D'Artagnan was astounded by the terrible confidence of Athos; yet many thing_ppeared very obscure to him in this half revelation. In the first place i_ad been made by a man quite drunk to one who was half drunk; and yet, i_pite of the incertainty which the vapor of three or four bottles of Burgund_arries with it to the brain, d'Artagnan, when awaking on the followin_orning, had all the words of Athos as present to his memory as if they the_ell from his mouth—they had been so impressed upon his mind. All this doub_nly gave rise to a more lively desire of arriving at a certainty, and he wen_nto his friend's chamber with a fixed determination of renewing th_onversation of the preceding evening; but he found Athos quite himsel_gain—that is to say, the most shrewd and impenetrable of men. Besides which, the Musketeer, after having exchanged a hearty shake of the hand with him, broached the matter first.
"I was pretty drunk yesterday, d'Artagnan," said he, "I can tell that by m_ongue, which was swollen and hot this morning, and by my pulse, which wa_ery tremulous. I wager that I uttered a thousand extravagances."
While saying this he looked at his friend with an earnestness that embarrasse_im.
"No," replied d'Artagnan, "if I recollect well what you said, it was nothin_ut of the common way."
"Ah, you surprise me. I thought I had told you a most lamentable story." An_e looked at the young man as if he would read the bottom of his heart.
"My faith," said d'Artagnan, "it appears that I was more drunk than you, sinc_ remember nothing of the kind."
Athos did not trust this reply, and he resumed; "you cannot have failed t_emark, my dear friend, that everyone has his particular kind of drunkenness, sad or gay. My drunkenness is always sad, and when I am thoroughly drunk m_ania is to relate all the lugubrious stories which my foolish nurs_nculcated into my brain. That is my failing—a capital failing, I admit; bu_ith that exception, I am a good drinker."
Athos spoke this in so natural a manner that d'Artagnan was shaken in hi_onviction.
"It is that, then," replied the young man, anxious to find out the truth, "i_s that, then, I remember as we remember a dream. We were speaking o_anging."
"Ah, you see how it is," said Athos, becoming still paler, but yet attemptin_o laugh; "I was sure it was so—the hanging of people is my nightmare."
"Yes, yes," replied d'Artagnan. "I remember now; yes, it was about—stop _inute—yes, it was about a woman."
"That's it," replied Athos, becoming almost livid; "that is my grand story o_he fair lady, and when I relate that, I must be very drunk."
"Yes, that was it," said d'Artagnan, "the story of a tall, fair lady, wit_lue eyes."
"Yes, who was hanged."
"By her husband, who was a nobleman of your acquaintance," continue_'Artagnan, looking intently at Athos.
"Well, you see how a man may compromise himself when he does not know what h_ays," replied Athos, shrugging his shoulders as if he thought himself a_bject of pity. "I certainly never will get drunk again, d'Artagnan; it is to_ad a habit."
D'Artagnan remained silent; and then changing the conversation all at once, Athos said:
"By the by, I thank you for the horse you have brought me."
"Is it to your mind?" asked d'Artagnan.
"Yes; but it is not a horse for hard work."
"You are mistaken; I rode him nearly ten leagues in less than an hour and _alf, and he appeared no more distressed than if he had only made the tour o_he Place St. Sulpice."
"Ah, you begin to awaken my regret."
"Yes; I have parted with him."
"Why, here is the simple fact. This morning I awoke at six o'clock. You wer_till fast asleep, and I did not know what to do with myself; I was stil_tupid from our yesterday's debauch. As I came into the public room, I saw on_f our Englishman bargaining with a dealer for a horse, his own having die_esterday from bleeding. I drew near, and found he was bidding a hundre_istoles for a chestnut nag. 'PARDIEU,' said I, 'my good gentleman, I have _orse to sell, too.' 'Ay, and a very fine one! I saw him yesterday; you_riend's lackey was leading him.' 'Do you think he is worth a hundre_istoles?' 'Yes! Will you sell him to me for that sum?' 'No; but I will pla_or him.' 'What?' 'At dice.' No sooner said than done, and I lost the horse.
Ah, ah! But please to observe I won back the equipage," cried Athos.
D'Artagnan looked much disconcerted.
"This vexes you?" said Athos.
"Well, I must confess it does," replied d'Artagnan. "That horse was to hav_dentified us in the day of battle. It was a pledge, a remembrance. Athos, yo_ave done wrong."
"But, my dear friend, put yourself in my place," replied the Musketeer. "I wa_ipped to death; and still further, upon my honor, I don't like Englis_orses. If it is only to be recognized, why the saddle will suffice for that; it is quite remarkable enough. As to the horse, we can easily find some excus_or its disappearance. Why the devil! A horse is mortal; suppose mine had ha_he glanders or the farcy?"
D'Artagnan did not smile.
"It vexes me greatly," continued Athos, "that you attach so much importance t_hese animals, for I am not yet at the end of my story."
"What else have you done."
"After having lost my own horse, nine against ten—see how near—I formed a_dea of staking yours."
"Yes; but you stopped at the idea, I hope?"
"No; for I put it in execution that very minute."
"And the consequence?" said d'Artagnan, in great anxiety.
"I threw, and I lost."
"What, my horse?"
"Your horse, seven against eight; a point short—you know the proverb."
"Athos, you are not in your right senses, I swear."
"My dear lad, that was yesterday, when I was telling you silly stories, it wa_roper to tell me that, and not this morning. I lost him then, with all hi_ppointments and furniture."
"Really, this is frightful."
"Stop a minute; you don't know all yet. I should make an excellent gambler i_ were not too hot-headed; but I was hot-headed, just as if I had bee_rinking. Well, I was not hot-headed then—"
"Well, but what else could you play for? You had nothing left?"
"Oh, yes, my friend; there was still that diamond left which sparkles on you_inger, and which I had observed yesterday."
"This diamond!" said d'Artagnan, placing his hand eagerly on his ring.
"And as I am a connoisseur in such things, having had a few of my own once, _stimated it at a thousand pistoles."
"I hope," said d'Artagnan, half dead with fright, "you made no mention of m_iamond?"
"On the contrary, my dear friend, this diamond became our only resource; wit_t I might regain our horses and their harnesses, and even money to pay ou_xpenses on the road."
"Athos, you make me tremble!" cried d'Artagnan.
"I mentioned your diamond then to my adversary, who had likewise remarked it.
What the devil, my dear, do you think you can wear a star from heaven on you_inger, and nobody observe it? Impossible!"
"Go on, go on, my dear fellow!" said d'Artagnan; "for upon my honor, you wil_ill me with your indifference."
"We divided, then, this diamond into ten parts of a hundred pistoles each."
"You are laughing at me, and want to try me!" said d'Artagnan, whom ange_egan to take by the hair, as Minerva takes Achilles, in the ILLIAD.
"No, I do not jest, MORDIEU! I should like to have seen you in my place! I ha_een fifteen days without seeing a human face, and had been left to brutaliz_yself in the company of bottles."
"That was no reason for staking my diamond!" replied d'Artagnan, closing hi_and with a nervous spasm.
"Hear the end. Ten parts of a hundred pistoles each, in ten throws, withou_evenge; in thirteen throws I had lost all—in thirteen throws. The numbe_hirteen was always fatal to me; it was on the thirteenth of July that—"
"VENTREBLEU!" cried d'Artagnan, rising from the table, the story of th_resent day making him forget that of the preceding one.
"Patience!" said Athos; "I had a plan. The Englishman was an original; I ha_een him conversing that morning with Grimaud, and Grimaud had told me that h_ad made him proposals to enter into his service. I staked Grimaud, the silen_rimaud, divided into ten portions."
"Well, what next?" said d'Artagnan, laughing in spite of himself.
"Grimaud himself, understand; and with the ten parts of Grimaud, which are no_orth a ducatoon, I regained the diamond. Tell me, now, if persistence is no_ virtue?"
"My faith! But this is droll," cried d'Artagnan, consoled, and holding hi_ides with laughter.
"You may guess, finding the luck turned, that I again staked the diamond."
"The devil!" said d'Artagnan, becoming angry again.
"I won back your harness, then your horse, then my harness, then my horse, an_hen I lost again. In brief, I regained your harness and then mine. That'_here we are. That was a superb throw, so I left off there."
D'Artagnan breathed as if the whole hostelry had been removed from his breast.
"Then the diamond is safe?" said he, timidly.
"Intact, my dear friend; besides the harness of your Bucephalus and mine."
"But what is the use of harnesses without horses?"
"I have an idea about them."
"Athos, you make me shudder."
"Listen to me. You have not played for a long time, d'Artagnan."
"And I have no inclination to play."
"Swear to nothing. You have not played for a long time, I said; you ought, then, to have a good hand."
"Well, what then?"
"Well; the Englishman and his companion are still here. I remarked that h_egretted the horse furniture very much. You appear to think much of you_orse. In your place I would stake the furniture against the horse."
"But he will not wish for only one harness."
"Stake both, PARDIEU! I am not selfish, as you are."
"You would do so?" said d'Artagnan, undecided, so strongly did the confidenc_f Athos begin to prevail, in spite of himself.
"On my honor, in one single throw."
"But having lost the horses, I am particularly anxious to preserve th_arnesses."
"Stake your diamond, then."
"This? That's another matter. Never, never!"
"The devil!" said Athos. "I would propose to you to stake Planchet, but a_hat has already been done, the Englishman would not, perhaps, be willing."
"Decidedly, my dear Athos," said d'Artagnan, "I should like better not to ris_nything."
"That's a pity," said Athos, coolly. "The Englishman is overflowing wit_istoles. Good Lord, try one throw! One throw is soon made!"
"And if I lose?"
"You will win."
"But if I lose?"
"Well, you will surrender the harnesses."
"Have with you for one throw!" said d'Artagnan.
Athos went in quest of the Englishman, whom he found in the stable, examinin_he harnesses with a greedy eye. The opportunity was good. He proposed th_onditions—the two harnesses, either against one horse or a hundred pistoles.
The Englishman calculated fast; the two harnesses were worth three hundre_istoles. He consented.
D'Artagnan threw the dice with a trembling hand, and turned up the numbe_hree; his paleness terrified Athos, who, however, consented himself wit_aying, "That's a sad throw, comrade; you will have the horses fully equipped, monsieur."
The Englishman, quite triumphant, did not even give himself the trouble t_hake the dice. He threw them on the table without looking at them, so sur_as he of victory; d'Artagnan turned aside to conceal his ill humor.
"Hold, hold, hold!" said Athos, wit his quiet tone; "that throw of the dice i_xtraordinary. I have not seen such a one four times in my life. Two aces!"
The Englishman looked, and was seized with astonishment. d'Artagnan looked, and was seized with pleasure.
"Yes," continued Athos, "four times only; once at the house of Monsieu_requy; another time at my own house in the country, in my chateau at—when _ad a chateau; a third time at Monsieur de Treville's where it surprised u_ll; and the fourth time at a cabaret, where it fell to my lot, and where _ost a hundred louis and a supper on it."
"Then Monsieur takes his horse back again," said the Englishman.
"Certainly," said d'Artagnan.
"Then there is no revenge?"
"Our conditions said, 'No revenge,' you will please to recollect."
"That is true; the horse shall be restored to your lackey, monsieur."
"A moment," said Athos; "with your permission, monsieur, I wish to speak _ord with my friend."
Athos drew d'Artagnan aside.
"Well, Tempter, what more do you want with me?" said d'Artagnan. "You want m_o throw again, do you not?"
"No, I would wish you to reflect."
"You mean to take your horse?"
"You are wrong, then. I would take the hundred pistoles. You know you hav_taked the harnesses against the horse or a hundred pistoles, at your choice."
"Well, then, I repeat, you are wrong. What is the use of one horse for us two?
I could not ride behind. We should look like the two sons of Anmon, who ha_ost their brother. You cannot think of humiliating me by prancing along by m_ide on that magnificent charger. For my part, I should not hesitate a moment; I should take the hundred pistoles. We want money for our return to Paris."
"I am much attached to that horse, Athos."
"And there again you are wrong. A horse slips and injures a joint; a hors_tumbles and breaks his knees to the bone; a horse eats out of a manger i_hich a glandered horse has eaten. There is a horse, while on the contrary, the hundred pistoles feed their master."
"But how shall we get back?"
"Upon our lackey's horses, PARDIEU. Anybody may see by our bearing that we ar_eople of condition."
"Pretty figures we shall cut on ponies while Aramis and Porthos caracole o_heir steeds."
"Aramis! Porthos!" cried Athos, and laughed aloud.
"What is it?" asked d'Artagnan, who did not at all comprehend the hilarity o_is friend.
"Nothing, nothing! Go on!"
"Your advice, then?"
"To take the hundred pistoles, d'Artagnan. With the hundred pistoles we ca_ive well to the end of the month. We have undergone a great deal of fatigue, remember, and a little rest will do no harm."
"I rest? Oh, no, Athos. Once in Paris, I shall prosecute my search for tha_nfortunate woman!"
"Well, you may be assured that your horse will not be half so serviceable t_ou for that purpose as good golden louis. Take the hundred pistoles, m_riend; take the hundred pistoles!"
D'Artagnan only required one reason to be satisfied. This last reason appeare_onvincing. Besides, he feared that by resisting longer he should appea_elfish in the eyes of Athos. He acquiesced, therefore, and chose the hundre_istoles, which the Englishman paid down on the spot.
They then determined to depart. Peace with the landlord, in addition t_thos's old horse, cost six pistoles. D'Artagnan and Athos took the nags o_lanchet and Grimaud, and the two lackeys started on foot, carrying th_addles on their heads.
However ill our two friends were mounted, they were soon far in advance o_heir servants, and arrived at Creveccoeur. From a distance they perceive_ramis, seated in a melancholy manner at his window, looking out, like Siste_nne, at the dust in the horizon.
"HOLA, Aramis! What the devil are you doing there?" cried the two friends.
"Ah, is that you, d'Artagnan, and you, Athos?" said the young man. "I wa_eflecting upon the rapidity with which the blessings of this world leave us.
My English horse, which has just disappeared amid a cloud of dust, ha_urnished me with a living image of the fragility of the things of the earth.
Life itself may be resolved into three words: ERAT, EST, FUIT."
"Which means—" said d'Artagnan, who began to suspect the truth.
"Which means that I have just been duped-sixty louis for a horse which by th_anner of his gait can do at least five leagues an hour."
D'Artagnan and Athos laughed aloud.
"My dear d'Artagnan," said Aramis, "don't be too angry with me, I beg.
Necessity has no law; besides, I am the person punished, as that rascall_orsedealer has robbed me of fifty louis, at least. Ah, you fellows are goo_anagers! You ride on our lackey's horses, and have your own gallant steed_ed along carefully by hand, at short stages."
At the same instant a market cart, which some minutes before had appeared upo_he Amiens road, pulled up at the inn, and Planchet and Grimaud came out of i_ith the saddles on their heads. The cart was returning empty to Paris, an_he two lackeys had agreed, for their transport, to slake the wagoner's thirs_long the route.
"What is this?" said Aramis, on seeing them arrive. "Nothing but saddles?"
"Now do you understand?" said Athos.
"My friends, that's exactly like me! I retained my harness by instinct. HOLA, Bazin! Bring my new saddle and carry it along with those of these gentlemen."
"And what have you done with your ecclesiastics?" asked d'Artagnan.
"My dear fellow, I invited them to a dinner the next day," replied Aramis.
"They have some capital wine here—please to observe that in passing. I did m_est to make them drunk. Then the curate forbade me to quit my uniform, an_he Jesuit entreated me to get him made a Musketeer."
"Without a thesis?" cried d'Artagnan, "without a thesis? I demand th_uppression of the thesis."
"Since then," continued Aramis, "I have lived very agreeably. I have begun _oem in verses of one syllable. That is rather difficult, but the merit in al_hings consists in the difficulty. The matter is gallant. I will read you th_irst canto. It has four hundred lines, and lasts a minute."
"My faith, my dear Aramis," said d'Artagnan, who detested verses almost a_uch as he did Latin, "add to the merit of the difficulty that of the brevity, and you are sure that your poem will at least have two merits."
"You will see," continued Aramis, "that it breathes irreproachable passion.
And so, my friends, we return to Paris? Bravo! I am ready. We are going t_ejoin that good fellow, Porthos. So much the better. You can't think how _ave missed him, the great simpleton. To see him so self-satisfied reconcile_e with myself. He would not sell his horse; not for a kingdom! I think I ca_ee him now, mounted upon his superb animal and seated in his handsome saddle.
I am sure he will look like the Great Mogul!"
They made a halt for an hour to refresh their horses. Aramis discharged hi_ill, placed Bazin in the cart with his comrades, and they set forward to joi_orthos.
They found him up, less pale than when d'Artagnan left him after his firs_isit, and seated at a table on which, though he was alone, was spread enoug_or four persons. This dinner consisted of meats nicely dressed, choice wines, and superb fruit.
"Ah, PARDIEU!" said he, rising, "you come in the nick of time, gentlemen. _as just beginning the soup, and you will dine with me."
"Oh, oh!" said d'Artagnan, "Mousqueton has not caught these bottles with hi_asso. Besides, here is a piquant FRICANDEAU and a fillet of beef."
"I am recruiting myself," said Porthos, "I am recruiting myself. Nothin_eakens a man more than these devilish strains. Did you ever suffer from _train, Athos?"
"Never! Though I remember, in our affair of the Rue Ferou, I received a swor_ound which at the end of fifteen or eighteen days produced the same effect."
"But this dinner was not intended for you alone, Porthos?" said Aramis.
"No," said Porthos, "I expected some gentlemen of the neighborhood, who hav_ust sent me word they could not come. You will take their places and I shal_ot lose by the exchange. HOLA, Mousqueton, seats, and order double th_ottles!"
"Do you know what we are eating here?" said Athos, at the end of ten minutes.
"PARDIEU!" replied d'Artagnan, "for my part, I am eating veal garnished wit_hrimps and vegetables."
"And I some lamb chops," said Porthos.
"And I a plain chicken," said Aramis.
"You are all mistaken, gentlemen," answered Athos, gravely; "you are eatin_orse."
"Eating what?" said d'Artagnan.
"Horse!" said Aramis, with a grimace of disgust.
Porthos alone made no reply.
"Yes, horse. Are we not eating a horse, Porthos? And perhaps his saddle, therewith."
"No, gentlemen, I have kept the harness," said Porthos.
"My faith," said Aramis, "we are all alike. One would think we had tipped th_ink."
"What could I do?" said Porthos. "This horse made my visitors ashamed o_heirs, and I don't like to humiliate people."
"Then your duchess is still at the waters?" asked d'Artagnan.
"Still," replied Porthos. "And, my faith, the governor of the province—one o_he gentlemen I expected today—seemed to have such a wish for him, that I gav_im to him."
"Gave him?" cried d'Artagnan.
"My God, yes, GAVE, that is the word," said Porthos; "for the animal was wort_t least a hundred and fifty louis, and the stingy fellow would only give m_ighty."
"Without the saddle?" said Aramis.
"Yes, without the saddle."
"You will observe, gentlemen," said Athos, "that Porthos has made the bes_argain of any of us."
And then commenced a roar of laughter in which they all joined, to th_stonishment of poor Porthos; but when he was informed of the cause of thei_ilarity, he shared it vociferously according to his custom.
"There is one comfort, we are all in cash," said d'Artagnan.
"Well, for my part," said Athos, "I found Aramis's Spanish wine so good that _ent on a hamper of sixty bottles of it in the wagon with the lackeys. Tha_as weakened my purse."
"And I," said Aramis, "imagined that I had given almost my last sou to th_hurch of Montdidier and the Jesuits of Amiens, with whom I had mad_ngagements which I ought to have kept. I have ordered Masses for myself, an_or you, gentlemen, which will be said, gentlemen, for which I have not th_east doubt you will be marvelously benefited."
"And I," said Porthos, "do you think my strain cost me nothing?—withou_eckoning Mousqueton's wound, for which I had to have the surgeon twice a day, and who charged me double on account of that foolish Mousqueton having allowe_imself a ball in a part which people generally only show to an apothecary; s_ advised him to try never to get wounded there any more."
"Ay, ay!" said Athos, exchanging a smile with d'Artagnan and Aramis, "it i_ery clear you acted nobly with regard to the poor lad; that is like a goo_aster."
"In short," said Porthos, "when all my expenses are paid, I shall have, a_ost, thirty crowns left."
"And I about ten pistoles," said Aramis.
"Well, then it appears that we are the Croesuses of the society. How much hav_ou left of your hundred pistoles, d'Artagnan?"
"Of my hundred pistoles? Why, in the first place I gave you fifty."
"You think so?"
"Ah, that is true. I recollect."
"Then I paid the host six."
"What a brute of a host! Why did you give him six pistoles?"
"You told me to give them to him."
"It is true; I am too good-natured. In brief, how much remains?"
"Twenty-five pistoles," said d'Artagnan.
"And I," said Athos, taking some small change from his pocket, "I—"
"My faith! So little that it is not worth reckoning with the general stock."
"Now, then, let us calculate how much we posses in all."
"And you, d'Artagnan?"
"That makes in all?" said Athos.
"Four hundred and seventy-five livres," said d'Artagnan, who reckoned lik_rchimedes.
"On our arrival in Paris, we shall still have four hundred, besides th_arnesses," said Porthos.
"But our troop horses?" said Aramis.
"Well, of the four horses of our lackeys we will make two for the masters, fo_hich we will draw lots. With the four hundred livres we will make the half o_ne for one of the unmounted, and then we will give the turnings out of ou_ockets to d'Artagnan, who has a steady hand, and will go and play in th_irst gaming house we come to. There!"
"Let us dine, then," said Porthos; "it is getting cold."
The friends, at ease with regard to the future, did honor to the repast, th_emains of which were abandoned to Mousqueton, Bazin, Planchet, and Grimaud.
On arriving in Paris, d'Artagnan found a letter from M. de Treville, whic_nformed him that, at his request, the king had promised that he should ente_he company of the Musketeers.
As this was the height of d'Artagnan's worldly ambition—apart, be it wel_nderstood, from his desire of finding Mme. Bonacieux—he ran, full of joy, t_eek his comrades, whom he had left only half an hour before, but whom h_ound very sad and deeply preoccupied. They were assembled in council at th_esidence of Athos, which always indicated an event of some gravity. M. d_reville had intimated to them his Majesty's fixed intention to open th_ampaign on the first of May, and they must immediately prepare their outfits.
The four philosophers looked at one another in a state of bewilderment. M. d_reville never jested in matters relating to discipline.
"And what do you reckon your outfit will cost?" said d'Artagnan.
"Oh, we can scarcely say. We have made our calculations with Spartan economy, and we each require fifteen hundred livres."
"Four times fifteen makes sixty—six thousand livres," said Athos.
"It seems to me," said d'Artagnan, "with a thousand livres each—I do not spea_s a Spartan, but as a procurator—"
This word PROCURATOR roused Porthos. "Stop," said he, "I have an idea."
"Well, that's something, for I have not the shadow of one," said Athos coolly;
"but as to d'Artagnan, gentlemen, the idea of belonging to OURS has driven hi_ut of his senses. A thousand livres! For my part, I declare I want tw_housand."
"Four times two makes eight," then said Aramis; "it is eight thousand that w_ant to complete our outfits, toward which, it is true, we have already th_addles."
"Besides," said Athos, waiting till d'Artagnan, who went to thank Monsieur d_reville, had shut the door, "besides, there is that beautiful ring whic_eams from the finger of our friend. What the devil! D'Artagnan is too good _omrade to leave his brothers in embarrassment while he wears the ransom of _ing on his finger."