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27. THE WIFE OF ATHOS

"We have now to search for Athos," said d'Artagnan to the
vivacious Aramis, when he had informed him of all that had passed
since their departure from the capital, and an excellent dinner
had made one of them forget his thesis and the other his fatigue.

"Do you think, then, that any harm can have happened to him?"
asked Aramis. "Athos is so cool, so brave, and handles his sword
so skillfully."

"No doubt. Nobody has a higher opinion of the courage and skill
of Athos than I have; but I like better to hear my sword clang
against lances than against staves. I fear lest Athos should
have been beaten down by serving men. Those fellows strike hard,
and don't leave off in a hurry. This is why I wish to set out
again as soon as possible."

"I will try to accompany you," said Aramis, "though I scarcely
feel in a condition to mount on horseback. Yesterday I undertook
to employ that cord which you see hanging against the wall, but
pain prevented my continuing the pious exercise."

"That's the first time I ever heard of anybody trying to cure
gunshot wounds with cat-o'-nine-tails; but you were ill, and
illness renders the head weak, therefore you may be excused."

"When do you mean to set out?"

"Tomorrow at daybreak. Sleep as soundly as you can tonight, and
tomorrow, if you can, we will take our departure together."

"Till tomorrow, then," said Aramis; "for iron-nerved as you are,
you must need repose."

The next morning, when d'Artagnan entered Aramis's chamber, he
found him at the window.

"What are you looking at?" asked d'Artagnan.

"My faith! I am admiring three magnificent horses which the
stable boys are leading about. It would be a pleasure worthy of
a prince to travel upon such horses."

"Well, my dear Aramis, you may enjoy that pleasure, for one of
those three horses is yours."

"Ah, bah! Which?"

"Whichever of the three you like, I have no preference."

"And the rich caparison, is that mine, too?"

"Without doubt."

"You laugh, d'Artagnan."

"No, I have left off laughing, now that you speak French."

"What, those rich holsters, that velvet housing, that saddle
studded with silver-are they all for me?"

"For you and nobody else, as the horse which paws the ground is
mine, and the other horse, which is caracoling, belongs to
Athos."

"PESTE! They are three superb animals!"

"I am glad they please you."

"Why, it must have been the king who made you such a present."

"Certainly it was not the cardinal; but don't trouble yourself
whence they come, think only that one of the three is your
property."

"I choose that which the red-headed boy is leading."

"It is yours!"

"Good heaven! That is enough to drive away all my pains; I could
mount him with thirty balls in my body. On my soul, handsome
stirrups! HOLA, Bazin, come here this minute."

Bazin appeared on the threshold, dull and spiritless.

"That last order is useless," interrupted d'Artagnan; "there are
loaded pistols in your holsters."

Bazin sighed.

"Come, Monsieur Bazin, make yourself easy," said d'Artagnan;
"people of all conditions gain the kingdom of heaven."

"Monsieur was already such a good theologian," said Bazin, almost
weeping; "he might have become a bishop, and perhaps a cardinal."

"Well, but my poor Bazin, reflect a little. Of what use is it to
be a churchman, pray? You do not avoid going to war by that
means; you see, the cardinal is about to make the next campaign,
helm on head and partisan in hand. And Monsieur de Nogaret de la
Valette, what do you say of him? He is a cardinal likewise. Ask
his lackey how often he has had to prepare lint of him."

"Alas!" sighed Bazin. "I know it, monsieur; everything is turned
topsy-turvy in the world nowadays."

While this dialogue was going on, the two young men and the poor
lackey descended.

"Hold my stirrup, Bazin," cried Aramis; and Aramis sprang into
the saddle with his usual grace and agility, but after a few
vaults and curvets of the noble animal his rider felt his pains
come on so insupportably that he turned pale and became unsteady
in his seat. D'Artagnan, who, foreseeing such an event, had kept
his eye on him, sprang toward him, caught him in his arms, and
assisted him to his chamber.

"That's all right, my dear Aramis, take care of yourself," said
he; "I will go alone in search of Athos."

"You are a man of brass," replied Aramis.

"No, I have good luck, that is all. But how do you mean to pass
your time till I come back? No more theses, no more glosses upon
the fingers or upon benedictions, hey?"

Aramis smiled. "I will make verses," said he.

"Yes, I dare say; verses perfumed with the odor of the billet
from the attendant of Madame de Chevreuse. Teach Bazin prosody;
that will console him. As to the horse, ride him a little every
day, and that will accustom you to his maneuvers."

"Oh, make yourself easy on that head," replied Aramis. "You will
find me ready to follow you."

They took leave of each other, and in ten minutes, after having
commended his friend to the cares of the hostess and Bazin,
d'Artagnan was trotting along in the direction of Ameins.

How was he going to find Athos? Should he find him at all? The
position in which he had left him was critical. He probably had
succumbed. This idea, while darkening his brow, drew several
sighs from him, and caused him to formulate to himself a few vows
of vengeance. Of all his friends, Athos was the eldest, and the
least resembling him in appearance, in his tastes and sympathies.

Yet he entertained a marked preference for this gentleman. The
noble and distinguished air of Athos, those flashes of greatness
which from time to time broke out from the shade in which he
voluntarily kept himself, that unalterable equality of temper
which made him the most pleasant companion in the world, that
forced and cynical gaiety, that bravery which might have been
termed blind if it had not been the result of the rarest
coolness--such qualities attracted more than the esteem, more than
the friendship of d'Artagnan; they attracted his admiration.

Indeed, when placed beside M. de Treville, the elegant and noble
courtier, Athos in his most cheerful days might advantageously
sustain a comparison. He was of middle height; but his person
was so admirably shaped and so well proportioned that more than
once in his struggles with Porthos he had overcome the giant
whose physical strength was proverbial among the Musketeers. His
head, with piercing eyes, a straight nose, a chin cut like that
of Brutus, had altogether an indefinable character of grandeur
and grace. His hands, of which he took little care, were the
despair of Aramis, who cultivated his with almond paste and
perfumed oil. The sound of his voice was at once penetrating and
melodious; and then, that which was inconceivable in Athos, who
was always retiring, was that delicate knowledge of the world and
of the usages of the most brilliant society--those manners of a
high degree which appeared, as if unconsciously to himself, in
his least actions.

If a repast were on foot, Athos presided over it better than any
other, placing every guest exactly in the rank which his
ancestors had earned for him or that he had made for himself. If
a question in heraldry were started, Athos knew all the noble
families of the kingdom, their genealogy, their alliances, their
coats of arms, and the origin of them. Etiquette had no minutiae
unknown to him. He knew what were the rights of the great land
owners. He was profoundly versed in hunting and falconry, and
had one day when conversing on this great art astonished even
Louis XIII himself, who took a pride in being considered a past
master therein.

Like all the great nobles of that period, Athos rode and fenced
to perfection. But still further, his education had been so
little neglected, even with respect to scholastic studies, so
rare at this time among gentlemen, that he smiled at the scraps
of Latin which Aramis sported and which Porthos pretended to
understand. Two or three times, even, to the great astonishment
of his friends, he had, when Aramis allowed some rudimental error
to escape him, replaced a verb in its right tense and a noun in
its case. Besides, his probity was irreproachable, in an age in
which soldiers compromised so easily with their religion and
their consciences, lovers with the rigorous delicacy of our era,
and the poor with God's Seventh Commandment. This Athos, then,
was a very extraordinary man.

And yet this nature so distinguished, this creature so beautiful,
this essence so fine, was seen to turn insensibly toward material
life, as old men turn toward physical and moral imbecility.
Athos, in his hours of gloom--and these hours were frequent--was
extinguished as to the whole of the luminous portion of him, and
his brilliant side disappeared as into profound darkness.

Then the demigod vanished; he remained scarcely a man. His head
hanging down, his eye dull, his speech slow and painful, Athos
would look for hours together at his bottle, his glass, or at
Grimaud, who, accustomed to obey him by signs, read in the faint
glance of his master his least desire, and satisfied it
immediately. If the four friends were assembled at one of these
moments, a word, thrown forth occasionally with a violent effort,
was the share Athos furnished to the conversation. In exchange
for his silence Athos drank enough for four, and without
appearing to be otherwise affected by wine than by a more marked
constriction of the brow and by a deeper sadness.

D'Artagnan, whose inquiring disposition we are acquainted with,
had not--whatever interest he had in satisfying his curiosity on
this subject--been able to assign any cause for these fits of for
the periods of their recurrence. Athos never received any
letters; Athos never had concerns which all his friends did not
know.

It could not be said that it was wine which produced this
sadness; for in truth he only drank to combat this sadness, which
wine however, as we have said, rendered still darker. This
excess of bilious humor could not be attributed to play; for
unlike Porthos, who accompanied the variations of chance with
songs or oaths, Athos when he won remained as unmoved as when he
lost. He had been known, in the circle of the Musketeers, to win
in one night three thousand pistoles; to lose them even to the
gold-embroidered belt for gala days, win all this again with the
addition of a hundred louis, without his beautiful eyebrow being
heightened or lowered half a line, without his hands losing their
pearly hue, without his conversation, which was cheerful that
evening, ceasing to be calm and agreeable.

Neither was it, as with our neighbors, the English, an
atmospheric influence which darkened his countenance; for the
sadness generally became more intense toward the fine season of
the year. June and July were the terrible months with Athos.

For the present he had no anxiety. He shrugged his shoulders
when people spoke of the future. His secret, then, was in the
past, as had often been vaguely said to d'Artagnan.

This mysterious shade, spread over his whole person, rendered
still more interesting the man whose eyes or mouth, even in the
most complete intoxication, had never revealed anything, however
skillfully questions had been put to him.

"Well," thought d'Artagnan, "poor Athos is perhaps at this moment
dead, and dead by my fault--for it was I who dragged him into this
affair, of which he did not know the origin, of which he is
ignorant of the result, and from which he can derive no
advantage."

"Without reckoning, monsieur," added Planchet to his master's
audibly expressed reflections, "that we perhaps owe our lives to
him. Do you remember how he cried, 'On, d'Artagnan, on, I am
taken'? And when he had discharged his two pistols, what a
terrible noise he made with his sword! One might have said that
twenty men, or rather twenty mad devils, were fighting."

These words redoubled the eagerness of d'Artagnan, who urged his
horse, though he stood in need of no incitement, and they
proceeded at a rapid pace. About eleven o'clock in the morning
they perceived Ameins, and at half past eleven they were at the
door of the cursed inn.

D'Artagnan had often meditated against the perfidious host one of
those hearty vengeances which offer consolation while they are
hoped for. He entered the hostelry with his hat pulled over his
eyes, his left hand on the pommel of the sword, and cracking his
whip with his right hand.

"Do you remember me?" said he to the host, who advanced to greet
him.

"I have not that honor, monseigneur," replied the latter, his
eyes dazzled by the brilliant style in which d'Artagnan traveled.

"What, you don't know me?"

"No, monseigneur."

"Well, two words will refresh your memory. What have you done
with that gentleman against whom you had the audacity, about
twelve days ago, to make an accusation of passing false money?"

The host became as pale as death; for d'Artagnan had assumed a
threatening attitude, and Planchet modeled himself after his
master.

"Ah, monseigneur, do not mention it!" cried the host, in the most
pitiable voice imaginable. "Ah, monseigneur, how dearly have I
paid for that fault, unhappy wretch as I am!"

"That gentleman, I say, what has become of him?"

"Deign to listen to me, monseigneur, and be merciful! Sit down,
in mercy!"

D'Artagnan, mute with anger and anxiety, took a seat in the
threatening attitude of a judge. Planchet glared fiercely over
the back of his armchair.

"Here is the story, monseigneur," resumed the trembling host;
"for I now recollect you. It was you who rode off at the moment
I had that unfortunate difference with the gentleman you speak
of."

"Yes, it was I; so you may plainly perceive that you have no
mercy to expect of you do not tell me the whole truth."

"Condescend to listen to me, and you shall know all."

"I listen."

"I had been warned by the authorities that a celebrated coiner of
bad money would arrive at my inn, with several of his companions,
all disguised as Guards or Musketeers. Monseigneur, I was
furnished with a description of your horses, your lackeys, your
countenances--nothing was omitted."

"Go on, go on!" said d'Artagnan, who quickly understood whence
such an exact description had come.

"I took then, in conformity with the orders of the authorities,
who sent me a reinforcement of six men, such measures as I
thought necessary to get possession of the persons of the
pretended coiners."

"Again!" said d'Artagnan, whose ears chafed terribly under the
repetition of this word COINERs.

"Pardon me, monseigneur, for saying such things, but they form my
excuse. The authorities had terrified me, and you know that an
innkeeper must keep on good terms with the authorities."

"But once again, that gentleman--where is he? What has become of
him? Is he dead? Is he living?"

"Patience, monseigneur, we are coming to it. There happened then
that which you know, and of which your precipitate departure,"
added the host, with an acuteness that did not escape d'Artagnan,
"appeared to authorize the issue. That gentleman, your friend,
defended himself desperately. His lackey, who, by an unforeseen
piece of ill luck, had quarreled with the officers, disguised as
stable lads--"

"Miserable scoundrel!" cried d'Artagnan, "you were all in the
plot, then! And I really don't know what prevents me from
exterminating you all."

"Alas, monseigneur, we were not in the plot, as you will soon
see. Monsieur your friend (pardon for not calling him by the
honorable name which no doubt he bears, but we do not know that
name), Monsieur your friend, having disabled two men with his
pistols, retreated fighting with his sword, with which he disable
one of my men, and stunned me with a blow of the flat side of
it."

"You villian, will you finish?" cried d'Artagnan, "Athos--what has
become of Athos?"

"While fighting and retreating, as I have told Monseigneur, he
found the door of the cellar stairs behind him, and as the door
was open, he took out the key, and barricaded himself inside. As
we were sure of finding him there, we left him alone."

"Yes," said d'Artagnan, "you did not really wish to kill; you
only wished to imprison him."

"Good God! To imprison him, monseigneur? Why, he imprisoned
himself, I swear to you he did. In the first place he had made
rough work of it; one man was killed on the spot, and two others
were severely wounded. The dead man and the two wounded were
carried off by their comrades, and I have heard nothing of either
of them since. As for myself, as soon as I recovered my senses I
went to Monsieur the Governor, to whom I related all that had
passed, and asked, what I should do with my prisoner. Monsieur
the Governor was all astonishment. He told me he knew nothing
about the matter, that the orders I had received did not come
from him, and that if I had the audacity to mention his name as
being concerned in this disturbance he would have me hanged. It
appears that I had made a mistake, monsieur, that I had arrested
the wrong person, and that he whom I ought to have arrested had
escaped."

"But Athos!" cried d'Artagnan, whose impatience was increased by
the disregard of the authorities, "Athos, where is he?"

"As I was anxious to repair the wrongs I had done the prisoner,"
resumed the innkeeper, "I took my way straight to the cellar in
order to set him at liberty. Ah, monsieur, he was no longer a
man, he was a devil! To my offer of liberty, he replied that it
was nothing but a snare, and that before he came out he intended
to impose his own conditions. I told him very humbly--for I could
not conceal from myself the scrape I had got into by laying hands
on one of his Majesty's Musketeers--I told him I was quite ready
to submit to his conditions.

"'In the first place,' said he, 'I wish my lackey placed with me,
fully armed.' We hastened to obey this order; for you will
please to understand, monsieur, we were disposed to do everything
your friend could desire. Monsieur Grimaud (he told us his name,
although he does not talk much)--Monsieur Grimaud, then, went down
to the cellar, wounded as he was; then his master, having
admitted him, barricaded the door afresh, and ordered us to
remain quietly in our own bar."

"But where is Athos now?" cried d'Artagnan. "Where is Athos?"

"In the cellar, monsieur."

"What, you scoundrel! Have you kept him in the cellar all this
time?"

"Merciful heaven! No, monsieur! We keep him in the cellar! You
do not know what he is about in the cellar. Ah! If you could
but persuade him to come out, monsieur, I should owe you the
gratitude of my whole life; I should adore you as my patron
saint!"

"Then he is there? I shall find him there?"

"Without doubt you will, monsieur; he persists in remaining
there. We every day pass through the air hole some bread at the
end of a fork, and some meat when he asks for it; but alas! It
is not of bread and meat of which he makes the greatest
consumption. I once endeavored to go down with two of my
servants; but he flew into terrible rage. I heard the noise he
made in loading his pistols, and his servant in loading his
musketoon. Then, when we asked them what were their intentions,
the master replied that he had forty charges to fire, and that he
and his lackey would fire to the last one before he would allow a
single soul of us to set foot in the cellar. Upon this I went
and complained to the governor, who replied that I only had what
I deserved, and that it would teach me to insult honorable
gentlemen who took up their abode in my house."

"So that since that time--" replied d'Artagnan, totally unable to
refrain from laughing at the pitiable face of the host.

"So from that time, monsieur," continued the latter, "we have led
the most miserable life imaginable; for you must know, monsieur,
that all our provisions are in the cellar. There is our wine in
bottles, and our wine in casks; the beer, the oil, and the
spices, the bacon, and sausages. And as we are prevented from
going down there, we are forced to refuse food and drink to the
travelers who come to the house; so that our hostelry is daily
going to ruin. If your friend remains another week in my cellar
I shall be a ruined man."

"And not more than justice, either, you ass! Could you not
perceive by our appearance that we were people of quality, and
not coiners--say?"

"Yes, monsieur, you are right," said the host. "But, hark, hark!
There he is!"

"Somebody has disturbed him, without doubt," said d'Artagnan.

"But he must be disturbed," cried the host; "Here are two English
gentlemen just arrived."

"well?"

"Well, the English like good wine, as you may know, monsieur;
these have asked for the best. My wife has perhaps requested
permission of Monsieur Athos to go into the cellar to satisfy
these gentlemen; and he, as usual, has refused. Ah, good heaven!
There is the hullabaloo louder than ever!"

D'Artagnan, in fact, heard a great noise on the side next the
cellar. He rose, and preceded by the host wringing his hands,
and followed by Planchet with his musketoon ready for use, he
approached the scene of action.

The two gentlemen were exasperated; they had had a long ride, and
were dying with hunger and thirst.

"But this is tyranny!" cried one of them, in very good French,
though with a foreign accent, "that this madman will not allow
these good people access to their own wine! Nonsense, let us
break open the door, and if he is too far gone in his madness,
well, we will kill him!"

"Softly, gentlemen!" said d'Artagnan, drawing his pistols from
his belt, "you will kill nobody, if you please!"

"Good, good!" cried the calm voice of Athos, from the other side
of the door, "let them just come in, these devourers of little
children, and we shall see!"

Brave as they appeared to be, the two English gentlemen looked at
each other hesitatingly. One might have thought there was in
that cellar one of those famished ogres--the gigantic heroes of
popular legends, into whose cavern nobody could force their way
with impunity.

There was a moment of silence; but at length the two Englishmen
felt ashamed to draw back, and the angrier one descended the five
or six steps which led to the cellar, and gave a kick against the
door enough to split a wall.

"Planchet," said d'Artagnan, cocking his pistols, "I will take
charge of the one at the top; you look to the one below. Ah,
gentlemen, you want battle; and you shall have it."

"Good God!" cried the hollow voice of Athos, "I can hear
d'Artagnan, I think."

"Yes," cried d'Artagnan, raising his voice in turn, "I am here,
my friend."

"Ah, good, then," replied Athos, "we will teach them, these door
breakers!"

The gentlemen had drawn their swords, but they found themselves
taken between two fires. They still hesitated an instant; but, as
before, pride prevailed, and a second kick split the door from
bottom to top.

"Stand on one side, d'Artagnan, stand on one side," cried Athos.
"I am going to fire!"

"Gentlemen," exclaimed d'Artagnan, whom reflection never
abandoned, "gentlemen, think of what you are about. Patience,
Athos! You are running your heads into a very silly affair; you
will be riddled. My lackey and I will have three shots at you,
and you will get as many from the cellar. You will then have out
swords, with which, I can assure you, my friend and I can play
tolerably well. Let me conduct your business and my own. You
shall soon have something to drink; I give you my word."

"If there is any left," grumbled the jeering voice of Athos.

The host felt a cold sweat creep down his back.

"How! 'If there is any left!'" murmured he.

"What the devil! There must be plenty left," replied d'Artagnan.
"Be satisfied of that; these two cannot have drunk all the
cellar. Gentlemen, return your swords to their scabbards."

"Well, provided you replace your pistols in your belt."

"Willingly."

And d'Artagnan set the example. Then, turning toward Planchet,
he made him a sign to uncock his musketoon.

The Englishmen, convinced of these peaceful proceedings, sheathed
their swords grumblingly. The history of Athos's imprisonment
was then related to them; and as they were really gentlemen, they
pronounced the host in the wrong.

"Now, gentlemen," said d'Artagnan, "go up to your room again; and
in ten minutes, I will answer for it, you shall have all you
desire."

The Englishmen bowed and went upstairs.

"Now I am alone, my dear Athos," said d'Artagnan; "open the door,
I beg of you."

"Instantly," said Athos.

Then was heard a great noise of fagots being removed and of the
groaning of posts; these were the counterscarps and bastions of
Athos, which the besieged himself demolished.

An instant after, the broken door was removed, and the pale face
of Athos appeared, who with a rapid glance took a survey of the
surroundings.

D'Artagnan threw himself on his neck and embraced him tenderly.
He then tried to draw him from his moist abode, but to his
surprise he perceived that Athos staggered.

"You are wounded," said he.

"I! Not at all. I am dead drunk, that's all, and never did a
man more strongly set about getting so. By the Lord, my good
host! I must at least have drunk for my part a hundred and fifty
bottles."

"Mercy!" cried the host, "if the lackey has drunk only half as
much as the master, I am a ruined man."

"Grimaud is a well-bred lackey. He would never think of faring
in the same manner as his master; he only drank from the cask.
Hark! I don't think he put the faucet in again. Do you hear it?
It is running now."

D'Artagnan burst into a laugh which changed the shiver of the
host into a burning fever.

In the meantime, Grimaud appeared in his turn behind his master,
with the musketoon on his shoulder, and his head shaking. Like
one of those drunken satyrs in the pictures of Rubens. He was
moistened before and behind with a greasy liquid which the host
recognized as his best olive oil.

The four crossed the public room and proceeded to take possession
of the best apartment in the house, which d'Artagnan occupied
with authority.

In the meantime the host and his wife hurried down with lamps
into the cellar, which had so long been interdicted to them and
where a frightful spectacle awaited them.

Beyond the fortifications through which Athos had made a breach
in order to get out, and which were composed of fagots, planks,
and empty casks, heaped up according to all the rules of the
strategic art, they found, swimming in puddles of oil and wine,
the bones and fragments of all the hams they had eaten; while a
heap of broken bottles filled the whole left-hand corner of the
cellar, and a tun, the cock of which was left running, was
yielding, by this means, the last drop of its blood. "The image
of devastation and death," as the ancient poet says, "reigned as
over a field of battle."

Of fifty large sausages, suspended from the joists, scarcely ten
remained.

Then the lamentations of the host and hostess pierced the vault
of the cellar. D'Artagnan himself was moved by them. Athos did
not even turn his head.

To grief succeeded rage. The host armed himself with a spit, and
rushed into the chamber occupied by the two friends.

"Some wine!" said Athos, on perceiving the host.

"Some wine!" cried the stupefied host, "some wine? Why you have
drunk more than a hundred pistoles' worth! I am a ruined man,
lost, destroyed!"

"Bah," said Athos, "we were always dry."

"If you had been contented with drinking, well and good; but you
have broken all the bottles."

"You pushed me upon a heap which rolled down. That was your
fault."

"All my oil is lost!"

"Oil is a sovereign balm for wounds; and my poor Grimaud here was
obliged to dress those you had inflicted on him."

"All my sausages are gnawed!"

"There is an enormous quantity of rats in that cellar."

"You shall pay me for all this," cried the exasperated host.

"Triple ass!" said Athos, rising; but he sank down again
immediately. He had tried his strength to the utmost.
d'Artagnan came to his relief with his whip in his hand.

The host drew back and burst into tears.

"This will teach you," said d'Artagnan, "to treat the guests God
sends you in a more courteous fashion."

"God? Say the devil!"

"My dear friend," said d'Artagnan, "if you annoy us in this
manner we will all four go and shut ourselves up in your cellar,
and we will see if the mischief is as great as you say."

"Oh, gentlemen," said the host, "I have been wrong. I confess
it, but pardon to every sin! You are gentlemen, and I am a poor
innkeeper. You will have pity on me."

"Ah, if you speak in that way," said Athos, "you will break my
heart, and the tears will flow from my eyes as the wine flowed
from the cask. We are not such devils as we appear to be. Come
hither, and let us talk."

The host approached with hesitation.

"Come hither, I say, and don't be afraid," continued Athos. "At
the very moment when I was about to pay you, I had placed my
purse on the table."

"Yes, monsieur."

"That purse contained sixty pistoles; where is it?"

"Deposited with the justice; they said it was bad money."

"Very well; get me my purse back and keep the sixty pistoles."

"But Monseigneur knows very well that justice never lets go that
which it once lays hold of. If it were bad money, there might be
some hopes; but unfortunately, those were all good pieces."

"Manage the matter as well as you can, my good man; it does not
concern me, the more so as I have not a livre left."

"Come," said d'Artagnan, "let us inquire further. Athos's horse,
where is that?"

"In the stable."

"How much is it worth?"

"Fifty pistoles at most."

"It's worth eighty. Take it, and there ends the matter."

"What," cried Athos, "are you selling my horse--my Bajazet? And
pray upon what shall I make my campaign; upon Grimaud?"

"I have brought you another," said d'Artagnan.

"Another?"

"And a magnificent one!" cried the host.

"Well, since there is another finer and younger, why, you may
take the old one; and let us drink."

"What?" asked the host, quite cheerful again.

"Some of that at the bottom, near the laths. There are twenty-
five bottles of it left; all the rest were broken by my fall.
Bring six of them."

"Why, this man is a cask!" said the host, aside. "If he only
remains here a fortnight, and pays for what he drinks, I shall
soon re-establish my business."

"And don't forget," said d'Artagnan, "to bring up four bottles of
the same sort for the two English gentlemen."

"And now," said Athos, "while they bring the wine, tell me,
d'Artagnan, what has become of the others, come!"

D'Artagnan related how he had found Porthos in bed with a
strained knee, and Aramis at a table between two theologians. As
he finished, the host entered with the wine ordered and a ham
which, fortunately for him, had been left out of the cellar.

"That's well!" said Athos, filling his glass and that of his
friend; "here's to Porthos and Aramis! But you, d'Artagnan, what
is the matter with you, and what has happened to you personally?
You have a sad air."

"Alas," said d'Artagnan, "it is because I am the most
unfortunate."

"Tell me."

"Presently," said d'Artagnan.

"Presently! And why presently? Because you think I am drunk?
d'Artagnan, remember this! My ideas are never so clear as when I
have had plenty of wine. Speak, then, I am all ears."

D'Artagnan related his adventure with Mme. Bonacieux. Athos
listened to him without a frown; and when he had finished, said,
"Trifles, only trifles!" That was his favorite word.

"You always say TRIFLES, my dear Athos!" said d'Artagnan, "and
that come very ill from you, who have never loved."

The drink-deadened eye of Athos flashed out, but only for a
moment; it became as dull and vacant as before.

"That's true," said he, quietly, "for my part I have never
loved."

"Acknowledge, then, you stony heart," said d'Artagnan, "that you
are wrong to be so hard upon us tender hearts."

"Tender hearts! Pierced hearts!" said Athos.

"What do you say?"

"I say that love is a lottery in which he who wins, wins death!
You are very fortunate to have lost, believe me, my dear
d'Artagnan. And if I have any counsel to give, it is, always
lose!"

"She seemed to love me so!"

"She SEEMED, did she?"

"Oh, she DID love me!"

"You child, why, there is not a man who has not believed, as you
do, that his mistress loved him, and there lives not a man who
has not been deceived by his mistress."

"Except you, Athos, who never had one."

"That's true," said Athos, after a moment's silence, "that's
true! I never had one! Let us drink!"

"But then, philosopher that you are," said d'Artagnan, "instruct
me, support me. I stand in need of being taught and consoled."

"Consoled for what?"

"For my misfortune."

"Your misfortune is laughable," said Athos, shrugging his
shoulders; "I should like to know what you would say if I were to
relate to you a real tale of love!"

"Which has happened to you?"

"Or one of my friends, what matters?"

"Tell it, Athos, tell it."

"Better if I drink."

"Drink and relate, then."

"Not a bad idea!" said Athos, emptying and refilling his glass.
"The two things agree marvelously well."

"I am all attention," said d'Artagnan.

Athos collected himself, and in proportion as he did so,
d'Artagnan saw that he became pale. He was at that period of
intoxication in which vulgar drinkers fall on the floor and go to
sleep. He kept himself upright and dreamed, without sleeping.
This somnambulism of drunkenness had something frightful in it.

"You particularly wish it?" asked he.

"I pray for it," said d'Artagnan.

"Be it then as you desire. One of my friends--one of my friends,
please to observe, not myself," said Athos, interrupting himself
with a melancholy smile, "one of the counts of my province--that
is to say, of Berry--noble as a Dandolo or a Montmorency, at
twenty-five years of age fell in love with a girl of sixteen,
beautiful as fancy can paint. Through the ingenuousness of her
age beamed an ardent mind, not of the woman, but of the poet.
She did not please; she intoxicated. She lived in a small town
with her brother, who was a curate. Both had recently come into
the country. They came nobody knew whence; but when seeing her
so lovely and her brother so pious, nobody thought of asking
whence they came. They were said, however, to be of good
extraction. My friend, who was seigneur of the country, might
have seduced her, or taken her by force, at his will--for he was
master. Who would have come to the assistance of two strangers,
two unknown persons? Unfortunately he was an honorable man; he
married her. The fool! The ass! The idiot!"

"How so, if he love her?" asked d'Artagnan.

"Wait," said Athos. "He took her to his chateau, and made her
the first lady in the province; and in justice it must be allowed
that she supported her rank becomingly."

"Well?" asked d'Artagnan.

"Well, one day when she was hunting with her husband," continued
Athos, in a low voice, and speaking very quickly," she fell from
her horse and fainted. The count flew to her to help, and as she
appeared to be oppressed by her clothes, he ripped them open with
his poinard, and in so doing laid bare her shoulder.
d'Artagnan," said Athos, with a maniacal burst of laughter,
"guess what she had on her shoulder."

"How can I tell?" said d'Artagnan.

"A FLEUR-DE-LIS," said Athos. "She was branded."

Athos emptied at a single draught the glass he held in his hand.

"Horror!" cried d'Artagnan. "What do you tell me?"

"Truth, my friend. The angel was a demon; the poor young girl
had stolen the sacred vessels from a church."

"And what did the count do?"

"The count was of the highest nobility. He had on his estates
the rights of high and low tribunals. He tore the dress of the
countess to pieces; he tied her hands behind her, and hanged her
on a tree."

"Heavens, Athos, a murder?" cried d'Artagnan.

"No less," said Athos, as pale as a corpse. "But methinks I need
wine!" and he seized by the neck the last bottle that was left,
put it to his mouth, and emptied it at a single draught, as he
would have emptied an ordinary glass.

Then he let his head sink upon his two hands, while d'Artagnan
stood before him, stupefied.

"That has cured me of beautiful, poetical, and loving women,"
said Athos, after a considerable pause, raising his head, and
forgetting to continue the fiction of the count. "God grant you
as much! Let us drink."

"Then she is dead?" stammered d'Artagnan.

"PARBLEU!" said Athos. "But hold out your glass. Some ham, my
boy, or we can't drink."

"And her brother?" added d'Artagnan, timidly.

"Her brother?" replied Athos.

"Yes, the priest."

"Oh, I inquired after him for the purpose of hanging him
likewise; but he was beforehand with me, he had quit the curacy
the night before."

"Was it ever known who this miserable fellow was?"

"He was doubtless the first lover and accomplice of the fair
lady. A worthy man, who had pretended to be a curate for the
purpose of getting his mistress married, and securing her a
position. He has been hanged and quartered, I hope."

"My God, my God!" cried d'Artagnan, quite stunned by the relation
of this horrible adventure.

"Taste some of this ham, d'Artagnan; it is exquisite," said
Athos, cutting a slice, which he placed on the young man's plate.

"What a pity it is there were only four like this in the cellar.
I could have drunk fifty bottles more."

D'Artagnan could no longer endure this conversation, which had
made him bewildered. Allowing his head to sink upon his two
hands, he pretended to sleep.

"These young fellows can none of them drink," said Athos, looking
at him with pity, "and yet this is one of the best!"





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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