List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

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

"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

"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.


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

"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,

"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

"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.

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: