upon the grave of her victims." She wished to reply. "What I now tell you," added he, coldly, "I have already told the king." She clasped her hands. "I know," said she, "I have caused the death of the Vicomte de Bragelonne." "Ah! you know it?" "The news arrived at court yesterday. I have traveled during the night forty leagues to come and ask pardon of the comte, whom I supposed to be still living, and to pray God, on the tomb of Raoul, that he would send me all the misfortunes I have merited, except a single one. Now, monsieur, I know that the death of the son has killed the father; I have two crimes to reproach myself with; I have two punishments to expect from Heaven." "I will repeat to you, mademoiselle," said D'Artagnan, "what M. de Bragelonne said of you, at Antibes, when he already meditated death: 'If pride and coquetry have misled her, I pardon her while despising her. If love has produced her error, I pardon her, but I swear that no one could have loved her as I have done.'" "You know," interrupted Louise, "that of my love I was about to sacrifice myself; you know whether I suffered when you met me lost, dying, abandoned. Well! never have I suffered so much as now; because then I hoped, desired, - now I have no longer anything to wish for; because this death drags all my joy into the tomb; because I can no longer dare to love without remorse, and I feel that he whom I love - oh! it is but just! - will repay me with the tortures I have made others undergo." D'Artagnan made no reply; he was too well convinced that she was not mistaken. "Well, then," added she, "dear Monsieur d'Artagnan, do not overwhelm me to-day, I again implore you! I am like the branch torn from the trunk, I no longer hold to anything in this world - a current drags me on, I know not whither. I love madly, even to the point of coming to tell it, wretch that I am, over the ashes of the dead, and I do not blush for it - I have no remorse on this account. Such love is a religion. Only, as hereafter you will see me alone, forgotten, disdained; as you will see me punished, as I am destined to be punished, spare me in my ephemeral happiness, leave it to me for a few days, for a few minutes. Now, even at the moment I am speaking to you, perhaps it no longer exists. My God! this double murder is perhaps already expiated!" While she was speaking thus, the sound of voices and of horses drew the attention of the captain. M. de Saint-Aignan came to seek La Valliere. "The king," he said, "is a prey to jealousy and uneasiness." Saint- Aignan did not perceive D'Artagnan, half concealed by the trunk of a chestnut-tree which shaded the double grave. Louise thanked Saint- Aignan, and dismissed him with a gesture. He rejoined the party outside the inclosure. "You see, madame," said the captain bitterly to the young woman, - "you see your happiness still lasts." The young woman raised her head with a solemn air. "A day will come," said she, "when you will repent of having so misjudged me. On that day, it is I who will pray God to forgive you for having been unjust towards me. Besides, I shall suffer so much that you yourself will be the first to pity my sufferings. Do not reproach me with my fleeting happiness, Monsieur d'Artagnan; it costs me dear, and I have not paid all my debt." Saying these words, she again knelt down, softly and affectionately. "Pardon me the last time, my affianced Raoul!" said she. "I have broken our chain; we are both destined to die of grief. It is thou who departest first; fear nothing, I shall follow thee. See, only, that I have not been base, and that I have come to bid thee this last adieu. The Lord is my witness, Raoul, that if with my life I could have redeemed thine, I would have given that life without hesitation. I could not give my love. Once more, forgive me, dearest, kindest friend." She strewed a few sweet flowers on the freshly sodded earth; then, wiping the tears from her eyes, the heavily stricken lady bowed to D'Artagnan, and disappeared. The captain watched the departure of the horses, horsemen, and carriage, then crossing his arms upon his swelling chest, "When will it be my turn to depart?" said he, in an agitated voice. "What is there left for man after youth, love, glory, friendship, strength, and wealth have disappeared? That rock, under which sleeps Porthos, who possessed all I have named; this moss, under which repose Athos and Raoul, who possessed much more!" He hesitated for a moment, with a dull eye; then, drawing himself up, "Forward! still forward!" said he. "When it is time, God will tell me, as he foretold the others." He touched the earth, moistened with the evening dew, with the ends of his fingers, signed himself as if he had been at the _benitier_ in church, and retook alone - ever alone - the road to Paris. Epilogue. Four years after the scene we have just described, two horsemen, well mounted, traversed Blois early in the morning, for the purpose of arranging a hawking party the king had arranged to make in that uneven plain the Loire divides in two, which borders on the one side Meung, on the other Amboise. These were the keeper of the king's harriers and the master of the falcons, personages greatly respected in the time of Louis XIII., but rather neglected by his successor. The horsemen, having reconnoitered the ground, were returning, their observations made, when they perceived certain little groups of soldiers, here and there, whom the sergeants were placing at distances at the openings of the inclosures. These were the king's musketeers. Behind them came, upon a splendid horse, the captain, known by his richly embroidered uniform. His hair was gray, his beard turning so. He seemed a little bent, although sitting and handling his horse gracefully. He was looking about him watchfully. "M. d'Artagnan does not get any older," said the keeper of the harriers to his colleague the falconer; "with ten years more to carry than either of us, he has the seat of a young man on horseback." "That is true," replied the falconer. "I don't see any change in him for the last twenty years." But this officer was mistaken; D'Artagnan in the last four years had lived a dozen. Age had printed its pitiless claws at each angle of his eyes; his brow was bald; his hands, formerly brown and nervous, were getting white, as if the blood had half forgotten them. D'Artagnan accosted the officers with the shade of affability which distinguishes superiors, and received in turn for his courtesy two most respectful bows. "Ah! what a lucky chance to see you here, Monsieur d'Artagnan!" cried the falconer. "It is rather I who should say that, messieurs," replied the captain, "for nowadays, the king makes more frequent use of his musketeers than of his falcons." "Ah! it is not as it was in the good old times," sighed the falconer. "Do you remember, Monsieur d'Artagnan, when the late king flew the pie in the vineyards beyond Beaugence? Ah! _dame!_ you were not the captain of the musketeers at that time, Monsieur d'Artagnan." (7) "And you were nothing but under-corporal of the tiercelets," replied D'Artagnan, laughing. "Never mind that, it was a good time, seeing that it is always a good time when we are young. Good day, monsieur the keeper of the harriers." "You do me honor, monsieur le comte," said the latter. D'Artagnan made no reply. The title of comte had hardly struck him; D'Artagnan had been a comte four years. "Are you not very much fatigued with the long journey you have taken, monsieur le capitaine?" continued the falconer. "It must be full two hundred leagues from hence to Pignerol." "Two hundred and sixty to go, and as many to return," said D'Artagnan, quietly. "And," said the falconer, "is _he_ well?" "Who?" asked D'Artagnan. "Why, poor M. Fouquet," continued the falconer, in a low voice. The keeper of the harriers had prudently withdrawn. "No," replied D'Artagnan, "the poor man frets terribly; he cannot comprehend how imprisonment can be a favor; he says that parliament absolved him by banishing him, and banishment is, or should be, liberty. He cannot imagine that they had sworn his death, and that to save his life from the claws of parliament was to be under too much obligation to Heaven." "Ah! yes; the poor man had a close chance of the scaffold," replied the falconer; "it is said that M. Colbert had given orders to the governor of the Bastile, and that the execution was ordered." "Enough!" said D'Artagnan, pensively, and with a view of cutting short the conversation. "Yes," said the keeper of the harriers, drawing towards them, "M. Fouquet is now at Pignerol; he has richly deserved it. He had the good fortune to be conducted there by you; he robbed the king sufficiently." D'Artagnan launched at the master of the dogs one of his crossest looks, and said to him, "Monsieur, if any one told me you had eaten your dogs' meat, not only would I refuse to believe it; but still more, if you were condemned to the lash or to jail for it, I should pity you and would not allow people to speak ill of you. And yet, monsieur, honest man as you may be, I assure you that you are not more so than poor M. Fouquet was." After having undergone this sharp rebuke, the keeper of the harriers hung his head, and allowed the falconer to get two steps in advance of him nearer to D'Artagnan. "He is content," said the falconer, in a low voice, to the musketeer; "we all know that harriers are in fashion nowadays; if he were a falconer he would not talk in that way." D'Artagnan smiled in a melancholy manner at seeing this great political question resolved by the discontent of such humble interest. He for a moment ran over in his mind the glorious existence of the surintendant, the crumbling of his fortunes, and the melancholy death that awaited him; and to conclude, "Did M. Fouquet love falconry?" said he. "Oh, passionately, monsieur!" repeated the falconer, with an accent of bitter regret and a sigh that was the funeral oration of Fouquet.
db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com