Chapter 59: The Bulletin

  1. 58: The Angel of Death
  2. Man in the Iron Mask
  3. 60: The Last Canto of the Poem

The Duc de Beaufort wrote to Athos. The letter destined for the living only reached the dead. God had changed the address.

“My Dear Count,” wrote the Prince in his large, bad, schoolboy’s hand,- “a great misfortune has struck us amid a great triumph. The King loses one of the bravest of soldiers; I lose a friend; you lose M. de Bragelonne.

“He has died gloriously, and so gloriously that I have not the strength to weep as I could wish.

“Receive my sad compliments, my dear Count. Heaven distributes trials according to the greatness of our hearts. This trial is very great, but not above your courage.

“Your good friend,

“Le Duc De Beaufort.”

The letter contained a relation written by one of the Prince’s secretaries. It was the most touching recital, and the most true, of that dismal episode which destroyed two lives. D’Artagnan, accustomed to battle emotions, and with a heart armed against tenderness, could not help starting on reading the name of Raoul,- the name of that beloved boy who had become, as his father had, a shade.

“In the morning,” said the Prince’s secretary, “Monseigneur commanded the attack. Normandy and Picardy had taken position in the gray rocks dominated by the heights of the mountains, upon the declivity of which were raised the bastions of Djidgelli.

“The cannon beginning to fire opened the action; the regiments marched full of resolution; the pikemen had their pikes elevated; the bearers of muskets had their weapons ready. The Prince followed attentively the march and movements of the troops, so as to be able to sustain them with a strong reserve. With Monseigneur were the oldest captains and his aides-decamp. M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne had received orders not to leave his Highness. In the mean time the enemy’s cannon, which at first had thundered with little success against the masses, had regulated its fire; and the balls, better directed, had killed several men near the Prince. The regiments formed in column, and advancing against the ramparts were rather roughly handled. There was a hesitation in our troops, who found themselves ill seconded by the artillery. In fact, the batteries which had been established the evening before had but a weak and uncertain aim, on account of their position. The direction from below to above lessened the accuracy of the shots as well as their range.

“Monseigneur, comprehending the bad effect of this position of the siege artillery, commanded the frigates moored in the little roadstead to begin a regular fire against the place. M. de Bragelonne offered himself at once to carry this order; but Monseigneur refused to acquiesce in the viscount’s request. Monseigneur was right, for he loved and wished to spare the young nobleman. He was quite right, and the event justified his foresight and refusal,- for scarcely had the sergeant charged with the message solicited by M. de Bragelonne gained the sea-shore, when two shots from long carbines issued from the enemy’s ranks and laid him low. The sergeant fell, dyeing the sand with his blood; observing which, M. de Bragelonne smiled at Monseigneur, who said to him, ‘You see, Viscount, I have saved your life. Report that, some day, to M. le Comte de la Fere, in order that learning it from you he may thank me.’ The young nobleman smiled sadly, and replied to the duke, ‘It is true, Monseigneur, that but for your kindness I should have been killed down there where the poor sergeant has fallen, and should be at rest.’ M. de Bragelonne made this reply in such a tone that Monseigneur answered him warmly: ‘Good God! young man, one would say that your mouth waters for death; but, by the soul of Henry IV, I have promised your father to bring you back alive; and please the Lord, I will keep my word.’

“M. de Bragelonne colored, and replied in a lower voice, ‘Monseigneur, pardon me, I beseech you; I have always had the desire to go to meet good opportunities; and it is so delightful to distinguish ourselves before our general, particularly when that general is M. le Duc de Beaufort.’

“Monseigneur was a little softened by this; and turning to the officers who surrounded him, gave his different orders. The grenadiers of the two regiments got near enough to the ditches and the intrenchments to launch their grenades, which had but little effect. In the mean while, M. d’Estrees, who commanded the fleet, having seen the attempt of the sergeant to approach the vessels, understood that he must act without orders, and opened his fire. Then the Arabs, finding themselves seriously injured by the balls from the fleet, and beholding the destruction and the ruins of their bad walls, uttered the most fearful cries. Their horsemen descended the mountain at the gallop, bent over their saddles and rushed full tilt upon the columns of infantry, which crossing their pikes stopped this mad assault. Repulsed by the firm attitude of the battalion, the Arabs threw themselves with great fury upon the commander’s position, which at that moment was not protected.

“The danger was great; Monseigneur drew his sword; his secretaries and people imitated him; the officers of the suite engaged in combat with the furious Arabs. It was then that M. de Bragelonne was able to gratify the inclination he had manifested from the beginning of the action. He fought near the Prince with the valor of a Roman, and killed three Arabs with his small sword. But it was evident that his bravery did not arise from the sentiment of pride natural to all who fight. It was impetuous, affected, forced even; he sought to intoxicate himself with noise and carnage. He excited himself to such a degree that Monseigneur called out to him to stop. He must have heard the voice of Monseigneur, because we who were close to him heard it. He did not, however, stop, but continued his course towards the intrenchments. As M. de Bragelonne was a well-disciplined officer, this disobedience to the orders of Monseigneur very much surprised everybody, and M. de Beaufort redoubled his earnestness, crying, ‘Stop, Bragelonne! Where are you going? Stop,’ repeated Monseigneur, ‘I command you!’

“We all, imitating the gesture of Monsieur the Duke,- we all raised our hands. We expected that the cavalier would turn bridle; but M. de Bragelonne continued to ride towards the palisades.

“‘Stop, Bragelonne!’ repeated the Prince, in a very loud voice; ‘stop! in the name of your father!’

“At these words M. de Bragelonne turned round, his countenance expressed a lively grief; but he did not stop. We then concluded that his horse must have run away with him. When Monsieur the Duke had imagined that the viscount was not master of his horse, and had seen him precede the first grenadiers, his Highness cried, ‘Musketeers, kill his horse! A hundred pistoles for him who shall kill his horse!’ But who could expect to hit the beast without at least wounding his rider? No one durst venture. At length one presented himself; he was a sharpshooter of the regiment of Picardy, named Luzerne, who took aim at the animal, fired, and hit him in the quarters, for we saw the blood redden the hair of the horse. Instead of falling, the cursed genet carried him on more furiously than ever. Every Picard who saw this unfortunate young man rushing on to meet death, shouted in the loudest manner, ‘Throw yourself off, Monsieur the Viscount! off! off! throw yourself off!’ M. de Bragelonne was an officer much beloved in the army! Already had the viscount arrived within pistol-shot of the ramparts; a discharge was poured upon him and enveloped him in its fire and smoke. We lost sight of him; the smoke dispersed; he was on foot, standing; his horse was killed.

“The viscount was summoned to surrender by the Arabs, but he made them a negative sign with his head, and continued to march towards the palisades. This was a mortal imprudence. Nevertheless, the whole army was pleased that he would not retreat, since ill chance had led him so near. He marched a few paces farther, and the two regiments clapped their hands. It was at this moment the second discharge shook the walls, and the Vicomte de Bragelonne again disappeared in the smoke; but this time the smoke was dispersed in vain,- we no longer saw him standing. He was down, with his head lower than his legs, among the bushes; and the Arabs began to think of leaving their intrenchments to come and cut off his head or take his body, as is their custom with infidels. But Monseigneur le Duc de Beaufort had followed all this with his eyes, and the sad spectacle drew from him many and painful sighs. He then cried aloud, seeing the Arabs running like white phantoms among the mastic-trees, ‘Grenadiers! pikemen! will you let them take that noble body?’

“Saying these words and waving his sword, he himself rode towards the enemy. The regiments, rushing in his steps, ran in their turn, uttering cries as terrible as those of the Arabs were wild.

“The combat began over the body of M. de Bragelonne; and with such inveteracy was it fought that a hundred and sixty Arabs were left upon the field by the side of at least fifty of our troops. It was a lieutenant from Normandy who took the body of the viscount on his shoulders and carried it back to the lines. The advantage was, however, pursued; the regiments took the reserve with them; and the enemy’s palisades were destroyed. At three o’clock the fire of the Arabs ceased. The hand to hand fight lasted two hours; that was a massacre. At five o’clock we were victorious on all the points; the enemy had abandoned his positions, and Monsieur the Duke had ordered the white flag to be planted upon the culminating point of the little mountain. It was then we had time to think of M. de Bragelonne, who had eight large wounds through his body, by which almost all his blood had escaped. Still, however, he breathed, which afforded inexpressible joy to Monseigneur, who insisted upon being present at the first dressing of the wounds and at the consultation of the surgeons. There were two among them who declared M. de Bragelonne would live. Monseigneur threw his arms round their necks, and promised them a thousand louis each if they could save him.

“The viscount heard these transports of joy, and whether he was in despair, or whether he suffered much from his wounds, he expressed by his countenance a contradiction which gave rise to reflection, particularly in one of the secretaries when he had heard what follows. The third surgeon was Frere Sylvain de Saint-Cosme, the most learned of ours. He probed the wounds in his turn, and said nothing. M. de Bragelonne fixed his eyes steadily upon the skillful surgeon, and seemed to interrogate his every movement. The latter, upon being questioned by Monseigneur, replied that he saw plainly three mortal wounds out of eight, but so strong was the constitution of the wounded, so rich was he in youth, and so merciful was the goodness of God that perhaps M. de Bragelonne might recover, particularly if he did not move in the slightest manner. Frere Sylvain added, turning towards his assistants, ‘Above everything, do not allow him to move even a finger, or you will kill him’; and we all left the tent in very low spirits. That secretary I have mentioned, on leaving the tent, thought he perceived a faint and sad smile glide over the lips of M. de Bragelonne when the duke said to him in a cheerful, kind voice, ‘We shall save you, Viscount, we shall save you!’

“In the evening, when it was believed the wounded young man had taken some repose, one of the assistants entered his tent, but rushed immediately out again, uttering loud cries. We all ran up in disorder, Monsieur the Duke with us; and the assistant pointed to the body of M. de Bragelonne upon the ground at the foot of his bed, bathed in the remainder of his blood. It appeared that he had had some convulsion, some febrile movement, and that he had fallen; that the fall had accelerated his end, according to the prediction of Frere Sylvain. We raised the viscount; he was cold and dead. He held a lock of fair hair in his right hand, and that hand was pressed tightly upon his heart.”

Then followed the details of the expedition, and of the victory obtained over the Arabs. D’Artagnan stopped at the account of the death of poor Raoul. “Oh,” murmured he, “unhappy boy! a suicide!’ And turning his eyes towards the chamber of the château in which Athos slept in eternal sleep, “They kept their promise to each other,” said he, in a low voice. “Now I believe them to be happy; they must be reunited”; and he returned through the parterre with slow and melancholy steps. All the village, all the neighborhood, was filled with grieving neighbors relating to one another the double catastrophe, and making preparations for the funeral.

  1. 58: The Angel of Death
  2. Man in the Iron Mask
  3. 60: The Last Canto of the Poem