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This introduction appears in Twenty Years After, Published by The Century Co, New York, 1907, and Copyright, 1898 and 1901 by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.

INTRODUCTION.

1648-1649.



     Twenty Years After is a sequel to The Three Musketeers, and has in turn a much longer sequel entitled The Vicomte de Bragelonne. For the exact periods covered by the three stories, the reader is referred to the introduction to The Three Musketeers. The series has been called the "D'Artagnan romances," since it depicts the lives and actions of D'Artagnan and his three musketeer comrades.
    In Twenty Years After the four soldiers are brought together again after years of separation. The closing chapters of the Musketeers outline the causes for the separation: Athos had resumed the title of Comte de la Fère and had retired to his country estate. Porthos had "married money" and had been enabled thereby to purchase several properties giving him the imposing title of M. du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds. Aramis had entered a convent from which he emerged as the Abbé d'Herblay. D'Artagnan alone remained in service, nursing his lieutenancy in the musketeers, and becoining cynical over the fact that friends and masters alike had forgotten him.
    The period is the turbulent time of the Fronde. Cardinal Mazarin has angered the nobles by his dominance of the situation. It is stated without contradiction that he has privately espoused Anne of Austria, the Queen-Regent. Louis XIV., the child, is still incapable of action, and other members of the royal house are either ignored or thrust into prison. The uprising is a vague expression of disaffection on the part of both citizens and nobles, not against the King but against the cardinal. The cardinal is in need of stout swords, be they never so few, to act personally for him in this crisis. Suddenly he sees a man in the ante-chamber, D'Artagnan, and remembers having heard, something of the prowess of that disappointed soldier. He sends D'Artagnan to enlist, if possible, the three ex-Musketeers. After much search (the story is an amusing one) they are discovered. But Athos has too much sympathy for the Frondeurs to fight against them. Aramis dissimulates, but D'Artagnan privately discovers that the abbé has for mistress Madame de Longueville, a sister of the Prince of Condé, and a rabid Frondeuse. Porthos alone is stirred, through the hope of affixing the title of Baron to his string of estates.
    Beyond the narration of the deeds of the four friends the book is really nothing more nor less than a history of the Fronde. Every one of the leading characters played a part in it substantially as Dumas relates. He has succeeded in following the lines of history, and also in infusing a present and personal interest in the narration quite apart from the chronicles. The war of the Fronde will ever be known as one of the "comic-opera" contests of the world, where more ballads were hurled than bullets, and where the smiles of ladies stirred up quite as much enthusiasm as the standard of the King.
    Then by swift transition Dumas shows us a more sinister struggle on the other side of the Channel, where the Ironsides of Cromwell overthrow the King of England. The two pictures stand out sharply by contrast—the one bright and merry with the figure of a young monarch reëntering his own; the other dark and dismal with the body of a king sinking down decapitated from a headsman's block.
    We saw in The Three Musketeers how the plot presented three interwoven problematic threads. In this sequel we see a continuation of one of those threads; Milady is dead, but her son Mordaunt remains upon earth, a worthy descendant of her. Upon the heads of the four friends he has vowed an eternal revenge which they must needs unite against just as they united formerly against the hatred of Milady. In her case she found a powerful political protector in Richelieu. Her son is the direct agent of Cromwell. Dumas does the character of Cromwell an injustice by this alliance, in the same manner that he damned Richelieu by his treaty with Milady.
    Since Twenty Years After is the middle chapter in the evolution of four lives, a brief comparative glance must be made at D'Artagnan and his friends. In respect to the Gascon we cannot do better than to quote from Dumas himself:
    "D'Artagnan had been. ready for opportunities; but circumstances had not been. ready for him. So long as he was surrounded by his friends, he had revelled in his youth and his imagination. His was one of those fine and ingenuous minds that easily assimilate the qualities of others. Athos gave him his taste for splendor, Porthos his verve, Aramis his elegance; and if D'Artagnan had continued to live with these three men he would have become a superior character. First, Athos left him to take possession of a small estate that he had inherited near Blois; then Porthos left him to marry the solicitor's widow; last, Aramis, to take orders and to become an abbé. From that moment D'Artagnan, who seemed to have mixed up his future with that of his three friends, found himself isolated and weak, and without courage to follow a career in which he foresaw that he could gain no reputation, unless each of his friends should (if we may so speak) communicate to him a portion of that electric fluid which he had received from heaven. Therefore, although he had become a lieutenant of musketeers, D'Artagnan found himself still more isolated. He was not of sufficiently high birth, like Athos, to be admitted into the highest society, nor had he the vanity of Porthos, to make others believe that this was the case. He was not, like Aramis, sufficiently well-bred to maintain his natural elegance—an elegance derived from himself ... Of the two antagonistic natures making up D'Artagnan's individuality, the material one had gradually taken precedence ... Not that D'Artagnan had lost his original acuteness ... But he had applied this acuteness to the small, and not the great, purposes of life."
    Such is the picture drawn of D'Artagnan at the beginning of the present story. Fortunately his shell of isolation is broken into. Events come to a head demanding an alert mind and a resolute arm. D'Artagnan intuitively grasps the situation. The stagnant forces of his nature throw themselves rapidly forward; and they come out of the rush and roar freshened and purified—for therein they have fused again with the sympathism of his reunited friends. The brief contact, though destined to be broken again, leaves him re-imbued with the traits that had been lacking, and again ready to follow out his destiny more unswervingly.
    In sketching D'Artagnan, side-lights have been thrown upon the other three. Athos is living the quiet life of a country gentleman, giving close attention to the training of his young son, Raoul. He emerges from his retirement to take part in the Fronde and in the closing scenes of Charles I.'s career. The hatred of Mordaunt, also, is an incitement to action. Always high-minded and noble, the strength of Athos' character nowhere appeals more strongly than in the incidents where, for the first time, the four friends find themselves arrayed against each other. Porthos has forsaken the hardships of a soldier's life and is revelling in luxurious idleness. But one great principle of his nature—vanity—urges him forward to renewed effort. And though the vanity is never concealed, it is veiled by such simple manliness and shrouded by such absolute self-forgetfulness as to become a positive charm. Aramis has entered the cloister, but is dreaming dreams—now of intrigues with fair women (he can never quite forget them), now of plots with princes who can reward him with bishoprics and even with cardinal's hats. Thus far, however, his personal plans have not seriously hampered his devotion to his friends, and his attitude is not absolutely distasteful. Nevertheless, great crises reveal the true character. In the episode where the four friends find themselves at swords' points, the real Aramis is disclosed by the same flash which shines upon Athos.
    Mazarin's craftiness and niggardliness are not exaggerated by Dumas, if historians are to be believed. His character is, perhaps, drawn closer to life than was that of Richelieu. Another cleverly sketched figure is that of the Duc de Beaufort, whose escape from prison was effected almost exactly in the manner described. Still another evidence of verity on Dumas' part is the escapade of Madame de Chevreuse, in connection with the birth of Raoul, the incident being founded closely on fact. The reader makes the acquaintance, in this book, of three youthful personages, who are destined to play an important part "ten years later"—Raoul, Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise de la Vallière, and Louis XIV.
    It may be noted with some surprise that the "Four Inseparables" should be found fighting on opposite sides, both in the French Fronde and in the English Revolution. At first glance such a state of affairs would seem incompatible with their friendship. But Dumas uses the situation to demonstrate upon what broad lines a true friendship may really be based. Never has this noble theme been more nobly treated. Time and space had apparently removed the tie uniting these souls in one bond of devotion. But once they are brought together again their hearts beat in. unison. A wonderful climax is that where the four men, after twenty years of separation, find in the clash of a night combat their blows glancing harmlessly off an invincible adversary. Thrust and parry are given and returned futilely, till the moment when the surprised combatants behold themselves opposed each to him who had been friend and brother and comrade in arms in the former days. Then a new friendship is upreared upon the still solid foundations of the old, and the new affection is even more comprehensive than the old, since it can hold the four unalterably, even while ostensibly they might be found on opposite sides of a field of battle. Once the new alliance is made they become invincible again. Their arms which had been of little avail singly are now combined with positive strength enough to seize and hold a Mazarin while a queen is being dictated to. Still there is nothing sensational or strained in this renewed exhibition of strength. Events unfold themselves naturally. The four friends have united to form a machine of fate. Each part is capable of performing a certain task. D'Artagnan may plan all the details of escape from the cardinal's hunting pavilion, but it requires the strength of Porthos to wrest the bars from the windows. It is not strange, then, that the completed machine should have moved forward so irresistibly to the accomplishment of its ends. It is not strange that "Twenty Years After" the four soldiers of fortune should repeat the glorious performances of their youth.

            J. WALKER MCSPADDEN.

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