Page images
PDF
EPUB

are among the most popular of the works bearing his name.

Many anecdotes have been related concerning Dumas’industry and of his method of composing. A friend of his, being asked whether it was really true that Dumas was about to undertake the management of a theatre, “Of course it is," he replied; “ he doesn't know what else to do with himself. Monte Cristo is finished; the Dame de Montsoreau and the Chevalier de Maison Rouge are nearly so; ten volumes of the Vicomte de Bragelone are in the hands of the publisher; his bargain with the Constitutionnel and the Presse binds him to produce only eighteen volumes of romances a year; and the Théâtre Français confines him to five five-act comedies annually ; so, you see, he must find some means of employing his leisure time."

" I, generally,” said Hans Christian Andersen, “ found him in bed, even long after midday, with pen, ink, and paper, writing his newest drama. One day, as I found him thus, he nodded kindly to me, and said: 'Sit down a minute; I have just now a visit from my muse; she will be going directly.' He wrote on; spoke aloud; shouted a vivat, sprang out of bed, and said, “The third act is finished !'"

[ocr errors]

THE EXECUTION OF KING CHARLES I.

Meanwhile, Athos, in his concealment, waited in vain the signal to recommence his work. Two long hours he waited in terrible inaction. A death-like silence reigned in the room above. At last he determined to discover the cause of this stillness. He crept from his

[graphic][merged small]

hole, and stood, hidden by the black drapery, beneath the scaffold. Peeping out from the drapery, he could see the rows of halberdiers and musketeers round the scaffold, and the first ranks of the populace, swaying and groaning like the sea.

"What is the matter, then ?” he asked himself, trembling more than the cloth he was holding back. “The people are hurrying on, the soldiers under arms, and among the spectators I see D'Artagnan. What is he waiting for? What is he looking at ! Good God! have they let the headsman escape?”

Suddenly the dull beating of muffled drums filled the square. The sound of heavy steps was heard above his head. The next moment the very planks of the scaffold creaked with the weight of an advancing procession, and the eager faces of the spectators confirmed what a last hope at the bottom of his heart had prevented his believing till then. At the same moment a well-known voice above him pronounced these words :

“Colonel, I wish to speak to the people."

Athos shuddered from head to foot. It was the king speaking on the scaffold. By his side stood a man wearing a mask, and carrying an axe in his hand, which he afterward laid on the block. The sight of the mask excited a great amount of curiosity in the people, the foremost of whom strained their eyes to discover who it could be. But they could discern nothing but a man of middle height dressed in black, apparently past middle age, for the end of a gray beard peeped out from the bottom of the mask which concealed his features. The king's request had undoubtedly been acceded to by an affirmative sign, for, in firm, sonorous accents, which vibrated in the depths of Athos' heart, the king began his speech, explaining his conduct, and counselling them for the welfare of England. He was interrupted by the noise of the axe grating on the block.

• Do not touch the axe," said the king, and resumed his speech. At the end of his speech, the king looked tenderly round upon the people. Then, unfastening the diamond ornament which the queen had sent him, he placed it in the hands of the priest who accompanied Juxon. Then he drew from his breast a little cross set

a

in diamonds, which, like the order, had been the gift of Henrietta Maria. Sir," said he to the priest, “I shall keep this cross in my hand till the last moment. You will take it from me when I am dead." He then took his hat from his head, and threw it on the ground. One by one, he undid the buttons of his doublet, took it off, and deposited it by the side of his hat. Then, as it was cold, he asked for his gown, which was brought to him. All the preparations were made with a frightful calmness. One would have thought the king was going to bed, and not to his coffin.

“Will these be in your way?” he said to the executioner, raising his long locks : "if so, they can be tied up." Charles accompanied these words with a look designed to penetrate the mask of the unknown headsman. His calm, noble gaze forced the man to turn away his head, and the king repeated his question.

" It will do," replied the man in a deep voice, “if you separate them across the neck."

“ This block is very low, is there no other to be had ?"

" It is the usual block,” replied the man in the mask.

“Do you think you can behead me with a single blow?" asked the king.

“I hope so," was the reply. There was something so strange in these words that everybody except the king shuddered.

"I do not wish to be taken by surprise," added the king, “I shall kneel down to pray, do not strike then.”

“ When shall I strike ?"

“When I shall lay my head on the block, and say Remember!'--then strike boldly."

“Gentlemen,” said the king to those around him, “I leave you to brave the tempest, and go before you to a kingdom which knows no storms. Farewell.” Then he knelt down, made the sign of the cross, and lowering his face to the planks, as if he would have kissed them, he said in a low tone, in French, “Count de la Fère, are you there?”

“Yes, your majesty," he answered trembling.

“Faithful friend, noble heart !” said the king, “I should not have been rescued. I have addressed my

« EelmineJätka »