sharp as a sword.

"I am at your orders, monsieur," said De Wardes.

"For a very long time," resumed D'Artagnan, "I have sought an opportunity
of conversing with you; to-day is the first time I have found it.  The
place is badly chosen, I admit, but you will perhaps have the goodness to
accompany me to my apartments, which are on the staircase at the end of
this gallery."

"I follow you, monsieur," said De Wardes.

"Are you alone here?" said D'Artagnan.

"No; I have M. Manicamp and M. de Guiche, two of my friends."

"That's well," said D'Artagnan; "but two persons are not sufficient; you
will be able to find a few others, I trust."

"Certainly," said the young man, who did not know what object D'Artagnan
had in view.  "As many as you please."

"Are they friends?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Real friends?"

"No doubt of it."

"Very well, get a good supply, then.  Do you come, too, Raoul; bring M.
de Guiche and the Duke of Buckingham."

"What a disturbance," replied De Wardes, attempting to smile.  The
captain slightly signed to him with his hand, as though to recommend him
to be patient, and then led the way to his apartments. (2)

Chapter XX:
Sword-Thrusts in the Water (concluded).

D'Artagnan's apartment was not unoccupied; for the Comte de la Fere,
seated in the recess of a window, awaited him.  "Well," said he to
D'Artagnan, as he saw him enter.

"Well," said the latter, "M. de Wardes has done me the honor to pay me a
visit, in company with some of his own friends, as well as of ours."  In
fact, behind the musketeer appeared De Wardes and Manicamp, followed by
De Guiche and Buckingham, who looked surprised, not knowing what was
expected of them.  Raoul was accompanied by two or three gentlemen; and,
as he entered, glanced round the room, and perceiving the count, he went
and placed himself by his side.  D'Artagnan received his visitors with
all the courtesy he was capable of; he preserved his unmoved and
unconcerned look.  All the persons present were men of distinction,
occupying posts of honor and credit at the court.  After he had
apologized to each of them for any inconvenience he might have put them
to, he turned towards De Wardes, who, in spite of his customary self-
command, could not prevent his face betraying some surprise mingled with
not a little uneasiness.

"Now, monsieur," said D'Artagnan, "since we are no longer within the
precincts of the king's palace, and since we can speak out without
failing in respect to propriety, I will inform you why I have taken the
liberty to request you to visit me here, and why I have invited these
gentlemen to be present at the same time.  My friend, the Comte de la
Fere, has acquainted me with the injurious reports you are spreading
about myself.  You have stated that you regard me as your mortal enemy,
because I was, so you affirm, that of your father."

"Perfectly true, monsieur, I have said so," replied De Wardes, whose
pallid face became slightly tinged with color.

"You accuse me, therefore, of a crime, or a fault, or of some mean and
cowardly act.  Have the goodness to state your charge against me in
precise terms."

"In the presence of witnesses?"

"Most certainly in the presence of witnesses; and you see I have selected
them as being experienced in affairs of honor."

"You do not appreciate my delicacy, monsieur.  I have accused you, it is
true; but I have kept the nature of the accusation a perfect secret.  I
entered into no details; but have rested satisfied by expressing my
hatred in the presence of those on whom a duty was almost imposed to
acquaint you with it.  You have not taken the discreetness I have shown
into consideration, although you were interested in remaining silent.  I
can hardly recognize your habitual prudence in that, M. d'Artagnan."

D'Artagnan, who was quietly biting the corner of his moustache, said, "I
have already had the honor to beg you to state the particulars of the
grievances you say you have against me."


"Certainly, aloud."

"In that case, I will speak."

"Speak, monsieur," said D'Artagnan, bowing; "we are all listening to you."

"Well, monsieur, it is not a question of a personal injury towards
myself, but one towards my father."

"That you have already stated."

"Yes; but there are certain subjects which are only approached with

"If that hesitation, in your case, really does exist, I entreat you to
overcome it."

"Even if it refer to a disgraceful action?"

"Yes; in every and any case."

Those who were present at this scene had, at first, looked at each other
with a good deal of uneasiness.  They were reassured, however, when they
saw that D'Artagnan manifested no emotion whatever.

De Wardes still maintained the same unbroken silence.  "Speak, monsieur,"
said the musketeer; "you see you are keeping us waiting."

"Listen, then: - My father loved a lady of noble birth, and this lady
loved my father."  D'Artagnan and Athos exchanged looks.  De Wardes
continued: "M. d'Artagnan found some letters which indicated a
rendezvous, substituted himself, under disguise, for the person who was
expected, and took advantage of the darkness."

"That is perfectly true," said D'Artagnan.

A slight murmur was heard from those present.  "Yes, I was guilty of that
dishonorable action.  You should have added, monsieur, since you are so
impartial, that, at the period when the circumstance which you have just
related happened, I was not one-and-twenty years of age."

A renewed murmur was heard, but this time of astonishment, and almost of

"It was a most shameful deception, I admit," said D'Artagnan, "and I have
not waited for M. de Wardes's reproaches to reproach myself for it, and
very bitterly, too.  Age has, however, made me more reasonable, and,
above all, more upright; and this injury has been atoned for by a long
and lasting regret.  But I appeal to you, gentlemen; this affair took
place in 1626, at a period, happily for yourselves, known to you by
tradition only, at a period when love was not over-scrupulous, when
consciences did not distill, as in the present day, poison and
bitterness.  We were young soldiers, always fighting, or being attacked,
our swords always in our hands, or at least ready to be drawn from their
sheaths.  Death then always stared us in the face, war hardened us, and
the cardinal pressed us sorely.  I have repented of it, and more than
that - I still repent it, M. de Wardes."

"I can well understand that, monsieur, for the action itself needed
repentance; but you were not the less the cause of that lady's disgrace.
She, of whom you have been speaking, covered with shame, borne down by
the affront you brought upon her, fled, quitted France, and no one ever
knew what became of her."

"Stay," said the Comte de la Fere, stretching his hand towards De Wardes,
with a peculiar smile upon his face, "you are mistaken; she was seen; and
there are persons even now present, who, having often heard her spoken
of, will easily recognize her by the description I am about to give.  She
was about five-and-twenty years of age, slender in form, of a pale
complexion, and fair-haired; she was married in England."

"Married?" exclaimed De Wardes.

"So, you were not aware she was married?  You see we are far better
informed than yourself.  Do you happen to know she was usually styled 'My
Lady,' without the addition of any name to that description?"

"Yes, I know that."

"Good Heavens!" murmured Buckingham.

"Very well, monsieur.  That woman, who came from England, returned to
England after having thrice attempted M. d'Artagnan's life.  That was but
just, you will say, since M. d'Artagnan had insulted her.  But that which
was not just was, that, when in England, this woman, by her seductions,
completely enslaved a young man in the service of Lord de Winter, by name
Felton.  You change color, my lord," said Athos, turning to the Duke of
Buckingham, "and your eyes kindle with anger and sorrow.  Let your Grace
finish the recital, then, and tell M. de Wardes who this woman was who
placed the knife in the hand of your father's murderer."

A cry escaped from the lips of all present.  The young duke passed his
handkerchief across his forehead, which was covered with perspiration.  A
dead silence ensued among the spectators.

"You see, M. de Wardes," said D'Artagnan, whom this recital had impressed
more and more, as his own recollection revived as Athos spoke, "you see
that my crime did not cause the destruction of any one's soul, and that
the soul in question may fairly be considered to have been altogether
lost before my regret.  It is, however, an act of conscience on my part.

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: