The Three Musketeers
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
He had scarcely finished, when d’Artagnan made such a furious thrust at him, that, had he not jumped back briskly, it is probable the jest would have been his last. Perceiving now, however, that the affair was beyond a joke, the unknown drew his sword, saluted his adversary, and gravely put himself on guard; but at the same moment his two auditors, accompanied by the host, fell pell-mell upon d’Artagnan, with sticks, shovels, and tongs. This caused such a complete diversion of the attack, that, whilst d’Artagnan himself turned to face this shower of blows, his opponent put up his sword with the same calm as before, and, from an actor, became a spectator of the combat—a character which he supported with the same imperturbability, yet all the time muttering, “Plague upon these Gascons! Put him on his orange-coloured horse, and let him go.”
“Not before I have slain you, you coward!” cried d’Artagnan, all the time making the best resistance he could, and not yielding one step to his three opponents, who showered their blows upon him.
“Yet another gasconade!” murmured the gentleman; “upon my word these Gascons are incorrigible; keep up the dance, since he actually wishes it; when he is tired he will say that he has had enough.”
But the stranger did not yet know with what a stubborn personage he had to deal. D’Artagnan was not the man ever to sue for quarter. The contest therefore continued for some moments longer, until at last, completely worn out, d’Artagnan dropped his sword, which was broken in two by a blow from a stick, while at the same instant another blow, which cut open his forehead, stretched him on the ground almost senseless.
It was now that all the burghers hastened to the scene of action. Fearing a disturbance, the landlord, assisted by his servants, carried the wounded man into the kitchen, where some care was given him. As for the stranger, he returned to the window, and viewed the crowd with evident marks of impatience, seeming rather annoyed at their refusal to go away.
“Well, how is that madman now?” said he, turning, and addressing the host, who came to inquire in what state his guest was.
“Is your excellency safe and well?” demanded the host.
“Yes, perfectly so, mine host; but I wish to know what is become of this youth.”
“He is better,” replied the host; “but he was quite senseless.”
“Indeed!” said the gentleman.
“But before he quite lost his senses, he rallied all his strength to challenge and defy you,” added the landlord.
“Well, this young fellow is the very devil himself,” said the gentleman.
“Oh, no, your excellency, oh, no,” replied the host, with a contemptuous grin, “he is not the devil, for while he was senseless we rummaged his outfit, and in his bundle we found but one shirt, and in his pocket only twelve crowns, which fact, however, did not prevent his saying, just before he fainted, that, had this happened in Paris, you should quickly have repented it, but as it has taken place here you will not have to repent it until later.”
“Therefore,” coolly observed the stranger, “he doubtless is a prince of the blood in disguise.”
“I give you this information, sir,” said the host, “that you may keep yourself on your guard.”
“And did he not name any one in his anger?”
“Yes, he slapped his pocket, and said, ‘We shall see what M.de Treville will say to this insult offered to his prot?g?.’”
“M. de Treville?” said the unknown, becoming more attentive; “he slapped his pocket, and mentioned the name of M. de Treville?—Let us see, my good host: whilst this young man was senseless, you did not fail, I am sure, to examine that pocket: what did it contain?”
“A letter, addressed to M. de Treville, captain of the Musketeers.”
“Just as I have the honour to tell your excellency,” said the host.
The latter, who had no great penetration, did not remark the expression which these words brought upon the countenance of the stranger, who now left the windowsill, on which his elbow had rested, and frowned like a man disturbed all of a sudden.
“The devil!” muttered he between his teeth; “could Treville have sent this Gascon? He is very young; but a thrust of a sword is a thrust of a sword, whatever may be the age of him that gives it, and one distrusts a boy less than an oldster; a slight obstacle is sufficient to thwart a project.” And the stranger fell into a reverie which lasted some minutes. “Come, mine host,” at length he said, “will you not rid me of this madman? I cannot conscientiously kill him, and yet,” he added with a menacing air, “he much annoys me. Where is he?”
“In my wife’s chamber, on the first storey, where they are dressing his wounds.”
“Are his clothes and his bag with him? Has he taken off his doublet?”
“On the contrary, they are below in the kitchen,” said the host; “but since this young madman annoys you–”
“Doubtless; he causes a disturbance in your inn, which no respectable people can bear. Go to your room, make out my bill, and give orders to my servants.”
“What, sir, must you be off?”
“Yes. I ordered you to saddle my horse; have I not been obeyed?”
“Yes; and your excellency may see your horse standing under the grand entrance, quite ready for the road.”
“Very well; then do as I have ordered.”
“Heyday!” said the host to himself; “can he be afraid of this young boy?” But a commanding look from the stranger cut him short; he humbly bowed, and left the apartment.
“My lady must not see this strange fellow,” said the stranger; “as she is already late, she must soon pass. I had better mount my horse and go to meet her. If I could only just learn the contents of that letter addressed to Treville.” And thus muttering, the unknown descended to the kitchen.
In the meantime, the landlord, who doubted not that this youth’s presence drove the stranger from his inn, had gone to his wife’s chamber, and found that d’Artagnan had regained consciousness. Then, whilst he made him comprehend that the police might be severe on him for having attacked a great lord (for, according to the host’s idea, the stranger could be nothing less than a great lord), he persuaded him, in spite of his weakness, to resume his journey.
D’Artagnan, half stunned, without doublet, his head completely bandaged, arose, and, pushed out by the host, began to descend the stairs; but on reaching the kitchen, the first object he saw was his opponent, who was quietly talking at the door of a heavy carriage, drawn by two large Norman horses. The person with whom he conversed was a woman of from twenty to twenty-two years of age, whose head appeared, through the window of the carriage, like a picture in a frame. We have already said how rapidly d’Artagnan caught the expression of a countenance; he saw, therefore, at the first glance, that the lady was young and attractive. Now, this beauty was the more striking to him, as it was completely different from that of his own southern country. She was a pale, fair person, with long curling hair falling on her shoulders, large blue languishing eyes, rosy lips, and alabaster hands. She conversed with the unknown with great vivacity.
“So, his eminence commands me–” said she.
“To return immediately to England, and apprise him, with all speed, whether the duke has left London,” said the unknown.
“And as to my other instructions?” demanded the fair traveller.
“They are enclosed in this box, which you will not open until you are on the other side of the Channel.”
“Good; and you? What are you going to do?”
“I return to Paris.”
“Without chastising this insolent boy?” demanded the lady.
The unknown was about to reply, but ere he could do so, d’Artagnan, who had heard every word, rushed to the doorway. “It is that insolent boy,” he cried, “who chastises others, and I hope that this time he who deserves chastisement will not escape him.”
“Will not escape him?” echoed the unknown, knitting his brows.
“No, in the presence of a woman you would hesitate to fly, I presume.”
“Consider,” said the lady, seeing the gentleman place his hand to his sword, “consider that the slightest delay might ruin all.”
“You are right,” said the gentleman; “you go your way, and I will go mine;” and, saluting the lady with a bow, he got into the saddle, whilst the coachman whipped his horses. The lady and gentleman therefore went off at a gallop towards the opposite ends of the street.
“Hollo! your bill!” shouted mine host, whose affection for the traveller was changed to the most profound contempt when he saw him departing without paying.
“Pay, rascal,” cried the traveller, as he galloped off, to his valet, who threw three or four pieces of silver at the feet of the landlord, and set off at full speed the way his master went.
“Oh, coward! wretch! false-hearted gentleman!” cried d’Artagnan, rushing after the valet. But he was still too feeble from his wounds to bear such an effort. Scarcely had he gone ten paces, before his ears tingled, a vertigo seized him, a cloud passed before his eyes, and he fell down in the street, with a final cry of “Coward! coward! coward!”
“He is a sad coward verily,” murmured the host, who now, approaching d’Artagnan, endeavoured to soothe him by this flattery, as the heron in the fable her friend the snail.
“Yes, a sad coward,” murmured d’Artagnan; “but she is beautiful.”
“Who is she?” said the landlord.
“My lady!” murmured d’Artagnan, and again fainted away.
“Never mind,” said the host; “although I have lost two, at any rate I have secured this one, whom I am sure of keeping for some days; at all events, I shall gain eleven crowns.”
It must be borne in mind that eleven crowns was the exact sum which remained in d’Artagnan’s purse; and the host had reckoned upon eleven days’ illness, at a crown a day. On this point, however, he reckoned without his guest. The following day d’Artagnan left his couch, went down to the kitchen, and, besides certain ingredients, the names of which have not descended to posterity, demanded some wine, oil, and rosemary, which, with his mother’s recipe in his hand, he compounded into a salve, wherewith he anointed his numerous wounds, renewing his plasters himself, and not allowing the interposition of any leech.
Thanks, no doubt, to the Bohemian salve, and perhaps also to the absence of the leech, d’Artagnan found himself on foot in the evening, and almost cured by the next day. But at the moment he was paying for this wine, oil, and rosemary, the sole expense he had incurred (for he had been completely abstinent, whilst, on the contrary, if one believed the hostler, the yellow horse had eaten three times as many oats as one would have supposed possible from his size), d’Artagnan found nothing in his pocket but his little purse, with its eleven crowns. As for the letter to M. de Treville, that was gone. The young man began by looking very patiently for this letter, turning out and rummaging his pockets and fobs twenty times, rummaging his valise again and again, and opening and shutting his purse; but when he was quite convinced that the letter was not to be found, he gave full vent to another fit of rage in a manner which was like to make necessary a second decoction of wine and spiced oil. For, upon beholding this young scatter-brain raging, and threatening to destroy everything in his establishment, if the letter were not found, the host had already seized upon a spit, his wife upon the handle of a broom, and the servants upon the same weapons they had wielded the evening before.
“My letter of introduction!” cried d’Artagnan, “my letter of introduction! or, by St. Denis, I will spit you all like so many ortolans.”
One circumstance prevented the youth from accomplishing his threat, which was, that his sword, as we have said, had unfortunately been broken in two in the first struggle—a mischance he had entirely forgotten; consequently, when d’Artagnan went to draw it in earnest, he found himself armed only with the stump, about eight or ten inches long, which the host had carefully thrust into the scabbard. As for the rest of the blade, the cook had adroitly set it aside for a larding-pin. And yet it is probable that this deception would not have stopped our fiery youth, had not the host reflected that the demand which his guest made was perfectly just.
“But after all,” said he, lowering his spit, “where is this letter?”
“Yes, where is this letter?” roared d’Artagnan; “and let me tell you that this letter is for M. de Treville, and that it must be found, otherwise M. de Treville will know to have it found—I’ll answer for it!”
This threat completely frightened mine host. Next to the king and the cardinal, M. de Treville was the man whose name was most frequently in the mouths of the military, and indeed of the citizens. There was certainly, Father Joseph; but his name was never mentioned except in an undertone; so great was the terror which his gray eminence, as the familiar of the cardinal was called, inspired. Therefore, throwing away his spit, and ordering his wife to do the same with her broom-handle, and the servants with their weapons, he himself set the example by commencing a diligent search for the letter.
“Did this letter contain anything valuable?” said he, after some moments of fruitless search.
“I should rather think it did,” cried the Gascon, who calculated on the letter to make his way at court; “it contained my fortune.”
“Were they bills on the Bank of Spain?” demanded the host, much disturbed.
“Bills on the private treasury of his majesty!” replied d’Artagnan, who, calculating on entering the king’s service through this letter of introduction, thought he might, without lying, make this somewhat rash reply.
“The devil!” exclaimed the host, at his wit’s end.
“But it is of no consequence,” continued d’Artagnan, with his native assurance; “the money is nothing, the letter is all I want. I had rather have lost a thousand pistoles than that!” He might as well have made it twenty thousand, but a certain youthful modesty restrained him. A sudden flash of light illumined the mind of the host, who was uttering maledictions at finding nothing.
“This letter is not lost!” he cried.
“Isn’t it?” said d’Artagnan.
“No, it has been taken from you.”
“Taken! and by whom?”
“By the stranger, yesterday; he went into the kitchen, where your doublet was lying; he was there for a time entirely alone; and I will lay a wager it was he who stole it from you.”
“You really think so?” said d’Artagnan, only half convinced, for he knew better than anybody the strictly personal value of the letter, and saw nothing in it to excite cupidity. The fact is, that none of the servants or travellers who were there could have gained anything by the theft.
“You say, then,” continued d’Artagnan, “that you suspect this impertinent gentleman?”
“I tell you that I am quite certain of it,” said the host; “when I informed him that your worship was the prot?g? of M. de Treville, and that you had a letter for that illustrious noble, he appeared much disturbed, demanded where the letter was, and immediately went into the kitchen, where your doublet was lying.”
“Then he is the robber,” said d’Artagnan; “I will complain to M. de Treville, and he will lay my complaint before his majesty.”
And he majestically drew from his pocket two crowns, which he handed to the host, who followed him, cap in hand, to the archway, where he remounted his yellow horse, which carried him without further accident to the gate of St. Antoine, at Paris. There its owner sold the animal for three crowns; which was a good price, considering that d’Artagnan had over-ridden him in the last part of the journey. The dealer to whom he sold the sheltie for these nine francs, did not conceal from the young man that he paid this exorbitant sum merely on account of the originality of his colour.
D’Artagnan therefore entered Paris on foot, carrying his small valise under his arm, and proceeded until he found a lodging suitable to his slender resources. This chamber was a sort of garret, situated in the Rue des Fossoyeurs, near the Luxembourg. Having paid the luckpenny, he took possession of his lodging, and passed the remainder of the day in sewing on his doublet and breeches sundry laces which his mother had secretly taken from a nearly new doublet of the elder M. d’Artagnan. He then repaired to the Quai de la Feraille, to procure a new blade for his sword; after which he returned to the Louvre, and learned from the first musketeer he met where M. de Treville’s hotel was situated. This he ascertained to be in the Rue de Vieux Colombier; that is, in the very neighbourhood where he had himself taken up his abode; a circumstance which he construed into a happy omen of the success of his expedition.
These matters disposed of, and satisfied with the manner in which he had behaved at Meung, without remorse for the past, confident in the present, and full of hope for the future, he went to bed and slept the sleep of the brave. This sleep, still that of a rustic, lasted till nine o’clock in the morning, the hour at which he rose to repair to the hotel of this famed M. de Treville, who, according to d’Artagnan’s father, was the third personage in the realm.
M. DE TROISVILLE, as his family was yet called in Gascony, or M. de Treville, as he called himself in Paris, had actually begun life like d’Artagnan; that is to say, without being worth a sou, but with that fund of audacity, esprit, and resolution, which makes the poorest Gascon gentleman often inherit more in imagination than the richest nobleman of Perigord or Berri receives in reality. His daring and haughty courage—still more haughty in success—at the time when blows fell thick as hail, had raised him to the top of that difficult ladder which is called court favour, and which he had climbed four rungs at a time. He was the confidential friend of the king, who, as every one knows, greatly honoured the memory of his father, Henry IV. The father of M. de Treville had served the latter so faithfully in his wars against the League, that, for want of ready money—(a commodity which, during his life, was very scarce with the Bearnese, who constantly paid his debts with what he never had occasion to borrow, that is to say, with his genius)—for want of ready money, as we have said, he had authorised him, after the reduction of Paris, to take for his arms—“Un lion d’or passant, sur gueules,” with the motto, “fidelis et fortis.” It was a great deal of honour, but not much profit; therefore, when the illustrious companion of Henry the Great died, the sole inheritance he left his son was his sword, with the arms and motto. Thanks, however, to this double legacy, and to the name without tarnish which accompanied it, M. de Treville was admitted into the household of the young prince, where he made such good use of his sword, and was so true to his motto, that Louis XIII., one of the best hands with the rapier in his own kingdom, used to say, that if he had a friend who was going to fight, he would advise him to take for a second, first himself, and then Treville, or even perhaps Treville before himself. On this account Louis had a real affection for Treville; a royal affection, an egotistical affection, it must be allowed, but an affection nevertheless. In those unhappy days it was an important consideration to surround oneself with men of Treville’s stamp. Many could take for their device the epithet of “fortis,” which formed the second part of the motto, but very few men could claim the epithet “fidelis,” which formed the first part of it. Treville was one of the few: his was one of those rare organisations with the intelligence and obedience of the mastiff, and a blind courage, and a ready hand, one to whom the eye had been given only to see whether the king was dissatisfied with any one, and the hand only to strike the offending person—a Besme, a Maurevers, a Poltrot de M?r?, a Vitry; in short, Treville only wanted an opportunity; but he watched for it, and was resolved to seize it by its three hairs if ever it came within reach of his grasp. Louis XIII. therefore appointed Treville captain of the musketeers, who, by their devotion, or rather fanaticism, became what his ordinary troops were to Henry III., and his Scottish guard to Louis XI. In this respect the cardinal was not behind the king; for when he saw the formidable picked guard with which Louis surrounded himself, this second, or rather this first, king of France, wished also to have his own guard; he therefore, as well as the king, had his musketeers; and these two potent rivals were seen selecting for their service, from all the provinces of France, and even from all foreign countries, men famous for their skill as swordsmen. It was not rare for Richelieu and the king, over their game of chess in the evening, to dispute concerning the merits of their respective followers. Each boasted of the deportment and the courage of his own; and whilst openly inveighing against duels and imbroglios, they secretly excited their respective partisans to right, and experienced immoderate delight, or intense chagrin, at their respective victories or defeats. Thus at least says the memoir of one who was concerned in some of these defeats, and many of these victories.
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî