LOUISE DE LA VALLIERE
by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
The Vicomte de Bragelonne is the final volume of D'Artagnan Romances: it is usually split into three or four parts, and the final portion is entitled The Man in the Iron Mask. The Man in the Iron Mask we're familiar with today is the last volume of the four-volume edition. [Not all the editions split them in the same manner, hence some of the confusion...but wait...there's yet more reason for confusion.]
We intend to do ALL of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, split into four etexts entitled The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Ten Years Later, Louise de la Valliere, and The Man in the Iron Mask; you WILL be getting The Man in the Iron Mask.
One thing that may be causing confusion is that the etext we have now, entitled Ten Years Later, says it's the sequel to The Three Musketeers. While this is technically true, there's another book, Twenty Years After, that comes between. The confusion is generated by the two facts that we published Ten Years Later BEFORE we published Twenty Years After, and that many people see those titles as meaning Ten and Twenty Years "After" the original story...however, this is why the different words "After" and "Later"...the Ten Years "After" is ten years after the Twenty Years later.. .as per history. Also, the third book of the D'Artagnan Romances, while entitled The Vicomte de Bragelonne, has the subtitle Ten Years Later. These two titles are also given to different volumes: The Vicomte de Bragelonne can refer to the whole book, or the first volume of the three or four-volume editions. Ten Years Later can, similarly, refer to the whole book, or the second volume of the four-volume edition. To add to the confusion, in the case of our etexts, it refers to the first 104 chapters of the whole book, covering material in the first and second etexts in the new series. Here is a guide to the series which may prove helpful:
The Three Musketeers: Etext 1257—First book of the D'Artagnan Romances. Covers the years 1625-1628.
Twenty Years After: Etext 1259—Second book of the D'Artagnan Romances. Covers the years 1648-1649. [Third in the order that we published, but second in time sequence!!!]
Ten Years Later: Etext 1258—First 104 chapters of the third book of the D'Artagnan Romances. Covers the years 1660-1661.
The Vicomte de Bragelonne: Etext 2609 (first in the new series)—First 75 chapters of the third book of the D'Artagnan Romances. Covers the year 1660.
Ten Years Later: Etext 2681 (second in the new series)—Chapters 76-140 of that third book of the D'Artagnan Romances. Covers the years 1660-1661. [In this particular editing of it]
Louise de la Valliere: Etext 2710 (our new text)—Chapters 141-208 of the third book of the D'Artagnan Romances. Covers the year 1661.
The Man in the Iron Mask: forthcoming (our next text)—Chapters 209-269 of the third book of the D'Artagnan Romances. Covers the years 1661-1673.
If we've calculated correctly, that fourth text SHOULD correspond to the modern editions of The Man in the Iron Mask, which is still widely circulated, and comprises about the last 1/4 of The Vicomte de Bragelonne.
Here is a list of the other Dumas Etexts we have published so far:
Sep 1999 La Tulipe Noire, by Alexandre Dumas[Pere#6/French][tlpnrxxx.xxx]1910 This is an abridged edition in French, also see our full length English Etext Jul 1997 The Black Tulip, by Alexandre Dumas[Pere][Dumas#1][tbtlpxxx.xxx] 965 Jan 1998 The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas[Pere][crstoxxx.xxx]1184
Many thanks to Dr. David Coward, whose editions of the D'Artagnan Romances have proved an invaluable source of information.
Introduction: In the months of March-July in 1844, in the magazine Le Siecle, the first portion of a story appeared, penned by the celebrated playwright Alexandre Dumas. It was based, he claimed, on some manuscripts he had found a year earlier in the Bibliotheque Nationale while researching a history he planned to write on Louis XIV. They chronicled the adventures of a young man named D'Artagnan who, upon entering Paris, became almost immediately embroiled in court intrigues, international politics, and ill-fated affairs between royal lovers. Over the next six years, readers would enjoy the adventures of this youth and his three famous friends, Porthos, Athos, and Aramis, as their exploits unraveled behind the scenes of some of the most momentous events in French and even English history.
Eventually these serialized adventures were published in novel form, and became the three D'Artagnan Romances known today. Here is a brief summary of the first two novels:
The Three Musketeers (serialized March—July, 1844): The year is 1625. The young D'Artagnan arrives in Paris at the tender age of 18, and almost immediately offends three musketeers, Porthos, Aramis, and Athos. Instead of dueling, the four are attacked by five of the Cardinal's guards, and the courage of the youth is made apparent during the battle. The four become fast friends, and, when asked by D'Artagnan's landlord to find his missing wife, embark upon an adventure that takes them across both France and England in order to thwart the plans of the Cardinal Richelieu. Along the way, they encounter a beautiful young spy, named simply Milady, who will stop at nothing to disgrace Queen Anne of Austria before her husband, Louis XIII, and take her revenge upon the four friends.
Twenty Years After (serialized January—August, 1845): The year is now 1648, twenty years since the close of the last story. Louis XIII has died, as has Cardinal Richelieu, and while the crown of France may sit upon the head of Anne of Austria as Regent for the young Louis XIV, the real power resides with the Cardinal Mazarin, her secret husband. D'Artagnan is now a lieutenant of musketeers, and his three friends have retired to private life. Athos turned out to be a nobleman, the Comte de la Fere, and has retired to his home with his son, Raoul de Bragelonne. Aramis, whose real name is D'Herblay, has followed his intention of shedding the musketeer's cassock for the priest's robes, and Porthos has married a wealthy woman, who left him her fortune upon her death. But trouble is stirring in both France and England. Cromwell menaces the institution of royalty itself while marching against Charles I, and at home the Fronde is threatening to tear France apart. D'Artagnan brings his friends out of retirement to save the threatened English monarch, but Mordaunt, the son of Milady, who seeks to avenge his mother's death at the musketeers' hands, thwarts their valiant efforts. Undaunted, our heroes return to France just in time to help save the young Louis XIV, quiet the Fronde, and tweak the nose of Cardinal Mazarin.
The third novel, The Vicomte de Bragelonne (serialized October, 1847—January, 1850), has enjoyed a strange history in its English translation. It has been split into three, four, or five volumes at various points in its history. The five-volume edition generally does not give titles to the smaller portions, but the others do. In the three-volume edition, the novels are entitled The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise de la Valliere, and The Man in the Iron Mask. For the purposes of this etext, I have chosen to split the novel as the four-volume edition does, with these titles: The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Ten Years Later, Louise de la Valliere, and The Man in the Iron Mask. In the first two etexts:
The Vicomte de Bragelonne (Etext 2609): It is the year 1660, and D'Artagnan, after thirty-five years of loyal service, has become disgusted with serving King Louis XIV while the real power resides with the Cardinal Mazarin, and has tendered his resignation. He embarks on his own project, that of restoring Charles II to the throne of England, and, with the help of Athos, succeeds, earning himself quite a fortune in the process. D'Artagnan returns to Paris to live the life of a rich citizen, and Athos, after negotiating the marriage of Philip, the king's brother, to Princess Henrietta of England, likewise retires to his own estate, La Fere. Meanwhile, Mazarin has finally died, and left Louis to assume the reigns of power, with the assistance of M. Colbert, formerly Mazarin's trusted clerk. Colbert has an intense hatred for M. Fouquet, the king's superintendent of finances, and has resolved to use any means necessary to bring about his fall. With the new rank of intendant bestowed on him by Louis, Colbert succeeds in having two of Fouquet's loyal friends tried and executed. He then brings to the king's attention that Fouquet is fortifying the island of Belle-Ile-en-Mer, and could possibly be planning to use it as a base for some military operation against the king. Louis calls D'Artagnan out of retirement and sends him to investigate the island, promising him a tremendous salary and his long-promised promotion to captain of the musketeers upon his return. At Belle-Isle, D'Artagnan discovers that the engineer of the fortifications is, in fact, Porthos, now the Baron du Vallon, and that's not all. The blueprints for the island, although in Porthos's handwriting, show evidence of another script that has been erased, that of Aramis. D'Artagnan later discovers that Aramis has become the bishop of Vannes, which is, coincidentally, a parish belonging to M. Fouquet. Suspecting that D'Artagnan has arrived on the king's behalf to investigate, Aramis tricks D'Artagnan into wandering around Vannes in search of Porthos, and sends Porthos on an heroic ride back to Paris to warn Fouquet of the danger. Fouquet rushes to the king, and gives him Belle-Isle as a present, thus allaying any suspicion, and at the same time humiliating Colbert, just minutes before the usher announces someone else seeking an audience with the king.
Ten Years Later (Etext 2681): As 1661 approaches, Princess Henrietta of England arrives for her marriage, and throws the court of France into complete disorder. The jealousy of the Duke of Buckingham, who is in love with her, nearly occasions a war on the streets of Le Havre, thankfully prevented by Raoul's timely and tactful intervention. After the marriage, though, Monsieur Philip becomes horribly jealous of Buckingham, and has him exiled. Before leaving, however, the duke fights a duel with M. de Wardes at Calais. De Wardes is a malicious and spiteful man, the sworn enemy of D'Artagnan, and, by the same token, that of Athos, Aramis, Porthos, and Raoul as well. Both men are seriously wounded, and the duke is taken back to England to recover. Raoul's friend, the Comte de Guiche, is the next to succumb to Henrietta's charms, and Monsieur obtains his exile as well, though De Guiche soon effects a reconciliation. But then the king's eye falls on Madame Henrietta during the comte's absence, and this time Monsieur's jealousy has no recourse. Anne of Austria intervenes, and the king and his sister-in-law decide to pick a young lady with whom the king can pretend to be in love, the better to mask their own affair. They unfortunately select Louise de la Valliere, Raoul's fiancee. While the court is in residence at Fontainebleau, the king unwitting overhears Louise confessing her love for him while chatting with her friends beneath the royal oak, and the king promptly forgets his affection for Madame. That same night, Henrietta overhears, at the same oak, De Guiche confessing his love for her to Raoul. The two embark on their own affair. A few days later, during a rainstorm, Louis and Louise are trapped alone together, and the whole court begins to talk of the scandal while their love affair blossoms. Aware of Louise's attachment, the king arranges for Raoul to be sent to England for an indefinite period.
Meanwhile, the struggle for power continues between Fouquet and Colbert. Although the Belle-Isle plot backfired, Colbert prompts the king to ask Fouquet for more and more money, and without his two friends to raise it for him, Fouquet is sorely pressed. The situation gets so bad that his new mistress, Madame de Belliere, must resort to selling all her jewels and her gold and silver plate. Aramis, while this is going on, has grown friendly with the governor of the Bastile, M. de Baisemeaux, a fact that Baisemeaux unwittingly reveals to D'Artagnan while inquiring of him as to Aramis's whereabouts. This further arouses the suspicions of the musketeer, who was made to look ridiculous by Aramis. He had ridden overnight at an insane pace, but arrived a few minutes after Fouquet had already presented Belle-Isle to the king. Aramis learns from the governor the location of a mysterious prisoner, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Louis XIV—in fact, the two are identical. He uses the existence of this secret to persuade a dying Franciscan monk, the general of the society of the Jesuits, to name him, Aramis, the new general of the order. On Aramis's advice, hoping to use Louise's influence with the king to counteract Colbert's influence, Fouquet also writes a love letter to La Valliere, unfortunately undated. It never reaches its destination, however, as the servant ordered to deliver it turns out to be an agent of Colbert's.
Porthos, in the meantime, has been recovering from his midnight ride from Belle-Isle at Fouquet's residence at Saint-Mande. Athos has retired, once again to La Fere. D'Artagnan, little amused by the court's activities at Fontainebleau, and finding himself with nothing to do, has returned to Paris, and we find him again in Planchet's grocery shop.
And so, the story continues in this, the third etext of The Vicomte de Bragelonne. Enjoy!
Chapter I. Malaga.
During all these long and noisy debates between the opposite ambitions of politics and love, one of our characters, perhaps the one least deserving of neglect, was, however, very much neglected, very much forgotten, and exceedingly unhappy. In fact, D'Artagnan—D'Artagnan, we say, for we must call him by his name, to remind our readers of his existence—D'Artagnan, we repeat, had absolutely nothing whatever to do, amidst these brilliant butterflies of fashion. After following the king during two whole days at Fontainebleau, and critically observing the various pastoral fancies and heroi-comic transformations of his sovereign, the musketeer felt that he needed something more than this to satisfy the cravings of his nature. At every moment assailed by people asking him, "How do you think this costume suits me, Monsieur d'Artagnan?" he would reply to them in quiet, sarcastic tones, "Why, I think you are quite as well-dressed as the best-dressed monkey to be found in the fair at Saint-Laurent." It was just such a compliment D'Artagnan would choose where he did not feel disposed to pay any other: and, whether agreeable or not, the inquirer was obliged to be satisfied with it. Whenever any one asked him, "How do you intend to dress yourself this evening?" he replied, "I shall undress myself;" at which the ladies all laughed, and a few of them blushed. But after a couple of days passed in this manner, the musketeer, perceiving that nothing serious was likely to arise which would concern him, and that the king had completely, or, at least, appeared to have completely forgotten Paris, Saint-Mande, and Belle-Isle—that M. Colbert's mind was occupied with illuminations and fireworks—that for the next month, at least, the ladies had plenty of glances to bestow, and also to receive in exchange—D'Artagnan asked the king for leave of absence for a matter of private business. At the moment D'Artagnan made his request, his majesty was on the point of going to bed, quite exhausted from dancing.
"You wish to leave me, Monsieur d'Artagnan?" inquired the king, with an air of astonishment; for Louis XIV. could never understand why any one who had the distinguished honor of being near him could wish to leave him.
"Sire," said D'Artagnan, "I leave you simply because I am not of the slightest service to you in anything. Ah! if I could only hold the balancing-pole while you were dancing, it would be a very different affair."
"But, my dear Monsieur d'Artagnan," said the king, gravely, "people dance without balancing-poles."
"Ah! indeed," said the musketeer, continuing his imperceptible tone of irony, "I had no idea such a thing was possible."
"You have not seen me dance, then?" inquired the king.
"Yes; but I always thought dancers went from easy to difficult acrobatic feats. I was mistaken; all the more greater reason, therefore, that I should leave for a time. Sire, I repeat, you have no present occasion for my services; besides, if your majesty should have any need of me, you would know where to find me."
"Very well," said the king, and he granted him leave of absence.
We shall not look for D'Artagnan, therefore, at Fontainebleau, for to do so would be useless; but, with the permission of our readers, follow him to the Rue des Lombards, where he was located at the sign of the Pilon d'Or, in the house of our old friend Planchet. It was about eight o'clock in the evening, and the weather was exceedingly warm; there was only one window open, and that one belonging to a room on the entresol. A perfume of spices, mingled with another perfume less exotic, but more penetrating, namely, that which arose from the street, ascended to salute the nostrils of the musketeer. D'Artagnan, reclining in an immense straight-backed chair, with his legs not stretched out, but simply placed upon a stool, formed an angle of the most obtuse form that could possibly be seen. Both his arms were crossed over his head, his head reclining upon his left shoulder, like Alexander the Great. His eyes, usually so quick and intelligent in their expression, were now half-closed, and seemed fastened, as it were, upon a small corner of blue sky that was visible behind the opening of the chimneys; there was just enough blue, and no more, to fill one of the sacks of lentils, or haricots, which formed the principal furniture of the shop on the ground floor. Thus extended at his ease, and sheltered in his place of observation behind the window, D'Artagnan seemed as if he had ceased to be a soldier, as if he were no longer an officer belonging to the palace, but was, on the contrary, a quiet, easy-going citizen in a state of stagnation between his dinner and supper, or between his supper and his bed; one of those strong, ossified brains, which have no more room for a single idea, so fiercely does animal matter keep watch at the doors of intelligence, narrowly inspecting the contraband trade which might result from the introduction into the brain of a symptom of thought. We have already said night was closing in, the shops were being lighted, while the windows of the upper apartments were being closed, and the rhythmic steps of a patrol of soldiers forming the night watch could be heard retreating. D'Artagnan continued, however, to think of nothing, except the blue corner of the sky. A few paces from him, completely in the shade, lying on his stomach, upon a sack of Indian corn, was Planchet, with both his arms under his chin, and his eyes fixed on D'Artagnan, who was either thinking, dreaming, or sleeping, with his eyes open. Planchet had been watching him for a tolerably long time, and, by way of interruption, he began by exclaiming, "Hum! hum!" But D'Artagnan did not stir. Planchet then saw that it was necessary to have recourse to more effectual means still: after a prolonged reflection on the subject, the most ingenious means that suggested itself to him under the present circumstances, was to let himself roll off the sack on to the floor, murmuring, at the same time, against himself, the word "stupid." But, notwithstanding the noise produced by Planchet's fall, D'Artagnan, who had in the course of his existence heard many other, and very different falls, did not appear to pay the least attention to the present one. Besides, an enormous cart, laden with stones, passing from the Rue Saint-Mederic, absorbed, in the noise of its wheels, the noise of Planchet's tumble. And yet Planchet fancied that, in token of tacit approval, he saw him imperceptibly smile at the word "stupid." This emboldened him to say, "Are you asleep, Monsieur d'Artagnan?"
"No, Planchet, I am not even asleep," replied the musketeer.
"I am in despair," said Planchet, "to hear such a word as even."
"Well, and why not; is it not a grammatical word, Monsieur Planchet?"
"Of course, Monsieur d'Artagnan."
"Well, then, the word distresses me beyond measure."
"Tell me why you are distressed, Planchet," said D'Artagnan.
"If you say that you are not even asleep, it is as much as to say that you have not even the consolation of being able to sleep; or, better still, it is precisely the same as telling me that you are getting bored to death."
"Planchet, you know that I am never bored."
"Except to-day, and the day before yesterday."
"Monsieur d'Artagnan, it is a week since you returned here from Fontainebleau; in other words, you have no longer your orders to issue, or your men to review and maneuver. You need the sound of guns, drums, and all that din and confusion; I, who have myself carried a musket, can easily believe that."
"Planchet," replied D'Artagnan, "I assure you I am not bored in the least in the world."
"In that case, what are you doing, lying there, as if you were dead?"
"My dear Planchet, there was, once upon a time, at the siege of La Rochelle, when I was there, when you were there, when we both were there, a certain Arab, who was celebrated for the manner in which he adjusted culverins. He was a clever fellow, although of a very odd complexion, which was the same color as your olives. Well, this Arab, whenever he had done eating or working, used to sit down to rest himself, as I am resting myself now, and smoked I cannot tell you what sort of magical leaves, in a large amber-mouthed tube; and if any officers, happening to pass, reproached him for being always asleep, he used quietly to reply: 'Better to sit down than to stand up, to lie down than to sit down, to be dead than to lie down.' He was an acutely melancholy Arab, and I remember him perfectly well, form the color of his skin, and the style of his conversation. He used to cut off the heads of Protestants with the most singular gusto!"
"Precisely; and then used to embalm them, when they were worth the trouble; and when he was thus engaged with his herbs and plants about him, he looked like a basket-maker making baskets."
"You are quite right, Planchet, he did."
"Oh! I can remember things very well, at times!"
"I have no doubt of it; but what do you think of his mode of reasoning?"
"I think it good in one sense, but very stupid in another."
"Expound your meaning, M. Planchet."
"Well, monsieur, in point of fact, then, 'better to sit down than to stand up,' is plain enough, especially when one may be fatigued," and Planchet smiled in a roguish way; "as for 'better to be lying down,' let that pass, but as for the last proposition, that it is 'better to be dead than alive,' it is, in my opinion, very absurd, my own undoubted preference being for my bed; and if you are not of my opinion, it is simply, as I have already had the honor of telling you, because you are boring yourself to death."
"Planchet, do you know M. La Fontaine?"
"The chemist at the corner of the Rue Saint-Mederic?"
"No, the writer of fables."
"Oh! Maitre Corbeau!"
"Exactly; well, then, I am like his hare."
"He has got a hare also, then?"
"He has all sorts of animals."
"Well, what does his hare do, then?"
"M. La Fontaine's hare thinks."
"Planchet, I am like that hare—I am thinking."
"You are thinking, you say?" said Planchet, uneasily.
"Yes; your house is dull enough to drive people to think; you will admit that, I hope."
"And yet, monsieur, you have a look-out upon the street."
"Yes; and wonderfully interesting that is, of course."
"But it is no less true, monsieur, that, if you were living at the back of the house, you would bore yourself—I mean, you would think—more than ever."
"Upon my word, Planchet, I hardly know that."
"Still," said the grocer, "if your reflections are at all like those which led you to restore King Charles II.—" and Planchet finished by a little laugh which was not without its meaning.
"Ah! Planchet, my friend," returned D'Artagnan, "you are getting ambitious."
"Is there no other king to be restored, M. d'Artagnan—no second Monk to be packed up, like a salted hog, in a deal box?"
"No, my dear Planchet; all the kings are seated on their respective thrones; less comfortably so, perhaps, than I am upon this chair; but, at all events, there they are." And D'Artagnan sighed deeply.
"Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Planchet, "you are making me very uneasy."
"You are very good, Planchet."
"I begin to suspect something."
"What is it?"
"Monsieur d'Artagnan, you are getting thin."
"Oh!" said D'Artagnan, striking his chest which sounded like an empty cuirass, "it is impossible, Planchet."
"Ah!" said Planchet, slightly overcome; "if you were to get thin in my house—"
"I should do something rash."
"What would you do? Tell me."
"I should look out for the man who was the cause of all your anxieties."
"Ah! according to your account, I am anxious now."
"Yes, you are anxious; and you are getting thin, visibly getting thin. Malaga! if you go on getting thin, in this way, I will take my sword in my hand, and go straight to M. d'Herblay, and have it out with him."
"What!" said M. d'Artagnan, starting in his chair; "what's that you say? And what has M. d'Herblay's name to do with your groceries?"
"Just as you please. Get angry if you like, or call me names, if you prefer it; but, the deuce is in it. I know what I know."
D'Artagnan had, during this second outburst of Planchet's, so placed himself as not to lose a single look of his face; that is, he sat with both his hands resting on both his knees, and his head stretched out towards the grocer. "Come, explain yourself," he said, "and tell me how you could possibly utter such a blasphemy. M. d'Herblay, your old master, my friend, an ecclesiastic, a musketeer turned bishop—do you mean to say you would raise your sword against him, Planchet?"
"I could raise my sword against my own father, when I see you in such a state as you are now."
"M. d'Herblay, a gentleman!"
"It's all the same to me whether he's a gentleman or not. He gives you the blue devils, that is all I know. And the blue devils make people get thin. Malaga! I have no notion of M. d'Artagnan leaving my house thinner than when he entered it."
"How does he give me the blue devils, as you call it? Come, explain, explain."
"You have had the nightmare during the last three nights."
"Yes, you; and in your nightmare you called out, several times, 'Aramis, deceitful Aramis!'"
"Ah! I said that, did I?" murmured D'Artagnan, uneasily.
"Yes, those very words, upon my honor."
"Well, what else? You know the saying, Planchet, 'dreams go by contraries.'"
"Not so; for every time, during the last three days, when you went out, you have not once failed to ask me, on your return, 'Have you seen M. d'Herblay?' or else 'Have you received any letters for me from M. d'Herblay?'"
"Well, it is very natural I should take an interest in my old friend," said D'Artagnan.
"Of course; but not to such an extent as to get thin on that account."
"Planchet, I'll get fatter; I give you my word of honor I will."
"Very well, monsieur, I accept it; for I know that when you give your word of honor, it is sacred."
"I will not dream of Aramis any more; and I will never ask you again if there are any letters from M. d'Herblay; but on condition that you explain one thing to me."
"Tell me what it is, monsieur?"
"I am a great observer; and just now you made use of a very singular oath, which is unusual for you."
"You mean Malaga! I suppose?"
"It is the oath I have used ever since I have been a grocer."
"Very proper, too; it is the name of a dried grape, or raisin, I believe?"
"It is my most ferocious oath; when I have once said Malaga! I am a man no longer."
"Still, I never knew you use that oath before."
"Very likely not, monsieur. I had a present made me of it," said Planchet; and, as he pronounced these words, he winked his eye with a cunning expression, which thoroughly awakened D'Artagnan's attention.
"Come, come, M. Planchet."
"Why, I am not like you, monsieur," said Planchet. "I don't pass my life in thinking."
"You do wrong, then."
"I mean in boring myself to death. We have but a very short time to live—why not make the best of it?"
"You are an Epicurean philosopher, I begin to think, Planchet."
"Why not? My hand is still as steady as ever; I can write, and can weigh out my sugar and spices; my foot is firm; I can dance and walk about; my stomach has its teeth still, for I eat and digest very well; my heart is not quite hardened. Well, monsieur?"
"Well, what, Planchet?"
"Why, you see—" said the grocer, rubbing his hands together.
D'Artagnan crossed one leg over the other, and said, "Planchet, my friend, I am unnerved with extreme surprise; for you are revealing yourself to me under a perfectly new light."
Planchet, flattered in the highest degree by this remark, continued to rub his hands very hard together. "Ah, ah," he said, "because I happen to be only slow, you think me, perhaps, a positive fool."
"Very good, Planchet; very well reasoned."
"Follow my idea, monsieur, if you please. I said to myself," continued Planchet, "that, without enjoyment, there is no happiness on this earth."
"Quite true, what you say, Planchet," interrupted D'Artagnan.
"At all events, if we cannot obtain pleasure—for pleasure is not so common a thing, after all—let us, at least, get consolations of some kind or another."
"And so you console yourself?"
"Tell me how you console yourself."
"I put on a buckler for the purpose of confronting ennui. I place my time at the direction of patience; and on the very eve of feeling I am going to get bored, I amuse myself."
"And you don't find any difficulty in that?"
"And you found it out quite by yourself?"
"It is miraculous."
"What do you say?"
"I say, that your philosophy is not to be matched in the Christian or pagan world, in modern days or in antiquity!"
"You think so?—follow my example, then."
"It is a very tempting one."
"Do as I do."
"I could not wish for anything better; but all minds are not of the same stamp; and it might possibly happen that if I were required to amuse myself in the manner you do, I should bore myself horribly."
"Bah! at least try first."
"Well, tell me what you do."
"Have you observed that I leave home occasionally?"
"In any particular way?"
"That's the very thing. You have noticed it, then?"
"My dear Planchet, you must understand that when people see each other every day, and one of the two absents himself, the other misses him. Do you not feel the want of my society when I am in the country?"
"Prodigiously; that is to say, I feel like a body without a soul."
"That being understood then, proceed."
"What are the periods when I absent myself?"
"On the fifteenth and thirtieth of every month."
"And I remain away?"
"Sometimes two, sometimes three, and sometimes four days at a time."
"Have you ever given it a thought, why I was absent?"
"To look after your debts, I suppose."
"And when I returned, how did you think I looked, as far as my face was concerned?"
"You admit, you say, that I always look satisfied. And what have you attributed my satisfaction to?"
"That your business was going on very well; that your purchases of rice, prunes, raw sugar, dried apples, pears, and treacle were advantageous. You were always very picturesque in your notions and ideas, Planchet; and I was not in the slightest degree surprised to find you had selected grocery as an occupation, which is of all trades the most varied, and the very pleasantest, as far as the character is concerned; inasmuch as one handles so many natural and perfumed productions."
"Perfectly true, monsieur; but you are very greatly mistaken."
"In what way?"
"In thinking that I heave here every fortnight, to collect my money or to make purchases. Ho, ho! how could you possibly have thought such a thing? Ho, ho, ho!" And Planchet began to laugh in a manner that inspired D'Artagnan with very serious misgivings as to his sanity.
"I confess," said the musketeer, "that I do not precisely catch your meaning."
"Very true, monsieur."
"What do you mean by 'very true'?"
"It must be true, since you say it; but pray, be assured that it in no way lessens my opinion of you."
"Ah, that is lucky."
"No; you are a man of genius; and whenever the question happens to be of war, tactics, surprises, or good honest blows to be dealt with, why, kings are marionettes, compared to you. But for the consolations of the mind, the proper care of the body, the agreeable things of like, if one may say so—ah! monsieur, don't talk to me about men of genius; they are nothing short of executioners."
"Good," said D'Artagnan, really fidgety with curiosity, "upon my word you interest me in the highest degree."
"You feel already less bored than you did just now, do you not?"
"I was not bored; yet since you have been talking to me, I feel more animated."
"Very good, then; that is not a bad beginning. I will cure you, rely upon that."
"There is nothing I should like better."
"Will you let me try, then?"
"Immediately, if you like."
"Very well. Have you any horses here?"
"Yes; ten, twenty, thirty."
"Oh, there is no occasion for so many as that, two will be quite sufficient."
"They are quite at your disposal, Planchet."
"Very good; then I shall carry you off with me."
"Ah, you are asking too much."
"You will admit, however, that it is important I should know where I am going."
"Do you like the country?"
"Only moderately, Planchet."
"In that case you like town better?"
"That is as may be."
"Very well; I am going to take you to a place, half town and half country."
"To a place where I am sure you will amuse yourself."
"Is it possible?"
"Yes; and more wonderful still, to a place from which you have just returned for the purpose only, it would seem, of getting bored here."
"It is to Fontainebleau you are going, then?"
"Exactly; to Fontainebleau."
"And, in Heaven's name, what are you going to do at Fontainebleau?"
Planchet answered D'Artagnan by a wink full of sly humor.
"You have some property there, you rascal."
"Oh, a very paltry affair; a little bit of a house—nothing more."
"I understand you."
"But it is tolerable enough, after all."
"I am going to Planchet's country-seat!" exclaimed D'Artagnan.
"Whenever you like."
"Did we not fix to-morrow?"
"Let us say to-morrow, if you like; and then, besides, to-morrow is the 14th, that is to say, the day before the one when I am afraid of getting bored; so we will look upon it as an understood thing."
"Agreed, by all means."
"You will lend me one of your horses?"
"The best I have."
"No; I prefer the gentlest of all; I never was a very good rider, as you know, and in my grocery business I have got more awkward than ever; besides—"
"Why," added Planchet, "I do not wish to fatigue myself."
"Why so?" D'Artagnan ventured to ask.
"Because I should lose half the pleasure I expect to enjoy," replied Planchet. And thereupon he rose from his sack of Indian corn, stretching himself, and making all his bones crack, one after the other, with a sort of harmony.
"Planchet! Planchet!" exclaimed D'Artagnan, "I do declare that there is no sybarite upon the face of the globe who can for a moment be compared to you. Oh, Planchet, it is very clear that we have never yet eaten a ton of salt together."
"Why so, monsieur?"
"Because, even now I can scarcely say I know you," said D'Artagnan, "and because, in point of fact, I return to the opinion which, for a moment, I had formed of you that day at Boulogne, when you strangled, or did so as nearly as possible, M. de Wardes's valet, Lubin; in plain language, Planchet, that you are a man of great resources."
Planchet began to laugh with a laugh full of self-conceit; bade the musketeer good-night, and went down to his back shop, which he used as a bedroom. D'Artagnan resumed his original position upon his chair, and his brow, which had been unruffled for a moment, became more pensive than ever. He had already forgotten the whims and dreams of Planchet. "Yes," said he, taking up again the thread of his thoughts, which had been broken by the whimsical conversation in which we have just permitted our readers to participate. "Yes, yes, those three points include everything: First, to ascertain what Baisemeaux wanted with Aramis; secondly, to learn why Aramis does not let me hear from him; and thirdly, to ascertain where Porthos is. The whole mystery lies in these three points. Since, therefore," continued D'Artagnan, "our friends tell us nothing, we must have recourse to our own poor intelligence. I must do what I can, mordioux, or rather Malaga, as Planchet would say."
Chapter II. A Letter from M. Baisemeaux.
D'Artagnan, faithful to his plan, went the very next morning to pay a visit to M. de Baisemeaux. It was cleaning up or tidying day at the Bastile; the cannons were furbished up, the staircases scraped and cleaned; and the jailers seemed to be carefully engaged in polishing the very keys. As for the soldiers belonging to the garrison, they were walking about in different courtyards, under the pretense that they were clean enough. The governor, Baisemeaux, received D'Artagnan with more than ordinary politeness, but he behaved towards him with so marked a reserve of manner, that all D'Artagnan's tact and cleverness could not get a syllable out of him. The more he kept himself within bounds, the more D'Artagnan's suspicion increased. The latter even fancied he remarked that the governor was acting under the influence of a recent recommendation. Baisemeaux had not been at the Palais Royal with D'Artagnan the same cold and impenetrable man which the latter now found in the Baisemeaux of the Bastile. When D'Artagnan wished to make him talk about the urgent money matters which had brought Baisemeaux in search of D'Artagnan, and had rendered him expansive, notwithstanding what had passed on that evening, Baisemeaux pretended that he had some orders to give in the prison, and left D'Artagnan so long alone waiting for him, that our musketeer, feeling sure that he should not get another syllable out of him, left the Bastile without waiting until Baisemeaux returned from his inspection. But D'Artagnan's suspicions were aroused, and when once that was the case, D'Artagnan could not sleep or remain quiet for a moment. He was among men what the cat is among quadrupeds, the emblem of anxiety and impatience, at the same moment. A restless cat can no more remain the same place than a silk thread wafted idly to and fro with every breath of air. A cat on the watch is as motionless as death stationed at is place of observation, and neither hunger nor thirst can draw it from its meditations. D'Artagnan, who was burning with impatience, suddenly threw aside the feeling, like a cloak which he felt too heavy on his shoulders, and said to himself that that which they were concealing from him was the very thing it was important he should know; and, consequently, he reasoned that Baisemeaux would not fail to put Aramis on his guard, if Aramis had given him any particular recommendation, and this was, in fact, the very thing that happened.
Baisemeaux had hardly had time to return from the donjon, than D'Artagnan placed himself in ambuscade close to the Rue de Petit-Musc, so as to see every one who might leave the gates of the Bastile. After he had spent an hour on the look-out from the "Golden Portcullis," under the pent-house of which he could keep himself a little in the shade, D'Artagnan observed a soldier leave the Bastile. This was, indeed, the surest indication he could possibly have wished for, as every jailer or warder has certain days, and even certain hours, for leaving the Bastile, since all are alike prohibited from having either wives or lodgings in the castle, and can accordingly leave without exciting any curiosity; but a soldier once in barracks is kept there for four and twenty hours when on duty,—and no one knew this better than D'Artagnan. The guardsman in question, therefore, was not likely to leave his regimentals, except on an express and urgent order. The soldier, we were saying, left the Bastile at a slow and lounging pace, like a happy mortal, in fact, who, instead of mounting sentry before a wearisome guard-house, or upon a bastion no less wearisome, has the good luck to get a little liberty, in addition to a walk—both pleasures being luckily reckoned as part of his time on duty. He bent his steps towards the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, enjoying the fresh air and the warmth of the sun, and looking at all the pretty faces he passed. D'Artagnan followed him at a distance; he had not yet arranged his ideas as what was to be done. "I must, first of all," he thought, "see the fellow's face. A man seen is a man judged." D'Artagnan increased his pace, and, which was not very difficult, by the by, soon got in advance of the soldier. Not only did he observe that his face showed a tolerable amount of intelligence and resolution, but he noticed also that his nose was a little red. "He has a weakness for brandy, I see," said D'Artagnan to himself. At the same moment that he remarked his red nose, he saw that the soldier had a white paper in his belt.
"Good, he has a letter," added D'Artagnan. The only difficulty was to get hold of the letter. But a common soldier would, of course, be only too delighted at having been selected by M. de Baisemeaux as a special messenger, and would not be likely to sell his message. As D'Artagnan was biting his nails, the soldier continued to advance more and more into the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. "He is certainly going to Saint-Mande," he said to himself, "and I shall not be able to learn what the letter contains." It was enough to drive him wild. "If I were in uniform," said D'Artagnan to himself, "I would have this fellow seized, and his letter with him. I could easily get assistance at the very first guard-house; but the devil take me if I mention my name in an affair of this kind. If I were to treat him to something to drink, his suspicions would be roused; and besides, he might drink me drunk. Mordioux! my wits seem to have left me," said D'Artagnan; "it is all over with me. Yet, supposing I were to attack this poor devil, make him draw his sword and kill him for the sake of his letter? No harm in that, if it were a question of a letter from a queen to a nobleman, or a letter from a cardinal to a queen; but what miserable intrigues are those of Messieurs Aramis and Fouquet with M. Colbert. A man's life for that? No, no, indeed; not even ten crowns." As he philosophized in this manner, biting first his nails, and then his mustaches, he perceived a group of archers and a commissary of the police engaged in carrying away a man of very gentlemanly exterior, who was struggling with all his might against them. The archers had torn his clothes, and were dragging him roughly away. He begged they would lead him along more respectfully, asserting that he was a gentleman and a soldier. And observing our soldier walking in the street, he called out, "Help, comrade."
The soldier walked on with the same step towards the man who had called out to him, followed by the crowd. An idea suddenly occurred to D'Artagnan; it was his first one, and we shall find it was not a bad one either. During the time the gentleman was relating to the soldier that he had just been seized in a house as a thief, when the truth was he was only there as a lover; and while the soldier was pitying him, and offering him consolation and advice with that gravity which a French soldier has always ready whenever his vanity or his esprit de corps is concerned, D'Artagnan glided behind the soldier, who was closely hemmed in by the crowd, and with a rapid sweep, like a sabre slash, snatched the letter from his belt. As at this moment the gentleman with the torn clothes was pulling about the soldier, to show how the commissary of police had pulled him about, D'Artagnan effected his pillage of the letter without the slightest interference. He stationed himself about ten paces distant, behind the pillar of an adjoining house, and read on the address, "To Monsieur du Vallon, at Monsieur Fouquet's, Saint-Mande."
"Good!" he said, and then he unsealed, without tearing the letter, drew out the paper, which was folded in four, from the inside; which contained only these words:
"DEAR MONSIEUR DU VALLON,—Will you be good enough to tell Monsieur d'Herblay that he has been to the Bastile, and has been making inquiries.
"Very good! all right!" exclaimed D'Artagnan; "it is clear enough now. Porthos is engaged in it." Being now satisfied of what he wished to know: "Mordioux!" thought the musketeer, "what is to be done with that poor devil of a soldier? That hot-headed, cunning fellow, De Baisemeaux, will make him pay dearly for my trick,—if he returns without the letter, what will they do to him? Besides, I don't want the letter; when the egg has been sucked, what is the good of the shell?" D'Artagnan perceived that the commissary and the archers had succeeded in convincing the soldier, and went on their way with the prisoner, the latter being still surrounded by the crowd, and continuing his complaints. D'Artagnan advanced into the very middle of the crowd, let the letter fall, without any one having observed him, and then retreated rapidly. The soldier resumed his route towards Saint-Mande, his mind occupied with the gentleman who had implored his protection. Suddenly he thought of his letter, and, looking at his belt, saw that it was no longer there. D'Artagnan derived no little satisfaction from his sudden, terrified cry. The poor soldier in the greatest anguish of mind looked round him on every side, and at last, about twenty paces behind him, he perceived the lucky envelope. He pounced on it like a falcon on its prey. The envelope was certainly a little dirty, and rather crumpled, but at all events the letter itself was found. D'Artagnan observed that the broken seal attracted the soldier's attention a good deal, but he finished apparently by consoling himself, and returned the letter to his belt. "Go on," said D'Artagnan, "I have plenty of time before me, so you may precede me. It appears that Aramis is not in Paris, since Baisemeaux writes to Porthos. Dear Porthos, how delighted I shall be to see him again, and to have some conversation with him!" said the Gascon. And, regulating his pace according to that of the soldier, he promised himself to arrive a quarter of an hour after him at M. Fouquet's.
Chapter III. In Which the Reader will be Delighted to Find that Porthos Has Lost Nothing of His Muscularity.
D'Artagnan had, according to his usual style, calculated that every hour is worth sixty minutes, and every minute worth sixty seconds. Thanks to this perfectly exact calculation of minutes and seconds, he reached the superintendent's door at the very moment the soldier was leaving it with his belt empty. D'Artagnan presented himself at the door, which a porter with a profusely embroidered livery held half opened for him. D'Artagnan would very much have liked to enter without giving his name, but this was impossible, and so he gave it. Notwithstanding this concession, which ought to have removed every difficulty in the way, at least D'Artagnan thought so, the concierge hesitated; however, at the second repetition of the title, captain of the king's guards, the concierge, without quite leaving the passage clear for him, ceased to bar it completely. D'Artagnan understood that orders of the most positive character had been given. He decided, therefore, to tell a falsehood,—a circumstance, moreover, which did not seriously affect his peace of mind, when he saw that beyond the falsehood the safety of the state itself, or even purely and simply his own individual personal interest, might be at stake. He moreover added to the declarations he had already made, that the soldier sent to M. du Vallon was his own messenger, and that the only object that letter had in view was to announce his intended arrival. From that moment, no one opposed D'Artagnan's entrance any further, and he entered accordingly. A valet wished to accompany him, but he answered that it was useless to take that trouble on his account, inasmuch as he knew perfectly well where M. du Vallon was. There was nothing, of course, to say to a man so thoroughly and completely informed on all points, and D'Artagnan was permitted, therefore, to do as he liked. The terraces, the magnificent apartments, the gardens, were all reviewed and narrowly inspected by the musketeer. He walked for a quarter of an hour in this more than royal residence, which included as many wonders as articles of furniture, and as many servants as there were columns and doors. "Decidedly," he said to himself, "this mansion has no other limits than the pillars of the habitable world. Is it probable Porthos has taken it into his head to go back to Pierrefonds without even leaving M. Fouquet's house?" He finally reached a remote part of the chateau inclosed by a stone wall, which was covered with a profusion of thick plants, luxuriant in blossoms as large and solid as fruit. At equal distances on the top of this wall were placed various statues in timid or mysterious attitudes. These were vestals hidden beneath the long Greek peplum, with its thick, sinuous folds; agile nymphs, covered with their marble veils, and guarding the palace with their fugitive glances. A statue of Hermes, with his finger on his lips; one of Iris, with extended wings; another of Night, sprinkled all over with poppies, dominated the gardens and outbuildings, which could be seen through the trees. All these statues threw in white relief their profiles upon the dark ground of the tall cypresses, which darted their somber summits towards the sky. Around these cypresses were entwined climbing roses, whose flowering rings were fastened to every fork of the branches, and spread over the lower boughs and the various statues, showers of flowers of the rarest fragrance. These enchantments seemed to the musketeer the result of the greatest efforts of the human mind. He felt in a dreamy, almost poetical, frame of mind. The idea that Porthos was living in so perfect an Eden gave him a higher idea of Porthos, showing how tremendously true it is, that even the very highest orders of minds are not quite exempt from the influence of surroundings. D'Artagnan found the door, and on, or rather in the door, a kind of spring which he detected; having touched it, the door flew open. D'Artagnan entered, closed the door behind him, and advanced into a pavilion built in a circular form, in which no other sound could be heard but cascades and the songs of birds. At the door of the pavilion he met a lackey.
"It is here, I believe," said D'Artagnan, without hesitation, "that M. le Baron du Vallon is staying?"
"Yes, monsieur," answered the lackey.
"Have the goodness to tell him that M. le Chevalier d'Artagnan, captain of the king's musketeers, is waiting to see him."
D'Artagnan was introduced into the salon, and had not long to remain in expectation: a well-remembered step shook the floor of the adjoining room, a door opened, or rather flew open, and Porthos appeared and threw himself into his friend's arms with a sort of embarrassment which did not ill become him. "You here?" he exclaimed.
"And you?" replied D'Artagnan. "Ah, you sly fellow!"
"Yes," said Porthos, with a somewhat embarrassed smile; "yes, you see I am staying in M. Fouquet's house, at which you are not a little surprised, I suppose?"
"Not at all; why should you not be one of M. Fouquet's friends? M. Fouquet has a very large number, particularly among clever men."
Porthos had the modesty not to take the compliment to himself. "Besides," he added, "you saw me at Belle-Isle."
"A greater reason for my believing you to be one of M. Fouquet's friends."
"The fact is, I am acquainted with him," said Porthos, with a certain embarrassment of manner.
"Ah, friend Porthos," said D'Artagnan, "how treacherously you have behaved towards me."
"In what way?" exclaimed Porthos.
"What! you complete so admirable a work as the fortifications of Belle-Isle, and you did not tell me of it!" Porthos colored. "Nay, more than that," continued D'Artagnan, "you saw me out yonder, you know I am in the king's service, and yet you could not guess that the king, jealously desirous of learning the name of the man whose abilities had wrought a work of which he heard the most wonderful accounts,—you could not guess, I say, that the king sent me to learn who this man was?"
"What! the king sent you to learn—"
"Of course; but don't let us speak of that any more."
"Not speak of it!" said Porthos; "on the contrary, we will speak of it; and so the king knew that we were fortifying Belle-Isle?"
"Of course; does not the king know everything?"
"But he did not know who was fortifying it?"
"No, he only suspected, from what he had been told of the nature of the works, that it was some celebrated soldier or another."
"The devil!" said Porthos, "if I had only known that!"
"You would not have run away from Vannes as you did, perhaps?"
"No; what did you say when you couldn't find me?"
"My dear fellow, I reflected."
"Ah, indeed; you reflect, do you? Well, and what did that reflection lead to?"
"It led me to guess the whole truth."
"Come, then, tell me what did you guess after all?" said Porthos, settling himself into an armchair, and assuming the airs of a sphinx.
"I guessed, in the first place, that you were fortifying Belle-Isle."
"There was no great difficulty in that, for you saw me at work."
"Wait a minute; I also guessed something else,—that you were fortifying Belle-Isle by M. Fouquet's orders."
"But even that is not all. Whenever I feel myself in trim for guessing, I do not stop on my road; and so I guessed that M. Fouquet wished to preserve the most absolute secrecy respecting these fortifications."
"I believe that was his intention, in fact," said Porthos.
"Yes, but do you know why he wished to keep it secret?"
"In order it should not become known, perhaps," said Porthos.
"That was his principal reason. But his wish was subservient to a bit of generosity—"
"In fact," said Porthos, "I have head it said that M. Fouquet was a very generous man."
"To a bit of generosity he wished to exhibit towards the king."
"You seem surprised at that?"
"And you didn't guess?"
"Well, I know it, then."
"You are a wizard."
"Not at all, I assure you."
"How do you know it, then?"
"By a very simple means. I heard M. Fouquet himself say so to the king."
"Say what to the king?"
"That he fortified Belle-Isle on his majesty's account, and that he had made him a present of Belle Isle."
"And you heard M. Fouquet say that to the king?"
"In those very words. He even added: 'Belle-Isle has been fortified by an engineer, one of my friends, a man of a great deal of merit, whom I shall ask your majesty's permission to present to you.'
"'What is his name?' said the king.
"'The Baron du Vallon,' M. Fouquet replied.
"'Very well,' returned his majesty, 'you will present him to me.'"
"The king said that?"
"Upon the word of a D'Artagnan!"
"Oh, oh!" said Porthos. "Why have I not been presented, then?"
"Have they not spoken to you about this presentation?"
"Yes, certainly; but I am always kept waiting for it."
"Be easy, it will be sure to come."
"Humph! humph!" grumbled Porthos, which D'Artagnan pretended not to hear; and, changing the conversation, he said, "You seem to be living in a very solitary place here, my dear fellow?"
"I always preferred retirement. I am of a melancholy disposition," replied Porthos, with a sigh.
"Really, that is odd," said D'Artagnan, "I never remarked that before."
"It is only since I have taken to reading," said Porthos, with a thoughtful air.
"But the labors of the mind have not affected the health of the body, I trust?"
"Not in the slightest degree."
"Your strength is as great as ever?"
"Too great, my friend, too great."
"Ah! I had heard that, for a short time after your arrival—"
"That I could hardly move a limb, I suppose?"
"How was it?" said D'Artagnan, smiling, "and why was it you could not move?"
Porthos, perceiving that he had made a mistake, wished to correct it. "Yes, I came from Belle-Isle upon very hard horses," he said, "and that fatigued me."
"I am no longer astonished, then, since I, who followed you, found seven or eight lying dead on the road."
"I am very heavy, you know," said Porthos.
"So that you were bruised all over."
"My marrow melted, and that made me very ill."
"Poor Porthos! But how did Aramis act towards you under those circumstances?"
"Very well, indeed. He had me attended to by M. Fouquet's own doctor. But just imagine, at the end of a week I could not breathe any longer."
"What do you mean?"
"The room was too small; I had absorbed every atom of air."
"I was told so, at least; and so I was removed into another apartment."
"Where you were able to breathe, I hope and trust?"
"Yes, more freely; but no exercise—nothing to do. The doctor pretended that I was not to stir; I, on the contrary, felt that I was stronger than ever; that was the cause of a very serious accident."
"Fancy, my dear fellow, that I revolted against the directions of that ass of a doctor, and I resolved to go out, whether it suited him or not: and, consequently, I told the valet who waited on me to bring me my clothes."
"You were quite naked, then?"
"Oh, no! on the contrary, I had a magnificent dressing-gown to wear. The lackey obeyed; I dressed myself in my own clothes, which had become too large for me; but a strange circumstance had happened,—my feet had become too large."
"Yes, I quite understand."
"And my boots too small."
"You mean your feet were still swollen?"
"Exactly; you have hit it."
"Pardieu! And is that the accident you were going to tell me about?"
"Oh, yes; I did not make the same reflection you have done. I said to myself: 'Since my feet have entered my boots ten times, there is no reason why they should not go in the eleventh.'"
"Allow me to tell you, my dear Porthos, that on this occasion you failed in your logic."
"In short, then, they placed me opposite to a part of the room which was partitioned; I tried to get my boot on; I pulled it with my hands, I pushed with all the strength of the muscles of my leg, making the most unheard-of efforts, when suddenly the two tags of my boot remained in my hands, and my foot struck out like a ballista."
"How learned you are in fortification, dear Porthos."
"My foot darted out like a ballista, and came against the partition, which it broke in; I really thought that, like Samson, I had demolished the temple. And the number of pictures, the quantity of china, vases of flowers, carpets, and window-panes that fell down were really wonderful."
"Without reckoning that on the other side of the partition was a small table laden with porcelain—"
"Which you knocked over?"
"Which I dashed to the other side of the room," said Porthos, laughing.
"Upon my word, it is, as you say, astonishing," replied D'Artagnan, beginning to laugh also; whereupon Porthos laughed louder than ever.
"I broke," said Porthos, in a voice half-choked from his increasing mirth, "more than three thousand francs worth of china—ha, ha, ha!"
"Good!" said D'Artagnan.
"I smashed more than four thousand francs worth of glass!—ho, ho, ho!"
"Without counting a luster, which fell on my head and was broken into a thousand pieces—ha, ha, ha!"
"Upon your head?" said D'Artagnan, holding his sides.
"But your head was broken, I suppose?"
"No, since I tell you, on the contrary, my dear fellow, that it was the luster which was broken, like glass, which, in point of fact, it was."
"Ah! the luster was glass, you say."
"Venetian glass! a perfect curiosity, quite matchless, indeed, and weighed two hundred pounds."
"And it fell upon your head!"
"Upon my head. Just imagine, a globe of crystal, gilded all over, the lower part beautifully encrusted, perfumes burning at the top, with jets from which flame issued when they were lighted."
"I quite understand, but they were not lighted at the time, I suppose?"
"Happily not, or I should have been grilled prematurely."
"And you were only knocked down flat, instead?"
"Not at all."
"How, 'not at all?'"
"Why, the luster fell on my skull. It appears that we have upon the top of our heads an exceedingly thick crust."
"Who told you that, Porthos?"
"The doctor. A sort of dome which would bear Notre-Dame."
"Yes, it seems that our skulls are made in that manner."
"Speak for yourself, my dear fellow, it is your own skull that is made in that manner, and not the skulls of other people."
"Well, that may be so," said Porthos, conceitedly, "so much, however, was that the case, in my instance, that no sooner did the luster fall upon the dome which we have at the top of our head, than there was a report like a cannon, the crystal was broken to pieces, and I fell, covered from head to foot."
"With blood, poor Porthos!"
"Not at all; with perfumes, which smelt like rich creams; it was delicious, but the odor was too strong, and I felt quite giddy from it; perhaps you have experienced it sometimes yourself, D'Artagnan?"
"Yes, in inhaling the scent of the lily of the valley; so that, my poor friend, you were knocked over by the shock and overpowered by the perfumes?"
"Yes; but what is very remarkable, for the doctor told me he had never seen anything like it—"
"You had a bump on your head I suppose?" interrupted D'Artagnan.
"I had five."
"I will tell you; the luster had, at its lower extremity, five gilt ornaments; excessively sharp."
"Well, these five ornaments penetrated my hair, which, as you see, I wear very thick."
"And they made a mark on my skin. But just notice the singularity of it, these things seem really only to happen to me! Instead of making indentations, they made bumps. The doctor could never succeed in explaining that to me satisfactorily."
"Well, then, I will explain it to you."
"You will do me a great service if you will," said Porthos, winking his eyes, which, with him, was sign of the profoundest attention.
"Since you have been employing your brain in studies of an exalted character, in important calculations, and so on, the head has gained a certain advantage, so that your head is now too full of science."
"Do you think so?"
"I am sure of it. The result is, that, instead of allowing any foreign matter to penetrate the interior of the head, your bony box or skull, which is already too full, avails itself of the openings which are made in allowing this excess to escape."
"Ah!" said Porthos, to whom this explanation appeared clearer than that of the doctor.
"The five protuberances, caused by the five ornaments of the luster, must certainly have been scientific globules, brought to the surface by the force of circumstances."
"In fact," said Porthos, "the real truth is, that I felt far worse outside my head than inside. I will even confess, that when I put my hat upon my head, clapping it on my head with that graceful energy which we gentlemen of the sword possess, if my fist was not very gently applied, I experienced the most painful sensations."
"I quite believe you, Porthos."
"Therefore, my friend," said the giant, "M. Fouquet decided, seeing how slightly built the house was, to give me another lodging, and so they brought me here."
"It is the private park, I think, is it not?"
"Where the rendezvous are made; that park, indeed, which is so celebrated in some of those mysterious stories about the superintendent?"
"I don't know; I have had no rendezvous or heard mysterious stories myself, but they have authorized me to exercise my muscles, and I take advantage of the permission by rooting up some of the trees."
"To keep my hand in, and also to take some birds' nests; I find it more convenient than climbing."
"You are as pastoral as Tyrcis, my dear Porthos."
"Yes, I like the small eggs; I like them very much better than larger ones. You have no idea how delicate an omelette is, if made of four or five hundred eggs of linnets, chaffinches, starlings, blackbirds, and thrushes."
"But five hundred eggs is perfectly monstrous!"
"A salad-bowl will hold them easily enough," said Porthos.
D'Artagnan looked at Porthos admiringly for full five minutes, as if he had seen him for the first time, while Porthos spread his chest out joyously and proudly. They remained in this state several minutes, Porthos smiling, and D'Artagnan looking at him. D'Artagnan was evidently trying to give the conversation a new turn. "Do you amuse yourself much here, Porthos?" he asked at last, very likely after he had found out what he was searching for.
"I can imagine that; but when you get thoroughly bored, by and by, what do you intend to do?"
"Oh! I shall not be here for any length of time. Aramis is waiting until the last bump on my head disappears, in order to present me to the king, who I am told cannot endure the sight of a bump."
"Aramis is still in Paris, then?"
"Whereabouts is he, then?"
"With M. Fouquet."
"Very good. But do you happen to know one thing?"
"No, tell it me, and then I shall know."
"Well, then, I think Aramis is forgetting you."
"Do you really think so?"
"Yes; for at Fontainebleau yonder, you must know, they are laughing, dancing, banqueting, and drawing the corks of M. de Mazarin's wine in fine style. Are you aware that they have a ballet every evening there?"
"The deuce they have!"
"I assure you that your dear Aramis is forgetting you."
"Well, that is not at all unlikely, and I have myself thought so sometimes."
"Unless he is playing you a trick, the sly fellow!"
"You know that Aramis is as sly as a fox."
"Yes, but to play me a trick—"
"Listen: in the first place, he puts you under a sort of sequestration."
"He sequestrates me! Do you mean to say I am sequestrated?"
"I think so."
"I wish you would have the goodness to prove that to me."
"Nothing easier. Do you ever go out?"
"Do you ever ride on horseback?"
"Are your friends allowed to come and see you?"
"Very well, then; never to go out, never to ride on horseback, never to be allowed to see your friends, that is called being sequestrated."
"But why should Aramis sequestrate me?" inquired Porthos.
"Come," said D'Artagnan, "be frank, Porthos."
"It was Aramis who drew the plan of the fortifications at Belle-Isle, was it not?"
Porthos colored as he said, "Yes; but that was all he did."
"Exactly, and my own opinion is that it was no very great affair after all."
"That is mine, too."
"Very good; I am delighted we are of the same opinion."
"He never even came to Belle-Isle," said Porthos.
"There now, you see."
"It was I who went to Vannes, as you may have seen."
"Say rather, as I did see. Well, that is precisely the state of the case, my dear Porthos. Aramis, who only drew the plans, wishes to pass himself off as the engineer, whilst you, who, stone by stone, built the wall, the citadel, and the bastions, he wishes to reduce to the rank of a mere builder."
"By builder, you mean mason, perhaps?"
"Mason; the very word."
"Plasterer, in fact?"
"Oh, oh! my dear Aramis, you seem to think you are only five and twenty years of age still."
"Yes, and that is not all, for believes you are fifty."
"I should have amazingly liked to have seen him at work."
"A fellow who has got the gout?"
"Who has lost three of his teeth?"
"While I, look at mine." And Porthos, opening his large mouth very wide, displayed two rows of teeth not quite as white as snow, but even, hard, and sound as ivory.
"You can hardly believe, Porthos," said D'Artagnan, "what a fancy the king has for good teeth. Yours decide me; I will present you to the king myself."
"Why not? Do you think I have less credit at court than Aramis?"
"Do you think I have the slightest pretensions upon the fortifications at Belle-Isle?"
"It is your own interest alone which would induce me to do it."
"I don't doubt it in the least."
"Well, I am the intimate friend of the king; and a proof of that is, that whenever there is anything disagreeable to tell him, it is I who have to do it."
"But, dear D'Artagnan, if you present me—"
"Aramis will be angry."
"No, with me."
"Bah! whether he or I present you, since you are to be presented, what does it matter?"
"They were going to get me some clothes made."
"Your own are splendid."
"Oh! those I had ordered were far more beautiful."
"Take care: the king likes simplicity."
"In that case, I will be simple. But what will M. Fouquet say, when he learns that I have left?"
"Are you a prisoner, then, on parole?"
"No, not quite that. But I promised him I would not leave without letting him know."
"Wait a minute, we shall return to that presently. Have you anything to do here?"
"I, nothing: nothing of any importance, at least."
"Unless, indeed, you are Aramis's representative for something of importance."
"By no means."
"What I tell you—pray, understand that—is out of interest for you. I suppose, for instance, that you are commissioned to send messages and letters to him?"
"Ah! letters—yes. I send certain letters to him."
"Have you any letters, then?"
"Nay, let me speak. Have you any letters, I say?"
"I have just received one for him."
"I suppose so."
"You do not read them, then?"
"I am not at all curious," said Porthos, as he drew out of his pocket the soldier's letter which Porthos had not read, but D'Artagnan had.
"Do you know what to do with it?" said D'Artagnan.
"Of course; do as I always do, send it to him."
"Why not? Keep it, then?"
"Did they not tell you that this letter was important?"
"Well, you must take it yourself to Fontainebleau."
"And since the king is there—"
"You will profit by that."
"I shall profit by the opportunity to present you to the king."
"Ah! D'Artagnan, there is no one like you for expedients."
"Therefore, instead of forwarding to our friend any messages, which may or may not be faithfully delivered, we will ourselves be the bearers of the letter."
"I had never even thought of that, and yet it is simple enough."
"And therefore, because it is urgent, Porthos, we ought to set off at once."
"In fact," said Porthos, "the sooner we set off the less chance there is of Aramis's letter being delayed."
"Porthos, your reasoning is always accurate, and, in your case, logic seems to serve as an auxiliary to the imagination."
"Do you think so?" said Porthos.
"It is the result of your hard reading," replied D'Artagnan. "So come along, let us be off."
"But," said Porthos, "my promise to M. Fouquet?"
"Not to leave Saint-Mande without telling him of it."
"Ah! Porthos," said D'Artagnan, "how very young you still are."
"In what way?"
"You are going to Fontainebleau, are you not, where you will find M. Fouquet?"
"Probably in the king's palace?"
"Yes," repeated Porthos, with an air full of majesty.
"Well, you will accost him with these words: 'M. Fouquet, I have the honor to inform you that I have just left Saint-Mande.'"
"And," said Porthos, with the same majestic mien, "seeing me at Fontainebleau at the king's, M. Fouquet will not be able to tell me I am not speaking the truth."
"My dear Porthos, I was just on the point of opening my lips to make the same remark, but you anticipate me in everything. Oh! Porthos, how fortunately you are gifted! Years have made not the slightest impression on you."
"Not over-much, certainly."
"Then there is nothing more to say?"
"I think not."
"All your scruples are removed?"
"In that case I shall carry you off with me."
"Exactly; and I will go and get my horse saddled."
"You have horses here, then?"
"I have five."
"You had them sent from Pierrefonds, I suppose?"
"No, M. Fouquet gave them to me."
"My dear Porthos, we shall not want five horses for two persons; besides, I have already three in Paris, which would make eight, and that will be too many."
"It would not be too many if I had some of my servants here; but, alas! I have not got them."
"Do you regret them, then?"
"I regret Mousqueton; I miss Mousqueton."
"What a good-hearted fellow you are, Porthos," said D'Artagnan; "but the best thing you can do is to leave your horses here, as you have left Mousqueton out yonder."
"Because, by and by, it might turn out a very good thing if M. Fouquet had never given you anything at all."
"I don't understand you," said Porthos.
"It is not necessary you should understand."
"I will explain to you later, Porthos."
"I'll wager it is some piece of policy or other."
"And of the most subtle character," returned D'Artagnan.
Porthos nodded his head at this word policy; then, after a moment's reflection, he added, "I confess, D'Artagnan, that I am no politician."
"I know that well."
"Oh! no one knows what you told me yourself, you, the bravest of the brave."
"What did I tell you, Porthos?"
"That every man has his day. You told me so, and I have experienced it myself. There are certain days when one feels less pleasure than others in exposing one's self to a bullet or a sword-thrust."
"Exactly my own idea."
"And mine, too, although I can hardly believe in blows or thrusts that kill outright."
"The deuce! and yet you have killed a few in your time."
"Yes; but I have never been killed."
"Your reason is a very good one."
"Therefore, I do not believe I shall ever die from a thrust of a sword or a gun-shot."
"In that case, then, you are afraid of nothing. Ah! water, perhaps?"
"Oh! I swim like an otter."
"Of a quartan fever, then?"
"I have never had one yet, and I don't believe I ever shall; but there is one thing I will admit," and Porthos dropped his voice.
"What is that?" asked D'Artagnan, adopting the same tone of voice as Porthos.
"I must confess," repeated Porthos, "that I am horribly afraid of politics."
"Ah, bah!" exclaimed D'Artagnan.
"Upon my word, it's true," said Porthos, in a stentorian voice. "I have seen his eminence Monsieur le Cardinal de Richelieu, and his eminence Monsieur le Cardinal de Mazarin; the one was a red politician, the other a black politician; I never felt very much more satisfied with the one than with the other; the first struck off the heads of M. de Marillac, M. de Thou, M. de Cinq-Mars, M. Chalais, M. de Bouteville, and M. de Montmorency; the second got a whole crowd of Frondeurs cut in pieces, and we belonged to them."
"On the contrary, we did not belong to them," said D'Artagnan.
"Oh! indeed, yes; for if I unsheathed my sword for the cardinal, I struck it for the king."
"My good Porthos!"
"Well, I have done. My dread of politics is such, that if there is any question of politics in the matter, I should greatly prefer to return to Pierrefonds."
"You would be quite right, if that were the case. But with me, my dear Porthos, no politics at all, that is quite clear. You have labored hard in fortifying Belle-Isle; the king wished to know the name of the clever engineer under whose directions the works were carried out; you are modest, as all men of true genius are; perhaps Aramis wishes to put you under a bushel. But I happen to seize hold of you; I make it known who you are; I produce you; the king rewards you; and that is the only policy I have to do with."
"And the only one I will have to do with either," said Porthos, holding out his hand to D'Artagnan.
But D'Artagnan knew Porthos's grasp; he knew that, once imprisoned within the baron's five fingers, no hand ever left it without being half-crushed. He therefore held out, not his hand, but his fist, and Porthos did not even perceive the difference. The servants talked a little with each other in an undertone, and whispered a few words, which D'Artagnan understood, but which he took very good care not to let Porthos understand. "Our friend," he said to himself, "was really and truly Aramis's prisoner. Let us now see what the result will be of the liberation of the captive."
Chapter IV. The Rat and the Cheese.
D'Artagnan and Porthos returned on foot, as D'Artagnan had set out. When D'Artagnan, as he entered the shop of the Pilon d'Or, announced to Planchet that M. du Vallon would be one of the privileged travelers, and as the plume in Porthos's hat made the wooden candles suspended over the front jingle together, a melancholy presentiment seemed to eclipse the delight Planchet had promised himself for the morrow. But the grocer had a heart of gold, ever mindful of the good old times—a trait that carries youth into old age. So Planchet, notwithstanding a sort of internal shiver, checked as soon as experienced, received Porthos with respect, mingled with the tenderest cordiality. Porthos, who was a little cold and stiff in his manners at first, on account of the social difference existing at that period between a baron and a grocer, soon began to soften when he perceived so much good-feeling and so many kind attentions in Planchet. He was particularly touched by the liberty which was permitted him to plunge his great palms into the boxes of dried fruits and preserves, into the sacks of nuts and almonds, and into the drawers full of sweetmeats. So that, notwithstanding Planchet's pressing invitations to go upstairs to the entresol, he chose as his favorite seat, during the evening which he had to spend at Planchet's house, the shop itself, where his fingers could always fish up whatever his nose detected. The delicious figs from Provence, filberts from the forest, Tours plums, were subjects of his uninterrupted attention for five consecutive hours. His teeth, like millstones, cracked heaps of nuts, the shells of which were scattered all over the floor, where they were trampled by every one who went in and out of the shop; Porthos pulled from the stalk with his lips, at one mouthful, bunches of the rich Muscatel raisins with their beautiful bloom, half a pound of which passed at one gulp from his mouth to his stomach. In one of the corners of the shop, Planchet's assistants, huddled together, looked at each other without venturing to open their lips. They did not know who Porthos was, for they had never seen him before. The race of those Titans who had worn the cuirasses of Hugh Capet, Philip Augustus, and Francis I. had already begun to disappear. They could hardly help thinking he might be the ogre of the fairy tale, who was going to turn the whole contents of Planchet's shop into his insatiable stomach, and that, too, without in the slightest degree displacing the barrels and chests that were in it. Cracking, munching, chewing, nibbling, sucking, and swallowing, Porthos occasionally said to the grocer:
"You do a very good business here, friend Planchet."
"He will very soon have none at all to do, if this sort of thing continues," grumbled the foreman, who had Planchet's word that he should be his successor. In the midst of his despair, he approached Porthos, who blocked up the whole of the passage leading from the back shop to the shop itself. He hoped that Porthos would rise and that this movement would distract his devouring ideas.
"What do you want, my man?" asked Porthos, affably.
"I should like to pass you, monsieur, if it is not troubling you too much."
"Very well," said Porthos, "it does not trouble me in the least."
At the same moment he took hold of the young fellow by the waistband, lifted him off the ground, and placed him very gently on the other side, smiling all the while with the same affable expression. As soon as Porthos had placed him on the ground, the lad's legs so shook under him that he fell back upon some sacks of corks. But noticing the giant's gentleness of manner, he ventured again, and said:
"Ah, monsieur! pray be careful."
"What about?" inquired Porthos.
"You are positively putting a fiery furnace into your body."
"How is that, my good fellow?"
"All those things are very heating to the system!"
"Raisins, nuts, and almonds."
"Yes; but if raisins, nuts, and almonds are heating—"
"There is no doubt at all of it, monsieur."
"Honey is very cooling," said Porthos, stretching out his hand toward a small barrel of honey which was open, and he plunged the scoop with which the wants of the customers were supplied into it, and swallowed a good half-pound at one gulp.
"I must trouble you for some water now, my man," said Porthos.
"In a pail, monsieur?" asked the lad, simply.
"No, in a water-bottle; that will be quite enough;" and raising the bottle to his mouth, as a trumpeter does his trumpet, he emptied the bottle at a single draught.
Planchet was agitated in every fibre of propriety and self-esteem. However, a worthy representative of the hospitality which prevailed in early days, he feigned to be talking very earnestly with D'Artagnan, and incessantly repeated:—"Ah! monsieur, what a happiness! what an honor!"
"What time shall we have supper, Planchet?" inquired Porthos, "I feel hungry."
The foreman clasped his hands together. The two others got under the counters, fearing Porthos might have a taste for human flesh.
"We shall only take a sort of snack here," said D'Artagnan; "and when we get to Planchet's country-seat, we will have supper."
"Ah, ah! so we are going to your country-house, Planchet," said Porthos; "so much the better."
"You overwhelm me, monsieur le baron."
The "monsieur le baron" had a great effect upon the men, who detected a personage of the highest quality in an appetite of that kind. This title, too, reassured them. They had never heard that an ogre was ever called "monsieur le baron".
"I will take a few biscuits to eat on the road," said Porthos, carelessly; and he emptied a whole jar of aniseed biscuits into the huge pocket of his doublet.
"My shop is saved!" exclaimed Planchet.
"Yes, as the cheese was," whispered the foreman.
"The Dutch cheese, inside which a rat had made his way, and we found only the rind left."
Planchet looked all round his shop, and observing the different articles which had escaped Porthos's teeth, he found the comparison somewhat exaggerated. The foreman, who remarked what was passing in his master's mind, said, "Take care; he is not gone yet."
"Have you any fruit here?" said Porthos, as he went upstairs to the entresol, where it had just been announced that some refreshment was prepared.
"Alas!" thought the grocer, addressing a look at D'Artagnan full of entreaty, which the latter half understood.
As soon as they had finished eating they set off. It was late when the three riders, who had left Paris about six in the evening, arrived at Fontainebleau. The journey passed very agreeably. Porthos took a fancy to Planchet's society, because the latter was very respectful in his manners, and seemed delighted to talk to him about his meadows, his woods, and his rabbit-warrens. Porthos had all the taste and pride of a landed proprietor. When D'Artagnan saw his two companions in earnest conversation, he took the opposite side of the road, and letting his bridle drop upon his horse's neck, separated himself from the whole world, as he had done from Porthos and from Planchet. The moon shone softly through the foliage of the forest. The breezes of the open country rose deliciously perfumed to the horse's nostrils, and they snorted and pranced along delightedly. Porthos and Planchet began to talk about hay-crops. Planchet admitted to Porthos that in the advanced years of his life, he had certainly neglected agricultural pursuits for commerce, but that his childhood had been passed in Picardy in the beautiful meadows where the grass grew as high as the knees, and where he had played under the green apple-trees covered with red-cheeked fruit; he went on to say, that he had solemnly promised himself that as soon as he should have made his fortune, he would return to nature, and end his days, as he had begun them, as near as he possibly could to the earth itself, where all men must sleep at last.
"Eh, eh!" said Porthos; "in that case, my dear Monsieur Planchet, your retirement is not far distant."
"Why, you seem to be in the way of making your fortune very soon."
"Well, we are getting on pretty well, I must admit," replied Planchet.
"Come, tell me what is the extent of your ambition, and what is the amount you intend to retire upon?"
"There is one circumstance, monsieur," said Planchet, without answering the question, "which occasions me a good deal of anxiety."
"What is it?" inquired Porthos, looking all round him as if in search of the circumstance that annoyed Planchet, and desirous of freeing him from it.
"Why, formerly," said the grocer, "you used to call me Planchet quite short, and you would have spoken to me then in a much more familiar manner than you do now."
"Certainly, certainly, I should have said so formerly," replied the good-natured Porthos, with an embarrassment full of delicacy; "but formerly—"
"Formerly I was M. d'Artagnan's lackey; is not that what you mean?"
"Well if I am not quite his lackey, I am as much as ever I was his devoted servant; and more than that, since that time—"
"Since that time, I have had the honor of being in partnership with him."
"Oh, oh!" said Porthos. "What, has D'Artagnan gone into the grocery business?"
"No, no," said D'Artagnan, whom these words had drawn out of his reverie, and who entered into the conversation with that readiness and rapidity which distinguished every operation of his mind and body. "It was not D'Artagnan who entered into the grocery business, but Planchet who entered into a political affair with me."
"Yes," said Planchet, with mingled pride and satisfaction, "we transacted a little business which brought me in a hundred thousand francs and M. d'Artagnan two hundred thousand."
"Oh, oh!" said Porthos, with admiration.
"So that, monsieur le baron," continued the grocer, "I again beg you to be kind enough to call me Planchet, as you used to do; and to speak to me as familiarly as in old times. You cannot possibly imagine the pleasure it would give me."
"If that be the case, my dear Planchet, I will do so, certainly," replied Porthos. And as he was quite close to Planchet, he raised his hand, as if to strike him on the shoulder, in token of friendly cordiality; but a fortunate movement of the horse made him miss his aim, so that his hand fell on the crupper of Planchet's horse, instead; which made the animal's legs almost give way.
D'Artagnan burst out laughing, as he said, "Take care, Planchet; for if Porthos begins to like you so much, he will caress you, and if he caresses you he will knock you as flat as a pancake. Porthos is still as strong as ever, you know."
"Oh," said Planchet, "Mousqueton is not dead, and yet monsieur le baron is very fond of him."
"Certainly," said Porthos, with a sigh which made all the three horses rear; "and I was only saying, this very morning, to D'Artagnan, how much I regretted him. But tell me, Planchet?"
"Thank you, monsieur le baron, thank you."
"Good lad, good lad! How many acres of park have you got?"
"Yes; we will reckon up the meadows presently, and the woods afterwards."
"Whereabouts, monsieur?" "At your chateau."
"Oh, monsieur le baron, I have neither chateau, nor park, nor meadows, nor woods."
"What have you got, then?" inquired Porthos, "and why do you call it a country-seat?"
"I did not call it a country-seat, monsieur le baron," replied Planchet, somewhat humiliated, "but a country-box."
"Ah, ah! I understand. You are modest."
"No, monsieur le baron, I speak the plain truth. I have rooms for a couple of friends, that's all."
"But in that case, whereabouts do your friends walk?"
"In the first place, they can walk about the king's forest, which is very beautiful."
"Yes, I know the forest is very fine," said Porthos; "nearly as beautiful as my forest at Berry."
Planchet opened his eyes very wide. "Have you a forest of the same kind as the forest at Fontainebleau, monsieur le baron?" he stammered out.
"Yes; I have two, indeed, but the one at Berry is my favorite."
"Why so?" asked Planchet.
"Because I don't know where it ends; and, also, because it is full of poachers."
"How can the poachers make the forest so agreeable to you?"
"Because they hunt my game, and I hunt them—which, in these peaceful times, is for me a sufficiently pleasing picture of war on a small scale."
They had reached this turn of conversation, when Planchet, looking up, perceived the houses at the commencement of Fontainebleau, the lofty outlines of which stood out strongly against the misty visage of the heavens; whilst, rising above the compact and irregularly formed mass of buildings, the pointed roofs of the chateau were clearly visible, the slates of which glistened beneath the light of the moon, like the scales of an immense fish. "Gentlemen," said Planchet, "I have the honor to inform you that we have arrived at Fontainebleau."
Chapter V. Planchet's Country-House.
The cavaliers looked up, and saw that what Planchet had announced to them was true. Ten minutes afterwards they were in the street called the Rue de Lyon, on the opposite side of the hostelry of the Beau Paon. A high hedge of bushy elders, hawthorn, and wild hops formed an impenetrable fence, behind which rose a white house, with a high tiled roof. Two of the windows, which were quite dark, looked upon the street. Between the two, a small door, with a porch supported by a couple of pillars, formed the entrance to the house. The door was gained by a step raised a little from the ground. Planchet got off his horse, as if he intended to knock at the door; but, on second thoughts, he took hold of his horse by the bridle, and led it about thirty paces further on, his two companions following him. He then advanced about another thirty paces, until he arrived at the door of a cart-house, lighted by an iron grating; and, lifting up a wooden latch, pushed open one of the folding-doors. He entered first, leading his horse after him by the bridle, into a small courtyard, where an odor met them which revealed their close vicinity to a stable. "That smells all right," said Porthos, loudly, getting off his horse, "and I almost begin to think I am near my own cows at Pierrefonds."