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Chapter 23 THE RENDEZ-VOUS

  • 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[[4]](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?"
  • "Yes, go."
  • "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."
  • "Where?"
  • "In the room adjoining the chamber in which she changed her toilet."
  • "How?"
  • "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."
  • D'Artagnan blushed.
  • "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?"
  • "None, monsieur."
  • "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."
  • "Speak, monsieur."
  • "In your place, I would do one thing."
  • "What?"
  • "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."
  • "Impossible, monsieur."
  • "You have given your word, then?"
  • "Yes, monsieur."
  • "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."
  • "Thanks, monsieur."
  • 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!"
  • "Bah!"
  • "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?"
  • "Traitorous, monsieur."
  • "Indeed!"
  • "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.