The Tavern of the Red Dovecot

Meanwhile the king, who, although he had so recently arrived, was in such haste to face the enemy, and, with more reason than the cardinal, shared his hatred for Buckingham, desired every disposition to be made, first to drive the English from the Isle of Ré, and afterwards to press the siege of Rochelle.

As it is not our intention to write a journal of the siege, but, on the contrary, only to introduce such events of it as are connected with the story we are telling, we will content ourselves with saying in a word or two that the expedition succeeded, to the king’s great astonishment and the cardinal’s great glory. The English, driven back foot by foot, beaten in every skirmish, and overwhelmed in the passage of the Isle of Loix, were obliged to re-embark, leaving on the battlefield two thousand men, among whom were five colonels, three lieutenantcolonels, two hundred and fifty captains, and twenty gentlemen of rank, four pieces of cannon, and sixty colours, which were taken to Paris by Claude de St. Simon, and suspended with great pomp in the arches of Notre Dame.

The cardinal was left free to carry on the siege without having, at least for the moment, anything to fear from the English.

All the responsibility rested on the cardinal, for one cannot be a despotic minister without responsibility; therefore all the resources of his mighty genius were expended night and day engaged in listening to the slightest rumour heard in any of the great kingdoms of Europe.

The cardinal, to whom his most inveterate detractors have never denied personal bravery, was not prevented, however, from making excursions by night, sometimes to communicate to the Duc d’Angoulême important orders; sometimes to go and confer with the king; sometimes to have an interview with a messenger whom he did not wish to receive at his headquarters.

Now, one evening, when D’Artagnan, who was in the trenches, was not able to accompany them, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, mounted on their war-horses, enveloped in their military cloaks, with their hands on their pistol-butts, were returning from an ale-house called the Red Dovecot, which Athos had discovered two days before on the road to La Jarrie. They were riding along on the road leading to the camp, and quite on their guard, as we have stated, for fear of an ambuscade, when, about a quarter of a league from the village of Boinar, they fancied they heard the trampling of horses approaching them. All three instantly halted, closed in, and waited, occupying the middle of the road. In an instant, just as the moon broke out from behind a cloud, they saw appear at a turn of the road two horsemen, who, on perceiving them, stopped in their turn, seemingly to deliberate whether they should continue their route or go back. Their hesitation aroused some suspicion in the three friends, and Athos, riding a few paces in advance of the others, cried in a firm voice,

“Who goes there?”

“Who goes there, yourselves?” replied one of the two horsemen.

“That is not an answer,” replied Athos. “Who goes there? Answer, or else we charge.”

“Your name?” insisted the horseman, letting his cloak fall, and leaving his face uncovered.

“The cardinal!” cried the astonished musketeer.

“Your name?” cried his Eminence for the third time.

“Athos,” said the musketeer.

The cardinal made a sign to his attendant, who drew near to him.

“These three musketeers shall follow us,” said he in an undertone. “I do not wish it known I left the camp; and by following us we shall be certain they will tell no one.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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