Twenty Years After

Author: "Alexandre Dumas, père"  | Date: 1845

CHAPTER III: Two Old Enemies

D’ARTAGNAN arrived at the Bastille as it was striking half-past eight. His visit was announced to the governor, who, learning that he came from the minister with an order, went to receive him at the outside steps. The governor of the Bastille was then M. du Tremblay, brother of the famous Capuchin, Joseph,- that dreaded favorite of Richelieu who was called his Gray Eminence.

While the Marshal de Bassompierre was in the Bastille, where he remained twelve whole years, his companions, in their dreams of liberty, said to one another, "As for me, I shall go out of prison at such a time," and another at such and such a time, but Bassompierre used to say: "And I, gentlemen, shall leave only when M. du Tremblay leaves," meaning that at the death of the cardinal, Tremblay would certainly lose his position at the Bastille, and Bassompierre would regain his own at court.

His prediction came near being fulfilled, but in another way than Bassompierre had thought; for on the death of the cardinal, contrary to all expectation, everything went on as before,- M. du Tremblay was not removed, and Bassompierre was not released.

M. du Tremblay was still governor of the Bastille when d’Artagnan presented himself to execute the minister’s order; he received him with extreme politeness, and as he was about sitting down to the table, he invited d’Artagnan to join him.

"I should do so with the greatest pleasure," was the reply; "but if I am not mistaken, there is upon the envelope of the letter the words, ’In great haste.’"

"You are right," said Tremblay. "Holloa, Major! Let them bring down Number two hundred and fifty-six."

On entering the Bastille one ceased to be a man, and became only a number. D’Artagnan shuddered at the rattling of the keys; so he remained in the saddle without wishing to dismount, looking at the great bars, the strong windows, and the immense walls, which he had never seen except from the other side of the moat, and which had caused him a great terror some twenty years before. A bell sounded.

"I must leave you," said Tremblay to him. "They call me to sign the release of the prisoner. I shall hope to see you again, M. d’Artagnan."

"May the devil annihilate me if I return thy wish!" muttered d’Artagnan, accompanying the imprecation with the most gracious smile. "I am already ill from stopping five minutes in the courtyard. Come, come! I see that I should prefer to die upon straw, which will probably happen to me, than to amass a fortune of ten thousand livres of income by being governor of the Bastille."

He had scarcely finished this soliloquy when the prisoner appeared. On seeing him, d’Artagnan made a movement of surprise which he checked immediately. The prisoner entered the carriage without appearing to have recognized d’Artagnan.

"Gentlemen," said d’Artagnan to the four musketeers, "I am directed to exercise the greatest watchfulness in regard to the prisoner, and since there are no locks to the carriage doors, I shall sit beside him. M. de Lillebonne, have the goodness to lead my horse by the bridle."

"Willingly, Lieutenant," replied the person addressed.

D’Artagnan dismounted, gave the bridle of his horse to the musketeer, entered the carriage, and placing himself at the side of the prisoner, said in a voice in which it was impossible to detect the least emotion, "To the Palais-Royal, and at a trot."

Immediately the carriage started, and d’Artagnan, profiting by the obscurity of the archway under which they were passing, threw himself upon the neck of the prisoner. "Rochefort!" he exclaimed, "you! it is really you! I am not mistaken!"

"D’Artagnan!" cried Rochefort, in his turn astonished.

"Ah, my poor friend!" continued d’Artagnan. "Not having seen you for four or five years, I believed you to be dead."

"Faith," said Rochefort, "there is no great difference, I think, between a dead man and one buried. Now, I am buried, or it lacks little of it."

"And for what crime are you in the Bastille?"

"Do you wish me to tell you the truth?"


"Well, then, I know nothing about it."

"Have you any distrust of me, Rochefort?"

"No, on the honor of a gentleman; for it is impossible that I am imprisoned for the charge alleged."

"What charge?"

"As night-robber."

"You, night-robber! Rochefort, you are jesting?"

"I understand. This demands explanation, does it not?"

"I should think so."

"Well, here is what happened: One evening after a debauch at Reinard’s, near the Tuileries, with the Duc d’Harcourt, Fontrailles, Rieux and others, the Duc d’Harcourt proposed going to pull cloaks on the Pont Neuf. It is, you know, an amusement that the duc d’Orleans had made very much the fashion."

"Were you insane, Rochefort? At your age?"

"No, I was tipsy; and nevertheless, as the amusement seemed to me indifferent, I proposed to the Chevalier de Rieux to be spectators instead of actors, and in order to see the scene from the first row of boxes to mount upon the bronze horse. No sooner said than done. Thanks to the spurs which served us for stirrups, we were in a moment perched upon its rump. We were grandly placed, and saw everything charmingly. Already four or five cloaks had been carried off with a dexterity unsurpassed and without those losing them daring to say a word, when some imbecile less patient than the others thought fit to cry ’Guard! guard!’ and drew towards us a patrol of archers. D’Harcourt, Fontrailles, and the others take flight; Rieux wishes to do the same; I hold him back, saying that they will not come to dislodge us where we are. He does not listen, puts his foot on the spur to descend; the spur breaks; he falls, fractures a leg, and instead of keeping silent, begins to cry out like a man being hanged. I wish to jump down in my turn, but it is too late, and I leap into the arms of the archers, who conduct me to the Chatelet, where I sleep soundly, quite sure that in the morning I shall come out. The day passes; the next day passes; eight days pass. I write to the cardinal. The same day they come to find me, and conduct me to the Bastille. It is five years that I have been there. Do you believe that it can be for committing the sacrilege of mounting en croupe behind Henry IV?"

"No, you are right, my dear Rochefort; it cannot be that. But you are going to learn, probably, the reason why."

"Ah, yes,- for I have forgotten to ask you where you are taking me."

"To the cardinal."

"What does he want of me?"

"I know nothing about it, since I was ignorant even that it was you whom I was to bring."

"Impossible. You, a favorite."

"A favorite, I!" exclaimed d’Artagnan. "Ah, my poor count, I am more the cadet of Gascony than when I saw you at Meung, you know, some twenty-two years ago! Alas!" And a great sigh finished his phrase.

"Nevertheless, you come with an order?"

"Because by chance I happened to be in the antechamber, and the cardinal called for me as he would for another; but I am still lieutenant of Musketeers, and if I count aright it is nearly twenty-one years that I have been so."

"In fine, no misfortune has befallen you, that is much."

"And what misfortune do you think could happen to me? As says a certain Latin verse, which I have forgotten, or rather poorly learned:-

The lightning does not strike the valleys.

And I am a valley, my dear Rochefort, and one of the lowest kind."

"Then Mazarin is still Mazarin?"

"More than ever, my friend; they say that he is married to the queen."


"If not her husband, he is certainly her lover."

"To resist Buckingham and yield to a Mazarin!"

"Such are women!" replied d’Artagnan, philosophically.

"Women, true, but not queens."

"Egad! in these affairs queens are women twice over."

"And M. de Beaufort, is he still in prison?"

"Yes; why?"

"Ah! because, being well disposed towards me, he would have been able to extricate me from this affair."

"You are probably nearer being free than he; so it is you who will extricate him."

"Then, the war-"

"We are going to have it."

"With Spain?"

"No, with Paris."

"What do you mean?"

"Do you hear those musket-shots?"

"Yes; well, then?"

"Well, it is the citizens knocking the ball about before the game begins."

"Do you really think one could do anything with these bourgeois?"

"Certainly they are promising; and if they had a leader to unite all these groups-"

"How unfortunate not to be free!"

"Eh, mon Dieu! don’t be downcast. Since Mazarin has sent for you it is because he wants you; and if he wants you, well, I congratulate you. It is many years since any one has wanted me; so you see where I am."

"Complain, then, I advise you."

"Listen, Rochefort, a compact-"

"What is it?"

"You know we are good friends?"

"Egad! I bear the marks of our friendship,- three cuts of your sword!"

"Very well, if you are restored to favor, don’t forget me."

"On the honor of Rochefort, but on condition of a return."

"It’s agreed; there’s my hand."

"Therefore, the first occasion that you find to speak of me-"

"I speak in your favor; and you?"

"I do the same."

"A propos, and your friends, must I speak for them also?"

"Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Have you forgotten them?"


"What’s become of them?"

"I know nothing about it."


"Ah, mon Dieu, yes! We separated, as you know; they are alive, and that’s all I can tell you. From time to time I hear of them indirectly. But in what part of the world they are, devil take me if I know at all. No, on my honor, I have no other friend than you, Rochefort."

"And the illustrious- what’s the name of that young man whom I made sergeant in the regiment of Piedmont?"


"Yes, and the illustrious Planchet; what’s become of him?"

"He has married a confectioner’s shop in the Rue des Lombards, for he was a youth always fond of sweet things; so he is a citizen of Paris, and in all probability engaged in the insurrection at this moment. You will see that this queer fellow will be alderman before I shall be captain."

"Come, my dear d’Artagnan, have a little courage! It is when one is lowest on the wheel of fortune that the wheel turns and elevates us. This evening your lot is going, perhaps, to change."

"Amen!" exclaimed d’Artagnan, stopping the carriage.

"What are you doing?" demanded Rochefort.

"We have arrived, and I don’t wish that they should see me come out of your carriage. We are not acquainted."

"You are right. Adieu."

"Remember your promise."

And d’Artagnan re-mounted his horse and took the head of the escort. Five minutes afterwards they entered the courtyard of the Palais-Royal. D’Artagnan conducted the prisoner by the great staircase and through the antechamber and corridor. Arrived at the door of Mazarin’s cabinet, he was about to have himself announced when Rochefort laid his hand upon his shoulder.

"D’Artagnan," said Rochefort, "do you wish me to confess to you one thing I was thinking about during our whole drive on seeing the groups of citizens who met us, and who regarded you and your four men with angry looks?"

"Speak," answered d’Artagnan.

"It is that I had only to cry ’Help!’ to cause you and your escort to be cut to pieces, and then I should have been free."

"Why didn’t you do it?" asked d’Artagnan.

"Come, then!" returned Rochefort, "our sworn friendship! Ah! if it had been another than you who brought me I don’t say-"

D’Artagnan nodded.

"Can it be that Rochefort has become better than I?" said he to himself, and he caused himself to be announced to the minister.

"Let M. de Rochefort come in," said the impatient voice of Mazarin, as soon as he heard the two names pronounced," and beg M. d’Artagnan to wait; I have not yet finished with him."

These words rendered d’Artagnan radiant. As he had said, it was a long time since any one had had need of him, and this persistence of Mazarin in respect to him seemed a happy augury.

As to Rochefort, these words only put him thoroughly upon his guard. He entered the apartment, and found Mazarin sitting at the table dressed in his ordinary garb,- that of a monsignor, which was nearly that of the abbe’s of that day, excepting that he wore stockings and cloak of a violet color. The doors closed. Rochefort looked at Mazarin furtively, and surprised a glance of the minister meeting his own.

The minister was always the same,- his hair well arranged, curled, and perfumed, and thanks to his nicety of dress, he looked less than his age. As to Rochefort, it was different. The five years passed in prison had much aged this worthy friend of M. de Richelieu; his dark locks had become entirely white, and the bronzed colors of his complexion had given place to a pallor which seemed to indicate debility. On seeing him, Mazarin shook his head slightly, as much as to say, "This is a man who does not appear to me any longer good for much."

After a somewhat long silence, but which seemed an age to Rochefort, Mazarin drew from a bundle of papers an open letter, and showing it to the count, said,-

"I have found there a letter in which you sue for liberty, M. de Rochefort. You are, then, in prison?"

Rochefort trembled at this question. "But," said he, "I thought your Eminence knew it better than any one."

"I? oh, no! There is still in the Bastille a crowd of prisoners who have been there from the time of M. de Richelieu whose names even I do not know."

"Oh, but in my case it is different, my Lord! and you knew mine, since it was upon the order of your Eminence that I was transferred from the Chatelet to the Bastille."

"You think so?"

"I am certain of it."

"Ah, yes! I think I remember it. Did you not once refuse to undertake a journey to Brussels for the queen?"

"Ah, ah!" said Rochefort, "this, then, is the true reason? I have been seeking for it five years. Simpleton that I am I had not found it."

"But I do not say that it was the cause of your arrest; I merely ask you this question: Did you not refuse to go to Brussels for the queen, while you had consented to go there for the service of the late cardinal?"

"It is exactly because I had been there for the service of the late cardinal that I could not return there for that of the queen. I had been at Brussels at a fearful moment. It was the time of the conspiracy of Chalais. I had been there to intercept the correspondence between Chalais and the archduke, and already at that time, when recognized, I barely escaped being torn to pieces. How could I return there? I should injure the queen instead of serving her."

"Well, you understand how the best intentions are misconstrued, my dear M. de Rochefort. The queen saw in your refusal only a refusal pure and simple; she had also much to complain of you under the late cardinal,- her Majesty the queen-"

Rochefort smiled contemptuously. "It is precisely because I had served faithfully the Cardinal Richelieu against the queen, that, he being dead, you ought to comprehend, my Lord, that I would serve you faithfully against all the world."

"I, M. de Rochefort," said Mazarin, "I am not like M. de Richelieu, who aimed at the whole power; I am only a minister who wants no servants, being myself but a servant of the queen. Now, the queen is very sensitive; she knew of your refusal; she took it for a declaration of war, and knowing you to be a man of superior talent and therefore dangerous, my dear M. de Rochefort, she ordered me to make sure of you. That is the reason for your being shut up in the Bastille."

"Well, my Lord, it seems to me," said Rochefort, "that it is by an error that I find myself at the Bastille-"

"Yes, yes," replied Mazarin, "all that can be arranged. You are the man to comprehend certain affairs; and once understood, to act with energy."

"Such was the opinion of Cardinal Richelieu; and my admiration for that great man increases, since you are kind enough to say it is also your opinion."

"It is true," returned Mazarin, "the cardinal was a great politician, and therein lay his vast superiority over me. I am a man entirely simple and without subterfuge; that’s my disadvantage. I am of a frankness wholly French."

Rochefort compressed his lips to prevent a smile.

"I come now to the point. I have need of good friends, of faithful servants. When I say I need, I mean the queen needs them. I do nothing except by her commands; pray understand that,- not like M. le Cardinal Richelieu who did everything according to his own caprice. So I shall never be a great man like him, but in exchange I am a simple soul, M. de Rochefort, and hope to prove it to you."

Rochefort knew well that silky voice, in which from time to time could be heard a slight lisp, resembling the hissing of a viper.

"I am ready to believe you, my Lord," said he, "although for my part I have had few proofs of this simplicity of which your Eminence speaks. Do not forget, my Lord," continued Rochefort, seeing the movement the minister tried to repress,- "do not forget that I have been five years in the Bastille, and that nothing gives one falser ideas than looking at things through the bars of a prison."

"Ah, M. de Rochefort, I have already told you that I had nothing to do with your imprisonment. The queen,- the pettishness of a woman and of a princess. But that passes away as suddenly as it comes, and is forgotten."

"I can conceive, my Lord, that she has forgotten it,- she who has passed five years at the Palais-Royal in the midst of fetes and courtiers; but I who have passed them in the Bastille-"

"Ah, mon Dieu! my dear M. de Rochefort! Do you think the Palais-Royal is the abode of gayety? No. We have had our great annoyances there, I assure you. But let us speak no longer of all that. As for me, I play an open hand, as I always do. Come, are you on our side, M. de Rochefort?"

"You should understand, my Lord, that I can desire nothing better, but I am entirely ignorant of the state of affairs. At the Bastille one talks politics only with soldiers and jailers, and you have no idea, my Lord, how little that sort of people knows of passing events. I am of M. de Bassompierre’s party. Is he still one of the seventeen lords!"

"He is dead, sir, and it is a great loss. He was devoted to the queen, and men of loyalty are rare."

"Zounds, I think so," said Rochefort, "and when you find them you send them to the Bastille."

"But if that is so," said Mazarin, "what proves devotion?"

"Deeds," said Rochefort.

"Ah, yes! deeds," returned the minister, reflecting, "but where to find these men of deeds?"

Rochefort shook his head. "They are never wanting, my Lord, only you don’t know how to seek for them."

"I don’t know how to seek for them! What do you mean, my dear M. de Rochefort? Come, instruct me. You should have learned much in your intimacy with the late cardinal. Ah! he was a great man."

"Will my Lord be angry if I read him a lesson?"

"I, never! you know you may say anything to me. I try to be loved and not to be feared."

"Well, my Lord, there is a proverb written on the wall of my cell with the point of a nail."

"And what is the proverb?"

"Here it is, my Lord: ’Like master-’"

"I know it; ’like valet.’"

"No; ’like servant.’ It is a little change that those devoted characters of whom I was speaking just now introduced for their private satisfaction."

"Well! what does the proverb mean?"

"It means that M. de Richelieu was able to find trusty servants,- dozens and dozens of them."

"He!- the mark for every poniard! he who passed his life in warding off the blows forever aimed at him!"

"But he did ward them off, and yet they were rudely given. For if he had active enemies, he had true friends."

"Ah," cried Mazarin, "that is all that I ask."

"I have known persons," continued Rochefort, who thought the moment arrived to keep his word with d’Artagnan,- "I have known persons, who by their address have a hundred times put at fault the penetration of the cardinal, by their valor defeated his guards and his spies; persons, who without money, without support, without credit, preserved to a crowned head its crown, and made the cardinal beg for mercy."

"But these persons of whom you speak," said Mazarin, smiling to himself because Rochefort reached the point to which he wished to lead him, "these persons were not devoted to the cardinal, since they fought against him."

"No, for they had been better recompensed; but they had the misfortune to be devoted to this same queen for whom just now you were asking servants."

"But how could you know all these things?"

"I know them because these persons were my enemies at that time, because they fought against me, because I did them all the harm I could, because they returned it of their best, because one of them with whom I was more particularly engaged gave me a sword-cut, some seven years ago,- the third from the same hand, the close of an old account."

"Ah," said Mazarin, with an admirable simplicity, "if I only knew such men."

"Eh, my Lord, you have had one of them at your very door for more than six years, and during six years you have judged him good for nothing."

"Who is it?"

"M. d’Artagnan."

"That Gascon!" cried Mazarin, with an air of surprise perfectly counterfeited.

"That Gascon saved a queen, and made M. de Richelieu confess that in point of ability, address, and political skill he was himself only a scholar."

"In very truth?"

"It is as I have the honor to tell it to your Excellence."

"Relate to me how it happened, then, my dear M. de Rochefort."

"It is quite difficult, my Lord," said he, smiling.

"He will relate it to me himself, then."

"I doubt it, my Lord."

"And why so?"

"Because the secret is not his own; because, as I have told you, the secret concerns a great queen."

"And he was alone in accomplishing such an enterprise as this?"

"No, my Lord, he had three friends, three brave men who aided him; such brave men as you were seeking just now."

"And these four men were united, you say?"

"As if these four men had been but one, as if their four hearts had pulsated in one breast. So what have they not accomplished, those four!"

"My dear M. de Rochefort, truly you pique my curiosity to a point I cannot describe. Can you not narrate to me this story?"

"No; but I can tell you a tale,- a veritable fairy tale, I answer for it, my Lord."

"Oh, tell it to me, M. de Rochefort; I am fond of tales."

"You really wish it, my Lord?" said Rochefort, attempting to discover a motive in that cunning and crafty face.


"Well, listen, then. Once upon a time there lived a queen,- a powerful queen, the queen of one of the greatest kingdoms of the world,- whom a great minister wished much to injure, though he had before loved her too well. (Do not try, my Lord; you cannot guess who it is. All this happened long before you came into the kingdom where this queen reigned.) Now, there came to the court an ambassador so brave, so magnificent, so elegant, that every woman lost her heart to him; and the queen herself, in remembrance doubtless of the manner in which he had treated affairs of State, had the indiscretion to give him certain personal ornaments so rare that they could not be replaced.

"As these ornaments were a gift of the king, the minister persuaded him to request the queen to wear them at an approaching ball. It is useless to tell you, my Lord, that the minister knew with certainty that these ornaments went with the ambassador; and the ambassador was then far away across the seas. The great queen was lost!- lost like the lowest of her subjects,- for she was falling from the height of all her grandeur."


"Well, my Lord, four men resolved to save her. These four men were not princes, they were not dukes, neither were they men of influence,- they were not even rich men. They were four soldiers having great hearts, strong arms, and free swords. They set out. The minister knew of their departure, and had posted people upon the road to prevent their arrival at their destination. Three of them were disabled by numerous assailants; one of them alone arrived at the port, killing or wounding those who wished to stop him, crossed the sea, and brought back the set of ornaments to the great queen, who was able to wear them upon her shoulder on the day designated, and this nearly ruined the minister. What do you say of this deed, my Lord?"

"It is splendid!" said Mazarin, musing.

"Well, I know of ten similar ones."

Mazarin did not speak; he was reflecting. Five or six minutes passed.

"You have nothing further to ask of me, my Lord?" said Rochefort.

"Yes; and M. d’Artagnan was one of these four men, you say?"

"It was he who led the enterprise."

"And the others, who were they?"

"My Lord, permit me to leave it for M. d’Artagnan to name them to you. They were his friends, not mine; he only would have some influence over them, and I do not even know them under their true names."

"You distrust me, M. de Rochefort. Well, I wish to be frank to the end: I want him, and you and all."

"Begin with me, my Lord, since you have sent to bring me, and I am here; then you can speak of the others. You will not be surprised at my curiosity; when one has been five years in prison, one is not sorry to know where one is to be sent."

"You, my dear M. de Rochefort, shall have the post of confidence; you shall go to Vincennes, where M. de Beaufort is prisoner. You will guard him well for me. Well! What is the matter?"

"The matter is that you propose to me a thing impossible," said Rochefort, shaking his head in disappointment.

"How, an impossible thing! And why is this thing impossible?"

"Because M. de Beaufort is one of my friends, or rather I am one of his. Have you forgotten, my Lord, that it was he who was responsible for me to the queen?"

"M. de Beaufort, since then, has been the enemy of the State."

"Yes, my Lord, it is possible; but as I am neither king nor queen nor minister, he is not my enemy, and I cannot accept the post you offer me."

"That is what you call devotion? I congratulate you upon it. Your devotion does not carry you too far, M. de Rochefort."

"And then, my Lord," returned Rochefort, "you will understand that to come out of the Bastille to enter at Vincennes is only a change of prisons."

"Say at once that you are of the party of M. de Beaufort, and this will be more frank on your part."

"My Lord, I have been so long shut up that I am only of one party,- the party of the open air. Employ me in any other matter; send me on a mission, occupy me actively, but on the highways, if possible."

"My dear M. de Rochefort," said Mazarin, with his bantering air, "your zeal carries you away; you think yourself still a young man, because your heart is yet young, but your strength fails you. Believe me, then, what you want now is rest. Holloa, some one!"

"You decide, then, nothing about me, my Lord?"

"On the contrary, I have decided."

Bernouin entered.

"Call an officer," said he; "and remain near me," he added in a low tone.

The officer came in. Mazarin wrote a few words which he gave to him; then bowing, "Adieu, M. de Rochefort," said he.

Rochefort bent low.

"I see, my Lord, that I am to be taken back to the Bastille."

"You are sagacious."

"I return there, my Lord; but I repeat it, you are wrong not to know how to employ me."

"You, the friend of my enemies!"

"What do you wish? It was only necessary to make me the enemy of your enemies."

"Do you think that it is only you who can serve me, M. de Rochefort? Believe me, I shall find others who will be worth as much."

"I wish you may, my Lord."

"Very well, you can go! A propos, it is useless for you to write me again, M. de Rochefort; your letters would be wasted."

"I have pulled the chestnuts out of the fire," muttered Rochefort, on retiring; "and if d’Artagnan is not content with me when I relate to him presently the panegyrics I have bestowed upon him he will be difficult to please. But where the devil are they taking me?"

In fact, they re-conducted Rochefort by the little staircase, instead of through the antechamber where d’Artagnan was waiting. In the courtyard he found the carriage and his escort of four men, but he looked around in vain for his friend.

"Ah, ah!" said Rochefort to himself; "this changes things, indeed! and if there are still as large crowds in the streets- well, we will try to prove to Mazarin that we are still good for some other business, thank God, than to guard a prisoner."

And he jumped into the carriage as lightly as if he were a man of only five and twenty.


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Chicago: Alexandre Dumas père, "Chapter III: Two Old Enemies," Twenty Years After Original Sources, accessed December 4, 2023,

MLA: Dumas, Alexandre, père. "Chapter III: Two Old Enemies." Twenty Years After, Original Sources. 4 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Dumas, A, 'Chapter III: Two Old Enemies' in Twenty Years After. Original Sources, retrieved 4 December 2023, from