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24. THE PAVILION

At nine o'clock d'Artagnan was at the Hotel des Gardes; he found
Planchet all ready. The fourth horse had arrived.

Planchet was armed with his musketoon and a pistol. D'Artagnan
had his sword and placed two pistols in his belt; then both
mounted and departed quietly. It was quite dark, and no one saw
them go out. Planchet took place behind his master, and kept at
a distance of ten paces from him.

D'Artagnan crossed the quays, went out by the gate of La
Conference and followed the road, much more beautiful then than
it is now, which leads to St. Cloud.

As long as he was in the city, Planchet kept at the respectful
distance he had imposed upon himself; but as soon as the road
began to be more lonely and dark, he drew softly nearer, so that
when they entered the Bois de Boulogne he found himself riding
quite naturally side by side with his master. In fact, we must
not dissemble that the oscillation of the tall trees and the
reflection of the moon in the dark underwood gave him serious
uneasiness. D'Artagnan could not help perceiving that something
more than usual was passing in the mind of his lackey and said,
"Well, Monsieur Planchet, what is the matter with us now?"

"Don't you think, monsieur, that woods are like churches?"

"How so, Planchet?"

"Because we dare not speak aloud in one or the other."

"But why did you not dare to speak aloud, Planchet--because you
are afraid?"

"Afraid of being heard? Yes, monsieur."

"Afraid of being heard! Why, there is nothing improper in our
conversation, my dear Planchet, and no one could find fault with
it."

"Ah, monsieur!" replied Planchet, recurring to his besetting
idea, "that Monsieur Bonacieux has something vicious in his
eyebrows, and something very unpleasant in the play of his lips."

"What the devil makes you think of Bonacieux?"

"Monsieur, we think of what we can, and not of what we will."

"Because you are a coward, Planchet."

"Monsieur, we must not confound prudence with cowardice; prudence
is a virtue."

"And you are very virtuous, are you not, Planchet?"

"Monsieur, is not that the barrel of a musket which glitters
yonder? Had we not better lower our heads?"

"In truth," murmured d'Artagnan, to whom M. de Treville's
recommendation recurred, "this animal will end by making me
afraid." And he put his horse into a trot.

Planchet followed the movements of his master as if he had been
his shadow, and was soon trotting by his side.

"Are we going to continue this pace all night?" asked Planchet.

"No; you are at your journey's end."

"How, monsieur! And you?"

"I am going a few steps farther."

"And Monsieur leaves me here alone?"

"You are afraid, Planchet?"

"No; I only beg leave to observe to Monsieur that the night will
be very cold, that chills bring on rheumatism, and that a lackey
who has the rheumatism makes but a poor servant, particularly to
a master as active as Monsieur."

"Well, if you are cold, Planchet, you can go into one of those
cabarets that you see yonder, and be in waiting for me at the
door by six o'clock in the morning."

"Monsieur, I have eaten and drunk respectfully the crown you gave
me this morning, so that I have not a sou left in case I should
be cold."

"Here's half a pistole. Tomorrow morning."

D'Artagnan sprang from his horse, threw the bridle to Planchet,
and departed at a quick pace, folding his cloak around him.

"Good Lord, how cold I am!" cried Planchet, as soon as he had
lost sight of his master; and in such haste was he to warm
himself that he went straight to a house set out with all the
attributes of a suburban tavern, and knocked at the door.

In the meantime d'Artagnan, who had plunged into a bypath,
continued his route and reached St. Cloud; but instead of
following the main street he turned behind the chateau, reached a
sort of retired lane, and found himself soon in front of the
pavilion named. It was situated in a very private spot. A high
wall, at the angle of which was the pavilion, ran along one side
of this lane, and on the other was a little garden connected with
a poor cottage which was protected by a hedge from passers-by.

He gained the place appointed, and as no signal had been given
him by which to announce his presence, he waited.

Not the least noise was to be heard; it might be imagined that he
was a hundred miles from the capital. D'Artagnan leaned against
the hedge, after having cast a glance behind it. Beyond that
hedge, that garden, and that cottage, a dark mist enveloped with
its folds that immensity where Paris slept--a vast void from
which glittered a few luminous points, the funeral stars of that
hell!

But for d'Artagnan all aspects were clothed happily, all ideas
wore a smile, all shades were diaphanous. The appointed hour was
about to strike. In fact, at the end of a few minutes the belfry
of St. Cloud let fall slowly ten strokes from its sonorous jaws.
There was something melancholy in this brazen voice pouring out
its lamentations in the middle of the night; but each of those
strokes, which made up the expected hour, vibrated harmoniously
to the heart of the young man.

His eyes were fixed upon the little pavilion situated at the
angle of the wall, of which all the windows were closed with
shutters, except one on the first story. Through this window
shone a mild light which silvered the foliage of two or three
linden trees which formed a group outside the park. There could
be no doubt that behind this little window, which threw forth
such friendly beams, the pretty Mme. Bonacieux expected him.

Wrapped in this sweet idea, d'Artagnan waited half an hour
without the least impatience, his eyes fixed upon that charming
little abode of which he could perceive a part of the ceiling
with its gilded moldings, attesting the elegance of the rest of
the apartment.

The belfry of St. Cloud sounded half past ten.

This time, without knowing why, d'Artagnan felt a cold shiver run
through his veins. Perhaps the cold began to affect him, and he
took a perfectly physical sensation for a moral impression.

Then the idea seized him that he had read incorrectly, and that
the appointment was for eleven o'clock. He drew near to the
window, and placing himself so that a ray of light should fall
upon the letter as he held it, he drew it from his pocket and
read it again; but he had not been mistaken, the appointment was
for ten o'clock. He went and resumed his post, beginning to be
rather uneasy at this silence and this solitude.

Eleven o'clock sounded.

D'Artagnan began now really to fear that something had happened
to Mme. Bonacieux. He clapped his hands three times--the
ordinary signal of lovers; but nobody replied to him, not even an
echo.

He then thought, with a touch of vexation, that perhaps the young
woman had fallen asleep while waiting for him. He approached the
wall, and tried to climb it; but the wall had been recently
pointed, and d'Artagnan could get no hold.

At that moment he thought of the trees, upon whose leaves the
light still shone; and as one of them drooped over the road, he
thought that from its branches he might get a glimpse of the
interior of the pavilion.

The tree was easy to climb. Besides, d'Artagnan was but twenty
years old, and consequently had not yet forgotten his schoolboy
habits. In an instant he was among the branches, and his keen
eyes plunged through the transparent panes into the interior of
the pavilion.

It was a strange thing, and one which made d'Artagnan tremble
from the sole of his foot to the roots of his hair, to find that
this soft light, this calm lamp, enlightened a scene of fearful
disorder. One of the windows was broken, the door of the chamber
had been beaten in and hung, split in two, on its hinges. A
table, which had been covered with an elegant supper, was
overturned. The decanters broken in pieces, and the fruits
crushed, strewed the floor. Everything in the apartment gave
evidence of a violent and desperate struggle. D'Artagnan even
fancied he could recognize amid this strange disorder, fragments
of garments, and some bloody spots staining the cloth and the
curtains. He hastened to descend into the street, with a
frightful beating at his heart; he wished to see if he could find
other traces of violence.

The little soft light shone on in the calmness of the night.
d'Artagnan then perceived a thing that he had not before
remarked--for nothing had led him to the examination--that the
ground, trampled here and hoofmarked there, presented confused
traces of men and horses. Besides, the wheels of a carriage,
which appeared to have come from Paris, had made a deep
impression in the soft earth, which did not extend beyond the
pavilion, but turned again toward Paris.

At length d'Artagnan, in pursuing his researches, found near the
wall a woman's torn glove. This glove, wherever it had not
touched the muddy ground, was of irreproachable odor. It was one
of those perfumed gloves that lovers like to snatch from a pretty
hand.

As d'Artagnan pursued his investigations, a more abundant and
more icy sweat rolled in large drops from his forehead; his heart
was oppressed by a horrible anguish; his respiration was broken
and short. And yet he said, to reassure himself, that this
pavilion perhaps had nothing in common with Mme. Bonacieux; that
the young woman had made an appointment with him before the
pavilion, and not in the pavilion; that she might have been
detained in Paris by her duties, or perhaps by the jealousy of
her husband.

But all these reasons were combated, destroyed, overthrown, by
that feeling of intimate pain which, on certain occasions, takes
possession of our being, and cries to us so as to be understood
unmistakably that some great misfortune is hanging over us.

Then d'Artagnan became almost wild. He ran along the high road,
took the path he had before taken, and reaching the ferry,
interrogated the boatman.

About seven o'clock in the evening, the boatman had taken over a
young woman, wrapped in a black mantle, who appeared to be very
anxious not to be recognized; but entirely on account of her
precautions, the boatman had paid more attention to her and
discovered that she was young and pretty.

There were then, as now, a crowd of young and pretty women who
came to St. Cloud, and who had reasons for not being seen, and
yet d'Artagnan did not for an instant doubt that it was Mme.
Bonacieux whom the boatman had noticed.

D'Artagnan took advantage of the lamp which burned in the cabin
of the ferryman to read the billet of Mme. Bonacieux once again,
and satisfy himself that he had not been mistaken, that the
appointment was at St. Cloud and not elsewhere, before the
D'Estrees's pavilion and not in another street. Everything
conspired to prove to d'Artagnan that his presentiments had not
deceived him, and that a great misfortune had happened.

He again ran back to the chateau. It appeared to him that
something might have happened at the pavilion in his absence, and
that fresh information awaited him. The lane was still deserted,
and the same calm soft light shone through the window.

D'Artagnan then thought of that cottage, silent and obscure,
which had no doubt seen all, and could tell its tale. The gate
of the enclosure was shut; but he leaped over the hedge, and in
spite of the barking of a chained-up dog, went up to the cabin.

No one answered to his first knocking. A silence of death
reigned in the cabin as in the pavilion; but as the cabin was his
last resource, he knocked again.

It soon appeared to him that he heard a slight noise within--a
timid noise which seemed to tremble lest it should be heard.

Then d'Artagnan ceased knocking, and prayed with an accent so
full of anxiety and promises, terror and cajolery, that his voice
was of a nature to reassure the most fearful. At length an old,
worm-eaten shutter was opened, or rather pushed ajar, but closed
again as soon as the light from a miserable lamp which burned in
the corner had shone upon the baldric, sword belt, and pistol
pommels of d'Artagnan. Nevertheless, rapid as the movement had
been, d'Artagnan had had time to get a glimpse of the head of an
old man.

"In the name of heaven!" cried he, "listen to me; I have been
waiting for someone who has not come. I am dying with anxiety.
Has anything particular happened in the neighborhood? Speak!"

The window was again opened slowly, and the same face appeared,
only it was now still more pale than before.

D'Artagnan related his story simply, with the omission of names.
He told how he had a rendezvous with a young woman before that
pavilion, and how, not seeing her come, he had climbed the linden
tree, and by the light of the lamp had seen the disorder of the
chamber.

The old man listened attentively, making a sign only that it was
all so; and then, when d'Artagnan had ended, he shook his head
with an air that announced nothing good.

"What do you mean?" cried d'Artagnan. "In the name of heaven,
explain yourself!"

"Oh! Monsieur," said the old man, "ask me nothing; for if I
dared tell you what I have seen, certainly no good would befall
me."

"You have, then, seen something?" replied d'Artagnan. "In that
case, in the name of heaven," continued he, throwing him a
pistole, "tell me what you have seen, and I will pledge you the
word of a gentleman that not one of your words shall escape from
my heart."

The old man read so much truth and so much grief in the face of
the young man that he made him a sign to listen, and repeated in
a low voice: "It was scarcely nine o'clock when I heard a noise
in the street, and was wondering what it could be, when on coming
to my door, I found that somebody was endeavoring to open it. As
I am very poor and am not afraid of being robbed, I went and
opened the gate and saw three men at a few paces from it. In the
shadow was a carriage with two horses, and some saddlehorses.
These horses evidently belonged to the three men, who wee dressed
as cavaliers. 'Ah, my worthy gentlemen,' cried I, 'what do you
want?' 'You must have a ladder?' said he who appeared to be the
leader of the party. 'Yes, monsieur, the one with which I gather
my fruit.' 'Lend it to us, and go into your house again; there
is a crown for the annoyance we have caused you. Only remember
this--if you speak a word of what you may see or what you may
hear (for you will look and you will listen, I am quite sure,
however we may threaten you), you are lost.' At these words he
threw me a crown, which I picked up, and he took the ladder.
After shutting the gate behind them, I pretended to return to the
house, but I immediately went out a back door, and stealing along
in the shade of the hedge, I gained yonder clump of elder, from
which I could hear and see everything. The three men brought the
carriage up quietly, and took out of it a little man, stout,
short, elderly, and commonly dressed in clothes of a dark color,
who ascended the ladder very carefully, looked suspiciously in at
the window of the pavilion, came down as quietly as he had gone
up, and whispered, 'It is she!' Immediately, he who had spoken
to me approached the door of the pavilion, opened it with a key
he had in his hand, closed the door and disappeared, while at the
same time the other two men ascended the ladder. The little old
man remained at the coach door; the coachman took care of his
horses, the lackey held the saddlehorses. All at once great
cried resounded in the pavilion, and a woman came to the window,
and opened it, as if to throw herself out of it; but as soon as
she perceived the other two men, she fell back and they went into
the chamber. Then I saw no more; but I heard the noise of
breaking furniture. The woman screamed, and cried for help; but
her cries were soon stifled. Two of the men appeared, bearing
the woman in their arms, and carried her to the carriage, into
which the little old man got after her. The leader closed the
window, came out an instant after by the door, and satisfied
himself that the woman was in the carriage. His two companions
were already on horseback. He sprang into his saddle; the lackey
took his place by the coachman; the carriage went off at a quick
pace, escorted by the three horsemen, and all was over. From
that moment I have neither seen nor heard anything."

D'Artagnan, entirely overcome by this terrible story, remained
motionless and mute, while all the demons of anger and jealousy
were howling in his heart.

"But, my good gentleman," resumed the old man, upon whom this
mute despair certainly produced a greater effect than cries and
tears would have done, "do not take on so; they did not kill her,
and that's a comfort."

"Can you guess," said d'Artagnan, "who was the man who headed
this infernal expedition?"

"I don't know him."

"But as you spoke to him you must have seen him."

"Oh, it's a description you want?"

"Exactly so."

"A tall, dark man, with black mustaches, dark eyes, and the air
of a gentleman."

"That's the man!" cried d'Artagnan, "again he, forever he! He is
my demon, apparently. And the other?"

"Which?"

"The short one."

"Oh, he was not a gentleman, I'll answer for it; besides, he did
not wear a sword, and the others treated him with small
consideration."

"Some lackey," murmured d'Artagnan. "Poor woman, poor woman,
what have they done with you?"

"You have promised to be secret, my good monsieur?" said the old
man.

"And I renew my promise. Be easy, I am a gentleman. A gentleman
has but his word, and I have given you mine."

With a heavy heart, d'Artagnan again bent his way toward the
ferry. Sometimes he hoped it could not be Mme. Bonacieux, and
that he should find her next day at the Louvre; sometimes he
feared she had had an intrigue with another, who, in a jealous
fit, had surprised her and carried her off. His mind was torn by
doubt, grief, and despair.

"Oh, if I had my three friends here," cried he, "I should have,
at least, some hopes of finding her; but who knows what has
become of them?"

It was past midnight; the next thing was to find Planchet.
d'Artagnan went successively into all the cabarets in which there
was a light, but could not find Planchet in any of them.

At the sixth he began to reflect that the search was rather
dubious. D'Artagnan had appointed six o'clock in the morning for
his lackey, and wherever he might be, he was right.

Besides, it came into the young man's mind that by remaining in
the environs of the spot on which this sad event had passed, he
would, perhaps, have some light thrown upon the mysterious
affair. At the sixth cabaret, then, as we said, d'Artagnan
stopped, asked for a bottle of wine of the best quality, and
placing himself in the darkest corner of the room, determined
thus to wait till daylight; but this time again his hopes were
disappointed, and although he listened with all his ears, he
heard nothing, amid the oaths, coarse jokes, and abuse which
passed between the laborers, servants, and carters who comprised
the honorable society of which he formed a part, which could put
him upon the least track of her who had been stolen from him. He
was compelled, then, after having swallowed the contents of his
bottle, to pass the time as well as to evade suspicion, to fall
into the easiest position in his corner and to sleep, whether
well or ill. D'Artagnan, be it remembered, was only twenty years
old, and at that age sleep has its imprescriptible rights which
it imperiously insists upon, even with the saddest hearts.

Toward six o'clock d'Artagnan awoke with that uncomfortable
feeling which generally accompanies the break of day after a bad
night. He was not long in making his toilet. He examined
himself to see if advantage had been taken of his sleep, and
having found his diamond ring on his finger, his purse in his
pocket, and his pistols in his belt, he rose, paid for his
bottle, and went out to try if he could have any better luck in
his search after his lackey than he had had the night before.
The first thing he perceived through the damp gray mist was
honest Planchet, who, with the two horses in hand, awaited him at
the door of a little blind cabaret, before which d'Artagnan had
passed without even a suspicion of its existence.





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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