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Chapter 62

Chapter LXII:
What Raoul Had Guessed.

As soon as Raoul had quitted Athos and D'Artagnan, as the two
exclamations that had followed his departure escaped their lips, they
found themselves face to face alone. Athos immediately resumed the
earnest air that he had assumed at D'Artagnan's arrival.

"Well," he said, "what have you come to announce to me, my friend?"

"I?" inquired D'Artagnan.

"Yes; I do not see you in this way without some reason for it," said
Athos, smiling.

"The deuce!" said D'Artagnan.

"I will place you at your ease. The king is furious, I suppose?"

"Well, I must say he is not altogether pleased."

"And you have come to arrest me, then?"

"My dear friend, you have hit the very mark."

"Oh, I expected it. I am quite ready to go with you."

"Deuce take it!" said D'Artagnan, "what a hurry you are in."

"I am afraid of delaying you," said Athos, smiling.

"I have plenty of time. Are you not curious, besides, to know how things
went on between the king and me?"

"If you will be good enough to tell me, I will listen with the greatest
of pleasure," said Athos, pointing out to D'Artagnan a large chair, into
which the latter threw himself, assuming the easiest possible attitude.

"Well, I will do so willingly enough," continued D'Artagnan, "for the
conversation is rather curious, I must say. In the first place the king
sent for me."

"As soon as I had left?"

"You were just going down the last steps of the staircase, as the
musketeers told me. I arrived. My dear Athos, he was not red in the
face merely, he was positively purple. I was not aware, of course, of
what had passed; only, on the ground, lying on the floor, I saw a sword
broken in two."

"'Captain d'Artagnan,' cried the king, as soon as he saw me.

"'Sire,' I replied.

"'M. de la Fere has just left me; he is an insolent man.'

"'An insolent man!' I exclaimed, in such a tone that the king stopped
suddenly short.

"'Captain d'Artagnan,' resumed the king, with his teeth clenched, 'you
will be good enough to listen to and hear me.'

"'That is my duty, sire.'

"'I have, out of consideration for M. de la Fere, wished to spare him
he is a man of whom I still retain some kind recollections - the
discredit of being arrested in my palace. You will therefore take a
carriage.' At this I made a slight movement.

"'If you object to arrest him yourself,' continued the king, 'send me my
captain of the guards.'

"'Sire,' I replied, 'there is no necessity for the captain of the guards,
since I am on duty.'

"'I should not like to annoy you,' said the king, kindly, 'for you have
always served me well, Monsieur D'Artagnan.'

"'You do not "annoy" me, sire,' I replied; 'I am on duty, that is all.'

"'But,' said the king, in astonishment, 'I believe the comte is your
friend?'

"'If he were my father, sire, it would not make me less on duty than I
am.'

"The king looked at me; he saw how unmoved my face was, and seemed
satisfied. 'You will arrest M. le Comte de la Fere, then?' he inquired.

"'Most certainly, sire, if you give me the order to do so.'

"'Very well; I order you to do so.'

"I bowed, and replied, 'Where is the comte, sire?'

"'You will look for him.'

"'And am I to arrest him, wherever he may be?'

"'Yes; but try that he may be at his own house. If he should have
started for his own estate, leave Paris at once, and arrest him on his
way thither.'

"I bowed; but as I did not move, he said, 'Well, what are you waiting
for?'

"'For the order to arrest the comte, signed by yourself.'

"The king seemed annoyed; for, in point of fact, it was the exercise of a
fresh act of authority, a repetition of the arbitrary act, if, indeed, it
is to be considered as such. He took hold of his pen slowly, and
evidently in no very good temper; and then he wrote, 'Order for M. le
Chevalier d'Artagnan, captain of my musketeers, to arrest M. le Comte de
la Fere, wherever he is to be found.' He then turned towards me; but I
was looking on without moving a muscle of my face. In all probability he
thought he perceived something like bravado in my tranquil manner, for he
signed hurriedly, and then handing me the order, he said, 'Go,
monsieur!' I obeyed; and here I am."

Athos pressed his friend's hand. "Well, let us set off," he said.

"Oh! surely," said D'Artagnan, "you must have some trifling matters to
arrange before you leave your apartments in this manner."

"I? - not at all."

"Why not?"

"Why, you know, D'Artagnan, that I have always been a very simple
traveler on this earth, ready to go to the end of the world by the order
of my sovereign; ready to quit it at the summons of my Maker. What does
a man who is thus prepared require in such a case? - a portmanteau, or a
shroud. I am ready at this moment, as I have always been, my dear
friend, and can accompany you at once."

"But, Bragelonne - "

"I have brought him up in the same principles I laid down for my own
guidance; and you observed that, as soon as he perceived you, he guessed,
that very moment, the motive of your visit. We have thrown him off his
guard for a moment; but do not be uneasy, he is sufficiently prepared for
my disgrace not to be too much alarmed at it. So, let us go."

"Very well, let us go," said D'Artagnan, quietly.

"As I broke my sword in the king's presence, and threw the pieces at his
feet, I presume that will dispense with the necessity of delivering it
over to you."

"You are quite right; and besides that, what the deuce do you suppose I
could do with your sword?"

"Am I to walk behind, or before you?" inquired Athos, laughing.

"You will walk arm in arm with me," replied D'Artagnan, as he took the
comte's arm to descend the staircase; and in this manner they arrived at
the landing. Grimaud, whom they had met in the ante-room, looked at them
as they went out together in this manner, with some little uneasiness;
his experience of affairs was quite sufficient to give him good reason to
suspect that there was something wrong.

"Ah! is that you, Grimaud?" said Athos, kindly. "We are going - "

"To take a turn in my carriage," interrupted D'Artagnan, with a friendly
nod of the head.

Grimaud thanked D'Artagnan by a grimace, which was evidently intended for
a smile, and accompanied both the friends to the door. Athos entered
first into the carriage; D'Artagnan followed him without saying a word to
the coachman. The departure had taken place so quietly, that it excited
no disturbance or attention even in the neighborhood. When the carriage
had reached the quays, "You are taking me to the Bastile, I perceive,"
said Athos.

"I?" said D'Artagnan, "I take you wherever you may choose to go; nowhere
else, I can assure you."

"What do you mean?" said the comte, surprised.

"Why, surely, my dear friend," said D'Artagnan, "you quite understand
that I undertook the mission with no other object in view than that of
carrying it out exactly as you liked. You surely did not expect that I
was going to get you thrown into prison like that, brutally, and without
any reflection. If I had anticipated that, I should have let the captain
of the guards undertake it."

"And so - ?" said Athos.

"And so, I repeat again, we will go wherever you may choose."

"My dear friend," said Athos, embracing D'Artagnan, "how like you that
is!"

"Well, it seems simple enough to me. The coachman will take you to the
barrier of the Cours-la-Reine; you will find a horse there which I have
ordered to be kept ready for you; with that horse you will be able to do
three posts without stopping; and I, on my side, will take care not to
return to the king, to tell him that you have gone away, until the very
moment it will be impossible to overtake you. In the meantime you will
have reached Le Havre, and from Le Havre across to England, where you
will find the charming residence of which M. Monk made me a present,
without speaking of the hospitality which King Charles will not fail to
show you. Well, what do you think of this project?"

Athos shook his head, and then said, smiling as he did so, "No, no, take
me to the Bastile."

"You are an obstinate fellow, my dear Athos," returned D'Artagnan,
"reflect for a few moments."

"On what subject?"

"That you are no longer twenty years of age. Believe me, I speak
according to my own knowledge and experience. A prison is certain death
for men who are at our time of life. No, no; I will never allow you to
languish in prison in such a way. Why, the very thought of it makes my
head turn giddy."

"Dear D'Artagnan," Athos replied, "Heaven most fortunately made my body
as strong, powerful, and enduring as my mind; and, rely upon it, I shall
retain my strength up to the very last moment."

"But this is not strength of mind or character; it is sheer madness."

"No, D'Artagnan, it is the highest order of reasoning. Do not suppose
that I should in the slightest degree in the world discuss the question
with you, whether you would not be ruined in endeavoring to save me. I
should have done precisely as you propose if flight had been part of my
plan of action; I should, therefore, have accepted from you what, without
any doubt, you would have accepted from me. No! I know you too well
even to breathe a word upon the subject."

"Ah! if you would only let me do it," said D'Artagnan, "what a dance we
would give his most gracious majesty!"

"Still he is the king; do not forget that, my dear friend."

"Oh! that is all the same to me; and king though he be, I would plainly
tell him, 'Sire, imprison, exile, kill every one in France and Europe;
order me to arrest and poniard even whom you like - even were it
Monsieur, your own brother; but do not touch one of the four musketeers,
or if so, _mordioux!_'"

"My dear friend," replied Athos, with perfect calmness, "I should like to
persuade you of one thing; namely, that I wish to be arrested; that I
desire above all things that my arrest should take place."

D'Artagnan made a slight movement of his shoulders.

"Nay, I wish it, I repeat, more than anything; if you were to let me
escape, it would be only to return of my own accord, and constitute
myself a prisoner. I wish to prove to this young man, who is dazzled by
the power and splendor of his crown, that he can be regarded as the first
and chiefest among men only on the one condition of his proving himself
to be the most generous and the wisest. He may punish me, imprison,
torture me, it matters not. He abuses his opportunities, and I wish him
to learn the bitterness of remorse, while Heaven teaches him what
chastisement is."

"Well, well," replied D'Artagnan, "I know only too well that, when you
have once said, 'no,' you mean 'no.' I do not insist any longer; you
wish to go to the Bastile?"

"I do wish to go there."

"Let us go, then! To the Bastile!" cried D'Artagnan to the coachman.
And throwing himself back in the carriage, he gnawed the ends of his
mustache with a fury which, for Athos, who knew him well, signified a
resolution either already taken or in course of formation. A profound
silence ensued in the carriage, which continued to roll on, but neither
faster nor slower than before. Athos took the musketeer by the hand.

"You are not angry with me, D'Artagnan?" he said.

"I! - oh, no! certainly not; of course not. What you do for heroism, I
should have done from obstinacy."

"But you are quite of opinion, are you not, that Heaven will avenge me,
D'Artagnan?"

"And I know one or two on earth who will not fail to lend a helping
hand," said the captain.

Alexandre Dumas pere