The Three Musketeers
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“If you are in haste, sir,” said d’Artagnan, with the same simplicity that had the moment before characterised his proposition to put off the duel for three days—“if you are in haste, and should wish to dispose of me at once, dispense with the seconds, I beseech you.”
“This speech of yours pleases me still more,” said Athos, gracefully bowing to d’Artagnan, “it does not seem that of a man who lacks either head or heart. I admire men of your stamp, and, if we are spared, I shall hereafter have sincere pleasure in your acquaintance. Meantime, let us wait for these gentlemen, I pray you. I have plenty of time, and it will be more according to rule. Ah! see, here comes one of them.”
And as he spoke, the gigantic form of Porthos was seen at the end of the Rue de Vaugirard.
“What!” exclaimed d’Artagnan, “is M. Porthos one of your seconds!”
“Yes, have you any objection to him?”
“Oh, certainly not!”
“And here is the other.”
D’Artagnan looked in the direction indicated by Athos, and beheld Aramis.
“What!” cried he, in a tone of yet greater astonishment, “is M. Aramis the other of your seconds?”
“Certainly; are you not aware that one is rarely seen without the other, and that amongst the musketeers and guards, at court and in the town, we are known as Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, or the three inseparables? But as you come from Dax or Pau–”
“From Tarbes,” said d’Artagnan.
“You may very naturally be ignorant of all this.”
“Really, gentlemen,” said d’Artagnan, “you are well named; and should my adventure become known, it will at least prove that like draws to like.”
In the meantime Porthos approached, shook hands with Athos, and turning towards d’Artagnan, seemed lost in astonishment. We may mention, in passing, that he had changed his belt, and laid aside his cloak.
“It is with this gentleman that I am about to fight,” said Athos, pointing towards d’Artagnan, and at the same time saluting him.
“And I also am going to fight him,” replied Porthos.
“But not till one o’clock,” interrupted d’Artagnan.
“And I also—it is with him that I am to fight,” said Aramis, who had arrived on the ground, just after Porthos.
“Our appointment, however, is for two o’clock,” replied d’Artagnan, with the same coolness.
“But what are you going to fight about, Athos?” demanded Aramis.
“Upon my faith, I do not well know, except that he hurt my shoulder.”
“And you, Porthos?”
“I fight because I fight,” replied Porthos colouring. Athos, whom nothing escaped, perceived a slight smile curling the lips of the Gascon.
“We had a dispute about dress,” said d’Artagnan.
“And you, Aramis?” demanded Athos.
“Me? I fight on account of a theological dispute,” answered Aramis, making a sign to d’Artagnan that he wished him to conceal the true cause of their duel.
“Really!” said Athos, who observed d’Artagnan smile again.
“Yes, a point of St.Augustine, on which we could not agree,” said the Gascon.
“Decidedly he is a man of spirit,” murmured Athos.
“And now that you are all arrived, gentlemen,” said d’Artagnan, “permit me to offer my apologies.”
A frown passed over the brow of Athos, a haughty smile glided over the lips of Porthos, and a negative sign was the reply of Aramis.
“You do not rightly understand me, gentlemen,” said d’Artagnan, elevating his head, on which a sunbeam played, gilding its fine and manly lines. “I wish to apologise because it is improbable that I shall be able to pay my debt to all three; for M. Athos has the right to kill me first, which greatly decreases the value of your bill, M. Porthos, whilst it renders yours, M. Aramis, of scarcely the slightest value. Therefore, gentlemen, on that account alone, I again repeat my offer of apology. And now upon your guard!”
And with the most gallant and fearless mien he drew his sword.
His blood was fairly roused, and at that moment he would have drawn his sword against all the musketeers in the kingdom with as little hesitation as he then did against Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.
It was a quarter past twelve, the sun was at its meridian, and the situation chosen for the encounter was exposed to its fierce heat.
“It is very hot,” said Athos, drawing his sword, “and yet I cannot take off my doublet, for just now I perceived that my wound bled, and I fear to distress this gentleman by showing him blood which he has not drawn from me himself.”
“True, sir,” replied d’Artagnan, “but I assure you that, whether drawn by myself or by any other person, I shall always see with regret the blood of so brave a gentleman; I will therefore follow your example, and fight in my doublet.”
“Come,” said Porthos, “a truce to these compliments. Remember that we also await our turn.”
“Speak for yourself only, Porthos, when you choose to be so rude,” interposed Aramis. “As for me, I consider the courtesies which have passed between these gentlemen as worthy of men of the highest honour.”
“When you please, sir,” said Athos, placing himself on his guard.
“I was at your service,” said d’Artagnan, crossing his sword.
But the two rapiers had scarcely met, when a party of the cardinal’s guards, commanded by M. de Jussac, appeared at the corner of the convent.
“The cardinal’s guards!” exclaimed Porthos and Aramis at the same moment. “Sheathe swords—gentlemen—sheathe swords!”
But it was too late. The combatants had been seen in a position which left no doubt of their intentions.
“Hollo!” cried Jussac, advancing towards them, and giving a signal to his men to do the same. “Hollo, musketeers! What, fighting here? And the edicts—are they forgotten, eh?”
“You are extremely generous, gentlemen of the guards,” said Athos, in a tone of the most bitter animosity, for Jussac had been one of the aggressors on the night before last. “If we saw you fighting, I promise you that we should not prevent it; therefore let us alone, and you will enjoy the spectacle without any of the pain.”
“Gentlemen,” answered Jussac, “it is with regret I declare that what you request is impossible. Duty must take precedence of everything else. Sheathe, therefore, if you please, and follow us.”
“Sir,” said Aramis, parodying Jussac’s manner, “if it depended upon ourselves, we should accept your polite invitation with the utmost pleasure; but unfortunately the thing is impossible. M. de Treville has forbidden it. Move on, therefore; it is the best thing you can do.”
This mockery exasperated Jussac. “We will charge you,” said he, “if you disobey.”
“They are five,” said Athos in a low voice, “and we are only three; we shall be beaten again, and we must die here; for I positively swear that I will not again appear before the captain a vanquished man.”
Athos, Porthos, and Aramis closed up to each other, whilst Jussac drew up his men. This moment of delay sufficed for d’Artagnan to form his resolution. It was one of those moments weighed with a man’s whole destiny; it was a choice between the king and the cardinal, and this choice, once made, must be adhered to. To fight was to disobey the law, to risk his head, and, by one blow, to make an enemy of a minister more powerful than the king himself. All this the young man plainly perceived, and we must do him the justice to declare that he did not hesitate a single instant.
“Gentlemen,” said he, “you must allow me to correct one thing which you have said. You affirmed that you were but three; but it appears to me that there are four of us.”
“You are not one of us,” said Porthos.
“True,” replied d’Artagnan, “I have not the dress, but I have the heart and soul of a musketeer; I feel it, sir, and it impels me along, as it were, by force.”
“Hark ye, young man!” cried Jussac, who doubtless, from d’Artagnan’s gestures and the expression of his countenance, had divined his intentions; “you may retire; we permit you; save your skin, and that quickly.”
But d’Artagnan moved not a step.
“You are unquestionably a man of spirit,” said Athos, pressing the young man’s hand.
“Come, come; decide, decide!” exclaimed Jussac.
“We must make up our minds,” said Porthos and Aramis.
“You are truly generous,” said Athos to d’Artagnan.
But all three thought of d’Artagnan’s youth, and feared his inexperience.
“We are but three, and one of us wounded, exclusive of this boy,” remarked Athos; “and yet it will be said that we were four men.”
“Ay, but to retreat!” said Porthos.
“It is difficult,” said Athos.
“Quite impossible!” said Aramis.
D’Artagnan comprehended the cause of their irresolution. “Gentlemen,” said he, “only try me, and I pledge you my honour that I will not leave this spot except as a conqueror.”
“What is your name, my fine fellow?” said Athos.
“Well, then, Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d’Artagnan, forward!” exclaimed Athos.
“So, you have made up your minds, gentlemen?” cried Jussac for the third time.
“Quite so,” replied Athos.
“And what is your resolve?” demanded Jussac.
“We are about to have the honour of charging you,” replied Aramis, raising his hat with one hand, and drawing his sword with the other.
“Ah! you resist!” cried Jussac.
“Mortdieu! Does that surprise you?”
And the nine combatants rushed upon each other with a fury which did not, however, exclude a kind of method. Athos took Cahusac, one of the cardinal’s favourites; Porthos selected Biscarrat; and Aramis found himself opposed to two adversaries. As for d’Artagnan, he sprang towards Jussac himself.
The heart of the young Gascon throbbed violently, not with fear, but with eagerness. He fought with the fury of an enraged tiger, turning round his adversary, and every moment changing his guard and position. Jussac, as we have before said, was a most skilful and experienced swordsman; nevertheless, he found the utmost difficulty in defending himself against his adversary, who, active and nimble, perpetually deviated from all the received rules of fencing, attacking on all sides at once, and yet at the same time guarding himself like one who had the greatest respect in the world for his own person. At length the struggle was brought to a conclusion by Jussac’s rashness. Furious at being thus held at bay by one whom he regarded as a mere boy, he became less cautious, and committed various indiscretions; whilst d’Artagnan, who, although deficient in practice, had a profound knowledge of the theory of the art, redoubled his agility. Jussac, eager to dispatch him, made a tremendous lunge, at the same time breaking ground; but d’Artagnan parried the thrust, and whilst Jussac recovered himself, he glided like a serpent under his weapon, and passed his sword through his body; Jussac fell heavily on the ground.
D’Artagnan now cast a rapid and anxious glance over the field of battle. Aramis had already killed one of his adversaries, but the other pressed him sharply. He was, however, in very good trim, and could well defend himself. Biscarrat and Porthos had both received wounds, Porthos in the arm, and his adversary in the thigh; but as neither of these wounds was severe, they only fought the more fiercely. Athos, wounded afresh by Cahusac, looked more and more pale, but did not yield an inch; he had merely changed hands, and fought with his left. According to the laws of duelling at that period, d’Artagnan was at liberty to assist any one of his companions; and whilst he sought to ascertain which of them most required his aid, he caught a glance from Athos, which served instead of speech. Athos would have died sooner than call for assistance; but his look plainly denoted how much he required support. D’Artagnan at once comprehended his meaning, and with a single bound he fell on Cahusac’s flank, exclaiming, “Turn, sir guardsman, or I kill you!”
Cahusac did turn, just as Athos, whom his extreme courage had alone sustained, sunk upon one knee. “Hollo, young man!” exclaimed Athos, “do not kill him, I beseech you; I have an old affair to settle with him when I am cured. Disarm him only; deprive him of his sword—that’s it—good, very good!”
This exclamation escaped Athos on perceiving the sword of Cahusac flying from his hand a distance of twenty paces. D’Artagnan and Cahusac both rushed forward to secure the weapon; but d’Artagnan being the most active, reached it first, and placed his foot upon it. Cahusac then went to the guardsman killed by Aramis, seized his rapier, and was returning to d’Artagnan; but on his way he encountered Athos, who during this momentary pause had recovered his breath, and fearing that d’Artagnan might kill his opponent, wished to renew the contest. D’Artagnan perceived that he would offend Athos if he did not permit him to have his own way; and in a few minutes Cahusac fell pierced in the throat. At the same moment Aramis placed the point of his sword at the breast of his fallen adversary, and compelled him to sue for mercy.
Porthos and Biscarrat alone remained fighting. Porthos, whilst fighting, indulged himself in a thousand fantastic jests and humours, asking Biscarrat what time of day it was, and congratulating him on the company his brother had just obtained in the regiment of Navarre. This jesting, however, gained him no advantage; for Biscarrat was one of those indomitable spirits who die, but do not surrender. It was time, however, to stop the fight, as the guard might arrive, and arrest all the combatants, whether wounded or not, whether royalists or cardinalists. Athos, Aramis, and d’Artagnan, therefore, surrounded Biscarrat, and summoned him to surrender. Although alone against all four, and with a wound which had passed through his thigh, Biscarrat refused to yield; but Jussac, raising himself on his elbow, requested him to desist. Biscarrat, however, like d’Artagnan, was a Gascon: he therefore only laughed, and pretended not to hear; and finding time, between the parries, to point with his sword to the ground at his feet—
“Here,” said he, “will Biscarrat die, the sole survivor of those that were with him.”
“But they are four—four against one!” cried Jussac; “yield, I command you!”
“Ah, if you command me, it is another thing,” said Biscarrat; “you are my commander, and I must obey.”
And suddenly springing backwards, he broke his sword across his knee, in order that he might not give it up, threw the pieces over the wall of the convent; and then, crossing his arms, he whistled a cardinalist air.
Bravery is always respected, even in an enemy. The musketeers saluted Biscarrat with their swords, and returned them to their scabbards. D’Artagnan did the same; and then, assisted by Biscarrat, the only one who remained on his legs, he carried Jussac, Cahusac, and that one of the adversaries of Aramis who was only wounded, under the porch of the convent. The fourth, as we have said, was dead. They then rang the bell, and confiscating four out of the five swords, they set off, intoxicated with joy, towards M. de Treville’s hotel. They proceeded arm in arm, occupying the whole breadth of the street; and as they detained every musketeer they met, the march soon became like a triumphal procession. D’Artagnan’s heart was in a delirium of exultation, as he marched between Athos and Porthos.
“If I am not yet a musketeer,” said he to his new friends, whilst passing the threshold of M. de Treville’s hotel, “I am at least next door to one. Is it not so?”
THE AFFAIR MADE a great noise. M. de Treville strongly censured his musketeers in public; but privately they heard only his congratulations. As, however, it was essential that no time should be lost in gaining the king, M. de Treville hastened to the Louvre. But he was too late; the king was closeted with the cardinal, and M. de Treville was informed that his majesty was engaged, and could not then see any one. In the evening, M. de Treville returned. The king was at play, and was winning; and his majesty, being very covetous, was in an excellent humour. Therefore, as soon as he saw M. de Treville, he exclaimed—
“Come here, my captain, that I may chide you. Are you aware that his eminence came to complain to me of your musketeers, and with so much emotion as to be indisposed? Well, really, these musketeers of yours are perfect devils—thorough hang-dogs!”
“No, sire,” replied M. de Treville, who at the first glance saw the turn the affair was likely to take. “No, on the contrary, they are good creatures, gentle as lambs, and who, I am confident, have only one wish, that their swords should never leave their scabbards except in time of war. But what are they to do? the guards of the cardinal are continually seeking opportunities of quarrelling with them; and, for the honour of the regiment, the poor young men are obliged to defend themselves.”
“Hark ye, M. de Treville,” said the king; “hark ye! Is this a religious fraternity—these men of yours—that you are speaking of? Truly, my dear captain, I am half inclined to deprive you of your command, and bestow it upon Mademoiselle de Chemerault, to whom I have promised an abbey. Do not suppose, however, that I give implicit credence to this simple story of yours. I am called Louis the Just, M. de Treville; and soon, very soon, we shall see–”
“And it is because I confide in that justice, sire, that I shall calmly and patiently await your majesty’s good pleasure.”
“Wait then, sir, wait then,” said the king, “and it will not be long.”
In fact, at that moment the chances of the game turned against the king, who began to lose what he had before gained. Therefore he was not sorry to find an excuse (to use an expression of the gaming table, of which we confess we know not the origin) for making Charlemagne. The king therefore rose, and putting into his pocket the money which was before him, and most of which he had won—
“La Vieuville,” said he, “take my place. I must talk with M. de Treville on an affair of importance. Ah! I had eighty louis before me: lay down the same sum, that those who have lost may not want their revenge. Justice above all things!”
Then turning towards M. de Treville, and walking with him towards a recess in one of the windows—
“Well, sir,” continued he, “you affirm that it is the guards of his eminence who seek quarrels with your musketeers?”
“Yes, sire; invariably.”
“Well, and how did this affair happen? Relate the facts; for you know, my dear captain, a judge must hear both parties.”
“Oh! by my faith, in the most simple and natural manner: three of my best soldiers, whom your majesty knows by name, and whose services you have often appreciated, and who, I can assure your majesty, are wholly devoted to your service—three of my best soldiers, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, had made a party of pleasure with a young Gascon, a volunteer, whom I had introduced to them the same morning. The party was to be held at St. Germain’s, I believe; and the rendezvous was fixed at Carmes-Deschaux, when it was interrupted by de Jussac, Cahusac, Biscarrat, and two other musketeers of the cardinal who doubtless did not assemble there in such force without some intention in opposition to the edicts.”
“Ah! you give me ground for a conjecture,” said the king; “doubtless they came there to have an affair of honour.”
“I do not accuse them, sire, but I leave your majesty to judge what five armed men could be doing in a spot so retired as is the neighbourhood of the convent.’
“Very true, Treville; yes, you are right.”
“But, when they saw my musketeers, they changed their intentions, and forgot their individual and personal hatred, to indulge their enmity towards our corps; for your majesty well knows that the musketeers, who are wholly for the king, and nothing but the king, are the natural enemies of the guards, who are for the cardinal alone.”
“Yes, Treville,” said the king sorrowfully; “and it is a sad thing, believe me, thus to see two parties in France—two royal heads, as it were, under one crown. But this must be brought to an end. You say, then, that the guards sought a difference with the musketeers?”
“I say it is probable that this was the case, but I do not swear to it, sire. Your majesty well knows how difficult it is to discover the truth, unless, indeed, one were gifted with that admirable penetration which has caused Louis XIII. to be named the Just.”
“There again you are right, Treville. But your musketeers were not alone; there was a boy with them.”
“Yes, sire, and a wounded man; so that three of the king’s musketeers, of whom one was wounded, and this boy, not only made head against five of the most formidable of the cardinal’s guards, but even bore four of them to the earth.”
“Why, it is a complete victory!” exclaimed the king, radiant with joy—“a most complete victory!”
“Yes, sire, as complete as that of the bridge of C?.”
“Four men—of whom one was wounded, and another a boy—do you say?”
“A stripling; but who behaved so nobly on this occasion, that I shall take the liberty of recommending him to your majesty.”
“What is his name?”
“D’Artagnan, sire; he is the son of one of my oldest friends—the son of a man who was engaged in the Partizan war on the side of the king your father, of glorious memory.”
“And you say this youth acquitted himself bravely? Tell me all about it, Treville, for you know how I love to hear of war and combats.”
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