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4. THE SHOULDER OF ATHOS, THE BALDRIC OF PORTHOS AND THE
HANDKERCHIEF OF ARAMIS

D'Artagnan, in a state of fury, crossed the antechamber at three
bounds, and was darting toward the stairs, which he reckoned upon
descending four at a time, when, in his heedless course, he ran
head foremost against a Musketeer who was coming out of one of M.
de Treville's private rooms, and striking his shoulder violently,
made him utter a cry, or rather a howl.

"Excuse me," said d'Artagnan, endeavoring to resume his course,
"excuse me, but I am in a hurry."

Scarcely had he descended the first stair, when a hand of iron
seized him by the belt and stopped him.

"You are in a hurry?" said the Musketeer, as pale as a sheet.
"Under that pretense you run against me! You say. 'Excuse me,'
and you believe that is sufficient? Not at all my young man. Do
you fancy because you have heard Monsieur de Treville speak to us
a little cavalierly today that other people are to treat us as he
speaks to us? Undeceive yourself, comrade, you are not Monsieur
de Treville."

"My faith!" replied d'Artagnan, recognizing Athos, who, after the
dressing performed by the doctor, was returning to his own
apartment. "I did not do it intentionally, and not doing it
intentionally, I said 'Excuse me.' It appears to me that this is
quite enough. I repeat to you, however, and this time on my word
of honor--I think perhaps too often--that I am in haste, great
haste. Leave your hold, then, I beg of you, and let me go where
my business calls me."

"Monsieur," said Athos, letting him go, "you are not polite; it
is easy to perceive that you come from a distance."

D'Artagnan had already strode down three or four stairs, but at
Athos's last remark he stopped short.

"MORBLEU, monsieur!" said he, "however far I may come, it is not
you who can give me a lesson in good manners, I warn you."

"Perhaps," said Athos.

"Ah! If I were not in such haste, and if I were not running
after someone," said d'Artagnan.

"Monsieur Man-in-a-hurry, you can find me without running--ME,
you understand?"

"And where, I pray you?"

"Near the Carmes-Deschaux."

"At what hour?"

"About noon."

"About noon? That will do; I will be there."

"Endeavor not to make me wait; for at quarter past twelve I will
cut off your ears as you run."

"Good!" cried d'Artagnan, "I will be there ten minutes before
twelve." And he set off running as if the devil possessed him,
hoping that he might yet find the stranger, whose slow pace could
not have carried him far.

But at the street gate, Porthos was talking with the soldier on
guard. Between the two talkers there was just enough room for a
man to pass. D'Artagnan thought it would suffice for him, and he
sprang forward like a dart between them. But d'Artagnan had
reckoned without the wind. As he was about to pass, the wind
blew out Porthos's long cloak, and d'Artagnan rushed straight
into the middle of it. Without doubt, Porthos had reasons for
not abandoning this part of his vestments, for instead of
quitting his hold on the flap in his hand, he pulled it toward
him, so that d'Artagnan rolled himself up in the velvet by a
movement of rotation explained by the persistency of Porthos.

D'Artagnan, hearing the Musketeer swear, wished to escape from
the cloak, which blinded him, and sought to find his way from
under the folds of it. He was particularly anxious to avoid
marring the freshness of the magnificent baldric we are
acquainted with; but on timidly opening his eyes, he found
himself with his nose fixed between the two shoulders of
Porthos--that is to say, exactly upon the baldric.

Alas, like most things in this world which have nothing in their
favor but appearances, the baldric was glittering with gold in
the front, but was nothing but simple buff behind. Vainglorious
as he was, Porthos could not afford to have a baldric wholly of
gold, but had at least half. One could comprehend the necessity
of the cold and the urgency of the cloak.

"Bless me!" cried Porthos, making strong efforts to disembarrass
himself of d'Artagnan, who was wriggling about his back; "you
must be mad to run against people in this manner."

"Excuse me," said d'Artagnan, reappearing under the shoulder of
the giant, "but I am in such haste--I was running after someone
and--"

"And do you always forget your eyes when you run?" asked Porthos.

"No," replied d'Artagnan, piqued, "and thanks to my eyes, I can
see what other people cannot see."

Whether Porthos understood him or did not understand him, giving
way to his anger, "Monsieur," said he, "you stand a chance of
getting chastised if you rub Musketeers in this fashion."

"Chastised, Monsieur!" said d'Artagnan, "the expression is
strong."

"It is one that becomes a man accustomed to look his enemies in
the face."

"Ah, PARDIEU! I know full well that you don't turn your back to
yours."

And the young man, delighted with his joke, went away laughing
loudly.

Porthos foamed with rage, and made a movement to rush after
d'Artagnan.

"Presently, presently," cried the latter, "when you haven't your
cloak on."

"At one o'clock, then, behind the Luxembourg."

"Very well, at one o'clock, then," replied d'Artagnan, turning
the angle of the street.

But neither in the street he had passed through, nor in the one
which his eager glance pervaded, could he see anyone; however
slowly the stranger had walked, he was gone on his way, or
perhaps had entered some house. D'Artagnan inquired of everyone
he met with, went down to the ferry, came up again by the Rue de
Seine, and the Red Cross; but nothing, absolutely nothing! This
chase was, however, advantageous to him in one sense, for in
proportion as the perspiration broke from his forehead, his heart
began to cool.

He began to reflect upon the events that had passed; they were
numerous and inauspicious. It was scarcely eleven o'clock in the
morning, and yet this morning had already brought him into
disgrace with M. de Treville, who could not fail to think the
manner in which d'Artagnan had left him a little cavalier.

Besides this, he had drawn upon himself two good duels with two
men, each capable of killing three d'Artagnans-with two
Musketeers, in short, with two of those beings whom he esteemed
so greatly that he placed them in his mind and heart above all
other men.

The outlook was sad. Sure of being killed by Athos, it may
easily be understood that the young man was not very uneasy about
Porthos. As hope, however, is the last thing extinguished in the
heart of man, he finished by hoping that he might survive, even
though with terrible wounds, in both these duels; and in case of
surviving, he made the following reprehensions upon his own
conduct:

"What a madcap I was, and what a stupid fellow I am! That brave
and unfortunate Athos was wounded on that very shoulder against
which I must run head foremost, like a ram. The only thing that
astonishes me is that he did not strike me dead at once. He had
good cause to do so; the pain I gave him must have been
atrocious. As to Porthos--oh, as to Porthos, faith, that's a
droll affair!"

And in spite of himself, the young man began to laugh aloud,
looking round carefully, however, to see that his solitary laugh,
without a cause in the eyes of passers-by, offended no one.

"As to Porthos, that is certainly droll; but I am not the less a
giddy fool. Are people to be run against without warning? No!
And have I any right to go and peep under their cloaks to see
what is not there? He would have pardoned me, he would certainly
have pardoned me, if I had not said anything to him about that
cursed baldric--in ambiguous words, it is true, but rather drolly
ambiguous. Ah, cursed Gascon that I am, I get from one hobble
into another. Friend d'Artagnan," continued he, speaking to
himself with all the amenity that he thought due himself, "if you
escape, of which there is not much chance, I would advise you to
practice perfect politeness for the future. You must henceforth
be admired and quoted as a model of it. To be obliging and
polite does not necessarily make a man a coward. Look at Aramis,
now; Aramis is mildness and grace personified. Well, did anybody
ever dream of calling Aramis a coward? No, certainly not, and
from this moment I will endeavor to model myself after him. Ah!
That's strange! Here he is!"

D'Artagnan, walking and soliloquizing, had arrived within a few
steps of the hotel d'Arguillon and in front of that hotel
perceived Aramis, chatting gaily with three gentlemen; but as he
had not forgotten that it was in presence of this young man that
M. de Treville had been so angry in the morning, and as a witness
of the rebuke the Musketeers had received was not likely to be at
all agreeable, he pretended not to see him. D'Artagnan, on the
contrary, quite full of his plans of conciliation and courtesy,
approached the young men with a profound bow, accompanied by a
most gracious smile. All four, besides, immediately broke off
their conversation.

D'Artagnan was not so dull as not to perceive that he was one too
many; but he was not sufficiently broken into the fashions of the
gay world to know how to extricate himself gallantly from a false
position, like that of a man who begins to mingle with people he
is scarcely acquainted with and in a conversation that does not
concern him. He was seeking in his mind, then, for the least
awkward means of retreat, when he remarked that Aramis had let
his handkerchief fall, and by mistake, no doubt, had placed his
foot upon it. This appeared to be a favorable opportunity to
repair his intrusion. He stooped, and with the most gracious air
he could assume, drew the handkerchief from under the foot of the
Musketeer in spite of the efforts the latter made to detain it,
and holding it out to him, said, "I believe, monsieur, that this
is a handkerchief you would be sorry to lose?"

The handkerchief was indeed richly embroidered, and had a coronet
and arms at one of its corners. Aramis blushed excessively, and
snatched rather than took the handkerchief from the hand of the
Gascon.

"Ah, ah!" cried one of the Guards, "will you persist in saying,
most discreet Aramis, that you are not on good terms with Madame
de Bois-Tracy, when that gracious lady has the kindness to lend
you one of her handkerchiefs?"

Aramis darted at d'Artagnan one of those looks which inform a man
that he has acquired a mortal enemy. Then, resuming his mild
air, "You are deceived, gentlemen," said he, "this handkerchief
is not mine, and I cannot fancy why Monsieur has taken it into
his head to offer it to me rather than to one of you; and as a
proof of what I say, here is mine in my pocket."

So saying, he pulled out his own handkerchief, likewise a very
elegant handkerchief, and of fine cambric--though cambric was
dear at the period--but a handkerchief without embroidery and
without arms, only ornamented with a single cipher, that of its
proprietor.

This time d'Artagnan was not hasty. He perceived his mistake;
but the friends of Aramis were not at all convinced by his
denial, and one of them addressed the young Musketeer with
affected seriousness. "If it were as you pretend it is," said
he, "I should be forced, my dear Aramis, to reclaim it myself;
for, as you very well know, Bois-Tracy is an intimate friend of
mine, and I cannot allow the property of his wife to be sported
as a trophy."

"You make the demand badly," replied Aramis; "and while
acknowledging the justice of your reclamation, I refuse it on
account of the form."

"The fact is," hazarded d'Artagnan, timidly, "I did not see the
handkerchief fall from the pocket of Monsieur Aramis. He had his
foot upon it, that is all; and I thought from having his foot
upon it the handkerchief was his."

"And you were deceived, my dear sir," replied Aramis, coldly,
very little sensible to the reparation. Then turning toward that
one of the guards who had declared himself the friend of Bois-
Tracy, "Besides," continued he, "I have reflected, my dear
intimate of Bois-Tracy, that I am not less tenderly his friend
than you can possibly be; so that decidedly this handkerchief is
as likely to have fallen from your pocket as mine."

"No, upon my honor!" cried his Majesty's Guardsman.

"You are about to swear upon your honor and I upon my word, and
then it will be pretty evident that one of us will have lied.
Now, here, Montaran, we will do better than that--let each take a
half."

"Of the handkerchief?"

"Yes."

"Perfectly just," cried the other two Guardsmen, "the judgment of
King Solomon! Aramis, you certainly are full of wisdom!"

The young men burst into a laugh, and as may be supposed, the
affair had no other sequel. In a moment or two the conversation
ceased, and the three Guardsmen and the Musketeer, after having
cordially shaken hands, separated, the Guardsmen going one way
and Aramis another.

"Now is my time to make peace with this gallant man," said
d'Artagnan to himself, having stood on one side during the whole
of the latter part of the conversation; and with this good
feeling drawing near to Aramis, who was departing without paying
any attention to him, "Monsieur," said he, "you will excuse me, I
hope."

"Ah, monsieur," interrupted Aramis, "permit me to observe to you
that you have not acted in this affair as a gallant man ought."

"What, monsieur!" cried d'Artagnan, "and do you suppose--"

"I suppose, monsieur that you are not a fool, and that you knew
very well, although coming from Gascony, that people do not tread
upon handkerchiefs without a reason. What the devil! Paris is
not paved with cambric!"

"Monsieur, you act wrongly in endeavoring to mortify me," said
d'Artagnan, in whom the natural quarrelsome spirit began to speak
more loudly than his pacific resolutions. "I am from Gascony, it
is true; and since you know it, there is no occasion to tell you
that Gascons are not very patient, so that when they have begged
to be excused once, were it even for a folly, they are convinced
that they have done already at least as much again as they ought
to have done."

"Monsieur, what I say to you about the matter," said Aramis, "is
not for the sake of seeking a quarrel. Thank God, I am not a
bravo! And being a Musketeer but for a time, I only fight when I
am forced to do so, and always with great repugnance; but this
time the affair is serious, for here is a lady compromised by
you."

"By US, you mean!" cried d'Artagnan.

"Why did you so maladroitly restore me the handkerchief?"

"Why did you so awkwardly let it fall?"

"I have said, monsieur, and I repeat, that the handkerchief did
not fall from my pocket."

"And thereby you have lied twice, monsieur, for I saw it fall."

"Ah, you take it with that tone, do you, Master Gascon? Well, I
will teach you how to behave yourself."

"And I will send you back to your Mass book, Master Abbe. Draw,
if you please, and instantly--"

"Not so, if you please, my good friend--not here, at least. Do
you not perceive that we are opposite the Hotel d'Arguillon,
which is full of the cardinal's creatures? How do I know that
this is not his Eminence who has honored you with the commission
to procure my head? Now, I entertain a ridiculous partiality for
my head, it seems to suit my shoulders so correctly. I wish to
kill you, be at rest as to that, but to kill you quietly in a
snug, remote place, where you will not be able to boast of your
death to anybody."

"I agree, monsieur; but do not be too confident. Take your
handkerchief; whether it belongs to you or another, you may
perhaps stand in need of it."

"Monsieur is a Gascon?" asked Aramis.

"Yes. Monsieur does not postpone an interview through prudence?"

"Prudence, monsieur, is a virtue sufficiently useless to
Musketeers, I know, but indispensable to churchmen; and as I am
only a Musketeer provisionally, I hold it good to be prudent. At
two o'clock I shall have the honor of expecting you at the hotel
of Monsieur de Treville. There I will indicate to you the best
place and time."

The two young men bowed and separated, Aramis ascending the
street which led to the Luxembourg, while d'Artagnan, perceiving
the appointed hour was approaching, took the road to the
Carmes-Deschaux, saying to himself, "Decidedly I can't draw back;
but at least, if I am killed, I shall be killed by a Musketeer."





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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