In the meantime, the forty pistoles of King Louis XIII, like all other thing_f this world, after having had a beginning had an end, and after this end ou_our companions began to be somewhat embarrassed. At first, Athos supporte_he association for a time with his own means.
Porthos succeeded him; and thanks to one of those disappearances to which h_as accustomed, he was able to provide for the wants of all for a fortnight.
At last it became Aramis's turn, who performed it with a good grace and wh_ucceeded—as he said, by selling some theological books—in procuring a fe_istoles.
Then, as they had been accustomed to do, they had recourse to M. de Treville, who made some advances on their pay; but these advances could not go far wit_hree Musketeers who were already much in arrears and a Guardsman who as ye_ad no pay at all.
At length when they found they were likely to be really in want, they go_ogether, as a last effort, eight or ten pistoles, with which Porthos went t_he gaming table. Unfortunately he was in a bad vein; he lost all, togethe_ith twenty-five pistoles for which he had given his word.
Then the inconvenience became distress. The hungry friends, followed by thei_ackeys, were seen haunting the quays and Guard rooms, picking up among thei_riends abroad all the dinners they could meet with; for according to th_dvice of Aramis, it was prudent to sow repasts right and left in prosperity, in order to reap a few in time of need.
Athos was invited four times, and each time took his friends and their lackey_ith him. Porthos had six occasions, and contrived in the same manner that hi_riends should partake of them; Aramis had eight of them. He was a man, a_ust have been already perceived, who made but little noise, and yet was muc_ought after.
As to d'Artagnan, who as yet knew nobody in the capital, he only found on_hocolate breakfast at the house of a priest of his own province, and on_inner at the house of a cornet of the Guards. He took his army to th_riest's, where they devoured as much provision as would have lasted him fo_wo months, and to the cornet's, who performed wonders; but as Planchet said,
"People do not eat at once for all time, even when they eat a good deal."
D'Artagnan thus felt himself humiliated in having only procured one meal and _alf for his companions—as the breakfast at the priest's could only be counte_s half a repast—in return for the feasts which Athos, Porthos, and Aramis ha_rocured him. He fancied himself a burden to the society, forgetting in hi_erfectly juvenile good faith that he had fed this society for a month; and h_et his mind actively to work. He reflected that this coalition of four young, brave, enterprising, and active men ought to have some other object tha_waggering walks, fencing lessons, and practical jokes, more or less witty.
In fact, four men such as they were—four men devoted to one another, fro_heir purses to their lives; four men always supporting one another, neve_ielding, executing singly or together the resolutions formed in common; fou_rms threatening the four cardinal points, or turning toward a singl_oint—must inevitably, either subterraneously, in open day, by mining, in th_rench, by cunning, or by force, open themselves a way toward the object the_ished to attain, however well it might be defended, or however distant it ma_eem. The only thing that astonished d'Artagnan was that his friends had neve_hought of this.
He was thinking by himself, and even seriously racking his brain to find _irection for this single force four times multiplied, with which he did no_oubt, as with the lever for which Archimedes sought, they should succeed i_oving the world, when someone tapped gently at his door. D'Artagnan awakene_lanchet and ordered him to open it.
From this phrase, "d'Artagnan awakened Planchet," the reader must not suppos_t was night, or that day was hardly come. No, it had just struck four.
Planchet, two hours before, had asked his master for some dinner, and he ha_nswered him with the proverb, "He who sleeps, dines." And Planchet dined b_leeping.
A man was introduced of simple mien, who had the appearance of a tradesman.
Planchet, by way of dessert, would have liked to hear the conversation; bu_he citizen declared to d'Artagnan that what he had to say being important an_onfidential, he desired to be left alone with him.
D'Artagnan dismissed Planchet, and requested his visitor to be seated. Ther_as a moment of silence, during which the two men looked at each other, as i_o make a preliminary acquaintance, after which d'Artagnan bowed, as a sig_hat he listened.
"I have heard Monsieur d'Artagnan spoken of as a very brave young man," sai_he citizen; "and this reputation which he justly enjoys had decided me t_onfide a secret to him."
"Speak, monsieur, speak," said d'Artagnan, who instinctively scented somethin_dvantageous.
The citizen made a fresh pause and continued, "I have a wife who is seamstres_o the queen, monsieur, and who is not deficient in either virtue or beauty. _as induced to marry her about three years ago, although she had but ver_ittle dowry, because Monsieur Laporte, the queen's cloak bearer, is he_odfather, and befriends her."
"Well, monsieur?" asked d'Artagnan.
"Well!" resumed the citizen, "well, monsieur, my wife was abducted yesterda_orning, as she was coming out of her workroom."
"And by whom was your wife abducted?"
"I know nothing surely, monsieur, but I suspect someone."
"And who is the person whom you suspect?"
"A man who has pursued her a long time."
"But allow me to tell you, monsieur," continued the citizen, "that I a_onvinced that there is less love than politics in all this."
"Less love than politics," replied d'Artagnan, with a reflective air; "an_hat do you suspect?"
"I do not know whether I ought to tell you what I suspect."
"Monsieur, I beg you to observe that I ask you absolutely nothing. It is yo_ho have come to me. It is you who have told me that you had a secret t_onfide in me. Act, then, as you think proper; there is still time t_ithdraw."
"No, monsieur, no; you appear to be an honest young man, and I will hav_onfidence in you. I believe, then, that it is not on account of any intrigue_f her own that my wife has been arrested, but because of those of a lady muc_reater than herself."
"Ah, ah! Can it be on account of the amours of Madame de Bois-Tracy?" sai_'Artagnan, wishing to have the air, in the eyes of the citizen, of bein_osted as to court affairs.
"Higher, monsieur, higher."
"Of Madame d'Aiguillon?"
"Of Madame de Chevreuse?"
"Of the—" d'Artagnan checked himself.
"Yes, monsieur," replied the terrified citizen, in a tone so low that he wa_carcely audible.
"And with whom?"
"With whom can it be, if not the Duke of—"
"The Duke of—"
"Yes, monsieur," replied the citizen, giving a still fainter intonation to hi_oice.
"But how do you know all this?"
"How do I know it?"
"Yes, how do you know it? No half-confidence, or—you understand!"
"I know it from my wife, monsieur—from my wife herself."
"Who learns it from whom?"
"From Monsieur Laporte. Did I not tell you that she was the goddaughter o_onsieur Laporte, the confidential man of the queen? Well, Monsieur Laport_laced her near her Majesty in order that our poor queen might at least hav_omeone in whom she could place confidence, abandoned as she is by the king, watched as she is by the cardinal, betrayed as she is by everybody."
"Ah, ah! It begins to develop itself," said d'Artagnan.
"Now, my wife came home four days ago, monsieur. One of her conditions wa_hat she should come and see me twice a week; for, as I had the honor to tel_ou, my wife loves me dearly—my wife, then, came and confided to me that th_ueen at that very moment entertained great fears."
"Yes. The cardinal, as it appears, pursues he and persecutes her more tha_ver. He cannot pardon her the history of the Saraband. You know the histor_f the Saraband?"
"PARDIEU! Know it!" replied d'Artagnan, who knew nothing about it, but wh_ished to appear to know everything that was going on.
"So that now it is no longer hatred, but vengeance."
"And the queen believes—"
"Well, what does the queen believe?"
"She believes that someone has written to the Duke of Buckingham in her name."
"In the queen's name?"
"Yes, to make him come to Paris; and when once come to Paris, to draw him int_ome snare."
"The devil! But your wife, monsieur, what has she to do with all this?"
"Her devotion to the queen is known; and they wish either to remove her fro_er mistress, or to intimidate her, in order to obtain her Majesty's secrets, or to seduce her and make use of her as a spy."
"That is likely," said d'Artagnan; "but the man who has abducted her—do yo_now him?"
"I have told you that I believe I know him."
"I do not know that; what I do know is that he is a creature of the cardinal, his evil genius."
"But you have seen him?"
"Yes, my wife pointed him out to me one day."
"Has he anything remarkable about him by which one may recognize him?"
"Oh, certainly; he is a noble of very lofty carriage, black hair, swarth_omplexion, piercing eye, white teeth, and has a scar on his temple."
"A scar on his temple!" cried d'Artagnan; "and with that, white teeth, _iercing eye, dark complexion, black hair, and haughty carriage—why, that's m_an of Meung."
"He is your man, do you say?"
"Yes, yes; but that has nothing to do with it. No, I am wrong. On th_ontrary, that simplifies the matter greatly. If your man is mine, with on_low I shall obtain two revenges, that's all; but where to find this man?"
"I know not."
"Have you no information as to his abiding place?"
"None. One day, as I was conveying my wife back to the Louvre, he was comin_ut as she was going in, and she showed him to me."
"The devil! The devil!" murmured d'Artagnan; "all this is vague enough. Fro_hom have you learned of the abduction of your wife?"
"From Monsieur Laporte."
"Did he give you any details?"
"He knew none himself."
"And you have learned nothing from any other quarter?"
"Yes, I have received—"
"I fear I am committing a great imprudence."
"You always come back to that; but I must make you see this time that it i_oo late to retreat."
"I do not retreat, MORDIEU!" cried the citizen, swearing in order to rouse hi_ourage. "Besides, by the faith of Bonacieux—"
"You said, then, by the word of Bonacieux. Pardon me for interrupting you, bu_t appears to me that that name is familiar to me."
"Possibly, monsieur. I am your landlord."
"Ah, ah!" said d'Artagnan, half rising and bowing; "you are my landlord?"
"Yes, monsieur, yes. And as it is three months since you have been here, an_hough, distracted as you must be in your important occupations, you hav_orgotten to pay me my rent—as, I say, I have not tormented you a singl_nstant, I thought you would appreciate my delicacy."
"How can it be otherwise, my dear Bonacieux?" replied d'Artagnan; "trust me, _m fully grateful for such unparalleled conduct, and if, as I told you, I ca_e of any service to you—"
"I believe you, monsieur, I believe you; and as I was about to say, by th_ord of Bonacieux, I have confidence in you."
"Finish, then, what you were about to say."
The citizen took a paper from his pocket, and presented it to d'Artagnan.
"A letter?" said the young man.
"Which I received this morning."
D'Artagnan opened it, and as the day was beginning to decline, he approache_he window to read it. The citizen followed him.
"'Do not seek your wife,'" read d'Artagnan; "'she will be restored to you whe_here is no longer occasion for her. If you make a single step to find her yo_re lost.'
"That's pretty positive," continued d'Artagnan; "but after all, it is but _enace."
"Yes; but that menace terrifies me. I am not a fighting man at all, monsieur, and I am afraid of the Bastille."
"Hum!" said d'Artagnan. "I have no greater regard for the Bastille than you.
If it were nothing but a sword thrust, why then—"
"I have counted upon you on this occasion, monsieur."
"Seeing you constantly surrounded by Musketeers of a very superb appearance, and knowing that these Musketeers belong to Monsieur de Treville, and wer_onsequently enemies of the cardinal, I thought that you and your friends, while rendering justice to your poor queen, would be pleased to play hi_minence an ill turn."
"And then I have thought that considering three months' lodging, about which _ave said nothing—"
"Yes, yes; you have already given me that reason, and I find it excellent."
"Reckoning still further, that as long as you do me the honor to remain in m_ouse I shall never speak to you about rent—"
"And adding to this, if there be need of it, meaning to offer you fift_istoles, if, against all probability, you should be short at the presen_oment."
"Admirable! You are rich then, my dear Monsieur Bonacieux?"
"I am comfortably off, monsieur, that's all; I have scraped together some suc_hing as an income of two or three thousand crown in the haberdasher_usiness, but more particularly in venturing some funds in the last voyage o_he celebrated navigator Jean Moquet; so that you understand, monsieur—But—"
cried the citizen.
"What!" demanded d'Artagnan.
"Whom do I see yonder?"
"In the street, facing your window, in the embrasure of that door—a ma_rapped in a cloak."
"It is he!" cried d'Artagnan and the citizen at the same time, each havin_ecognized his man.
"Ah, this time," cried d'Artagnan, springing to his sword, "this time he wil_ot escape me!"
Drawing his sword from its scabbard, he rushed out of the apartment. On th_taircase he met Athos and Porthos, who were coming to see him. The_eparated, and d'Artagnan rushed between them like a dart.
"Pah! Where are you going?" cried the two Musketeers in a breath.
"The man of Meung!" replied d'Artagnan, and disappeared.
D'Artagnan had more than once related to his friends his adventure with th_tranger, as well as the apparition of the beautiful foreigner, to whom thi_an had confided some important missive.
The opinion of Athos was that d'Artagnan had lost his letter in the skirmish.
A gentleman, in his opinion—and according to d'Artagnan's portrait of him, th_tranger must be a gentleman—would be incapable of the baseness of stealing _etter.
Porthos saw nothing in all this but a love meeting, given by a lady to _avalier, or by a cavalier to a lady, which had been disturbed by the presenc_f d'Artagnan and his yellow horse.
Aramis said that as these sorts of affairs were mysterious, it was better no_o fathom them.
They understood, then, from the few words which escaped from d'Artagnan, wha_ffair was in hand, and as they thought that overtaking his man, or losin_ight of him, d'Artagnan would return to his rooms, they kept on their way.
When they entered d'Artagnan's chamber, it was empty; the landlord, dreadin_he consequences of the encounter which was doubtless about to take plac_etween the young man and the stranger, had, consistent with the character h_ad given himself, judged it prudent to decamp.