Instead of returning directly home, d'Artagnan alighted at the door of M. d_reville, and ran quickly up the stairs. This time he had decided to relat_ll that had passed. M. de Treville would doubtless give him good advice as t_he whole affair. Besides, as M. de Treville saw the queen almost daily, h_ight be able to draw from her Majesty some intelligence of the poor youn_oman, whom they were doubtless making pay very dearly for her devotedness t_er mistress.
M. de Treville listened to the young man's account with a seriousness whic_roved that he saw something else in this adventure besides a love affair.
When d'Artagnan had finished, he said, "Hum! All this savors of his Eminence, a league off."
"But what is to be done?" said d'Artagnan.
"Nothing, absolutely nothing, at present, but quitting Paris, as I told you, as soon as possible. I will see the queen; I will relate to her the details o_he disappearance of this poor woman, of which she is no doubt ignorant. Thes_etails will guide her on her part, and on your return, I shall perhaps hav_ome good news to tell you. Rely on me."
D'Artagnan knew that, although a Gascon, M. de Treville was not in the habi_f making promises, and that when by chance he did promise, he more than kep_is word. He bowed to him, then, full of gratitude for the past and for th_uture; and the worthy captain, who on his side felt a lively interest in thi_oung man, so brave and so resolute, pressed his hand kindly, wishing him _leasant journey.
Determined to put the advice of M. de Treville in practice instantly, d'Artagnan directed his course toward the Rue des Fossoyeurs, in order t_uperintend the packing of his valise. On approaching the house, he perceive_. Bonacieux in morning costume, standing at his threshold. All that th_rudent Planchet had said to him the preceding evening about the siniste_haracter of the old man recurred to the mind of d'Artagnan, who looked at hi_ith more attention than he had done before. In fact, in addition to tha_ellow, sickly paleness which indicates the insinuation of the bile in th_lood, and which might, besides, be accidental, d'Artagnan remarked somethin_erfidiously significant in the play of the wrinkled features of hi_ountenance. A rogue does not laugh in the same way that an honest man does; _ypocrite does not shed the tears of a man of good faith. All falsehood is _ask; and however well made the mask may be, with a little attention we ma_lways succeed in distinguishing it from the true face.
It appeared, then, to d'Artagnan that M. Bonacieux wore a mask, and likewis_hat that mask was most disagreeable to look upon. In consequence of thi_eeling of repugnance, he was about to pass without speaking to him, but, a_e had done the day before, M. Bonacieux accosted him.
"Well, young man," said he, "we appear to pass rather gay nights! Seve_'clock in the morning! PESTE! You seem to reverse ordinary customs, and com_ome at the hour when other people are going out."
"No one can reproach you for anything of the kind, Monsieur Bonacieux," sai_he young man; "you are a model for regular people. It is true that when a ma_ossesses a young and pretty wife, he has no need to seek happiness elsewhere.
Happiness comes to meet him, does it not, Monsieur Bonacieux?"
Bonacieux became as pale as death, and grinned a ghastly smile.
"Ah, ah!" said Bonacieux, "you are a jocular companion! But where the devi_ere you gladding last night, my young master? It does not appear to be ver_lean in the crossroads."
D'Artagnan glanced down at his boots, all covered with mud; but that sam_lance fell upon the shoes and stockings of the mercer, and it might have bee_aid they had been dipped in the same mud heap. Both were stained wit_plashes of mud of the same appearance.
Then a sudden idea crossed the mind of d'Artagnan. That little stout man, short and elderly, that sort of lackey, dressed in dark clothes, treate_ithout ceremony by the men wearing swords who composed the escort, wa_onacieux himself. The husband had presided at the abduction of his wife.
A terrible inclination seized d'Artagnan to grasp the mercer by the throat an_trangle him; but, as we have said, he was a very prudent youth, and h_estrained himself. However, the revolution which appeared upon hi_ountenance was so visible that Bonacieux was terrified at it, and h_ndeavored to draw back a step or two; but as he was standing before the hal_f the door which was shut, the obstacle compelled him to keep his place.
"Ah, but you are joking, my worthy man!" said d'Artagnan. "It appears to m_hat if my boots need a sponge, your stockings and shoes stand in equal nee_f a brush. May you not have been philandering a little also, Monsieu_onacieux? Oh, the devil! That's unpardonable in a man of your age, and wh_esides, has such a pretty wife as yours."
"Oh, Lord! no," said Bonacieux, "but yesterday I went to St. Mande to mak_ome inquiries after a servant, as I cannot possibly do without one; and th_oads were so bad that I brought back all this mud, which I have not yet ha_ime to remove."
The place named by Bonacieux as that which had been the object of his journe_as a fresh proof in support of the suspicions d'Artagnan had conceived.
Bonacieux had named Mande because Mande was in an exactly opposite directio_rom St. Cloud. This probability afforded him his first consolation. I_onacieux knew where his wife was, one might, by extreme means, force th_ercer to open his teeth and let his secret escape. The question, then, wa_ow to change this probability into a certainty.
"Pardon, my dear Monsieur Bonacieux, if I don't stand upon ceremony," sai_'Artagnan, "but nothing makes one so thirsty as want of sleep. I am parche_ith thirst. Allow me to take a glass of water in your apartment; you kno_hat is never refused among neighbors."
Without waiting for the permission of his host, d'Artagnan went quickly int_he house, and cast a rapid glance at the bed. It had not been used. Bonacieu_ad not been abed. He had only been back an hour or two; he had accompanie_is wife to the place of her confinement, or else at least to the first relay.
"Thanks, Monsieur Bonacieux," said d'Artagnan, emptying his glass, "that i_ll I wanted of you. I will now go up into my apartment. I will make Planche_rush my boots; and when he has done, I will, if you like, send him to you t_rush your shoes."
He left the mercer quite astonished at his singular farewell, and askin_imself if he had not been a little inconsiderate.
At the top of the stairs he found Planchet in a great fright.
"Ah, monsieur!" cried Planchet, as soon as he perceived his master, "here i_ore trouble. I thought you would never come in."
"What's the matter now, Planchet?" demanded d'Artagnan.
"Oh! I give you a hundred, I give you a thousand times to guess, monsieur, th_isit I received in your absence."
"About half an hour ago, while you were at Monsieur de Treville's."
"Who has been here? Come, speak."
"Monsieur de Cavois."
"Monsieur de Cavois?"
"The captain of the cardinal's Guards?"
"Did he come to arrest me?"
"I have no doubt that he did, monsieur, for all his wheedling manner."
"Was he so sweet, then?"
"Indeed, he was all honey, monsieur."
"He came, he said, on the part of his Eminence, who wished you well, and t_eg you to follow him to the Palais-Royal."[](footnotes.xml#footnote_5)
"What did you answer him?"
"That the thing was impossible, seeing that you were not at home, as he coul_ee."
"Well, what did he say then?"
"That you must not fail to call upon him in the course of the day; and then h_dded in a low voice, 'Tell your master that his Eminence is very wel_isposed toward him, and that his fortune perhaps depends upon thi_nterview.'"
"The snare is rather MALADROIT for the cardinal," replied the young man, smiling.
"Oh, I saw the snare, and I answered you would be quite in despair on you_eturn.
"'Where has he gone?' asked Monsieur de Cavois.
"'To Troyes, in Champagne,' I answered.
"'And when did he set out?'
"Planchet, my friend," interrupted d'Artagnan, "you are really a preciou_ellow."
"You will understand, monsieur, I thought there would be still time, if yo_ish, to see Monsieur de Cavois to contradict me by saying you were not ye_one. The falsehood would then lie at my door, and as I am not a gentleman, _ay be allowed to lie."
"Be of good heart, Planchet, you shall preserve your reputation as a veraciou_an. In a quarter of an hour we set off."
"That's the advice I was about to give Monsieur; and where are we going, may _sk, without being too curious?"
"PARDIEU! In the opposite direction to that which you said I was gone.
Besides, are you not as anxious to learn news of Grimaud, Mousqueton, an_azin as I am to know what has become of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis?"
"Yes, monsieur," said Planchet, "and I will go as soon as you please. Indeed, I think provincial air will suit us much better just now than the air o_aris. So then—"
"So then, pack up our luggage, Planchet, and let us be off. On my part, I wil_o out with my hands in my pockets, that nothing may be suspected. You ma_oin me at the Hotel des Gardes. By the way, Planchet, I think you are righ_ith respect to our host, and that he is decidedly a frightfully low wretch."
"Ah, monsieur, you may take my word when I tell you anything. I am _hysiognomist, I assure you."
D'Artagnan went out first, as had been agreed upon. Then, in order that h_ight have nothing to reproach himself with, he directed his steps, for th_ast time, toward the residences of his three friends. No news had bee_eceived of them; only a letter, all perfumed and of an elegant writing i_mall characters, had come for Aramis. D'Artagnan took charge of it. Te_inutes afterward Planchet joined him at the stables of the Hotel des Gardes.
D'Artagnan, in order that there might be no time lost, had saddled his hors_imself.
"That's well," said he to Planchet, when the latter added the portmanteau t_he equipment. "Now saddle the other three horses."
"Do you think, then, monsieur, that we shall travel faster with two horse_piece?" said Planchet, with his shrewd air.
"No, Monsieur Jester," replied d'Artagnan; "but with our four horses we ma_ring back our three friends, if we should have the good fortune to find the_iving."
"Which is a great chance," replied Planchet, "but we must not despair of th_ercy of God."
"Amen!" said d'Artagnan, getting into his saddle.
As they went from the Hotel des Gardes, they separated, leaving the street a_pposite ends, one having to quit Paris by the Barriere de la Villette and th_ther by the Barriere Montmartre, to meet again beyond St. Denis—a strategi_aneuver which, having been executed with equal punctuality, was crowned wit_he most fortunate results. D'Artagnan and Planchet entered Pierrefitt_ogether.
Planchet was more courageous, it must be admitted, by day than by night. Hi_atural prudence, however, never forsook him for a single instant. He ha_orgotten not one of the incidents of the first journey, and he looked upo_verybody he met on the road as an enemy. It followed that his hat was foreve_n his hand, which procured him some severe reprimands from d'Artagnan, wh_eared that his excess of politeness would lead people to think he was th_ackey of a man of no consequence.
Nevertheless, whether the passengers were really touched by the urbanity o_lanchet or whether this time nobody was posted on the young man's road, ou_wo travelers arrived at Chantilly without any accident, and alighted at th_avern of Great St. Martin, the same at which they had stopped on their firs_ourney.
The host, on seeing a young man followed by a lackey with two extra horses, advanced respectfully to the door. Now, as they had already traveled eleve_eagues, d'Artagnan thought it time to stop, whether Porthos were or were no_n the inn. Perhaps it would not be prudent to ask at once what had become o_he Musketeer. The result of these reflections was that d'Artagnan, withou_sking information of any kind, alighted, commended the horses to the care o_is lackey, entered a small room destined to receive those who wished to b_lone, and desired the host to bring him a bottle of his best wine and as goo_ breakfast as possible—a desire which further corroborated the high opinio_he innkeeper had formed of the traveler at first sight.
D'Artagnan was therefore served with miraculous celerity. The regiment of th_uards was recruited among the first gentlemen of the kingdom; and d'Artagnan, followed by a lackey, and traveling with four magnificent horses, despite th_implicity of his uniform, could not fail to make a sensation. The hos_esired himself to serve him; which d'Artagnan perceiving, ordered two glasse_o be brought, and commenced the following conversation.
"My faith, my good host," said d'Artagnan, filling the two glasses, "I aske_or a bottle of your best wine, and if you have deceived me, you will b_unished in what you have sinned; for seeing that I hate drinking my myself, you shall drink with me. Take your glass, then, and let us drink. But wha_hall we drink to, so as to avoid wounding any susceptibility? Let us drink t_he prosperity of your establishment."
"Your Lordship does me much honor," said the host, "and I thank you sincerel_or your kind wish."
"But don't mistake," said d'Artagnan, "there is more selfishness in my toas_han perhaps you may think—for it is only in prosperous establishments tha_ne is well received. In hotels that do not flourish, everything is i_onfusion, and the traveler is a victim to the embarrassments of his host.
Now, I travel a great deal, particularly on this road, and I wish to see al_nnkeepers making a fortune."
"It seems to me," said the host, "that this is not the first time I have ha_he honor of seeing Monsieur."
"Bah, I have passed perhaps ten times through Chantilly, and out of the te_imes I have stopped three or four times at your house at least. Why I wa_ere only ten or twelve days ago. I was conducting some friends, Musketeers, one of whom, by the by, had a dispute with a stranger—a man who sought _uarrel with him, for I don't know what."
"Exactly so," said the host; "I remember it perfectly. It is not Monsieu_orthos that your Lordship means?"
"Yes, that is my companion's name. My God, my dear host, tell me if anythin_as happened to him?"
"Your Lordship must have observed that he could not continue his journey."
"Why, to be sure, he promised to rejoin us, and we have seen nothing of him."
"He has done us the honor to remain here."
"What, he had done you the honor to remain here?"
"Yes, monsieur, in this house; and we are even a little uneasy—"
"On what account?"
"Of certain expenses he has contracted."
"Well, but whatever expenses he may have incurred, I am sure he is in _ondition to pay them."
"Ah, monsieur, you infuse genuine balm into my blood. We have mad_onsiderable advances; and this very morning the surgeon declared that i_onsieur Porthos did not pay him, he should look to me, as it was I who ha_ent for him."
"Porthos is wounded, then?"
"I cannot tell you, monsieur."
"What! You cannot tell me? Surely you ought to be able to tell me better tha_ny other person."
"Yes; but in our situation we must not say all we know—particularly as we hav_een warned that our ears should answer for our tongues."
"Well, can I see Porthos?"
"Certainly, monsieur. Take the stairs on your right; go up the first fligh_nd knock at Number One. Only warn him that it is you."
"Why should I do that?"
"Because, monsieur, some mischief might happen to you."
"Of what kind, in the name of wonder?"
"Monsieur Porthos may imagine you belong to the house, and in a fit of passio_ight run his sword through you or blow out your brains."
"What have you done to him, then?"
"We have asked him for money."
"The devil! Ah, I can understand that. It is a demand that Porthos takes ver_ll when he is not in funds; but I know he must be so at present."
"We thought so, too, monsieur. As our house is carried on very regularly, an_e make out our bills every week, at the end of eight days we presented ou_ccount; but it appeared we had chosen an unlucky moment, for at the firs_ord on the subject, he sent us to all the devils. It is true he had bee_laying the day before."
"Playing the day before! And with whom?"
"Lord, who can say, monsieur? With some gentleman who was traveling this way, to whom he proposed a game of LANSQUENET."
"That's it, then, and the foolish fellow lost all he had?"
"Even to his horse, monsieur; for when the gentleman was about to set out, w_erceived that his lackey was saddling Monsieur Porthos's horse, as well a_is master's. When we observed this to him, he told us all to troubl_urselves about our own business, as this horse belonged to him. We als_nformed Monsieur Porthos of what was going on; but he told us we wer_coundrels to doubt a gentleman's word, and that as he had said the horse wa_is, it must be so."
"That's Porthos all over," murmured d'Artagnan.
"Then," continued the host, "I replied that as from the moment we seemed no_ikely to come to a good understanding with respect to payment, I hoped tha_e would have at least the kindness to grant the favor of his custom to m_rother host of the Golden Eagle; but Monsieur Porthos replied that, my hous_eing the best, he should remain where he was. This reply was too flatterin_o allow me to insist on his departure. I confined myself then to begging hi_o give up his chamber, which is the handsomest in the hotel, and to b_atisfied with a pretty little room on the third floor; but to this Monsieu_orthos replied that as he every moment expected his mistress, who was one o_he greatest ladies in the court, I might easily comprehend that the chambe_e did me the honor to occupy in my house was itself very mean for the visi_f such a personage. Nevertheless, while acknowledging the truth of what h_aid, I thought proper to insist; but without even giving himself the troubl_o enter into any discussion with me, he took one of his pistols, laid it o_is table, day and night, and said that at the first word that should b_poken to him about removing, either within the house or out of it, he woul_low out the brains of the person who should be so imprudent as to meddle wit_ matter which only concerned himself. Since that time, monsieur, nobod_ntered his chamber but his servant."
"What! Mousqueton is here, then?"
"Oh, yes, monsieur. Five days after your departure, he came back, and in _ery bad condition, too. It appears that he had met with disagreeableness, likewise, on his journey. Unfortunately, he is more nimble than his master; s_hat for the sake of his master, he puts us all under his feet, and as h_hinks we might refuse what he asked for, he takes all he wants without askin_t all."
"The fact is," said d'Artagnan, "I have always observed a great degree o_ntelligence and devotedness in Mousqueton."
"That is possible, monsieur; but suppose I should happen to be brought i_ontact, even four times a year, with such intelligence and devotedness—why, _hould be a ruined man!"
"No, for Porthos will pay you."
"Hum!" said the host, in a doubtful tone.
"The favorite of a great lady will not be allowed to be inconvenienced fo_uch a paltry sum as he owes you."
"If I durst say what I believe on that head—"
"What you believe?"
"I ought rather to say, what I know."
"What you know?"
"And even what I am sure of."
"And of what are you so sure?"
"I would say that I know this great lady."
"And how do you know her?"
"Oh, monsieur, if I could believe I might trust in your discretion."
"Speak! By the word of a gentleman, you shall have no cause to repent of you_onfidence."
"Well, monsieur, you understand that uneasiness makes us do many things."
"What have you done?"
"Oh, nothing which was not right in the character of a creditor."
"Monsieur Porthos gave us a note for his duchess, ordering us to put it in th_ost. This was before his servant came. As he could not leave his chamber, i_as necessary to charge us with this commission."
"Instead of putting the letter in the post, which is never safe, I too_dvantage of the journey of one of my lads to Paris, and ordered him to conve_he letter to this duchess himself. This was fulfilling the intentions o_onsieur Porthos, who had desired us to be so careful of this letter, was i_ot?"
"Well, monsieur, do you know who this great lady is?"
"No; I have heard Porthos speak of her, that's all."
"Do you know who this pretended duchess is?
"I repeat to you, I don't know her."
"Why, she is the old wife of a procurator* of the Chatelet, monsieur, name_adame Coquenard, who, although she is at least fifty, still gives hersel_ealous airs. It struck me as very odd that a princess should live in the Ru_ux Ours."
"But how do you know all this?"
"Because she flew into a great passion on receiving the letter, saying tha_onsieur Porthos was a weathercock, and that she was sure it was for som_oman he had received this wound."
"Has he been wounded, then?"
"Oh, good Lord! What have I said?"
"You said that Porthos had received a sword cut."
"Yes, but he has forbidden me so strictly to say so."
"And why so."
"Zounds, monsieur! Because he had boasted that he would perforate the strange_ith whom you left him in dispute; whereas the stranger, on the contrary, i_pite of all his rodomontades quickly threw him on his back. As Monsieu_orthos is a very boastful man, he insists that nobody shall know he ha_eceived this wound except the duchess, whom he endeavored to interest by a_ccount of his adventure."
"It is a wound that confines him to his bed?"
"Ah, and a master stroke, too, I assure you. Your friend's soul must stic_ight to his body."
"Were you there, then?"
"Monsieur, I followed them from curiosity, so that I saw the combat withou_he combatants seeing me."
"And what took place?"
"Oh! The affair was not long, I assure you. They placed themselves on guard; the stranger made a feint and a lunge, and that so rapidly that when Monsieu_orthos came to the PARADE, he had already three inches of steel in hi_reast. He immediately fell backward. The stranger placed the point of hi_word at his throat; and Monsieur Porthos, finding himself at the mercy of hi_dversary, acknowledged himself conquered. Upon which the stranger asked hi_ame, and learning that it was Porthos, and not d'Artagnan, he assisted him t_ise, brought him back to the hotel, mounted his horse, and disappeared."
"So it was with Monsieur d'Artagnan this stranger meant to quarrel?"
"It appears so."
"And do you know what has become of him?"
"No, I never saw him until that moment, and have not seen him since."
"Very well; I know all that I wish to know. Porthos's chamber is, you say, o_he first story, Number One?"
"Yes, monsieur, the handsomest in the inn—a chamber that I could have let te_imes over."
"Bah! Be satisfied," said d'Artagnan, laughing, "Porthos will pay you with th_oney of the Duchess Coquenard."
"Oh, monsieur, procurator's wife or duchess, if she will but loosen he_ursestrings, it will be all the same; but she positively answered that sh_as tired of the exigencies and infidelities of Monsieur Porthos, and that sh_ould not send him a denier."
"And did you convey this answer to your guest?"
"We took good care not to do that; he would have found in what fashion we ha_xecuted his commission."
"So that he still expects his money?"
"Oh, Lord, yes, monsieur! Yesterday he wrote again; but it was his servant wh_his time put the letter in the post."
"Do you say the procurator's wife is old and ugly?"
"Fifty at least, monsieur, and not at all handsome, according to Pathaud'_ccount."
"In that case, you may be quite at ease; she will soon be softened. Besides, Porthos cannot owe you much."
"How, not much! Twenty good pistoles, already, without reckoning the doctor.
He denies himself nothing; it may easily be seen he has been accustomed t_ive well."
"Never mind; if his mistress abandons him, he will find friends, I will answe_or it. So, my dear host, be not uneasy, and continue to take all the care o_im that his situation requires."
"Monsieur has promised me not to open his mouth about the procurator's wife, and not to say a word of the wound?"
"That's agreed; you have my word."
"Oh, he would kill me!"
"Don't be afraid; he is not so much of a devil as he appears."
Saying these words, d'Artagnan went upstairs, leaving his host a little bette_atisfied with respect to two things in which he appeared to be very muc_nterested—his debt and his life.
At the top of the stairs, upon the most conspicuous door of the corridor, wa_raced in black ink a gigantic number "1." d'Artagnan knocked, and upon th_idding to come in which came from inside, he entered the chamber.
Porthos was in bed, and was playing a game at LANSQUENET with Mousqueton, t_eep his hand in; while a spit loaded with partridges was turning before th_ire, and on each side of a large chimneypiece, over two chafing dishes, wer_oiling two stewpans, from which exhaled a double odor of rabbit and fis_tews, rejoicing to the smell. In addition to this he perceived that the to_f a wardrobe and the marble of a commode were covered with empty bottles.
At the sight of his friend, Porthos uttered a loud cry of joy; and Mousqueton, rising respectfully, yielded his place to him, and went to give an eye to th_wo stewpans, of which he appeared to have the particular inspection.
"Ah, PARDIEU! Is that you?" said Porthos to d'Artagnan. "You are righ_elcome. Excuse my not coming to meet you; but," added he, looking a_'Artagnan with a certain degree of uneasiness, "you know what has happened t_e?"
"Has the host told you nothing, then?"
"I asked after you, and came up as soon as I could."
Porthos seemed to breathe more freely.
"And what has happened to you, my dear Porthos?" continued d'Artagnan.
"Why, on making a thrust at my adversary, whom I had already hit three times, and whom I meant to finish with the fourth, I put my foot on a stone, slipped, and strained my knee."
"Honor! Luckily for the rascal, for I should have left him dead on the spot, _ssure you."
"And what has became of him?"
"Oh, I don't know; he had enough, and set off without waiting for the rest.
But you, my dear d'Artagnan, what has happened to you?"
"So that this strain of the knee," continued d'Artagnan, "my dear Porthos, keeps you in bed?"
"My God, that's all. I shall be about again in a few days."
"Why did you not have yourself conveyed to Paris? You must be cruelly bore_ere."
"That was my intention; but, my dear friend, I have one thing to confess t_ou."
"It is that as I was cruelly bored, as you say, and as I had the seventy-fiv_istoles in my pocket which you had distributed to me, in order to amus_yself I invited a gentleman who was traveling this way to walk up, an_roposed a cast of dice. He accepted my challenge, and, my faith, my seventy- five pistoles passed from my pocket to his, without reckoning my horse, whic_e won into the bargain. But you, my dear d'Artagnan?"
"What can you expect, my dear Porthos; a man is not privileged in all ways,"
said d'Artagnan. "You know the proverb 'Unlucky at play, lucky in love.' Yo_re too fortunate in your love for play not to take its revenge. Wha_onsequence can the reverses of fortune be to you? Have you not, happy rogu_hat you are—have you not your duchess, who cannot fail to come to your aid?"
"Well, you see, my dear d'Artagnan, with what ill luck I play," replie_orthos, with the most careless air in the world. "I wrote to her to send m_ifty louis or so, of which I stood absolutely in need on account of m_ccident."
"Well, she must be at her country seat, for she has not answered me."
"No; so I yesterday addressed another epistle to her, still more pressing tha_he first. But you are here, my dear fellow, let us speak of you. I confess _egan to be very uneasy on your account."
"But your host behaves very well toward you, as it appears, my dear Porthos,"
said d'Artagnan, directing the sick man's attention to the full stewpans an_he empty bottles.
"So, so," replied Porthos. "Only three or four days ago the impertinen_ackanapes gave me his bill, and I was forced to turn both him and his bil_ut of the door; so that I am here something in the fashion of a conqueror, holding my position, as it were, my conquest. So you see, being in constan_ear of being forced from that position, I am armed to the teeth."
"And yet," said d'Artagnan, laughing, "it appears to me that from time to tim_ou must make SORTIES." And he again pointed to the bottles and the stewpans.
"Not I, unfortunately!" said Porthos. "This miserable strain confines me to m_ed; but Mousqueton forages, and brings in provisions. Friend Mousqueton, yo_ee that we have a reinforcement, and we must have an increase of supplies."
"Mousqueton," said d'Artagnan, "you must render me a service."
"You must give your recipe to Planchet. I may be besieged in my turn, and _hall not be sorry for him to be able to let me enjoy the same advantages wit_hich you gratify your master."
"Lord, monsieur! There is nothing more easy," said Mousqueton, with a modes_ir. "One only needs to be sharp, that's all. I was brought up in the country, and my father in his leisure time was something of a poacher."
"And what did he do the rest of his time?"
"Monsieur, he carried on a trade which I have always thought satisfactory."
"As it was a time of war between the Catholics and the Huguenots, and as h_aw the Catholics exterminate the Huguenots and the Huguenots exterminate th_atholics—all in the name of religion—he adopted a mixed belief whic_ermitted him to be sometimes Catholic, sometimes a Huguenot. Now, he wa_ccustomed to walk with his fowling piece on his shoulder, behind the hedge_hich border the roads, and when he saw a Catholic coming alone, th_rotestant religion immediately prevailed in his mind. He lowered his gun i_he direction of the traveler; then, when he was within ten paces of him, h_ommenced a conversation which almost always ended by the traveler'_bandoning his purse to save his life. It goes without saying that when he sa_ Huguenot coming, he felt himself filled with such ardent Catholic zeal tha_e could not understand how, a quarter of an hour before, he had been able t_ave any doubts upon the superiority of our holy religion. For my part, monsieur, I am Catholic—my father, faithful to his principles, having made m_lder brother a Huguenot."
"And what was the end of this worthy man?" asked d'Artagnan.
"Oh, of the most unfortunate kind, monsieur. One day he was surprised in _onely road between a Huguenot and a Catholic, with both of whom he had befor_ad business, and who both knew him again; so they united against him an_anged him on a tree. Then they came and boasted of their fine exploit in th_abaret of the next village, where my brother and I were drinking."
"And what did you do?" said d'Artagnan.
"We let them tell their story out," replied Mousqueton. "Then, as in leavin_he cabaret they took different directions, my brother went and hid himself o_he road of the Catholic, and I on that of the Huguenot. Two hours after, al_as over; we had done the business of both, admiring the foresight of our poo_ather, who had taken the precaution to bring each of us up in a differen_eligion."
"Well, I must allow, as you say, your father was a very intelligent fellow.
And you say in his leisure moments the worthy man was a poacher?"
"Yes, monsieur, and it was he who taught me to lay a snare and ground a line.
The consequence is that when I saw our laborers, which did not at all suit tw_uch delicate stomachs as ours, I had recourse to a little of my old trade.
While walking near the wood of Monsieur le Prince, I laid a few snare in th_uns; and while reclining on the banks of his Highness's pieces of water, _lipped a few lines into his fish ponds. So that now, thanks be to God, we d_ot want, as Monsieur can testify, for partridges, rabbits, carp or eels—al_ight, wholesome food, suitable for the sick."
"But the wine," said d'Artagnan, "who furnishes the wine? Your host?"
"That is to say, yes and no."
"How yes and no?"
"He furnishes it, it is true, but he does not know that he has that honor."
"Explain yourself, Mousqueton; your conversation is full of instructiv_hings."
"That is it, monsieur. It has so chanced that I met with a Spaniard in m_eregrinations who had seen many countries, and among them the New World."
"What connection can the New World have with the bottles which are on th_ommode and the wardrobe?"
"Patience, monsieur, everything will come in its turn."
"This Spaniard had in his service a lackey who had accompanied him in hi_oyage to Mexico. This lackey was my compatriot; and we became the mor_ntimate from there being many resemblances of character between us. We love_porting of all kinds better than anything; so that he related to me how i_he plains of the Pampas the natives hunt the tiger and the wild bull wit_imple running nooses which they throw to a distance of twenty or thirty pace_he end of a cord with such nicety; but in face of the proof I was obliged t_cknowledge the truth of the recital. My friend placed a bottle at th_istance of thirty paces, and at each cast he caught the neck of the bottle i_is running noose. I practiced this exercise, and as nature has endowed m_ith some faculties, at this day I can throw the lasso with any man in th_orld. Well, do you understand, monsieur? Our host has a well-furnished cella_he key of which never leaves him; only this cellar has a ventilating hole.
Now through this ventilating hole I throw my lasso, and as I now know in whic_art of the cellar is the best wine, that's my point for sport. You see, monsieur, what the New World has to do with the bottles which are on th_ommode and the wardrobe. Now, will you taste our wine, and without prejudic_ay what you think of it?"
"Thank you, my friend, thank you; unfortunately, I have just breakfasted."
"Well," said Porthos, "arrange the table, Mousqueton, and while we breakfast, d'Artagnan will relate to us what has happened to him during the ten day_ince he left us."
"Willingly," said d'Artagnan.
While Porthos and Mousqueton were breakfasting, with the appetites o_onvalescents and with that brotherly cordiality which unites men i_isfortune, d'Artagnan related how Aramis, being wounded, was obliged to sto_t Crevecoeur, how he had left Athos fighting at Amiens with four men wh_ccused him of being a coiner, and how he, d'Artagnan, had been forced to ru_he Comtes de Wardes through the body in order to reach England.
But there the confidence of d'Artagnan stopped. He only added that on hi_eturn from Great Britain he had brought back four magnificent horses—one fo_imself, and one for each of his companions; then he informed Porthos that th_ne intended for him was already installed in the stable of the tavern.
At this moment Planchet entered, to inform his master that the horses wer_ufficiently refreshed and that it would be possible to sleep at Clermont.
As d'Artagnan was tolerably reassured with regard to Porthos, and as he wa_nxious to obtain news of his two other friends, he held out his hand to th_ounded man, and told him he was about to resume his route in order t_ontinue his researches. For the rest, as he reckoned upon returning by th_ame route in seven or eight days, if Porthos were still at the Great St.
Martin, he would call for him on his way.
Porthos replied that in all probability his sprain would not permit him t_epart yet awhile. Besides, it was necessary he should stay at Chantilly t_ait for the answer from his duchess.
D'Artagnan wished that answer might be prompt and favorable; and having agai_ecommended Porthos to the care of Mousqueton, and paid his bill to the host, he resumed his route with Planchet, already relieved of one of his led horses.