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8. CONCERNING A COURT INTRIGUE

In the meantime, the forty pistoles of King Louis XIII, like all
other things of this world, after having had a beginning had an
end, and after this end our four companions began to be somewhat
embarrassed. At first, Athos supported the association for a
time with his own means.

Porthos succeeded him; and thanks to one of those disappearances
to which he was accustomed, he was able to provide for the wants
of all for a fortnight. At last it became Aramis's turn, who
performed it with a good grace and who succeeded--as he said, by
selling some theological books--in procuring a few pistoles.

Then, as they had been accustomed to do, they had recourse to M.
de Treville, who made some advances on their pay; but these
advances could not go far with three Musketeers who were already
much in arrears and a Guardsman who as yet had no pay at all.

At length when they found they were likely to be really in want,
they got together, as a last effort, eight or ten pistoles, with
which Porthos went to the gaming table. Unfortunately he was in
a bad vein; he lost all, together with twenty-five pistoles for
which he had given his word.

Then the inconvenience became distress. The hungry friends,
followed by their lackeys, were seen haunting the quays and Guard
rooms, picking up among their friends abroad all the dinners they
could meet with; for according to the advice of Aramis, it was
prudent to sow repasts right and left in prosperity, in order to
reap a few in time of need.

Athos was invited four times, and each time took his friends and
their lackeys with him. Porthos had six occasions, and contrived
in the same manner that his friends should partake of them;
Aramis had eight of them. He was a man, as must have been
already perceived, who made but little noise, and yet was much
sought after.

As to d'Artagnan, who as yet knew nobody in the capital, he only
found one chocolate breakfast at the house of a priest of his own
province, and one dinner at the house of a cornet of the Guards.
He took his army to the priest's, where they devoured as much
provision as would have lasted him for two months, and to the
cornet's, who performed wonders; but as Planchet said, "People do
not eat at once for all time, even when they eat a good deal."

D'Artagnan thus felt himself humiliated in having only procured
one meal and a half for his companions--as the breakfast at the
priest's could only be counted as half a repast--in return for
the feasts which Athos, Porthos, and Aramis had procured him. He
fancied himself a burden to the society, forgetting in his
perfectly juvenile good faith that he had fed this society for a
month; and he set his mind actively to work. He reflected that
this coalition of four young, brave, enterprising, and active men
ought to have some other object than swaggering walks, fencing
lessons, and practical jokes, more or less witty.

In fact, four men such as they were--four men devoted to one
another, from their purses to their lives; four men always
supporting one another, never yielding, executing singly or
together the resolutions formed in common; four arms threatening
the four cardinal points, or turning toward a single point--must
inevitably, either subterraneously, in open day, by mining, in
the trench, by cunning, or by force, open themselves a way toward
the object they wished to attain, however well it might be
defended, or however distant it may seem. The only thing that
astonished d'Artagnan was that his friends had never thought of
this.

He was thinking by himself, and even seriously racking his brain
to find a direction for this single force four times multiplied,
with which he did not doubt, as with the lever for which
Archimedes sought, they should succeed in moving the world, when
someone tapped gently at his door. D'Artagnan awakened Planchet
and ordered him to open it.

From this phrase, "d'Artagnan awakened Planchet," the reader must
not suppose it was night, or that day was hardly come. No, it
had just struck four. Planchet, two hours before, had asked his
master for some dinner, and he had answered him with the proverb,
"He who sleeps, dines." And Planchet dined by sleeping.

A man was introduced of simple mien, who had the appearance of a
tradesman. Planchet, by way of dessert, would have liked to hear
the conversation; but the citizen declared to d'Artagnan that
what he had to say being important and confidential, he desired
to be left alone with him.

D'Artagnan dismissed Planchet, and requested his visitor to be
seated. There was a moment of silence, during which the two men
looked at each other, as if to make a preliminary acquaintance,
after which d'Artagnan bowed, as a sign that he listened.

"I have heard Monsieur d'Artagnan spoken of as a very brave young
man," said the citizen; "and this reputation which he justly
enjoys had decided me to confide a secret to him."

"Speak, monsieur, speak," said d'Artagnan, who instinctively
scented something advantageous.

The citizen made a fresh pause and continued, "I have a wife who
is seamstress to the queen, monsieur, and who is not deficient in
either virtue or beauty. I was induced to marry her about three
years ago, although she had but very little dowry, because
Monsieur Laporte, the queen's cloak bearer, is her godfather, and
befriends her."

"Well, monsieur?" asked d'Artagnan.

"Well!" resumed the citizen, "well, monsieur, my wife was
abducted yesterday morning, as she was coming out of her
workroom."

"And by whom was your wife abducted?"

"I know nothing surely, monsieur, but I suspect someone."

"And who is the person whom you suspect?"

"A man who has persued her a long time."

"The devil!"

"But allow me to tell you, monsieur," continued the citizen,
"that I am convinced that there is less love than politics in all
this."

"Less love than politics," replied d'Artagnan, with a reflective
air; "and what do you suspect?"

"I do not know whether I ought to tell you what I suspect."

"Monsieur, I beg you to observe that I ask you absolutely
nothing. It is you who have come to me. It is you who have told
me that you had a secret to confide in me. Act, then, as you
think proper; there is still time to withdraw."

"No, monsieur, no; you appear to be an honest young man, and I
will have confidence in you. I believe, then, that it is not on
account of any intrigues of her own that my wife has been
arrested, but because of those of a lady much greater than
herself."

"Ah, ah! Can it be on account of the amours of Madame de
Bois-Tracy?" said d'Artagnan, wishing to have the air, in the
eyes of the citizen, of being posted as to court affairs.

"Higher, monsieur, higher."

"Of Madame d'Aiguillon?"

"Still higher."

"Of Madame de Chevreuse?"

"Of the--" d'Artagnan checked himself.

"Yes, monsieur," replied the terrified citizen, in a tone so low
that he was scarcely audible.

"And with whom?"

"With whom can it be, if not the Duke of--"

"The Duke of--"

"Yes, monsieur," replied the citizen, giving a still fainter
intonation to his voice.

"But how do you know all this?"

"How do I know it?"

"Yes, how do you know it? No half-confidence, or--you understand!"

"I know it from my wife, monsieur--from my wife herself."

"Who learns it from whom?"

"From Monsieur Laporte. Did I not tell you that she was the
goddaughter of Monsieur Laporte, the confidential man of the
queen? Well, Monsieur Laporte placed her near her Majesty in
order that our poor queen might at least have someone in whom she
could place confidence, abandoned as she is by the king, watched
as she is by the cardinal, betrayed as she is by everybody."

"Ah, ah! It begins to develop itself," said d'Artagnan.

"Now, my wife came home four days ago, monsieur. One of her
conditions was that she should come and see me twice a week; for,
as I had the honor to tell you, my wife loves me dearly--my wife,
then, came and confided to me that the queen at that very moment
entertained great fears."

"Truly!"

"Yes. The cardinal, as it appears, pursues he and persecutes her
more than ever. He cannot pardon her the history of the
Saraband. You know the history of the Saraband?"

"PARDIEU! Know it!" replied d'Artagnan, who knew nothing about
it, but who wished to appear to know everything that was going
on.

"So that now it is no longer hatred, but vengeance."

"Indeed!"

"And the queen believes--"

"Well, what does the queen believe?"

"She believes that someone has written to the Duke of Buckingham
in her name."

"In the queen's name?"

"Yes, to make him come to Paris; and when once come to Paris, to
draw him into some snare."

"The devil! But your wife, monsieur, what has she to do with all
this?"

"Her devotion to the queen is known; and they wish either to
remove her from her mistress, or to intimidate her, in order to
obtain her Majesty's secrets, or to seduce her and make use of
her as a spy."

"That is likely," said d'Artagnan; "but the man who has abducted
her--do you know him?"

"I have told you that I believe I know him."

"His name?"

"I do not know that; what I do know is that he is a creature of
the cardinal, his evil genius."

"But you have seen him?"

"Yes, my wife pointed him out to me one day."

'Has he anything remarkable about him by which one may recognize
him?"

"Oh, certainly; he is a noble of very lofty carriage, black hair,
swarthy complexion, piercing eye, white teeth, and has a scar on
his temple."

"A scar on his temple!" cried d'Artagnan; "and with that, white
teeth, a piercing eye, dark complexion, black hair, and haughty
carriage--why, that's my man of Meung."

"He is your man, do you say?"

"Yes, yes; but that has nothing to do with it. No, I am wrong.
On the contrary, that simplifies the matter greatly. If your man
is mine, with one blow I shall obtain two revenges, that's all;
but where to find this man?"

"I know not."

"Have you no information as to his abiding place?"

"None. One day, as I was conveying my wife back to the Louvre,
he was coming out as she was going in, and she showed him to me."

"The devil! The devil!" murmured d'Artagnan; "all this is vague
enough. From whom have you learned of the abduction of your
wife?"

"From Monsieur Laporte."

"Did he give you any details?"

"He knew none himself."

"And you have learned nothing from any other quarter?"

"Yes, I have received--"

"What?"

"I fear I am committing a great imprudence."

"You always come back to that; but I must make you see this time
that it is too late to retreat."

"I do not retreat, MORDIEU!" cried the citizen, swearing in order
to rouse his courage. "Besides, by the faith of Bonacieux--"

"You call yourself Bonacieux?" interrupted d'Artagnan.

"Yes, that is my name."

"You said, then, by the word of Bonacieux. Pardon me for
interrupting you, but it appears to me that that name is familiar
to me."

"Possibly, monsieur. I am your landlord."

"Ah, ah!" said d'Artagnan, half rising and bowing; "you are my
landlord?"

"Yes, monsieur, yes. And as it is three months since you have
been here, and though, distracted as you must be in your
important occupations, you have forgotten to pay me my rent--as,
I say, I have not tormented you a single instant, I thought you
would appreciate my delicacy."

"How can it be otherwise, my dear Bonacieux?" replied d'Artagnan;
"trust me, I am fully grateful for such unparalleled conduct, and
if, as I told you, I can be of any service to you--"

"I believe you, monsieur, I believe you; and as I was about to
say, by the word of Bonacieux, I have confidence in you."

"Finish, then, what you were about to say."

The citizen took a paper from his pocket, and presented it to
d'Artagnan.

"A letter?" said the young man.

"Which I received this morning."

D'Artagnan opened it, and as the day was beginning to decline, he
approached the window to read it. The citizen followed him.

"'Do not seek your wife,'" read d'Artagnan; "'she will be
restored to you when there is no longer occasion for her. If you
make a single step to find her you are lost.'

"That's pretty positive," continued d'Artagnan; "but after all,
it is but a menace."

"Yes; but that menace terrifies me. I am not a fighting man at
all, monsieur, and I am afraid of the Bastille."

"Hum!" said d'Artagnan. "I have no greater regard for the
Bastille than you. If it were nothing but a sword thrust, why
then--"

"I have counted upon you on this occasion, monsieur."

"Yes?"

"Seeing you constantly surrounded by Musketeers of a very superb
appearance, and knowing that these Musketeers belong to Monsieur
de Treville, and were consequently enemies of the cardinal, I
thought that you and your friends, while rendering justice to
your poor queen, would be pleased to play his Eminence an ill
turn."

"Without doubt."

"And then I have thought that considering three months' lodging,
about which I have said nothing--"

"Yes, yes; you have already given me that reason, and I find it
excellent."

"Reckoning still further, that as long as you do me the honor to
remain in my house I shall never speak to you about rent--"

"Very kind!"

"And adding to this, if there be need of it, meaning to offer you
fifty pistoles, if, against all probability, you should be short
at the present moment."

"Admirable! You are rich then, my dear Monsieur Bonacieux?"

"I am comfortably off, monsieur, that's all; I have scraped
together some such thing as an income of two or three thousand
crown in the haberdashery business, but more particularly in
venturing some funds in the last voyage of the celebrated
navigator Jean Moquet; so that you understand, monsieur--But"
cried the citizen.

"What!" demanded d'Artagnan.

"Whom do I see yonder?"

"Where?"

"In the street, facing your window, in the embrasure of that
door--a man wrapped in a cloak."

"It is he!" cried d'Artagnan and the citizen at the same time,
each having recognized his man.

"Ah, this time," cried d'Artagnan, springing to his sword, "this
time he will not escape me!"

Drawing his sword from its scabbard, he rushed out of the
apartment. On the staircase he met Athos and Porthos, who were
coming to see him. They separated, and d'Artagnan rushed between
them like a dart.

"Pah! Where are you going?" cried the two Musketeers in a breath.

"The man of Meung!" replied d'Artagnan, and disappeared.

D'Artagnan had more than once related to his friends his
adventure with the stranger, as well as the apparition of the
beautiful foreigner, to whom this man had confided some important
missive.

The opinion of Athos was that d'Artagnan had lost his letter in
the skirmish. A gentleman, in his opinion--and according to
d'Artagnan's portrait of him, the stranger must be a gentleman--
would be incapable of the baseness of stealing a letter.

Porthos saw nothing in all this but a love meeting, given by a
lady to a cavalier, or by a cavalier to a lady, which had been
disturbed by the presence of d'Artagnan and his yellow horse.

Aramis said that as these sorts of affairs were mysterious, it
was better not to fathom them.

They understood, then, from the few words which escaped from
d'Artagnan, what affair was in hand, and as they thought that
overtaking his man, or losing sight of him, d'Artagnan would
return to his rooms, they kept on their way.

When they entered D'Artagan's chamber, it was empty; the
landlord, dreading the consequences of the encounter which was
doubtless about to take place between the young man and the
stranger, had, consistent with the character he had given
himself, judged it prudent to decamp.





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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