The Three Musketeers
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D’Artagnan had come off victorious, without much difficulty, it must be confessed; for only one of the officers was armed, and he had only gone through a form of defence. It is quite true that the other three had endeavoured to knock down the young man with chairs, stools, and crockery, but two or three scratches from the Gascon’s sword had scared them. Ten minutes had sufficed for their defeat, and d’Artagnan had remained master of the field of battle.
The neighbours, who had opened their windows with the indifference habitual to the inhabitants of Paris at that season of perpetual disturbances and riots, closed them again when they saw the four men escape; their instinct told them no more was to be seen for the time. Besides, it was getting late; and then, as well as now, people went to bed early in the quarter of the Luxembourg.
When d’Artagnan was left alone with Madame Bonancieux, he turned towards her. The poor woman was reclining in an easy chair, almost senseless. D’Artagnan examined her with a rapid glance.
She was a charming woman, about twenty-two or twenty-three years of age; with blue eyes, a nose slightly turned up, beautiful teeth, and a complexion of intermingled rose and opal. Here, however, ended the charms which might have confounded her with a lady of high birth. Her hands were white, but not delicately formed; and her feet did not indicate a woman of quality. Fortunately, d’Artagnan was not of an age to be nice in these matters.
Whilst d’Artagnan was examining Madame Bonancieux, and had got, as we have said, to her feet, he saw on the ground a fine cambric handkerchief, which, naturally, he picked up; and, at the corner of it, he discovered the same cipher that he had seen on the handkerchief which had nearly caused him and Aramis to cut one another’s throats. Since that time d’Artagnan had mistrusted all coronetted handkerchiefs; and he now put that which he had picked up into Madame Bonancieux’s pocket, without saying a word. At that moment Madame Bonancieux recovered her senses. She opened her eyes, looked around her in affright, and saw that the room was empty, and that she was alone with her deliverer. She immediately held out her hands to him, with a smile—and Madame Bonancieux had the most charming smile in the world.
“Ah! sir,” said she, “it is you who have saved me; allow me to thank you!”
“Madame,” replied d’Artagnan, “I have only done what any gentleman would have done in my situation. You owe me no thanks.”
“Yes, yes, sir, I do; and I hope to prove to you that this service has not been for naught. But what did these men, whom I at first took for robbers, want with me? and why is not M. Bonancieux here?”
“Madame, these men were far more dangerous than any robbers would have been, for they are agents of the cardinal; and as for your husband, M. Bonancieux, he is not here, because he was taken yesterday to the Bastile.”
“My husband in the Bastile!” cried Madame Bonancieux.“Oh, my God! what can he have done, poor, dear man! Why, he is innocence itself!”
And something like a smile glanced across the yet alarmed countenance of the young woman.
“As to what he has been doing, madame,” said d’Artagnan, “I believe that his only crime consists in having at the same time the good fortune and the misfortune of being your husband.”
“Then, sir, you know?”
“I know that you were carried off, madame.”
“But by whom? do you know that? Oh, if you know, pray tell me!”
“By a man about forty or forty-five years of age, with dark hair, a brown complexion, and a scar on the left temple.”
“Just so, just so: but his name?”
“Ah! his name—I don’t know it myself.”
“And did my husband know that I had been carried off?”
“He had been informed of it by a letter sent him by the ravisher himself.”
“And does he suspect,” demanded Madame Bonancieux, with some confusion, “the cause of this abduction?”
“He attributes it, I believe, to some political cause.”
“At first I doubted whether it was so, but now, as I think, he does; and so my dear M. Bonancieux did not mistrust me for a single instant?”
“Ah! so far from that, madame, he was too proud of your prudence and your love.”
A second smile, almost imperceptible, glided over the rosy lips of the beautiful young woman.
“But,” continued d’Artagnan, “how did you make your escape?”
“I profited by a moment in which I was left alone; and as I learned this morning the cause of my abduction, by the help of my sheets I got out of the window, and hurried here, where I expected to find my husband.”
“To place yourself under his protection?”
“Oh, no! poor dear man! I knew that he was incapable of protecting me; but, as he might be of some service to us, I wished to put him on his guard.”
“Alas! that is not my secret; and I dare not tell it to you.”
“Besides,” said d’Artagnan—“(pardon me, madame, if, protector as I am, I remind you of prudence)—besides, I think that we are scarcely in a situation suitable for confidences. The men whom I have put to flight will return reinforced, and if they find us here, we shall be lost. I have sent to summon three of my friends, but it is uncertain whether they may be at home!”
“Yes! yes! you are right,” said Madame Bonancieux, in alarm; “let us fly: let us escape!”
And seizing d’Artagnan by his arm, she eagerly drew him along.
“But whither shall we fly? where shall we escape to?” said d’Artagnan.
“Let us get away from this place first, and then, having got clear of it, we shall see.”
Without taking the trouble to shut the door, the two young people hastily passed down the Rue des Fossoyeurs, crossed the Rue des Fosses Monsieur le Prince, and did not stop until they reached the Place de St. Sulpice.
“And now, what next?” inquired d’Artagnan; “and whither would you like me to conduct you?”
“I confess that I scarcely know whither,” said Madame Bonancieux. “I had intended, through my husband, to intimate my escape to M. de la Porte, so that the latter might tell us exactly what has happened at the Louvre within the last three days, and whether there would be any danger in my presenting myself there.”
“But I,” said d’Artagnan, “can go and inform M. de la Porte.”
“Undoubtedly; yet there is one difficulty. M. Bonancieux is known at the Louvre, and would be allowed to enter; whilst you, not being known, would not be admitted.”
“Nonsense!” said d’Artagnan: “there is doubtless a porter at some wicket of the Louvre who is devoted to you, and who, thanks to some countersign–”
Madame Bonancieux looked earnestly at the young man.
“And if I trusted you with this countersign,” said she, “would you undertake to forget it as soon as you had made use of it?”
“On my word of honour! on the faith of a gentleman!” said d’Artagnan, with that accent of truth which never can mislead.
“Well, I believe you! You look like a man of honour, and your fortune perhaps may depend on your devotion.”
“I will perform, without any promises, and conscientiously, whatever I can to serve the king, and to be acceptable to the queen,” said d’Artagnan; “use me, therefore, as a friend!”
“But what is to become of me in the meantime?”
“Have you no acquaintance, to whose house M. de la Porte can come for you?”
“No, I would rather not trust to any one!”
“Wait,” said d’Artagnan; “we are now just by Athos’s door; yes, this is the best way!”
“And who is Athos?”
“A friend of mine.”
“But, if he is at home, and sees me?”
“But he is not there, and I will take away the key when I have placed you in his apartment.”
“Suppose he should return?”
“He will not return; besides, if he should, he will be told that I have brought a woman here, and that she is now in his apartment.”
“But don’t you see this will compromise me very much?”
“What need you care! no one knows you. Besides, we are not in a position to be particular.”
“Well, let us go to your friend’s house, then; where does he live?”
“In the Rue Ferou—two steps from here.”
“Come, then.” And the two proceeded on their way. As d’Artagnan had foreseen, Athos was not at home; so taking the key, which they were in the habit of giving to him as a friend of the musketeer, he ascended the stairs, and introduced Madame Bonancieux into the little apartment which we have already described.
“You are now at home,” said he. “Lock the door inside, and do not open it to any one, unless you hear three knocks—thus;” and he tapped three times—two taps together, pretty hard, and, after a short interval, a gentler tap.
“That will do,” said Madame Bonancieux; “and now let me give you my instructions.”
“I am all attention.”
“Present yourself at the postern of the Louvre, on the side of the Rue de l’Echelle; and ask for Germain.”
“Very well; and what next?”
“He will ask you what you want; you must answer by these words—‘Tours and Brussels’—and he will immediately listen to your commands.”
“And what shall I tell him to do?”
“To go and find M. de la Porte, the queen’s valet-de-chambre.”
“And when M. de la Porte has come?”
“You will send him to me.”
“Very well. But where, and how, shall I see you again?”
“Do you feel particularly anxious to see me again?”
“Well, then, leave that to my care; and be at ease.”
“I rely upon your word.”
“And quite right.”
D’Artagnan took leave of Madame Bonancieux, with the most amorous glance that he could possibly concentrate upon her charming little person; and whilst he was descending the stairs, he heard the door behind him double locked. In two bounds he was at the Louvre; and, as he entered the small door in the Rue de l’Echelle, it struck ten; so that all the events we have just related had transpired within half an hour.
Everything happened just as Madame Bonancieux had predicted. Germain heard the watchword with a bow, and in ten minutes de la Porte was in the porter’s lodge; and in two words d’Artagnan told him what had occurred, and where Madame Bonancieux was to be found. La Porte made himself certain of the address by having it twice repeated, and then hurried away. But he had scarcely taken ten steps, before he returned.
“Young man,” said he, “let me give you some good counsel.”
“What is it?”
“You may possibly get into some trouble on account of this affair.”
“Do you think so?”
“I do! Have you any friend whose clock is slow?”
“Suppose I have?”
“Go and pay him a visit, that he may be able to bear witness that you were in his company at half-past nine. In law, that is what is called an alibi.”
D’Artagnan thought the advice prudent. He therefore took to his heels, and reached M. de Treville’s; but, instead of entering the drawing-room, with the rest of the company, he asked to be admitted into the cabinet, and as he was one of the habitual frequenters of the hotel, no objection was made to this; and M. de Treville was soon informed that his young compatriot, having something of importance to communicate, solicited a private interview.
In five minutes M. de Treville was there, and asked d’Artagnan what he could do for him, and to what he was indebted for a visit at such a late hour?
“Forgive me, sir,” said d’Artagnan (who had taken advantage of the moment he was left alone, to put the clock back three quarters of an hour), “but I thought, as it was only twenty-five minutes past nine, it was not yet too late to wait upon you.”
“Twenty-five minutes past nine!” exclaimed M. de Treville, looking at the clock, “it is impossible!”
“Look for yourself, sir,” said d’Artagnan, “the clock shows it.”
“You are right,” replied M. de Treville: “I should have thought it was later. But what can I do for you?”
Then d’Artagnan entered into a long story about the queen; expressing all the fears that he entertained upon her majesty’s account, and recounting all that he had heard about the cardinal’s designs against Buckingham; and this with a degree of tranquillity and consistency by which M. de Treville was the more readily duped, inasmuch as he had himself, as we have already said, remarked that something fresh was stirring between the cardinal, the king, and the queen.
Just as the clock was striking ten, d’Artagnan arose, and took his leave of M. de Treville, who thanked him for his information, expressed on him an incessant earnestness in the service of the king and queen, and returned to his saloon.
But d’Artagnan remembered, at the bottom of the stairs, that he had forgotten his cane; he therefore hastened up again, re-entered the cabinet, and with one touch of his finger put the clock to its right time, so that it might not be seen the next day to have been wrong: then, satisfied that he had a witness there to prove his alibi, he again descended the stairs, and soon found himself in the street.
WHEN HIS VISIT to M. de Treville was ended, d’Artagnan took, in pensive mood, the longest road to return to his own home.
But what were the meditations which thus led him from his way; contemplating, with successive sighs and smiles, the stars that glittered in the sky.
Alas! he was intent on Madame Bonancieux. To an apprentice musketeer, the charms of that young person raised her almost into an ideal of love. Pretty, mysterious, and initiated into all the court secrets, which reflected so much charming seriousness over her seductive features, he supposed her, also, to be not wholly unimpassioned, which is an irresistible attraction to novices in these engagements of the heart. He felt, moreover, that he had delivered her from the hands of miscreants who wished to search and maltreat her; and this important service had prepossessed her with a sentiment of gratitude towards him, which might easily be made to take a character of greater tenderness.
So rapidly do our dreams travel on imagination’s wings, that d’Artagnan already fancied himself accosted by some messenger from Madame Bonancieux, handing to him an appointment for an interview, or a diamond or a chain of gold. We have already intimated that the young cavaliers were not then ashamed of accepting presents from their king; and we may add, that, in those times of easy morality, they were not more scrupulous in respect of their mistresses, and that these latter almost always conferred upon them some precious and durable memorials, as though they were endeavouring to overcome the instability of their sentiments by the solidity of gifts.
Men did not then blush at owing their advancement to women; and we might refer to many amongst the heroes of that age of gallantry, who would neither have won their spurs at first, nor their battles afterwards, but for the better or worse furnished purse which some mistress had suspended at their saddle-bow.
Now, d’Artagnan possessed nothing. His provincial hesitation—that superficial varnish, and ephemeral bloom, that down on the peach—had evaporated in the storm of somewhat unorthodox advice which the three musketeers had given to their friend. According to the curious customs of the time, he had come to look upon himself as being just as much engaged in a campaign whilst he was at Paris, as though he had been in Flanders. Spaniard there, woman here: yet, in either case, there was an enemy to overcome, and contributions to raise.
But let us not disguise that the young Gascon was, at present, influenced by a nobler and more disinterested feeling. The mercer had confessed to him that he was rich; and it was easy to infer that, with a simpleton like Bonancieux, the wife would be the keeper of the purse. But nothing of this kind had contributed to that sentiment which the sight of Madame Bonancieux had inspired, and selfishness had been almost disregarded in the dawning love which had arisen from his interview. We say almost—for the assurance that a young, lovely, charming and witty woman is rich also, has a tendency, not to diminish, but rather to corroborate, this growth of sentiment. In easy circumstances, there are a crowd of aristocratic cares and caprices which accord well with beauty. A white and fine stocking, a silken dress, a lace kerchief, a pretty little shoe, a becoming ribband, do not make an ugly woman pretty, but they make a pretty woman irresistible; whilst her hands, moreover, are sure to be the gainers by her wealth; for the hands—in women, especially—must remain idle to be beautiful.
Now, as the reader very well knows—for we have made no secret of the state of his finances—d’Artagnan was not a man of large fortune. It is true that he quite expected to become so, at some future time; but the date which he had himself fixed on for that happy transformation, was as yet far distant. In the meantime, what sorrow would it be to see the woman whom one idolizes sighing for the thousand trifles in which so much of the happiness of womankind consists, and to be unable to procure them for her. But when the woman is rich, although the lover is poor, the gifts which he cannot present, she can provide for herself; and then, although it may most frequently be with the husband’s money that these enjoyments are obtained, it is not commonly to this husband that the gratitude is shown.
Thus disposed to become the most passionate of admirers, d’Artagnan had not ceased to be a devoted friend. In the midst of his more tender feelings towards the mercer’s wife, he was not forgetful of his companions. The pretty Madame Bonancieux was the very woman to take on an excursion to the plain of Saint Denis, or the fair at St. Germain, in company with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, to whom he should be so proud to show his charming conquest. And then—as d’Artagnan had happened to remark of late—after a long walk one gets hungry; and they would have some of those pleasant little dinners, during which one touches on this side the hand of a friend, on that the foot of a mistress. Finally, in moments of emergency, in great extremities, might it not be his happiness to be the saviour of his friends?
But what of M. Bonancieux, whom d’Artagnan had given over to the keeping of the officers; disowning him aloud, whilst, in a whisper, he assured him of his care? We must confess to our readers, that d’Artagnan had never thought of him at all; or, if he did think of him, it was merely to congratulate himself, that he was very well where he was, wherever that might be. Love is the most selfish of all our passions.
Nevertheless, let our readers take comfort: though d’Artagnan forgets his landlord, or pretends to forget him, under the excuse of not knowing where he has been taken, we have not forgotten him, and do know where he is. But, for the present, let us act like the amorous Gascon. As for the worthy mercer, we will return to him by and by.
D’Artagnan, whilst meditating on his future love, and conversing with the night, and smiling on the stars, proceeded along the Rue de Cherche Midi, or Chasse Midi, as it was then called. Being in Aramis’s neighbourhood, he thought he might as well pay him a visit, to explain why he had sent Planchet with the invitation to come immediately to the mousetrap.
If Planchet had found Aramis at home, the latter had probably hastened to the Rue des Fossoyeurs, and, finding nobody there but his other two friends, perhaps, they would all have been in ignorance of what the summons meant. This dilemma needed some explanation; or, at least, so said d’Artagnan aloud.
But, in his inner soul, he thought that this call would give him an opportunity of talking of the pretty Madame Bonancieux, with whom his mind, if not his heart, was already quite occupied. It is not in regard to a first love that we must look for discretion. The joy with which such a love is attended is so exuberant, that it must overflow, or it would suffocate us.
For the last two hours Paris had been dark and nearly deserted. Eleven o’clock was striking from all the clocks of the Faubourg St. Germain; the time was mild, and d’Artagnan was passing down a small street situated on the ground where the Rue d’Assas now stands, where the air was redolent of odours which were borne on the wind along the Rue de Vaugiraud, from gardens that the evening dews and the gentle gales refreshed. Afar off, though deadened by substantial shutters, was heard the revelry of the wine shops which were scattered over the flat quarters. Having reached the end of this street, d’Artagnan turned to the left. The house where Aramis lived was situated between the Rue Cassette and the Rue Servandoni.
D’Artagnan had already passed by the Rue Cassette, and could just perceive the door of his friend’s house, embosomed amidst sycamores and clematis, when he saw something like a shadow which came out of the Rue Servandoni. This something was enveloped in a cloak, and d’Artagnan at first thought that it was a man; but from the smallness of its size, the irresolution of its manner, and its impeded step, he soon became convinced that it must be a woman. And, moreover, this woman, as though she was uncertain of the house she sought for, lifted up her eyes to examine, stopped, turned back, and then retraced her steps. D’Artagnan was at a loss.
“Suppose I should go and proffer my services!” thought he. “By her manner it is evident that she is young, and perhaps she is pretty. Oh, yes! But then a woman who runs about the streets at this hour, seldom goes out except to meet her lover. Plague! if I should interrupt an appointment, it would be but a bad kind of introduction.”
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