The Three Musketeers
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Scarcely, however, had he taken twenty steps, before he was convinced that the woman was Madame Bonancieux, and the man Aramis.
At the very instant he felt fermenting in his heart all the suspicious torments of jealousy.
He was doubly betrayed; betrayed both by his friend, and by her whom he had already loved as a mistress.
Madame Bonancieux had sworn to him that she did not know Aramis; and a quarter of an hour after she had made this oath he found her hanging on his arm.
D’Artagnan did not reflect that he had only known the mercer’s pretty wife during the last three hours; that she only owed him a little gratitude for having delivered her from the men in black, who wished to carry her away; and that she had made him no promise. He looked upon himself as an outraged lover; as deceived, and laughed at; and the flush of anger passed over his face, as he resolved to ascertain the truth.
The young couple perceived that they were followed, and they increased their haste. D’Artagnan, however, had made his determination; he passed by them, and then returned towards them just as they were opposite the Samaritan, which was lighted by a lamp that threw its radiance over all that part of the bridge.
D’Artagnan stopped in front of them, and they stopped also.
“What do you want, sir?” asked the musketeer, recoiling a step, and in a foreign accent, which proved to d’Artagnan that he had at least deceived himself in one of his conjectures.
“It is not Aramis!” exclaimed d’Artagnan.
“No, sir, it is not Aramis; and as I find by your exclamation that you mistook me for another, I excuse you.”
“Excuse me indeed!” said d’Artagnan.
“Yes,” replied the unknown; “now let me pass on, since it is not with me that you have anything to do.”
“You are right, sir,” said d’Artagnan; “it is not with you that I have anything to settle, it is with the lady.”
“With the lady! You do not even know her,” exclaimed the stranger.
“You are mistaken, sir. I do know her.”
“Ah!” said Madame Bonancieux, in a reproachful tone; “I had your word of honour as a soldier, your promise as a gentleman, and I hoped I might have trusted to them.”
“And I,” said d’Artagnan, in confusion, “I had your promise.”
“Take my arm, madame,” said the stranger, “and let us proceed.”
But d’Artagnan—stunned, overwhelmed, annihilated by all that had happened—remained standing, with his arms crossed, before the musketeer and Madame Bonancieux.
The former came forward two paces, and put d’Artagnan aside with his hand.
D’Artagnan made one bound backwards, and drew his sword.
At the same moment, and with the quickness of lightning, the stranger drew his.
“In God’s name, my lord!” said Madame Bonancieux, throwing herself between the combatants, and seizing their swords with both her hands—
“My lord!” cried d’Artagnan, enlightened by a sudden idea; “My lord! pardon me, sir, but can you be–”
“My Lord Duke of Buckingham!” said Madame Bonancieux, in a very low voice, “and now you may destroy us all.”
“My lord—madame—pardon me; a thousand pardons; but, my lord, I loved her, and was jealous.You know, my lord, what it is to love! Pardon me, and tell me how I may die in your grace’s cause.”
“You are a brave youth,” said Buckingham, offering him a hand, which d’Artagnan pressed respectfully.
“You offer me your services, and I accept them. Follow us, at the distance of twenty paces, to the Louvre, and if any one dogs our steps, kill him!”
D’Artagnan put his naked sword under his arm, let the duke and Madame Bonancieux go forward about twenty steps, and then followed them, ready to execute to the letter the instructions of the elegant and noble minister of Charles I.
But, unfortunately, the young volunteer had no opportunity of affording this proof of his devotion to the duke; and the young woman and the handsome musketeer entered the Louvre, by the wicket in the Rue de l’Echelle, without encountering any interruption.
As for d’Artagnan, he went immediately to the Pineapple, where he found Porthos and Aramis waiting for him.
But without giving them any further reason for the trouble he had caused them, he told them that he had concluded by himself the business for which he at first thought he should have wanted their assistance.
And now, carried on as we have been by our history, let us leave our three friends to return each to his own home, whilst we follow, amidst the tortuous corridors of the Louvre, the Duke of Buckingham and his guide.
MADAME BONANCIEUX AND the duke entered the Louvre without any difficulty; Madame Bonancieux was known to be of the household of the queen; and the duke wore the uniform of the musketeers of M. de Treville, who, as we have said, were on guard that evening. Besides, Germain was devoted to the queen, and, if anything happened, Madame Bonancieux would be accused of having introduced her lover into the Louvre—that was all! She took the blame upon herself; her reputation would be lost, it is true; but of what value in the world was the reputation of a mercer’s little wife?
When they were once inside the court, the duke and the young woman kept close to the wall for about twenty paces; at the end of which Madame Bonancieux tried a small private door, which was usually open during the day, but closed at night. The door opened, and they both entered, and found themselves in total darkness; but Madame Bonancieux was well acquainted with all the turnings and twistings of this part of the Louvre, which was appropriated to the persons of the royal suite. She shut all the doors behind her, took the duke by the hand and going some steps on tip-toe, seized hold of a banister, put a foot upon the staircase, and began to ascend it. The duke had already counted two flights, when she turned to the left, went through a long corridor, descended another stage, walked a few steps forward, introduced a key into a lock, opened a door, and pushed her companion into a room lighted only by a night-lamp, saying to him—“Remain here, my lord duke; some one will come immediately.” Then she went out by the same door, locking it after her, so that the duke found himself literally a prisoner.
Yet though thus deserted, as it were, the duke, it must be confessed, did not feel the slightest fear. One of the prominent features of his character was the love of adventure and romance. Brave, determined, and enterprising, it was not the first time he had risked his life in such adventures. He had learned that this pretended message of Anne of Austria, on the faith of which he had come to Paris, was a snare; and, instead of returning to England, he had taken advantage of his position, and assured the queen that he would not depart without seeing her. The queen had at first positively refused an interview; but, fearing lest the duke might be guilty of some folly in his rage, she had resolved to see him, and to entreat him to return directly; when, on the very evening on which Madame Bonancieux was charged to conduct him to the Louvre, that lady was herself carried off. During two days it was not known what had become of her, and everything continued in suspense. But Madame Bonancieux once free, and in communication with la Porte, affairs had resumed their course; and she had now accomplished the perilous enterprise, which, but for her abduction, she would have executed three days before. Buckingham being left alone, approached a looking-glass. The dress of a musketeer became him wondrously. At thirty-five years old, he was justly considered as the handsomest man, and the most complete gentleman, of France or England. The favourite of two kings, rich as Cr?sus, all-powerful in a realm which he disturbed and tranquillised as he pleased, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, had engaged in one of those fabulous existences which remain, throughout the course of ages, an astonishment to posterity. Confident in himself, convinced of his power, and satisfied that the laws which restrain other people could not reach him, he went straight to the object he had fixed upon, even when that object was so elevated, and so dazzling, that it would have been madness in another to have even glanced towards it. It was thus that he had managed to approach the beautiful and haughty Anne of Austria many times, and to make her love him for his brilliant qualities.
Placing himself before the glass, the duke arrayed his beautiful fair hair, of which the pressure of his hat had disarranged the curls, and put his moustache in order; and then, his heart swelling with joy; happy and elated at having reached the moment he had so long desired, he smiled to himself proudly and hopefully.
At that moment a door concealed in the tapestry opened, and a woman appeared. Buckingham saw the reflection in the glass; he uttered a cry; it was the queen!
Anne of Austria was at that time twenty-six or twenty-seven years of age; that is, she was in all the glory of her beauty. Her deportment was that of a queen, or a goddess. Her eyes, which shone like emeralds, were perfectly beautiful, but at the same time full of gentleness and majesty. Her mouth was small and rosy; and though her under lip, like that of the princes of the house of Austria, protruded slightly beyond the other, her smile was eminently gracious, but at the same time could be profoundly haughty in its scorn. Her skin was celebrated for its velvet softness, and her hand and arm were of such surpassing beauty as to be immortalised, as incomparable, by all the poets of the time. Admirably, too, did her hair, which in her youth had been fair, but had now become chestnut, and which she wore plainly dressed, and with a great deal of powder, shade a face, on which the most rigid critic could have desired only a little less rouge, and the most fastidious sculptor only a little more delicacy in the formation of the nose.
Buckingham remained an instant perfectly dazzled. Anne of Austria never had appeared to him so beautiful even in the midst of balls, and festivals, and entertainments, as she now appeared, in her simple robe of white satin, and accompanied by Donna Estefana, the only one of her Spanish ladies who had not been driven from her by the jealousy of the king and the persecutions of the cardinal.
Anne of Austria advanced two steps; the duke threw himself at her feet, and before the queen could prevent him, had kissed the hem of her robe.
“My lord, you already know that it was not I who sent for you from England?”
“Oh! yes! madame; yes, your majesty!” exclaimed Buckingham. “I know that I have been a fool, a madman, to believe that the snow could have been animated, that the marble could grow warm; but what would you expect? The lover easily believes in love; nor has my journey been entirely in vain, since I behold you now.”
“Yes,” replied Anne, “but you know why, and how, I see you, my lord. I see you because, insensible to all my distress, you persist in remaining in a city where, by remaining, you risk your own life, and my honour; I see you, to tell you that everything separates us—the depths of the sea, the enmity of nations, the sanctity of vows! It is sacrilege to struggle against such things, my lord! And, lastly, I see you to tell you, that I must never see you more.”
“Speak, madame—speak, queen,” said Buckingham; “the softness of your voice repays the sternness of your words. You speak of sacrilege; but the sacrilege is in the separation of hearts, which God had formed for one another!”
“My lord,” cried the queen, “you forget that I have never said I loved you.”
“But neither have you ever said that you did not love me; and indeed, to say so, would be a proof of the greatest ingratitude on the part of your majesty. For tell me, where would you find a love like mine—a love, which neither time, nor absence, nor despair can extinguish, and which is recompensed by a riband, by a glance, a word? It is now three years, madame, since I saw you for the first time, and for three years have I adored you thus. Will you allow me to describe to you your dress on that occasion, and to tell the detail of the ornaments you wore? Mark me! I seem to see you now, seated, in the Spanish manner, upon cushions, wearing a dress of green satin, embroidered in silver and in gold, with pendant sleeves, fastened around your beautiful arms by large diamonds: you wore, also, a close ruff; and a small hat, of the same colour as your dress and adorned with a heron’s plume, upon your head. Oh! thus, thus, with closed eyes do I behold you as you then were; and I open my eyes again, only to see you now, a hundred times more lovely still!”
“What folly,” murmured Anne of Austria, who dared not be offended with the duke for preserving her portrait so faithfully in his heart: “what folly to nourish so useless a passion on such memories as these!”
“Alas! what would your majesty exact? I have nothing but memories; they are my happiness, my treasure, and my hope. Each meeting with you is a new jewel that I enshrine within the casket of my heart. This is the fourth of them that you have let fall, and that I have eagerly secured. Yes, in three years, madame, I have seen you only four times: the first I have already recalled to you; the second was at Madame de Chevreuse’s; the third was in the gardens of Amiens.”
“My Lord!” exclaimed the queen, blushing, “do not refer to that evening!”
“Oh! rather let me dwell upon it, madame, for it is the one radiant, blissful night of my existence! Does your majesty remember how lovely a night it was? The air was laden with odoriferous sweetness, and the blue sky was studded with innumerable stars. Ah! madame, I was alone with you for an instant then, and you were about to make me the confidant of your griefs—of the isolation of your life, and the deep sorrows of your heart. You were leaning on my arm—on this one, madam—and, when I bent my head towards you, I felt my face gently touched by your beautiful hair; and every time that I so felt it, I trembled through every vein. Oh! queen! queen! you know not the heavenly bliss, the joys of paradise, comprised in such a moment. Goods, fortune, glory, life, gladly would I give them all for another interview like that on such a night; for, madame, I will swear that then, at least on that night, you loved me!”
“My lord, it is possible that the influence of the place, the charm of that enchanting evening, the fascination of your looks, and the thousand circumstances which sometimes concur in leading a woman onwards to her fall, may have grouped themselves around me on that fatal night; but you are not ignorant, my lord, that the queen gave succour to the weakness of the woman; and that at the first word that you presumed to say, at the first liberty that you dared to take, I summoned others to my presence there!”
“Alas! it is but too true, and any feebler love than mine would never have survived the test: but my love, madame, came out from it more ardent, and immortalised. You thought to escape from me by returning to Paris;—you believed that I should never dare to quit the treasure which my master had commanded me to guard;—but what cared I for all the treasures and all the kings upon the earth! In one week, madame, I was on my return. On that occasion, madame, you had nothing to complain of; I had risked favour, and life, to see you for a single second; I did not even touch your hand; and you forgave me when you found I was submissive and repentant.”
“Yes, my lord, but you are well aware that calumny fastened even upon those follies in which I had so small a share. Prompted by the cardinal, the king felt extreme resentment. Madame de Vernet was dismissed; Putange was banished; and Madame de Chevreuse was disgraced. And do you not remember, my lord, that when you wished to return as an ambassador to France, it was his majesty himself by whom you were opposed.”
“Yes! and France is about to pay with a war for that opposition. I cannot see you again, madame; well! I will take care that you shall continually hear of me. What do you suppose to have been the true aim of that expedition to Rhe, and that league which I am projecting with the Protestants? The delight of seeing you! I am well enough aware that I have no chance of reaching Paris at the head of an army; but then, this war must bring about a peace; peace will require negotiations; and those negotiations shall be made by none but me. They will no longer dare to reject me then; and I shall return to Paris, and behold you once again, and be, for an instant, happy. It is but too true that my enjoyment will have been bought by the blood of thousands of human beings; but what will their lives be to me, provided that my eyes are blessed once more by seeing you! This may be folly, madame—perhaps madness; but tell me, pray, had ever woman a more impassioned lover, had ever a queen a more enthusiastic servant?”
“My lord! my lord! the witnesses you call for your defence accuse you. These very proofs, that you would give me of your love, are themselves almost crimes!”
“But only because you do not love me, madame. Oh! if you loved me, how different would these circumstances seem, but the joy would be too great, and I should go mad. You spoke but now, madame, of Madame de Chevreuse; but, oh! how much less cruel was that lady than you are! Holland loved her, and she responded to his love.”
“Madame de Chevreuse was not a queen!” murmured Anne of Austria; subdued, in spite of herself, by the expression of a passion so profound.
“And would you then love me if you were not? Oh! tell me, madame! say, that you would love me? let me believe that it is but the dignity of your rank that has come between you and me! let me believe that if you had been but Madame de Chevreuse, there might have been hope for the unhappy Buckingham! Oh! charming queen! thanks for these sweet words—a thousand, thousand thanks!”
“Alas! my lord! you have misunderstood me; I did not mean to let you infer–”
“Hush! hush!” exclaimed the duke. “Be not so cruel as to correct an error that is so full of happiness to me! You have yourself told me that I have been drawn into a snare; and I perhaps shall leave my life in it, for, strangely enough, for some time I have had presentiments of an approaching death.”—And the duke smiled, with a sad, yet winning smile.
“Oh, God!” exclaimed the queen, in a tone of terror, which manifested, more fully than she might have wished, her interest in the duke.
“But I did not tell you this to alarm you, madame. No, it is even ridiculous to speak of it; and, believe me, I do not give importance to such silly dreams. But the words which you have just uttered, the hope which you almost gave me, would be a recompense for everything, even for my life!”
“Oh! but I,” said Anne of Austria—“I also have had my presentiments. I dreamed that I saw you stretched upon the earth, all bloody from a wound.”
“On the left side, and inflicted by a knife, was it not?” said the duke.
“Yes, my lord! it was in the left side, and by a knife. But who could have told you of my dream? I have never spoken of it but in my prayers to God.”
“I ask for no more. You love me, madame! yes, you love me!”
“I love you?”
“Yes, you! Would God send to you the same dreams as to me, if you did not love me? Should we be visited by the same presentiments, if our two existences did not meet in our hearts? Yes, queen, you love me, and you weep for me!”
“Oh, my God! my God!” exclaimed the queen, “this is more than I can bear. In the name of heaven, my lord, withdraw! I know not whether I love you or not; but this I know, that I will never break my vow at the altar. Have pity on me then, and leave this kingdom. Oh! if you should be wounded in France—if you should die in France—if I could imagine that your love for me had been the cause of your death, I should never be consoled. The thought would madden me! Depart then, depart, I beseech you.”
“Oh! how beautiful you are now! How devotedly I love you!” exclaimed Buckingham.
“Depart, I implore you, and return hereafter,” continued the queen. “Come back as an ambassador, as a minister; come back, surrounded by your guards who will defend you, and your servants who will watch over you, and then I shall have no fear for your life, and shall have some happiness in seeing you!”
“Oh! but is it really true what you now tell me?”
“Give me, then, some pledge of your regard—some object which has once been yours—to satisfy me that I have not been indulging in a dream; something that you have once worn, and that I may wear now—a ring, a necklace, or a chain!”
“And will you go if I give you what you ask?”
“You will quit France, and will return to England?”
“Yes, I swear I will.”
“Wait, then; wait, sir.”
And Anne of Austria returned to her chamber, and came back almost in an instant, holding in her hand a small casket of rosewood, with her monogram encrusted in gold.
“Here my lord, here! keep this as a memorial of me!”
Buckingham took the casket, and again sank upon his knee.
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî