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However brilliant had been the part played by Porthos in the
duel, it had not made him forget the dinner of the
procurator's wife.

On the morrow he received the last touches of Mousqueton's
brush for an hour, and took his way toward the Rue aux Ours
with the steps of a man who was doubly in favor with

His heart beat, but not like d'Artagnan's with a young and
impatient love. No; a more material interest stirred his
blood. He was about at last to pass that mysterious
threshold, to climb those unknown stairs by which, one by
one, the old crowns of M. Coquenard had ascended. He was
about to see in reality a certain coffer of which he had
twenty times beheld the image in his dreams--a coffer long
and deep, locked, bolted, fastened in the wall; a coffer of
which he had so often heard, and which the hands--a little
wrinkled, it is true, but still not without elegance--of the
procurator's wife were about to open to his admiring looks.

And then he--a wanderer on the earth, a man without fortune,
a man without family, a soldier accustomed to inns,
cabarets, taverns, and restaurants, a lover of wine forced
to depend upon chance treats--was about to partake of family
meals, to enjoy the pleasures of a comfortable
establishment, and to give himself up to those little
attentions which "the harder one is, the more they please,"
as old soldiers say.

To come in the capacity of a cousin, and seat himself every
day at a good table; to smooth the yellow, wrinkled brow of
the old procurator; to pluck the clerks a little by teaching
them BASSETTE, PASSE-DIX, and LANSQUENET, in their utmost
nicety, and winning from them, by way of fee for the lesson
he would give them in an hour, their savings of a month--all
this was enormously delightful to Porthos.

The Musketeer could not forget the evil reports which then
prevailed, and which indeed have survived them, of the
procurators of the period--meanness, stinginess, fasts; but
as, after all, excepting some few acts of economy which
Porthos had always found very unseasonable, the procurator's
wife had been tolerably liberal--that is, be it understood,
for a procurator's wife--he hoped to see a household of a
highly comfortable kind.

And yet, at the very door the Musketeer began to entertain
some doubts. The approach was not such as to prepossess
people--an ill-smelling, dark passage, a staircase half-
lighted by bars through which stole a glimmer from a
neighboring yard; on the first floor a low door studded with
enormous nails, like the principal gate of the Grand

Porthos knocked with his hand. A tall, pale clerk, his face
shaded by a forest of virgin hair, opened the door, and
bowed with the air of a man forced at once to respect in
another lofty stature, which indicated strength, the
military dress, which indicated rank, and a ruddy
countenance, which indicated familiarity with good living.

A shorter clerk came behind the first, a taller clerk behind
the second, a stripling of a dozen years rising behind the
third. In all, three clerks and a half, which, for the
time, argued a very extensive clientage.

Although the Musketeer was not expected before one o'clock,
the procurator's wife had been on the watch ever since
midday, reckoning that the heart, or perhaps the stomach, of
her lover would bring him before his time.

Mme. Coquenard therefore entered the office from the house
at the same moment her guest entered from the stairs, and
the appearance of the worthy lady relieved him from an
awkward embarrassment. The clerks surveyed him with great
curiosity, and he, not knowing well what to say to this
ascending and descending scale, remained tongue-tied.

"It is my cousin!" cried the procurator's wife. "Come in,
come in, Monsieur Porthos!"

The name of Porthos produced its effect upon the clerks, who
began to laugh; but Porthos turned sharply round, and every
countenance quickly recovered its gravity.

They reached the office of the procurator after having
passed through the antechamber in which the clerks were, and
the study in which they ought to have been. This last
apartment was a sort of dark room, littered with papers. On
quitting the study they left the kitchen on the right, and
entered the reception room.

All these rooms, which communicated with one another, did
not inspire Porthos favorably. Words might be heard at a
distance through all these open doors. Then, while passing,
he had cast a rapid, investigating glance into the kitchen;
and he was obliged to confess to himself, to the shame of
the procurator's wife and his own regret, that he did not
see that fire, that animation, that bustle, which when a
good repast is on foot prevails generally in that sanctuary
of good living.

The procurator had without doubt been warned of his visit,
as he expressed no surprise at the sight of Porthos, who
advanced toward him with a sufficiently easy air, and
saluted him courteously.

"We are cousins, it appears, Monsieur Porthos?" said the
procurator, rising, yet supporting his weight upon the arms
of his cane chair.

The old man, wrapped in a large black doublet, in which the
whole of his slender body was concealed, was brisk and dry.
His little gray eyes shone like carbuncles, and appeared,
with his grinning mouth, to be the only part of his face in
which life survived. Unfortunately the legs began to refuse
their service to this bony machine. During the last five or
six months that this weakness had been felt, the worthy
procurator had nearly become the slave of his wife.

The cousin was received with resignation, that was all. M.
Coquenard, firm upon his legs, would have declined all
relationship with M. Porthos.

"Yes, monsieur, we are cousins," said Porthos, without being
disconcerted, as he had never reckoned upon being received
enthusiastically by the husband.

"By the female side, I believe?" said the procurator,

Porthos did not feel the ridicule of this, and took it for a
piece of simplicity, at which he laughed in his large
mustache. Mme. Coquenard, who knew that a simple-minded
procurator was a very rare variety in the species, smiled a
little, and colored a great deal.

M. Coquenard had, since the arrival of Porthos, frequently
cast his eyes with great uneasiness upon a large chest
placed in front of his oak desk. Porthos comprehended that
this chest, although it did not correspond in shape with
that which he had seen in his dreams, must be the blessed
coffer, and he congratulated himself that the reality was
several feet higher than the dream.

M. Coquenard did not carry his genealogical investigations
any further; but withdrawing his anxious look from the chest
and fixing it upon Porthos, he contented himself with saying,
"Monsieur our cousin will do us the favor of dining with us
once before his departure for the campaign, will he not,
Madame Coquenard?"

This time Porthos received the blow right in his stomach,
and felt it. It appeared likewise that Mme. Coquenard was
not less affected by it on her part, for she added, "My
cousin will not return if he finds that we do not treat him
kindly; but otherwise he has so little time to pass in Paris,
and consequently to spare to us, that we must entreat him to
give us every instant he can call his own previous to his

"Oh, my legs, my poor legs! where are you?" murmured
Coquenard, and he tried to smile.

This succor, which came to Porthos at the moment in which he
was attacked in his gastronomic hopes, inspired much
gratitude in the Musketeer toward the procurator's wife.

The hour of dinner soon arrived. They passed into the eating
room--a large dark room situated opposite the kitchen.

The clerks, who, as it appeared, had smelled unusual perfumes
in the house, were of military punctuality, and held their
stools in hand quite ready to sit down. Their jaws moved
preliminarily with fearful threatenings.

"Indeed!" thought Porthos, casting a glance at the three hungry
clerks--for the errand boy, as might be expected, was not
admitted to the honors of the magisterial table, "in my
cousin's place, I would not keep such gourmands! They look
like shipwrecked sailors who have not eaten for six weeks."

M. Coquenard entered, pushed along upon his armchair with
casters by Mme. Coquenard, whom Porthos assisted in rolling
her husband up to the table. He had scarcely entered when
he began to agitate his nose and his jaws after the example
of his clerks.

"Oh, oh!" said he; "here is a soup which is rather

"What the devil can they smell so extraordinary in this
soup?" said Porthos, at the sight of a pale liquid, abundant
but entirely free from meat, on the surface of which a few
crusts swam about as rare as the islands of an archipelago.

Mme. Coquenard smiled, and upon a sign from her everyone
eagerly took his seat.

M. Coquenard was served first, then Porthos. Afterward Mme.
Coquenard filled her own plate, and distributed the crusts
without soup to the impatient clerks. At this moment the
door of the dining room unclosed with a creak, and Porthos
perceived through the half-open flap the little clerk who,
not being allowed to take part in the feast, ate his dry
bread in the passage with the double odor of the dining room
and kitchen.

After the soup the maid brought a boiled fowl--a piece of
magnificence which caused the eyes of the diners to dilate
in such a manner that they seemed ready to burst.

"One may see that you love your family, Madame Coquenard,"
said the procurator, with a smile that was almost tragic.
"You are certainly treating your cousin very handsomely!"

The poor fowl was thin, and covered with one of those thick,
bristly skins through which the teeth cannot penetrate with
all their efforts. The fowl must have been sought for a
long time on the perch, to which it had retired to die of
old age.

"The devil!" thought Porthos, "this is poor work. I respect
old age, but I don't much like it boiled or roasted."

And he looked round to see if anybody partook of his
opinion; but on the contrary, he saw nothing but eager eyes
which were devouring, in anticipation, that sublime fowl
which was the object of his contempt.

Mme. Coquenard drew the dish toward her, skillfully detached
the two great black feet, which she placed upon her
husband's plate, cut off the neck, which with the head she
put on one side for herself, raised the wing for Porthos,
and then returned the bird otherwise intact to the servant
who had brought it in, who disappeared with it before the
Musketeer had time to examine the variations which
disappointment produces upon faces, according to the
characters and temperaments of those who experience it.

In the place of the fowl a dish of haricot beans made its
appearance--an enormous dish in which some bones of mutton
that at first sight one might have believed to have some
meat on them pretended to show themselves.

But the clerks were not the dupes of this deceit, and their
lugubrious looks settled down into resigned countenances.

Mme. Coquenard distributed this dish to the young men with
the moderation of a good housewife.

The time for wine came. M. Coquenard poured from a very
small stone bottle the third of a glass for each of the
young men, served himself in about the same proportion, and
passed the bottle to Porthos and Mme. Coquenard.

The young men filled up their third of a glass with water;
then, when they had drunk half the glass, they filled it up
again, and continued to do so. This brought them, by the
end of the repast, to swallowing a drink which from the
color of the ruby had passed to that of a pale topaz.

Porthos ate his wing of the fowl timidly, and shuddered when
he felt the knee of the procurator's wife under the table,
as it came in search of his. He also drank half a glass of
this sparingly served wine, and found it to be nothing but
that horrible Montreuil--the terror of all expert palates.

M. Coquenard saw him swallowing this wine undiluted, and
sighed deeply.

"Will you eat any of these beans, Cousin Porthos?" said Mme.
Coquenard, in that tone which says, "Take my advice, don't
touch them."

"Devil take me if I taste one of them!" murmured Porthos to
himself, and then said aloud, "Thank you, my cousin, I am no
longer hungry."

There was silence. Porthos could hardly keep his

The procurator repeated several times, "Ah, Madame
Coquenard! Accept my compliments; your dinner has been a
real feast. Lord, how I have eaten!"

M. Coquenard had eaten his soup, the black feet of the fowl,
and the only mutton bone on which there was the least
appearance of meat.

Porthos fancied they were mystifying him, and began to curl
his mustache and knit his eyebrows; but the knee of Mme.
Coquenard gently advised him to be patient.

This silence and this interruption in serving, which were
unintelligible to Porthos, had, on the contrary, a terrible
meaning for the clerks. Upon a look from the procurator,
accompanied by a smile from Mme. Coquenard, they arose
slowly from the table, folded their napkins more slowly
still, bowed, and retired.

"Go, young men! go and promote digestion by working," said
the procurator, gravely.

The clerks gone, Mme. Coquenard rose and took from a buffet
a piece of cheese, some preserved quinces, and a cake which
she had herself made of almonds and honey.

M. Coquenard knit his eyebrows because there were too many
good things. Porthos bit his lips because he saw not the
wherewithal to dine. He looked to see if the dish of beans
was still there; the dish of beans had disappeared.

"A positive feast!" cried M. Coquenard, turning about in his
chair, "a real feast, EPULCE EPULORUM. Lucullus dines with

Porthos looked at the bottle, which was near him, and hoped
that with wine, bread, and cheese, he might make a dinner;
but wine was wanting, the bottle was empty. M. and Mme.
Coquenard did not seem to observe it.

"This is fine!" said Porthos to himself; "I am prettily

He passed his tongue over a spoonful of preserves, and stuck
his teeth into the sticky pastry of Mme. Coquenard.

"Now," said he, "the sacrifice is consummated! Ah! if I had
not the hope of peeping with Madame Coquenard into her
husband's chest!"

M. Coquenard, after the luxuries of such a repast, which he
called an excess, felt the want of a siesta. Porthos began
to hope that the thing would take place at the present
sitting, and in that same locality; but the procurator would
listen to nothing, he would be taken to his room, and was
not satisfied till he was close to his chest, upon the edge
of which, for still greater precaution, he placed his feet.

The procurator's wife took Porthos into an adjoining room,
and they began to lay the basis of a reconciliation.

"You can come and dine three times a week," said Mme.

"Thanks, madame!" said Porthos, "but I don't like to abuse
your kindness; besides, I must think of my outfit!"

"That's true," said the procurator's wife, groaning, "that
unfortunate outfit!"

"Alas, yes," said Porthos, "it is so."

"But of what, then, does the equipment of your company
consist, Monsieur Porthos?"

"Oh, of many things!" said Porthos. "The Musketeers are, as
you know, picked soldiers, and they require many things
useless to the Guardsmen or the Swiss."

"But yet, detail them to me."

"Why, they may amount to--", said Porthos, who preferred
discussing the total to taking them one by one.

The procurator's wife waited tremblingly.

"To how much?" said she. "I hope it does not exceed--" She
stopped; speech failed her.

"Oh, no," said Porthos, "it does not exceed two thousand
five hundred livres! I even think that with economy I could
manage it with two thousand livres."

"Good God!" cried she, "two thousand livres! Why, that is a

Porthos made a most significant grimace; Mme. Coquenard
understood it.

"I wished to know the detail," said she, "because, having
many relatives in business, I was almost sure of obtaining
things at a hundred per cent less than you would pay

"Ah, ah!" said Porthos, "that is what you meant to say!"

"Yes, dear Monsieur Porthos. Thus, for instance, don't you
in the first place want a horse?"

"Yes, a horse."

"Well, then! I can just suit you."

"Ah!" said Porthos, brightening, "that's well as regards my
horse; but I must have the appointments complete, as they
include objects which a Musketeer alone can purchase, and
which will not amount, besides, to more than three hundred

"Three hundred livres? Then put down three hundred livres,"
said the procurator's wife, with a sigh.

Porthos smiled. It may be remembered that he had the saddle
which came from Buckingham. These three hundred livres he
reckoned upon putting snugly into his pocket.

"Then," continued he, "there is a horse for my lackey, and
my valise. As to my arms, it is useless to trouble you
about them; I have them."

"A horse for your lackey?" resumed the procurator's wife,
hesitatingly; "but that is doing things in lordly style, my

"Ah, madame!" said Porthos, haughtily; "do you take me for a

"No; I only thought that a pretty mule makes sometimes as
good an appearance as a horse, and it seemed to me that by
getting a pretty mule for Mousqueton--"

"Well, agreed for a pretty mule," said Porthos; "you are
right, I have seen very great Spanish nobles whose whole
suite were mounted on mules. But then you understand,
Madame Coquenard, a mule with feathers and bells."

"Be satisfied," said the procurator's wife.

"There remains the valise," added Porthos.

"Oh, don't let that disturb you," cried Mme. Coquenard. "My
husband has five or six valises; you shall choose the best.
There is one in particular which he prefers in his journeys,
large enough to hold all the world."

"Your valise is then empty?" asked Porthos, with simplicity.

"Certainly it is empty," replied the procurator's wife, in
real innocence.

"Ah, but the valise I want," cried Porthos, "is a well-
filled one, my dear."

Madame uttered fresh sighs. Moliere had not written his
scene in "L'Avare" then. Mme. Coquenard was in the dilemma
of Harpagan.

Finally, the rest of the equipment was successively debated
in the same manner; and the result of the sitting was that
the procurator's wife should give eight hundred livres in
money, and should furnish the horse and the mule which
should have the honor of carrying Porthos and Mousqueton to

These conditions being agreed to, Porthos took leave of Mme.
Coquenard. The latter wished to detain him by darting
certain tender glances; but Porthos urged the commands of
duty, and the procurator's wife was obliged to give place to
the king.

The Musketeer returned home hungry and in bad humor.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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