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The Three Musketeers

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19. 
PLAN OF CAMPAIGN


D’Artagnan went straight to M. de Tréville’s. He had reflected that in a few minutes the cardinal would be warned by this cursed stranger, who appeared to be his agent, and he judged, with reason, he had not a moment to lose.

The heart of the young man overflowed with joy. An opportunity presented itself to him in which there would be at the same time glory to be acquired, and money to be gained; and as a far higher encouragement, it brought him into close intimacy with a woman he adored. This chance did, then, for him at once more than he would have dared to ask of Providence.

M. de Tréville was in his saloon with his habitual court of gentlemen. D’Artagnan, who was known as a familiar of the house, went straight to his office, and sent word that he wished to see him on something of importance.

D’Artagnan had been there scarcely five minutes when M. de Tréville entered. At the first glance, and by the joy which was painted on his countenance, the worthy captain plainly perceived that something new was on foot.

All the way along d’Artagnan had been consulting with himself whether he should place confidence in M. de Tréville, or whether he should only ask him to give him carte blanche for some secret affair. But M. de Tréville had always been so thoroughly his friend, had always been so devoted to the king and queen, and hated the cardinal so cordially, that the young man resolved to tell him everything.s

“Did you ask for me, my good friend?” said M. de Tréville.

“Yes, monsieur,” said d’Artagnan, lowering his voice, “and you will pardon me, I hope, for having disturbed you when you know the importance of my business.”

“Speak, then, I am all attention.”

“It concerns nothing less,” said d’Artagnan, “than the honor, perhaps the life of the queen.”

“What did you say?” asked M. de Tréville, glancing round to see if they were surely alone, and then fixing his questioning look upon d’Artagnan.

“I say, monsieur, that chance has rendered me master of a secret—”

“Which you will guard, I hope, young man, as your life.”

“But which I must impart to you, monsieur, for you alone can assist me in the mission I have just received from her Majesty.”

“Is this secret your own?”

“No, monsieur; it is her Majesty’s.”

“Are you authorized by her Majesty to communicate it to me?”

“No, monsieur, for, on the contrary, I am desired to preserve the profoundest mystery.”

“Why, then, are you about to betray it to me?”

“Because, as I said, without you I can do nothing; and I am afraid you will refuse me the favor I come to ask if you do not know to what end I ask it.”

“Keep your secret, young man, and tell me what you wish.”

“I wish you to obtain for me, from Monsieur Dessessart, leave of absence for fifteen days.”

“When?”

“This very night.”

“You leave Paris?”

“I am going on a mission.”

“May you tell me whither?”

“To London.”

“Has anyone an interest in preventing your arrival there?”

“The cardinal, I believe, would give the world to prevent my success.”

“And you are going alone?”

“I am going alone.”

“In that case you will not get beyond Bondy. I tell you so, by the faith of de Tréville.”

“How so?”

“You will be assassinated.”

“And I shall die in the performance of my duty.”

“But your mission will not be accomplished.”

“That is true,” replied d’Artagnan.

“Believe me,” continued Tréville, “in enterprises of this kind, in order that one may arrive, four must set out.”

“Ah, you are right, monsieur,” said d’Artagnan; “but you know Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, and you know if I can dispose of them.”

“Without confiding to them the secret which I am not willing to know?”

“We are sworn, once for all, to implicit confidence and devotedness against all proof. Besides, you can tell them that you have full confidence in me, and they will not be more incredulous than you.”

“I can send to each of them leave of absence for fifteen days, that is all—to Athos, whose wound still makes him suffer, to go to the waters of Forges; to Porthos and Aramis to accompany their friend, whom they are not willing to abandon in such a painful condition. Sending their leave of absence will be proof enough that I authorize their journey.”

“Thanks, monsieur. You are a hundred times too good.”

“Begone, then, find them instantly, and let all be done tonight! Ha! But first write your request to Dessessart. Perhaps you had a spy at your heels; and your visit, if it should ever be known to the cardinal, will thus seem legitimate.”

D’Artagnan drew up his request, and M. de Tréville, on receiving it, assured him that by two o’clock in the morning the four leaves of absence should be at the respective domiciles of the travelers.

“Have the goodness to send mine to Athos’s residence. I should dread some disagreeable encounter if I were to go home.”

“Be easy. Adieu, and a prosperous voyage. A propos,” said M. de Tréville, calling him back.

D’Artagnan returned.

“Have you any money?”

D’Artagnan tapped the bag he had in his pocket.

“Enough?” asked M. de Tréville.

“Three hundred pistoles.”

“Oh, plenty! That would carry you to the end of the world. Begone, then!”

D’Artagnan saluted M. de Tréville, who held out his hand to him; d’Artagnan pressed it with a respect mixed with gratitude. Since his first arrival at Paris, he had had constant occasion to honor this excellent man, whom he had always found worthy, loyal, and great.

His first visit was to Aramis, at whose residence he had not been since the famous evening on which he had followed Mme. Bonacieux. Still further, he had seldom seen the young Musketeer; but every time he had seen him, he had remarked a deep sadness imprinted on his countenance.

This evening, especially, Aramis was melancholy and thoughtful. D’Artagnan asked some questions about this prolonged melancholy. Aramis pleaded as his excuse a commentary upon the eighteenth chapter of St. Augustine, which he was forced to write in Latin for the following week, and which preoccupied him a good deal.

After the two friends had been chatting a few moments, a servant from M. de Tréville entered, bringing a sealed packet.

“What is that?” asked Aramis.

“The leave of absence Monsieur has asked for,” replied the lackey.

“For me! I have asked for no leave of absence.”

“Hold your tongue and take it!” said d’Artagnan. “And you, my friend, there is a demipistole for your trouble; you will tell Monsieur de Tréville that Monsieur Aramis is very much obliged to him. Go.”

The lackey bowed to the ground and departed.

“What does all this mean?” asked Aramis.

“Pack up all you want for a journey of a fortnight, and follow me.”

“But I cannot leave Paris just now without knowing—”

Aramis stopped.

“What is become of her? I suppose you mean—” continued d’Artagnan.

“Become of whom?” replied Aramis.

“The woman who was here—the woman with the embroidered handkerchief.”

“Who told you there was a woman here?” replied Aramis, becoming as pale as death.

“I saw her.”

“And you know who she is?”

“I believe I can guess, at least.”

“Listen!” said Aramis. “Since you appear to know so many things, can you tell me what is become of that woman?”

“I presume that she has returned to Tours.”

“To Tours? Yes, that may be. You evidently know her. But why did she return to Tours without telling me anything?”

“Because she was in fear of being arrested.”

“Why has she not written to me, then?”

“Because she was afraid of compromising you.”

“D’Artagnan, you restore me to life!” cried Aramis. “I fancied myself despised, betrayed. I was so delighted to see her again! I could not have believed she would risk her liberty for me, and yet for what other cause could she have returned to Paris?”

“For the cause which today takes us to England.”

“And what is this cause?” demanded Aramis.

“Oh, you’ll know it someday, Aramis; but at present I must imitate the discretion of ‘the doctor’s niece.’”

Aramis smiled, as he remembered the tale he had told his friends on a certain evening. “Well, then, since she has left Paris, and you are sure of it, d’Artagnan, nothing prevents me, and I am ready to follow you. You say we are going—”

“To see Athos now, and if you will come thither, I beg you to make haste, for we have lost much time already. A propos, inform Bazin.”

“Will Bazin go with us?” asked Aramis.

“Perhaps so. At all events, it is best that he should follow us to Athos’s.”

Aramis called Bazin, and, after having ordered him to join them at Athos’s residence, said “Let us go then,” at the same time taking his cloak, sword, and three pistols, opening uselessly two or three drawers to see if he could not find stray coin. When well assured this search was superfluous, he followed d’Artagnan, wondering to himself how this young Guardsman should know so well who the lady was to whom he had given hospitality, and that he should know better than himself what had become of her.

Only as they went out Aramis placed his hand upon the arm of d’Artagnan, and looking at him earnestly, “You have not spoken of this lady?” said he.

“To nobody in the world.”

“Not even to Athos or Porthos?”

“I have not breathed a syllable to them.”

“Good enough!”

Tranquil on this important point, Aramis continued his way with d’Artagnan, and both soon arrived at Athos’s dwelling. They found him holding his leave of absence in one hand, and M. de Tréville’s note in the other.

“Can you explain to me what signify this leave of absence and this letter, which I have just received?” said the astonished Athos.

MY DEAR ATHOS,
    I wish, as your health absolutely requires it, that you should rest for a fortnight. Go, then, and take the waters of Forges, or any that may be more agreeable to you, and recuperate yourself as quickly as possible.

Yours affectionate,
DE TRÉVILLE

“Well, this leave of absence and that letter mean that you must follow me, Athos.”

“To the waters of Forges?”

“There or elsewhere.”

“In the king’s service?”

“Either the king’s or the queen’s. Are we not their Majesties’ servants?”

At that moment Porthos entered. “Pardieu!” said he, “here is a strange thing! Since when, I wonder, in the Musketeers, did they grant men leave of absence without their asking for it?”

“Since,” said d’Artagnan, “they have friends who ask it for them.”

“Ah, ah!” said Porthos, “it appears there’s something fresh here.”

“Yes, we are going—” said Aramis.

“To what country?” demanded Porthos.

“My faith! I don’t know much about it,” said Athos. “Ask d’Artagnan.”

“To London, gentlemen,” said d’Artagnan.

“To London!” cried Porthos; “and what the devil are we going to do in London?”

“That is what I am not at liberty to tell you, gentlemen; you must trust to me.”

“But in order to go to London,” added Porthos, “money is needed, and I have none.”

“Nor I,” said Aramis.

“Nor I,” said Athos.

“I have,” replied d’Artagnan, pulling out his treasure from his pocket, and placing it on the table. “There are in this bag three hundred pistoles. Let each take seventy-five; that is enough to take us to London and back. Besides, make yourselves easy; we shall not all arrive at London.”

“Why so?”

“Because, in all probability, some one of us will be left on the road.”

“Is this, then, a campaign upon which we are now entering?”

“One of a most dangerous kind, I give you notice.”

“Ah! But if we do risk being killed,” said Porthos, “at least I should like to know what for.”

“You would be all the wiser,” said Athos.

“And yet,” said Aramis, “I am somewhat of Porthos’s opinion.”

“Is the king accustomed to give you such reasons? No. He says to you jauntily, ‘Gentlemen, there is fighting going on in Gascony or in Flanders; go and fight,’ and you go there. Why? You need give yourselves no more uneasiness about this.”

“D’Artagnan is right,” said Athos; “here are our three leaves of absence which came from Monsieur de Tréville, and here are three hundred pistoles which came from I don’t know where. So let us go and get killed where we are told to go. Is life worth the trouble of so many questions? D’Artagnan, I am ready to follow you.”

“And I also,” said Porthos.

“And I also,” said Aramis. “And, indeed, I am not sorry to quit Paris; I had need of distraction.”

“Well, you will have distractions enough, gentlemen, be assured,” said d’Artagnan.

“And, now, when are we to go?” asked Athos.

“Immediately,” replied d’Artagnan; “we have not a minute to lose.”

“Hello, Grimaud! Planchet! Mousqueton! Bazin!” cried the four young men, calling their lackeys, “clean my boots, and fetch the horses from the hôtel.”

Each Musketeer was accustomed to leave at the general hôtel, as at a barrack, his own horse and that of his lackey. Planchet, Grimaud, Mousqueton, and Bazin set off at full speed.

“Now let us lay down the plan of campaign,” said Porthos. “Where do we go first?”

“To Calais,” said d’Artagnan; “that is the most direct line to London.”

“Well,” said Porthos, “this is my advice—”

“Speak!”

“Four men traveling together would be suspected. D’Artagnan will give each of us his instructions. I will go by the way of Boulogne to clear the way; Athos will set out two hours after, by that of Amiens; Aramis will follow us by that of Noyon; as to d’Artagnan, he will go by what route he thinks is best, in Planchet’s clothes, while Planchet will follow us like d’Artagnan, in the uniform of the Guards.”

“Gentlemen,” said Athos, “my opinion is that it is not proper to allow lackeys to have anything to do in such an affair. A secret may, by chance, be betrayed by gentlemen; but it is almost always sold by lackeys.”

“Porthos’s plan appears to me to be impracticable,” said d’Artagnan, “inasmuch as I am myself ignorant of what instructions I can give you. I am the bearer of a letter, that is all. I have not, and I cannot make three copies of that letter, because it is sealed. We must, then, as it appears to me, travel in company. This letter is here, in this pocket,” and he pointed to the pocket which contained the letter. “If I should be killed, one of you must take it, and continue the route; if he be killed, it will be another’s turn, and so on—provided a single one arrives, that is all that is required.”

“Bravo, d’Artagnan, your opinion is mine,” cried Athos, “Besides, we must be consistent; I am going to take the waters, you will accompany me. Instead of taking the waters of Forges, I go and take sea waters; I am free to do so. If anyone wishes to stop us, I will show Monsieur de Tréville’s letter, and you will show your leaves of absence. If we are attacked, we will defend ourselves; if we are tried, we will stoutly maintain that we were only anxious to dip ourselves a certain number of times in the sea. They would have an easy bargain of four isolated men; whereas four men together make a troop. We will arm our four lackeys with pistols and musketoons; if they send an army out against us, we will give battle, and the survivor, as d’Artagnan says, will carry the letter.”

“Well said,” cried Aramis; “you don’t often speak, Athos, but when you do speak, it is like St. John of the Golden Mouth. I agree to Athos’s plan. And you, Porthos?”

“I agree to it, too,” said Porthos, “if d’Artagnan approves of it. D’Artagnan, being the bearer of the letter, is naturally the head of the enterprise; let him decide, and we will execute.”

“Well,” said d’Artagnan, “I decide that we should adopt Athos’s plan, and that we set off in half an hour.”

“Agreed!” shouted the three Musketeers in chorus.

Each one, stretching out his hand to the bag, took his seventy-five pistoles, and made his preparations to set out at the time appointed.


20. 
THE JOURNEY


At two o’clock in the morning, our four adventurers left Paris by the Barrière St. Denis. As long as it was dark they remained silent; in spite of themselves they submitted to the influence of the obscurity, and apprehended ambushes on every side.

With the first rays of day their tongues were loosened; with the sun gaiety revived. It was like the eve of a battle; the heart beat, the eyes laughed, and they felt that the life they were perhaps going to lose, was, after all, a good thing.

Besides, the appearance of the caravan was formidable. The black horses of the Musketeers, their martial carriage, with the regimental step of these noble companions of the soldier, would have betrayed the most strict incognito. The lackeys followed, armed to the teeth.

All went well till they arrived at Chantilly, which they reached about eight o’clock in the morning. They needed breakfast, and alighted at the door of an auberge, recommended by a sign representing St. Martin giving half his cloak to a poor man. They ordered the lackeys not to unsaddle the horses, and to hold themselves in readiness to set off again immediately.

They entered the common hall, and placed themselves at table. A gentleman, who had just arrived by the route of Dammartin, was seated at the same table, and was breakfasting. He opened the conversation about rain and fine weather; the travelers replied. He drank to their good health, and the travelers returned his politeness.

But at the moment Mousqueton came to announce that the horses were ready, and they were arising from table, the stranger proposed to Porthos to drink the health of the cardinal. Porthos replied that he asked no better if the stranger, in his turn, would drink the health of the king. The stranger cried that he acknowledged no other king but his Eminence. Porthos called him drunk, and the stranger drew his sword.

“You have committed a piece of folly,” said Athos, “but it can’t be helped; there is no drawing back. Kill the fellow, and rejoin us as soon as you can.”

All three remounted their horses, and set out at a good pace, while Porthos was promising his adversary to perforate him with all the thrusts known in the fencing schools.

“There goes one!” cried Athos, at the end of five hundred paces.

“But why did that man attack Porthos rather than any other one of us?” asked Aramis.

“Because, as Porthos was talking louder than the rest of us, he took him for the chief,” said d’Artagnan.

“I always said that this cadet from Gascony was a well of wisdom,” murmured Athos; and the travelers continued their route.

At Beauvais they stopped two hours, as well to breathe their horses a little as to wait for Porthos. At the end of two hours, as Porthos did not come, not any news of him, they resumed their journey.

At a league from Beauvais, where the road was confined between two high banks, they fell in with eight or ten men who, taking advantage of the road being unpaved in this spot, appeared to be employed in digging holes and filling up the ruts with mud.

Aramis, not liking to soil his boots with this artificial mortar, apostrophized them rather sharply. Athos wished to restrain him, but it was too late. The laborers began to jeer the travelers and by their insolence disturbed the equanimity even of the cool Athos, who urged on his horse against one of them.

Then each of these men retreated as far as the ditch, from which each took a concealed musket; the result was that our seven travelers were outnumbered in weapons. Aramis received a ball which passed through his shoulder, and Mousqueton another ball which lodged in the fleshy part which prolongs the lower portion of the loins. Therefore Mousqueton alone fell from his horse, not because he was severely wounded, but not being able to see the wound, he judged it to be more serious than it really was.

“It was an ambuscade!” shouted d’Artagnan. “Don’t waste a charge! Forward!”

Aramis, wounded as he was, seized the mane of his horse, which carried him on with the others. Mousqueton’s horse rejoined them, and galloped by the side of his companions.

“That will serve us for a relay,” said Athos.

“I would rather have had a hat,” said d’Artagnan. “Mine was carried away by a ball. By my faith, it is very fortunate that the letter was not in it.”

“They’ll kill poor Porthos when he comes up,” said Aramis.

“If Porthos were on his legs, he would have rejoined us by this time,” said Athos. “My opinion is that on the ground the drunken man was not intoxicated.”

They continued at their best speed for two hours, although the horses were so fatigued that it was to be feared they would soon refuse service.

The travelers had chosen crossroads in the hope that they might meet with less interruption; but at Crèvecœur, Aramis declared he could proceed no farther. In fact, it required all the courage which he concealed beneath his elegant form and polished manners to bear him so far. He grew more pale every minute, and they were obliged to support him on his horse. They lifted him off at the door of a cabaret, left Bazin with him, who, besides, in a skirmish was more embarrassing than useful, and set forward again in the hope of sleeping at Amiens.

“Morbleu,” said Athos, as soon as they were again in motion, “reduced to two masters and Grimaud and Planchet! Morbleu! I won’t be their dupe, I will answer for it. I will neither open my mouth nor draw my sword between this and Calais. I swear by—”

“Don’t waste time in swearing,” said d’Artagnan; “let us gallop, if our horses will consent.”

And the travelers buried their rowels in their horses’ flanks, who thus vigorously stimulated recovered their energies. They arrived at Amiens at midnight, and alighted at the auberge of the Golden Lily.

The host had the appearance of as honest a man as any on earth. He received the travelers with his candlestick in one hand and his cotton nightcap in the other. He wished to lodge the two travelers each in a charming chamber; but unfortunately these charming chambers were at the opposite extremities of the hôtel. D’Artagnan and Athos refused them. The host replied that he had no other worthy of their Excellencies; but the travelers declared they would sleep in the common chamber, each on a mattress which might be thrown upon the ground. The host insisted; but the travelers were firm, and he was obliged to do as they wished.

They had just prepared their beds and barricaded their door within, when someone knocked at the yard shutter; they demanded who was there, and recognizing the voices of their lackeys, opened the shutter. It was indeed Planchet and Grimaud.

“Grimaud can take care of the horses,” said Planchet. “If you are willing, gentlemen, I will sleep across your doorway, and you will then be certain that nobody can reach you.”

“And on what will you sleep?” said d’Artagnan.

“Here is my bed,” replied Planchet, producing a bundle of straw.

“Come, then,” said d’Artagnan, “you are right. Mine host’s face does not please me at all; it is too gracious.”

“Nor me either,” said Athos.

Planchet mounted by the window and installed himself across the doorway, while Grimaud went and shut himself up in the stable, undertaking that by five o’clock in the morning he and the four horses should be ready.

The night was quiet enough. Toward two o’clock in the morning somebody endeavored to open the door; but as Planchet awoke in an instant and cried, “Who goes there?” somebody replied that he was mistaken, and went away.

At four o’clock in the morning they heard a terrible riot in the stables. Grimaud had tried to waken the stable boys, and the stable boys had beaten him. When they opened the window, they saw the poor lad lying senseless, with his head split by a blow with a pitchfork.

Planchet went down into the yard, and wished to saddle the horses; but the horses were all used up. Mousqueton’s horse which had traveled for five or six hours without a rider the day before, might have been able to pursue the journey; but by an inconceivable error the veterinary surgeon, who had been sent for, as it appeared, to bleed one of the host’s horses, had bled Mousqueton’s.

This began to be annoying. All these successive accidents were perhaps the result of chance; but they might be the fruits of a plot. Athos and d’Artagnan went out, while Planchet was sent to inquire if there were not three horses for sale in the neighborhood. At the door stood two horses, fresh, strong, and fully equipped. These would just have suited them. He asked where their masters were, and was informed that they had passed the night in the inn, and were then settling their bill with the host.

Athos went down to pay the reckoning, while d’Artagnan and Planchet stood at the street door. The host was in a lower and back room, to which Athos was requested to go.

Athos entered without the least mistrust, and took out two pistoles to pay the bill. The host was alone, seated before his desk, one of the drawers of which was partly open. He took the money which Athos offered to him, and after turning and turning it over and over in his hands, suddenly cried out that it was bad, and that he would have him and his companions arrested as forgers.

“You blackguard!” cried Athos, going toward him, “I’ll cut your ears off!”

At the same instant, four men, armed to the teeth, entered by side doors, and rushed upon Athos.

“I am taken!” shouted Athos, with all the power of his lungs. “Go on, d’Artagnan! Spur, spur!” and he fired two pistols.

D’Artagnan and Planchet did not require twice bidding; they unfastened the two horses that were waiting at the door, leaped upon them, buried their spurs in their sides, and set off at full gallop.

“Do you know what has become of Athos?” asked d’Artagnan of Planchet, as they galloped on.

“Ah, monsieur,” said Planchet, “I saw one fall at each of his two shots, and he appeared to me, through the glass door, to be fighting with his sword with the others.”

“Brave Athos!” murmured d’Artagnan, “and to think that we are compelled to leave him; maybe the same fate awaits us two paces hence. Forward, Planchet, forward! You are a brave fellow.”

“As I told you, monsieur,” replied Planchet, “Picards are found out by being used. Besides, I am here in my own country, and that excites me.”

And both, with free use of the spur, arrived at St. Omer without drawing bit. At St. Omer they breathed their horses with the bridles passed under their arms for fear of accident, and ate a morsel from their hands on the stones of the street, after they departed again.

At a hundred paces from the gates of Calais, d’Artagnan’s horse gave out, and could not by any means be made to get up again, the blood flowing from his eyes and his nose. There still remained Planchet’s horse; but he stopped short, and could not be made to move a step.

Fortunately, as we have said, they were within a hundred paces of the city; they left their two nags upon the high road, and ran toward the quay. Planchet called his master’s attention to a gentleman who had just arrived with his lackey, and only preceded them by about fifty paces. They made all speed to come up to this gentleman, who appeared to be in great haste. His boots were covered with dust, and he inquired if he could not instantly cross over to England.

“Nothing would be more easy,” said the captain of a vessel ready to set sail, “but this morning came an order to let no one leave without express permission from the cardinal.”

“I have that permission,” said the gentleman, drawing the paper from his pocket; “here it is.”

“Have it examined by the governor of the port,” said the shipmaster, “and give me the preference.”

“Where shall I find the governor?”

“At his country house.”

“And that is situated?”

“At a quarter of a league from the city. Look, you may see it from here—at the foot of that little hill, that slated roof.”

“Very well,” said the gentleman. And, with his lackey, he took the road to the governor’s country house.

D’Artagnan and Planchet followed the gentleman at a distance of five hundred paces. Once outside the city, d’Artagnan overtook the gentleman as he was entering a little wood.

“Monsieur, you appear to be in great haste?”

“No one can be more so, monsieur.”

“I am sorry for that,” said d’Artagnan; “for as I am in great haste likewise, I wish to beg you to render me a service.”

“What?”

“To let me sail first.”

“That’s impossible,” said the gentleman; “I have traveled sixty leagues in forty hours, and by tomorrow at midday I must be in London.”

“I have performed that same distance in forty hours, and by ten o’clock in the morning I must be in London.”

“Very sorry, monsieur; but I was here first, and will not sail second.”

“I am sorry, too, monsieur; but I arrived second, and must sail first.”

“The king’s service!” said the gentleman.

“My own service!” said d’Artagnan.

“But this is a needless quarrel you seek with me, as it seems to me.”

“Parbleu! What do you desire it to be?”

“What do you want?”

“Would you like to know?”

“Certainly.”

“Well, then, I wish that order of which you are bearer, seeing that I have not one of my own and must have one.”

“You jest, I presume.”

“I never jest.”

“Let me pass!”

“You shall not pass.”

“My brave young man, I will blow out your brains. Hola, Lubin, my pistols!”

“Planchet,” called out d’Artagnan, “take care of the lackey; I will manage the master.”

Planchet, emboldened by the first exploit, sprang upon Lubin; and being strong and vigorous, he soon got him on the broad of his back, and placed his knee upon his breast.

“Go on with your affair, monsieur,” cried Planchet; “I have finished mine.”

Seeing this, the gentleman drew his sword, and sprang upon d’Artagnan; but he had too strong an adversary. In three seconds d’Artagnan had wounded him three times, exclaiming at each thrust, “One for Athos, one for Porthos; and one for Aramis!”

At the third hit the gentleman fell like a log. D’Artagnan believed him to be dead, or at least insensible, and went toward him for the purpose of taking the order; but the moment he extended his hand to search for it, the wounded man, who had not dropped his sword, plunged the point into d’Artagnan’s breast, crying, “One for you!”

“And one for me—the best for last!” cried d’Artagnan, furious, nailing him to the earth with a fourth thrust through his body.

This time the gentleman closed his eyes and fainted. D’Artagnan searched his pockets, and took from one of them the order for the passage. It was in the name of Comte de Wardes.

Then, casting a glance on the handsome young man, who was scarcely twenty-five years of age, and whom he was leaving in his gore, deprived of sense and perhaps dead, he gave a sigh for that unaccountable destiny which leads men to destroy each other for the interests of people who are strangers to them and who often do not even know that they exist. But he was soon aroused from these reflections by Lubin, who uttered loud cries and screamed for help with all his might.

Planchet grasped him by the throat, and pressed as hard as he could. “Monsieur,” said he, “as long as I hold him in this manner, he can’t cry, I’ll be bound; but as soon as I let go he will howl again. I know him for a Norman, and Normans are obstinate.”

In fact, tightly held as he was, Lubin endeavored still to cry out.

“Stay!” said d’Artagnan; and taking out his handkerchief, he gagged him.

“Now,” said Planchet, “let us bind him to a tree.”

This being properly done, they drew the Comte de Wardes close to his servant; and as night was approaching, and as the wounded man and the bound man were at some little distance within the wood, it was evident they were likely to remain there till the next day.

“And now,” said d’Artagnan, “to the Governor’s.”

“But you are wounded, it seems,” said Planchet.

“Oh, that’s nothing! Let us attend to what is more pressing first, and then we will attend to my wound; besides, it does not seem very dangerous.”

And they both set forward as fast as they could toward the country house of the worthy functionary.

The Comte de Wardes was announced, and d’Artagnan was introduced.

“You have an order signed by the cardinal?” said the governor.

“Yes, monsieur,” replied d’Artagnan; “here it is.”

“Ah, ah! It is quite regular and explicit,” said the governor.

“Most likely,” said d’Artagnan; “I am one of his most faithful servants.”

“It appears that his Eminence is anxious to prevent someone from crossing to England?”

“Yes; a certain d’Artagnan, a Béarnese gentleman who left Paris in company with three of his friends, with the intention of going to London.”

“Do you know him personally?” asked the governor.

“Whom?”

“This d’Artagnan.”

“Perfectly well.”

“Describe him to me, then.”

“Nothing more easy.”

And d’Artagnan gave, feature for feature, a description of the Comte de Wardes.

“Is he accompanied?”

“Yes; by a lackey named Lubin.”

“We will keep a sharp lookout for them; and if we lay hands on them his Eminence may be assured they will be reconducted to Paris under a good escort.”

“And by doing so, Monsieur the Governor,” said d’Artagnan, “you will deserve well of the cardinal.”

“Shall you see him on your return, Monsieur Count?”

“Without a doubt.”

“Tell him, I beg you, that I am his humble servant.”

“I will not fail.”

Delighted with this assurance the governor countersigned the passport and delivered it to d’Artagnan. D’Artagnan lost no time in useless compliments. He thanked the governor, bowed, and departed. Once outside, he and Planchet set off as fast as they could; and by making a long detour avoided the wood and reentered the city by another gate.

The vessel was quite ready to sail, and the captain was waiting on the wharf. “Well?” said he, on perceiving d’Artagnan.

“Here is my pass countersigned,” said the latter.

“And that other gentleman?

“He will not go today,” said d’Artagnan; “but here, I’ll pay you for us two.”

“In that case let us go,” said the shipmaster.

“Let us go,” repeated d’Artagnan.

He leaped with Planchet into the boat, and five minutes after they were on board. It was time; for they had scarcely sailed half a league, when d’Artagnan saw a flash and heard a detonation. It was the cannon which announced the closing of the port.

He had now leisure to look to his wound. Fortunately, as d’Artagnan had thought, it was not dangerous. The point of the sword had touched a rib, and glanced along the bone. Still further, his shirt had stuck to the wound, and he had lost only a few drops of blood.

D’Artagnan was worn out with fatigue. A mattress was laid upon the deck for him. He threw himself upon it, and fell asleep.

On the morrow, at break of day, they were still three or four leagues from the coast of England. The breeze had been so light all night, they had made but little progress. At ten o’clock the vessel cast anchor in the harbor of Dover, and at half past ten d’Artagnan placed his foot on English land, crying, “Here I am at last!”

But that was not all; they must get to London. In England the post was well served. D’Artagnan and Planchet took each a post horse, and a postillion rode before them. In a few hours they were in the capital.

D’Artagnan did not know London; he did not know a word of English; but he wrote the name of Buckingham on a piece of paper, and everyone pointed out to him the way to the duke’s hôtel.

The duke was at Windsor hunting with the king. D’Artagnan inquired for the confidential valet of the duke, who, having accompanied him in all his voyages, spoke French perfectly well; he told him that he came from Paris on an affair of life and death, and that he must speak with his master instantly.

The confidence with which d’Artagnan spoke convinced Patrick, which was the name of this minister of the minister. He ordered two horses to be saddled, and himself went as guide to the young Guardsman. As for Planchet, he had been lifted from his horse as stiff as a rush; the poor lad’s strength was almost exhausted. D’Artagnan seemed iron.

On their arrival at the castle they learned that Buckingham and the king were hawking in the marshes two or three leagues away. In twenty minutes they were on the spot named. Patrick soon caught the sound of his master’s voice calling his falcon.

“Whom must I announce to my Lord Duke?” asked Patrick.

“The young man who one evening sought a quarrel with him on the Pont Neuf, opposite the Samaritaine.”

“A singular introduction!”

“You will find that it is as good as another.”

Patrick galloped off, reached the duke, and announced to him in the terms directed that a messenger awaited him.

Buckingham at once remembered the circumstance, and suspecting that something was going on in France of which it was necessary he should be informed, he only took the time to inquire where the messenger was, and recognizing from afar the uniform of the Guards, he put his horse into a gallop, and rode straight up to d’Artagnan. Patrick discreetly kept in the background.

“No misfortune has happened to the queen?” cried Buckingham, the instant he came up, throwing all his fear and love into the question.

“I believe not; nevertheless I believe she runs some great peril from which your Grace alone can extricate her.”

“I!” cried Buckingham. “What is it? I should be too happy to be of any service to her. Speak, speak!”

“Take this letter,” said d’Artagnan.

“This letter! From whom comes this letter?”

“From her Majesty, as I think.”

“From her Majesty!” said Buckingham, becoming so pale that d’Artagnan feared he would faint as he broke the seal.

“What is this rent?” said he, showing d’Artagnan a place where it had been pierced through.

“Ah,” said d’Artagnan, “I did not see that; it was the sword of the Comte de Wardes which made that hole, when he gave me a good thrust in the breast.”

“You are wounded?” asked Buckingham, as he opened the letter.

“Oh, nothing but a scratch,” said d’Artagnan.

“Just heaven, what have I read?” cried the duke. “Patrick, remain here, or rather join the king, wherever he may be, and tell his Majesty that I humbly beg him to excuse me, but an affair of the greatest importance recalls me to London. Come, monsieur, come!” and both set off towards the capital at full gallop.


21. 
THE COUNTESS DE WINTER


As they rode along, the duke endeavored to draw from d’Artagnan, not all that had happened, but what d’Artagnan himself knew. By adding all that he heard from the mouth of the young man to his own remembrances, he was enabled to form a pretty exact idea of a position of the seriousness of which, for the rest, the queen’s letter, short but explicit, gave him the clue. But that which astonished him most was that the cardinal, so deeply interested in preventing this young man from setting his foot in England, had not succeeded in arresting him on the road. It was then, upon the manifestation of this astonishment, that d’Artagnan related to him the precaution taken, and how, thanks to the devotion of his three friends, whom he had left scattered and bleeding on the road, he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust, which had pierced the queen’s letter and for which he had repaid M. de Wardes with such terrible coin. While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years.

The horses went like the wind, and in a few minutes they were at the gates of London. D’Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so. He kept on his way at the same rate, heedless about upsetting those whom he met on the road. In fact, in crossing the city two or three accidents of this kind happened; but Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D’Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses.

On entering the court of his hôtel, Buckingham sprang from his horse, and without thinking what became of the animal, threw the bridle on his neck, and sprang toward the vestibule. D’Artagnan did the same, with a little more concern, however, for the noble creatures, whose merits he fully appreciated; but he had the satisfaction of seeing three or four grooms run from the kitchens and the stables, and busy themselves with the steeds.

The duke walked so fast that d’Artagnan had some trouble in keeping up with him. He passed through several apartments, of an elegance of which even the greatest nobles of France had not even an idea, and arrived at length in a bedchamber which was at once a miracle of taste and of richness. In the alcove of this chamber was a door concealed in the tapestry which the duke opened with a little gold key which he wore suspended from his neck by a chain of the same metal. With discretion d’Artagnan remained behind; but at the moment when Buckingham crossed the threshold, he turned round, and seeing the hesitation of the young man, “Come in!” cried he, “and if you have the good fortune to be admitted to her Majesty’s presence, tell her what you have seen.”

Encouraged by this invitation, d’Artagnan followed the duke, who closed the door after them. The two found themselves in a small chapel covered with a tapestry of Persian silk worked with gold, and brilliantly lighted with a vast number of candles. Over a species of altar, and beneath a canopy of blue velvet, surmounted by white and red plumes, was a full-length portrait of Anne of Austria, so perfect in its resemblance that d’Artagnan uttered a cry of surprise on beholding it. One might believe the queen was about to speak. On the altar, and beneath the portrait, was the casket containing the diamond studs.

The duke approached the altar, knelt as a priest might have done before a crucifix, and opened the casket. “There,” said he, drawing from the casket a large bow of blue ribbon all sparkling with diamonds, “there are the precious studs which I have taken an oath should be buried with me. The queen gave them to me, the queen requires them again. Her will be done, like that of God, in all things.”

Then, he began to kiss, one after the other, those dear studs with which he was about to part. All at once he uttered a terrible cry.

“What is the matter?” exclaimed d’Artagnan, anxiously; “what has happened to you, my Lord?”

“All is lost!” cried Buckingham, becoming as pale as a corpse; “two of the studs are wanting, there are only ten.”

“Can you have lost them, my Lord, or do you think they have been stolen?”

“They have been stolen,” replied the duke, “and it is the cardinal who has dealt this blow. Hold; see! The ribbons which held them have been cut with scissors.”

“If my Lord suspects they have been stolen, perhaps the person who stole them still has them in his hands.”

“Wait, wait!” said the duke. “The only time I have worn these studs was at a ball given by the king eight days ago at Windsor. The Comtesse de Winter, with whom I had quarreled, became reconciled to me at that ball. That reconciliation was nothing but the vengeance of a jealous woman. I have never seen her from that day. The woman is an agent of the cardinal.”

“He has agents, then, throughout the world?” cried d’Artagnan.

“Oh, yes,” said Buckingham, grating his teeth with rage. “Yes, he is a terrible antagonist. But when is this ball to take place?”

“Monday next.”

“Monday next! Still five days before us. That’s more time than we want. Patrick!” cried the duke, opening the door of the chapel, “Patrick!” His confidential valet appeared.

“My jeweler and my secretary.”

The valet went out with a mute promptitude which showed him accustomed to obey blindly and without reply.

But although the jeweler had been mentioned first, it was the secretary who first made his appearance. This was simply because he lived in the hôtel. He found Buckingham seated at a table in his bedchamber, writing orders with his own hand.

“Mr. Jackson,” said he, “go instantly to the Lord Chancellor, and tell him that I charge him with the execution of these orders. I wish them to be promulgated immediately.”

“But, my Lord, if the Lord Chancellor interrogates me upon the motives which may have led your Grace to adopt such an extraordinary measure, what shall I reply?”

“That such is my pleasure, and that I answer for my will to no man.”

“Will that be the answer,” replied the secretary, smiling, “which he must transmit to his Majesty if, by chance, his Majesty should have the curiosity to know why no vessel is to leave any of the ports of Great Britain?”

“You are right, Mr. Jackson,” replied Buckingham. “He will say, in that case, to the king that I am determined on war, and that this measure is my first act of hostility against France.”

The secretary bowed and retired.

“We are safe on that side,” said Buckingham, turning toward d’Artagnan. “If the studs are not yet gone to Paris, they will not arrive till after you.”

“How so?”

“I have just placed an embargo on all vessels at present in his Majesty’s ports, and without particular permission, not one dare lift an anchor.”

D’Artagnan looked with stupefaction at a man who thus employed the unlimited power with which he was clothed by the confidence of a king in the prosecution of his intrigues. Buckingham saw by the expression of the young man’s face what was passing in his mind, and he smiled.

“Yes,” said he, “yes, Anne of Austria is my true queen. Upon a word from her, I would betray my country, I would betray my king, I would betray my God. She asked me not to send the Protestants of La Rochelle the assistance I promised them; I have not done so. I broke my word, it is true; but what signifies that? I obeyed my love; and have I not been richly paid for that obedience? It was to that obedience I owe her portrait.”

D’Artagnan was amazed to note by what fragile and unknown threads the destinies of nations and the lives of men are suspended. He was lost in these reflections when the goldsmith entered. He was an Irishman—one of the most skillful of his craft, and who himself confessed that he gained a hundred thousand livres a year by the Duke of Buckingham.

“Mr. O’Reilly,” said the duke, leading him into the chapel, “look at these diamond studs, and tell me what they are worth apiece.”

The goldsmith cast a glance at the elegant manner in which they were set, calculated, one with another, what the diamonds were worth, and without hesitation said, “Fifteen hundred pistoles each, my Lord.”

“How many days would it require to make two studs exactly like them? You see there are two wanting.”

“Eight days, my Lord.”

“I will give you three thousand pistoles apiece if I can have them by the day after tomorrow.”

“My Lord, they shall be yours.”

“You are a jewel of a man, Mr. O’Reilly; but that is not all. These studs cannot be trusted to anybody; it must be done in the palace.”

“Impossible, my Lord! There is no one but myself can so execute them that one cannot tell the new from the old.”

“Therefore, my dear Mr. O’Reilly, you are my prisoner. And if you wish ever to leave my palace, you cannot; so make the best of it. Name to me such of your workmen as you need, and point out the tools they must bring.”

The goldsmith knew the duke. He knew all objection would be useless, and instantly determined how to act.

“May I be permitted to inform my wife?” said he.

“Oh, you may even see her if you like, my dear Mr. O’Reilly. Your captivity shall be mild, be assured; and as every inconvenience deserves its indemnification, here is, in addition to the price of the studs, an order for a thousand pistoles, to make you forget the annoyance I cause you.”

D’Artagnan could not get over the surprise created in him by this minister, who thus open-handed, sported with men and millions.

As to the goldsmith, he wrote to his wife, sending her the order for the thousand pistoles, and charging her to send him, in exchange, his most skillful apprentice, an assortment of diamonds, of which he gave the names and the weight, and the necessary tools.

Buckingham conducted the goldsmith to the chamber destined for him, and which, at the end of half an hour, was transformed into a workshop. Then he placed a sentinel at each door, with an order to admit nobody upon any pretense but his valet de chambre, Patrick. We need not add that the goldsmith, O’Reilly, and his assistant, were prohibited from going out under any pretext. This point, settled, the duke turned to d’Artagnan. “Now, my young friend,” said he, “England is all our own. What do you wish for? What do you desire?”

“A bed, my Lord,” replied d’Artagnan. “At present, I confess, that is the thing I stand most in need of.”

Buckingham gave d’Artagnan a chamber adjoining his own. He wished to have the young man at hand—not that he at all mistrusted him, but for the sake of having someone to whom he could constantly talk of the queen.

In one hour after, the ordinance was published in London that no vessel bound for France should leave port, not even the packet boat with letters. In the eyes of everybody this was a declaration of war between the two kingdoms.

On the day after the morrow, by eleven o’clock, the two diamond studs were finished, and they were so completely imitated, so perfectly alike, that Buckingham could not tell the new ones from the old ones, and experts in such matters would have been deceived as he was. He immediately called d’Artagnan. “Here,” said he to him, “are the diamond studs that you came to bring; and be my witness that I have done all that human power could do.”

“Be satisfied, my Lord, I will tell all that I have seen. But does your Grace mean to give me the studs without the casket?”

“The casket would encumber you. Besides, the casket is the more precious from being all that is left to me. You will say that I keep it.”

“I will perform your commission, word for word, my Lord.”

“And now,” resumed Buckingham, looking earnestly at the young man, “how shall I ever acquit myself of the debt I owe you?”

D’Artagnan blushed up to the whites of his eyes. He saw that the duke was searching for a means of making him accept something and the idea that the blood of his friends and himself was about to be paid for with English gold was strangely repugnant to him.

“Let us understand each other, my Lord,” replied d’Artagnan, “and let us make things clear beforehand in order that there may be no mistake. I am in the service of the King and Queen of France, and form part of the company of Monsieur Dessessart, who, as well as his brother-in-law, Monsieur de Tréville, is particularly attached to their Majesties. What I have done, then, has been for the queen, and not at all for your Grace. And still further, it is very probable I should not have done anything of this, if it had not been to make myself agreeable to someone who is my lady, as the queen is yours.”

“Yes,” said the duke, smiling, “and I even believe that I know that other person; it is—”

“My Lord, I have not named her!” interrupted the young man, warmly.

“That is true,” said the duke; “and it is to this person I am bound to discharge my debt of gratitude.”

“You have said, my Lord; for truly, at this moment when there is question of war, I confess to you that I see nothing in your Grace but an Englishman, and consequently an enemy whom I should have much greater pleasure in meeting on the field of battle than in the park at Windsor or the corridors of the Louvre—all which, however, will not prevent me from executing to the very point my commission or from laying down my life, if there be need of it, to accomplish it; but I repeat it to your Grace, without your having personally on that account more to thank me for in this second interview than for what I did for you in the first.”

“We say, ‘Proud as a Scotsman,’” murmured the Duke of Buckingham.

“And we say, ‘Proud as a Gascon,’” replied d’Artagnan. “The Gascons are the Scots of France.”

D’Artagnan bowed to the duke, and was retiring.

“Well, are you going away in that manner? Where, and how?”

“That’s true!”

“Fore Gad, these Frenchmen have no consideration!”

“I had forgotten that England was an island, and that you were the king of it.”

“Go to the riverside, ask for the brig Sund, and give this letter to the captain; he will convey you to a little port, where certainly you are not expected, and which is ordinarily only frequented by fishermen.”

“The name of that port?”

“St. Valery; but listen. When you have arrived there you will go to a mean tavern, without a name and without a sign—a mere fisherman’s hut. You cannot be mistaken; there is but one.”

“Afterward?”

“You will ask for the host, and will repeat to him the word ‘Forward!’”

“Which means?”

“In French, En avant. It is the password. He will give you a horse all saddled, and will point out to you the road you ought to take. You will find, in the same way, four relays on your route. If you will give at each of these relays your address in Paris, the four horses will follow you thither. You already know two of them, and you appeared to appreciate them like a judge. They were those we rode on; and you may rely upon me for the others not being inferior to them. These horses are equipped for the field. However proud you may be, you will not refuse to accept one of them, and to request your three companions to accept the others—that is, in order to make war against us. Besides, the end justified the means, as you Frenchmen say, does it not?”

“Yes, my Lord, I accept them,” said d’Artagnan; “and if it please God, we will make a good use of your presents.”

“Well, now, your hand, young man. Perhaps we shall soon meet on the field of battle; but in the meantime we shall part good friends, I hope.”

“Yes, my Lord; but with the hope of soon becoming enemies.”

“Be satisfied; I promise you that.”

“I depend upon your word, my Lord.”

D’Artagnan bowed to the duke, and made his way as quickly as possible to the riverside. Opposite the Tower of London he found the vessel that had been named to him, delivered his letter to the captain, who after having it examined by the governor of the port made immediate preparations to sail.

Fifty vessels were waiting to set out. Passing alongside one of them, d’Artagnan fancied he perceived on board it the woman of Meung—the same whom the unknown gentleman had called Milady, and whom d’Artagnan had thought so handsome; but thanks to the current of the stream and a fair wind, his vessel passed so quickly that he had little more than a glimpse of her.

The next day about nine o’clock in the morning, he landed at St. Valery. D’Artagnan went instantly in search of the inn, and easily discovered it by the riotous noise which resounded from it. War between England and France was talked of as near and certain, and the jolly sailors were having a carousal.

D’Artagnan made his way through the crowd, advanced toward the host, and pronounced the word “Forward!” The host instantly made him a sign to follow, went out with him by a door which opened into a yard, led him to the stable, where a saddled horse awaited him, and asked him if he stood in need of anything else.

“I want to know the route I am to follow,” said d’Artagnan.

“Go from hence to Blangy, and from Blangy to Neufchâtel. At Neufchâtel, go to the tavern of the Golden Harrow, give the password to the landlord, and you will find, as you have here, a horse ready saddled.”

“Have I anything to pay?” demanded d’Artagnan.

“Everything is paid,” replied the host, “and liberally. Begone, and may God guide you!”

“Amen!” cried the young man, and set off at full gallop.

Four hours later he was in Neufchâtel. He strictly followed the instructions he had received. At Neufchâtel, as at St. Valery, he found a horse quite ready and awaiting him. He was about to remove the pistols from the saddle he had quit to the one he was about to fill, but he found the holsters furnished with similar pistols.

“Your address at Paris?”

“Hôtel of the Guards, company of Dessessart.”

“Enough,” replied the questioner.

“Which route must I take?” demanded d’Artagnan, in his turn.

“That of Rouen; but you will leave the city on your right. You must stop at the little village of Eccuis, in which there is but one tavern—the Shield of France. Don’t condemn it from appearances; you will find a horse in the stables quite as good as this.”

“The same password?”

“Exactly.”

“Adieu, master!”

“A good journey, gentlemen! Do you want anything?”

D’Artagnan shook his head, and set off at full speed. At Eccuis, the same scene was repeated. He found as provident a host and a fresh horse. He left his address as he had done before, and set off again at the same pace for Pontoise. At Pontoise he changed his horse for the last time, and at nine o’clock galloped into the yard of Tréville’s hôtel. He had made nearly sixty leagues in little more than twelve hours.

M. de Tréville received him as if he had seen him that same morning; only, when pressing his hand a little more warmly than usual, he informed him that the company of Dessessart was on duty at the Louvre, and that he might repair at once to his post.