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Twenty Years After

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Chapter 10. Monsieur Porthos du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds.


Thanks to what Aramis had told him, D’Artagnan, who knew already that Porthos called himself Du Vallon, was now aware that he styled himself, from his estate, De Bracieux; and that he was, on account of this estate, engaged in a lawsuit with the Bishop of Noyon. It was, then, in the neighborhood of Noyon that he must seek that estate. His itinerary was promptly determined: he would go to Dammartin, from which place two roads diverge, one toward Soissons, the other toward Compiegne; there he would inquire concerning the Bracieux estate and go to the right or to the left according to the information obtained.

Planchet, who was still a little concerned for his safety after his recent escapade, declared that he would follow D’Artagnan even to the end of the world, either by the road to the right or by that to the left; only he begged his former master to set out in the evening, for greater security to himself. D’Artagnan suggested that he should send word to his wife, so that she might not be anxious about him, but Planchet replied with much sagacity that he was very sure his wife would not die of anxiety through not knowing where he was, while he, Planchet, remembering her incontinence of tongue, would die of anxiety if she did know.

This reasoning seemed to D’Artagnan so satisfactory that he no further insisted; and about eight o’clock in the evening, the time when the vapors of night begin to thicken in the streets, he left the Hotel de la Chevrette, and followed by Planchet set forth from the capital by way of the Saint Denis gate.

At midnight the two travelers were at Dammartin, but it was then too late to make inquiries--the host of the Cygne de la Croix had gone to bed.

The next morning D’Artagnan summoned the host, one of those sly Normans who say neither yes nor no and fear to commit themselves by giving a direct answer. D’Artagnan, however, gathered from his equivocal replies that the road to the right was the one he ought to take, and on that uncertain information he resumed his journey. At nine in the morning he reached Nanteuil and stopped for breakfast. His host here was a good fellow from Picardy, who gave him all the information he needed. The Bracieux estate was a few leagues from Villars-Cotterets.

D’Artagnan was acquainted with Villars-Cotterets, having gone thither with the court on several occasions; for at that time Villars-Cotterets was a royal residence. He therefore shaped his course toward that place and dismounted at the Dauphin d’Or. There he ascertained that the Bracieux estate was four leagues distant, but that Porthos was not at Bracieux. Porthos had, in fact, been involved in a dispute with the Bishop of Noyon in regard to the Pierrefonds property, which adjoined his own, and weary at length of a legal controversy which was beyond his comprehension, he put an end to it by purchasing Pierrefonds and added that name to his others. He now called himself Du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds, and resided on his new estate.

The travelers were therefore obliged to stay at the hotel until the next day; the horses had done ten leagues that day and needed rest. It is true they might have taken others, but there was a great forest to pass through and Planchet, as we have seen, had no liking for forests after dark.

There was another thing that Planchet had no liking for and that was starting on a journey with a hungry stomach. Accordingly, D’Artagnan, on awaking, found his breakfast waiting for him. It need not be said that Planchet in resuming his former functions resumed also his former humility and was not ashamed to make his breakfast on what was left by D’Artagnan.

It was nearly eight o’clock when they set out again. Their course was clearly defined: they were to follow the road toward Compiegne and on emerging from the forest turn to the right.

The morning was beautiful, and in this early springtime the birds sang on the trees and the sunbeams shone through the misty glades, like curtains of golden gauze.

In other parts of the forest the light could scarcely penetrate through the foliage, and the stems of two old oak trees, the refuge of the squirrel, startled by the travelers, were in deep shadow.

There came up from all nature in the dawn of day a perfume of herbs, flowers and leaves, which delighted the heart. D’Artagnan, sick of the closeness of Paris, thought that when a man had three names of his different estates joined one to another, he ought to be very happy in such a paradise; then he shook his head, saying, “If I were Porthos and D’Artagnan came to make me such a proposition as I am going to make to him, I know what I should say to it.”

As to Planchet, he thought of little or nothing, but was happy as a hunting-hound in his old master’s company.

At the extremity of the wood D’Artagnan perceived the road that had been described to him, and at the end of the road he saw the towers of an immense feudal castle.

“Oh! oh!” he said, “I fancied this castle belonged to the ancient branch of Orleans. Can Porthos have negotiated for it with the Duc de Longueville?”

“Faith!” exclaimed Planchet, “here’s land in good condition; if it belongs to Monsieur Porthos I wish him joy.”

“Zounds!” cried D’Artagnan, “don’t call him Porthos, nor even Vallon; call him De Bracieux or De Pierrefonds; thou wilt knell out damnation to my mission otherwise.”

As he approached the castle which had first attracted his eye, D’Artagnan was convinced that it could not be there that his friend dwelt; the towers, though solid and as if built yesterday, were open and broken. One might have fancied that some giant had cleaved them with blows from a hatchet.

On arriving at the extremity of the castle D’Artagnan found himself overlooking a beautiful valley, in which, at the foot of a charming little lake, stood several scattered houses, which, humble in their aspect, and covered, some with tiles, others with thatch, seemed to acknowledge as their sovereign lord a pretty chateau, built about the beginning of the reign of Henry IV., and surmounted by four stately, gilded weather-cocks. D’Artagnan no longer doubted that this was Porthos’s pleasant dwelling place.

The road led straight up to the chateau which, compared to its ancestor on the hill, was exactly what a fop of the coterie of the Duc d’Enghein would have been beside a knight in steel armor in the time of Charles VII. D’Artagnan spurred his horse on and pursued his road, followed by Planchet at the same pace.

In ten minutes D’Artagnan reached the end of an alley regularly planted with fine poplars and terminating in an iron gate, the points and crossed bars of which were gilt. In the midst of this avenue was a nobleman, dressed in green and with as much gilding about him as the iron gate, riding on a tall horse. On his right hand and his left were two footmen, with the seams of their dresses laced. A considerable number of clowns were assembled and rendered homage to their lord.

“Ah!” said D’Artagnan to himself, “can this be the Seigneur du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds? Well-a-day! how he has shrunk since he gave up the name of Porthos!”

“This cannot be Monsieur Porthos,” observed Planchet replying, as it were, to his master’s thoughts. “Monsieur Porthos was six feet high; this man is scarcely five.”

“Nevertheless,” said D’Artagnan, “the people are bowing very low to this person.”

As he spoke, he rode toward the tall horse--to the man of importance and his valets. As he approached he seemed to recognize the features of this individual.

“Jesu!” cried Planchet, “can it be?”

At this exclamation the man on horseback turned slowly and with a lofty air, and the two travelers could see, displayed in all their brilliancy, the large eyes, the vermilion visage, and the eloquent smile of--Mousqueton.

It was indeed Mousqueton--Mousqueton, as fat as a pig, rolling about with rude health, puffed out with good living, who, recognizing D’Artagnan and acting very differently from the hypocrite Bazin, slipped off his horse and approached the officer with his hat off, so that the homage of the assembled crowd was turned toward this new sun, which eclipsed the former luminary.

“Monsieur d’Artagnan! Monsieur d’Artagnan!” cried Mousqueton, his fat cheeks swelling out and his whole frame perspiring with joy; “Monsieur d’Artagnan! oh! what joy for my lord and master, Du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds!”

“Thou good Mousqueton! where is thy master?”

“You stand upon his property!”

“But how handsome thou art--how fat! thou hast prospered and grown stout!” and D’Artagnan could not restrain his astonishment at the change good fortune had produced on the once famished one.

“Hey, yes, thank God, I am pretty well,” said Mousqueton.

“But hast thou nothing to say to thy friend Planchet?”

“How, my friend Planchet? Planchet--art thou there?” cried Mousqueton, with open arms and eyes full of tears.

“My very self,” replied Planchet; “but I wanted first to see if thou wert grown proud.”

“Proud toward an old friend? never, Planchet! thou wouldst not have thought so hadst thou known Mousqueton well.”

“So far so well,” answered Planchet, alighting, and extending his arms to Mousqueton, the two servants embraced with an emotion which touched those who were present and made them suppose that Planchet was a great lord in disguise, so highly did they estimate the position of Mousqueton.

“And now, sir,” resumed Mousqueton, when he had rid himself of Planchet, who had in vain tried to clasp his hands behind his friend’s fat back, “now, sir, allow me to leave you, for I could not permit my master to hear of your arrival from any but myself; he would never forgive me for not having preceded you.”

“This dear friend,” said D’Artagnan, carefully avoiding to utter either the former name borne by Porthos or his new one, “then he has not forgotten me?”

“Forgotten--he!” cried Mousqueton; “there’s not a day, sir, that we don’t expect to hear that you were made marshal either instead of Monsieur de Gassion, or of Monsieur de Bassompierre.”

On D’Artagnan’s lips there played one of those rare and melancholy smiles which seemed to emanate from the depth of his soul--the last trace of youth and happiness that had survived life’s disillusions.

“And you--fellows,” resumed Mousqueton, “stay near Monsieur le Comte d’Artagnan and pay him every attention in your power whilst I go to prepare my lord for his visit.”

And mounting his horse Mousqueton rode off down the avenue on the grass at a hand gallop.

“Ah, there! there’s something promising,” said D’Artagnan. “No mysteries, no cloak to hide one’s self in, no cunning policy here; people laugh outright, they weep for joy here. I see nothing but faces a yard broad; in short, it seems to me that nature herself wears a holiday garb, and that the trees, instead of leaves and flowers, are covered with red and green ribbons as on gala days.”

“As for me,” said Planchet, “I seem to smell, from this place, even, a most delectable perfume of fine roast meat, and to see the scullions in a row by the hedge, hailing our approach. Ah! sir, what a cook must Monsieur Pierrefonds have, when he was so fond of eating and drinking, even whilst he was only called Monsieur Porthos!”

“Say no more!” cried D’Artagnan. “If the reality corresponds with appearances I am lost; for a man so well off will never change his happy condition, and I shall fail with him, as I have already done with Aramis.”


Chapter 11. Wealth does not necessarily produce Happiness.


D’Artagnan passed through the iron gate and arrived in front of the chateau. He alighted as he saw a species of giant on the steps. Let us do justice to D’Artagnan. Independently of every selfish wish, his heart palpitated with joy when he saw that tall form and martial demeanor, which recalled to him a good and brave man.

He ran to Porthos and threw himself into his arms; the whole body of servants, arranged in a semi-circle at a respectful distance, looked on with humble curiosity. Mousqueton, at the head of them, wiped his eyes. Porthos linked his arm in that of his friend.

“Ah! how delightful to see you again, dear friend!” he cried, in a voice which was now changed from a baritone into a bass, “you’ve not then forgotten me?”

“Forget you! oh! dear Du Vallon, does one forget the happiest days of flowery youth, one’s dearest friends, the dangers we have dared together? On the contrary, there is not an hour we have passed together that is not present to my memory.”

“Yes, yes,” said Porthos, trying to give to his mustache a curl which it had lost whilst he had been alone. “Yes, we did some fine things in our time and we gave that poor cardinal a few threads to unravel.”

And he heaved a sigh.

“Under any circumstances,” he resumed, “you are welcome, my dear friend; you will help me to recover my spirits; to-morrow we will hunt the hare on my plain, which is a superb tract of land, or pursue the deer in my woods, which are magnificent. I have four harriers which are considered the swiftest in the county, and a pack of hounds which are unequalled for twenty leagues around.”

And Porthos heaved another sigh.

“But, first,” interposed D’Artagnan, “you must present me to Madame du Vallon.”

A third sigh from Porthos.

“I lost Madame du Vallon two years ago,” he said, “and you find me still in affliction on that account. That was the reason why I left my Chateau du Vallon near Corbeil, and came to my estate, Bracieux. Poor Madame du Vallon! her temper was uncertain, but she came at last to accustom herself to my little ways and understand my little wishes.”

“So you are free now, and rich?”

“Alas!” groaned Porthos, “I am a widower and have forty thousand francs a year. Let us go to breakfast.”

“I shall be happy to do so; the morning air has made me hungry.”

“Yes,” said Porthos; “my air is excellent.”

They went into the chateau; there was nothing but gilding, high and low; the cornices were gilt, the mouldings were gilt, the legs and arms of the chairs were gilt. A table, ready set out, awaited them.

“You see,” said Porthos, “this is my usual style.”

“Devil take me!” answered D’Artagnan, “I wish you joy of it. The king has nothing like it.”

“No,” answered Porthos, “I hear it said that he is very badly fed by the cardinal, Monsieur de Mazarin. Taste this cutlet, my dear D’Artagnan; ‘tis off one of my sheep.”

“You have very tender mutton and I wish you joy of it.” said D’Artagnan.

“Yes, the sheep are fed in my meadows, which are excellent pasture.”

“Give me another cutlet.”

“No, try this hare, which I had killed yesterday in one of my warrens.”

“Zounds! what a flavor!” cried D’Artagnan; “ah! they are fed on thyme only, your hares.”

“And how do you like my wine?” asked Porthos; “it is pleasant, isn’t it?”

“Capital!”

“It is nothing, however, but a wine of the country.”

“Really?”

“Yes, a small declivity to the south, yonder on my hill, gives me twenty hogsheads.”

“Quite a vineyard, hey?”

Porthos sighed for the fifth time--D’Artagnan had counted his sighs. He became curious to solve the problem.

“Well now,” he said, “it seems, my dear friend, that something vexes you; you are ill, perhaps? That health, which----”

“Excellent, my dear friend; better than ever. I could kill an ox with a blow of my fist.”

“Well, then, family affairs, perhaps?”

“Family! I have, happily, only myself in the world to care for.”

“But what makes you sigh?”

“My dear fellow,” replied Porthos, “to be candid with you, I am not happy.”

“You are not happy, Porthos? You who have chateau, meadows, mountains, woods--you who have forty thousand francs a year--you--are--not--happy?”

“My dear friend, all those things I have, but I am a hermit in the midst of superfluity.”

“Surrounded, I suppose, only by clodhoppers, with whom you could not associate.”

Porthos turned rather pale and drank off a large glass of wine.

“No; but just think, there are paltry country squires who have all some title or another and pretend to go back as far as Charlemagne, or at least to Hugh Capet. When I first came here; being the last comer, it was for me to make the first advances. I made them, but you know, my dear friend, Madame du Vallon----”

Porthos, in pronouncing these words, seemed to gulp down something.

“Madame du Vallon was of doubtful gentility. She had, in her first marriage--I don’t think, D’Artagnan, I am telling you anything new--married a lawyer; they thought that ‘nauseous;’ you can understand that’s a word bad enough to make one kill thirty thousand men. I have killed two, which has made people hold their tongues, but has not made me their friend. So that I have no society; I live alone; I am sick of it--my mind preys on itself.”

D’Artagnan smiled. He now saw where the breastplate was weak, and prepared the blow.

“But now,” he said, “that you are a widower, your wife’s connection cannot injure you.”

“Yes, but understand me; not being of a race of historic fame, like the De Courcys, who were content to be plain sirs, or the Rohans, who didn’t wish to be dukes, all these people, who are all either vicomtes or comtes go before me at church in all the ceremonies, and I can say nothing to them. Ah! If I only were a----”

“A baron, don’t you mean?” cried D’Artagnan, finishing his friend’s sentence.

“Ah!” cried Porthos; “would I were but a baron!”

“Well, my friend, I am come to give you this very title which you wish for so much.”

Porthos gave a start that shook the room; two or three bottles fell and were broken. Mousqueton ran thither, hearing the noise.

Porthos waved his hand to Mousqueton to pick up the bottles.

“I am glad to see,” said D’Artagnan, “that you have still that honest lad with you.”

“He is my steward,” replied Porthos; “he will never leave me. Go away now, Mouston.”

“So he’s called Mouston,” thought D’Artagnan; “‘tis too long a word to pronounce ‘Mousqueton.’”

“Well,” he said aloud, “let us resume our conversation later, your people may suspect something; there may be spies about. You can suppose, Porthos, that what I have to say relates to most important matters.”

“Devil take them; let us walk in the park,” answered Porthos, “for the sake of digestion.”

“Egad,” said D’Artagnan, “the park is like everything else and there are as many fish in your pond as rabbits in your warren; you are a happy man, my friend since you have not only retained your love of the chase, but acquired that of fishing.”

“My friend,” replied Porthos, “I leave fishing to Mousqueton,--it is a vulgar pleasure,--but I shoot sometimes; that is to say, when I am dull, and I sit on one of those marble seats, have my gun brought to me, my favorite dog, and I shoot rabbits.”

“Really, how very amusing!”

“Yes,” replied Porthos, with a sigh, “it is amusing.”

D’Artagnan now no longer counted the sighs. They were innumerable.

“However, what had you to say to me?” he resumed; “let us return to that subject.”

“With pleasure,” replied D’Artagnan; “I must, however, first frankly tell you that you must change your mode of life.”

“How?”

“Go into harness again, gird on your sword, run after adventures, and leave as in old times a little of your fat on the roadside.”

“Ah! hang it!” said Porthos.

“I see you are spoiled, dear friend; you are corpulent, your arm has no longer that movement of which the late cardinal’s guards have so many proofs.”

“Ah! my fist is strong enough I swear,” cried Porthos, extending a hand like a shoulder of mutton.

“So much the better.”

“Are we then to go to war?”

“By my troth, yes.”

“Against whom?”

“Are you a politician, friend?”

“Not in the least.”

“Are you for Mazarin or for the princes?”

“I am for no one.”

“That is to say, you are for us. Well, I tell you that I come to you from the cardinal.”

This speech was heard by Porthos in the same sense as if it had still been in the year 1640 and related to the true cardinal.

“Ho! ho! What are the wishes of his eminence?”

“He wishes to have you in his service.”

“And who spoke to him of me?”

“Rochefort--you remember him?”

“Yes, pardieu! It was he who gave us so much trouble and kept us on the road so much; you gave him three sword-wounds in three separate engagements.”

“But you know he is now our friend?”

“No, I didn’t know that. So he cherishes no resentment?”

“You are mistaken, Porthos,” said D’Artagnan. “It is I who cherish no resentment.”

Porthos didn’t understand any too clearly; but then we know that understanding was not his strong point. “You say, then,” he continued, “that the Count de Rochefort spoke of me to the cardinal?”

“Yes, and the queen, too.”

“The queen, do you say?”

“To inspire us with confidence she has even placed in Mazarin’s hands that famous diamond--you remember all about it--that I once sold to Monsieur des Essarts and of which, I don’t know how, she has regained possession.”

“But it seems to me,” said Porthos, “that she would have done much better if she had given it back to you.”

“So I think,” replied D’Artagnan; “but kings and queens are strange beings and have odd fancies; nevertheless, since they are the ones who have riches and honors, we are devoted to them.”

“Yes, we are devoted to them,” repeated Porthos; “and you--to whom are you devoted now?”

“To the king, the queen, and to the cardinal; moreover, I have answered for your devotion also.”

“And you say that you have made certain conditions on my behalf?”

“Magnificent, my dear fellow, magnificent! In the first place you have plenty of money, haven’t you? forty thousand francs income, I think you said.”

Porthos began to be suspicious. “Eh! my friend,” said he, “one never has too much money. Madame du Vallon left things in much disorder; I am not much of a hand at figures, so that I live almost from hand to mouth.”

“He is afraid I have come to borrow money,” thought D’Artagnan. “Ah, my friend,” said he, “it is all the better if you are in difficulties.”

“How is it all the better?”

“Yes, for his eminence will give you all that you want--land, money, and titles.”

“Ah! ah! ah!” said Porthos, opening his eyes at that last word.

“Under the other cardinal,” continued D’Artagnan, “we didn’t know enough to make our profits; this, however, doesn’t concern you, with your forty thousand francs income, the happiest man in the world, it seems to me.”

Porthos sighed.

“At the same time,” continued D’Artagnan, “notwithstanding your forty thousand francs a year, and perhaps even for the very reason that you have forty thousand francs a year, it seems to me that a little coronet would do well on your carriage, hey?”

“Yes indeed,” said Porthos.

“Well, my dear friend, win it--it is at the point of your sword. We shall not interfere with each other--your object is a title; mine, money. If I can get enough to rebuild Artagnan, which my ancestors, impoverished by the Crusades, allowed to fall into ruins, and to buy thirty acres of land about it, that is all I wish. I shall retire and die tranquilly--at home.”

“For my part,” said Porthos, “I desire to be made a baron.”

“You shall be one.”

“And have you not seen any of our other friends?”

“Yes, I have seen Aramis.”

“And what does he wish? To be a bishop?”

“Aramis,” answered D’Artagnan, who did not wish to undeceive Porthos, “Aramis, fancy, has become a monk and a Jesuit, and lives like a bear. My offers did not arouse him,--did not even tempt him.”

“So much the worse! He was a clever man. And Athos?”

“I have not yet seen him. Do you know where I shall find him?”

“Near Blois. He is called Bragelonne. Only imagine, my dear friend. Athos, who was of as high birth as the emperor and who inherits one estate which gives him the title of comte, what is he to do with all those dignities--the Comte de la Fere, Comte de Bragelonne?”

“And he has no children with all these titles?”

“Ah!” said Porthos, “I have heard that he had adopted a young man who resembles him greatly.”

“What, Athos? Our Athos, who was as virtuous as Scipio? Have you seen him?

“No.”

“Well, I shall see him to-morrow and tell him about you; but I’m afraid, entre nous, that his liking for wine has aged and degraded him.”

“Yes, he used to drink a great deal,” replied Porthos.

“And then he was older than any of us,” added D’Artagnan.

“Some years only. His gravity made him look older than he was.”

“Well then, if we can get Athos, all will be well. If we cannot, we will do without him. We two are worth a dozen.”

“Yes,” said Porthos, smiling at the remembrance of his former exploits; “but we four, altogether, would be equal to thirty-six, more especially as you say the work will not be child’s play. Will it last long?”

“By’r Lady! two or three years perhaps.”

“So much the better,” cried Porthos. “You have no idea, my friend, how my bones ache since I came here. Sometimes on a Sunday, I take a ride in the fields and on the property of my neighbours, in order to pick up a nice little quarrel, which I am really in want of, but nothing happens. Either they respect or they fear me, which is more likely, but they let me trample down the clover with my dogs, insult and obstruct every one, and I come back still more weary and low-spirited, that’s all. At any rate, tell me: there’s more chance of fighting in Paris, is there not?”

“In that respect, my dear friend, it’s delightful. No more edicts, no more of the cardinal’s guards, no more De Jussacs, nor other bloodhounds. I’Gad! underneath a lamp in an inn, anywhere, they ask ‘Are you one of the Fronde?’ They unsheathe, and that’s all that is said. The Duke de Guise killed Monsieur de Coligny in the Place Royale and nothing was said of it.”

“Ah, things go on gaily, then,” said Porthos.

“Besides which, in a short time,” resumed D’Artagnan, “We shall have set battles, cannonades, conflagrations and there will be great variety.”

“Well, then, I decide.”

“I have your word, then?”

“Yes, ‘tis given. I shall fight heart and soul for Mazarin; but----”

“But?”

“But he must make me a baron.”

“Zounds!” said D’Artagnan, “that’s settled already; I will be responsible for the barony.”

On this promise being given, Porthos, who had never doubted his friend’s assurance, turned back with him toward the castle.


Chapter 12. Porthos was Discontented with his Condition.


As they returned toward the castle, D’Artagnan thought of the miseries of poor human nature, always dissatisfied with what it has, ever desirous of what it has not.

In the position of Porthos, D’Artagnan would have been perfectly happy; and to make Porthos contented there was wanting--what? five letters to put before his three names, a tiny coronet to paint upon the panels of his carriage!

“I shall pass all my life,” thought D’Artagnan, “in seeking for a man who is really contented with his lot.”

Whilst making this reflection, chance seemed, as it were, to give him the lie direct. When Porthos had left him to give some orders he saw Mousqueton approaching. The face of the steward, despite one slight shade of care, light as a summer cloud, seemed a physiognomy of absolute felicity.

“Here is what I am looking for,” thought D’Artagnan; “but alas! the poor fellow does not know the purpose for which I am here.”

He then made a sign for Mousqueton to come to him.

“Sir,” said the servant, “I have a favour to ask you.”

“Speak out, my friend.”

“I am afraid to do so. Perhaps you will think, sir, that prosperity has spoiled me?”

“Art thou happy, friend?” asked D’Artagnan.

“As happy as possible; and yet, sir, you may make me even happier than I am.”

“Well, speak, if it depends on me.”

“Oh, sir! it depends on you only.”

“I listen--I am waiting to hear.”

“Sir, the favor I have to ask of you is, not to call me ‘Mousqueton’ but ‘Mouston.’ Since I have had the honor of being my lord’s steward I have taken the last name as more dignified and calculated to make my inferiors respect me. You, sir, know how necessary subordination is in any large establishment of servants.”

D’Artagnan smiled; Porthos wanted to lengthen out his names, Mousqueton to cut his short.

“Well, my dear Mouston,” he said, “rest satisfied. I will call thee Mouston; and if it makes thee happy I will not ‘tutoyer’ you any longer.”

“Oh!” cried Mousqueton, reddening with joy; “if you do me, sir, such honor, I shall be grateful all my life; it is too much to ask.”

“Alas!” thought D’Artagnan, “it is very little to offset the unexpected tribulations I am bringing to this poor devil who has so warmly welcomed me.”

“Will monsieur remain long with us?” asked Mousqueton, with a serene and glowing countenance.

“I go to-morrow, my friend,” replied D’Artagnan.

“Ah, monsieur,” said Mousqueton, “then you have come here only to awaken our regrets.”

“I fear that is true,” said D’Artagnan, in a low tone.

D’Artagnan was secretly touched with remorse, not at inducing Porthos to enter into schemes in which his life and fortune would be in jeopardy, for Porthos, in the title of baron, had his object and reward; but poor Mousqueton, whose only wish was to be called Mouston--was it not cruel to snatch him from the delightful state of peace and plenty in which he was?

He was thinking of these matters when Porthos summoned him to dinner.

“What! to dinner?” said D’Artagnan. “What time is it, then?”

“Eh! why, it is after one o’clock.”

“Your home is a paradise, Porthos; one takes no note of time. I follow you, though I am not hungry.”

“Come, if one can’t always eat, one can always drink--a maxim of poor Athos, the truth of which I have discovered since I began to be lonely.”

D’Artagnan, who as a Gascon, was inclined to sobriety, seemed not so sure as his friend of the truth of Athos’s maxim, but he did his best to keep up with his host. Meanwhile his misgivings in regard to Mousqueton recurred to his mind and with greater force because Mousqueton, though he did not himself wait on the table, which would have been beneath him in his new position, appeared at the door from time to time and evinced his gratitude to D’Artagnan by the quality of the wine he directed to be served. Therefore, when, at dessert, upon a sign from D’Artagnan, Porthos had sent away his servants and the two friends were alone:

“Porthos,” said D’Artagnan, “who will attend you in your campaigns?”

“Why,” replied Porthos, “Mouston, of course.”

This was a blow to D’Artagnan. He could already see the intendant’s beaming smile change to a contortion of grief. “But,” he said, “Mouston is not so young as he was, my dear fellow; besides, he has grown fat and perhaps has lost his fitness for active service.”

“That may be true,” replied Porthos; “but I am used to him, and besides, he wouldn’t be willing to let me go without him, he loves me so much.”

“Oh, blind self-love!” thought D’Artagnan.

“And you,” asked Porthos, “haven’t you still in your service your old lackey, that good, that brave, that intelligent---what, then, is his name?”

“Planchet--yes, I have found him again, but he is lackey no longer.”

“What is he, then?”

“With his sixteen hundred francs--you remember, the sixteen hundred francs he earned at the siege of La Rochelle by carrying a letter to Lord de Winter--he has set up a little shop in the Rue des Lombards and is now a confectioner.”

“Ah, he is a confectioner in the Rue des Lombards! How does it happen, then, that he is in your service?”

“He has been guilty of certain escapades and fears he may be disturbed.” And the musketeer narrated to his friend Planchet’s adventure.

“Well,” said Porthos, “if any one had told you in the old times that the day would come when Planchet would rescue Rochefort and that you would protect him in it----”

“I should not have believed him; but men are changed by events.”

“There is nothing truer than that,” said Porthos; “but what does not change, or changes for the better, is wine. Taste of this; it is a Spanish wine which our friend Athos thought much of.”

At that moment the steward came in to consult his master upon the proceedings of the next day and also with regard to the shooting party which had been proposed.

“Tell me, Mouston,” said Porthos, “are my arms in good condition?”

“Your arms, my lord--what arms?”

“Zounds! my weapons.”

“What weapons?”

“My military weapons.”

“Yes, my lord; at any rate, I think so.”

“Make sure of it, and if they want it, have them burnished up. Which is my best cavalry horse?”

“Vulcan.”

“And the best hack?”

“Bayard.”

“What horse dost thou choose for thyself?”

“I like Rustaud, my lord; a good animal, whose paces suit me.”

“Strong, thinkest thou?”

“Half Norman, half Mecklenburger; will go night and day.”

“That will do for us. See to these horses. Polish up or make some one else polish my arms. Then take pistols with thee and a hunting-knife.”

“Are we then going to travel, my lord?” asked Mousqueton, rather uneasy.

“Something better still, Mouston.”

“An expedition, sir?” asked the steward, whose roses began to change into lilies.

“We are going to return to the service, Mouston,” replied Porthos, still trying to restore his mustache to the military curl it had long lost.

“Into the service--the king’s service?” Mousqueton trembled; even his fat, smooth cheeks shook as he spoke, and he looked at D’Artagnan with an air of reproach; he staggered, and his voice was almost choked.

“Yes and no. We shall serve in a campaign, seek out all sorts of adventures--return, in short, to our former life.”

These last words fell on Mousqueton like a thunderbolt. It was those very terrible old days that made the present so excessively delightful, and the blow was so great he rushed out, overcome, and forgot to shut the door.

The two friends remained alone to speak of the future and to build castles in the air. The good wine which Mousqueton had placed before them traced out in glowing drops to D’Artagnan a fine perspective, shining with quadruples and pistoles, and showed to Porthos a blue ribbon and a ducal mantle; they were, in fact, asleep on the table when the servants came to light them to their bed.

Mousqueton was, however, somewhat consoled by D’Artagnan, who the next day told him that in all probability war would always be carried on in the heart of Paris and within reach of the Chateau du Vallon, which was near Corbeil, or Bracieux, which was near Melun, and of Pierrefonds, which was between Compiegne and Villars-Cotterets.

“But--formerly--it appears,” began Mousqueton timidly.

“Oh!” said D’Artagnan, “we don’t now make war as we did formerly. To-day it’s a sort of diplomatic arrangement; ask Planchet.”

Mousqueton inquired, therefore, the state of the case of his old friend, who confirmed the statement of D’Artagnan. “But,” he added, “in this war prisoners stand a chance of being hung.”

“The deuce they do!” said Mousqueton; “I think I should like the siege of Rochelle better than this war, then!”

Porthos, meantime, asked D’Artagnan to give him his instructions how to proceed on his journey.

“Four days,” replied his friend, “are necessary to reach Blois; one day to rest there; three or four days to return to Paris. Set out, therefore, in a week, with your suite, and go to the Hotel de la Chevrette, Rue Tiquetonne, and there await me.”

“That’s agreed,” said Porthos.

“As to myself, I shall go around to see Athos; for though I don’t think his aid worth much, one must with one’s friends observe all due politeness,” said D’Artagnan.

The friends then took leave of each other on the very border of the estate of Pierrefonds, to which Porthos escorted his friend.

“At least,” D’Artagnan said to himself, as he took the road to Villars-Cotterets, “at least I shall not be alone in my undertaking. That devil, Porthos, is a man of prodigious strength; still, if Athos joins us, well, we shall be three of us to laugh at Aramis, that little coxcomb with his too good luck.”

At Villars-Cotterets he wrote to the cardinal:

“My Lord,--I have already one man to offer to your eminence, and he is well worth twenty men. I am just setting out for Blois. The Comte de la Fere inhabits the Castle of Bragelonne, in the environs of that city.”