Chapter 4 THE SHOULDER OF ATHOS, THE BALDRIC OF PORTHOS AND TH_ANDKERCHIEF OF ARAMIS
D'Artagnan, in a state of fury, crossed the antechamber at three bounds, an_as darting toward the stairs, which he reckoned upon descending four at _ime, when, in his heedless course, he ran head foremost against a Musketee_ho was coming out of one of M. de Treville's private rooms, and striking hi_houlder violently, made him utter a cry, or rather a howl.
"Excuse me," said d'Artagnan, endeavoring to resume his course, "excuse me, but I am in a hurry."
Scarcely had he descended the first stair, when a hand of iron seized him b_he belt and stopped him.
"You are in a hurry?" said the Musketeer, as pale as a sheet. "Under tha_retense you run against me! You say. 'Excuse me,' and you believe that i_ufficient? Not at all my young man. Do you fancy because you have hear_onsieur de Treville speak to us a little cavalierly today that other peopl_re to treat us as he speaks to us? Undeceive yourself, comrade, you are no_onsieur de Treville."
"My faith!" replied d'Artagnan, recognizing Athos, who, after the dressin_erformed by the doctor, was returning to his own apartment. "I did not do i_ntentionally, and not doing it intentionally, I said 'Excuse me.' It appear_o me that this is quite enough. I repeat to you, however, and this time on m_ord of honor—I think perhaps too often—that I am in haste, great haste. Leav_our hold, then, I beg of you, and let me go where my business calls me."
"Monsieur," said Athos, letting him go, "you are not polite; it is easy t_erceive that you come from a distance."
D'Artagnan had already strode down three or four stairs, but at Athos's las_emark he stopped short.
"MORBLEU, monsieur!" said he, "however far I may come, it is not you who ca_ive me a lesson in good manners, I warn you."
"Perhaps," said Athos.
"Ah! If I were not in such haste, and if I were not running after someone,"
"Monsieur Man-in-a-hurry, you can find me without running—ME, you understand?"
"And where, I pray you?"
"Near the Carmes-Deschaux."
"At what hour?"
"About noon? That will do; I will be there."
"Endeavor not to make me wait; for at quarter past twelve I will cut off you_ars as you run."
"Good!" cried d'Artagnan, "I will be there ten minutes before twelve." And h_et off running as if the devil possessed him, hoping that he might yet fin_he stranger, whose slow pace could not have carried him far.
But at the street gate, Porthos was talking with the soldier on guard. Betwee_he two talkers there was just enough room for a man to pass. D'Artagna_hought it would suffice for him, and he sprang forward like a dart betwee_hem. But d'Artagnan had reckoned without the wind. As he was about to pass, the wind blew out Porthos's long cloak, and d'Artagnan rushed straight int_he middle of it. Without doubt, Porthos had reasons for not abandoning thi_art of his vestments, for instead of quitting his hold on the flap in hi_and, he pulled it toward him, so that d'Artagnan rolled himself up in th_elvet by a movement of rotation explained by the persistency of Porthos.
D'Artagnan, hearing the Musketeer swear, wished to escape from the cloak, which blinded him, and sought to find his way from under the folds of it. H_as particularly anxious to avoid marring the freshness of the magnificen_aldric we are acquainted with; but on timidly opening his eyes, he foun_imself with his nose fixed between the two shoulders of Porthos—that is t_ay, exactly upon the baldric.
Alas, like most things in this world which have nothing in their favor bu_ppearances, the baldric was glittering with gold in the front, but wa_othing but simple buff behind. Vainglorious as he was, Porthos could no_fford to have a baldric wholly of gold, but had at least half. One coul_omprehend the necessity of the cold and the urgency of the cloak.
"Bless me!" cried Porthos, making strong efforts to disembarrass himself o_'Artagnan, who was wriggling about his back; "you must be mad to run agains_eople in this manner."
"Excuse me," said d'Artagnan, reappearing under the shoulder of the giant,
"but I am in such haste—I was running after someone and—"
"And do you always forget your eyes when you run?" asked Porthos.
"No," replied d'Artagnan, piqued, "and thanks to my eyes, I can see what othe_eople cannot see."
Whether Porthos understood him or did not understand him, giving way to hi_nger, "Monsieur," said he, "you stand a chance of getting chastised if yo_ub Musketeers in this fashion."
"Chastised, Monsieur!" said d'Artagnan, "the expression is strong."
"It is one that becomes a man accustomed to look his enemies in the face."
"Ah, PARDIEU! I know full well that you don't turn your back to yours."
And the young man, delighted with his joke, went away laughing loudly.
Porthos foamed with rage, and made a movement to rush after d'Artagnan.
"Presently, presently," cried the latter, "when you haven't your cloak on."
"At one o'clock, then, behind the Luxembourg."
"Very well, at one o'clock, then," replied d'Artagnan, turning the angle o_he street.
But neither in the street he had passed through, nor in the one which hi_ager glance pervaded, could he see anyone; however slowly the stranger ha_alked, he was gone on his way, or perhaps had entered some house. D'Artagna_nquired of everyone he met with, went down to the ferry, came up again by th_ue de Seine, and the Red Cross; but nothing, absolutely nothing! This chas_as, however, advantageous to him in one sense, for in proportion as th_erspiration broke from his forehead, his heart began to cool.
He began to reflect upon the events that had passed; they were numerous an_nauspicious. It was scarcely eleven o'clock in the morning, and yet thi_orning had already brought him into disgrace with M. de Treville, who coul_ot fail to think the manner in which d'Artagnan had left him a littl_avalier.
Besides this, he had drawn upon himself two good duels with two men, eac_apable of killing three d'Artagnans—with two Musketeers, in short, with tw_f those beings whom he esteemed so greatly that he placed them in his min_nd heart above all other men.
The outlook was sad. Sure of being killed by Athos, it may easily b_nderstood that the young man was not very uneasy about Porthos. As hope, however, is the last thing extinguished in the heart of man, he finished b_oping that he might survive, even though with terrible wounds, in both thes_uels; and in case of surviving, he made the following reprehensions upon hi_wn conduct:
"What a madcap I was, and what a stupid fellow I am! That brave an_nfortunate Athos was wounded on that very shoulder against which I must ru_ead foremost, like a ram. The only thing that astonishes me is that he di_ot strike me dead at once. He had good cause to do so; the pain I gave hi_ust have been atrocious. As to Porthos—oh, as to Porthos, faith, that's _roll affair!"
And in spite of himself, the young man began to laugh aloud, looking roun_arefully, however, to see that his solitary laugh, without a cause in th_yes of passers-by, offended no one.
"As to Porthos, that is certainly droll; but I am not the less a giddy fool.
Are people to be run against without warning? No! And have I any right to g_nd peep under their cloaks to see what is not there? He would have pardone_e, he would certainly have pardoned me, if I had not said anything to hi_bout that cursed baldric—in ambiguous words, it is true, but rather droll_mbiguous. Ah, cursed Gascon that I am, I get from one hobble into another.
Friend d'Artagnan," continued he, speaking to himself with all the amenit_hat he thought due himself, "if you escape, of which there is not muc_hance, I would advise you to practice perfect politeness for the future. Yo_ust henceforth be admired and quoted as a model of it. To be obliging an_olite does not necessarily make a man a coward. Look at Aramis, now; Arami_s mildness and grace personified. Well, did anybody ever dream of callin_ramis a coward? No, certainly not, and from this moment I will endeavor t_odel myself after him. Ah! That's strange! Here he is!"
D'Artagnan, walking and soliloquizing, had arrived within a few steps of th_otel d'Arguillon and in front of that hotel perceived Aramis, chatting gail_ith three gentlemen; but as he had not forgotten that it was in presence o_his young man that M. de Treville had been so angry in the morning, and as _itness of the rebuke the Musketeers had received was not likely to be at al_greeable, he pretended not to see him. D'Artagnan, on the contrary, quit_ull of his plans of conciliation and courtesy, approached the young men wit_ profound bow, accompanied by a most gracious smile. All four, besides, immediately broke off their conversation.
D'Artagnan was not so dull as not to perceive that he was one too many; but h_as not sufficiently broken into the fashions of the gay world to know how t_xtricate himself gallantly from a false position, like that of a man wh_egins to mingle with people he is scarcely acquainted with and in _onversation that does not concern him. He was seeking in his mind, then, fo_he least awkward means of retreat, when he remarked that Aramis had let hi_andkerchief fall, and by mistake, no doubt, had placed his foot upon it. Thi_ppeared to be a favorable opportunity to repair his intrusion. He stooped, and with the most gracious air he could assume, drew the handkerchief fro_nder the foot of the Musketeer in spite of the efforts the latter made t_etain it, and holding it out to him, said, "I believe, monsieur, that this i_ handkerchief you would be sorry to lose?"
The handkerchief was indeed richly embroidered, and had a coronet and arms a_ne of its corners. Aramis blushed excessively, and snatched rather than too_he handkerchief from the hand of the Gascon.
"Ah, ah!" cried one of the Guards, "will you persist in saying, most discree_ramis, that you are not on good terms with Madame de Bois-Tracy, when tha_racious lady has the kindness to lend you one of her handkerchiefs?"
Aramis darted at d'Artagnan one of those looks which inform a man that he ha_cquired a mortal enemy. Then, resuming his mild air, "You are deceived, gentlemen," said he, "this handkerchief is not mine, and I cannot fancy wh_onsieur has taken it into his head to offer it to me rather than to one o_ou; and as a proof of what I say, here is mine in my pocket."
So saying, he pulled out his own handkerchief, likewise a very elegan_andkerchief, and of fine cambric—though cambric was dear at the period—but _andkerchief without embroidery and without arms, only ornamented with _ingle cipher, that of its proprietor.
This time d'Artagnan was not hasty. He perceived his mistake; but the friend_f Aramis were not at all convinced by his denial, and one of them addresse_he young Musketeer with affected seriousness. "If it were as you pretend i_s," said he, "I should be forced, my dear Aramis, to reclaim it myself; for, as you very well know, Bois-Tracy is an intimate friend of mine, and I canno_llow the property of his wife to be sported as a trophy."
"You make the demand badly," replied Aramis; "and while acknowledging th_ustice of your reclamation, I refuse it on account of the form."
"The fact is," hazarded d'Artagnan, timidly, "I did not see the handkerchie_all from the pocket of Monsieur Aramis. He had his foot upon it, that is all; and I thought from having his foot upon it the handkerchief was his."
"And you were deceived, my dear sir," replied Aramis, coldly, very littl_ensible to the reparation. Then turning toward that one of the guards who ha_eclared himself the friend of Bois-Tracy, "Besides," continued he, "I hav_eflected, my dear intimate of Bois-Tracy, that I am not less tenderly hi_riend than you can possibly be; so that decidedly this handkerchief is a_ikely to have fallen from your pocket as mine."
"No, upon my honor!" cried his Majesty's Guardsman.
"You are about to swear upon your honor and I upon my word, and then it wil_e pretty evident that one of us will have lied. Now, here, Montaran, we wil_o better than that—let each take a half."
"Of the handkerchief?"
"Perfectly just," cried the other two Guardsmen, "the judgment of Kin_olomon! Aramis, you certainly are full of wisdom!"
The young men burst into a laugh, and as may be supposed, the affair had n_ther sequel. In a moment or two the conversation ceased, and the thre_uardsmen and the Musketeer, after having cordially shaken hands, separated, the Guardsmen going one way and Aramis another.
"Now is my time to make peace with this gallant man," said d'Artagnan t_imself, having stood on one side during the whole of the latter part of th_onversation; and with this good feeling drawing near to Aramis, who wa_eparting without paying any attention to him, "Monsieur," said he, "you wil_xcuse me, I hope."
"Ah, monsieur," interrupted Aramis, "permit me to observe to you that you hav_ot acted in this affair as a gallant man ought."
"What, monsieur!" cried d'Artagnan, "and do you suppose—"
"I suppose, monsieur that you are not a fool, and that you knew very well, although coming from Gascony, that people do not tread upon handkerchief_ithout a reason. What the devil! Paris is not paved with cambric!"
"Monsieur, you act wrongly in endeavoring to mortify me," said d'Artagnan, i_hom the natural quarrelsome spirit began to speak more loudly than hi_acific resolutions. "I am from Gascony, it is true; and since you know it, there is no occasion to tell you that Gascons are not very patient, so tha_hen they have begged to be excused once, were it even for a folly, they ar_onvinced that they have done already at least as much again as they ought t_ave done."
"Monsieur, what I say to you about the matter," said Aramis, "is not for th_ake of seeking a quarrel. Thank God, I am not a bravo! And being a Musketee_ut for a time, I only fight when I am forced to do so, and always with grea_epugnance; but this time the affair is serious, for here is a lad_ompromised by you."
"By US, you mean!" cried d'Artagnan.
"Why did you so maladroitly restore me the handkerchief?"
"Why did you so awkwardly let it fall?"
"I have said, monsieur, and I repeat, that the handkerchief did not fall fro_y pocket."
"And thereby you have lied twice, monsieur, for I saw it fall."
"Ah, you take it with that tone, do you, Master Gascon? Well, I will teach yo_ow to behave yourself."
"And I will send you back to your Mass book, Master Abbe. Draw, if you please, and instantly—"
"Not so, if you please, my good friend—not here, at least. Do you not perceiv_hat we are opposite the Hotel d'Arguillon, which is full of the cardinal'_reatures? How do I know that this is not his Eminence who has honored yo_ith the commission to procure my head? Now, I entertain a ridiculou_artiality for my head, it seems to suit my shoulders so correctly. I wish t_ill you, be at rest as to that, but to kill you quietly in a snug, remot_lace, where you will not be able to boast of your death to anybody."
"I agree, monsieur; but do not be too confident. Take your handkerchief; whether it belongs to you or another, you may perhaps stand in need of it."
"Monsieur is a Gascon?" asked Aramis.
"Yes. Monsieur does not postpone an interview through prudence?"
"Prudence, monsieur, is a virtue sufficiently useless to Musketeers, I know, but indispensable to churchmen; and as I am only a Musketeer provisionally, _old it good to be prudent. At two o'clock I shall have the honor of expectin_ou at the hotel of Monsieur de Treville. There I will indicate to you th_est place and time."
The two young men bowed and separated, Aramis ascending the street which le_o the Luxembourg, while d'Artagnan, perceiving the appointed hour wa_pproaching, took the road to the Carmes-Deschaux, saying to himself,
"Decidedly I can't draw back; but at least, if I am killed, I shall be kille_y a Musketeer."