D'Artagnan ran home immediately, and although it was three o'clock in th_orning and he had some of the worst quarters of Paris to traverse, he me_ith no misadventure. Everyone knows that drunkards and lovers have _rotecting deity.
He found the door of his passage open, sprang up the stairs and knocked softl_n a manner agreed upon between him and his lackey.
Planchet[](footnotes.xml#footnote_4), whom he had sent home two hour_efore from the Hotel de Ville, telling him to sit up for him, opened the doo_or him.
"Has anyone brought a letter for me?" asked d'Artagnan, eagerly.
"No one has BROUGHT a letter, monsieur," replied Planchet; "but one has com_f itself."
"What do you mean, blockhead?"
"I mean to say that when I came in, although I had the key of your apartmen_n my pocket, and that key had never quit me, I found a letter on the gree_able cover in your bedroom."
"And where is that letter?"
"I left it where I found it, monsieur. It is not natural for letters to ente_eople's houses in this manner. If the window had been open or even ajar, _hould think nothing of it; but, no—all was hermetically sealed. Beware, monsieur; there is certainly some magic underneath."
Meanwhile, the young man had darted in to his chamber, and opened the letter.
It was from Mme. Bonacieux, and was expressed in these terms:
"There are many thanks to be offered to you, and to be transmitted to you. B_his evening about ten o'clock at St. Cloud, in front of the pavilion whic_tands at the corner of the house of M. d'Estrees.—C.B."
While reading this letter, d'Artagnan felt his heart dilated and compressed b_hat delicious spasm which tortures and caresses the hearts of lovers.
It was the first billet he had received; it was the first rendezvous that ha_een granted him. His heart, swelled by the intoxication of joy, felt ready t_issolve away at the very gate of that terrestrial paradise called Love!
"Well, monsieur," said Planchet, who had observed his master grow red and pal_uccessively, "did I not guess truly? Is it not some bad affair?"
"You are mistaken, Planchet," replied d'Artagnan; "and as a proof, there is _rown to drink my health."
"I am much obliged to Monsieur for the crown he had given me, and I promis_im to follow his instructions exactly; but it is not the less true tha_etters which come in this way into shut-up houses—"
"Fall from heaven, my friend, fall from heaven."
"Then Monsieur is satisfied?" asked Planchet.
"My dear Planchet, I am the happiest of men!"
"And I may profit by Monsieur's happiness, and go to bed?"
"May the blessings of heaven fall upon Monsieur! But it is not the less tru_hat that letter—"
And Planchet retired, shaking his head with an air of doubt, which th_iberality of d'Artagnan had not entirely effaced.
Left alone, d'Artagnan read and reread his billet. Then he kissed and rekisse_wenty times the lines traced by the hand of his beautiful mistress. At lengt_e went to bed, fell asleep, and had golden dreams.
At seven o'clock in the morning he arose and called Planchet, who at th_econd summons opened the door, his countenance not yet quite freed from th_nxiety of the preceding night.
"Planchet," said d'Artagnan, "I am going out for all day, perhaps. You are, therefore, your own master till seven o'clock in the evening; but at seve_'clock you must hold yourself in readiness with two horses."
"There!" said Planchet. "We are going again, it appears, to have our hide_ierced in all sorts of ways."
"You will take your musketoon and your pistols."
"There, now! Didn't I say so?" cried Planchet. "I was sure of it—the curse_etter!"
"Don't be afraid, you idiot; there is nothing in hand but a party o_leasure."
"Ah, like the charming journey the other day, when it rained bullets an_roduced a crop of steel traps!"
"Well, if you are really afraid, Monsieur Planchet," resumed d'Artagnan, "_ill go without you. I prefer traveling alone to having a companion wh_ntertains the least fear."
"Monsieur does me wrong," said Planchet; "I thought he had seen me at work."
"Yes, but I thought perhaps you had worn out all your courage the first time."
"Monsieur shall see that upon occasion I have some left; only I beg Monsieu_ot to be too prodigal of it if he wishes it to last long."
"Do you believe you have still a certain amount of it to expend this evening?"
"I hope so, monsieur."
"Well, then, I count on you."
"At the appointed hour I shall be ready; only I believed that Monsieur had bu_ne horse in the Guard stables."
"Perhaps there is but one at this moment; but by this evening there will b_our."
"It appears that our journey was a remounting journey, then?"
"Exactly so," said d'Artagnan; and nodding to Planchet, he went out.
M. Bonacieux was at his door. D'Artagnan's intention was to go out withou_peaking to the worthy mercer; but the latter made so polite and friendly _alutation that his tenant felt obliged, not only to stop, but to enter int_onversation with him.
Besides, how is it possible to avoid a little condescension toward a husban_hose pretty wife has appointed a meeting with you that same evening at St.
Cloud, opposite D'Estrees's pavilion? D'Artagnan approached him with the mos_miable air he could assume.
The conversation naturally fell upon the incarceration of the poor man. M.
Bonacieux, who was ignorant that d'Artagnan had overheard his conversatio_ith the stranger of Meung, related to his young tenant the persecutions o_hat monster, M. de Laffemas, whom he never ceased to designate, during hi_ccount, by the title of the "cardinal's executioner," and expatiated at grea_ength upon the Bastille, the bolts, the wickets, the dungeons, the gratings, the instruments of torture.
D'Artagnan listened to him with exemplary complaisance, and when he ha_inished said, "And Madame Bonacieux, do you know who carried her off?—For _o not forget that I owe to that unpleasant circumstance the good fortune o_aving made your acquaintance."
"Ah!" said Bonacieux, "they took good care not to tell me that; and my wife, on her part, has sworn to me by all that's sacred that she does not know. Bu_ou," continued M. Bonacieux, in a tine of perfect good fellowship, "what ha_ecome of you all these days? I have not seen you nor your friends, and _on't think you could gather all that dust that I saw Planchet brush off you_oots yesterday from the pavement of Paris."
"You are right, my dear Monsieur Bonacieux, my friends and I have been on _ittle journey."
"Far from here?"
"Oh, Lord, no! About forty leagues only. We went to take Monsieur Athos to th_aters of Forges, where my friends still remain."
"And you have returned, have you not?" replied M. Bonacieux, giving to hi_ountenance a most sly air. "A handsome young fellow like you does not obtai_ong leaves of absence from his mistress; and we were impatiently waited fo_t Paris, were we not?"
"My faith!" said the young man, laughing, "I confess it, and so much more th_eadily, my dear Bonacieux, as I see there is no concealing anything from you.
Yes, I was expected, and very impatiently, I acknowledge."
A slight shade passed over the brow of Bonacieux, but so slight tha_'Artagnan did not perceive it.
"And we are going to be recompensed for our diligence?" continued the mercer, with a trifling alteration in his voice—so trifling, indeed, that d'Artagna_id not perceive it any more than he had the momentary shade which, an instan_efore, had darkened the countenance of the worthy man.
"Ah, may you be a true prophet!" said d'Artagnan, laughing.
"No; what I say," replied Bonacieux, "is only that I may know whether I a_elaying you."
"Why that question, my dear host?" asked d'Artagnan. "Do you intend to sit u_or me?"
"No; but since my arrest and the robbery that was committed in my house, I a_larmed every time I hear a door open, particularly in the night. What th_euce can you expect? I am no swordsman."
"Well, don't be alarmed if I return at one, two or three o'clock in th_orning; indeed, do not be alarmed if I do not come at all."
This time Bonacieux became so pale that d'Artagnan could not help perceivin_t, and asked him what was the matter.
"Nothing," replied Bonacieux, "nothing. Since my misfortunes I have bee_ubject to faintnesses, which seize me all at once, and I have just felt _old shiver. Pay no attention to it; you have nothing to occupy yourself wit_ut being happy."
"Then I have full occupation, for I am so."
"Not yet; wait a little! This evening, you said."
"Well, this evening will come, thank God! And perhaps you look for it with a_uch impatience as I do; perhaps this evening Madame Bonacieux will visit th_onjugal domicile."
"Madame Bonacieux is not at liberty this evening," replied the husband, seriously; "she is detained at the Louvre this evening by her duties."
"So much the worse for you, my dear host, so much the worse! When I am happy, I wish all the world to be so; but it appears that is not possible."
The young man departed, laughing at the joke, which he thought he alone coul_omprehend.
"Amuse yourself well!" replied Bonacieux, in a sepulchral tone.
But d'Artagnan was too far off to hear him; and if he had heard him in th_isposition of mind he then enjoyed, he certainly would not have remarked it.
He took his way toward the hotel of M. de Treville; his visit of the da_efore, it is to be remembered, had been very short and very littl_xplicative.
He found Treville in a joyful mood. He had thought the king and queen charmin_t the ball. It is true the cardinal had been particularly ill-tempered. H_ad retired at one o'clock under the pretense of being indisposed. As to thei_ajesties, they did not return to the Louvre till six o'clock in the morning.
"Now," said Treville, lowering his voice, and looking into every corner of th_partment to see if they were alone, "now let us talk about yourself, my youn_riend; for it is evident that your happy return has something to do with th_oy of the king, the triumph of the queen, and the humiliation of hi_minence. You must look out for yourself."
"What have I to fear," replied d'Artagnan, "as long as I shall have the luc_o enjoy the favor of their Majesties?"
"Everything, believe me. The cardinal is not the man to forget a mystificatio_ntil he has settled account with the mystifier; and the mystifier appears t_e to have the air of being a certain young Gascon of my acquaintance."
"Do you believe that the cardinal is as well posted as yourself, and know_hat I have been to London?"
"The devil! You have been to London! Was it from London you brought tha_eautiful diamond that glitters on your finger? Beware, my dear d'Artagnan! _resent from an enemy is not a good thing. Are there not some Latin verse_pon that subject? Stop!"
"Yes, doubtless," replied d'Artagnan, who had never been able to cram th_irst rudiments of that language into his head, and who had by his ignoranc_riven his master to despair, "yes, doubtless there is one."
"There certainly is one," said M. de Treville, who had a tincture o_iterature, "and Monsieur de Benserade was quoting it to me the other day.
Stop a minute—ah, this is it: 'Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes,' which means,
'Beware of the enemy who makes you presents."
"This diamond does not come from an enemy, monsieur," replied d'Artagnan, "i_omes from the queen."
"From the queen! Oh, oh!" said M. de Treville. "Why, it is indeed a true roya_ewel, which is worth a thousand pistoles if it is worth a denier. By whom di_he queen send you this jewel?"
"She gave it to me herself."
"In the room adjoining the chamber in which she changed her toilet."
"Giving me her hand to kiss."
"You have kissed the queen's hand?" said M. de Treville, looking earnestly a_'Artagnan.
"Her Majesty did me the honor to grant me that favor."
"And that in the presence of witnesses! Imprudent, thrice imprudent!"
"No, monsieur, be satisfied; nobody saw her," replied d'Artagnan, and h_elated to M. de Treville how the affair came to pass.
"Oh, the women, the women!" cried the old soldier. "I know them by thei_omantic imagination. Everything that savors of mystery charms them. So yo_ave seen the arm, that was all. You would meet the queen, and she would no_now who you are?"
"No; but thanks to this diamond," replied the young man.
"Listen," said M. de Treville; "shall I give you counsel, good counsel, th_ounsel of a friend?"
"You will do me honor, monsieur," said d'Artagnan.
"Well, then, off to the nearest goldsmith's, and sell that diamond for th_ighest price you can get from him. However much of a Jew he may be, he wil_ive you at least eight hundred pistoles. Pistoles have no name, young man, and that ring has a terrible one, which may betray him who wears it."
"Sell this ring, a ring which comes from my sovereign? Never!" sai_'Artagnan.
"Then, at least turn the gem inside, you silly fellow; for everybody must b_ware that a cadet from Gascony does not find such stones in his mother'_ewel case."
"You think, then, I have something to dread?" asked d'Artagnan.
"I mean to say, young man, that he who sleeps over a mine the match of whic_s already lighted, may consider himself in safety in comparison with you."
"The devil!" said d'Artagnan, whom the positive tone of M. de Treville bega_o disquiet, "the devil! What must I do?"
"Above all things be always on your guard. The cardinal has a tenacious memor_nd a long arm; you may depend upon it, he will repay you by some ill turn."
"But of what sort?"
"Eh! How can I tell? Has he not all the tricks of a demon at his command? Th_east that can be expected is that you will be arrested."
"What! Will they dare to arrest a man in his Majesty's service?"
"PARDIEU! They did not scruple much in the case of Athos. At all events, youn_an, rely upon one who has been thirty years at court. Do not lull yourself i_ecurity, or you will be lost; but, on the contrary—and it is I who say it—se_nemies in all directions. If anyone seeks a quarrel with you, shun it, wer_t with a child of ten years old. If you are attacked by day or by night, fight, but retreat, without shame; if you cross a bridge, feel every plank o_t with your foot, lest one should give way beneath you; if you pass before _ouse which is being built, look up, for fear a stone should fall upon you_ead; if you stay out late, be always followed by your lackey, and let you_ackey be armed—if, by the by, you can be sure of your lackey. Mistrus_verybody, your friend, your brother, your mistress—your mistress above all."
"My mistress above all," repeated he, mechanically; "and why her rather tha_nother?"
"Because a mistress is one of the cardinal's favorite means; he has not on_hat is more expeditious. A woman will sell you for ten pistoles, witnes_elilah. You are acquainted with the Scriptures?"
D'Artagnan thought of the appointment Mme. Bonacieux had made with him fo_hat very evening; but we are bound to say, to the credit of our hero, tha_he bad opinion entertained by M. de Treville of women in general, did no_nspire him with the least suspicion of his pretty hostess.
"But, A PROPOS," resumed M. de Treville, "what has become of your thre_ompanions?"
"I was about to ask you if you had heard any news of them?"
"Well, I left them on my road—Porthos at Chantilly, with a duel on his hands; Aramis at Crevecoeur, with a ball in his shoulder; and Athos at Amiens, detained by an accusation of coining."
"See there, now!" said M. de Treville; "and how the devil did you escape?"
"By a miracle, monsieur, I must acknowledge, with a sword thrust in my breast, and by nailing the Comte de Wardes on the byroad to Calais, like a butterfl_n a tapestry."
"There again! De Wardes, one of the cardinal's men, a cousin of Rochefort!
Stop, my friend, I have an idea."
"In your place, I would do one thing."
"While his Eminence was seeking for me in Paris, I would take, without soun_f drum or trumpet, the road to Picardy, and would go and make some inquirie_oncerning my three companions. What the devil! They merit richly that piec_f attention on your part."
"The advice is good, monsieur, and tomorrow I will set out."
"Tomorrow! Any why not this evening?"
"This evening, monsieur, I am detained in Paris by indispensable business."
"Ah, young man, young man, some flirtation or other. Take care, I repeat t_ou, take care. It is woman who has ruined us, still ruins us, and will rui_s, as long as the world stands. Take my advice and set out this evening."
"You have given your word, then?"
"Ah, that's quite another thing; but promise me, if you should not be kille_onight, that you will go tomorrow."
"I promise it."
"Do you need money?"
"I have still fifty pistoles. That, I think, is as much as I shall want."
"But your companions?"
"I don't think they can be in need of any. We left Paris, each with seventy- five pistoles in his pocket."
"Shall I see you again before your departure?"
"I think not, monsieur, unless something new should happen."
"Well, a pleasant journey."
D'Artagnan left M. de Treville, touched more than ever by his paterna_olicitude for his Musketeers.
He called successively at the abodes of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. Neither o_hem had returned. Their lackeys likewise were absent, and nothing had bee_eard of either the one or the other. He would have inquired after them o_heir mistresses, but he was neither acquainted with Porthos's nor Aramis's, and as to Athos, he had none.
As he passed the Hotel des Gardes, he took a glance in to the stables. Thre_f the four horses had already arrived. Planchet, all astonishment, was bus_rooming them, and had already finished two.
"Ah, monsieur," said Planchet, on perceiving d'Artagnan, "how glad I am to se_ou."
"Why so, Planchet?" asked the young man.
"Do you place confidence in our landlord—Monsieur Bonacieux?"
"I? Not the least in the world."
"Oh, you do quite right, monsieur."
"But why this question?"
"Because, while you were talking with him, I watched you without listening t_ou; and, monsieur, his countenance changed color two or three times!"
"Preoccupied as Monsieur was with the letter he had received, he did no_bserve that; but I, whom the strange fashion in which that letter came int_he house had placed on my guard—I did not lose a movement of his features."
"And you found it?"
"Still more; as soon as Monsieur had left and disappeared round the corner o_he street, Monsieur Bonacieux took his hat, shut his door, and set off at _uick pace in an opposite direction."
"It seems you are right, Planchet; all this appears to be a little mysterious; and be assured that we will not pay him our rent until the matter shall b_ategorically explained to us."
"Monsieur jests, but Monsieur will see."
"What would you have, Planchet? What must come is written."
"Monsieur does not then renounce his excursion for this evening?"
"Quite the contrary, Planchet; the more ill will I have toward Monsieu_onacieux, the more punctual I shall be in keeping the appointment made b_hat letter which makes you so uneasy."
"Then that is Monsieur's determination?"
"Undeniably, my friend. At nine o'clock, then, be ready here at the hotel, _ill come and take you."
Planchet seeing there was no longer any hope of making his master renounce hi_roject, heaved a profound sigh and set to work to groom the third horse.
As to d'Artagnan, being at bottom a prudent youth, instead of returning home, went and dined with the Gascon priest, who, at the time of the distress of th_our friends, had given them a breakfast of chocolate.