29. HUNTING FOR THE EQUIPMENTS
The most preoccupied of the four friends was certainly
d'Artagnan, although he, in his quality of Guardsman, would be
much more easily equipped than Messieurs the Musketeers, who were
all of high rank; but our Gascon cadet was, as may have been
observed, of a provident and almost avaricious character, and
with that (explain the contradiction) so vain as almost to rival
Porthos. To this preoccupation of his vanity, d'Artagnan at this
moment joined an uneasiness much less selfish. Notwithstanding
all his inquiries respecting Mme. Bonacieux, he could obtain no
intelligence of her. M. de Treville had spoken of her to the
queen. The queen was ignorant where the mercer's young wife was,
but had promised to have her sought for; but this promise was
very vague and did not at all reassure d'Artagnan.
Athos did not leave his chamber; he made up his mind not to take
a single step to equip himself.
"We have still fifteen days before us," said he to his friends.
"well, if at the end of a fortnight I have found nothing, or
rather if nothing has come to find me, as I, too good a
Catholic to kill myself with a pistol bullet, I will seek a good
quarrel with four of his Eminence's Guards or with eight
Englishmen, and I will fight until one of them has killed me,
which, considering the number, cannot fail to happen. It will
then be said of me that I died for the king; so that I shall have
performed my duty without the expense of an outfit."
Porthos continued to walk about with his hands behind him,
tossing his head and repeating, "I shall follow up on my idea."
Aramis, anxious and negligently dressed, said nothing.
It may be seen by these disastrous details that desolation
reigned in the community.
The lackeys on their part, like the coursers of Hippolytus,
shared the sadness of their masters. Mousqueton collected a
store of crusts; Bazin, who had always been inclined to devotion,
never quit the churches; Planchet watched the flight of flies;
and Grimaud, whom the general distress could not induce to break
the silence imposed by his master, heaved sighs enough to soften
The three friends--for, as we have said, Athos had sworn not to
stir a foot to equip himself--went out early in the morning, and
returned late at night. They wandered about the streets, looking
at the pavement a if to see whether the passengers had not left a
purse behind them. They might have been supposed to be following
tracks, so observant were they wherever they went. When they met
they looked desolately at one another, as much as to say, "Have
you found anything?"
However, as Porthos had first found an idea, and had thought of
it earnestly afterward, he was the first to act. He was a man of
execution, this worthy Porthos. D'Artagnan perceived him one day
walking toward the church of St. Leu, and followed him
instinctively. He entered, after having twisted his mustache and
elongated his imperial, which always announced on his part the
most triumphant resolutions. As d'Artagnan took some precautions
to conceal himself, Porthos believed he had not been seen.
d'Artagnan entered behind him. Porthos went and leaned against
the side of a pillar. D'Artagnan, still unperceived, supported
himself against the other side.
There happened to be a sermon, which made the church very full of
people. Porthos took advantage of this circumstance to ogle the
women. Thanks to the cares of Mousqueton, the exterior was far
from announcing the distress of the interior. His hat was a
little napless, his feather was a little faded, his gold lace was
a little tarnished, his laces were a trifle frayed; but in the
obscurity of the church these things were not seen, and Porthos
was still the handsome Porthos.
D'Artagnan observed, on the bench nearest to the pillar against
which Porthos leaned, a sort of ripe beauty, rather yellow and
rather dry, but erect and haughty under her black hood. The eyes
of Porthos were furtively cast upon this lady, and then roved
about at large over the nave.
On her side the lady, who from time to time blushed, darted with
the rapidity of lightning a glance toward the inconstant Porthos;
and then immediately the eyes of Porthos wandered anxiously. It
was plain that this mode of proceeding piqued the lady in the
black hood, for she bit her lips till they bled, scratched the
end of her nose, and could not sit still in her seat.
Porthos, seeing this, retwisted his mustache, elongated his
imperial a second time, and began to make signals to a beautiful
lady who was near the choir, and who not only was a beautiful
lady, but still further, no doubt, a great lady--for she had
behind her a Negro boy who had brought the cushion on which she
knelt, and a female servant who held the emblazoned bag in which
was placed the book from which she read the Mass.
The lady with the black hood followed through all their
wanderings the looks of Porthos, and perceived that they rested
upon the lady with the velvet cushion, the little Negro, and the
During this time Porthos played close. It was almost
imperceptible motions of his eyes, fingers placed upon the lips,
little assassinating smiles, which really did assassinate the
Then she cried, "Ahem!" under cover of the MEA CULPA, striking
her breast so vigorously that everybody, even the lady with the
red cushion, turned round toward her. Porthos paid no attention.
Nevertheless, he understood it all, but was deaf.
The lady with the red cushion produced a great effect--for she
was very handsome--upon the lady with he black hood, who saw in
her a rival really to be dreaded; a great effect upon Porthos,
who thought her much prettier than the lady with the black hood;
a great effect upon d'Artagnan, who recognized in her the lady of
Meung, of Calais, and of Dover, whom his persecutor, the man with
the scar, had saluted by the name of Milady.
D'Artagnan, without losing sight of the lady of the red cushion,
continued to watch the proceedings of Porthos, which amused him
greatly. He guessed that the lady of the black hood was the
procurator's wife of the Rue aux Ours, which was the more
probable from the church of St. Leu being not far from that
He guessed, likewise, by induction, that Porthos was taking his
revenge for the defeat of Chantilly, when the procurator's wife
had proved so refractory with respect to her purse.
Amid all this, d'Artagnan remarked also that not one countenance
responded to the gallantries of Porthos. There were only
chimeras and illusions; but for real love, for true jealousy, is
there any reality except illusions and chimeras?
The sermon over, the procurator's wife advanced toward the holy
font. Porthos went before her, and instead of a finger, dipped
his whole hand in. The procurator's wife smiled, thinking that
it was for her Porthos had put himself to this trouble; but she
was cruelly and promptly undeceived. When she was only about
three steps from him, he turned his head round, fixing his eyes
steadfastly upon the lady with the red cushion, who had risen and
was approaching, followed by her black boy and her woman.
When the lady of the red cushion came close to Porthos, Porthos
drew his dripping hand from the font. The fair worshipper
touched the great hand of Porthos with her delicate fingers,
smiled, made the sign of the cross, and left the church.
This was too much for the procurator's wife; she doubted not
there was an intrigue between this lady and Porthos. If she had
been a great lady she would have fainted; but as she was only a
procurator's wife, she contented herself saying to the Musketeer
with concentrated fury, "Eh, Monsieur Porthos, you don't offer me
any holy water?"
Porthos, at the sound of that voice, started like a man awakened
from a sleep of a hundred years.
"Ma-madame!" cried he; "is that you? How is your husband, our
dear Monsieur Coquenard? Is he still as stingy as ever? Where
can my eyes have been not to have seen you during the two hours
of the sermon?"
"I was within two paces of you, monsieur," replied the
procurator's wife; "but you did not perceive me because you had
no eyes but for the pretty lady to whom you just now gave the
Porthos pretended to be confused. "Ah," said he, "you have
"I must have been blind not to have seen."
"Yes," said Porthos, "that is a duchess of my acquaintance whom I
have great trouble to meet on account of the jealousy of her
husband, and who sent me word that she should come today to this
poor church, buried in this vile quarter, solely for the sake of
"Monsieur Porthos," said the procurator's wife, "will you have
the kindness to offer me your arm for five minutes? I have
something to say to you."
"Certainly, madame," said Porthos, winking to himself, as a
gambler does who laughs at the dupe he is about to pluck.
At that moment d'Artagnan passed in pursuit of Milady; he cast a
passing glance at Porthos, and beheld this triumphant look.
"Eh, eh!" said he, reasoning to himself according to the
strangely easy morality of that gallant period, "there is one who
will be equipped in good time!"
Porthos, yielding to the pressure of the arm of the procurator's
wife, as a bark yields to the rudder, arrived at the cloister St.
Magloire--a little-frequented passage, enclosed with a turnstile
at each end. In the daytime nobody was seen there but mendicants
devouring their crusts, and children at play.
"Ah, Monsieur Porthos," cried the procurator's wife, when she was
assured that no one who was a stranger to the population of the
locality could either see or hear her, "ah, Monsieur Porthos, you
are a great conqueror, as it appears!"
"I, madame?" said Porthos, drawing himself up proudly; "how so?"
"The signs just now, and the holy water! But that must be a
princess, at least--that lady with her Negro boy and her maid!"
"My God! Madame, you are deceived," said Porthos; "she is simply
"And that running footman who waited at the door, and that
carriage with a coachman in grand livery who sat waiting on his
Porthos had seen neither the footman nor the carriage, but with
he eye of a jealous woman, Mme. Coquenard had seen everything.
Porthos regretted that he had not at once made the lady of the
red cushion a princess.
"Ah, you are quite the pet of the ladies, Monsieur Porthos!"
resumed the procurator's wife, with a sigh.
"Well," responded Porthos, "you may imagine, with the physique
with which nature has endowed me, I am not in want of good luck."
"Good Lord, how quickly men forget!" cried the procurator's wife,
raising her eyes toward heaven.
"Less quickly than the women, it seems to me," replied Porthos;
"for I, madame, I may say I was your victim, when wounded, dying,
I was abandoned by the surgeons. I, the offspring of a noble
family, who placed reliance upon your friendship--I was near
dying of my wounds at first, and of hunger afterward, in a
beggarly inn at Chantilly, without you ever deigning once to
reply to the burning letters I addressed to you."
"But, Monsieur Porthos," murmured the procurator's wife, who
began to feel that, to judge by the conduct of the great ladies
of the time, she was wrong.
"I, who had sacrificed for you the Baronne de--"
"I know it well."
"The Comtesse de--"
"Monsieur Porthos, be generous!"
"You are right, madame, and I will not finish."
"But it was my husband who would not hear of lending."
"Madame Coquenard," said Porthos, "remember the first letter you
wrote me, and which I preserve engraved in my memory."
The procurator's wife uttered a groan.
"Besides," said she, "the sum you required me to borrow was
"Madame Coquenard, I gave you the preference. I had but to write
to the Duchesse--but I won't repeat her name, for I am incapable
of compromising a woman; but this I know, that I had but to write
to her and she would have sent me fifteen hundred."
The procurator's wife shed a tear.
"Monsieur Porthos," said she, "I can assure you that you have
severely punished me; and if in the time to come you should find
yourself in a similar situation, you have but to apply to me."
"Fie, madame, fie!" said Porthos, as if disgusted. "Let us not
talk about money, if you please; it is humiliating."
"Then you no longer love me!" said the procurator's wife, slowly
Porthos maintained a majestic silence.
"And that is the only reply you make? Alas, I understand."
"Think of the offense you have committed toward me, madame! It
remains HERE!" said Porthos, placing his hand on his heart, and
pressing it strongly.
"I will repair it, indeed I will, my dear Porthos."
"Besides, what did I ask of you?" resumed Porthos, with a
movement of the shoulders full of good fellowship. "A loan,
nothing more! After all, I am not an unreasonable man. I know
you are not rich, Madame Coquenard, and that your husband is
obliged to bleed his poor clients to squeeze a few paltry crowns
from them. Oh! If you were a duchess, a marchioness, or a
countess, it would be quite a different thing; it would be
The procurator's wife was piqued.
"Please to know, Monsieur Porthos," said she, "that my strongbox,
the strongbox of a procurator's wife though if may be, is better
filled than those of your affected minxes."
"The doubles the offense," said Porthos, disengaging his arm from
that of the procurator's wife; "for if you are rich, Madame
Coquenard, then there is no excuse for your refusal."
"When I said rich," replied the procurator's wife, who saw that
she had gone too far, "you must not take the word literally. I
am not precisely rich, though I am pretty well off."
"Hold, madame," said Porthos, "let us say no more upon the
subject, I beg of you. You have misunderstood me, all sympathy
is extinct between us."
"Ingrate that you are!"
"Ah! I advise you to complain!" said Porthos.
"Begone, then, to your beautiful duchess; I will detain you no
"And she is not to be despised, in my opinion."
"Now, Monsieur Porthos, once more, and this is the last! Do you
love me still?"
"Ah, madame," said Porthos, in the most melancholy tone he could
assume, "when we are about to enter upon a campaign--a campaign,
in which my presentiments tell me I shall be killed--"
"Oh, don't talk of such things!" cried the procurator's wife,
bursting into tears.
"Something whispers me so," continued Porthos, becoming more and
"Rather say that you have a new love."
"Not so; I speak frankly to you. No object affects me; and I
even feel here, at the bottom of my heart, something which speaks
for you. But in fifteen days, as you know, or as you do not
know, this fatal campaign is to open. I shall be fearfully
preoccupied with my outfit. Then I must make a journey to see my
family, in the lower part of Brittany, to obtain the sum
necessary for my departure."
Porthos observed a last struggle between love and avarice.
"And as," continued he, "the duchess whom you saw at the church
has estates near to those of my family, we mean to make the
journey together. Journeys, you know, appear much shorter when
we travel two in company."
"Have you no friends in Paris, then, Monsieur Porthos?" said the
"I thought I had," said Porthos, resuming his melancholy air;
"but I have been taught my mistake."
"You have some!" cried the procurator's wife, in a transport that
surprised even herself. "Come to our house tomorrow. You are
the son of my aunt, consequently my cousin; you come from Noyon,
in Picardy; you have several lawsuits and no attorney. Can you
recollect all that?"
"Cone at dinnertime."
"And be upon your guard before my husband, who is rather shrewd,
notwithstanding his seventy-six years."
"Seventy-six years! PESTE! That's a fine age!" replied Porthos.
"A great age, you mean, Monsieur Porthos. Yes, the poor man may
be expected to leave me a widow, any hour," continued she,
throwing a significant glance at Porthos. "Fortunately, by our
marriage contract, the survivor takes everything."
"You are a woman of precaution, I see, my dear Madame Coquenard,"
said Porthos, squeezing the hand of the procurator's wife
"We are then reconciled, dear Monsieur Porthos?" said she,
"For life," replied Porthos, in the same manner.
"Till we meet again, then, dear traitor!"
"Till we meet again, my forgetful charmer!"
"Tomorrow, my angel!"
"Tomorrow, flame of my life!"