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9. D'ARTAGNAN SHOWS HIMSELF

As Athos and Porthos had foreseen, at the expiration of a half
hour, d'Artagnan returned. He had again missed his man, who had
disappeared as if by enchantment. D'Artagnan had run, sword in
hand, through all the neighboring streets, but had found nobody
resembling the man he sought for. Then he came back to the point
where, perhaps, he ought to have begun, and that was to knock at
the door against which the stranger had leaned; but this proved
useless--for though he knocked ten or twelve times in succession,
no one answered, and some of the neighbors, who put their noses
out of their windows or were brought to their doors by the noise,
had assured him that that house, all the openings of which were
tightly closed, had not been inhabited for six months.

While d'Artagnan was running through the streets and knocking at
doors, Aramis had joined his companions; so that on returning home
d'Artagnan found the reunion complete.

"Well!" cried the three Musketeers all together, on seeing
d'Artagnan enter with his brow covered with perspiration and his
countenance upset with anger.

"Well!" cried he, throwing his sword upon the bed, "this man must
be the devil in person; he has disappeared like a phantom,
like a shade, like a specter."

"Do you believe in apparitions?" asked Athos of Porthos.

"I never believe in anything I have not seen, and as I never have
seen apparitions, I don't believe in them."

"The Bible," said Aramis, "make our belief in them a law; the
ghost of Samuel appeared to Saul, and it is an article of faith
that I should be very sorry to see any doubt thrown upon,
Porthos."

"At all events, man or devil, body or shadow, illusion or
reality, this man is born for my damnation; for his flight has
caused us to miss a glorious affair, gentlemen--an affair by
which there were a hundred pistoles, and perhaps more, to be
gained."

"How is that?" cried Porthos and Aramis in a breath.

As to Athos, faithful to his system of reticence, he contented
himself with interrogating d'Artagnan by a look.

"Planchet," said d'Artagnan to his domestic, who just then
insinuated his head through the half-open door in order to catch
some fragments of the conversation, "go down to my landlord,
Monsieur Bonacieux, and ask him to send me half a dozen bottles
of Beaugency wine; I prefer that."

"Ah, ah! You have credit with your landlord, then?" asked
Porthos.

"Yes," replied d'Artagnan, "from this very day; and mind, if the
wine is bad, we will send him to find better."

"We must use, and not abuse," said Aramis, sententiously.

"I always said that d'Artagnan had the longest head of the four,"
said Athos, who, having uttered his opinion, to which d'Artagnan
replied with a bow, immediately resumed his accustomed silence.

"But come, what is this about?" asked Porthos.

"Yes," said Aramis, "impart it to us, my dear friend, unless the
honor of any lady be hazarded by this confidence; in that case
you would do better to keep it to yourself."

"Be satisfied," replied d'Artagnan; "the honor of no one will
have cause to complain of what I have to tell.

He then related to his friends, word for word, all that had
passed between him and his host, and how the man who had abducted
the wife of his worthy landlord was the same with whom he had had
the difference at the hostelry of the Jolly Miller.

"Your affair is not bad," said Athos, after having tasted like a
connoisseur and indicated by a nod of his head that he thought
the wine good; "and one may draw fifty or sixty pistoles from
this good man. Then there only remains to ascertain whether
these fifty or sixty pistoles are worth the risk of four heads."

"But observe," cried d'Artagnan, "that there is a woman in the
affair--a woman carried off, a woman who is doubtless threatened,
tortured perhaps, and all because she is faithful to her
mistress."

"Beware, d'Artagnan, beware," said Aramis. "You grow a little
too warm, in my opinion, about the fate of Madame Bonacieux.
Woman was created for our destruction, and it is from her we
inherit all our miseries."

At this speech of Aramis, the brow of Athos became clouded and he
bit his lips.

"It is not Madame Bonacieux about whom I am anxious," cried
d'Artagnan, "but the queen, whom the king abandons, whom the
cardinal persecutes, and who sees the heads of all her friends
fall, one after the other."

"Why does she love what we hate most in the world, the Spaniards
and the English?"

"Spain is her country," replied d'Artagnan; "and it is very
natural that she should love the Spanish, who are the children of
the same soil as herself. As to the second reproach, I have
heard it said that she does not love the English, but an
Englishman."

"Well, and by my faith," said Athos, "it must be acknowledged
that this Englishman is worthy of being loved. I never saw a man
with a nobler air than his."

"Without reckoning that he dresses as nobody else can," said
Porthos. "I was at the Louvre on the day when he scattered his
pearls; and, PARDIEU, I picked up two that I sold for ten
pistoles each. Do you know him, Aramis?"

"As well as you do, gentlemen; for I was among those who seized
him in the garden at Amiens, into which Monsieur Putange, the
queen's equerry, introduced me. I was at school at the time, and
the adventure appeared to me to be cruel for the king."

"Which would not prevent me," said d'Artagnan, "if I knew where
the Duke of Buckingham was, from taking him by the hand and
conducting him to the queen, were it only to enrage the cardinal,
and if we could find means to play him a sharp turn, I vow that I
would voluntarily risk my head in doing it."

"And did the mercer*," rejoined Athos, "tell you, d'Artagnan,
that the queen thought that Buckingham had been brought over by a
forged letter?"

*Haberdasher

"She is afraid so."

"Wait a minute, then," said Aramis.

"What for?" demanded Porthos.

"Go on, while I endeavor to recall circumstances."

"And now I am convinced," said d'Artagnan, "that this abduction
of the queen's woman is connected with the events of which we are
speaking, and perhaps with the presence of Buckingham in Paris."

"The Gascon is full of ideas," said Porthos, with admiration.

"I like to hear him talk," said Athos; "his dialect amuses me."

"Gentlemen," cried Aramis, "listen to this."

"Listen to Aramis," said his three friends.

"Yesterday I was at the house of a doctor of theology, whom I
sometimes consult about my studies."

Athos smiled.

"He resides in a quiet quarter," continued Aramis; "his tastes
and his profession require it. Now, at the moment when I left
his house--"

Here Aramis paused.

"Well," cried his auditors; "at the moment you left his house?"

Aramis appeared to make a strong inward effort, like a man who,
in the full relation of a falsehood, finds himself stopped by
some unforeseen obstacle; but the eyes of his three companions
were fixed upon him, their ears were wide open, and there were no
means of retreat.

"This doctor has a niece," continued Aramis.

"Ah, he has a niece!" interrupted Porthos.

"A very respectable lady," said Aramis.

The three friends burst into laughter.

"Ah, if you laugh, if you doubt me," replied Aramis, "you shall
know nothing."

"We believe like Mohammedans, and are as mute as tombstones,"
said Athos.

"I will continue, then," resumed Aramis. "This niece comes
sometimes to see her uncle; and by chance was there yesterday at
the same time that I was, and it was my duty to offer to conduct
her to her carriage."

"Ah! She has a carriage, then, this niece of the doctor?"
interrupted Porthos, one of whose faults was a great looseness of
tongue. "A nice acquaintance, my friend!"

"Porthos," replied Aramis, "I have had the occasion to observe to
you more than once that you are very indiscreet; and that is
injurious to you among the women."

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," cried d'Artagnan, who began to get a
glimpse of the result of the adventure, "the thing is serious.
Let us try not to jest, if we can. Go on Aramis, go on."

"All at once, a tall, dark gentleman--just like yours,
d'Artagnan."

"The same, perhaps," said he.

"Possibly," continued Aramis, "came toward me, accompanied by
five or six men who followed about ten paces behind him; and in
the politest tone, 'Monsieur Duke,' said he to me, 'and you
madame,' continued he, addressing the lady on my arm--"

"The doctor's niece?"

"Hold your tongue, Porthos," said Athos; "you are insupportable."

"'--will you enter this carriage, and that without offering the
least resistance, without making the least noise?'"

"He took you for Buckingham!" cried d'Artagnan.

"I believe so," replied Aramis.

"But the lady?" asked Porthos.

"He took her for the queen!" said d'Artagnan.

"Just so," replied Aramis.

"The Gascon is the devil!" cried Athos; "nothing escapes him."

"The fact is," said Porthos, "Aramis is of the same height, and
something of the shape of the duke; but it nevertheless appears
to me that the dress of a Musketeer--"

"I wore an enormous cloak," said Aramis.

"In the month of July? The devil!" said Porthos. "Is the doctor
afraid that you may be recognized?"

"I can comprehend that the spy may have been deceived by the
person; but the face--"

"I had a large hat," said Aramis.

"Oh, good lord," cried Porthos, "what precautions for the study
of theology!"

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," said d'Artagnan, "do not let us lose our
time in jesting. Let us separate, and let us seek the mercer's
wife--that is the key of the intrigue."

"A woman of such inferior condition! Can you believe so?" said
Porthos, protruding his lips with contempt.

"She is goddaughter to Laporte, the confidential valet of the
queen. Have I not told you so, gentlemen? Besides, it has
perhaps been her Majesty's calculation to seek on this occasion
for support so lowly. High heads expose themselves from afar,
and the cardinal is longsighted."

"Well," said Porthos, "in the first place make a bargain with the
mercer, and a good bargain."

"That's useless," said d'Artagnan; "for I believe if he does not
pay us, we shall be well enough paid by another party."

At this moment a sudden noise of footsteps was heard upon the
stairs; the door was thrown violently open, and the unfortunate
mercer rushed into the chamber in which the council was held.

"Save me, gentlemen, for the love of heaven, save me!" cried he.
"There are four men come to arrest me. Save me! Save me!"

Porthos and Aramis arose.

"A moment," cried d'Artagnan, making them a sign to replace in
the scabbard their half-drawn swords. "It is not courage that is
needed; it is prudence."

"And yet," cried Porthos, "we will not leave--"

"You will leave d'Artagnan to act as he thinks proper," said
Athos. "He has, I repeat, the longest head of the four, and for
my part I declare that I will obey him. Do as you think best,
d'Artagnan."

At this moment the four Guards appeared at the door of the
antechamber, but seeing four Musketeers standing, and their
swords by their sides, they hesitated about going farther.

"Come in, gentlemen, come in," called d'Artagnan; "you are here
in my apartment, and we are all faithful servants of the king and
cardinal."

"Then, gentlemen, you will not oppose our executing the orders we
have received?" asked one who appeared to be the leader of the
party.

"On the contrary, gentlemen, we would assist you if it were
necessary."

"What does he say?" grumbled Porthos.

"You are a simpleton," said Athos. "Silence!"

"But you promised me--" whispered the poor mercer.

"We can only save you by being free ourselves," replied
d'Artagnan, in a rapid, low tone; "and if we appear inclined to
defend you, they will arrest us with you."

"It seems, nevertheless--"

"Come, gentlemen, come!" said d'Artagnan, aloud; "I have no
motive for defending Monsieur. I saw him today for the first
time, and he can tell you on what occasion; he came to demand the
rent of my lodging. Is that not true, Monsieur Bonacieux?
Answer!"

"That is the very truth," cried the mercer; "but Monsieur does
not tell you--"

"Silence, with respect to me, silence, with respect to my
friends; silence about the queen, above all, or you will ruin
everybody without saving yourself! Come, come, gentlemen, remove
the fellow." And d'Artagnan pushed the half-stupefied mercer
among the Guards, saying to him, "You are a shabby old fellow, my
dear. You come to demand money of me--of a Musketeer! To prison
with him! Gentlemen, once more, take him to prison, and keep him
under key as long as possible; that will give me time to pay
him."

The officers were full of thanks, and took away their prey. As
they were going down d'Artagnan laid his hand on the shoulder of
their leader.

"May I not drink to your health, and you to mine?" said
d'Artagnan, filling two glasses with the Beaugency wine which he
had obtained from the liberality of M. Bonacieux.

"That will do me great honor," said the leader of the posse, "and
I accept thankfully."

"Then to yours, monsieur--what is your name?"

"Boisrenard."

"Monsieur Boisrenard."

"To yours, my gentlemen! What is your name, in your turn, if you
please?"

"d'Artagnan."

"To yours, monsieur."

"And above all others," cried d'Artagnan, as if carried away by
his enthusiasm, "to that of the king and the cardinal."

The leader of the posse would perhaps have doubted the sincerity
of d'Artagnan if the wine had been bad; but the wine was good,
and he was convinced.

"What diabolical villainy you have performed here," said Porthos,
when the officer had rejoined his companions and the four friends
found themselves alone. "Shame, shame, for four Musketeers to
allow an unfortunate fellow who cried for help to be arrested in
their midst! And a gentleman to hobnob with a bailiff!"

"Porthos," said Aramis, "Athos has already told you that you are
a simpleton, and I am quite of his opinion. D'Artagnan, you are
a great man; and when you occupy Monsieur de Treville's place, I
will come and ask your influence to secure me an abbey."

"Well, I am in a maze," said Porthos; "do YOU approve of what
d'Artagnan has done?"

"PARBLEU! Indeed I do," said Athos; "I not only approve of what
he has done, but I congratulate him upon it."

"And now, gentlemen," said d'Artagnan, without stopping to
explain his conduct to Porthos, "All for one, one for all--that
is our motto, is it not?"

"And yet--" said Porthos.

"Hold out your hand and swear!" cried Athos and Aramis at once.

Overcome by example, grumbling to himself, nevertheless, Porthos
stretched out his hand, and the four friends repeated with one
voice the formula dictated by d'Artagnan:

"All for one, one for all."

"That's well! Now let us everyone retire to his own home," said
d'Artagnan, as if he had done nothing but command all his life;
"and attention! For from this moment we are at feud with the
cardinal."





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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