Twenty Years After

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

CHAPTER XX: Grimaud on Duty

GRIMAUD thus came to the prison of Vincennes with these favorable accessories. The governor piqued himself on possessing an infallible eye, which would make one believe that he was truly the son of the Cardinal Richelieu, who also had had this constant pretension; he therefore attentively scrutinized the candidate, and conjectured that his contracted eyebrows, his thin lips, his hooked nose, his projecting cheek-bones, were unfailing marks of character. He spoke only a dozen words to him; Grimaud replied in four.

"Here is an accomplished fellow, that is my judgment of him," said M. de Chavigny. "Go and make yourself acceptable to M. la Ramee, then you will satisfy me."

Grimaud turned on his heels and went away to undergo the more rigorous inspection of La Ramee. What made it more difficult was that M. de Chavigny knew he could trust La Ramee, who, in his turn, wanted to be able to trust Grimaud.

Grimaud had the very qualities which could charm an officer who needs a subordinate; so, after a thousand questions which obtained only very curt replies, La Ramee, fascinated by this sobriety of words, rubbed his hands, and enrolled Grimaud.

"The orders?" asked Grimaud.

"Here they are: Never allow the prisoner to be by himself; take away every pointed or cutting instrument; prevent him from making any sign to people outside, or from talking too long with his guards."

"Is that all?" asked Grimaud.

"All for the present," replied La Ramee. "Fresh circumstances, should any occur, will bring fresh orders."

"Good," said Grimaud, and he entered the room of the Duc de Beaufort.

The latter was in the act of combing his beard, which he was allowing to grow as well as his hair, to serve as a trick on Mazarin, by showing his wretchedness and making a parade of his sad looks. But as some days ago he thought he recognized from the top of the prison the beautiful Madame de Montbazon inside a carriage, the remembrance of whom was always dear, and he did not wish to appear to her as he did to Mazarin, he had therefore, in the hope of seeing her again, asked for a leaden comb, which had been granted him. He had asked for a leaden one because, like all fair people, his beard was somewhat red; he dyed it by combing it.

Grimaud, on entrance, saw the comb, which the prince had just put down on the table; he took it up very respectfully. The duke looked at this strange figure with astonishment. The figure put the comb into his pocket.

"Holloa! hi! what are you about?" cried the duke. "And who is this old fool?"

Grimaud said nothing, but made a second salute.

"Are you dumb?" cried the duke.

Grimaud made a sign meaning No. "Who are you, then? Answer, I command you," said the duke.

"Keeper," replied Grimaud.

"Keeper!" cried the duke; "well, this gallows-bird is a fine addition to my collection. Holloa, La Ramee! some one!"

La Ramee came running in; unfortunately for the prince, he was going, trusting in Grimaud, to Paris. He was already in the courtyard, and returned very cross.

"What is it, Prince?" he asked.

"Who is this knave who has pocketed my comb?" asked the duke.

"He is one of your guards, Monseigneur, a well-deserving fellow, and whom you will appreciate as much as M. de Chavigny and I do, I am quite sure."

"Why, then, does he take my comb?"

"Tell me," said La Ramee, "why you took Monseigneur’s comb."

Grimaud took the comb from his pocket, and passing his finger along it, pointed out the large teeth, simply saying the one word, "Pointed."

"That is true," said La Ramee.

"What does the animal say?" asked the duke.

"That every pointed instrument is forbidden you by the king."

"Oh! ah!" said the duke. "Are you a fool, La Ramee? Why, it was you yourself who gave it to me."

"And I did very wrong, Monseigneur,- for by giving it to you I have been disobedient to my orders."

The duke looked furiously at Grimaud, who had returned the comb to La Ramee.

"I see that this rogue will displease me enormously," muttered the prince.

In fact, there is no intermediate feeling in a prison. Since both men and things are either friends or enemies, one loves or hates sometimes with reason, but much more often by instinct. Now, for this very simple reason that Grimaud had at first sight pleased M. de Chavigny and La Ramee, he must,- his good qualities in the eyes of the governor and of the officer becoming defects in the eyes of the prisoner,- at once displease M. de Beaufort.

Yet Grimaud did not wish on the very first day to insult the prisoner directly to his face; he required, not a sudden repugnance, but a thoroughly tenacious hatred. He withdrew, therefore, to give place to the four guards, who coming from dinner could resume their service near the prince.

On his part, the prince had to finish a new trick on which he relied a good deal. He had asked for some lobsters for his next day’s dinner, and counted on passing the day in making a little gallows in the middle of his room, to hang the finest of them. The red color which the cooking gave it could leave no doubt as to its meaning; and so he would have the pleasure of hanging the cardinal in effigy, in the hope that he might be hanged in reality, without any one being able to reproach him for hanging anything but a lobster.

The day was employed in making preparations for the execution. Prisoners grow very childish; and M. de Beaufort was of a character to become so more than any one else. He took his exercise as usual, broke off two or three small branches intended to play a part in the rehearsal, and having searched, found a bit of broken glass,- a find which seemed to give him the greatest pleasure. On coming in, he unravelled his handkerchief. None of these details escaped the keen eye of Grimaud.

Next morning the gallows was ready, and that he might be able to set it up in the middle of the room, Beaufort tapered off one of the ends with his broken glass.

La Ramee looked at him as he was making it, with all the curiosity of a father who thinks that he is finding out a new toy for his children, and the four guards with that air of idleness which formed then, as now, the principal trait in the soldier’s physiognomy.

Grimaud entered when the prince had just laid down his piece of glass, although he had not finished sharpening the foot of the gallows. But he had interrupted himself to attach the thread to its opposite extremity. He cast a look at Grimaud which showed some of last evening’s bad humor; but as he was already much pleased at the result which his new invention could not fail to have, he paid no further attention. Only when he had finished making a sailor’s knot at one end of his cord, and a slip-knot at the other, when he had cast a look on the dish of lobsters, and had selected the finest of them, he turned round to look for his bit of glass. It had disappeared.

"Who has taken my bit of glass?" asked the prince, frowning.

Grimaud made a sign that he had.

"Why? You again? Why have you taken it?"

"Yes," asked La Ramee, "why have you taken his Highness’s bit of glass?"

Grimaud, who held the piece of glass in his hand, touched the edge with his finger, and said, "Cutting."

"That is true, Monseigneur," said La Ramee. "Hang it, what an acquisition this fellow is!"

"M. Grimaud," said the prince, "in your own interest I conjure you to keep out of the reach of my hand."

Grimaud bowed, and retired to the end of the room.

"Chut, chut, Monseigneur," said La Ramee; "give me your little gallows, and I will sharpen it with my knife."

"You?" said the duke, laughing.

"Yes, I will; don’t you want it done?"

"Certainly. Well, in truth," said the duke, "that will be more droll. Take it, my dear La Ramee."

La Ramee, who had not understood the prince’s exclamation, sharpened the end of the gallows very properly.

"There," said the duke; "now make me a little hole in the ground while I fetch the culprit."

La Ramee went down on his knee, and made a hole.

Meanwhile, the prince suspended his lobster to the thread. Then he set up the gallows in the middle of the room, bursting out into laughter.

La Ramee also laughed heartily, without knowing exactly at what he was laughing, and the guards acted as chorus.

Grimaud only did not laugh. He approached La Ramee, and pointing to the lobster which was spinning round at the end of the cord, "Cardinal," said he.

"Hanged by his Highness the Duc de Beaufort," rejoined the prince, laughing louder than ever, "and by M. James Chrysostom la Ramee, the king’s officer."

La Ramee uttered a cry of terror, and rushed towards the gallows, which he tore up into bits, and threw the pieces out of the window. He was going to do the same to the lobster, he had so lost his temper, when Grimaud took it from his hands.

"Good to eat," said he, and put it into his pocket.

This time the duke had taken such pleasure in the scene that he almost pardoned the part that Grimaud had played in it. But as in the course of the day he thought on the motive his guardian showed, and that this was really bad, he felt his hatred against him sensibly increase.

But the story of the lobster had not less, to the great despair of La Ramee, caused an immense sensation within the prison, and even outside. M. de Chavigny, who at the bottom of his heart strongly detested the cardinal, took care to tell the story to two or three well-meaning friends, who soon spread it about.

That caused M. de Beaufort to pass two or three pleasant days.

In the meantime the duke had noticed among his guards a man of a very good figure, and he coaxed him all the more because Grimaud displeased him at every moment. Now, one morning he had taken this man aside, and he was speaking to him for a little time tete-a-tete. Grimaud came in, saw what was passing, and approaching the guard and the prince in a respectful manner, took the guard by the arm.

"What do you mean?" asked the duke, roughly.

Grimaud led the guard four paces, and showed him the door.

"Go," said he.

The guard obeyed.

"Oh," cried the prince, "you are unbearable. I will chastise you."

Grimaud made a respectful salute.

"Monsieur spy, I will break your bones!" cried out the exasperated prince.

Grimaud, with a bow, drew back.

"Monsieur spy," continued the duke, "I will strangle you with my own hands."

Grimaud bowed again, still drawing back.

"And that not later than this very instant"; and he stretched his nervously twitching hands towards Grimaud, who was satisfied with pushing the guard before him and closing the door behind.

At the same moment he felt the prince’s two hands drop on his shoulders like two iron nails; he was satisfied, instead of calling or defending himself, with lifting his forefinger gently to his lips, and pronouncing in a low voice, at the same time smiling, the word "Chut!"

A gesture, a smile, and a word, together, was a thing so rare on Grimaud’s part that his Highness stopped short in a complete state of stupefaction.

Grimaud used this moment to draw out from his doublet a charming little letter with aristocratic seal, the first perfume of which had not been quite lost from being so long in Grimaud’s clothes; and he gave it to the duke without a word.

The duke, astonished more and more, released Grimaud, took the billet, and recognizing the handwriting, "From Madame de Montbazon!" he exclaimed.

Grimaud signified Yes by a nod.

The duke rapidly tore off the envelope, passed his hands over his eyes, so much was he dazzled, and read what follows:-

MY DEAR DUKE,- You can rely thoroughly on the good fellow who will transmit you this note, for he is the servant of a gentleman who is on our side and who has proved his fidelity by twenty years of service. He has consented to enter the service of your officer, and to shut himself up with you at Vincennes to prepare for and aid your flight, about which we are engaged.

The moment of your deliverance draws near. Have patience and courage in believing that in spite of your long absence all your friends have retained the sentiments which they avowed for you.

Your wholly and forever affectionate


P.S. I sign my name at full length, for I should be too vain to think that after five years of absence you would recognize my initials.

The duke remained for a moment stunned. What he had been seeking for five years without being able to find it- that is to say, a servant, a help, a friend- fell all of a sudden from heaven just when he expected it the least. He looked at Grimaud with astonishment, and returned to his letter, which he read again from end to end.

"Oh, dear Marie!" he murmured, on finishing. "It was indeed she whom I saw at the back of her carriage! How, she still thinks of me after five years of separation! Morbleu! There’s a constancy that one only sees in Astraea!" Then turning to Grimaud, "And you, my brave fellow," added he, "you agree then to help us?"

Grimaud signified Yes.

"And you have come here for that purpose?"

Grimaud repeated the same sign.

"And I wanted to strangle you!" cried the duke.

Grimaud smiled.

"But wait," said the duke, and he fumbled in his pocket. "Wait," continued he; "they shall not say that such devotion for a grandson of Henry IV shall remain unrewarded."

The duke’s movement showed the best intention in the world. But one of the precautions they took at Vincennes was not to allow any money to the prisoners.

Upon which Grimaud, seeing the duke’s disappointment, took from his pocket a purse full of gold and gave it to him.

"That’s what you are looking for," said he.

The duke opened the purse, and wanted to empty it into Grimaud’s hands, but the latter shook his head.

"Thanks, Monseigneur," added he, withdrawing; "I am paid."

The duke was surprised afresh. He stretched out his hand, which Grimaud kissed respectfully. The fine manners of Athos had left their mark upon Grimaud.

"And now," asked the duke, "what are we going to do?"

"It is eleven in the morning," resumed Grimaud. "At two let Monseigneur ask to make up a tennis party with La Ramee, and knock two or three balls over the ramparts."

"Well; and after?"

"After- Monseigneur is to go near the walls and call out to a man who works in the moat to throw them back."

"I understand," said the duke.

Grimaud’s face seemed to express a lively satisfaction; the little use which he had made of the habit of speaking made conversation difficult for him. He made a movement to retire.

"So," said the duke, "you will not then accept anything?"

"I should like Monseigneur to make me one promise."

"What is it? Speak!"

"That when we have escaped, I shall pass first, always and everywhere; for if you are caught, Monseigneur, the greatest risk you run is to be returned to prison, while if I am caught, the least I can expect is to be hanged."

"That is too true," said the duke, "and, on the word of a gentleman, it shall be done as you ask."

"Now," said Grimaud, "I have one thing more to ask; it is that you continue to do me the honor of detesting me as hitherto."

"I will try," said the duke.

There was a knock at the door.

The duke put his letter and purse into his pocket, and threw himself on his bed. This was known as his resource in moments of weariness. Grimaud went to open the door; there stood La Ramee, who had returned from the cardinal’s, where the scene passed which we have related.

La Ramee threw a scrutinizing glance about him, and seeing as before the same marks of antipathy between prisoner and guardian, he smiled from inward satisfaction. Then turning to Grimaud, "Well, my friend," said he to him,- "well. You have just been spoken of in a good place, and you will, I hope, soon have news by no means disagreeable to you."

Grimaud bowed in a way which he tried to make gracious, and withdrew, as his custom was when his superior came in.

"Well, Monseigneur!" said La Ramee, with his coarse laugh, "are you still sulky with that poor fellow?"

"Ah, it is you, La Ramee," said the duke; "it was indeed time for you to come. I have thrown myself on the bed, and turned my face away to prevent me from keeping my promise of strangling that rascal Grimaud."

"I doubt, however," said La Ramee, making a witty allusion to the dumbness of his subordinate, "whether he has said anything disagreeable to your Highness."

"I well believe it! An Eastern mute! I swear, La Ramee, that I was in haste to see you again."

"Monseigneur is too good," said La Ramee, flattered by the compliment.

"Yes," continued the duke; "in fact, I feel more than usually unskilful today, which it will please you to see."

"We will make up a tennis party, then," said La Ramee, mechanically.

"If you wish to do so."

"I am at your command."

"That is to say, my dear La Ramee," said the duke, "that you are a charming fellow, and I should like to stay at Vincennes forever, to pass my life with you."

"Monsieur," said La Ramee, "I think it will not depend on the cardinal if your desire is not carried out."

"How so? Have you seen him recently?"

"He sent for me this morning."

"Truly! To speak to you about me?"

"Of what do you suppose he would speak to me? In truth, Monseigneur, you are his nightmare."

The duke smiled bitterly.

"Ah," said he, "if you would accept my offers, La Ramee!"

"Now, Monseigneur, you are going to talk again about that, but you must see that you are not reasonable."

"La Ramee, I have already told you, and I repeat it again, that you would make your fortune."

"With what? You will no sooner be out of prison than your property will be confiscated."

"I shall no sooner be out of prison than I shall be master of Paris," declared the duke.

"Chut, now! Well- but am I to listen to things like this? A fine conversation to be having with a king’s officer! I see well enough, Monseigneur, that we must get a second Grimaud."

"Well, then, let us say no more about it. So, then, the cardinal has been talking to you about me? La Ramee, you ought some day, when he sends for you, to let me wear your clothes; I would go, I would strangle him, and, on my word of honor, if it was made a condition, I would return again to my prison."

"Monseigneur, I see well that I must call Grimaud."

"I was wrong; and what did the cuistre say to you!"

"I excuse the word, Monseigneur," said La Ramee with a cunning air, "because it rhymes with ministre. What did he tell me? To look sharply after you."

"And why so?" asked the duke, distressed.

"Because an astrologer has predicted that you would escape."

"Ah, an astrologer has predicted that?" said the duke, trembling in spite of himself.

"Oh, good gracious, yes! they only imagine things, on my word of honor, just to torment quiet folks, those wretches of magicians."

"And what have you replied to his most illustrious Eminence?"

"That if the astrologer in question made almanacs, I should not advise him to purchase one."


"Because, for you to escape, you must become a chaffinch or a wren."

"And you are too nearly right, unfortunately. Let us play a game of tennis, La Ramee."

"Monseigneur, I beg pardon of your Highness, but I must ask you to give me half-an-hour."

"Why so?"

"Because M. Mazarin is more haughty than you are, although of not quite such high birth, and he has forgotten to invite me to breakfast."

"Eh, do you wish me to let you breakfast here?"

"Oh, no, Monseigneur. I must tell you that the pastry-cook who used to live in front of the prison, whom they called Father Marteau, sold his business to one from Paris to whom the doctors have recommended country air."

"Well, what has that to do with me?"

"Stop a moment, Monseigneur. So that this confounded pastry-cook has in his shop a lot of things which make one’s mouth water."


"Oh, no, Monseigneur," continued La Ramee, "one is not a gormand because one is nice in one’s eating. It is man’s nature to seek perfection in pastry as in other things. Now, this beggar of a pastry-cook, when he saw me stop before his stall, came to me and said, ’M. la Ramee, I need to have the custom of the prisoners. I have purchased my predecessor’s business because he assured me that he supplied the prison. Yet, upon honor, during the week I have been here M. de Chavigny has not allowed a single tartlet to be bought.’

"’But,’ I said to him, ’probably M. de Chavigny fears that your pastry is not good.’

"’My pastry not good! Come, I wish you to be judge of it, and that this very instant.’

"’I cannot,’ I answered him; ’I must really return to the prison.’

"’Well, since you seem in a hurry, come back in half-an-hour. Have you breakfasted?’

"’No, indeed.’

"’Well, here is a pie awaiting you, with a bottle of old Burgundy.’ And you understand, Monseigneur, as I am fasting, I should like, with your Highness’s permission -" and La Ramee bowed.

"Go, then, animal;" said the duke; "but mind, I give you only half-an-hour."

"Can I promise your custom to Father Marteau’s successor, Monseigneur?"

"Yes, provided he does not put mushrooms into his pies. You know," added the prince, "that the mushrooms of Vincennes forest are fatal to my family."

La Ramee left without understanding the allusion, and five minutes after the officer of the guard came in really to carry out the cardinal’s orders not to let the prisoner go out of sight.

But during those five minutes the duke had had time to read again Madame de Montbazon’s note, which showed him that his friends had not forgotten him and were engaged in helping his escape. In what manner? He as yet did not know, but he resolved to make Grimaud speak, notwithstanding his dumbness, which indeed only gave the duke the greater confidence in him, explaining as it did his conduct, and showing clearly why he had invented all the little persecutions which he had employed towards the duke, which was simply to remove from his guardians all idea of a secret understanding between them. This trick gave the duke a high opinion of Grimaud’s understanding, in which he resolved to put entire trust.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: Twenty Years After

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Twenty Years After

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Alexandre Dumas père, "Chapter XX: Grimaud on Duty," Twenty Years After Original Sources, accessed September 28, 2023,

MLA: Dumas, Alexandre, père. "Chapter XX: Grimaud on Duty." Twenty Years After, Original Sources. 28 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: Dumas, A, 'Chapter XX: Grimaud on Duty' in Twenty Years After. Original Sources, retrieved 28 September 2023, from