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Louise de la Valliere

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Chapter IV. The Rat and the Cheese.


D’Artagnan and Porthos returned on foot, as D’Artagnan had set out. When D’Artagnan, as he entered the shop of the Pilon d’Or, announced to Planchet that M. du Vallon would be one of the privileged travelers, and as the plume in Porthos’s hat made the wooden candles suspended over the front jingle together, a melancholy presentiment seemed to eclipse the delight Planchet had promised himself for the morrow. But the grocer had a heart of gold, ever mindful of the good old times—a trait that carries youth into old age. So Planchet, notwithstanding a sort of internal shiver, checked as soon as experienced, received Porthos with respect, mingled with the tenderest cordiality. Porthos, who was a little cold and stiff in his manners at first, on account of the social difference existing at that period between a baron and a grocer, soon began to soften when he perceived so much good-feeling and so many kind attentions in Planchet. He was particularly touched by the liberty which was permitted him to plunge his great palms into the boxes of dried fruits and preserves, into the sacks of nuts and almonds, and into the drawers full of sweetmeats. So that, notwithstanding Planchet’s pressing invitations to go upstairs to the entresol, he chose as his favorite seat, during the evening which he had to spend at Planchet’s house, the shop itself, where his fingers could always fish up whatever his nose detected. The delicious figs from Provence, filberts from the forest, Tours plums, were subjects of his uninterrupted attention for five consecutive hours. His teeth, like millstones, cracked heaps of nuts, the shells of which were scattered all over the floor, where they were trampled by every one who went in and out of the shop; Porthos pulled from the stalk with his lips, at one mouthful, bunches of the rich Muscatel raisins with their beautiful bloom, half a pound of which passed at one gulp from his mouth to his stomach. In one of the corners of the shop, Planchet’s assistants, huddled together, looked at each other without venturing to open their lips. They did not know who Porthos was, for they had never seen him before. The race of those Titans who had worn the cuirasses of Hugh Capet, Philip Augustus, and Francis I. had already begun to disappear. They could hardly help thinking he might be the ogre of the fairy tale, who was going to turn the whole contents of Planchet’s shop into his insatiable stomach, and that, too, without in the slightest degree displacing the barrels and chests that were in it. Cracking, munching, chewing, nibbling, sucking, and swallowing, Porthos occasionally said to the grocer:

“You do a very good business here, friend Planchet.”

“He will very soon have none at all to do, if this sort of thing continues,” grumbled the foreman, who had Planchet’s word that he should be his successor. In the midst of his despair, he approached Porthos, who blocked up the whole of the passage leading from the back shop to the shop itself. He hoped that Porthos would rise and that this movement would distract his devouring ideas.

“What do you want, my man?” asked Porthos, affably.

“I should like to pass you, monsieur, if it is not troubling you too much.”

“Very well,” said Porthos, “it does not trouble me in the least.”

At the same moment he took hold of the young fellow by the waistband, lifted him off the ground, and placed him very gently on the other side, smiling all the while with the same affable expression. As soon as Porthos had placed him on the ground, the lad’s legs so shook under him that he fell back upon some sacks of corks. But noticing the giant’s gentleness of manner, he ventured again, and said:

“Ah, monsieur! pray be careful.”

“What about?” inquired Porthos.

“You are positively putting a fiery furnace into your body.”

“How is that, my good fellow?”

“All those things are very heating to the system!”

“Which?”

“Raisins, nuts, and almonds.”

“Yes; but if raisins, nuts, and almonds are heating—”

“There is no doubt at all of it, monsieur.”

“Honey is very cooling,” said Porthos, stretching out his hand toward a small barrel of honey which was open, and he plunged the scoop with which the wants of the customers were supplied into it, and swallowed a good half-pound at one gulp.

“I must trouble you for some water now, my man,” said Porthos.

“In a pail, monsieur?” asked the lad, simply.

“No, in a water-bottle; that will be quite enough;” and raising the bottle to his mouth, as a trumpeter does his trumpet, he emptied the bottle at a single draught.

Planchet was agitated in every fibre of propriety and self-esteem. However, a worthy representative of the hospitality which prevailed in early days, he feigned to be talking very earnestly with D’Artagnan, and incessantly repeated:—“Ah! monsieur, what a happiness! what an honor!”

“What time shall we have supper, Planchet?” inquired Porthos, “I feel hungry.”

The foreman clasped his hands together. The two others got under the counters, fearing Porthos might have a taste for human flesh.

“We shall only take a sort of snack here,” said D’Artagnan; “and when we get to Planchet’s country-seat, we will have supper.”

“Ah, ah! so we are going to your country-house, Planchet,” said Porthos; “so much the better.”

“You overwhelm me, monsieur le baron.”

The “monsieur le baron” had a great effect upon the men, who detected a personage of the highest quality in an appetite of that kind. This title, too, reassured them. They had never heard that an ogre was ever called “monsieur le baron”.

“I will take a few biscuits to eat on the road,” said Porthos, carelessly; and he emptied a whole jar of aniseed biscuits into the huge pocket of his doublet.

“My shop is saved!” exclaimed Planchet.

“Yes, as the cheese was,” whispered the foreman.

“What cheese?”

“The Dutch cheese, inside which a rat had made his way, and we found only the rind left.”

Planchet looked all round his shop, and observing the different articles which had escaped Porthos’s teeth, he found the comparison somewhat exaggerated. The foreman, who remarked what was passing in his master’s mind, said, “Take care; he is not gone yet.”

“Have you any fruit here?” said Porthos, as he went upstairs to the entresol, where it had just been announced that some refreshment was prepared.

“Alas!” thought the grocer, addressing a look at D’Artagnan full of entreaty, which the latter half understood.

As soon as they had finished eating they set off. It was late when the three riders, who had left Paris about six in the evening, arrived at Fontainebleau. The journey passed very agreeably. Porthos took a fancy to Planchet’s society, because the latter was very respectful in his manners, and seemed delighted to talk to him about his meadows, his woods, and his rabbit-warrens. Porthos had all the taste and pride of a landed proprietor. When D’Artagnan saw his two companions in earnest conversation, he took the opposite side of the road, and letting his bridle drop upon his horse’s neck, separated himself from the whole world, as he had done from Porthos and from Planchet. The moon shone softly through the foliage of the forest. The breezes of the open country rose deliciously perfumed to the horse’s nostrils, and they snorted and pranced along delightedly. Porthos and Planchet began to talk about hay-crops. Planchet admitted to Porthos that in the advanced years of his life, he had certainly neglected agricultural pursuits for commerce, but that his childhood had been passed in Picardy in the beautiful meadows where the grass grew as high as the knees, and where he had played under the green apple-trees covered with red-cheeked fruit; he went on to say, that he had solemnly promised himself that as soon as he should have made his fortune, he would return to nature, and end his days, as he had begun them, as near as he possibly could to the earth itself, where all men must sleep at last.

“Eh, eh!” said Porthos; “in that case, my dear Monsieur Planchet, your retirement is not far distant.”

“How so?”

“Why, you seem to be in the way of making your fortune very soon.”

“Well, we are getting on pretty well, I must admit,” replied Planchet.

“Come, tell me what is the extent of your ambition, and what is the amount you intend to retire upon?”

“There is one circumstance, monsieur,” said Planchet, without answering the question, “which occasions me a good deal of anxiety.”

“What is it?” inquired Porthos, looking all round him as if in search of the circumstance that annoyed Planchet, and desirous of freeing him from it.

“Why, formerly,” said the grocer, “you used to call me Planchet quite short, and you would have spoken to me then in a much more familiar manner than you do now.”

“Certainly, certainly, I should have said so formerly,” replied the good-natured Porthos, with an embarrassment full of delicacy; “but formerly—”

“Formerly I was M. d’Artagnan’s lackey; is not that what you mean?”

“Yes.”

“Well if I am not quite his lackey, I am as much as ever I was his devoted servant; and more than that, since that time—”

“Well, Planchet?”

“Since that time, I have had the honor of being in partnership with him.”

“Oh, oh!” said Porthos. “What, has D’Artagnan gone into the grocery business?”

“No, no,” said D’Artagnan, whom these words had drawn out of his reverie, and who entered into the conversation with that readiness and rapidity which distinguished every operation of his mind and body. “It was not D’Artagnan who entered into the grocery business, but Planchet who entered into a political affair with me.”

“Yes,” said Planchet, with mingled pride and satisfaction, “we transacted a little business which brought me in a hundred thousand francs and M. d’Artagnan two hundred thousand.”

“Oh, oh!” said Porthos, with admiration.

“So that, monsieur le baron,” continued the grocer, “I again beg you to be kind enough to call me Planchet, as you used to do; and to speak to me as familiarly as in old times. You cannot possibly imagine the pleasure it would give me.”

“If that be the case, my dear Planchet, I will do so, certainly,” replied Porthos. And as he was quite close to Planchet, he raised his hand, as if to strike him on the shoulder, in token of friendly cordiality; but a fortunate movement of the horse made him miss his aim, so that his hand fell on the crupper of Planchet’s horse, instead; which made the animal’s legs almost give way.

D’Artagnan burst out laughing, as he said, “Take care, Planchet; for if Porthos begins to like you so much, he will caress you, and if he caresses you he will knock you as flat as a pancake. Porthos is still as strong as ever, you know.”

“Oh,” said Planchet, “Mousqueton is not dead, and yet monsieur le baron is very fond of him.”

“Certainly,” said Porthos, with a sigh which made all the three horses rear; “and I was only saying, this very morning, to D’Artagnan, how much I regretted him. But tell me, Planchet?”

“Thank you, monsieur le baron, thank you.”

“Good lad, good lad! How many acres of park have you got?”

“Of park?”

“Yes; we will reckon up the meadows presently, and the woods afterwards.”

“Whereabouts, monsieur?” “At your chateau.”

“Oh, monsieur le baron, I have neither chateau, nor park, nor meadows, nor woods.”

“What have you got, then?” inquired Porthos, “and why do you call it a country-seat?”

“I did not call it a country-seat, monsieur le baron,” replied Planchet, somewhat humiliated, “but a country-box.”

“Ah, ah! I understand. You are modest.”

“No, monsieur le baron, I speak the plain truth. I have rooms for a couple of friends, that’s all.”

“But in that case, whereabouts do your friends walk?”

“In the first place, they can walk about the king’s forest, which is very beautiful.”

“Yes, I know the forest is very fine,” said Porthos; “nearly as beautiful as my forest at Berry.”

Planchet opened his eyes very wide. “Have you a forest of the same kind as the forest at Fontainebleau, monsieur le baron?” he stammered out.

“Yes; I have two, indeed, but the one at Berry is my favorite.”

“Why so?” asked Planchet.

“Because I don’t know where it ends; and, also, because it is full of poachers.”

“How can the poachers make the forest so agreeable to you?”

“Because they hunt my game, and I hunt them—which, in these peaceful times, is for me a sufficiently pleasing picture of war on a small scale.”

They had reached this turn of conversation, when Planchet, looking up, perceived the houses at the commencement of Fontainebleau, the lofty outlines of which stood out strongly against the misty visage of the heavens; whilst, rising above the compact and irregularly formed mass of buildings, the pointed roofs of the chateau were clearly visible, the slates of which glistened beneath the light of the moon, like the scales of an immense fish. “Gentlemen,” said Planchet, “I have the honor to inform you that we have arrived at Fontainebleau.”






Chapter V. Planchet’s Country-House.


The cavaliers looked up, and saw that what Planchet had announced to them was true. Ten minutes afterwards they were in the street called the Rue de Lyon, on the opposite side of the hostelry of the Beau Paon. A high hedge of bushy elders, hawthorn, and wild hops formed an impenetrable fence, behind which rose a white house, with a high tiled roof. Two of the windows, which were quite dark, looked upon the street. Between the two, a small door, with a porch supported by a couple of pillars, formed the entrance to the house. The door was gained by a step raised a little from the ground. Planchet got off his horse, as if he intended to knock at the door; but, on second thoughts, he took hold of his horse by the bridle, and led it about thirty paces further on, his two companions following him. He then advanced about another thirty paces, until he arrived at the door of a cart-house, lighted by an iron grating; and, lifting up a wooden latch, pushed open one of the folding-doors. He entered first, leading his horse after him by the bridle, into a small courtyard, where an odor met them which revealed their close vicinity to a stable. “That smells all right,” said Porthos, loudly, getting off his horse, “and I almost begin to think I am near my own cows at Pierrefonds.”

“I have only one cow,” Planchet hastened to say modestly.

“And I have thirty,” said Porthos; “or rather, I don’t exactly know how many I have.”

When the two cavaliers had entered, Planchet fastened the door behind them. In the meantime, D’Artagnan, who had dismounted with his usual agility, inhaled the fresh perfumed air with the delight a Parisian feels at the sight of green fields and fresh foliage, plucked a piece of honeysuckle with one hand, and of sweet-briar with the other. Porthos clawed hold of some peas which were twined round poles stuck into the ground, and ate, or rather browsed upon them, shells and all: and Planchet was busily engaged trying to wake up an old and infirm peasant, who was fast asleep in a shed, lying on a bed of moss, and dressed in an old stable suit of clothes. The peasant, recognizing Planchet, called him “the master,” to the grocer’s great satisfaction. “Stable the horses well, old fellow, and you shall have something good for yourself,” said Planchet.

“Yes, yes; fine animals they are too,” said the peasant. “Oh! they shall have as much as they like.”

“Gently, gently, my man,” said D’Artagnan, “we are getting on a little too fast. A few oats and a good bed—nothing more.”

“Some bran and water for my horse,” said Porthos, “for it is very warm, I think.”

“Don’t be afraid, gentlemen,” replied Planchet; “Daddy Celestin is an old gendarme, who fought at Ivry. He knows all about horses; so come into the house.” And he led the way along a well-sheltered walk, which crossed a kitchen-garden, then a small paddock, and came out into a little garden behind the house, the principal front of which, as we have already noticed, faced the street. As they approached, they could see, through two open windows on the ground floor, which led into a sitting-room, the interior of Planchet’s residence. This room, softly lighted by a lamp placed on the table, seemed, from the end of the garden, like a smiling image of repose, comfort, and happiness. In every direction where the rays of light fell, whether upon a piece of old china, or upon an article of furniture shining from excessive neatness, or upon the weapons hanging against the wall, the soft light was softly reflected; and its rays seemed to linger everywhere upon something or another, agreeable to the eye. The lamp which lighted the room, whilst the foliage of jasmine and climbing roses hung in masses from the window-frames, splendidly illuminated a damask table-cloth as white as snow. The table was laid for two persons. Amber-colored wine sparkled in a long cut-glass bottle; and a large jug of blue china, with a silver lid, was filled with foaming cider. Near the table, in a high-backed armchair, reclined, fast asleep, a woman of about thirty years of age, her face the very picture of health and freshness. Upon her knees lay a large cat, with her paws folded under her, and her eyes half-closed, purring in that significant manner which, according to feline habits, indicates perfect contentment. The two friends paused before the window in complete amazement, while Planchet, perceiving their astonishment, was in no little degree secretly delighted at it.

“Ah! Planchet, you rascal,” said D’Artagnan, “I now understand your absences.”

“Oh, oh! there is some white linen!” said Porthos, in his turn, in a voice of thunder. At the sound of this gigantic voice, the cat took flight, the housekeeper woke up with a start, and Planchet, assuming a gracious air, introduced his two companions into the room, where the table was already laid.

“Permit me, my dear,” he said, “to present to you Monsieur le Chevalier d’Artagnan, my patron.” D’Artagnan took the lady’s hand in his in the most courteous manner, and with precisely the same chivalrous air as he would have taken Madame’s.

“Monsieur le Baron du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds,” added Planchet. Porthos bowed with a reverence which Anne of Austria would have approved of.

It was then Planchet’s turn, and he unhesitatingly embraced the lady in question, not, however, until he had made a sign as if requesting D’Artagnan’s and Porthos’s permission, a permission as a matter of course frankly conceded. D’Artagnan complimented Planchet, and said, “You are indeed a man who knows how to make life agreeable.”

“Life, monsieur,” said Planchet, laughing, “is capital which a man ought to invest as sensibly as he possibly can.”

“And you get very good interest for yours,” said Porthos, with a burst of laughter like a peal of thunder.

Planchet turned to his housekeeper. “You have before you,” he said to her, “the two gentlemen who influenced the greatest, gayest, grandest portion of my life. I have spoken to you about them both very frequently.”

“And about two others as well,” said the lady, with a very decided Flemish accent.

“Madame is Dutch?” inquired D’Artagnan. Porthos curled his mustache, a circumstance which was not lost upon D’Artagnan, who noticed everything.

“I am from Antwerp,” said the lady.

“And her name is Madame Getcher,” said Planchet.

“You should not call her madame,” said D’Artagnan.

“Why not?” asked Planchet.

“Because it would make her seem older every time you call her so.”

“Well, I call her Truchen.”

“And a very pretty name too,” said Porthos.

“Truchen,” said Planchet, “came to me from Flanders with her virtue and two thousand florins. She ran away from a brute of a husband who was in the habit of beating her. Being myself a Picard born, I was always very fond of the Artesian women, and it is only a step from Artois to Flanders; she came crying bitterly to her godfather, my predecessor in the Rue des Lombards; she placed her two thousand florins in my establishment, which I have turned to very good account, and which have brought her in ten thousand.”

“Bravo, Planchet.”

“She is free and well off; she has a cow, a maid servant and old Celestin at her orders; she mends my linen, knits my winter stockings; she only sees me every fortnight, and seems to make herself in all things tolerably happy.

“And indeed, gentlemen, I am very happy and comfortable,” said Truchen, with perfect ingenuousness.

Porthos began to curl the other side of his mustache. “The deuce,” thought D’Artagnan, “can Porthos have any intentions in that quarter?”

In the meantime Truchen had set her cook to work, had laid the table for two more, and covered it with every possible delicacy that could convert a light supper into a substantial meal, a meal into a regular feast. Fresh butter, salt beef, anchovies, tunny, a shopful of Planchet’s commodities, fowls, vegetables, salad, fish from the pond and the river, game from the forest—all the produce, in fact, of the province. Moreover, Planchet returned from the cellar, laden with ten bottles of wine, the glass of which could hardly be seen for the thick coating of dust which covered them. Porthos’s heart began to expand as he said, “I am hungry,” and he sat himself beside Madame Truchen, whom he looked at in the most killing manner. D’Artagnan seated himself on the other side of her, while Planchet, discreetly and full of delight, took his seat opposite.

“Do not trouble yourselves,” he said, “if Truchen should leave the table now and then during supper; for she will have to look after your bedrooms.”

In fact, the housekeeper made her escape quite frequently, and they could hear, on the first floor above them, the creaking of the wooden bedsteads and the rolling of the castors on the floor. While this was going on, the three men, Porthos especially, ate and drank gloriously,—it was wonderful to see them. The ten full bottles were ten empty ones by the time Truchen returned with the cheese. D’Artagnan still preserved his dignity and self-possession, but Porthos had lost a portion of his; and the mirth soon began to grow somewhat uproarious. D’Artagnan recommended a new descent into the cellar, and, as Planchet no longer walked with the steadiness of a well-trained foot-soldier, the captain of the musketeers proposed to accompany him. They set off, humming songs wild enough to frighten anybody who might be listening. Truchen remained behind at table with Porthos. While the two wine-bibbers were looking behind the firewood for what they wanted, a sharp report was heard like the impact of a pair of lips on a lady’s cheek.

“Porthos fancies himself at La Rochelle,” thought D’Artagnan, as they returned freighted with bottles. Planchet was singing so loudly that he was incapable of noticing anything. D’Artagnan, whom nothing ever escaped, remarked how much redder Truchen’s left cheek was than her right. Porthos was sitting on Truchen’s left, and was curling with both his hands both sides of his mustache at once, and Truchen was looking at him with a most bewitching smile. The sparkling wine of Anjou very soon produced a remarkable effect upon the three companions. D’Artagnan had hardly strength enough left to take a candlestick to light Planchet up his own staircase. Planchet was pulling Porthos along, who was following Truchen, who was herself jovial enough. It was D’Artagnan who found out the rooms and the beds. Porthos threw himself into the one destined for him, after his friend had undressed him. D’Artagnan got into his own bed, saying to himself, “Mordioux! I had made up my mind never to touch that light-colored wine, which brings my early camp days back again. Fie! fie! if my musketeers were only to see their captain in such a state.” And drawing the curtains of his bed, he added, “Fortunately enough, though, they will not see me.”

“The country is very amusing,” said Porthos, stretching out his legs, which passed through the wooden footboard, and made a tremendous crash, of which, however, no one in the house was capable of taking the slightest notice. By two o’clock in the morning every one was fast asleep.






Chapter VI. Showing What Could Be Seen from Planchet’s House.


The next morning found the three heroes sleeping soundly. Truchen had closed the outside blinds to keep the first rays of the sun from the leaden-lidded eyes of her guests, like a kind, good housekeeper. It was still perfectly dark, then, beneath Porthos’s curtains and under Planchet’s canopy, when D’Artagnan, awakened by an indiscreet ray of light which made its way through a peek-hole in the shutters, jumped hastily out of bed, as if he wished to be the first at a forlorn hope. He took by assault Porthos’s room, which was next to his own. The worthy Porthos was sleeping with a noise like distant thunder; in the dim obscurity of the room his gigantic frame was prominently displayed, and his swollen fist hung down outside the bed upon the carpet. D’Artagnan awoke Porthos, who rubbed his eyes in a tolerably good humor. In the meantime Planchet was dressing himself, and met at their bedroom doors his two guests, who were still somewhat unsteady from their previous evening’s entertainment. Although it was yet very early, the whole household was already up. The cook was mercilessly slaughtering in the poultry-yard; Celestin was gathering white cherries in the garden. Porthos, brisk and lively as ever, held out his hand to Planchet’s, and D’Artagnan requested permission to embrace Madame Truchen. The latter, to show that she bore no ill-will, approached Porthos, upon whom she conferred the same favor. Porthos embraced Madame Truchen, heaving an enormous sigh. Planchet took both his friends by the hand.

“I am going to show you over the house,” he said; “when we arrived last night it was as dark as an oven, and we were unable to see anything; but in broad daylight, everything looks different, and you will be satisfied, I hope.”

“If we begin by the view you have here,” said D’Artagnan, “that charms me beyond everything; I have always lived in royal mansions, you know, and royal personages have tolerably sound ideas upon the selection of points of view.”

“I am a great stickler for a good view myself,” said Porthos. “At my Chateau de Pierrefonds, I have had four avenues laid out, and at the end of each is a landscape of an altogether different character from the others.”

“You shall see my prospect,” said Planchet; and he led his two guests to a window.

“Ah!” said D’Artagnan, “this is the Rue de Lyon.”

“Yes, I have two windows on this side, a paltry, insignificant view, for there is always that bustling and noisy inn, which is a very disagreeable neighbor. I had four windows here, but I bricked up two.”

“Let us go on,” said D’Artagnan.

They entered a corridor leading to the bedrooms, and Planchet pushed open the outside blinds.

“Hollo! what is that out yonder?” said Porthos.

“The forest,” said Planchet. “It is the horizon,—a thick line of green, which is yellow in the spring, green in the summer, red in the autumn, and white in the winter.”

“All very well, but it is like a curtain, which prevents one seeing a greater distance.”

“Yes,” said Planchet; “still, one can see, at all events, everything that intervenes.”

“Ah, the open country,” said Porthos. “But what is that I see out there,—crosses and stones?”

“Ah, that is the cemetery,” exclaimed D’Artagnan.

“Precisely,” said Planchet; “I assure you it is very curious. Hardly a day passes that some one is not buried there; for Fontainebleau is by no means an inconsiderable place. Sometimes we see young girls clothed in white carrying banners; at others, some of the town-council, or rich citizens, with choristers and all the parish authorities; and then, too, we see some of the officers of the king’s household.”

“I should not like that,” said Porthos.

“There is not much amusement in it, at all events,” said D’Artagnan.

“I assure you it encourages religious thoughts,” replied Planchet.

“Oh, I don’t deny that.”

“But,” continued Planchet, “we must all die one day or another, and I once met with a maxim somewhere which I have remembered, that the thought of death is a thought that will do us all good.”

“I am far from saying the contrary,” said Porthos.

“But,” objected D’Artagnan, “the thought of green fields, flowers, rivers, blue horizons, extensive and boundless plains, is not likely to do us good.”

“If I had any, I should be far from rejecting them,” said Planchet; “but possessing only this little cemetery, full of flowers, so moss-grown, shady, and quiet, I am contented with it, and I think of those who live in town, in the Rue des Lombards, for instance, and who have to listen to the rumbling of a couple of thousand vehicles every day, and to the soulless tramp, tramp, tramp of a hundred and fifty thousand foot-passengers.”

“But living,” said Porthos; “living, remember that.”

“That is exactly the reason,” said Planchet, timidly, “why I feel it does me good to contemplate a few dead.”

“Upon my word,” said D’Artagnan, “that fellow Planchet is born a philosopher as well as a grocer.”

“Monsieur,” said Planchet, “I am one of those good-humored sort of men whom Heaven created for the purpose of living a certain span of days, and of considering all good they meet with during their transitory stay on earth.”

D’Artagnan sat down close to the window, and as there seemed to be something substantial in Planchet’s philosophy, he mused over it.

“Ah, ah!” exclaimed Planchet, “if I am not mistaken, we are going to have a representation now, for I think I heard something like chanting.”

“Yes,” said D’Artagnan, “I hear singing too.”

“Oh, it is only a burial of a very poor description,” said Planchet, disdainfully; “the officiating priest, the beadle, and only one chorister boy, nothing more. You observe, messieurs, that the defunct lady or gentleman could not have been of very high rank.”

“No; no one seems to be following the coffin.”

“Yes,” said Porthos; “I see a man.”

“You are right; a man wrapped in a cloak,” said D’Artagnan.

“It’s not worth looking at,” said Planchet.

“I find it interesting,” said D’Artagnan, leaning on the window-sill.

“Come, come, you are beginning to take a fancy to the place already,” said Planchet, delightedly; “it is exactly my own case. I was so melancholy at first that I could do nothing but make the sign of the cross all day, and the chants were like so many nails being driven into my head; but now, they lull me to sleep, and no bird I have ever seen or heard can sing better than those which are to be met with in this cemetery.”

“Well,” said Porthos, “this is beginning to get a little dull for me, and I prefer going downstairs.”

Planchet with one bound was beside his guest, whom he offered to lead into the garden.

“What!” said Porthos to D’Artagnan, as he turned round, “are you going to remain here?”

“Yes, I will join you presently.”

“Well, M. D’Artagnan is right, after all,” said Planchet: “are they beginning to bury yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Ah! yes, the grave-digger is waiting until the cords are fastened round the bier. But, see, a woman has just entered the cemetery at the other end.”

“Yes, yes, my dear Planchet,” said D’Artagnan, quickly, “leave me, leave me; I feel I am beginning already to be much comforted by my meditations, so do not interrupt me.”

Planchet left, and D’Artagnan remained, devouring with his eager gaze from behind the half-closed blinds what was taking place just before him. The two bearers of the corpse had unfastened the straps by which they carried the litter, and were letting their burden glide gently into the open grave. At a few paces distant, the man with the cloak wrapped round him, the only spectator of this melancholy scene, was leaning with his back against a large cypress-tree, and kept his face and person entirely concealed from the grave-diggers and the priests; the corpse was buried in five minutes. The grave having been filled up, the priests turned away, and the grave-digger having addressed a few words to them, followed them as they moved away. The man in the mantle bowed as they passed him, and put a piece of gold into the grave-digger’s hand.

“Mordioux!” murmured D’Artagnan; “it is Aramis himself.”

Aramis, in fact, remained alone, on that side at least; for hardly had he turned his head when a woman’s footsteps, and the rustling of her dress, were heard in the path close to him. He immediately turned round, and took off his hat with the most ceremonious respect; he led the lady under the shelter of some walnut and lime trees, which overshadowed a magnificent tomb.

“Ah! who would have thought it,” said D’Artagnan; “the bishop of Vannes at a rendezvous! He is still the same Abbe Aramis as he was at Noisy-le-Sec. Yes,” he added, after a pause; “but as it is in a cemetery, the rendezvous is sacred.” But he almost laughed.

The conversation lasted for fully half an hour. D’Artagnan could not see the lady’s face, for she kept her back turned towards him; but he saw perfectly well, by the erect attitude of both the speakers, by their gestures, by the measured and careful manner with which they glanced at each other, either by way of attack or defense, that they must be conversing about any other subject than of love. At the end of the conversation the lady rose, and bowed profoundly to Aramis.

“Oh, oh,” said D’Artagnan; “this rendezvous finishes like one of a very tender nature though. The cavalier kneels at the beginning, the young lady by and by gets tamed down, and then it is she who has to supplicate. Who is this lady? I would give anything to ascertain.”

This seemed impossible, however, for Aramis was the first to leave; the lady carefully concealed her head and face, and then immediately departed. D’Artagnan could hold out no longer; he ran to the window which looked out on the Rue de Lyon, and saw Aramis entering the inn. The lady was proceeding in quite an opposite direction, and seemed, in fact, to be about to rejoin an equipage, consisting of two led horses and a carriage, which he could see standing close to the borders of the forest. She was walking slowly, her head bent down, absorbed in the deepest meditation.

“Mordioux! Mordioux! I must and will learn who that woman is,” said the musketeer again; and then, without further deliberation, he set off in pursuit of her. As he was going along, he tried to think how he could possibly contrive to make her raise her veil. “She is not young,” he said, “and is a woman of high rank in society. I ought to know that figure and peculiar style of walk.” As he ran, the sound of his spurs and of his boots upon the hard ground of the street made a strange jingling noise; a fortunate circumstance in itself, which he was far from reckoning upon. The noise disturbed the lady; she seemed to fancy she was being either followed or pursued, which was indeed the case, and turned round. D’Artagnan started as if he had received a charge of small shot in his legs, and then turning suddenly round as if he were going back the same way he had come, he murmured, “Madame de Chevreuse!” D’Artagnan would not go home until he had learnt everything. He asked Celestin to inquire of the grave-digger whose body it was they had buried that morning.

“A poor Franciscan mendicant friar,” replied the latter, “who had not even a dog to love him in this world, and to accompany him to his last resting-place.”

“If that were really the case,” thought D’Artagnan, “we should not have found Aramis present at his funeral. The bishop of Vannes is not precisely a dog as far as devotion goes: his scent, however, is quite as keen, I admit.”