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First digital edition 2017 by Anna Ruggieri
Inwhich it is proved that, notwithstanding their names’ending in OS and IS, the heroes of the story which we are about tohave the honor to relate to our readers have nothing mythologicalabout them.
A short time ago, while making researches in the Royal Libraryfor my History of Louis XIV, I stumbled by chance upon the Memoirsof M. d’Artagnan, printed--as were most of the works of thatperiod, in which authors could not tell the truth without the riskof a residence, more or less long, in the Bastille--atAmsterdam, byPierre Rouge. The title attracted me; I took them home with me,with the permission of the guardian, and devoured them.
It is not my intention here to enter into an analysis of thiscurious work; and I shall satisfy myself with referring such of myreaders as appreciate the pictures of the period to its pages. Theywill therein find portraits penciled by the hand of a master; andalthough these squibs may be, for the most part, traced upon thedoors of barracks and the walls of cabarets, theywill not find thelikenesses of Louis XIII, Anne of Austria, Richelieu, Mazarin, andthe courtiers of the period, less faithful than in the history ofM. Anquetil.
But, it is well known, what strikes the capricious mind of thepoet is not always what affects the mass of readers. Now, whileadmiring, as others doubtless will admire, the details we have torelate, our main preoccupation concerned a matter to which no onebefore ourselves had given a thought.
D’Artagnan relates that on his first visit to M. deTreville, captain of the king’s Musketeers, he met in theantechamber three young men, serving in the illustrious corps intowhich he was soliciting the honor of being received, bearing thenames of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.
We must confess these threestrange names struck us; and itimmediately occurred to us that they were but pseudonyms, underwhich d’Artagnan had disguised names perhapsillustrious, orelse that the bearers of these borrowed names had themselves chosenthem on the day in which, fromcaprice, discontent, or want offortune, they had donned the simple Musketeer’s uniform.
From that moment we had no rest till we could find some trace incontemporary works of these extraordinary names which had sostrongly awakened our curiosity.
The catalogue alone of the books we read with this object wouldfill a whole chapter, which, although it might be very instructive,would certainly afford our readers but little amusement. It willsuffice, then, to tell them that at the moment at which,discouraged by so many fruitless investigations, we were about toabandon our search, we at length found, guided by the counsels ofour illustrious friend Paulin Paris, a manuscript in folio,endorsed 4772 or 4773, we do not recollect which, having for title,“Memoirs of the Comte de la Fere, Touching Some Events WhichPassed in France Toward the End of the Reign of King Louis XIII andthe Commencement of the Reign of King Louis XIV.”
It may be easily imagined how great was our joy when, in turningover this manuscript, our last hope, we found at the twentieth pagethe name of Athos, at the twenty-seventh the name of Porthos, andat the thirty-first the name of Aramis.
The discovery of a completely unknown manuscript at a period inwhich historical science is carriedto such a high degree appearedalmost miraculous. We hastened, therefore, to obtain permission toprint it, with the view of presenting ourselves someday with thepack of others at the doors of the Academie des Inscriptions etBelles Lettres, if we shouldnot succeed--a very probable thing, bythe by--in gaining admission to the Academie Francaise with our ownproper pack. This permission, we feel bound to say, was graciouslygranted; which compels us here to give a public contradiction tothe slanderers who pretend that we live under a government butmoderately indulgent to men of letters.
Now, this is the first part of this precious manuscript which weoffer to our readers, restoring it to the title which belongs toit, and entering into an engagement that if (of which we have nodoubt) this first part should obtain the success it merits, we willpublish the second immediately.
In the meanwhile, as the godfather is a second father, we begthe reader to lay to our account, and not to that of the Comte delaFere, the pleasure or the ENNUI he may experience.
This being understood, let us proceed with our history.
On the first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the market townof Meung, in which the author of ROMANCE OF THE ROSE was born,appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if theHuguenots had just made a second La Rochelle of it. Many citizens,seeing the women flying toward the High Street, leaving theirchildren crying at the open doors, hastened to don the cuirass, andsupporting their somewhat uncertain courage with a musket or apartisan, directed their steps toward the hostelry of the JollyMiller, before which was gathered, increasing every minute, acompact group, vociferous and full of curiosity.
In those times panics were common, and few days passed withoutsome city or other registering in its archives an event of thiskind. There were nobles, who made war against each other; there wasthe king, who made war against the cardinal; therewas Spain, whichmade war against the king. Then, in addition to these concealed orpublic, secret or open wars, there were robbers, mendicants,Huguenots, wolves, and scoundrels, who made war upon everybody. Thecitizens always took up arms readily against thieves, wolves orscoundrels, often against nobles or Huguenots, sometimes againstthe king, but never against the cardinal or Spain. It resulted,then, from this habit that on the said first Monday of April, 1625,the citizens, on hearing the clamor, and seeing neither thered-and-yellow standard nor the livery of the Duc de Richelieu,rushed toward the hostel of the Jolly Miller. When arrived there,the cause of the hubbub was apparent to all.
A young man--we can sketch his portrait at a dash. Imaginetoyourself a Don Quixote of eighteen; a Don Quixote without hiscorselet, without his coat of mail, without his cuisses; a DonQuixote clothed in a woolen doublet, the blue color of which hadfaded into a nameless shade between lees of wine and aheavenlyazure; face long and brown; high cheek bones, a sign ofsagacity; the maxillary muscles enormously developed, an infalliblesign by which a Gascon may always be detected, even without hiscap--and our young manwore a cap set off with a sort of feather;the eye open and intelligent; the nose hooked, but finely chiseled.Too big for a youth, too small for a grown man, an experienced eyemight have taken him for a farmer’s son upon a journey had itnot been for the long sword which, dangling from a leather baldric,hit against the calves of its owner as he walked, and against therough side of his steed when he was on horseback.
For our young man had a steed which was the observed of allobservers. It was a Bearn pony, from twelve to fourteen years old,yellow in his hide, without a hair in his tail, but not withoutwindgalls on his legs, which, though going with his head lower thanhis knees, rendering a martingale quite unnecessary, contrivednevertheless to perform his eight leagues a day. Unfortunately, thequalities of this horse were so well concealed under hisstrange-colored hide and his unaccountable gait, that at a timewhen everybody was a connoisseur in horseflesh, the appearance ofthe aforesaid pony at Meung--which place he had entered about aquarter of an hour before, by the gate of Beaugency--produced anunfavorable feeling, which extended to his rider.
And this feeling had been more painfully perceived by youngd’Artagnan--for so was the Don Quixote of this secondRosinante named--from his notbeing able to conceal from himself theridiculous appearance that such a steed gave him, good horseman ashe was. He had sighed deeply, therefore, when accepting the gift ofthe pony from M. d’Artagnan the elder. He was not ignorantthat such a beast was worth at least twenty livres; and the wordswhich had accompanied the present were above all price.
“My son,” said the old Gascon gentleman, in thatpure Bearn PATOIS of which Henry IV could never rid himself,“this horse was born in the house of your father aboutthirteen years ago, and has remained in it ever since, which oughtto make you love it. Never sell it; allow it to die tranquilly andhonorably of old age, and if you make a campaign with it, take asmuch care of it as you would of an old servant.At court, providedyou have ever the honor to go there,” continued M.d’Artagnan the elder, “--an honor to which, remember,your ancient nobility gives you the right--sustain worthily yourname of gentleman, which has been worthily borne by yourancestorsfor five hundred years, both for your own sake and thesake of those who belong to you. By the latter I mean yourrelatives and friends. Endure nothing from anyone except Monsieurthe Cardinal and the king. It is by his courage, please observe, byhis courage alone, that a gentleman can make his way nowadays.Whoever hesitates for a second perhaps allows the bait to escapewhich during that exact second fortune held out to him. You areyoung. You ought to be brave for two reasons: the first is that youarea Gascon, and the second is that you are my son. Never fearquarrels, but seek adventures. I have taught you how to handle asword; you have thews of iron, a wrist of steel. Fight on alloccasions. Fight the more for duels being forbidden,sinceconsequently there is twice as much courage in fighting. Ihave nothing to give you, my son, but fifteen crowns, my horse, andthe counsels you have just heard. Your mother will add to them arecipe for a certain balsam, which she had from a Bohemian andwhich has the miraculous virtue of curing all wounds that do notreach the heart. Take advantage of all, and live happily and long.I have but one word to add, and that is to propose an example toyou--not mine, for I myself have never appeared at court, and haveonly taken part in religious wars as a volunteer; I speak ofMonsieur de Treville, who was formerly my neighbor, and who had thehonor to be, as a child, the play-fellow of our king, Louis XIII,whom God preserve! Sometimes their play degenerated into battles,and in these battles the king was not always the stronger. Theblows which he received increased greatly his esteem and friendshipfor Monsieur de Treville. Afterward, Monsieur de Treville foughtwith others: in his first journey to Paris, five times; from thedeath of the late king till the young one came of age, withoutreckoning wars and sieges, seven times; and from that date up tothe present day, a hundred times, perhaps! So that in spite ofedicts, ordinances, and decrees, there he is, captain of theMusketeers; that is to say, chief of a legion of Caesars, whom theking holds in great esteem and whom the cardinal dreads--he whodreads nothing, as it is said. Still further, Monsieur de Trevillegains ten thousand crowns a year; he is therefore a great noble. Hebegan as you begin. Go to him with this letter, and make him yourmodel in order that you may do as he has done.”
Upon which M. d’Artagnan the elder girded his own swordround his son, kissed him tenderly on both cheeks, and gave him hisbenediction.
On leaving the paternal chamber, the young man found his mother,who was waiting for him with the famous recipe of which thecounsels we have just repeated would necessitate frequentemployment. The adieux were on this side longer and more tenderthan they had been on the other--not that M. d’Artagnan didnot love his son, who was his only offspring, but M.d’Artagnan was a man, and he would have considered itunworthy of a man to give way to his feelings; whereas Mme.d’Artagnan was a woman, and still more, a mother. She weptabundantly; and--let us speak it to the praise of M.d’Artagnan the younger--notwithstanding the efforts he madeto remain firm, as a future Musketeer ought, nature prevailed, andhe shed many tears, of which he succeeded withgreat difficulty inconcealing the half.
The same day the young man set forward on his journey, furnishedwith the three paternal gifts, which consisted, as we have said, offifteen crowns, the horse, and the letter for M. de Treville--thecounsels being thrown into the bargain.
With such a VADE MECUM d’Artagnan was morally andphysically an exact copy of the hero of Cervantes, to whom we sohappily compared him when our duty of an historianplaced us underthe necessity of sketching his portrait. Don Quixote took windmillsfor giants, and sheep for armies; d’Artagnan took every smilefor an insult, and every look as a provocation--whence it resultedthat from Tarbes to Meung his fist was constantly doubled, or hishand on the hilt of his sword; and yet thefist did not descend uponany jaw, nor did the sword issue from its scabbard. It was not thatthe sight of the wretched pony did not excite numerous smiles onthe countenances of passers-by; but as against the side of thispony rattled a sword of respectable length, and as over this swordgleamed an eye rather ferocious than haughty, these passers-byrepressed their hilarity, or if hilarity prevailed over prudence,they endeavored to laugh only on one side, like the masks of theancients. D’Artagnan, then,remained majestic and intact inhis susceptibility, till he came to this unlucky city of Meung.
But there, as he was alighting from his horse at the gate of theJolly Miller, without anyone--host, waiter, or hostler--coming tohold his stirrup or take hishorse, d’Artagnan spied, thoughan open window on the ground floor, a gentleman, well-made and ofgood carriage, although of rather a stern countenance, talking withtwo persons who appeared to listen to him with respect.D’Artagnan fancied quite naturally, according to his custom,that he must be the object of their conversation, and listened.This time d’Artagnan was only in part mistaken; he himselfwas not in question, but his horse was. The gentleman appeared tobe enumerating all his qualities to hisauditors; and, as I havesaid, the auditors seeming to have great deference for thenarrator, they every moment burst into fits of laughter. Now, as ahalf-smile was sufficient to awaken the irascibility of the youngman, the effect produced upon him by this vociferous mirth may beeasily imagined.
Nevertheless, d’Artagnan was desirous of examining theappearance of this impertinent personage who ridiculed him. Hefixed his haughty eye upon the stranger, and perceived a man offrom forty to forty-five yearsof age, with black and piercing eyes,pale complexion, a strongly marked nose, and a black andwell-shaped mustache. He was dressed in a doublet and hose of aviolet color, with aiguillettes of the same color, without anyother ornaments than the customary slashes, through which the shirtappeared. This doublet and hose, though new, were creased, liketraveling clothes for a long time packed in a portmanteau.D’Artagnan made all these remarks with the rapidity of a mostminute observer, and doubtless froman instinctive feeling that thisstranger was destined to have a great influence over his futurelife.
Now, as at the moment in which d’Artagnan fixed his eyesupon the gentleman in the violet doublet, the gentleman made one ofhis most knowing and profound remarks respecting the Bearnese pony,his two auditors laughed even louder than before, and he himself,though contrary to his custom, allowed a pale smile (if I may beallowed to usesuch an expression) to stray over his countenance.This time there could be no doubt; d’Artagnan was reallyinsulted. Full, then, of this conviction, he pulled his cap downover his eyes, and endeavoring to copy some of the court airs hehad picked up in Gascony among young traveling nobles, he advancedwith one hand on thehilt of his sword and the other resting on hiship. Unfortunately, as he advanced, his anger increased at everystep; and instead of the proper and lofty speech he had prepared asa prelude to his challenge, he found nothing at the tip of histongue but agross personality, which he accompanied with a furiousgesture.
“I say, sir, you sir, who are hiding yourself behind thatshutter--yes, you, sir, tell me what you are laughing at, and wewill laugh together!”
The gentleman raised his eyes slowly from the nag to hiscavalier, as if he required some time to ascertain whether it couldbe to him that such strange reproaches were addressed; then, whenhe could not possibly entertain any doubt of the matter, hiseyebrows slightly bent, and with an accent of ironyand insolenceimpossible to be described, he replied to d’Artagnan,“I was not speaking to you, sir.”
“But I am speaking to you!” replied the young man,additionally exasperated with this mixture of insolence and goodmanners, of politeness and scorn.
Thestranger looked at him again with a slight smile, andretiring from the window, came out of the hostelry with a slowstep, and placed himself before the horse, within two paces ofd’Artagnan. His quiet manner and the ironical expression ofhis countenanceredoubled the mirth of the persons with whom he hadbeen talking, and who still remained at the window.
D’Artagnan, seeing him approach, drew his sword a foot outof the scabbard.
“This horse is decidedly, or rather has been in his youth,a buttercup,” resumed the stranger, continuing the remarks hehad begun, and addressing himself to his auditors at the window,without paying the least attention to the exasperation ofd’Artagnan, who, however, placed himself between him andthem. “It is a color very wellknown in botany, but till thepresent time very rare among horses.”
“There are people who laugh at the horse that would notdare to laugh at the master,” cried the young emulator of thefurious Treville.
“I do not often laugh, sir,” replied thestranger,“as you may perceive by the expression of mycountenance; but nevertheless I retain the privilege of laughingwhen I please.”
“And I,” cried d’Artagnan, “will allowno man to laugh when it displeases me!”
“Indeed, sir,” continued the stranger, more calmthan ever; “well, that is perfectly right!” and turningon his heel, was about to re-enter the hostelry by the front gate,beneath which d’Artagnan on arriving had observed a saddledhorse.
But, d’Artagnan was not of a character to allow a man toescape himthus who had the insolence to ridicule him. He drew hissword entirely from the scabbard, and followed him, crying,“Turn, turn, Master Joker, lest I strike youbehind!”
“Strike me!” said the other, turning on his heels,and surveying the young man with asmuch astonishment as contempt.“Why, my good fellow, you must be mad!” Then, in asuppressed tone, as if speaking to himself, “This isannoying,” continued he. “What a godsend this would befor his Majesty, who is seeking everywhere for brave fellows torecruit for his Musketeers!”
He had scarcely finished, when d’Artagnan made such afurious lunge at him that if he had not sprung nimbly backward, itis probable he would have jested for the last time. The stranger,then perceiving that the matter went beyond raillery, drew hissword, saluted his adversary, and seriously placed himself onguard. But at the same moment, his two auditors, accompanied by thehost, fell upon d’Artagnan with sticks, shovels and tongs.This caused so rapid and complete a diversionfrom the attack thatd’Artagnan’s adversary, while the latter turned roundto face this shower of blows, sheathed his sword with the sameprecision, and instead of an actor, which he had nearly been,became a spectator of the fight--a part in which he acquittedhimself with his usual impassiveness, muttering, nevertheless,“A plague upon these Gascons! Replace him on his orangehorse, and let him begone!”
“Not before I have killed you, poltroon!” criedd’Artagnan, making the best face possible, and neverretreating one step before his three assailants, who continued toshower blows upon him.
“Another gasconade!” murmured the gentleman.“By my honor, these Gascons are incorrigible! Keep up thedance, then, since he will have it so. When he is tired, hewillperhaps tell us that he has had enough of it.”
But the stranger knew not the headstrong personage he had to dowith; d’Artagnan was not the man ever to cry for quarter. Thefight was therefore prolonged for some seconds; but at lengthd’Artagnan dropped his sword, which was broken in two piecesby the blow of a stick. Another blow full upon his forehead at thesame moment brought him to the ground, covered with blood andalmost fainting.
It was at this moment that people came flocking to the scene ofactionfrom all sides. The host, fearful of consequences, with thehelp of his servants carried the wounded man into the kitchen,where some trifling attentions were bestowed upon him.
As to the gentleman, he resumed his place at the window, andsurveyed thecrowd with a certain impatience, evidently annoyed bytheir remaining undispersed.
“Well, how is it with this madman?” exclaimed he,turning round as the noise of the door announced the entrance ofthe host, who came in to inquire if he was unhurt.
“Your excellency is safe and sound?” asked thehost.
“Oh, yes! Perfectly safe and sound, my good host; and Iwish to know what has become of our young man.”
“He is better,” said the host, “he faintedquite away.”
“Indeed!” said the gentleman.
“But before hefainted, he collected all his strength tochallenge you, and to defy you while challenging you.”
“Why, this fellow must be the devil in person!”cried the stranger.
“Oh, no, your Excellency, he is not the devil,”replied the host, with a grin of contempt;“for during hisfainting we rummaged his valise and found nothing but a clean shirtand eleven crowns--which however, did not prevent his saying, as hewas fainting, that if such a thing had happened in Paris, youshould have cause to repent of it at a later period.”
“Then,” said the stranger coolly, “he must besome prince in disguise.”
“I have told you this, good sir,” resumed the host,“in order that you may be on your guard.”
“Did he name no one in his passion?”
“Yes; he struck his pocket and said, ‘Weshall seewhat Monsieur de Treville will think of this insult offered to hisprotege.’”
“Monsieur de Treville?” said the stranger, becomingattentive, “he put his hand upon his pocket while pronouncingthe name of Monsieur de Treville? Now, my dear host, while youryoung man was insensible, you did not fail, I am quite sure, toascertain what that pocket contained. What was there init?”
“A letter addressed to Monsieur de Treville, captain ofthe Musketeers.”
“Exactly as I have the honor to tell yourExcellency.”
The host, who was not endowed with great perspicacity, did notobserve the expression which his words had given to the physiognomyof the stranger. The latter rose from the front of the window, uponthe sill of which he had leaned with hiselbow, and knitted his browlike a man disquieted.
“The devil!” murmured he, between his teeth.“Can Treville have set this Gascon upon me? He is very young;but a sword thrust is a sword thrust, whatever be the age of himwho gives it, and a youth is less to be suspected than an olderman,” and the stranger fell into a reverie which lasted someminutes. “A weak obstacle is sometimes sufficient tooverthrow a great design.
“Host,” said he, “could you not contrive toget rid of this frantic boy for me? In conscience, I cannot killhim; and yet,” added he, with a coldly menacing expression,“he annoys me. Where is he?”
“In my wife’s chamber, on the first flight, wherethey are dressing his wounds.”
“His things and his bag are with him? Has he taken off hisdoublet?”
“On the contrary, everything is in the kitchen. But if heannoys you, this young fool--”
“To be sure he does. He causes a disturbance in yourhostelry, which respectable people cannot put up with. Go; make outmy bill and notify my servant.”
“What,monsieur, will you leave us so soon?”
“You know that very well, as I gave my order to saddle myhorse. Have they not obeyed me?”
“It is done; as your Excellency may have observed, yourhorse is in the great gateway, ready saddled for yourdeparture.”
“That is well; do as I have directed you, then.”
“What the devil!” said the host to himself.“Can he be afraid of this boy?” But an imperious glancefrom the stranger stopped him short; he bowed humbly andretired.
“It is not necessary for Milady* to be seen by thisfellow,” continued the stranger. “She will soon pass;she is already late. I had better get on horseback, and go and meether. I should like, however, to know what this letter addressed toTreville contains.”
*We are well aware that this term, milady, is only properly usedwhen followed by a family name. But we find it thus in themanuscript, and we do not choose to take upon ourselves to alterit.
And the stranger, muttering to himself, directed his stepstoward the kitchen.
In the meantime, thehost, who entertained no doubt that it wasthe presence of the young man that drove the stranger from hishostelry, re-ascended to his wife’s chamber, and foundd’Artagnan just recovering his senses. Giving him tounderstand that the police would deal withhim pretty severely forhaving sought a quarrel with a great lord--for in the opinion ofthe host the stranger could be nothing less than a great lord--heinsisted that notwithstanding his weakness d’Artagnan shouldget up and depart as quickly as possible. D’Artagnan, halfstupefied, without his doublet, and with his head bound up in alinen cloth, arose then, and urged by the host, began to descendthe stairs; but on arriving at the kitchen, the first thing he sawwas his antagonist talking calmly at thestep of a heavy carriage,drawn by two large Norman horses.
His interlocutor, whose head appeared through the carriagewindow, was a woman of from twenty to two-and-twenty years. We havealready observed with what rapidityd’Artagnan seized theexpressionof a countenance. He perceived then, at a glance, thatthis woman was young and beautiful; and her style of beauty struckhim more forcibly from its being totally different from that of thesouthern countries in which d’Artagnan had hitherto resided.Shewas pale and fair, with long curls falling in profusion over hershoulders, had large, blue, languishing eyes, rosy lips, and handsof alabaster. She was talking with great animation with thestranger.
“His Eminence, then, orders me--” said the lady.
“To return instantly to England, and to inform him as soonas the duke leaves London.”
“And as to my other instructions?” asked the fairtraveler.
“They are contained in this box, which you will not openuntil you are on the other side of the Channel.”
“Very well; and you--what will you do?”
“I--I return to Paris.”
“What, without chastising this insolent boy?” askedthe lady.
The stranger was about to reply; but at the moment he opened hismouth, d’Artagnan, who had heard all, precipitated himselfover the threshold of the door.
“This insolent boy chastises others,” cried he;“and I hope that this time he whom he ought to chastise willnot escape him as before.”
“Will not escape him?” replied the stranger,knitting his brow.
“No; before a woman you would dare notfly, Ipresume?”
“Remember,” said Milady, seeing the stranger lay hishand on his sword, “the least delay may ruineverything.”
“You are right,” cried the gentleman; “begonethen, on your part, and I will depart as quickly on mine.”And bowing to the lady, he sprang into his saddle, while hercoachman applied his whip vigorously to his horses. The twointerlocutors thus separated, taking opposite directions, at fullgallop.
“Pay him, booby!” cried the stranger to his servant,without checking the speed ofhis horse; and the man, after throwingtwo or three silver pieces at the foot of mine host, galloped afterhis master.
“Base coward! false gentleman!” criedd’Artagnan, springing forward, in his turn, after theservant. But his wound had rendered him too weak to support such anexertion. Scarcely had he gone ten steps when his ears began totingle, a faintness seized him, a cloud of blood passed over hiseyes, and he fell in the middle of the street, crying still,“Coward! coward! coward!”
“He is a coward,indeed,” grumbled the host, drawingnear to d’Artagnan, and endeavoring by this little flatteryto make up matters with the young man, as the heron of the fabledid with the snail he had despised the evening before.
“Yes, a base coward,” murmuredd’Artagnan;“but she--she was very beautiful.”
“What she?” demanded the host.
“Milady,” faltered d’Artagnan, and fainted asecond time.
“Ah, it’s all one,” said the host; “Ihave lost two customers, but this one remains, of whom I am prettycertain for some days to come. There will be eleven crownsgained.”
It is to be remembered that eleven crowns was just the sum thatremained in d’Artagnan’s purse.
The host had reckoned upon eleven days of confinement at a crowna day, but he had reckoned without his guest. On the followingmorning at five o’clock d’Artagnan arose, anddescending to the kitchen without help, asked, among otheringredients the list of which has not come down to us, for someoil, some wine, and some rosemary, and with his mother’srecipe inhis hand composed a balsam, with which he anointed hisnumerous wounds, replacing his bandages himself, and positivelyrefusing the assistance of any doctor, d’Artagnan walkedabout that same evening, and was almost cured by the morrow.
But when the timecame to pay for his rosemary, this oil, and thewine, the only expense the master had incurred, as he had preserveda strict abstinence--while on the contrary, the yellow horse, bythe account of the hostler at least, had eaten three times as muchas a horse of his size could reasonably be supposed to havedone--d’Artagnan found nothing in his pocket but his littleold velvet purse with the eleven crowns it contained; for as to theletter addressed to M. de Treville, it had disappeared.
The young man commenced his search for the letter with thegreatest patience, turning out his pockets of all kinds over andover again, rummaging and rerummaging in his valise, and openingand reopening his purse; but when he found that he had come to theconviction that theletter was not to be found, he flew, for thethird time, into such a rage as was near costing him a freshconsumption of wine, oil, and rosemary--for upon seeing thishot-headed youth become exasperated and threaten to destroyeverything in the establishment if his letter were not found, thehost seized a spit, his wife a broom handle, and the servants thesame sticks they had used the day before.
“My letter of recommendation!” criedd’Artagnan, “my letter of recommendation! or, the holyblood, I will spityou all like ortolans!”
Unfortunately, there was one circumstance which created apowerful obstacle to the accomplishment of this threat; which was,as we have related, that his sword had been in his first conflictbroken in two, and which he had entirelyforgotten. Hence, itresulted whend’Artagnan proceeded to draw his sword inearnest, he found himself purely and simply armed with a stump of asword about eight or ten inches in length, which the host hadcarefully placed in the scabbard. As to the restof the blade, themaster had slyly put that on one side to make himself a lardingpin.
But this deception would probably not have stopped our fieryyoung man if the host had not reflected that the reclamation whichhis guest made was perfectly just.
“But,after all,” said he, lowering the point of hisspit, “where is this letter?”
“Yes, where is this letter?” cried d’Artagnan.“In the first place, I warn you that that letter is forMonsieur de Treville, and it must be found, or if it is not found,he will know how to find it.”
His threat completed the intimidation of the host. After theking and the cardinal, M. de Treville was the man whose name wasperhaps most frequently repeated by the military, and even bycitizens. There was, to be sure, Father Joseph,but his name wasnever pronounced but with a subdued voice, such was the terrorinspired by his Gray Eminence, as the cardinal’s familiar wascalled.
Throwing down his spit, and ordering his wife to do the samewith her broom handle, and the servants withtheir sticks, he setthe first example of commencing an earnest search for the lostletter.
“Does the letter contain anything valuable?”demanded the host, after a few minutes of uselessinvestigation.
“Zounds! I think it does indeed!” cried the Gascon,who reckoned upon this letter for making his way at court.“It contained my fortune!”
“Bills upon Spain?” asked the disturbed host.
“Bills upon his Majesty’s private treasury,”answered d’Artagnan, who, reckoning upon entering into theking’s service in consequence of this recommendation,believed he could make this somewhat hazardous reply withouttelling of a falsehood.
“The devil!” cried the host, at his wit’send.
“But it’s of no importance,” continuedd’Artagnan, with natural assurance; “it’s of noimportance. The money is nothing; that letter was everything. Iwould rather have lost a thousand pistoles than have lostit.” He would not have risked more if he had said twentythousand; but a certain juvenile modesty restrained him.
A ray of light all at once broke upon the mind of the host as hewas giving himself to the devil upon finding nothing.
“That letter is not lost!” cried he.
“What!” cried d’Artagnan.
“No, it has been stolen from you.”
“Stolen? By whom?”
“By the gentleman who was here yesterday. Hecame down intothe kitchen, where your doublet was. He remained there some timealone. I would lay a wager he has stolen it.”
“Do you think so?” answered d’Artagnan, butlittle convinced, as he knew better than anyone else how entirelypersonal the valueof this letter was, and saw nothing in it likelyto tempt cupidity. The fact was that none of his servants, none ofthe travelers present, could have gained anything by beingpossessed of this paper.
“Do you say,” resumed d’Artagnan, “thatyou suspect thatimpertinent gentleman?”
“I tell you I am sure of it,” continued the host.“When I informed him that your lordship was the protege ofMonsieur de Treville, and that you even had a letter for thatillustrious gentleman, he appeared to be very much disturbed, andasked me where that letter was, and immediately came down into thekitchen, where he knew your doublet was.”
“Then that’s my thief,” repliedd’Artagnan. “I will complain to Monsieur de Treville,and Monsieur de Treville will complain to the king.” Hethendrew two crowns majestically from his purse and gave them to thehost, who accompanied him, cap in hand, to the gate, and remountedhis yellow horse, which bore him without any further accident tothe gate of St. Antoine at Paris, where his owner sold him forthree crowns, which was a very good price, considering thatd’Artagnan had ridden him hard during the last stage. Thusthe dealer to whom d’Artagnan sold him for the nine livresdid not conceal from the young man that he only gave that enormoussum for him on the account of the originality of his color.
Thus d’Artagnan entered Paris on foot, carrying his littlepacket under his arm, and walked about till he found an apartmentto be let on terms suited to the scantiness of his means. Thischamber was a sort of garret, situated in the Rue des Fossoyeurs,near the Luxembourg.
As soon as the earnest money was paid, d’Artagnan tookpossession of his lodging, and passed the remainder of the day insewing onto his doublet and hose some ornamental braidingwhich hismother had taken off an almost-new doublet of the elder M.d’Artagnan, and which she had given her son secretly. Next hewent to the Quai de Feraille to have a new blade put to his sword,and then returned toward the Louvre, inquiring of the firstMusketeer he met for the situation of the hotel of M. de Treville,which proved to be in the Rue du Vieux-Colombier; that is to say,in the immediate vicinity of the chamber hired byd’Artagnan--a circumstance which appeared to furnish a happyaugury for the success of his journey.
After this, satisfied with the way in which he had conductedhimself at Meung, without remorse for the past, confident in thepresent, and full of hope for the future, he retired to bed andslept the sleep of the brave.
This sleep, provincial as it was, brought him to nineo’clock in the morning; at which hour he rose, in order torepair to the residence of M. de Treville, the third personage inthe kingdom, in the paternal estimation.
MdeTroisville, as his family was still called in Gascony, or M.de Treville, as he has ended by styling himself in Paris, hadreally commenced life as d’Artagnan now did; that is to say,without a sou in his pocket, but with a fund of audacity,shrewdness, and intelligence which makes the poorest Gascongentleman often derive more in his hope from the paternalinheritance than the richest Perigordian or Berrichan gentlemanderives in reality from his. His insolent bravery, his still moreinsolent success at atime when blows poured down like hail, hadborne him to the top of that difficult ladder called Court Favor,which he had climbed four steps at a time.
He was the friend of the king, who honored highly, as everyoneknows, the memory of his father, Henry IV. The father of M. deTreville had served him so faithfully in his wars against theleague that in default of money--a thing to which the Bearnais wasaccustomed all his life, and who constantly paid his debts withthat of which he never stood in need of borrowing, that is to say,with ready wit--in default of money, we repeat, he authorized him,after the reduction of Paris, to assume for his arms a golden lionpassant upon gules, with the motto FIDELIS ET FORTIS. This was agreat matter in the way of honor, but very little in the way ofwealth; so that when the illustrious companion of the great Henrydied, the only inheritance he was able to leave his son was hissword and his motto. Thanks to this double gift and the spotlessname that accompanied it, M.de Treville was admitted into thehousehold of the young prince where he made such good use of hissword, and was so faithful to his motto, that Louis XIII, one ofthe good blades of his kingdom, was accustomed to say that if hehad a friend who was aboutto fight, he would advise him to chooseas a second, himself first, and Treville next--or even, perhaps,before himself.
Thus Louis XIII had a real liking for Treville--a royal liking,a self-interested liking, it is true, but still a liking. Atthatunhappy period it was an important consideration to besurrounded by such men as Treville. Many might take for theirdevice the epithet STRONG,which formed the second part of hismotto, but very few gentlemen could lay claim to the FAITHFUL,which constituted the first. Treville was one of these latter. Hiswas one of those rare organizations, endowed with an obedientintelligence like that of the dog; with a blind valor, a quick eye,and a prompt hand; to whom sight appeared only to be given to seeif theking were dissatisfied with anyone, and the hand to strikethis displeasing personage, whether a Besme, a Maurevers, a Poltiotde Mere, or a Vitry. In short, up to this period nothing had beenwanting to Treville but opportunity; but he was ever on the watchfor it, and he faithfully promised himself that he would not failto seize it by its three hairs whenever it came within reach of hishand. At last Louis XIII made Treville the captain of hisMusketeers, who were to Louis XIII in devotedness, or ratherinfanaticism, what his Ordinaries had been to Henry III, and hisScotch Guard to Louis XI.
On his part, the cardinal was not behind the king in thisrespect. When he saw the formidable and chosen body with whichLouis XIII had surrounded himself, this second, or rather thisfirst king of France, became desirous that he, too, should have hisguard. He had his Musketeers therefore, as Louis XIII had his, andthese two powerful rivals vied with each other in procuring, notonly from all the provinces of France, but even from all foreignstates, the most celebrated swordsmen. It was not uncommon forRichelieu and Louis XIII to dispute over their evening game ofchess upon the merits of their servants. Each boasted the bearingand the courage of his own people.While exclaiming loudly againstduels and brawls, they excited them secretly to quarrel, derivingan immoderate satisfaction or genuine regret from the success ordefeat of their own combatants. We learn this from the memoirs of aman who was concerned insome few of these defeats and in many ofthese victories.
Treville had grasped the weak side of his master; and it was tothis address that he owed the long and constant favor of a king whohas not left the reputation behind him of being very faithful inhisfriendships. He paraded his Musketeers before the Cardinal ArmandDuplessis with an insolent air which made the gray moustache of hisEminence curl with ire. Treville understood admirably the warmethod of that period, in which he who could not live atthe expenseof the enemy must live at the expense of his compatriots. Hissoldiers formed a legion of devil-may-care fellows, perfectlyundisciplined toward all but himself.
Loose, half-drunk, imposing, the king’s Musketeers, orrather M. de Treville’s, spread themselves about in thecabarets, in the public walks, and the public sports, shouting,twisting their mustaches, clanking their swords, and taking greatpleasure in annoying the Guards of the cardinal whenever they couldfall in with them; then drawing in the open streets, as if it werethe best of all possible sports; sometimes killed, but sure in thatcase tobe both wept and avenged; often killing others, but thencertain of not rotting in prison, M. de Treville being there toclaim them. Thus M.de Treville was praised to the highest note bythese men, who adored him, and who, ruffians as they were, trembledbefore him like scholars before their master, obedient to his leastword, and ready to sacrifice themselves to wash out the smallestinsult.
M de Treville employed this powerful weapon for the king, in thefirst place, and the friends of the king--and then for himself andhis own friends. For the rest, in the memoirs of this period, whichhas left so many memoirs, one does not find this worthygentlemanblamed even by his enemies; and he had many such among men of thepen as well as among men of the sword. In no instance, let us say,was this worthy gentleman accused of deriving personal advantagefrom the cooperation of his minions. Endowed with a rare genius forintrigue which rendered him the equal of the ablest intriguers, heremained an honest man. Still further, in spite of sword thrustswhich weaken, and painful exercises which fatigue, he had becomeone of the most gallant frequenters ofrevels, one of the mostinsinuating lady’s men, one of the softest whisperers ofinteresting nothings of his day; the BONNES FORTUNES of de Trevillewere talked of as those of M. de Bassompierre had been talked oftwenty years before, and that was not saying a little. The captainof the Musketeers was therefore admired, feared, and loved; andthis constitutes the zenith of human fortune.
Louis XIV absorbed all the smaller stars of his court in his ownvast radiance; but his father, a sun PLURIBUS IMPAR, left hispersonal splendor to each of his favorites, his individual value toeach of his courtiers. In addition to the leeves of the king andthe cardinal, there might be reckoned in Paris at that time morethan two hundred smaller but still noteworthy leeves. Among thesetwo hundred leeves, that of Treville was one of the mostsought.
The court of his hotel, situated in the Rue du Vieux-Colombier,resembled a camp from by six o’clock in the morning in summerand eight o’clock in winter. From fifty to sixty Musketeers,who appeared to replace one another in order always to present animposing number, paraded constantly, armed to the teeth and readyfor anything. On one of those immense staircases, upon whose spacemodern civilization would build a whole house,ascended anddescended the office seekers of Paris, who ran after any sort offavor--gentlemen from the provinces anxious to be enrolled, andservants in all sorts of liveries, bringing and carrying messagesbetween their masters and M. de Treville. In theantechamber, uponlong circular benches, reposed the elect; that is to say, those whowere called. In this apartment a continued buzzing prevailed frommorning till night, while M. de Treville, in his office contiguousto this antechamber, received visits, listened to complaints,gavehis orders, and like the king in his balcony at the Louvre, hadonly to place himself at the window to review both his men andarms.
The day on which d’Artagnan presented himself theassemblage was imposing, particularly fora provincial just arrivingfrom his province. It is true that this provincial was a Gascon;and that, particularly at this period, the compatriots ofd’Artagnan had the reputation of not being easilyintimidated. When he had once passed the massive door covered withlong square-headed nails, he fell into the midst of a troop ofswordsmen, who crossed one another in their passage, calling out,quarreling, and playing tricks one with another. In order to makeone’s way amid these turbulent and conflicting waves, it wasnecessary to be an officer, a great noble, or a pretty woman.
It was, then, into the midst of this tumult and disorder thatour young man advanced with a beating heart, ranging his longrapier up his lanky leg, and keeping one hand on the edge of hiscap, with that half-smile of the embarrassed provincial who wishesto put on a good face. When he had passed one group he began tobreathe more freely; but he could not help observing that theyturned round to look at him, and for the first time in his lifed’Artagnan, who had till that day entertained a very goodopinion of himself, felt ridiculous.
Arrived at the staircase, it was still worse. There were fourMusketeers on the bottom steps, amusing themselves with thefollowing exercise, while ten or twelve of their comrades waitedupon the landing place to take their turn in the sport.
One of them, stationed upon the top stair, naked sword in hand,prevented, or at least endeavored to prevent, the three others fromascending.
These three othersfenced against him with their agileswords.
D’Artagnan at first took these weapons for foils, andbelieved them to be buttoned; but he soon perceived by certainscratches that every weapon was pointed and sharpened, and that ateach of these scratches notonly the spectators, but even the actorsthemselves, laughed like so many madmen.
He who at the moment occupied the upper step kept hisadversaries marvelously in check. A circle was formed around them.The conditions required that at every hit the man touched shouldquit the game, yielding his turn for the benefit of the adversarywho had hit him. In five minutes three were slightly wounded, oneon the hand, another on the ear, by the defender of the stair, whohimself remained intact--a piece of skill which was worth to him,according to the rules agreed upon, three turns of favor.
However difficult it might be, or rather as he pretended it was,to astonish our young traveler, this pastime really astonished him.He had seen in his province--that land in which heads become soeasily heated--a few of the preliminaries of duels; but the daringof these four fencers appeared to him the strongest he had everheard of even in Gascony. Hebelieved himself transported into thatfamous country of giants into which Gulliver afterward went and wasso frightened; and yet he had not gained the goal, for there werestill the landing place and the antechamber.
On the landing they were no longer fighting, but amusedthemselves with stories about women, and in the antechamber, withstories about the court. On the landing d’Artagnan blushed;in the antechamber he trembled. His warm and fickle imagination,which in Gascony had rendered him formidable to young chambermaids,and even sometimes their mistresses, had never dreamed,even inmoments of delirium, of half the amorous wonders or a quarter ofthe feats of gallantry which were here set forth in connection withnames the best known and with details the least concealed. But ifhis morals were shocked on the landing, his respect for thecardinal was scandalized in the antechamber. There, to his greatastonishment, d’Artagnan heard the policy which made allEurope tremble criticized aloud and openly, as well as the privatelife of the cardinal, which so many great nobles had been punishedfor trying to pry into. That great man who was so revered byd’Artagnan the elder served as an object of ridicule to theMusketeers of Treville, who cracked their jokes upon his bandy legsand his crooked back. Some sang ballads about Mme.d’Aguillon, his mistress, and Mme. Cambalet, his niece; whileothers formed parties and plans to annoy the pages and guards ofthe cardinal duke--all things which appeared to d’Artagnanmonstrous impossibilities.
Nevertheless, when the name of the king was nowand then utteredunthinkingly amid all these cardinal jests, a sort of gag seemed toclose for a moment on all these jeering mouths. They lookedhesitatingly around them, and appeared to doubt the thickness ofthe partition between them and the office ofM. de Treville; but afresh allusion soon brought back the conversation to his Eminence,and then the laughter recovered its loudness and the light was notwithheld from any of his actions.
“Certes, these fellows will all either be imprisoned orhanged,” thought the terrified d’Artagnan, “andI, no doubt, with them; for from the moment I have either listenedto or heard them, I shall be held as an accomplice. What would mygood father say, who so strongly pointed out to me the respect dueto the cardinal, if he knew I was in the society of suchpagans?”
We have no need, therefore, to say that d’Artagnan darednot join in the conversation, only he looked with all his eyes andlistened with all his ears, stretching his five senses so as tolose nothing; and despite his confidence on the paternaladmonitions, he felt himself carried by his tastes and led by hisinstincts to praise rather than to blame the unheard-of thingswhich were taking place.
Although he was a perfect stranger in the court of M. deTreville’s courtiers, and this his first appearance in thatplace, he was at length noticed, and somebody came and asked himwhat he wanted. At this demand d’Artagnan gave his name verymodestly, emphasized the title of compatriot, and begged theservant who had put the question to him to request a moment’saudience of M. de Treville--a request which the other, with an airof protection, promised to transmit in due season.
D’Artagnan, a little recovered from his first surprise,had now leisure to study costumes andphysiognomy.
The center of the most animated group was a Musketeer of greatheight and haughty countenance, dressed in a costume so peculiar asto attract general attention. He did not wear the uniformcloak--which was not obligatory at that epoch of lessliberty butmore independence--but a cerulean-blue doublet, a little faded andworn, and over this a magnificent baldric, worked in gold, whichshone like water ripples in the sun. A long cloak of crimson velvetfell in graceful folds from his shoulders,disclosing in front thesplendid baldric, from which was suspended a gigantic rapier. ThisMusketeer had just come off guard, complained of having a cold, andcoughed from time to time affectedly. It was for this reason, as hesaid to those around him, that he had put on his cloak; and whilehe spoke with a lofty air and twisted his mustache disdainfully,all admired his embroidered baldric, and d’Artagnan more thananyone.
“What would you have?” said the Musketeer.“This fashion is coming in. It is a folly, I admit, but stillit is the fashion. Besides, one must lay out one’sinheritance somehow.”
“Ah, Porthos!” cried one of his companions,“don’t try to make us believe you obtained that baldricby paternal generosity. It was given to you by that veiled lady Imet you with the other Sunday, near the gate St. Honor.”
“No, upon honor and by the faith of a gentleman, I boughtit with the contents of my own purse,” answered he whom theydesignated by the name Porthos.
“Yes; about in the same manner,” said anotherMusketeer, “that I bought this new purse with what mymistress put into the old one.”
“It’s true, though,” said Porthos; “andthe proof is that I paid twelve pistoles for it.”
The wonder was increased, though the doubt continued toexist.
“Is it not true, Aramis?” said Porthos, turningtoward another Musketeer.
This other Musketeer formed a perfect contrast to hisinterrogator, who had just designated him by the name of Aramis. Hewas a stout man, of about two- or three-and-twenty, with an open,ingenuouscountenance, a black, mild eye, and cheeks rosy and downyas an autumn peach. His delicate mustache marked a perfectlystraight line upon his upper lip; he appeared to dread to lower hishands lest their veins should swell, and hepinched the tips ofhisears from time to time to preserve their delicate pinktransparency. Habitually he spoke little and slowly, bowedfrequently, laughed without noise, showing his teeth, which werefine and of which, as the rest of his person, he appeared to takegreat care.He answered the appeal of his friend by an affirmativenod of the head.
This affirmation appeared to dispel all doubts with regard tothe baldric. They continued to admire it, but said no more aboutit; and with a rapid change of thought, the conversationpassedsuddenly to another subject.
“What do you think of the story Chalais’s esquirerelates?” asked another Musketeer, without addressing anyonein particular, but on the contrary speaking to everybody.
“And what does he say?” asked Porthos, in aself-sufficient tone.
“He relates that he met at Brussels Rochefort, the AMEDAMNEE of the cardinal disguised as a Capuchin, and that thiscursed Rochefort, thanks to his disguise, had tricked Monsieur deLaigues, like a ninny as he is.”
“A ninny, indeed!” saidPorthos; “but is thematter certain?”
“I had it from Aramis,” replied the Musketeer.
“Why, you knew it, Porthos,” said Aramis. “Itold you of it yesterday. Let us say no more about it.”
“Say no more about it? That’s YOUR opinion!”replied Porthos.
“Say no more about it! PESTE! You come to your conclusionsquickly. What! The cardinal sets a spy upon a gentleman, has hisletters stolen from him by means of a traitor, a brigand, arascal--has, with the help of this spy and thanks to thiscorrespondence, Chalais’s throat cut, under the stupidpretext that he wanted to kill the king and marry Monsieur to thequeen! Nobody knew a word of this enigma. You unraveled ityesterday to the great satisfaction of all; and while we are stillgaping with wonder atthe news, you come and tell us today,‘Let us say no more about it.’”
“Well, then, let us talk about it, since you desireit,” replied Aramis, patiently.
“This Rochefort,” cried Porthos, “if I werethe esquire of poor Chalais, should pass a minute or twoveryuncomfortably with me.”
“And you--you would pass rather a sad quarter-hour withthe Red Duke,” replied Aramis.
“Oh, the Red Duke! Bravo! Bravo! The Red Duke!”cried Porthos, clapping his hands and nodding his head. “TheRed Duke is capital. I’ll circulate that saying, be assured,my dear fellow. Who says this Aramis is not a wit? What amisfortune it is you did not follow your first vocation; what adelicious abbe you would have made!”
“Oh, it’s only a temporary postponement,”replied Aramis; “I shallbe one someday. You very well know,Porthos, that I continue to study theology for thatpurpose.”
“He will be one, as he says,” cried Porthos;“he will be one, sooner or later.”
“Sooner,” said Aramis.
“He only waits for one thing to determine him to resumehiscassock, which hangs behind his uniform,” said anotherMusketeer.
“What is he waiting for?” asked another.
“Only till the queen has given an heir to the crown ofFrance.”
“No jesting upon that subject, gentlemen,” saidPorthos; “thank God the queen isstill of an age to giveone!”
“They say that Monsieur de Buckingham is in France,”replied Aramis, with a significant smile which gave to thissentence, apparently so simple, a tolerably scandalous meaning.
“Aramis, my good friend, this time you are wrong,”interrupted Porthos. “Your wit is always leading you beyondbounds; if Monsieur de Treville heard you, you would repent ofspeaking thus.”
“Are you going to give me a lesson, Porthos?” criedAramis, from whose usually mild eye a flash passed likelightning.
“My dear fellow, be a Musketeer or an abbe. Be one or theother, but not both,” replied Porthos. “You know whatAthos told you the other day; you eat at everybody’s mess.Ah, don’t be angry, I beg of you, that would be useless; youknow what is agreedupon between you, Athos and me. You go to Madamed’Aguillon’s, and you pay your court to her; you go toMadame de Bois-Tracy’s, the cousin of Madame de Chevreuse,and you pass for being far advanced in the good graces of thatlady. Oh, good Lord! Don’t trouble yourself to reveal yourgood luck; no one asks for your secret-all the world knows yourdiscretion. But since you possess that virtue, why the devildon’t you make use of it with respect to her Majesty? Letwhoever likes talk of the king and the cardinal, and how he likes;but the queen is sacred, and if anyone speaks of her, let it berespectfully.”
“Porthos, you are as vain as Narcissus; I plainly tell youso,” replied Aramis. “You know I hate moralizing,except when it is done by Athos. As to you,good sir, you wear toomagnificent a baldric to be strong on that head. I will be an abbeif it suits me. In the meanwhile I am a Musketeer; in that qualityI say what I please, and at this moment it pleases me to say thatyou weary me.”
“Gentlemen! Gentlemen!” cried the surroundinggroup.
“Monsieur de Treville awaits Monsieurd’Artagnan,” cried a servant, throwing open the door ofthe cabinet.
At this announcement, during which the door remained open,everyone became mute, and amid thegeneral silence the young mancrossed part of the length of the antechamber, and entered theapartment of the captain of the Musketeers, congratulating himselfwith all his heart at having so narrowly escaped the end of thisstrange quarrel.
Mde Treville was at the moment in rather ill-humor, neverthelesshe saluted the young man politely, who bowed to the very ground;and he smiled on receiving d’Artagnan’s response, theBearnese accent of which recalled to him at the same time hisyouthand his country--a double remembrance which makes a man smileat all ages; but stepping toward the antechamber and making a signto d’Artagnan with his hand, as if to ask his permission tofinish with others before he began with him, he called threetimes,with a louder voice at each time, so that he ran through theintervening tones between the imperative accent and the angryaccent.
“Athos! Porthos! Aramis!”
The two Musketeers with whom we have already made acquaintance,and who answered to the last of these three names, immediatelyquitted the group of which they had formed a part, and advancedtoward the cabinet, the door of which closed after them as soon asthey had entered. Their appearance, although it was not quite atease, excited by its carelessness, at once full of dignity andsubmission, the admiration of d’Artagnan, who beheld in thesetwo men demigods, and in their leader an Olympian Jupiter, armedwith all his thunders.
When the two Musketeers had entered; when the door was closedbehind them;when the buzzing murmur of the antechamber, to whichthe summons which had been made had doubtless furnished fresh food,had recommenced; when M. de Treville had three or four times pacedin silence, and with a frowning brow, the whole length of hiscabinet, passing each time before Porthos and Aramis, who were asupright and silent as if on parade--he stopped all at once full infront of them, and covering them from head to foot with an angrylook, “Do you know what the king said to me,” cried he,“and that no longer ago than yesterday evening--do you know,gentlemen?”
“No,” replied the two Musketeers, after amoment’s silence, “no, sir, we do not.”
“But I hope that you will do us the honor to tellus,” added Aramis, in his politest tone and with hismostgraceful bow.
“He told me that he should henceforth recruit hisMusketeers from among the Guards of Monsieur theCardinal.”
“The Guards of the cardinal! And why so?” askedPorthos, warmly.
“Because he plainly perceives that his piquette* stands inneed ofbeing enlivened by a mixture of good wine.”
*A watered liquor, made from the second pressing of thegrape.
The two Musketeers reddened to the whites of their eyes.D’Artagnan did not know where he was, and wished himself ahundred feet underground.
“Yes, yes,” continued M. de Treville, growing warmeras he spoke, “and his majesty was right; for, upon my honor,it is true that the Musketeers make but a miserable figure atcourt. The cardinal related yesterday while playing with the king,with an air of condolence very displeasing to me, that the daybefore yesterday those DAMNED MUSKETEERS, those DAREDEVILS--hedwelt upon those words with an ironical tone still more displeasingto me--those BRAGGARTS, added he, glancing at me with histiger-cat’s eye, had made a riot in the Rue Ferou in acabaret, and that a party of his Guards (I thought he was going tolaugh in my face) had been forced to arrest the rioters! MORBLEU!You must know something about it. Arrest Musketeers! You were amongthem--you were! Don’t deny it; you were recognized, and thecardinal named you. But it’s all my fault; yes, it’sall my fault, because it is myself who selects my men. You, Aramis,why the devil did you ask me for a uniform when you would have beenso much better in a cassock? And you, Porthos, do you only wearsuch a fine golden baldric to suspend a sword of straw from it? AndAthos--I don’t see Athos. Where is he?”
“Very ill, say you? And of what malady?”
“It is feared that it may be the smallpox, sir,”replied Porthos,desirous of taking his turn in the conversation;“and what is serious is that it will certainly spoil hisface.”
“The smallpox! That’s a great story to tell me,Porthos! Sick of the smallpox at his age! No, no; but woundedwithout doubt, killed, perhaps. Ah, if I knew! S’blood!Messieurs Musketeers, I will not have this haunting of bad places,this quarreling in the streets, this swordplay at the crossways;and above all, I will not have occasion given for thecardinal’s Guards, who are brave, quiet, skillful men whonever put themselves in a position to be arrested, and who,besides, never allow themselves to be arrested, to laugh at you! Iam sure of it--they would prefer dying on the spot to beingarrested or taking back a step. To save yourselves, to scamperaway, to flee--that is good for the king’sMusketeers!”
Porthos and Aramis trembled with rage. They could willingly havestrangled M. de Treville, if, at the bottom of all this, they hadnot felt it was the great love he bore them which made himspeakthus. They stamped upon the carpet with their feet; they bittheir lips till the blood came, and grasped the hilts of theirswords with all their might. All without had heard, as we havesaid, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis called, and had guessed, from M.deTreville’s tone of voice, that he was very angry aboutsomething. Ten curious heads were glued to the tapestry and becamepale with fury; for their ears, closely applied to the door, didnot lose a syllable of what he said, while their mouths repeatedashe went on, the insulting expressions of the captain to all thepeople in the antechamber. In an instant, from the door of thecabinet to the street gate, the whole hotel was boiling.
“Ah! The king’s Musketeers are arrested by theGuards of the cardinal, are they?” continued M. de Treville,as furious at heart as his soldiers, but emphasizing his words andplunging them, one by one, so to say, like so many blows of astiletto, into the bosoms of his auditors. “What! Six of hisEminence’s Guards arrest six of his Majesty’sMusketeers! MORBLEU! My part is taken! I will go straight to thelouvre; I will give in my resignation as captain of theking’s Musketeers to take a lieutenancy in thecardinal’s Guards, and if he refuses me, MORBLEU! I will turnabbe.”
Atthese words, the murmur without became an explosion; nothingwas to be heard but oaths and blasphemies. The MORBLEUS, the SANGDIEUS, the MORTS TOUTS LES DIABLES, crossed one another in the air.D’Artagnan looked for some tapestry behind which he mighthide himself, and felt an immense inclination to crawl under thetable.
“Well, my Captain,” said Porthos, quite besidehimself, “the truth is that we were six against six. But wewere not captured by fair means; and before we had time to draw ourswords, twoof our party were dead, and Athos, grievously wounded,was very little better. For you know Athos. Well, Captain, heendeavored twice to get up, and fell again twice. And we did notsurrender--no! They dragged us away by force. On the way weescaped. As for Athos, they believed him to be dead, and left himvery quiet on the field of battle, not thinking it worth thetrouble to carry him away. That’s the whole story. What thedevil, Captain, one cannot win all one’s battles! The greatPompey lost that of Pharsalia; and Francis the First, who was, as Ihave heard say, as good as other folks, nevertheless lost theBattle of Pavia.”
“And I have the honor of assuring you that I killed one ofthem with his own sword,” said Aramis; “for mine wasbroken at the firstparry. Killed him, or poniarded him, sir, as ismost agreeable to you.”
“I did not know that,” replied M. de Treville, in asomewhat softened tone. “The cardinal exaggerated, as Iperceive.”
“But pray, sir,” continued Aramis, who, seeing hiscaptain become appeased, ventured to risk a prayer, “do notsay that Athos is wounded. He would be in despair if that shouldcome to the ears of the king; and as the wound is very serious,seeing that after crossing the shoulder it penetrates into thechest, it is to be feared--”
At this instant the tapestry was raised and a noble and handsomehead, but frightfully pale, appeared under the fringe.
“Athos!” cried the two Musketeers.
“Athos!” repeated M. de Treville himself.
“You have sent for me, sir,” said Athos to M.deTreville, in a feeble yet perfectly calm voice, “you havesent for me, as my comrades inform me, and I have hastened toreceive your orders. I am here; what do you want withme?”
And at these words, the Musketeer, in irreproachable costume,belted as usual, with a tolerably firm step, entered the cabinet.M. de Treville, moved to the bottom of his heart by this proof ofcourage, sprang toward him.
“I was about to say to these gentlemen,” added he,“that I forbid my Musketeers to expose their livesneedlessly; for brave men are very dear to the king, and the kingknows that his Musketeers are the bravest on the earth. Your hand,Athos!”
And without waiting for the answer of the newcomer to this proofof affection, M. de Treville seized his right hand and pressed itwith all his might, without perceiving that Athos, whatever mightbe his self-command, allowed a slight murmur of pain to escape him,and if possible, grew paler than he was before.
The door had remained open, so strong was the excitementproduced by the arrival of Athos, whose wound, though kept as asecret, was known to all. A burst of satisfaction hailed the lastwords of the captain; and two or three heads, carried away by theenthusiasm of the moment, appeared through the openings of thetapestry. M. de Treville was about to reprehend this breach of therules of etiquette, when he felt the hand of Athos, who had ralliedall his energies to contend against pain, at length overcome by it,fell upon the floor as if he were dead.
“A surgeon!” cried M. de Treville, “mine! Theking’s! The best! A surgeon! Or, s’blood, my braveAthos will die!”