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  • 1847
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“Then I will show your majesty the way,” resumed the count, directing his steps towards the house. He then conducted the king to his study, and begged him to be seated. “Sire,” said he, “your majesty just now told me that, in the present state of England, a million would suffice for the recovery of your kingdom.”

“To attempt it at least, monsieur, and to die as a king if I should not succeed.”

“Well, then, sire, let your majesty, according to the promise you have made me, have the goodness to listen to what I have to say.” Charles made an affirmative sign with his head. Athos walked straight up to the door, the bolts of which he drew, after looking to see if anybody was near, and then returned. “Sire,” said he, “your majesty has kindly remembered that I lent assistance to the very noble and very unfortunate Charles I., when his executioners conducted him from St. James’s to Whitehall.”

“Yes, certainly, I do remember it, and always shall remember it.”

“Sire, it is a dismal history to be heard by a son who no doubt has had it related to him many times; and yet I ought to repeat it to your majesty without omitting one detail.”

“Speak on, monsieur.”

“When the king your father ascended the scaffold, or rather when he passed from his chamber to the scaffold on a level with his window, everything was prepared for his escape. The executioner was got out of the way; a hole contrived under the floor of his apartment; I myself was beneath the funeral vault, which I heard all at once creak beneath his feet.”

“Parry has related to me all these terrible details, monsieur.”

Athos bowed, and resumed. “But here is something he has not related to you, sire, for what follows passed between God, your father, and myself; and never has the revelation of it been made even to my dearest friends. `Go a little further off,’ said the august patient to the executioner; `it is but for an instant, and I know that I belong to you; but remember not to strike till I give the signal. I wish to offer up my prayers in freedom.'”

“Pardon me,” said Charles II., turning very pale, “but you, count, who know so many details of this melancholy event, — details which, as you said just now, have never been revealed to anyone, — do you know the name of that infernal executioner, of that base wretch who concealed his face that he might assassinate a king with impunity?”

Athos became slightly pale. “His name?” said he, “yes, I know it, but cannot tell it.”

“And what is become of him, for nobody in England knows his destiny?”

“He is dead.”

“But he did not die in his bed; he did not die a calm and peaceful death, he did not die the death of the good?”

“He died a violent death, in a terrible night, rendered so by the passions of man and a tempest from God. His body, pierced by a dagger, sank to the depths of the ocean. God pardon his murderer!”

“Proceed, then,” said Charles II., seeing that the count was unwilling to say more.

“The king of England, after having, as I have said, spoken thus to the masked executioner, added, — `Observe, you will not strike till I shall stretch out my arms saying — REMEMBER!'”

“I was aware,” said Charles, in an agitated voice, “that that was the last word pronounced by my unfortunate father. But why and for whom?”

“For the French gentleman placed beneath his scaffold.”

“For you, then, monsieur?”

“Yes, sire; and every one of the words which he spoke to me, through the planks of the scaffold covered with a black cloth, still sounds in my ears. The king knelt down on one knee: `Comte de la Fere,’ said he, `are you there?’ `Yes, sire,’ replied I. Then the king stooped towards the boards.”

Charles II., also palpitating with interest, burning with grief, stooped towards Athos, to catch, one by one, every word that escaped from him. His head touched that of the comte.

“Then,” continued Athos, “the king stooped. `Comte de la Fere,’ said he, `I could not be saved by you: it was not to be. Now, even though I commit a sacrilege, I must speak to you. Yes, I have spoken to men — yes, I have spoken to God, and I speak to you the last. To sustain a cause which I thought sacred, I have lost the throne of my fathers and the heritage of my children.'”

Charles II. concealed his face in his hands, and a bitter tear glided between his white and slender fingers.

“`I have still a million in gold,’ continued the king. `I buried it in the vaults of the castle of Newcastle, a moment before I left that city.'” Charles raised his head with an expression of such painful joy that it would have drawn tears from any one acquainted with his misfortunes.

“A million!” murmured he. “Oh, count!”

“`You alone know that this money exists: employ it when you think it can be of the greatest service to my eldest son. And now, Comte de la Fere, bid me adieu!’

“`Adieu, adieu, sire!’ cried I.”

Charles arose, and went and leant his burning brow against the window.

“It was then,” continued Athos, “that the king pronounced the word, `REMEMBER!’ addressed to me. You see, sire, that I have remembered.”

The king could not resist or conceal his emotion. Athos beheld the movement of his shoulders, which undulated convulsively; he heard the sobs which burst from his overcharged breast. He was silent himself, suffocated by the flood of bitter remembrances he had just poured upon that royal head. Charles II., with a violent effort, left the window, devoured his tears, and came and sat by Athos. “Sire,” said the latter, “I thought till to-day that the time had not yet arrived for the employment of that last resource; but, with my eyes fixed upon England, I felt it was approaching. To-morrow I meant to go and inquire in what part of the world your majesty was, and then I purposed going to you. You come to me, sire; that is an indication that God is with us.”

“My lord,” said Charles, in a voice choked by emotion, “you are, for me, what an angel sent from heaven would be, — you are a preserver sent to me from the tomb of my father himself; but, believe me, for ten years’ civil war has passed over my country, striking down men, tearing up the soil, it is no more probable that gold should remain in the entrails of the earth, than love in the hearts of my subjects.”

“Sire, the spot in which his majesty buried the million is well known to me, and no one, I am sure, has been able to discover it. Besides, is the castle of Newcastle quite destroyed? Have they demolished it stone by stone, and uprooted the soil to the last tree?”

“No, it is still standing: but at this moment General Monk occupies it and is encamped there. The only spot from which I could look for succor, where I possess a single resource, you see, is invaded by my enemies.”

“General Monk, sire, cannot have discovered the treasure which I speak of.”

“Yes, but can I go and deliver myself up to Monk, in order to recover this treasure? Ah! count, you see plainly I must yield to destiny, since it strikes me to the earth every time I rise. What can I do with Parry as my only servant, with Parry, whom Monk has already driven from his presence? No, no, no, count, we must yield to this last blow.”

“But what your majesty cannot do, and what Parry can no more attempt, do you not believe that I could succeed in accomplishing?”

“You — you, count — you would go?”

“If it please your majesty,” said Athos, bowing to the king, “yes, I will go, sire.”

“What! you so happy here, count?”

“I am never happy when I have a duty left to accomplish, and it is an imperative duty which the king your father left me to watch over your fortunes, and make a royal use of his money. So, if your majesty honors me with a sign, I will go with you.”

“Ah, monsieur!” said the king, forgetting all royal etiquette, and throwing his arms around the neck of Athos, “you prove to me that there is a God in heaven, and that this God sometimes sends messengers to the unfortunate who groan on the earth.”

Athos, exceedingly moved by this burst of feeling of the young man, thanked him with profound respect, and approached the window. “Grimaud!” cried he, “bring out my horses.”

“What, now — immediately!” said the king. “Ah, monsieur, you are indeed a wonderful man!”

“Sire,” said Athos, “I know nothing more pressing than your majesty’s service. Besides,” added he, smiling, “it is a habit contracted long since, in the service of the queen your aunt, and of the king your father. How is it possible for me to lose it at the moment your majesty’s service calls for it?”

“What a man!” murmured the king.

Then after a moment’s reflection, — “But no, count, I cannot expose you to such privations. I have no means of rewarding such services.”

“Bah!” said Athos, laughing. “Your majesty is joking, have you not a million? Ah! why am I not possessed of half such a sum! I would already have raised a regiment. But, thank God! I have still a few rolls of gold and some family diamonds left. Your majesty will, I hope, deign to share with a devoted servant.”

“With a friend — yes, count, but on condition that, in his turn, that friend will share with me hereafter!”

“Sire!” said Athos, opening a casket, from which he drew both gold and jewels, “you see, sire, we are too rich. Fortunately, there are four of us, in the event of our meeting with thieves.”

Joy made the blood rush to the pale cheeks of Charles II., as he saw Athos’s two horses, led by Grimaud, already booted for the journey, advance towards the porch.

“Blaisois, this letter for the Vicomte de Bragelonne. For everybody else I am gone to Paris. I confide the house to you, Blaisois.” Blaisois bowed, shook hands with Grimaud, and shut the gate.

CHAPTER 17

In which Aramis is sought and only Bazin is found

Two hours had scarcely elapsed since the departure of the master of the house, who, in Blaisois’s sight, had taken the road to Paris, when a horseman, mounted on a good pied horse, stopped before the gate, and with a sonorous “hola!” called the stable-boys who, with the gardeners, had formed a circle round Blaisois, the historian-in-ordinary to the household of the chateau. This “hola,” doubtless well known to Master Blaisois, made him turn his head and exclaim — “Monsieur d’Artagnan! run quickly, you chaps, and open the gate.”

A swarm of eight brisk lads flew to the gate, which was opened as if it had been made of feathers; and every one loaded him with attentions, for they knew the welcome this friend was accustomed to receive from their master; and for such remarks the eye of the valet may always be depended upon.

“Ah!” said M. d’Artagnan, with an agreeable smile, balancing himself upon his stirrup to jump to the ground, “where is that dear count?”

“Ah! how unfortunate you are, monsieur!” said Blaisois: “and how unfortunate will monsieur le comte our master, think himself when he hears of your coming! As ill luck will have it, monsieur le comte left home two hours ago.”

D’Artagnan did not trouble himself about such trifles. “Very good!” said he. “You always speak the best French in the world; you shall give me a lesson in grammar and correct language, whilst I wait the return of your master.”

“That is impossible, monsieur,” said Blaisois; “you would have to wait too long.”

“Will he not come back to-day, then?”

“No, nor to-morrow, nor the day after to-morrow. Monsieur le comte has gone on a journey.”

“A journey!” said D’Artagnan, surprised; “that’s a fable, Master Blaisois.”

“Monsieur, it is no more than the truth. Monsieur has done me the honor to give me the house in charge; and he added, with his voice so full of authority and kindness — that is all one to me: `You will say I have gone to Paris.'”

“Well!” cried D’Artagnan, “since he is gone towards Paris, that is all I wanted to know! you should have told me so at first, booby! He is then two hours in advance?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“I shall soon overtake him. Is he alone?”

“No, monsieur.”

“Who is with him, then?”

“A gentleman whom I don’t know, an old man, and M. Grimaud.”

“Such a party cannot travel as fast as I can — I will start.”

“Will monsieur listen to me an instant?” said Blaisois, laying his hand gently on the reins of the horse.

“Yes, if you don’t favor me with fine speeches, and make haste.”

“Well, then, monsieur, that word Paris appears to me to be only an excuse.”

“Oh, oh!” said D’Artagnan, seriously, “an excuse, eh?”

“Yes, monsieur; and monsieur le comte is not going to Paris, I will swear.”

“What makes you think so?”

“This — M. Grimaud always knows where our master is going; and he had promised me that the first time he went to Paris, he would take a little money for me to my wife.”

“What, have you a wife, then?”

“I had one — she was of this country; but monsieur thought her a noisy scold, and I sent her to Paris; it is sometimes inconvenient, but very agreeable at others.”

“I understand; but go on. You do not believe the count gone to Paris?”

“No, monsieur; for then M. Grimaud would have broken his word; he would have perjured himself, and that is impossible.”

“That is impossible,” repeated D’Artagnan, quite in a study, because he was quite convinced. “Well, my brave Blaisois, many thanks to you.”

Blaisois bowed.

“Come, you know I am not curious — I have serious business with your master. Could you not, by a little bit of a word — you who speak so well — give me to understand — one syllable, only — I will guess the rest.”

“Upon my word, monsieur, I cannot. I am quite ignorant where monsieur le comte is gone. As to listening at doors, that is contrary to my nature; and besides it is forbidden here.”

“My dear fellow,” said D’Artagnan, “this is a very bad beginning for me. Never mind, you know when monsieur le comte will return, at least?”

“As little, monsieur, as the place of his destination.”

“Come, Blaisois, come, search.”

“Monsieur doubts my sincerity? Ah, monsieur, that grieves me much.”

“The devil take his gilded tongue!” grumbled D’Artagnan. “A clown with a word would be worth a dozen of him. Adieu!”

“Monsieur, I have the honor to present you my respects.”

“Cuistre!” said D’Artagnan to himself, “the fellow is unbearable.” He gave another look up to the house, turned his horse’s head, and set off like a man who has nothing either annoying or embarrassing in his mind. When he was at the end of the wall, and out of sight, — “Well, now, I wonder,” said he, breathing quickly, “whether Athos was at home. No; all those idlers, standing with their arms crossed, would have been at work if the eye of the master was near. Athos gone a journey? — that is incomprehensible. Bah! it is all devilish mysterious! And then — no — he is not the man I want. I want one of a cunning, patient mind. My business is at Melun, in a certain presbytery I am acquainted with. Forty-five leagues — four days and a half! Well, it is fine weather, and I am free. Never mind the distance!”

And he put his horse into a trot, directing his course towards Paris. On the fourth day he alighted at Melun as he had intended.

D’Artagnan was never in the habit of asking any one on the road for any common information. For these sorts of details, unless in very serious circumstances, he confided in his perspicacity, which was so seldom at fault, in his experience of thirty years, and in a great habit of reading the physiognomies of houses, as well as those of men. At Melun, D’Artagnan immediately found the presbytery — a charming house, plastered over red brick, with vines climbing along the gutters, and a cross, in carved stone, surmounting the ridge of the roof. From the ground-floor of this house came a noise, or rather a confusion of voices, like the chirping of young birds when the brood is just hatched under the down. One of these voices was spelling the alphabet distinctly. A voice, thick, yet pleasant, at the same time scolded the talkers and corrected the faults of the reader. D’Artagnan recognized that voice, and as the window of the ground-floor was open, he leant down from his horse under the branches and red fibers of the vine and cried “Bazin, my dear Bazin! good-day to you.”

A short, fat man, with a flat face, a craniun ornamented with a crown of gray hairs, cut short, in imitation of a tonsure, and covered with an old black velvet cap, arose as soon as he heard D’Artagnan — we ought not to say arose, but bounded up. In fact, Bazin bounded up, carrying with him his little low chair, which the children tried to take away, with battles more fierce than those of the Greeks endeavoring to recover the body of Patroclus from the hands of the Trojans. Bazin did more than bound; he let fall both his alphabet and his ferule. “You!” said he, “you, Monsieur d’Artagnan?”

“Yes, myself! Where is Aramis — no, M. le Chevalier d’Herblay — no, I am still mistaken — Monsieur le Vicaire-General?”

“Ah, monsieur,” said Bazin, with dignity, “monseigneur is at his diocese.”

“What did you say?” said D’Artagnan. Bazin repeated the sentence.

“Ah, ah! but has Aramis a diocese?”

“Yes, monsieur. Why not?”

“Is he a bishop, then?”

“Why, where can you come from,” said Bazin, rather irreverently, “that you don’t know that?”

“My dear Bazin, we pagans, we men of the sword, know very well when a man is made a colonel, or maitre-de-camp, or marshal of France; but if he be made a bishop, archbishop, or pope — devil take me if the news reaches us before the three quarters of the earth have had the advantage of it!”

“Hush! hush!” said Bazin, opening his eyes: “do not spoil these poor children, in whom I am endeavoring to inculcate such good principles.” In fact, the children had surrounded D’Artagnan, whose horse, long sword, spurs, and martial air they very much admired. But above all, they admired his strong voice; so that, when he uttered his oath, the whole school cried out, “The devil take me!” with fearful bursts of laughter, shouts, and bounds, which delighted the musketeer, and bewildered the old pedagogue.

“There!” said he, “hold your tongues, you brats! You have come, M. d’Artagnan, and all my good principles fly away. With you, as usual, comes disorder. Babel is revived. Ah! Good Lord! Ah! the wild little wretches!” And the worthy Bazin distributed right and left blows which increased the cries of his scholars by changing the nature of them.

“At least,” said he, “you will no longer decoy any one here.”

“Do you think so?” said D’Artagnan, with a smile which made a shudder creep over the shoulders of Bazin.

“He is capable of it,” murmured he.

“Where is your master’s diocese?”

“Monseigneur Rene is bishop of Vannes.”

“Who had him nominated?”

“Why, monsieur le surintendant, our neighbor.”

“What! Monsieur Fouquet?”

“To be sure he did.”

“Is Aramis on good terms with him, then?”

“Monseigneur preached every Sunday at the house of monsieur le surintendant at Vaux; then they hunted together.”

“Ah!”

“And monseigneur composed his homilies — no, I mean his sermons — with monsieur le surintendant.”

“Bah! he preached in verse, then, this worthy bishop?”

“Monsieur, for the love of heaven, do not jest with sacred things.”

“There, Bazin, there! So, then, Aramis is at Vannes?”

“At Vannes, in Bretagne.”

“You are a deceitful old hunks, Bazin; that is not true.”

“See, monsieur, if you please; the apartments of the presbytery are empty.”

“He is right there,” said D’Artagnan, looking attentively at the house, the aspect of which announced solitude.

“But monseigneur must have written you an account of his promotion.”

“When did it take place?”

“A month back.”

“Oh! then there is no time lost. Aramis cannot yet have wanted me. But how is it, Bazin, you do not follow your master?”

“Monsieur, I cannot; I have occupations.”

“Your alphabet?”

“And my penitents.”

“What, do you confess, then? Are you a priest?”

“The same as one. I have such a call.”

“But the orders?”

“Oh,” said Bazin, without hesitation, “now that monseigneur is a bishop, I shall soon have my orders, or at least my dispensations.” And he rubbed his hands.

“Decidedly,” said D’Artagnan to himself, “there will be no means of uprooting these people. Get me some supper Bazin.”

“With pleasure, monsieur.”

“A fowl, a bouillon, and a bottle of wine.”

“This is Saturday, monsieur — it is a day of abstinence.”

“I have a dispensation,” said D’Artagnan.

Bazin looked at him suspiciously.

“Ah, ah, master hypocrite!” said the musketeer, “for whom do you take me? If you, who are the valet, hope for dispensation to commit a crime, shall not I, the friend of your bishop, have dispensation for eating meat at the call of my stomach? Make yourself agreeable with me, Bazin, or, by heavens! I will complain to the king, and you shall never confess. Now you know that the nomination of bishops rests with the king — I have the king, I am the stronger.”

Bazin smiled hypocritically. “Ah, but we have monsieur le surintendant,” said he.

“And you laugh at the king, then?”

Bazin made no reply; his smile was sufficiently eloquent.

“My supper,” said D’Artagnan, “it is getting towards seven o’clock.”

Bazin turned round and ordered the eldest of the pupils to inform the cook. In the meantime, D’Artagnan surveyed the presbytery.

“Phew!” said he, disdainfully, “monseigneur lodged his grandeur very meanly here.”

“We have the Chateau de Vaux,” said Bazin.

“Which is perhaps equal to the Louvre?” said D’Artagnan, jeeringly.

“Which is better,” replied Bazin, with the greatest coolness imaginable.

“Ah, ah!” said D’Artagnan.

He would perhaps have prolonged the discussion, and maintained the superiority of the Louvre, but the lieutenant perceived that his horse remained fastened to the bars of a gate.

“The devil!” said he. “Get my horse looked after; your master the bishop has none like him in his stables.”

Bazin cast a sidelong glance at the horse, and replied, “Monsieur le surintendant gave him four from his own stables; and each of the four is worth four of yours.”

The blood mounted to the face of D’Artagnan. His hand itched and his eye glanced over the head of Bazin, to select the place upon which he should discharge his anger. But it passed away; reflection came, and D’Artagnan contented himself with saying, —

“The devil! the devil! I have done well to quit the service of the king. Tell me, worthy Master Bazin,” added he, “how many musketeers does monsieur le surintendant retain in his service?”

“He could have all there are in the kingdom with his money,” replied Bazin, closing his book, and dismissing the boys with some kindly blows of his cane.

“The devil! the devil!” repeated D’Artagnan, once more, as if to annoy the pedagogue. But as supper was now announced, he followed the cook, who introduced him into the refectory, where it awaited him. D’Artagnan placed himself at the table, and began a hearty attack upon his fowl.

“It appears to me,” said D’Artagnan, biting with all his might at the tough fowl they had served up to him, and which they had evidently forgotten to fatten, — “it appears that I have done wrong in not seeking service with that master yonder. A powerful noble this intendant, seemingly! In good truth, we poor fellows know nothing at the court, and the rays of the sun prevent our seeing the large stars, which are also suns, at a little greater distance from our earth, — that is all.”

As D’Artagnan delighted, both from pleasure and system, in making people talk about things which interested him, he fenced in his best style with Master Bazin, but it was pure loss of time; beyond the tiresome and hyperbolical praises of monsieur le surintendant of the finances, Bazin, who, on his side, was on his guard, afforded nothing but platitudes to the curiosity of D’Artagnan, so that our musketeer, in a tolerably bad humor, desired to go to bed as soon as he had supped. D’Artagnan was introduced by Bazin into a mean chamber, in which there was a poor bed; but D’Artagnan was not fastidious in that respect. He had been told that Aramis had taken away the key of his own private apartment, and as he knew Aramis was a very particular man, and had generally many things to conceal in his apartment, he had not been surprised. He, therefore, although it appeared comparatively even harder, attacked the bed as bravely as he had done the fowl; and, as he had as good an inclination to sleep as he had had to eat, he took scarcely longer time to be snoring harmoniously than he had employed in picking the last bones of the bird.

Since he was no longer in the service of any one, D’Artagnan had promised himself to indulge in sleeping as soundly as he had formerly slept lightly; but with whatever good faith D’Artagnan had made himself this promise, and whatever desire he might have to keep it religiously, he was awakened in the middle of the night by a loud noise of carriages, and servants on horseback. A sudden illumination flashed over the walls of his chamber; he jumped out of bed and ran to the window in his shirt. “Can the king be coming this way?” he thought, rubbing his eyes; “in truth, such a suite can only be attached to royalty.”

“Vive monsieur le surintendant!” cried, or rather vociferated, from a window on the ground-floor, a voice which he recognized as Bazin’s, who at the same time waved a handkerchief with one hand, and held a large candle in the other. D’Artagnan then saw something like a brilliant human form leaning out of the principal carriage; at the same time loud bursts of laughter, caused, no doubt, by the strange figure of Bazin, and issuing from the same carriage, left, as it were, a train of joy upon the passage of the rapid cortege.

“I might easily see it was not the king,” said D’Artagnan; “people don’t laugh so heartily when the king passes. Hola, Bazin!” cried he to his neighbor, three-quarters of whose body still hung out of the window, to follow the carriage with his eyes as long as he could. “What is all that about?”

“It is M. Fouquet,” said Bazin, in a patronizing tone.

“And all those people?”

“That is the court of M. Fouquet.”

“Oh, oh!” said D’Artagnan; “what would M. de Mazarin say to that if he heard it?” And he returned to his bed, asking himself how Aramis always contrived to be protected by the most powerful personages in the kingdom. “Is it that he has more luck than I, or that I am a greater fool than he? Bah!” that was the concluding word by the aid of which D’Artagnan, having become wise, now terminated every thought and every period of his style. Formerly he said, “Mordioux!” which was a prick of the spur, but now he had become older, and he murmured that philosophical “Bah!” which served as a bridle to all the passions.

CHAPTER 18

In which D’Artagnan seeks Porthos, and only finds Mousqueton

When D’Artagnan had perfectly convinced himself that the absence of the Vicar-General d’Herblay was real, and that his friend was not to be found at Melun or in its vicinity, he left Bazin without regret, cast an ill-natured glance at the magnificent Chateau de Vaux which was beginning to shine with that splendor which brought on its ruin, and, compressing his lips like a man full of mistrust and suspicion, he put spurs to his pied horse, saying, “Well, well! I have still Pierrefonds left, and there I shall find the best man and the best filled coffer. And that is all I want, for I have an idea of my own.”

We will spare our readers the prosaic incidents of D’Artagnan’s journey, which terminated on the morning of the third day within sight of Pierrefonds. D’Artagnan came by the way of Nanteuil-le-Hardouin and Crepy. At a distance he perceived the Castle of Louis of Orleans, which, having become part of the crown domain, was kept by an old concierge. This was one of those marvelous manors of the middle ages, with walls twenty feet in thickness, and a hundred in height.

D’Artagnan rode slowly past its walls, measured its towers with his eye and descended into the valley. From afar he looked down upon the chateau of Porthos, situated on the shores of a small lake, and contiguous to a magnificent forest. It was the same place we have already had the honor of describing to our readers; we shall therefore satisfy ourselves with naming it. The first thing D’Artagnan perceived after the fine trees, the May sun gilding the sides of the green hills, the long rows of feather-topped trees which stretched out towards Compiegne, was a large rolling box, pushed forward by two servants and dragged by two others. In this box there was an enormous green-and-gold thing, which went along the smiling glades of the park, thus dragged and pushed. This thing, at a distance, could not be distinguished, and signified absolutely nothing; nearer, it was a hogshead muffled in gold-bound green cloth; when close, it was a man, or rather a poussa, the interior extremity of whom, spreading over the interior of the box, entirely filled it, when still closer, the man was Mousqueton — Mousqueton, with gray hair and a face as red as Punchinello’s.

“Pardieu!” cried D’Artagnan; “why, that’s my dear Monsieur Mousqueton!”

“Ah!” cried the fat man — “ah! what happiness! what joy! There’s M. d’Artagnan. Stop, you rascals!” These last words were addressed to the lackeys who pushed and dragged him. The box stopped, and the four lackeys, with a precision quite military, took off their laced hats and ranged themselves behind it.

“Oh, Monsieur d’Artagnan!” said Mousqueton, “why can I not embrace your knees? But I have become impotent, as you see.”

“Dame! my dear Mousqueton, it is age.”

“No, monsieur, it is not age; it is infirmities — troubles.”

“Troubles! you, Mousqueton?” said D’Artagnan making the tour of the box; “are you out of your mind, my dear friend? Thank God! you are as hearty as a three-hundred-year-old oak.”

“Ah! but my legs, monsieur, my legs!” groaned the faithful servant.

“What’s the matter with your legs?”

“Oh, they will no longer bear me!”

“Ah, the ungrateful things! And yet you feed them well, Mousqueton, apparently.”

“Alas, yes! They can reproach me with nothing in that respect,” said Mousqueton, with a sigh; “I have always done what I could for my poor body; I am not selfish.” And Mousqueton sighed afresh.

“I wonder whether Mousqueton wants to be a baron, too, as he sighs after that fashion?” thought D’Artagnan.

“Mon Dieu, monsieur!” said Mousqueton, as if rousing himself from a painful reverie; “how happy monseigneur will be that you have thought of him!”

“Kind Porthos!” cried D’Artagnan, “I am anxious to embrace him.”

“Oh!” said Mousqueton, much affected, “I shall certainly write to him.”

“What!” cried D’Artagnan, “you will write to him?”

“This very day; I shall not delay it an hour.”

“Is he not here, then?”

“No, monsieur.”

“But is he near at hand? — is he far off?”

“Oh, can I tell, monsieur, can I tell?”

“Mordioux!” cried the musketeer, stamping with his foot, “I am unfortunate. Porthos such a stay-at-home!”

“Monsieur, there is not a more sedentary man than monseigneur, but —- “

“But what?”

“When a friend presses you —- “

“A friend?”

“Doubtless — the worthy M. d’Herblay.”

“What, has Aramis pressed Porthos?”

“This is how the thing happened, Monsieur d’Artagnan. M. d’Herblay wrote to monseigneur —- “

“Indeed!”

“A letter, monsieur, such a pressing letter that it threw us all into a bustle.”

“Tell me all about it, my dear friend.” said D’Artagnan; “but remove these people a little further off first.”

Mousqueton shouted, “Fall back, you fellows,” with such powerful lungs that the breath, without the words, would have been sufficient to disperse the four lackeys. D’Artagnan seated himself on the shaft of the box and opened his ears. “Monsieur,” said Mousqueton, “monseigneur, then, received a letter from M. le Vicaire-General d’Herblay, eight or nine days ago; it was the day of the rustic pleasures, yes, it must have been Wednesday.”

“What do you mean?” said D’Artagnan. “The day of rustic pleasures?”

“Yes, monsieur; we have so many pleasures to take in this delightful country, that we were encumbered by them; so much so, that we have been forced to regulate the distribution of them.”

“How easily do I recognize Porthos’s love of order in that! Now, that idea would never have occurred to me; but then I am not encumbered with pleasures.”

“We were, though,” said Mousqueton.

“And how did you regulate the matter, let me know?” said D’Artagnan.

“It is rather long, monsieur.”

“Never mind, we have plenty of time; and you speak so well, my dear Mousqueton, that it is really a pleasure to hear you.”

“It is true,” said Mousqueton, with a sigh of satisfaction, which emanated evidently from the justice which had been rendered him, “it is true I have made great progress in the company of monseigneur.”

“I am waiting for the distribution of the pleasures, Mousqueton, and with impatience. I want to know if I have arrived on a lucky day.”

“Oh, Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said Mousqueton in a melancholy tone, “since monseigneur’s departure all the pleasures have gone too!”

“Well, my dear Mousqueton, refresh your memory.”

“With what day shall I begin?”

“Eh, pardieux! begin with Sunday; that is the Lord’s day.”

“Sunday, monsieur?”

“Yes.”

“Sunday pleasures are religious: monseigneur goes to mass, makes the bread-offering, and has discourses and instructions made to him by his almoner-in-ordinary. That is not very amusing, but we expect a Carmelite from Paris who will do the duty of our almonry, and who, we are assured, speaks very well, which will keep us awake, whereas our present almoner always sends us to sleep. These are Sunday religious pleasures. On Monday, worldly pleasures.”

“Ah, ah!” said D’Artagnan, “what do you mean by that? Let us have a glimpse at your worldly pleasures.”

“Monsieur, on Monday we go into the world; we pay and receive visits, we play on the lute, we dance, we make verses, and burn a little incense in honor of the ladies.”

“Peste! that is the height of gallantry,” said the musketeer, who was obliged to call to his aid all the strength of his facial muscles to suppress an enormous inclination to laugh.

“Tuesday, learned pleasures.”

“Good!” cried D’Artagnan. “What are they? Detail them, my dear Mousqueton.”

“Monseigneur has bought a sphere or globe, which I shall show you; it fills all the perimeter of the great tower, except a gallery which he has had built over the sphere: there are little strings and brass wires to which the sun and moon are hooked. It all turns; and that is very beautiful. Monseigneur points out to me seas and distant countries. We don’t intend to visit them, but it is very interesting.”

“Interesting! yes, that’s the word,” repeated D’Artagnan. “And Wednesday?”

“Rustic pleasures, as I have had the honor to tell you, monsieur le chevalier. We look over monseigneur’s sheep and goats; we make the shepherds dance to pipes and reeds, as is written in a book monseigneur has in his library, which is called `Bergeries.’ The author died about a month ago.”

“Monsieur Racan, perhaps,” said D’Artagnan,

“Yes, that was his name — M. Racan. But that is not all: we angle in the little canal, after which we dine, crowned with flowers. That is Wednesday.”

“Peste!” said D’Artagnan, “you don’t divide your pleasures badly. And Thursday? — what can be left for poor Thursday?”

“It is not very unfortunate, monsieur,” said Mousqueton, smiling. “Thursday, Olympian pleasures. Ah, monsieur, that is superb! We get together all monseigneur’s young vassals, and we make them throw the disc, wrestle, and run races. Monseigneur can’t run now, no more can I; but monseigneur throws the disc as nobody else can throw it. And when he does deal a blow, oh, that proves a misfortune!”

“How so?”

“Yes, monsieur, we were obliged to renounce the cestus. He cracked heads; he broke jaws — beat in ribs. It was charming sport; but nobody was willing to play with him.”

“Then his wrist —- “

“Oh, monsieur, firmer than ever. Monseigneur gets a trifle weaker in his legs, — he confesses that himself; but his strength has all taken refuge in his arms, so that —- “

“So that he can knock down bullocks, as he used formerly.”

“Monsieur, better than that — he beats in walls. Lately, after having supped with one of our farmers — you know how popular and kind monseigneur is — after supper as a joke, he struck the wall a blow. The wall crumbled away beneath his hand, the roof fell in, and three men and an old woman were stifled.”

“Good God, Mousqueton! And your master?”

“Oh, monseigneur, a little skin was rubbed off his head. We bathed the wounds with some water which the monks gave us. But there was nothing the matter with his hand.”

“Nothing?”

“No, nothing, monsieur.”

“Deuce take the Olympic pleasures! They must cost your master too dear, for widows and orphans —- “

“They all had pensions, monsieur; a tenth of monseigneur’s revenue was spent in that way.”

“Then pass on to Friday,” said D’Artagnan.

“Friday, noble and warlike pleasures. We hunt, we fence, we dress falcons and break horses. Then, Saturday is the day for intellectual pleasures: we adorn our minds; we look at monseigneur’s pictures and statues; we write, even, and trace plans: and then we fire monseigneur’s cannon.”

“You draw plans, and fire cannon?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Why, my friend,” said D’Artagnan, “M. du Vallon, in truth, possesses the most subtle and amiable mind that I know. But there is one kind of pleasure you have forgotten, it appears to me.”

“What is that, monsieur?” asked Mousqueton, with anxiety.

“The material pleasures.”

Mousqueton colored. “What do you mean by that, monsieur?” said he, casting down his eyes.

“I mean the table — good wine — evenings occupied in passing the bottle.”

“Ah, monsieur, we don’t reckon those pleasures, — we practice them every day.”

“My brave Mousqueton,” resumed D’Artagnan, “pardon me, but I was so absorbed in your charming recital that I have forgotten the principal object of our conversation, which was to learn what M. le Vicaire-General d’Herblay could have to write to your master about.”

“That is true, monsieur,” said Mousqueton; “the pleasures have misled us. Well, monsieur, this is the whole affair.”

“I am all attention, Mousqueton.”

“On Wednesday —- “

“The day of the rustic pleasures?”

“Yes — a letter arrived; he received it from my hands. I had recognized the writing.”

“Well?”

“Monseigneur read it and cried out, `Quick, my horses! my arms!'”

“Oh, good Lord! then it was for some duel?” said D’Artagnan.

“No, monsieur, there were only these words: `Dear Porthos, set out, if you would wish to arrive before the Equinox. I expect you.'”

“Mordioux!” said D’Artagnan, thoughtfully, “that was pressing, apparently.”

“I think so; therefore,” continued Mousqueton, “monseigneur set out the very same day with his secretary, in order to endeavor to arrive in time.”

“And did he arrive in time?”

“I hope so. Monseigneur, who is hasty, as you know, monsieur, repeated incessantly, `Tonno Dieu! What can this mean? The Equinox? Never mind, a fellow must be well mounted to arrive before I do.'”

“And you think Porthos will have arrived first, do you?” asked D’Artagnan.

“I am sure of it. This Equinox, however rich he may be, has certainly no horses so good as monseigneur’s.”

D’Artagnan repressed his inclination to laugh, because the brevity of Aramis’s letter gave rise to reflection. He followed Mousqueton, or rather Mousqueton’s chariot, to the castle. He sat down to a sumptuous table, of which they did him the honors as to a king. But he could draw nothing from Mousqueton, — the faithful servant seemed to shed tears at will, but that was all.

D’Artagnan, after a night passed in an excellent bed, reflected much upon the meaning of Aramis’s letter; puzzled himself as to the relation of the Equinox with the affairs of Porthos; and being unable to make anything out unless it concerned some amour of the bishop’s, for which it was necessary that the days and nights should be equal, D’Artagnan left Pierrefonds as he had left Melun, as he had left the chateau of the Comte de la Fere. It was not, however, without a melancholy, which might in good sooth pass for one of the most dismal of D’Artagnan’s moods. His head cast down, his eyes fixed, he suffered his legs to hang on each side of his horse, and said to himself, in that vague sort of reverie which ascends sometimes to the sublimest eloquence:

“No more friends! no more future! no more anything! My energies are broken like the bonds of our ancient friendship. Oh, old age is coming, cold and inexorable; it envelops in its funereal crape all that was brilliant, all that was embalming in my youth; then it throws that sweet burthen on its shoulders and carries it away with the rest into the fathomless gulf of death.”

A shudder crept through the heart of the Gascon, so brave and so strong against all the misfortunes of life; and during some moments the clouds appeared black to him, the earth slippery and full of pits as that of cemeteries.

“Whither am I going?” said he to himself. “What am I going to do! Alone, quite alone — without family, without friends! Bah!” cried he all at once. And he clapped spurs to his horse, who, having found nothing melancholy in the heavy oats of Pierrefonds profited by this permission to show his gayety in a gallop which absorbed two leagues. “To Paris!” said D’Artagnan to himself. And on the morrow he alighted in Paris. He had devoted six days to this journey.

CHAPTER 19

What D’Artagnan went to Paris for

The lieutenant dismounted before a shop in the Rue des Lombards, at the sign of the Pilon d’Or. A man of good appearance, wearing a white apron, and stroking his gray mustache with a large hand, uttered a cry of joy on perceiving the pied horse. “Monsieur le chevalier,” said he, “ah, is that you?”

“Bon jour, Planchet,” replied D’Artagnan, stooping to enter the shop.

“Quick, somebody,” cried Planchet, “to look after Monsieur d’Artagnan’s horse, — somebody to get ready his room, — somebody to prepare his supper.”

“Thanks, Planchet. Good-day, my children!” said D’Artagnan to the eager boys.

“Allow me to send off this coffee, this treacle, and these raisins,” said Planchet; “they are for the store-room of monsieur le surintendant.”

“Send them off, send them off!”

“That is only the affair of a moment, then we shall sup.”

“Arrange it that we may sup alone; I want to speak to you.”

Planchet looked at his old master in a significant manner.

“Oh, don’t be uneasy, it is nothing unpleasant,” said D’Artagnan .

“So much the better — so much the better!” And Planchet breathed freely again, whilst D’Artagnan seated himself quietly down in the shop, upon a bale of corks, and made a survey of the premises. The shop was well stocked; there was a mingled perfume of ginger, cinnamon, and ground pepper, which made D’Artagnan sneeze. The shop-boy, proud of being in company with so renowned a warrior, of a lieutenant of musketeers, who approached the person of the king, began to work with an enthusiasm which was something like delirium, and to serve the customers with a disdainful haste that was noticed by several.

Planchet put away his money, and made up his accounts, amidst civilities addressed to his former master. Planchet had with his equals the short speech and the haughty familiarity of the rich shopkeeper who serves everybody and waits for nobody. D’Artagnan observed this habit with a pleasure which we shall analyze presently. He saw night come on by degrees, and at length Planchet conducted him to a chamber on the first story, where, amidst bales and chests, a table very nicely set out awaited the two guests.

D’Artagnan took advantage of a moment’s pause to examine the countenance of Planchet, whom he had not seen for a year. The shrewd Planchet had acquired a slight protuberance in front, but his countenance was not puffed. His keen eye still played with facility in its deep-sunk orbit; and fat, which levels all the characteristic saliences of the human face, had not yet touched either his high cheek-bones, the sign of cunning and cupidity, or his pointed chin, the sign of acuteness and perseverance. Planchet reigned with as much majesty in his dining-room as in his shop. He set before his master a frugal, but perfectly Parisian repast: roast meat, cooked at the baker’s, with vegetables, salad, and a dessert borrowed from the shop itself. D’Artagnan was pleased that the grocer had drawn from behind the fagots a bottle of that Anjou wine which during all his life had been D’Artagnan’s favorite wine.

“Formerly, monsieur,” said Planchet, with a smile full of bonhomie, “it was I who drank your wine; now you do me the honor to drink mine.”

“And, thank God, friend Planchet, I shall drink it for a long time to come, I hope; for at present I am free.”

“Free? You have leave of absence, monsieur?”

“Unlimited.”

“You are leaving the service?” said Planchet, stupefied.

“Yes, I am resting.”

“And the king?” cried Planchet, who could not suppose it possible that the king could do without the services of such a man as D’Artagnan.

“The king will try his fortune elsewhere. But we have supped well, you are disposed to enjoy yourself; you invite me to confide in you. Open your ears, then.”

“They are open.” And Planchet, with a laugh more frank than cunning, opened a bottle of white wine.

“Leave me my reason, at least.”

“Oh, as to you losing your head — you, monsieur!”

“Now my head is my own, and I mean to take better care of it than ever. In the first place we shall talk business. How fares our money-box?”

“Wonderfully well, monsieur. The twenty thousand livres I had of you are still employed in my trade, in which they bring me nine per cent. I give you seven, so I gain two by you.”

“And you are still satisfied?”

“Delighted. Have you brought me any more?”

“Better than that. But do you want any?”

“Oh! not at all. Every one is willing to trust me now. I am extending my business.”

“That was your intention.”

“I play the banker a little. I buy goods of my needy brethren; I lend money to those who are not ready for their payments.”

“Without usury?”

“Oh! monsieur, in the course of the last week I have had two meetings on the boulevards, on account of the word you have just pronounced.”

“What?”

“You shall see: it concerned a loan. The borrower gives me in pledge some raw sugars, on condition that I should sell if repayment were not made within a fixed period. I lend a thousand livres. He does not pay me and I sell the sugars for thirteen hundred livres. He learns this and claims a hundred crowns. Ma foi! I refused, pretending that I could not sell them for more than nine hundred livres. He accused me of usury. I begged him to repeat that word to me behind the boulevards. He was an old guard, and he came: and I passed your sword through his left thigh.”

“Tu dieu! what a pretty sort of banker you make!” said D’Artagnan.

“For above thirteen per cent. I fight,” replied Planchet; “that is my character.”

“Take only twelve,” said D’Artagnan, “and call the rest premium and brokerage.”

“You are right, monsieur; but to your business.”

“Ah! Planchet, it is very long and very hard to speak.”

“Do speak it, nevertheless.”

D’Artagnan twisted his mustache like a man embarrassed with the confidence he is about to make and mistrustful of his confidant.

“Is it an investment?” asked Planchet.

“Why, yes.”

“At good profit?”

“A capital profit, — four hundred per cent., Planchet.”

Planchet gave such a blow with his fist upon the table, that the bottles bounded as if they had been frightened.

“Good heavens! is that possible?”

“I think it will be more,” replied D’Artagnan coolly; “but I like to lay it at the lowest!”

“The devil!” said Planchet, drawing nearer. “Why monsieur, that is magnificent! Can one put much money in it?”

“Twenty thousand livres each, Planchet.”

“Why, that is all you have, monsieur. For how long a time?”

“For a month.”

“And that will give us —- “

“Fifty thousand livres each, profit.”

“It is monstrous! It is worth while to fight for such interest as that!”

“In fact, I believe it will be necessary to fight not a little,” said D’Artagnan, with the same tranquillity; “but this time there are two of us, Planchet, and I shall take all the blows to myself.”

“Oh! monsieur, I will not allow that.”

“Planchet, you cannot be concerned in it; you would be obliged to leave your business and your family.”

“The affair is not in Paris, then?”

“No.”

“Abroad?”

“In England.”

“A speculative country, that is true,” said Planchet, — “a country that I know well. What sort of an affair, monsieur, without too much curiosity?”

“Planchet, it is a restoration.”

“Of monuments?”

“Yes, of monuments; we shall restore Whitehall.”

“That is important. And in a month, you think?”

“I shall undertake it.”

“That concerns you, monsieur, and when once you are engaged —- “

“Yes, that concerns me. I know what I am about; nevertheless, I will freely consult with you.”

“You do me great honor; but I know very little about architecture.”

“Planchet, you are wrong; you are an excellent architect, quite as good as I am, for the case in question.”

“Thanks, monsieur. But your old friends of the musketeers?”

“I have been, I confess, tempted to speak of the thing to those gentlemen, but they are all absent from their houses. It is vexatious, for I know none more bold or more able.”

“Ah! then it appears there will be an opposition, and the enterprise will be disputed?”

“Oh, yes, Planchet, yes.”

“I burn to know the details, monsieur.”

“Here they are, Planchet — close all the doors tight.”

“Yes, monsieur.” And Planchet double-locked them.

“That is well; now draw near.” Planchet obeyed.

“And open the window, because the noise of the passers-by and the carts will deafen all who might hear us.” Planchet opened the window as desired, and the gust of tumult which filled the chamber with cries, wheels, barkings, and steps deafened D’Artagnan himself, as he had wished. He then swallowed a glass of white wine and began in these terms: “Planchet, I have an idea.”

“Ah! monsieur, I recognize you so well in that!” replied Planchet, panting with emotion.

CHAPTER 20

Of the Society which was formed in the Rue des Lombards, at the Sign of the Pilon d’Or, to carry out M. d’Artagnan’s Idea

After a moment’s silence, in which D’Artagnan appeared to be collecting, not one idea, but all his ideas — “It cannot be, my dear Planchet,” said he, “that you have not heard of his majesty Charles I. of England?”

“Alas! yes, monsieur, since you left France in order to assist him, and that, in spite of that assistance, he fell, and was near dragging you down in his fall.”

“Exactly so; I see you have a good memory, Planchet.”

“Peste! the astonishing thing would be, if I could have lost that memory, however bad it might have been. When one has heard Grimaud, who, you know, is not given to talking, relate how the head of King Charles fell, how you sailed the half of a night in a scuttled vessel, and saw floating on the water that good M. Mordaunt with a certain gold-hafted dagger buried in his breast, one is not very likely to forget such things.”

“And yet there are people who forget them, Planchet.”

“Yes, such as have not seen them, or have not heard Grimaud relate them.”

“Well, it is all the better that you recollect all that; I shall only have to remind you of one thing, and that is that Charles I. had a son.”

“Without contradicting you, monsieur, he had two,” said Planchet; “for I saw the second one in Paris, M. le Duke of York, one day, as he was going to the Palais Royal, and I was told that he was not the eldest son of Charles I. As to the eldest, I have the honor of knowing him by name, but not personally.”

“That is exactly the point, Planchet, we must come to: it is to this eldest son, formerly called the Prince of Wales, and who is now styled Charles II., king of England.”

“A king without a kingdom, monsieur,” replied Planchet, sententiously.

“Yes, Planchet, and you may add an unfortunate prince, more unfortunate than the poorest man of the people lost in the worst quarter of Paris.”

Planchet made a gesture full of that sort of compassion which we grant to strangers with whom we think we can never possibly find ourselves in contact. Besides, he did not see in this politico-sentimental operation any sign of the commercial idea of M. d’Artagnan, and it was in this idea that D’Artagnan, who was, from habit, pretty well acquainted with men and things, had principally interested Planchet.

“I am coming to our business. This young Prince of Wales, a king without a kingdom, as you have so well said, Planchet, has interested me. I, D’Artagnan, have seen him begging assistance of Mazarin, who is a miser, and the aid of Louis, who is a child, and it appeared to me, who am acquainted with such things, that in the intelligent eye of the fallen king, in the nobility of his whole person, a nobility apparent above all his miseries, I could discern the stuff of a man and the heart of a king.”

Planchet tacitly approved of all this; but it did not at all, in his eyes at least, throw any light upon D’Artagnan’s idea. The latter continued: “This, then, is the reasoning which I made with myself. Listen attentively, Planchet, for we are coming to the conclusion.”

“I am listening.”

“Kings are not so thickly sown upon the earth, that people can find them whenever they want them. Now, this king without a kingdom is, in my opinion, a grain of seed which will blossom in some season or other, provided a skillful, discreet, and vigorous hand sow it duly and truly, selecting soil, sky, and time.”

Planchet still approved by a nod of his head, which showed that he did not perfectly comprehend all that was said.

“`Poor little seed of a king,’ said I to myself, and really I was affected, Planchet, which leads me to think I am entering upon a foolish business. And that is why I wished to consult you, my friend.”

Planchet colored with pleasure and pride.

“`Poor little seed of a king! I will pick you up and cast you into good ground.'”

“Good God!” said Planchet, looking earnestly at his old master, as if in doubt as to the state of his reason.

“Well, what is it?” said D’Artagnan; “who hurts you?”

“Me! nothing, monsieur.”

“You said, `Good God!'”

“Did I?”

“I am sure you did. Can you already understand?”

“I confess, M. d’Artagnan, that I am afraid —- “

“To understand?”

“Yes.”

“To understand that I wish to replace upon his throne this King Charles II., who has no throne? Is that it?”

Planchet made a prodigious bound in his chair. “Ah, ah!” said he, in evident terror, “that is what you call a restoration!”

“Yes, Planchet; is it not the proper term for it?”

“Oh, no doubt, no doubt! But have you reflected seriously?”

“Upon what?”

“Upon what is going on yonder.”

“Where?”

“In England.”

“And what is that? let us see, Planchet.”

“In the first place, monsieur, I ask your pardon for meddling in these things, which have nothing to do with my trade; but since it is an affair that you propose to me — for you are proposing an affair, are you not? —- “

“A superb one, Planchet.”

“But as it is business you propose to me, I have the right to discuss it.”

“Discuss it, Planchet; out of discussion is born light.”

“Well, then, since I have monsieur’s permission, I will tell him that there is yonder, in the first place, the parliament.”

“Well, next?”

“And then the army.”

“Good! Do you see anything else?”

“Why, then the nation.”

“Is that all?”

“The nation which consented to the overthrow and death of the late king, the father of this one, and which will not be willing to belie its acts.”

“Planchet,” said D’Artagnan, “you argue like a cheese! The nation — the nation is tired of these gentlemen who give themselves such barbarous names, and who sing songs to it. Chanting for chanting, my dear Planchet; I have remarked that nations prefer singing a merry chant to the plain chant. Remember the Fronde; what did they sing in those times? Well those were good times.”

“Not too good, not too good! I was near being hung in those times.”

“Well, but you were not.”

“No.”

“And you laid the foundation of your fortune in the midst of all those songs?”

“That is true.”

“Then you have nothing to say against them.”

“Well, I return, then, to the army and parliament.”

“I say that I borrow twenty thousand livres of M. Planchet, and that I put twenty thousand livres of my own to it, and with these forty thousand livres I raise an army.”

Planchet clasped his hands; he saw that D’Artagnan was in earnest, and, in good truth, he believed his master had lost his senses.

“An army! — ah, monsieur,” said he, with his most agreeable smile, for fear of irritating the madman, and rendering him furious, — “an army! — how many?”

“Of forty men,” said D’Artagnan.

“Forty against forty thousand! that is not enough. I know very well that you, M. d’Artagnan, alone, are equal to a thousand men, but where are we to find thirty-nine men equal to you? Or, if we could find them, who would furnish you with money to pay them?”

“Not bad, Planchet. Ah, the devil! you play the courtier.”

“No, monsieur, I speak what I think, and that is exactly why I say that, in the first pitched battle you fight with your forty men, I am very much afraid —- “

“Therefore I shall fight no pitched battles, my dear Planchet,” said the Gascon, laughing. “We have very fine examples in antiquity of skillful retreats and marches, which consisted in avoiding the enemy instead of attacking them. You should know that, Planchet, you who commanded the Parisians the day on which they ought to have fought against the musketeers, and who so well calculated marches and countermarches, that you never left the Palais Royal.”

Planchet could not help laughing. “It is plain,” replied he, “that if your forty men conceal themselves, and are not unskillful, they may hope not to be beaten: but you propose obtaining some result, do you not?”

“No doubt. This, then, in my opinion, is the plan to be proceeded upon in order quickly to replace his majesty Charles II. on his throne.”

“Good!” said Planchet, increasing his attention; “let us see your plan. But in the first place it seems to me we are forgetting something.”

“What is that?”

“We have set aside the nation, which prefers singing merry songs to psalms, and the army, which we will not fight: but the parliament remains, and that seldom sings.”

“Nor does it fight. How is it, Planchet, that an intelligent man like you should take any heed of a set of brawlers who call themselves Rumps and Barebones. The parliament does not trouble me at all, Planchet.”

“As soon as it ceases to trouble you, monsieur, let us pass on.”

“Yes, and arrive at the result. You remember Cromwell, Planchet?”

“I have heard a great deal of talk about him.”

“He was a rough soldier.”

“And a terrible eater, moreover.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Why, at one gulp he swallowed all England.”

“Well, Planchet, the evening before the day on which he swallowed England, if any one had swallowed M. Cromwell?”

“Oh, monsieur, it is one of the axioms of mathematics that the container must be greater than the contained.”

“Very well! That is our affair, Planchet.”

“But M. Cromwell is dead, and his container is now the tomb.”

“My dear Planchet, I see with pleasure that you have not only become a mathematician, but a philosopher.”

“Monsieur, in my grocery business I use much printed paper, and that instructs me.”

“Bravo! You know then, in that case — for you have not learnt mathematics and philosophy without a little history — that after this Cromwell so great, there came one who was very little.”

“Yes; he was named Richard, and he has done as you have, M. d’Artagnan — he has tendered his resignation.”

“Very well said — very well! After the great man who is dead, after the little one who tendered his resignation, there came a third. This one is named Monk; he is an able general, considering he has never fought a battle; he is a skillful diplomatist, considering that he never speaks in public, and that having to say `good-day’ to a man, he meditates twelve hours, and ends by saying `good-night;’ which makes people exclaim `miracle!’ seeing that it falls out correctly.”

“That is rather strong,” said Planchet; “but I know another political man who resembles him very much.”

“M. Mazarin you mean?”

“Himself.”

“You are right, Planchet; only M. Mazarin does not aspire to the throne of France; and that changes everything. Do you see? Well, this M. Monk, who has England ready-roasted in his plate, and who is already opening his mouth to swallow it — this M. Monk, who says to the people of Charles II., and to Charles II. himself, `Nescio vos’ —- “

“I don’t understand English,” said Planchet.

“Yes, but I understand it,” said D’Artagnan. “`Nescio vos’ means `I do not know you.’ This M. Monk, the most important man in England, when he shall have swallowed it —- “

“Well?” asked Planchet.

“Well, my friend, I shall go over yonder, and with my forty men, I shall carry him off, pack him up, and bring him into France, where two modes of proceeding present themselves to my dazzled eyes.”

“Oh! and to mine too,” cried Planchet, transported with enthusiasm. “We will put him in a cage and show him for money.”

“Well, Planchet, that is a third plan, of which I had not thought.”

“Do you think it a good one?”

“Yes, certainly, but I think mine better.”

“Let us see yours, then.”

“In the first place, I shall set a ransom on him.”

“Of how much?”

“Peste! a fellow like that must be well worth a hundred thousand crowns.”

“Yes, yes!”

“You see, then — in the first place, a ransom of a hundred thousand crowns.”

“Or else —- “

“Or else, what is much better, I deliver him up to King Charles, who, having no longer either a general or an army to fear, nor a diplomatist to trick him, will restore himself, and when once restored, will pay down to me the hundred thousand crowns in question. That is the idea I have formed; what do you say to it, Planchet?”

“Magnificent, monsieur!” cried Planchet, trembling with emotion. “How did you conceive that idea?”

“It came to me one morning on the banks of the Loire, whilst our beloved king, Louis XIV., was pretending to weep upon the hand of Mademoiselle de Mancini.”

“Monsieur, I declare the idea is sublime. But —- “

“Ah! is there a but?”

“Permit me! But this is a little like the skin of that fine bear — you know — that they were about to sell, but which it was necessary to take from the back of the living bear. Now, to take M. Monk, there will be a bit of scuffle, I should think.”

“No doubt; but as I shall raise an army to —- “

“Yes, yes — I understand, parbleu! — a coup-de-main. Yes, then, monsieur, you will triumph, for no one equals you in such sorts of encounters.”

“I certainly am lucky in them,” said D’Artagnan, with a proud simplicity. “You know that if for this affair I had my dear Athos, my brave Porthos, and my cunning Aramis, the business would be settled; but they are all lost, as it appears, and nobody knows where to find them. I will do it, then, alone. Now, do you find the business good, and the investment advantageous?”

“Too much so — too much so.”

“How can that be?”

“Because fine things never reach the expected point.”

“This is infallible, Planchet, and the proof is that I undertake it. It will be for you a tolerably pretty gain, and for me a very interesting stroke. It will be said, `Such was the old age of M. d’Artagnan,’ and I shall hold a place in tales and even in history itself, Planchet. I am greedy of honor.”

“Monsieur,” cried Planchet, “when I think that it is here, in my home, in the midst of my sugar, my prunes, and my cinnamon, that this gigantic project is ripened, my shop seems a palace to me.”

“Beware, beware, Planchet! If the least report of this escapes, there is the Bastile for both of us. Beware, my friend, for this is a plot we are hatching. M. Monk is the ally of M. Mazarin — beware!”

“Monsieur, when a man has had the honor to belong to you, he knows nothing of fear; and when he has the advantage of being bound up in interests with you, he holds his tongue.”

“Very well, that is more your affair than mine, seeing that in a week I shall be in England.”

“Depart, monsieur, depart — the sooner the better.”

“Is the money, then, ready?”

“It will be to-morrow, to-morrow you shall receive it from my own hands. Will you have gold or silver?”

“Gold; that is most convenient. But how are we going to arrange this? Let us see.”

“Oh, good Lord! in the simplest way possible. You shall give me a receipt, that is all.”

“No, no,” said D’Artagnan, warmly; “we must preserve order in all things.”

“That is likewise my opinion; but with you, M. d’Artagnan —- “

“And if I should die yonder — if I should be killed by a musket-ball — if I should burst from drinking beer?”

“Monsieur, I beg you to believe that in that case I should be so much afflicted at your death, that I should not think about the money.”

“Thank you, Planchet; but no matter. We shall, like two lawyers’ clerks, draw up together an agreement, a sort of act, which may be called a deed of company.”

“Willingly, monsieur.”

“I know it is difficult to draw such a thing up, but we can try.”

“Let us try, then.” And Planchet went in search of pens, ink, and paper. D’Artagnan took the pen and wrote: — “Between Messire d’Artagnan, ex-lieutenant of the king’s musketeers, at present residing in the Rue Tiquetonne, Hotel de la Chevrette; and the Sieur Planchet, grocer, residing in the Rue les Lombards, at the sign of the Pilon d’Or, it has been agreed as follows: — A company, with a capital of forty thousand livres, and formed for the purpose of carrying out an idea conceived by M. d’Artagnan, and the said Planchet approving of it in all points, will place twenty thousand livres in the hands of M. d’Artagnan. He will require neither repayment nor interest before the return of M. d’Artagnan from a journey he is about to take into England. On his part, M. d’Artagnan undertakes to find twenty thousand livres, which he will join to the twenty thousand already laid down by the Sieur Planchet. He will employ the said sum of forty thousand livres according to his judgment in an undertaking which is described below. On the day when M. d’Artagnan shall have re-established, by whatever means, his majesty King Charles II. upon the throne of England, he will pay into the hands of M. Planchet the sum of —- “

“The sum of a hundred and fifty thousand livres,” said Planchet, innocently, perceiving that D’Artagnan hesitated.

“Oh, the devil, no!” said D’Artagnan, “the division cannot be made by half; that would not be just.”

“And yet, monsieur; we each lay down half,” objected Planchet, timidly.

“Yes; but listen to this clause, my dear Planchet, and if you do not find it equitable in every respect when it is written, well, we can scratch it out again: — `Nevertheless, as M. d’Artagnan brings to the association, besides his capital of twenty thousand livres, his time, his idea, his industry and his skin, — things which he appreciates strongly, particularly the last, — M. d’Artagnan will keep, of the three hundred thousand livres two hundred thousand livres for himself, which will make his share two-thirds.”

“Very well,” said Planchet.

“Is it just?” asked D’Artagnan.

“Perfectly just, monsieur.”

“And you will be contented with a hundred thousand livres?”

“Peste! I think so. A hundred thousand for twenty thousand!”

“And in a month, understand.”

“How, in a month?”

“Yes, I only ask one month.”

“Monsieur,” said Planchet, generously, “I give you six weeks.”

“Thank you,” replied the musketeer, politely; after which the two partners reperused their deed.

“That is perfect, monsieur,” said Planchet, “and the late M. Coquenard, the first husband of Madame la Baronne du Vallon, could not have done it better.”

“Do you find it so? Let us sign it, then.” And both affixed their signatures.

“In this fashion,” said D’Artagnan, “I shall be under obligations to no one.”

“But I shall be under obligations to you,” said Planchet.

“No; for whatever store I set by it, Planchet, I may lose my skin yonder, and you will lose all. A propos — peste! — that makes me think of the principal, an indispensable clause. I shall write it: — `In the case of M. d’Artagnan dying in this enterprise, liquidation will be considered made, and the Sieur Planchet will give quittance from that moment to the shade of Messire d’Artagnan for the twenty thousand livres paid by him into the hands of the said company.'”

This last clause made Planchet knit his brows a little, but when he saw the brilliant eye, the muscular hand, the supple and strong back of his associate, he regained his courage, and, without regret, he at once added another stroke to his signature. D’Artagnan did the same. Thus was drawn the first known company contract; perhaps such things have been abused a little since, both in form and principle.

“Now,” said Planchet, pouring out the last glass of Anjou wine for D’Artagnan, — “now go to sleep, my dear master.”

“No,” replied D’Artagnan; “for the most difficult part now remains to be done, and I will think over that difficult part.”

“Bah!” said Planchet; “I have such great confidence in you, M. d’Artagnan, that I would not give my hundred thousand livres for ninety thousand livres down.”

“And devil take me if I don’t think you are right!” Upon which D’Artagnan took a candle and went up to his bedroom.

CHAPTER 21

In which D’Artagnan prepares to travel for the Firm of Planchet and Company

D’Artagnan reflected to such good purpose during the night that his plan was settled by morning. “This is it,” said he, sitting up in bed, supporting his elbow on his knee, and his chin in his hand; — “this is it. I shall seek out forty steady, firm men, recruited among people a little compromised, but having habits of discipline. I shall promise them five hundred livres for a month if they return, nothing if they do not return, or half for their kindred. As to food and lodging, that concerns the English, who have cattle in their pastures, bacon in their bacon-racks, fowls in their poultry-yards, and corn in their barns. I will present myself to General Monk with my little body of