Make your own free website on Tripod.com

List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

returned to the camp by the causeway on the right.

Why had these men come back after having returned to the camp?  That was
the question which first presented itself to Athos.  The sergeant, with
his head raised, appeared to be watching the moment when the gentleman
should appear to address him.  Athos, surprised to see these men, whom he
had seen depart the night before, could not refrain from expressing his
astonishment to them.

"There is nothing surprising in that, monsieur," said the sergeant; "for
yesterday the general commanded me to watch over your safety, and I
thought it right to obey that order."

"Is the general at the camp?" asked Athos.

"No doubt he is, monsieur; as when he left you he was going back."

"Well, wait for me a moment; I am going thither to render an account of
the fidelity with which you fulfilled your duty, and to get my sword,
which I left upon the table in the tent."

"This happens very well," said the sergeant, "for we were about to
request you to do so."

Athos fancied he could detect an air of equivocal _bonhomie_ upon the
countenance of the sergeant; but the adventure of the vault might have
excited the curiosity of the man, and it was not surprising that he
allowed some of the feelings which agitated his mind to appear in his
face.  Athos closed the doors carefully, confiding the keys to Grimaud,
who had chosen his domicile beneath the shed itself, which led to the
cellar where the casks had been deposited.  The sergeant escorted the
Comte de la Fere to the camp.  There a fresh guard awaited him, and
relieved the four men who had conducted Athos.

This fresh guard was commanded by the aid-de-camp Digby, who, on their
way, fixed upon Athos looks so little encouraging, that the Frenchman
asked himself whence arose, with regard to him, this vigilance and this
severity, when the evening before he had been left perfectly free.  He
nevertheless continued his way to the headquarters, keeping to himself
the observations which men and things forced him to make.  He found in
the general's tent, to which he had been introduced the evening before,
three superior officers: these were Monk's lieutenant and two colonels.
Athos perceived his sword; it was still on the table where he left it.
Neither of the officers had seen Athos, consequently neither of them knew
him.  Monk's lieutenant asked, at the appearance of Athos, if that were
the same gentleman with whom the general had left the tent.

"Yes, your honor," said the sergeant; "it is the same."

"But," said Athos, haughtily, "I do not deny it, I think; and now,
gentlemen, in turn, permit me to ask you to what purpose these questions
are asked, and particularly some explanations upon the tone in which you
ask them?"

"Monsieur," said the lieutenant, "if we address these questions to you,
it is because we have a right to do so, and if we make them in a
particular tone, it is because that tone, believe me, agrees with the
circumstances."

"Gentlemen," said Athos, "you do not know who I am; but I must tell you
that I acknowledge no one here but General Monk as my equal.  Where is
he?  Let me be conducted to him, and if he has any questions to put to
me, I will answer him and to his satisfaction, I hope.  I repeat,
gentlemen, where is the general?"

"Eh! good God! you know better than we do where he is," said the
lieutenant.

"I?"

"Yes, you."

"Monsieur," said Athos; "I do not understand you."

"You will understand me - and, in the first place, do not speak so
loudly."

Athos smiled disdainfully.

"We don't ask you to smile," said one of the colonels warmly; "we require
you to answer."

"And I, gentlemen, declare to you that I will not reply until I am in
the presence of the general."

"But," replied the same colonel who had already spoken, "you know very
well that is impossible."

"This is the second time I have received this strange reply to the wish I
express," said Athos.  "Is the general absent?"

This question was made with such apparent good faith, and the gentleman
wore an air of such natural surprise, that the three officers exchanged a
meaning look.  The lieutenant, by a tacit convention with the other two,
was spokesman.

"Monsieur, the general left you last night on the borders of the
monastery."

"Yes, monsieur."

"And you went - "

"It is not for me to answer you, but for those who have accompanied me.
They were your soldiers, ask them."

"But if we please to question you?"

"Then it will please me to reply, monsieur, that I do not recognize any
one here, that I know no one here but the general, and that it is to him
alone I will reply."

"So be it, monsieur; but as we are the masters, we constitute ourselves a
council of war, and when you are before judges you must reply."

The countenance of Athos expressed nothing but astonishment and disdain,
instead of the terror the officers expected to read in it at this threat.

"Scottish or English judges upon me, a subject of the king of France;
upon me, placed under the safeguard of British honor!  You are mad,
gentlemen!" said Athos, shrugging his shoulders.

The officers looked at each other.  "Then, monsieur," said one of them,
"do you pretend not to know where the general is?"

"To that, monsieur, I have already replied."

"Yes, but you have already replied an incredible thing."

"It is true, nevertheless, gentlemen.  Men of my rank are not generally
liars.  I am a gentleman, I have told you, and when I have at my side the
sword which, by an excess of delicacy, I left last night upon the table
whereon it still lies, believe me, no man says that to me which I am
unwilling to hear.  I am at this moment disarmed; if you pretend to be my
judges, try me; if you are but my executioners, kill me."

"But, monsieur - " asked the lieutenant, in a more courteous voice,
struck with the lofty coolness of Athos.

"Sir, I came to speak confidentially with your general about affairs of
importance.  It was not an ordinary welcome that he gave me.  The
accounts your soldiers can give you may convince you of that.  If, then,
the general received me in that manner, he knew my titles to his esteem.
Now, you do not suspect, I should think, that I should reveal my secrets
to you, and still less his."

"But these casks, what do they contain?"

"Have you not put that question to your soldiers?  What was their
reply?"

"That they contained powder and ball."

"From whom had they that information?  They must have told you that."

"From the general; but we are not dupes."

"Beware, gentlemen; it is not to me you are now giving the lie, it is to
your leader."

The officers again looked at each other.  Athos continued: "Before your
soldiers the general told me to wait a week, and at the expiration of
that week he would give me the answer he had to make me.  Have I fled
away?  No; I wait."

"He told you to wait a week!" cried the lieutenant.

"He told me that so clearly, sir, that I have a sloop at the mouth of the
river, which I could with ease have joined yesterday, and embarked.  Now,
if I have remained, it was only in compliance with the desire of your
general; his honor having requested me not to depart without a last
audience, which he fixed at a week hence.  I repeat to you, then, I am
waiting."

The lieutenant turned towards the other officers, and said, in a low
voice: "If this gentleman speaks truth, there may still be some hope.
The general may be carrying out some negotiations so secret, that he
thought it imprudent to inform even us.  Then the time limited for his
absence would be a week."  Then, turning towards Athos: "Monsieur," said
he, "your declaration is of the most serious importance; are you willing
to repeat it under the seal of an oath?"

"Sir," replied Athos, "I have always lived in a world where my simple
word was regarded as the most sacred of oaths."

"This time, however, monsieur, the circumstance is more grave than any
you may have been placed in.  The safety of the whole army is at stake.
Reflect; the general has disappeared, and our search for him has been in
vain.  Is this disappearance natural?  Has a crime been committed?  Are
we not bound to carry our investigations to extremity?  Have we any right
to wait with patience?  At this moment, everything, monsieur, depends
upon the words you are about to pronounce."

"Thus questioned, gentlemen, I no longer hesitate," said Athos.  "Yes, I
came hither to converse confidentially with General Monk, and ask him for
an answer regarding certain interests; yes, the general being, doubtless,
unable to pronounce before the expected battle, begged me to remain a
week in the house I inhabit, promising me that in a week I should see him
again.  Yes, all this is true, and I swear it by God who is the absolute
master of my life and yours."  Athos pronounced these words with so much
grandeur and solemnity, that the three officers were almost convinced.
Nevertheless, one of the colonels made a last attempt.

"Monsieur," said he, "although we may now be persuaded of the truth of
what you say, there is yet a strange mystery in all this.  The general is
too prudent a man to have thus abandoned his army on the eve of a battle
without having at least given notice of it to one of us.  As for myself,
I cannot believe but some strange event has been the cause of this
disappearance.  Yesterday some foreign fishermen came to sell their fish
here; they were lodged yonder among the Scots; that is to say, on the
road the general took with this gentleman, to go to the abbey, and to
return from it.  It was one of these fishermen that accompanied the
general with a light.  And this morning, bark and fishermen have all
disappeared, carried away by the night's tide."

"For my part," said the lieutenant, "I see nothing in that that is not
quite natural, for these people were not prisoners."

"No; but I repeat it was one of them who lighted the general and this
gentleman to the abbey, and Digby assures us that the general had strong
suspicions concerning those people.  Now, who can say whether these

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >



Other sites:

db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com