Twenty Years After

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


CHAPTER I: The Phantom of Richelieu

IN A ROOM of the Palais-Cardinal which we already know, near a table with silver gilt corners, loaded with papers and books, a man was sitting, his head resting in his hands.

Behind him was a vast fireplace, red with fire, whose blazing brands were crumbling upon large gilded fire-dogs. The light from this fire illumined from behind the magnificent dress of this dreamer, as the light from a candelabra filled with candles illumined it in front.

To see this red gown and these rich laces, to see this forehead pale and bent down in meditation, to see the solitude of this cabinet, the silence of the antechambers, the measured step of the guards upon the landing, one could well believe that the ghost of Cardinal Richelieu was still in his chamber.

Alas, it was in fact only the shadow of the great man. France enfeebled, the authority of the king disregarded, the great nobles again strong and turbulent, the enemy once more on this side of the frontiers, everything bore testimony that Richelieu was no longer there.

But that which showed still more than all else that the red gown was not that of the old cardinal was this isolation, which seemed, as we have said, rather that of a phantom than of a living person; it was these corridors void of courtiers, these courtyards full of guards; it was the mocking expressions which came up from the streets and penetrated the windows of this chamber shaken by the breath of a whole city leagued against the minister; it was, in fine, the distant sound, continually renewed, of fire-arms, discharged happily without aim or effect, and only to show the Guards, the Swiss, the Musketeers, and the soldiers who surrounded the Palais-Royal- for the Palais-Cardinal itself had changed its name- that the people also had arms.

This phantom of Richelieu was Mazarin. Now, Mazarin was alone, and felt himself to be weak.

"Foreigner!" murmured he, "Italian! This is their great epithet launched at me. With this word they assassinated, hanged, and destroyed Concini; and if I let them do it, they would assassinate, hang, and destroy me like him, although I have never done them other harm than to squeeze them a little. Simpletons! They do not perceive that their enemy is not this Italian who speaks French badly, but rather those who have the talent to say to them fine words in a very pure Parisian accent.

"Yes, yes," continued the minister, with his subtle smile which this time seemed strange on his pale lips,- "yes, your mutterings tell me the lot of favorites is precarious; but if you know that, you ought also to know that I am not an ordinary favorite. The Earl of Essex had a splendid ring enriched with diamonds that his royal mistress gave him; as for me, I have only a plain ring with initials and a date, but this ring has been blessed in the chapel of the Palais-Royal. So they will not ruin me as they would like to. They do not perceive that with their eternal cry of ’Down with Mazarin,’ I make them at one time cry, ’Long live Beaufort,’ at another, ’Long live the prince,’ and at another, ’Long live the parliament.’ Very well. Beaufort is at Vincennes. The prince will go to rejoin him one day or another, and the parliament-" here the smile of the cardinal changed to an expression of hate of which his mild face seemed incapable. "Well, the parliament- We will see what we will do with the parliament. We have Orleans and Montargis. Oh, I will take time for this! But those who have commenced by crying ’Down with Mazarin’ will finish by crying ’Down with all those people,’ each one in his turn. Richelieu, whom they hated when he was living, and of whom they are always talking since he is dead, was lower down than I,- for he was dismissed several times, and oftener still feared to be so. The queen will never dismiss me; and if I am forced to yield to the people, she will yield with me. If I fly, she will fly; and we will see then what the rebels will do without their queen and without their king. Oh, if only I were not a foreigner! if I were only French! if I were only well born!" And he relapsed into his reverie.

In fact, the position was difficult; and the day which had just closed had complicated it still more. Mazarin, always spurred on by his sordid avarice, was crushing the people with taxes; and the people, to whom nothing was left but the soul, as was said by the Advocate-General Talon, and still more because one cannot sell one’s soul at auction,- the people whom they tried to make patient by the noise of the victories achieved, and who found that laurels were not meat with which they could be fed,- the people for a long time had not ceased to murmur.

But this was not all,- for when it is only the people who grumble, separated as they are by the middle class and the nobility, the court does not hear them. But Mazarin had had the imprudence to embroil himself with the magistrates. He had sold twelve warrants for members of the Council of State; and as these officials paid very dearly for their posts, and the addition of these twelve new associates would lower its value, the old officials had united, sworn upon the Evangelists not to suffer this increase and to resist all the persecutions of the court, promising one another that in case one of them by this rebellion should lose his post the rest would contribute to re-imburse him its value.

Now see what had resulted from both these sources. The seventh of January, seven or eight hundred shopkeepers of Paris were assembled and mutinous on account of a new tax about to be imposed upon the proprietors of houses, and they had deputed ten of their number to confer with the Duc d’Orleans, who according to his old habit was seeking popularity. The Duc d’Orleans had received them, and they had declared that they were determined not to pay this new tax, even if forced to defend themselves with the armed hand against the king’s official who might come to collect it.

The Duc d’Orleans had listened to them with great complaisance, had given them hope of some diminution, had promised to speak of it to the queen, and had dismissed them with the ordinary phrase of princes, "It shall be seen to."

On their side, on the ninth, the members of the Council of State sought an audience with the cardinal, and one of them, who spoke for all the others, had addressed him with so much firmness and spirit that the cardinal had been astonished; he also sent them away, saying, like the Duc d’Orleans, that it should be seen to.

Then in order to see to it the Council was assembled, and they sent to find the Superintendent of Finances, d’Emery.

This d’Emery was much detested by the people: first; because he was Superintendent of Finances, and every Superintendent of Finances ought to be detested; and finally, because he somewhat deserved to be so. He was the son of a banker of Lyons who called himself Particelli, and who, having changed his name after his bankruptcy, assumed that of d’Emery, which did not prevent the Advocate-General, Omer Talon, from always calling him Particelle, following the custom of the times of gallicizing foreign names. Cardinal Richelieu, who recognized in him great financial ability, had presented him to King Louis XIII under the name of d’Emery, and wishing to appoint him Intendant of Finances, praised him highly.

"Admirable!" replied the king, "and I am pleased that you talk to me of M. d’Emery for this office, which requires an honest man. They told me that you were pressing the appointment of that rascal of a Particelli, and I was afraid you might persuade me to take him."

"Sire," answered the cardinal, "let your Majesty be re-assured; the Particelli of whom you speak has been hanged."

"Ah, so much the better!" cried the king. "It is not, then, in vain that I am called ’Louis the Just.’"

And he signed the appointment of M. d’Emery. It was this same d’Emery who had become Superintendent of Finances.

They had sent for him on the part of the minister, and he arrived pale and thoroughly frightened, saying that his son had barely escaped assassination that very day in the square of the Palais. The crowd met him and reproached him for the luxury of his wife, who had a suite of rooms with red velvet hangings and fringes of gold. She was the daughter of Nicholas le Camus, secretary in 1617, who came to Paris with twenty livres, and who, while reserving to himself forty thousand livres of income, had just divided nine millions among his children.

The son of d’Emery had just escaped being strangled, one of the rioters having proposed to squeeze him until he gave up all the gold he had swallowed. The Council decided nothing that day, the superintendent being too much occupied with this event to have his head clear. The following day the first president, Matthew Mole,- whose courage in all these affairs, said Cardinal Retz, equalled that of the Duc de Beaufort and of the Prince de Conde, two men who were esteemed the bravest in France,- the following day the first president, we say, had been attacked in his turn. The people threatened to hold him responsible for the evil measures which threatened them; but the first president replied with his habitual calmness, without emotion or surprise, that if the disturbers of the peace did not obey the king’s will he should erect gibbets in the squares to hang at once the most mutinous of them, to which they answered that they asked nothing better than to see gibbets erected, and that they would serve for hanging the bad judges who purchased the favor of the court at the cost of the misery of the people.

This was not all: the eleventh, the queen, going to Mass at Notre-Dame, which she did regularly every Saturday, was followed by more than two hundred women crying and demanding justice. They had not, indeed, any bad intention, wishing only to fall upon their knees before her to try and excite her compassion; but the guards prevented it, and the queen, haughty and disdainful, passed on without listening to their complaints.

In the afternoon the Council met again, and it was there decided that the authority of the king should be maintained; consequently parliament was convoked for the following day, the twelfth.

This day, during the evening of which we commence this new story, the king- then ten years of age, and who had just had the smallpox- under the pretext of rendering thanks at Notre-Dame for his recovery, called out his Guards, the Swiss, and the Musketeers, and placed them in echelons around the Palais-Royal, upon the quays and upon the Pont Neuf; and after hearing Mass he proceeded to the parliament house, where, upon a Bed of Justice then improvised, he not only confirmed his former edicts, but issued five or six new ones; each one, said Cardinal de Retz, more ruinous than the other. So much so that the first president, who, as we have seen, during the preceding days supported the court, had raised his voice boldly against this method of leading the king to the Palais to surprise and force the liberty of suffrage.

But those especially who resisted strongly these new taxes were the president, Blancmesnil, and the councillor Broussel. These edicts issued, the king returned to the Palais-Royal. A vast multitude of people lined his route; but although they knew that he came from the parliament they were ignorant whether he had gone there to render justice to the people or to oppress them still further, and not a single joyful shout was heard during his passage to felicitate him on his return to health. Every countenance was gloomy and anxious; some even were menacing.

Notwithstanding his return, the troops remained in the square; it was feared that a riot might break out when the result of the sitting of parliament should be known,- and in fact, hardly had the rumor spread through the streets that instead of lightening the taxes, the king had increased them, than groups were formed and a great clamor resounded with cries of "Down with Mazarin!" "Long live Broussel!" "Long live Blancmesnil!" for the people knew that Broussel and Blancmesnil had spoken in their favor, and though their eloquence was wasted, they retained no less good-will towards them.

It was desired to disperse the groups and to silence these cries; and as happens in such cases, the groups increased in size, and the cries redoubled. Orders had just been given to the Royal Guard and to the Swiss Guards, not only to stand firm, but to send out patrols to the streets of St. Denis and St. Martin, where these groups appeared more numerous and more excited, when the provost of the merchants was announced at the Palais-Royal. He was introduced immediately; he came to say that if these hostile demonstrations did not cease instantly, in two hours the whole of Paris would be in arms.

They were deliberating what should be done, when Comminges, lieutenant of the Guards, returned, his uniform torn and his face bleeding.

On seeing him appear, the queen uttered a cry of surprise, and demanded of him what had happened.

It had happened that at the sight of the Guards, as the provost of the merchants had foreseen, the mob had become exasperated. They had taken possession of the bells and sounded the tocsin. Comminges stood firm, and arrested a man who appeared one of their ringleaders, and to make an example, ordered that he should be hanged at the cross of Du Trahoir. The soldiers dragged him along to execute the order. But in the market-place they were attacked with stones and halberds; the prisoner profited of this moment to escape, gained the Rue des Lombards, and took refuge in a house whose doors were immediately broken open. This violence was useless; they were not able to find the culprit. Comminges left a picket in the street, and with the rest of his detachment returned to the Palais-Royal to report to the queen what had taken place.

During the whole route, he was pursued by cries and by threats; several of his men were wounded by pikes and halberds, and he himself was struck by a stone cutting open the eyebrow.

The recital of Comminges supported the opinion of the provost of the merchants, that the government was not in condition to make head against a serious revolt. The cardinal caused it to be circulated among the people that troops had been stationed on the quays and on the Pont Neuf only on account of the ceremonial, and that they would soon withdraw. In fact, about four o’clock they were all concentrated near the Palais-Royal; a detachment was placed at the Barriere des Sergents, another at the Quinze-Vingts and a third at the hill St. Roch. The courtyards and the basements were filled with Swiss and musketeers, and they awaited the results.

Such then was the state of affairs when we introduced our readers into the cabinet of Cardinal Mazarin,- formerly that of Cardinal Richelieu. We have seen in what state of mind he listened to the murmurs of the people which reached even to him, and to the echo of the fire-arms which resounded in his chamber.

Suddenly he raised his head, the brow slightly contracted like that of a man who has taken a resolution, fixed his eyes upon an enormous clock about to strike ten, and taking up a silver gilt whistle lying on the table within reach of his hand, he blew it twice.

A door hidden by the tapestry opened noiselessly, and a man dressed in black advanced silently and remained standing behind the armchair.

"Bernouin," said the cardinal, not even turning around, for having whistled twice he knew that this must be his valet de chambre, "what musketeers are in the palace?"

"The Black Musketeers, my Lord."

"What company?"

"Treville’s company."

"Is there some officer of this company in the antechamber?"

"Lieutenant d’Artagnan."

"A good officer, I believe?"

"Yes, my Lord."

"Give me the uniform of a musketeer, and help me to dress."

The valet de chambre went out as silently as he entered, and returned an instant afterwards, bearing the costume demanded. The cardinal, silent and thoughtful, began to take off the ceremonial dress which he had assumed to attend the sitting of parliament, and to attire himself in the military coat, which he wore with a certain ease, owing to his former campaigns in Italy. When he was completely dressed, he said, "Bring me M. d’Artagnan."

And the valet de chambre went out this time by the main door, but always equally silent and mute. One might have said it was a shadow.

Left alone, the cardinal, with a certain satisfaction, surveyed himself in a mirror. Still young,- for he was scarcely forty-six years of age,- he was of an elegant figure, and a little under the middle height; his complexion was high-colored and handsome; his glance full of fire; his nose large, but well proportioned; his forehead broad and majestic; his chestnut-colored hair was a little curly, his beard darker than his hair and always well dressed with the curling-iron, which lent him an additional charm.

Next he put on his belt, looked with complacency at his hands, which were very handsome and of which he took the greatest care, then, throwing aside the large buckskin gloves which he had already taken as part of the uniform, he put on plain silk gloves.

At this moment the door opened.

"M. d’Artagnan," said the valet de chambre.

An officer entered.

He was a man of thirty-nine or forty years of age, of small but well-shaped figure, thin, the eye bright and animated, the beard black and the hair turning gray, as happens always when one has found life too gay or too sad, and especially when one is dark-complexioned.

D’Artagnan advanced four steps into the cabinet, which he remembered to have entered once in the time of Cardinal Richelieu, and seeing no one there but a musketeer of his company, he fixed his eyes upon this musketeer, under whose dress at the first glance he recognized the cardinal. He remained standing, in a respectful but dignified attitude, as became a man of rank who in his life had often been in the society of the highest nobles.

The cardinal fixed upon him his eye more subtle than penetrating, examined him with attention, then after a few seconds of silence, "You are M. d’Artagnan?" said he.

"I am he, my Lord," said the officer.

The cardinal looked a moment longer at this intellectual head and this countenance whose excessive mobility had been subdued by years and experience in life; but d’Artagnan sustained the examination like one who had formerly been examined by eyes far more piercing than those now turned upon him.

"Sir," said the cardinal, "you are to come with me, or rather I am going with you."

"At your orders, my Lord," responded d’Artagnan.

"I wish to visit, personally, the posts surrounding the Palais-Royal; do you think there is any danger?"

"Any danger, my Lord!" demanded d’Artagnan, with a look of surprise; "and what danger?"

"They say the people are actually in insurrection."

"The uniform of the king’s Musketeers is much respected, my Lord; and if it were not, I would engage, with three of my men, to put to flight a hundred of these clowns."

"Yet you saw what happened to Comminges?"

"M. de Comminges belongs to the Guards and not to the Musketeers."

"Which means," said the cardinal, smiling, "that the Musketeers are better soldiers than the Guards?"

"Every one prefers his own uniform, my Lord."

"Except me, Monsieur," replied Mazarin, smiling, "since you see that I have left off my own to put on yours."

"Peste, my Lord!" said d’Artagnan, "this is modesty. As for me, I declare that if I had the uniform of your Eminence, I would content myself with it, and would engage, at need, never to wear any other."

"Yes; but for going out this evening, perhaps it would not have been very safe. Bernouin, my hat."

The valet de chambre returned, bringing a military hat with a broad brim. The cardinal donned it with an easy air, and turning towards d’Artagnan, "You have horses saddled in the stables, haven’t you?"

"Yes, my Lord."

"Well, then, let us set out."

"How many men does my Lord wish?"

"You say that with four men you will engage to put to flight a hundred clowns; as we may meet two hundred of them, take eight."

"As my Lord wishes."

"I will follow you, or rather," said the cardinal, "no, this way; light us, Bernouin."

The valet took a candle; the cardinal took a small key from his bureau, and opening the door of a secret staircase found himself in a moment in the court of the Palais-Royal.


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Chicago: Alexandre Dumas père, "Part One," Twenty Years After Original Sources, accessed April 22, 2021,

MLA: Dumas, Alexandre, père. "Part One." Twenty Years After, Original Sources. 22 Apr. 2021.

Harvard: Dumas, A, 'Part One' in Twenty Years After. Original Sources, retrieved 22 April 2021, from