The Vicomte de Bragelonne
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 11 out of 13
"Don't you think you can smell the smoke here?" said Raoul.
"I rather think I can smell a conspiracy," replied D'Artagnan.
He had not finished speaking, when four of these men came down into the
court, and without the appearance of any bad design, mounted guard at the
door of communication, casting, at intervals, glances at D'Artagnan,
which signified many things.
"_Mordioux!_" said D'Artagnan, in a low voice," there is something going
on. Are you curious, Raoul?"
"According to the subject, chevalier."
"Well, I am as curious as an old woman. Come a little more in front; we
shall get a better view of the place. I would lay a wager that view will
be something curious."
"But you know, monsieur le chevalier, that I am not willing to become a
passive and indifferent spectator of the death of the two poor devils."
"And I, then - do you think I am a savage? We will go in again, when it
is time to do so. Come along!" And they made their way towards the
front of the house, and placed themselves near the window which, still
more strangely than the rest, remained unoccupied. The two last
drinkers, instead of looking out at this window, kept up the fire. On
seeing D'Artagnan and his friend enter: - "Ah! ah! a reinforcement,"
D'Artagnan jogged Raoul's elbow. "Yes, my braves, a reinforcement," said
he; "_cordieu!_ there is a famous fire. Whom are you going to cook?"
The two men uttered a shout of jovial laughter, and, instead of
answering, threw on more wood. D'Artagnan could not take his eyes off
"I suppose," said one of the fire-makers, "they sent you to tell us the
time - did not they?"
"Without doubt they have," said D'Artagnan, anxious to know what was
going on; "why should I be here else, if it were not for that?"
"Then place yourself at the window, if you please, and observe."
D'Artagnan smiled in his mustache, made a sign to Raoul, and placed
himself at the window.
The spectacle which the Greve now presented was a frightful one. The
heads, leveled by the perspective, extended afar, thick and agitated as
the ears of corn in a vast plain. From time to time a fresh report, or a
distant rumor, made the heads oscillate and thousands of eyes flash. Now
and then there were great movements. All those ears of corn bent, and
became waves more agitated than those of the ocean, which rolled from the
extremities to the center, and beat, like the tides, against the hedge of
archers who surrounded the gibbets. Then the handles of the halberds
were let fall upon the heads and shoulders of the rash invaders; at
times, also, it was the steel as well as the wood, and, in that case, a
large empty circle was formed around the guard; a space conquered upon
the extremities, which underwent, in their turn the oppression of the
sudden movement, which drove them against the parapets of the Seine.
From the window, that commanded a view of the whole Place, D'Artagnan
saw, with interior satisfaction, that such of the musketeers and guards
as found themselves involved in the crowd, were able, with blows of their
fists and the hilts of theirs swords, to keep room. He even remarked
that they had succeeded, by that _esprit de corps_ which doubles the
strength of the soldier, in getting together in one group to the amount
of about fifty men; and that, with the exception of a dozen stragglers
whom he still saw rolling here and there, the nucleus was complete, and
within reach of his voice. But it was not the musketeers and guards that
drew the attention of D'Artagnan. Around the gibbets, and particularly
at the entrances to the arcade of Saint-Jean, moved a noisy mass, a busy
mass; daring faces, resolute demeanors were to be seen here and there,
mingled with silly faces and indifferent demeanors; signals were
exchanged, hands given and taken. D'Artagnan remarked among the groups,
and those groups the most animated, the face of the cavalier whom he had
seen enter by the door of communication from his garden, and who had gone
upstairs to harangue the drinkers. That man was organizing troops and
"_Mordioux!_" said D'Artagnan to himself, "I was not deceived; I know
that man, - it is Menneville. What the devil is he doing here?"
A distant murmur, which became more distinct by degrees, stopped this
reflection, and drew his attention another way. This murmur was
occasioned by the arrival of the culprits; a strong picket of archers
preceded them, and appeared at the angle of the arcade. The entire crowd
now joined as if in one cry; all the cries united formed one immense
howl. D'Artagnan saw Raoul was becoming pale, and he slapped him roughly
on the shoulder. The fire-keepers turned round on hearing the great cry,
and asked what was going on. "The condemned are arrived," said
D'Artagnan. "That's well," replied they, again replenishing the fire.
D'Artagnan looked at them with much uneasiness; it was evident that these
men who were making such a fire for no apparent purpose had some strange
intentions. The condemned appeared upon the Place. They were walking,
the executioner before them, whilst fifty archers formed a hedge on their
right and their left. Both were dressed in black; they appeared pale,
but firm. They looked impatiently over the people's heads, standing on
tip-toe at every step. D'Artagnan remarked this. "_Mordioux!_" cried
he, "they are in a great hurry to get a sight of the gibbet!" Raoul drew
back, without, however, having the power to leave the window. Terror
even has its attractions.
"To the death! to the death!" cried fifty thousand voices.
"Yes; to the death!" howled a hundred frantic others, as if the great
mass had given them the reply.
"To the halter! to the halter!" cried the great whole; "_Vive le roi!_"
"Well," said D'Artagnan, "this is droll; I should have thought it was M.
Colbert who had caused them to be hung."
There was, at this moment, a great rolling movement in the crowd, which
stopped for a moment the march of the condemned. The people of a bold
and resolute mien, whom D'Artagnan had observed, by dint of pressing,
pushing, and lifting themselves up, had succeeded in almost touching the
hedge of archers. The _cortege_ resumed its march. All at once, to
cries of "_Vive Colbert!_" those men, of whom D'Artagnan never lost
sight, fell upon the escort, which in vain endeavored to stand against
them. Behind these men was the crowd. Then commenced, amidst a
frightful tumult, as frightful a confusion. This time there was
something more than cries of expectation or cries of joy, there were
cries of pain. Halberds struck men down, swords ran through them,
muskets were discharged at them. The confusion became then so great that
D'Artagnan could no longer distinguish anything. Then, from this chaos,
suddenly surged something like a visible intention, like a will
pronounced. The condemned had been torn from the hands of the guards,
and were being dragged towards the house of L'Image-de-Notre-Dame. Those
who dragged them shouted, "_Vive Colbert!_" The people hesitated, not
knowing which they ought to fall upon, the archers or the aggressors.
What stopped the people was, that those who cried "_Vive Colbert!_" began
to cry, at the same time, "No halter! no halter! to the fire! to the
fire! burn the thieves! burn the extortioners!" This cry, shouted with
an _ensemble_, obtained enthusiastic success. The populace had come to
witness an execution, and here was an opportunity offered them of
performing one themselves. It was this that must be most agreeable to
the populace: therefore, they ranged themselves immediately on the party
of the aggressors against the archers, crying with the minority, which
had become, thanks to them, the most compact majority: "Yes, yes: to the
fire with the thieves! _Vive Colbert!_"
"_Mordioux!_" exclaimed D'Artagnan, "this begins to look serious."
One of the men who remained near the chimney approached the window, a
firebrand in his hand. "Ah, ah!" said he, "it gets warm." Then, turning
to his companion: "There is the signal," added he; and he immediately
applied the burning brand to the wainscoting. Now, this _cabaret_ of the
Image-de-Notre-Dame was not a very newly built house, and therefore, did
not require much entreating to take fire. In a second the boards began
to crackle, and the flames arose sparkling to the ceiling. A howling
from without replied to the shouts of the incendiaries. D'Artagnan, who
had not seen what passed, from being engaged at the window, felt, at the
same time, the smoke which choked him and the fire that scorched him.
"_Hola!_" cried he, turning round, "is the fire here? Are you drunk or
mad, my masters?"
The two men looked at each other with an air of astonishment. "In what?"
asked they of D'Artagnan; "was it not a thing agreed upon?"
"A thing agreed upon that you should burn my house!" vociferated
D'Artagnan, snatching the brand from the hand of the incendiary, and
striking him with it across the face. The second wanted to assist his
comrade, but Raoul, seizing him by the middle, threw him out of the
window, whilst D'Artagnan pushed his man down the stairs. Raoul, first
disengaged, tore the burning wainscoting down, and threw it flaming into
the chamber. At a glance D'Artagnan saw there was nothing to be feared
from the fire, and sprang to the window. The disorder was at its
height. The air was filled with simultaneous cries of "To the fire!"
"To the death!" "To the halter!" "To the stake!" "_Vive Colbert!_"
"_Vive le roi!_" The group which had forced the culprits from the hands
of the archers had drawn close to the house, which appeared to be the
goal towards which they dragged them. Menneville was at the head of this
group, shouting louder than all the others, "To the fire! to the fire!
_Vive Colbert!_" D'Artagnan began to comprehend what was meant. They
wanted to burn the condemned, and his house was to serve as a funeral
"Halt, there!" cried he, sword in hand, and one foot upon the window.
"Menneville, what do you want to do?"
"Monsieur d'Artagnan," cried the latter; "give way, give way!"
"To the fire! to the fire with the thieves! _Vive Colbert!_"
These cries exasperated D'Artagnan. "_Mordioux!_" said he. "What! burn
the poor devils who are only condemned to be hung? that is infamous!"
Before the door, however, the mass of anxious spectators, rolled back
against the walls, had become more thick, and closed up the way.
Menneville and his men, who were dragging along the culprits, were within
ten paces of the door.
Menneville made a last effort. "Passage! passage!" cried he, pistol in
"Burn them! burn them!" repeated the crowd. "The Image-de-Notre-Dame is
on fire! Burn the thieves! burn the monopolists in the Image-de-Notre-
There now remained no doubt, it was plainly D'Artagnan's house that was
their object. D'Artagnan remembered the old cry, always so effective
from his mouth: "_A moi! mousquetaires!_" shouted he, with the voice of a
giant, with one of those voices which dominate over cannon, the sea, the
tempest. "_A moi! mousquetaires!_" And suspending himself by the arm
from the balcony, he allowed himself to drop amidst the crowd, which
began to draw back form a house that rained men. Raoul was on the ground
as soon as he, both sword in hand. All the musketeers on the Place heard
that challenging cry - all turned round at that cry, and recognized
D'Artagnan. "To the captain, to the captain!" cried they, in their
turn. And the crowd opened before them as though before the prow of a
vessel. At that moment D'Artagnan and Menneville found themselves face
to face. "Passage, passage!" cried Menneville, seeing that he was within
an arm's length from the door.
"No one passes here," said D'Artagnan.
"Take that, then!" said Menneville, firing his pistol almost within an
arm's length. But before the cock fell, D'Artagnan had struck up
Menneville's arm with the hilt of his sword and passed the blade through
"I told you plainly to keep yourself quiet," said D'Artagnan to
Menneville, who rolled at his feet.
"Passage! passage!" cried the companions of Menneville, at first
terrified, but soon recovering, when they found they had only to do with
two men. But those two men were hundred-armed giants; the swords flew
about in their hands like the burning _glaive_ of the archangel. They
pierce with its point, strike with the flat, cut with the edge; every
stroke brings down a man. "For the king!" cried D'Artagnan, to every man
he struck at, that is to say, to every man that fell. This cry became
the charging word for the musketeers, who, guided by it, joined
D'Artagnan. During this time the archers, recovering from the panic they
had undergone, charge the aggressors in the rear, and regular as mill
strokes, overturn or knock down all that opposed them. The crowd, which
sees swords gleaming, and drops of blood flying in the air - the crowd
falls back and crushes itself. At length cries for mercy and of
despair resound; that is, the farewell of the vanquished. The two
condemned are again in the hands of the archers. D'Artagnan approaches
them, seeing them pale and sinking: "Console yourselves, poor men," said
he, "you will not undergo the frightful torture with which these wretches
threatened you. The king has condemned you to be hung: you shall only be
hung. Go on, hang them, and it will be over."
There is no longer anything going on at the Image-de-Notre-Dame. The
fire has been extinguished with two tuns of wine in default of water.
The conspirators have fled by the garden. The archers are dragging the
culprits to the gibbets. From this moment the affair did not occupy much
time. The executioner, heedless about operating according to the rules
of the art, made such haste that he dispatched the condemned in a couple
of minutes. In the meantime the people gathered around D'Artagnan, -
they felicitated, they cheered him. He wiped his brow, streaming with
sweat, and his sword, streaming with blood. He shrugged his shoulders at
seeing Menneville writhing at his feet in the last convulsions. And,
while Raoul turned away his eyes in compassion, he pointed to the
musketeers the gibbets laden with their melancholy fruit. "Poor devils!"
said he, "I hope they died blessing me, for I saved them with great
difficulty." These words caught the ear of Menneville at the moment when
he himself was breathing his last sigh. A dark, ironical smile flitted
across his lips; he wished to reply, but the effort hastened the snapping
of the chord of life - he expired.
"Oh! all this is very frightful!" murmured Raoul: "let us begone,
monsieur le chevalier."
"You are not wounded?" asked D'Artagnan.
"Not at all; thank you."
"That's well! Thou art a brave fellow, _mordioux!_ The head of the
father, and the arm of Porthos. Ah! if he had been here, good Porthos,
you would have seen something worth looking at." Then as if by way of
"But where the devil can that brave Porthos be?" murmured D'Artagnan.
"Come, chevalier, pray come away," urged Raoul.
"One minute, my friend; let me take my thirty-seven and a half pistols,
and I am at your service. The house is a good property," added
D'Artagnan, as he entered the Image-de-Notre-Dame, "but decidedly, even
if it were less profitable, I should prefer its being in another quarter."
How M. d'Eymeris's Diamond passed into the Hands of M. d'Artagnan.
Whilst this violent, noisy, and bloody scene was passing on the Greve,
several men, barricaded behind the gate of communication with the garden,
replaced their swords in their sheaths, assisted one among them to mount
a ready saddled horse which was waiting in the garden, and like a flock
of startled birds, fled in all directions, some climbing the walls,
others rushing out at the gates with all the fury of a panic. He who
mounted the horse, and gave him the spur so sharply that the animal was
near leaping the wall, this cavalier, we say, crossed the Place Baudoyer,
passed like lightening before the crowd in the streets, riding against,
running over and knocking down all that came in his way, and, ten minutes
after, arrived at the gates of the superintendent, more out of breath
than his horse. The Abbe Fouquet, at the clatter of hoofs on the
pavement, appeared at a window of the court, and before even the cavalier
had set foot to the ground, "Well! Danicamp?" cried he, leaning half out
of the window.
"Well, it is all over," replied the cavalier.
"All over!" cried the abbe. "Then they are saved?"
"No, monsieur," replied the cavalier, "they are hung."
"Hung!" repeated the abbe, turning pale. A lateral door suddenly opened,
and Fouquet appeared in the chamber, pale, distracted, with lips half
opened, breathing a cry of grief and anger. He stopped upon the
threshold to listen to what was addressed from the court to the window.
"Miserable wretches!" said the abbe, "you did not fight, then?"
"Say like cowards."
"A hundred men accustomed to war, sword in hand, are worth ten thousand
archers in a surprise. Where is Menneville, that boaster, that braggart,
who was to come back either dead or a conqueror?"
"Well, monsieur, he kept his word. He is dead!"
"Dead! Who killed him?"
"A demon disguised as a man, a giant armed with ten flaming swords - a
madman, who at one blow extinguished the fire, put down the riot, and
caused a hundred musketeers to rise up out of the pavement of the Greve."
Fouquet raised his brow, streaming with sweat, murmuring, "Oh! Lyodot
and D'Eymeris! dead! dead! dead! and I dishonored."
The abbe turned round, and perceiving his brother, despairing and livid,
"Come, come," said he, "it is a blow of fate, monsieur; we must not
lament thus. Our attempt has failed because God - "
"Be silent, abbe! be silent!" cried Fouquet; "your excuses are
blasphemies. Order that man up here, and let him relate the details of
this terrible event."
"But, brother - "
The abbe made a sign, and in half a minute the man's step was heard upon
the stairs. At the same time Gourville appeared behind Fouquet, like the
guardian angel of the superintendent, pressing one finger on his lips to
enjoin observation even amidst the bursts of his grief. The minister
resumed all the serenity that human strength left at the disposal of a
heart half broken with sorrow. Danicamp appeared. "Make your report,"
"Monsieur," replied the messenger, "we received orders to carry off the
prisoners, and to cry '_Vive Colbert!_' whilst carrying them off."
"To burn them alive, was it not, abbe?" interrupted Gourville.
"Yes, yes, the order was given to Menneville. Menneville knew what was
to be done, and Menneville is dead."
This news appeared rather to reassure Gourville than to sadden him.
"Yes, certainly to burn them alive," said the abbe, eagerly.
"Granted, monsieur, granted," said the man, looking into the eyes and the
faces of the two interlocutors, to ascertain what there was profitable or
disadvantageous to himself in telling the truth.
"Now, proceed," said Gourville.
"The prisoners," cried Danicamp, "were brought to the Greve, and the
people, in a fury, insisted upon their being burnt instead of being hung."
"And the people were right," said the abbe. "Go on."
"But," resumed the man, "at the moment the archers were broken, at the
moment the fire was set to one of the houses of the Place destined to
serve as a funeral-pile for the guilty, this fury, this demon, this giant
of whom I told you, and who, we had been informed, was the proprietor of
the house in question, aided by a young man who accompanied him, threw
out of the window those who kept the fire, called to his assistance the
musketeers who were in the crowd, leaped himself from the window of the
first story into the Place, and plied his sword so desperately that the
victory was restored to the archers, the prisoners were retaken, and
Menneville killed. When once recaptured, the condemned were executed in
three minutes." Fouquet, in spite of his self-command, could not prevent
a deep groan escaping him.
"And this man, the proprietor of the house, what is his name?" said the
"I cannot tell you, not having even been able to get sight of him; my
post had been appointed in the garden, and I remained at my post: only
the affair was related to me as I repeat it. I was ordered, when once
the affair was at an end, to come at best speed and announce to you the
manner in which it finished. According to this order, I set out, full
gallop, and here I am."
"Very well, monsieur, we have nothing else to ask of you," said the abbe,
more and more dejected, in proportion as the moment approached for
finding himself alone with his brother.
"Have you been paid?" asked Gourville.
"Partly, monsieur," replied Danicamp.
"Here are twenty pistols. Begone, monsieur, and never forget to defend,
as this time has been done, the true interests of the king."
"Yes, monsieur," said the man, bowing and pocketing the money. After
which he went out. Scarcely had the door closed after him when Fouquet,
who had remained motionless, advanced with a rapid step and stood between
the abbe and Gourville. Both of them at the same time opened their
mouths to speak to him. "No excuses," said he, "no recriminations
against anybody. If I had not been a false friend I should not have
confided to any one the care of delivering Lyodot and D'Eymeris. I alone
am guilty; to me alone are reproaches and remorse due. Leave me, abbe."
"And yet, monsieur, you will not prevent me," replied the latter, "from
endeavoring to find out the miserable fellow who has intervened to the
advantage of M. Colbert in this so well-arranged affair; for, if it is
good policy to love our friends dearly, I do not believe that is bad
which consists in obstinately pursuing our enemies."
"A truce to policy, abbe; begone, I beg of you, and do not let me hear
any more of you till I send for you; what we most need is circumspection
and silence. You have a terrible example before you, gentlemen: no
reprisals, I forbid them."
"There are no orders," grumbled the abbe, "which will prevent me from
avenging a family affront upon the guilty person."
"And I," cried Fouquet, in that imperative tone to which one feels there
is nothing to reply, "if you entertain one thought, one single thought,
which is not the absolute expression of my will, I will have you cast
into the Bastile two hours after that thought has manifested itself.
Regulate your conduct accordingly, abbe."
The abbe colored and bowed. Fouquet made a sign to Gourville to follow
him, and was already directing his steps towards his cabinet, when the
usher announced with a loud voice: "Monsieur le Chevalier d'Artagnan."
"Who is he?" said Fouquet, negligently, to Gourville.
"An ex-lieutenant of his majesty's musketeers," replied Gourville, in the
same tone. Fouquet did not even take the trouble to reflect, and resumed
his walk. "I beg your pardon, monseigneur!" said Gourville, "but I have
remembered; this brave man has quitted the king's service, and probably
comes to receive an installment of some pension or other."
"Devil take him!" said Fouquet, "why does he choose his opportunity so
"Permit me then, monseigneur, to announce your refusal to him; for he is
one of my acquaintance, and is a man whom, in our present circumstances,
it would be better to have as a friend than an enemy."
"Answer him as you please," said Fouquet.
"Eh! good Lord!" said the abbe, still full of malice, like an egotistical
man; "tell him there is no money, particularly for musketeers."
But scarcely had the abbe uttered this imprudent speech, when the partly
open door was thrown back, and D'Artagnan appeared.
"Eh! Monsieur Fouquet," said he, "I was well aware there was no money
for musketeers here. Therefore I did not come to obtain any, but to have
it refused. That being done, receive my thanks. I give you good-day,
and will go and seek it at M. Colbert's." And he went out, making an
"Gourville," said Fouquet, "run after that man and bring him back."
Gourville obeyed, and overtook D'Artagnan on the stairs.
D'Artagnan, hearing steps behind him, turned round and perceived
Gourville. "_Mordioux!_ my dear monsieur," said he, "there are sad
lessons which you gentlemen of finance teach us; I come to M. Fouquet to
receive a sum accorded by his majesty, and I am received like a mendicant
who comes to ask charity, or a thief who comes to steal a piece of plate."
"But you pronounced the name of M. Colbert, my dear M. d'Artagnan; you
said you were going to M. Colbert's?"
"I certainly am going there, were it only to ask satisfaction of the
people who try to burn houses, crying '_Vive Colbert!_'"
Gourville pricked up his ears. "Oh, oh!" said he, "you allude to what
has just happened at the Greve?"
"And in what did that which has taken place concern you?"
"What! do you ask me whether it concerns me or does not concern me, if M.
Colbert pleases to make a funeral-pile of my house?"
"So, ho, _your_ house - was it your house they wanted to burn?"
"_Pardieu!_ was it!"
"Is the _cabaret_ of the Image-de-Notre-Dame yours, then?"
"It has been this week."
"Well, then, are you the brave captain, are you the valiant blade who
dispersed those who wished to burn the condemned?"
"My dear Monsieur Gourville, put yourself in my place. I was an agent of
the public force and a landlord, too. As a captain, it is my duty to
have the orders of the king accomplished. As a proprietor, it is to my
interest my house should not be burnt. I have at the same time attended
to the laws of interest and duty in replacing Messieurs Lyodot and
D'Eymeris in the hands of the archers."
"Then it was you who threw the man out of the window?"
"It was I, myself," replied D'Artagnan, modestly.
"And you who killed Menneville?"
"I had that misfortune," said D'Artagnan, bowing like a man who is being
"It was you, then, in short, who caused the two condemned persons to be
"Instead of being burnt, yes, monsieur, and I am proud of it. I saved
the poor devils from horrible tortures. Understand, my dear Monsieur de
Gourville, that they wanted to burn them alive. It exceeds imagination!"
"Go, my dear Monsieur d'Artagnan, go," said Gourville, anxious to spare
Fouquet the sight of the man who had just caused him such profound grief.
"No," said Fouquet, who had heard all from the door of the ante-chamber;
"not so; on the contrary, Monsieur d'Artagnan, come in."
D'Artagnan wiped from the hilt of his sword a last bloody trace, which
had escaped his notice, and returned. He then found himself face to face
with these three men, whose countenances wore very different
expressions. With the abbe it was anger, with Gourville stupor, with
Fouquet it was dejection.
"I beg your pardon, monsieur le ministre," said D'Artagnan, "but my time
is short; I have to go to the office of the intendant, to have an
explanation with Monsieur Colbert, and to receive my quarter's pension."
"But, monsieur," said Fouquet, "there is money here." D'Artagnan looked
at the superintendent with astonishment. "You have been answered
inconsiderately, monsieur, I know, because I heard it," said the
minister; "a man of your merit ought to be known by everybody."
D'Artagnan bowed. "Have you an order?" added Fouquet.
"Give it me, I will pay you myself; come with me." He made a sign to
Gourville and the abbe, who remained in the chamber where they were. He
led D'Artagnan into his cabinet. As soon as the door was shut, - "how
much is due to you, monsieur?"
"Why, something like five thousand livres, monseigneur."
"For arrears of pay?"
"For a quarter's pay."
"A quarter consisting of five thousand livres!" said Fouquet, fixing upon
the musketeer a searching look. "Does the king, then, give you twenty
thousand livres a year?"
"Yes, monseigneur, twenty thousand livres a year. Do you think it is too
"I?" cried Fouquet, and he smiled bitterly. "If I had any knowledge of
mankind, if I were - instead of being a frivolous, inconsequent, and vain
spirit - of a prudent and reflective spirit; if, in a word, I had, as
certain persons have known how, regulated my life, you would not receive
twenty thousand livres a year, but a hundred thousand, and you would
belong not to the king but to me."
D'Artagnan colored slightly. There is sometimes in the manner in which a
eulogium is given, in the voice, in the affectionate tone, a poison so
sweet, that the strongest mind is intoxicated by it. The superintendent
terminated his speech by opening a drawer, and taking from it four
_rouleaux_, which he placed before D'Artagnan. The Gascon opened one.
"Gold!" said he.
"It will be less burdensome, monsieur."
"But, then, monsieur, these make twenty thousand livres."
"No doubt they do."
"But only five are due to me."
"I wish to spare you the trouble of coming four times to my office."
"You overwhelm me, monsieur."
"I do only what I ought to do, monsieur le chevalier; and I hope you will
not bear me any malice on account of the rude reception my brother gave
you. He is of a sour, capricious disposition."
"Monsieur," said D'Artagnan, "believe me, nothing would grieve me more
than an excuse from you."
"Therefore I will make no more, and will content myself with asking you a
Fouquet drew from his finger a ring worth about three thousand pistoles.
"Monsieur," said he, "this stone was given me by a friend of my
childhood, by a man to whom you have rendered a great service."
"A service - I?" said the musketeer; "I have rendered a service to one of
"You cannot have forgotten it, monsieur, for it dates this very day."
"And that friend's name was - "
"One of the condemned?"
"Yes, one of the victims. Well! Monsieur d'Artagnan, in return for the
service you have rendered him, I beg you to accept this diamond. Do so
for my sake."
"Monsieur! you - "
"Accept it, I say. To-day is with me a day of mourning; hereafter you
will, perhaps, learn why; to-day I have lost one friend; well, I will try
to get another."
"But, Monsieur Fouquet - "
"Adieu! Monsieur d'Artagnan, adieu!" cried Fouquet, with much emotion;
"or rather, _au revoir_." And the minister quitted the cabinet, leaving
in the hands of the musketeer the ring and the twenty thousand livres.
"Oh!" said D'Artagnan, after a moment's dark reflection. "How on earth
am I to understand what this means? _Mordioux!_ I can understand this
much, only: he is a gallant man! I will go and explain matters to M.
Colbert." And he went out.
Of the Notable Difference D'Artagnan finds between Monsieur the Intendant
and Monsieur the Superintendent.
M. Colbert resided in the Rue Neuve des Petits-Champs, in a house which
had belonged to Beautru. D'Artagnan's legs cleared the distance in a
short quarter of an hour. When he arrived at the residence of the new
favorite, the court was full of archers and police, who came to
congratulate him, or to excuse themselves, according to whether he should
choose to praise or blame. The sentiment of flattery is instinctive with
people of abject condition; they have the sense of it, as the wild animal
has that of hearing and smell. These people, or their leader, understood
that there was a pleasure to offer to M. Colbert, in rendering him an
account of the fashion in which his name had been pronounced during the
rash enterprise of the morning. D'Artagnan made his appearance just as
the chief of the watch was giving his report. He stood close to the
door, behind the archers. That officer took Colbert on one side, in
spite of his resistance and the contradiction of his bushy eyebrows. "In
case," said he, "you really desired, monsieur, that the people should do
justice on the two traitors, it would have been wise to warn us of it;
for, indeed, monsieur, in spite of our regret at displeasing you, or
thwarting your views, we had our orders to execute."
"Triple fool!" replied Colbert, furiously shaking his hair, thick and
black as a mane; "what are you telling me? What! that _I_ could have had
an idea of a riot! Are you mad or drunk?"
"But, monsieur, they cried '_Vive Colbert!_'" replied the trembling watch.
"A handful of conspirators - "
"No, no; a mass of people."
"Ah! indeed," said Colbert, expanding. "A mass of people cried '_Vive
Colbert!_' Are you certain of what you say, monsieur?"
"We had nothing to do but open our ears, or rather to close them, so
terrible were the cries."
"And this was from the people, the real people?"
"Certainly, monsieur; only these real people beat us."
"Oh! very well," continued Colbert, thoughtfully. "Then you suppose it
was the people alone who wished to burn the condemned?"
"Oh! yes, monsieur."
"That is quite another thing. You strongly resisted, then?"
"We had three of our men crushed to death, monsieur!"
"But you killed nobody yourselves?"
"Monsieur, a few of the rioters were left upon the square, and one among
them who was not a common man."
"Who was he?"
"A certain Menneville, upon whom the police have a long time had an eye."
"Menneville!" cried Colbert, "what, he who killed Rue de la Huchette, a
worthy man who wanted a fat fowl?"
"Yes, monsieur; the same."
"And did this Menneville also cry, '_Vive Colbert_'?"
"Louder than all the rest; like a madman."
Colbert's brow grew dark and wrinkled. A kind of ambitious glory which
had lighted his face was extinguished, like the light of glow-worms we
crush beneath the grass. "Then you say," resumed the deceived intendant,
"that the initiative came from the people? Menneville was my enemy; I
would have had him hung, and he knew it well. Menneville belonged to the
Abbe Fouquet - the affair originated with Fouquet; does not everybody
know that the condemned were his friends from childhood?"
"That is true," thought D'Artagnan, "and thus are all my doubts cleared
up. I repeat it, Monsieur Fouquet may be called what they please, but he
is a very gentlemanly man."
"And," continued Colbert, "are you quite sure Menneville is dead?"
D'Artagnan thought the time was come for him to make his appearance.
"Perfectly, monsieur;" replied he, advancing suddenly.
"Oh! is that you, monsieur?" said Colbert.
"In person," replied the musketeer with his deliberate tone; "it appears
that you had in Menneville a pretty enemy."
"It was not I, monsieur, who had an enemy," replied Colbert; "it was the
"Double brute!" thought D'Artagnan, "to think to play the great man and
the hypocrite with me. Well," continued he to Colbert, "I am very happy
to have rendered so good a service to the king; will you take upon you to
tell his majesty, monsieur l'intendant?"
"What commission is this you give me, and what do you charge me to tell
his majesty, monsieur? Be precise, if you please," said Colbert, in a
sharp voice, tuned beforehand to hostility.
"I give you no commission," replied D'Artagnan, with that calmness which
never abandons the banterer; "I thought it would be easy for you to
announce to his majesty that it was I who, being there by chance, did
justice upon Menneville and restored order to things."
Colbert opened his eyes and interrogated the chief of the watch with a
look - "Ah! it is very true," said the latter, "that this gentleman saved
"Why did you not tell me, monsieur, that you came to relate me this?"
said Colbert with envy; "everything is explained, and more favorably for
you than for anybody else."
"You are in error, monsieur l'intendant, I did not at all come for the
purpose of relating that to you."
"It is an exploit, nevertheless."
"Oh!" said the musketeer carelessly, "constant habit blunts the mind."
"To what do I owe the honor of your visit, then?"
"Simply to this: the king ordered me to come to you."
"Ah!" said Colbert, recovering himself when he saw D'Artagnan draw a
paper from his pocket; "it is to demand some money of me?"
"Have the goodness to wait, if you please, monsieur, till I have
dispatched the report of the watch."
D'Artagnan turned upon his heel, insolently enough, and finding himself
face to face with Colbert, after his first turn, he bowed to him as a
harlequin would have done; then, after a second evolution, he directed
his steps towards the door in quick time. Colbert was struck with this
pointed rudeness, to which he was not accustomed. In general, men of the
sword, when they came to his office, had such a want of money, that
though their feet seemed to take root in the marble, they hardly lost
their patience. Was D'Artagnan going straight to the king? Would he go
and describe his rough reception, or recount his exploit? This was a
matter for grave consideration. At all events, the moment was badly
chosen to send D'Artagnan away, whether he came from the king, or on his
own account. The musketeer had rendered too great a service, and that
too recently, for it to be already forgotten. Therefore Colbert thought
it would be better to shake off his arrogance and call D'Artagnan back.
"Ho! Monsieur d'Artagnan," cried Colbert, "what! are you leaving me
D'Artagnan turned round: "Why not?" said he, quietly, "we have no more to
say to each other, have we?"
"You have, at least, money to receive, as you have an order?"
"Who, I? Oh! not at all, my dear Monsieur Colbert."
"But, monsieur, you have an order. And, in the same manner as you give a
sword-thrust, when you are required, I, on my part, pay when an order is
presented to me. Present yours."
"It is useless, my dear Monsieur Colbert," said D'Artagnan, who inwardly
enjoyed this confusion in the ideas of Colbert; "my order is paid."
"Paid, by whom?"
"By monsieur le surintendant."
Colbert grew pale.
"Explain yourself," said he, in a stifled voice - "if you are paid why do
you show me that paper?"
"In consequence of the word of order of which you spoke to me so
ingeniously just now, dear M. Colbert; the king told me to take a quarter
of the pension he is pleased to make me."
"Of me?" said Colbert.
"Not exactly. The king said to me: 'Go to M. Fouquet; the superintendent
will, perhaps, have no money, then you will go and draw it of M.
The countenance of M. Colbert brightened for a moment; but it was with
his unfortunate physiognomy as with a stormy sky, sometimes radiant,
sometimes dark as night, according as the lightening gleams or the cloud
passes. "Eh! and was there any money in the superintendent's coffers?"
"Why, yes, he could not be badly off for money," replied D'Artagnan - "it
may be believed, since M. Fouquet, instead of paying me a quarter or five
thousand livres - "
"A quarter or five thousand livres!" cried Colbert, struck, as Fouquet
had been, with the generosity of the sum for a soldier's pension, "why,
that would be a pension of twenty thousand livres?"
"Exactly, M. Colbert. _Peste!_ you reckon like old Pythagoras; yes,
twenty thousand livres."
"Ten times the appointment of an intendant of the finances. I beg to
offer you my compliments," said Colbert, with a vicious smile.
"Oh!" said D'Artagnan, "the king apologized for giving me so little; but
he promised to make it more hereafter, when he should be rich; but I must
be gone, having much to do - "
"So, then, notwithstanding the expectation of the king, the
superintendent paid you, did he?"
"In the same manner, as, in opposition to the king's expectation, you
refused to pay me."
"I did not refuse, monsieur, I only begged you to wait. And you say that
M. Fouquet paid you your five thousand livres?"
"Yes, as _you_ might have done; but he did even better than that, M.
"And what did he do?"
"He politely counted me down the sum-total, saying, that for the king,
his coffers were always full."
"The sum-total! M. Fouquet has given you twenty thousand livres instead
of five thousand?"
"And what for?"
"In order to spare me three visits to the money-chest of the
superintendent, so that I have the twenty thousand livres in my pocket in
good new coin. You see, then, that I am able to go away without standing
in need of you, having come here only for form's sake." And D'Artagnan
slapped his hand upon his pocket, with a laugh which disclosed to Colbert
thirty-two magnificent teeth, as white as teeth of twenty-five years old,
and which seemed to say in their language: "Serve up to us thirty-two
little Colberts, and we will chew them willingly." The serpent is as
brave as the lion, the hawk as courageous as the eagle, that cannot be
contested. It can only be said of animals that are decidedly cowardly,
and are so called, that they will be brave only when they have to defend
themselves. Colbert was not frightened at the thirty-two teeth of
D'Artagnan. He recovered, and suddenly, - "Monsieur," said he, "monsieur
le surintendant has done what he had no right to do."
"What do you mean by that?" replied D'Artagnan.
"I mean that your note - will you let me see your note, if you please?"
"Very willingly; here it is."
Colbert seized the paper with an eagerness which the musketeer did not
remark without uneasiness, and particularly without a certain degree of
regret at having trusted him with it. "Well, monsieur, the royal order
says thus: - 'At sight, I command that there be paid to M. d'Artagnan the
sum of five thousand livres, forming a quarter of the pension I have made
"So, in fact, it is written," said D'Artagnan, affecting calmness.
"Very well; the king only owed you five thousand livres; why has more
been given to you?"
"Because there was more; and M. Fouquet was willing to give me more; that
does not concern anybody."
"It is natural," said Colbert with a proud ease, "that you should be
ignorant of the usages of state-finance; but, monsieur, when you have a
thousand livres to pay, what do you do?"
"I never have a thousand livres to pay," replied D'Artagnan.
"Once more," said Colbert, irritated - "once more, if you had any sum to
pay, would you not pay what you ought?"
"That only proves one thing," said D'Artagnan; "and that is, that you
have your own particular customs in finance, and M. Fouquet has his own."
"Mine, monsieur, are the correct ones."
"I do not say that they are not."
"And you have accepted what was not due to you."
D'Artagnan's eyes flashed. "What is not due to me yet, you meant to say,
M. Colbert; for if I have received what was not due to me at all, I
should have committed a theft."
Colbert made no reply to this subtlety. "You then owe fifteen thousand
livres to the public chest," said he, carried away by his jealous ardor.
"Then you must give me credit for them," replied D'Artagnan, with his
"Not at all, monsieur."
"Well! what will you do, then? You will not take my _rouleaux_ from me,
"You must return them to my chest."
"I! Oh! Monsieur Colbert, don't reckon upon that."
"The king wants his money, monsieur."
"And I, monsieur, I want the king's money."
"That may be so; but you must return this."
"Not a _sou_. I have always understood that in matters of
_comptabilite_, as you call it, a good cashier never gives back or takes
"Then, monsieur, we shall see what the king will say about it. I will
show him this note, which proves that M. Fouquet not only pays what he
does not owe, but that he does not even take care of vouchers for the
sums that he has paid."
"Ah! now I understand why you have taken that paper, M. Colbert!"
Colbert did not perceive all that there was of a threatening character in
his name pronounced in a certain manner. "You shall see hereafter what
use I will make of it," said he, holding up the paper in his fingers.
"Oh!" said D'Artagnan, snatching the paper from him with a rapid
movement; "I understand perfectly well, M. Colbert; I have no occasion to
wait for that." And he crumpled up the paper he had so cleverly seized.
"Monsieur, monsieur!" cried Colbert, "this is violence!"
"Nonsense! You must not be particular about a soldier's manners!"
replied D'Artagnan. "I kiss your hands, my dear M. Colbert." And he
went out, laughing in the face of the future minister.
"That man, now," muttered he, "was about to grow quite friendly; it is a
great pity I was obliged to cut his company so soon."
Philosophy of the Heart and Mind.
For a man who had seen so many much more dangerous ones, the position of
D'Artagnan with respect to M. Colbert was only comic. D'Artagnan,
therefore, did not deny himself the satisfaction of laughing at the
expense of monsieur l'intendant, from the Rue des Petits-Champs to the
Rue des Lombards. It was a great while since D'Artagnan had laughed so
long together. He was still laughing when Planchet appeared, laughing
likewise, at the door of his house; for Planchet, since the return of his
patron, since the entrance of the English guineas, passed the greater
part of his life in doing what D'Artagnan had only done from the Rue
Neuve des Petits-Champs to the Rue des Lombards.
"You are home, then, my dear master?" said Planchet.
"No, my friend," replied the musketeer; "I am off, and that quickly. I
will sup with you, go to bed, sleep five hours, and at break of day leap
into my saddle. Has my horse had an extra feed?"
"Eh! my dear master," replied Planchet, "you know very well that your
horse is the jewel of the family; that my lads are caressing it all day,
and cramming it with sugar, nuts, and biscuits. You ask me if he has had
an extra feed of oats; you should ask if he has not had enough to burst
"Very well, Planchet, that is all right. Now, then, I pass to what
concerns me - my supper?"
"Ready. A smoking roast joint, white wine, crayfish, and fresh-gathered
cherries. All ready, my master."
"You are a capital fellow, Planchet; come on, then, let us sup, and I
will go to bed."
During supper D'Artagnan observed that Planchet kept rubbing his
forehead, as if to facilitate the issue of some idea closely pent within
his brain. He looked with an air of kindness at this worthy companion of
former adventures and misadventures, and, clinking glass against glass,
"Come, Planchet," said he, "let us see what it is that gives you so much
trouble to bring forth. _Mordioux!_ Speak freely, and quickly."
"Well, this is it," replied Planchet: "you appear to me to be going on
some expedition or another."
"I don't say that I am not."
"Then you have some new idea?"
"That is possible, too, Planchet."
"Then there will be fresh capital to be ventured? I will lay down fifty
thousand livres upon the idea you are about to carry out." And so
saying, Planchet rubbed his hands one against the other with a rapidity
evincing great delight.
"Planchet," said D'Artagnan, "there is but one misfortune in it."
"And what is that?"
"That the idea is not mine. I can risk nothing upon it."
These words drew a deep sigh from the heart of Planchet. That Avarice is
an ardent counselor; she carries away her man, as Satan did Jesus, to the
mountain, and when once she has shown to an unfortunate all the kingdoms
of the earth, she is able to repose herself, knowing full well that she
has left her companion, Envy, to gnaw at his heart. Planchet had tasted
of riches easily acquired, and was never afterwards likely to stop in his
desires; but, as he had a good heart in spite of his covetousness, as he
adored D'Artagnan, he could not refrain from making him a thousand
recommendations, each more affectionate than the others. He would not
have been sorry, nevertheless, to have caught a little hint of the secret
his master concealed so well; tricks, turns, counsels, and traps were all
useless, D'Artagnan let nothing confidential escape him. The evening
passed thus. After supper the portmanteau occupied D'Artagnan, he took a
turn to the stable, patted his horse, and examined his shoes and legs;
then, having counted over his money, he went to bed, sleeping as if only
twenty, because he had neither inquietude nor remorse; he closed his eyes
five minutes after he had blown out his lamp. Many events might,
however, have kept him awake. Thought boiled in his brain, conjectures
abounded, and D'Artagnan was a great drawer of horoscopes; but, with that
imperturbable phlegm which does more than genius for the fortune and
happiness of men of action, he put off reflection till the next day, for
fear, he said, not to be fresh when he wanted to be so.
The day came. The Rue des Lombards had its share of the caresses of
Aurora with the rosy fingers, and D'Artagnan arose like Aurora. He did
not awaken anybody, he placed his portmanteau under his arm, descended
the stairs without making one of them creak, and without disturbing one
of the sonorous snorings in every story from the garret to the cellar,
then, having saddled his horse, shut the stable and house doors, he set
off, at a foot-pace, on his expedition to Bretagne. He had done quite
right not to trouble himself with all the political and diplomatic
affairs which solicited his attention; for, in the morning, in freshness
and mild twilight, his ideas developed themselves in purity and
abundance. In the first place, he passed before the house of Fouquet,
and threw in a large gaping box the fortunate order which, the evening
before, he had had so much trouble to recover from the hooked fingers of
the intendant. Placed in an envelope, and addressed to Fouquet, it had
not even been divined by Planchet, who in divination was equal to Calchas
or the Pythian Apollo. D'Artagnan thus sent back the order to Fouquet,
without compromising himself, and without having thenceforward any
reproaches to make himself. When he had effected this proper
restitution, "Now," he said to himself, "let us inhale much maternal air,
much freedom from cares, much health, let us allow the horse Zephyr,
whose flanks puff as if he had to respire an atmosphere, to breathe, and
let us be very ingenious in our little calculations. It is time," said
D'Artagnan, "to form a plan of the campaign, and, according to the method
of M. Turenne, who has a large head full of all sorts of good counsels,
before the plan of the campaign it is advisable to draw a striking
portrait of the generals to whom we are opposed. In the first place, M.
Fouquet presents himself. What is M. Fouquet? M. Fouquet," replied
D'Artagnan to himself, "is a handsome man, very much beloved by the
women, a generous man very much beloved by the poets; a man of wit, much
execrated by pretenders. Well, now I am neither woman, poet, nor
pretender: I neither love not hate monsieur le surintendant. I find
myself, therefore, in the same position in which M. Turenne found himself
when opposed to the Prince de Conde at Jargeau, Gien and the Faubourg
Saint-Antoine. He did not execrate monsieur le prince, it is true, but
he obeyed the king. Monsieur le prince is an agreeable man, but the king
is king. Turenne heaved a deep sigh, called Conde 'My cousin,' and swept
away his army. Now what does the king wish? That does not concern me.
Now, what does M. Colbert wish? Oh, that's another thing. M. Colbert
wishes all that M. Fouquet does not wish. Then what does M. Fouquet
wish? Oh, that is serious. M. Fouquet wishes precisely for all the king
This monologue ended, D'Artagnan began to laugh, whilst making his whip
whistle in the air. He was already on the high road, frightening the
birds in the hedges, listening to the livres chinking and dancing in his
leather pocket, at every step; and, let us confess it, every time that
D'Artagnan found himself in such conditions, tenderness was not his
dominant vice. "Come," said he, "I cannot think the expedition a very
dangerous one; and it will fall out with my voyage as with that piece M.
Monk took me to see in London, which was called, I think, 'Much Ado about
It was perhaps the fiftieth time since the day on which we open this
history, that this man, with a heart of bronze and muscles of steel, had
left house and friends, everything, in short, to go in search of fortune
and death. The one - that is to say, death - had constantly retreated
before him, as if afraid of him; the other - that is to say, fortune -
for only a month past had really made an alliance with him. Although
he was not a great philosopher, after the fashion of either Epicurus or
Socrates, he was a powerful spirit, having knowledge of life, and endowed
with thought. No one is as brave, as adventurous, or as skillful as
D'Artagnan, without at the same time being inclined to be a _dreamer_.
He had picked up, here and there, some scraps of M. de la Rochefoucault,
worthy of being translated into Latin by MM. de Port Royal; and he had
made a collection, _en passant_, in the society of Athos and Aramis, of
many morsels of Seneca and Cicero, translated by them, and applied to the
uses of common life. That contempt of riches which our Gascon had
observed as an article of faith during the thirty-five first years of his
life, had for a long time been considered by him as the first article of
the code of bravery. "Article first," said he, "A man is brave because
he has nothing. A man has nothing because he despises riches."
Therefore, with these principles, which, as we have said, had regulated
the thirty-five first years of his life, D'Artagnan was no sooner
possessed of riches, than he felt it necessary to ask himself if, in
spite of his riches, he were still brave. To this, for any other but
D'Artagnan, the events of the Place de Greve might have served as a
reply. Many consciences would have been satisfied with them, but
D'Artagnan was brave enough to ask himself sincerely and conscientiously
if he were brave. Therefore to this: -
"But it appears to me that I drew promptly enough, and cut and thrust
pretty freely on the Place de Greve, to be satisfied of my bravery,"
D'Artagnan had himself replied. "Gently, captain, that is not an
answer. I was brave that day, because they were burning my house, and
there are a hundred, and even a thousand, to speak against one, that if
those gentlemen of the riots had not formed that unlucky idea, their plan
of attack would have succeeded, or, at least, it would not have been I
who would have opposed myself to it. Now, what will be brought against
me? I have no house to be burnt in Bretagne; I have no treasure there
that can be taken from me. - No; but I have my skin; that precious skin
of M. d'Artagnan, which to him is worth more than all the houses and all
the treasures of the world. That skin to which I cling above everything,
because it is, everything considered, the binding of a body which
encloses a heart very warm and ready to fight, and, consequently, to
live. Then, I do desire to live: and, in reality, I live much better,
more completely, since I have become rich. Who the devil ever said that
money spoiled life? Upon my soul, it is no such thing, on the contrary,
it seems as if I absorbed a double quantity of air and sun. _Mordioux!_
what will it be then, if I double that fortune; and if, instead of the
switch I now hold in my hand, I should ever carry the baton of a
marechal? Then I really don't know if there will be, from that moment,
enough of air and sun for me. In fact, this is not a dream, who the
devil would oppose it, if the king made me a marechal, as his father,
King Louis XIII., made a duke and constable of Albert de Luynes? Am I
not as brave, and much more intelligent, than that imbecile De Vitry?
Ah! that's exactly what will prevent my advancement: I have too much
wit. Luckily, if there is any justice in this world, fortune owes me
many compensations. She owes me certainly a recompense for all I did for
Anne of Austria, and an indemnification for all she has not done for me.
Then, at the present, I am very well with a king, and with a king who has
the appearance of determining to reign. May God keep him in that
illustrious road! For, if he is resolved to reign, he will want me; and
if he wants me, he will give me what he has promised me - warmth and
light; so that I march, comparatively, now, as I marched formerly, - from
nothing to everything. Only the nothing of to-day is the all of former
days; there has only this little change taken place in my life. And now
let us see! let us take the part of the heart, as I just now was speaking
of it. But in truth, I only spoke of it from memory." And the Gascon
applied his hand to his breast, as if he were actually seeking the place
where his heart was.
"Ah! wretch!" murmured he, smiling with bitterness. "Ah! poor mortal
species! You hoped, for an instant, that you had not a heart, and now
you find you have one - bad courtier as thou art, - and even one of the
most seditious. You have a heart which speaks to you in favor of M.
Fouquet. And what is M. Fouquet, when the king is in question? - A
conspirator, a real conspirator, who did not even give himself the
trouble to conceal his being a conspirator; therefore, what a weapon
would you not have against him, if his good grace, and his intelligence
had not made a scabbard for that weapon. An armed revolt! - for, in
fact, M. Fouquet has been guilty of an armed revolt. Thus, while the
king vaguely suspects M. Fouquet of rebellion, I know it - I could prove
that M. Fouquet had caused the shedding of the blood of his majesty's
subjects. Now, then, let us see. Knowing all that, and holding my
tongue, what further would this heart wish in return for a kind action of
M. Fouquet's, for an advance of fifteen thousand livres, for a diamond
worth a thousand pistoles, for a smile in which there was as much
bitterness as kindness? - I save his life."
"Now, then, I hope," continued the musketeer, "that this imbecile of a
heart is going to preserve silence, and so be fairly quits with M.
Fouquet. Now, then, the king becomes my sun, and as my heart is quits
with M. Fouquet, let him beware who places himself between me and my
sun! Forward, for his majesty Louis XIV.! - Forward !"
These reflections were the only impediments which were able to retard the
progress of D'Artagnan. These reflections once made, he increased the
speed of his horse. But, however perfect his horse Zephyr might be, it
could not hold out at such a pace forever. The day after his departure
from Paris, his mount was left at Chartres, at the house of an old friend
D'Artagnan had met with in an _hotelier_ of that city. From that moment
the musketeer travelled on post-horses. Thanks to this mode of
locomotion, he traversed the space separating Chartres from
Chateaubriand. In the last of these two cities, far enough from the
coast to prevent any one guessing that D'Artagnan wished to reach the sea
- far enough from Paris to prevent all suspicion of his being a messenger
from Louis XIV., whom D'Artagnan had called his sun, without suspecting
that he who was only at present a rather poor star in the heaven of
royalty, would, one day, make that star his emblem; the messenger of
Louis XIV., we say, quitted his post and purchased a _bidet_ of the
meanest appearance, - one of those animals which an officer of the
cavalry would never choose, for fear of being disgraced. Excepting the
color, this new acquisition recalled to the mind of D'Artagnan the famous
orange-colored horse, with which, or rather upon which, he had made his
first appearance in the world. Truth to say, from the moment he crossed
this new steed, it was no longer D'Artagnan who was travelling, - it was
a good man clothed in an iron-gray _justaucorps_, brown _haut-de-
chausses_, holding the medium between a priest and a layman; that which
brought him nearest to the churchman was, that D'Artagnan had placed on
his head a _calotte_ of threadbare velvet, and over the _calotte_, a
large black hat; no more sword, a stick hung by a cord to his wrist, but
to which, he promised himself, as an unexpected auxiliary, to join, upon
occasion, a good dagger, ten inches long, concealed under his cloak. The
_bidet_ purchased at Chateaubriand completed the metamorphosis; it was
called, or rather D'Artagnan called if, Furet (ferret).
"If I have changed Zephyr into Furet," said D'Artagnan, "I must make some
diminutive or other of my own name. So, instead of D'Artagnan, I will be
Agnan, short; that is a concession which I naturally owe to my gray coat,
my round hat, and my rusty _calotte_."
Monsieur d'Artagnan traveled, then, pretty easily upon Furet, who ambled
like a true butter-woman's pad, and who, with his amble, managed
cheerfully about twelve leagues a day, upon four spindle-shanks, of which
the practiced eye of D'Artagnan had appreciated the strength and safety
beneath the thick mass of hair which covered them. Jogging along, the
traveler took notes, studied the country, which he traversed reserved and
silent, ever seeking the most plausible pretext for reaching Belle-Ile-
en-Mer, and for seeing everything without arousing suspicion. In this
manner, he was enabled to convince himself of the importance the event
assumed in proportion as he drew near to it. In this remote country, in
this ancient duchy of Bretagne, which was not France at that period, and
is not so even now, the people knew nothing of the king of France. They
not only did not know him, but were unwilling to know him. One face - a
single one - floated visibly for them upon the political current. Their
ancient dukes no longer ruled them; government was a void - nothing
more. In place of the sovereign duke, the seigneurs of parishes reigned
without control; and, above these seigneurs, God, who has never been
forgotten in Bretagne. Among these suzerains of chateaux and belfries,
the most powerful, the richest, the most popular, was M. Fouquet,
seigneur of Belle-Isle. Even in the country, even within sight of that
mysterious isle, legends and traditions consecrate its wonders. Every
one might not penetrate it: the isle, of an extent of six leagues in
length, and six in breadth, was a seignorial property, which the people
had for a long time respected, covered as it was with the name of Retz,
so redoubtable in the country. Shortly after the erection of this
seignory into a marquistate, Belle-Isle passed to M. Fouquet. The
celebrity of the isle did not date from yesterday; its name, or rather
its qualification, is traced back to the remotest antiquity. The
ancients called it Kalonese, from two Greek words, signifying beautiful
isle. Thus, at a distance of eighteen hundred years, it had borne, in
another idiom, the same name it still bears. There was, then, something
in itself in this property of M. Fouquet's, besides its position of six
leagues off the coast of France; a position which makes it a sovereign in
its maritime solitude, like a majestic ship which disdains roads, and
proudly casts anchor in mid-ocean.
D'Artagnan learnt all this without appearing the least in the world
astonished. He also learnt the best way to get intelligence was to go to
La Roche-Bernard, a tolerably important city at the mouth of the
Vilaine. Perhaps there he could embark; if not, crossing the salt
marshes, he would repair to Guerande or Le Croisic, to wait for an
opportunity to cross over to Belle-Isle. He had discovered, besides,
since his departure from Chateaubriand, that nothing would be impossible
for Furet under the impulsion of M. Agnan, and nothing to M. Agnan
through the initiative of Furet. He prepared, then, to sup off a teal
and a _torteau_, in a hotel of La Roche-Bernard, and ordered to be
brought from the cellar, to wash down these two Breton dishes, some
cider, which, the moment it touched his lips, he perceived to be more
How D'Artagnan became Acquainted with a Poet, who had turned Printer for
the Sake of Printing his own Verses.
Before taking his place at table, D'Artagnan acquired, as was his custom,
all the information he could; but it is an axiom of curiosity, that every
man who wishes to question well and fruitfully ought in the first place
to lay himself open to questions. D'Artagnan sought, then, with his
usual skill, a promising questioner in the hostelry of La Roche-Bernard.
At the moment, there were in the house, on the first story, two travelers
either preparing for supper, or at supper itself. D'Artagnan had seen
their nags in the stable, and their equipages in the _salle_. One
traveled with a lackey, undoubtedly a person of consideration; - two
Perche mares, sleek, sound beasts, were suitable means of locomotion.
The other, a little fellow, a traveler of meagre appearance, wearing a
dusty surtout, dirty linen, and boots more worn by the pavement than the
stirrup, had come from Nantes with a cart drawn by a horse so like Furet
in color, that D'Artagnan might have gone a hundred miles without finding
a better match. This cart contained divers large packets wrapped in
pieces of old stuff.
"That traveler yonder," said D'Artagnan to himself, "is the man for my
money. He will do, he suits me; I ought to do for him and suit him; M.
Agnan, with the gray doublet and the rusty _calotte_, is not unworthy of
supping with the gentleman of the old boots and still older horse."
This said, D'Artagnan called the host, and desired him to send his teal,
_tourteau_, and cider up to the chamber of the gentleman of modest
exterior. He himself climbed, a plate in his hand, the wooden staircase
which led to the chamber, and began to knock at the door.
"Come in!" said the unknown. D'Artagnan entered, with a simper on his
lips, his plate under his arm, his hat in one hand, his candle in the
"Excuse me, monsieur," said he, "I am as you are, a traveler; I know no
one in the hotel, and I have the bad habit of losing my spirits when I
eat alone; so that my repast appears a bad one to me, and does not
nourish me. Your face, which I saw just now, when you came down to have
some oysters opened, - your face pleased me much. Besides, I have
observed you have a horse just like mine, and that the host, no doubt on
account of that resemblance, has placed them side by side in the stable,
where they appear to agree amazingly well together. I therefore,
monsieur, do not see any reason why the masters should be separated when
the horses are united. Accordingly, I am come to request the pleasure of
being admitted to your table. My name is Agnan, at your service,
monsieur, the unworthy steward of a rich seigneur, who wishes to purchase
some salt-mines in this country, and sends me to examine his future
acquisitions. In truth, monsieur, I should be well pleased if my
countenance were as agreeable to you as yours is to me; for, upon my
honor, I am quite at your service."
The stranger, whom D'Artagnan saw for the first time, - for before he had
only caught a glimpse of him, - the stranger had black and brilliant
eyes, a yellow complexion, a brow a little wrinkled by the weight of
fifty years, _bonhomie_ in his features collectively, but some cunning in
"One would say," thought D'Artagnan, "that this merry fellow has never
exercised more than the upper part of his head, his eyes, and his brain.
He must be a man of science: his mouth, nose, and chin signify absolutely
"Monsieur," replied the latter, with whose mind and person we have been
making so free, "you do me much honor; not that I am ever _ennuye_, for I
have," added he, smiling, "a company which amuses me always: but, never
mind that, I am happy to receive you." But when saying this, the man
with the worn boots cast an uneasy look at his table, from which the
oysters had disappeared, and upon which there was nothing left but a
morsel of salt bacon.
"Monsieur," D'Artagnan hastened to say, "the host is bringing me up a
pretty piece of roasted poultry and a superb _tourteau_." D'Artagnan had
read in the look of his companion, however rapidly it disappeared, the
fear of an attack by a parasite: he divined justly. At this opening, the
features of the man of modest exterior relaxed; and, as if he had watched
the moment for his entrance, as D'Artagnan spoke, the host appeared,
bearing the announced dishes. The _tourteau_ and the teal were added to
the morsel of broiled bacon; D'Artagnan and his guest bowed, sat down
opposite to each other, and, like two brothers, shared the bacon and the
"Monsieur," said D'Artagnan, "you must confess that association is a
"How so?" replied the stranger, with his mouth full.
"Well, I will tell you," replied D'Artagnan.
The stranger gave a short truce to the movement of his jaws, in order to
hear the better.
"In the first place," continued D'Artagnan, "instead of one candle, which
each of us had, we have two."
"That is true!" said the stranger, struck with the extreme lucidity of
"Then I see that you eat my _tourteau_ in preference, whilst I, in
preference, eat your bacon."
"That is true again."
"And then, in addition to being better lighted and eating what we prefer,
I place the pleasure of your company."
"Truly, monsieur, you are very jovial," said the unknown, cheerfully.
"Yes, monsieur; jovial, as all people are who carry nothing on their
minds, or, for that matter, in their heads. Oh! I can see it is quite
another sort of thing with you," continued D'Artagnan; "I can read in
your eyes all sorts of genius."
"Come, confess one thing."
"What is that?"
"That you are a learned man."
"_Ma foi!_ monsieur."
"I am an author."
"There!" cried D'Artagnan, clapping his hands, "I knew I could not be
deceived! It is a miracle!"
"Monsieur - "
"What, shall I have the honor of passing the evening in the society of an
author, of a celebrated author, perhaps?"
"Oh!" said the unknown, blushing, "celebrated, monsieur, celebrated is
not the word."
"Modest!" cried D'Artagnan, transported, "he is modest!" Then, turning
towards the stranger, with a character of blunt _bonhomie_: "But tell me
at least the name of your works, monsieur; for you will please to observe
you have not told me your name, and I have been forced to divine your
"My name is Jupenet, monsieur," said the author.
"A fine name! a grand name! upon my honor; and I do not know why - pardon
me the mistake, if it be one - but surely I have heard that name
"I have made verses," said the poet, modestly.
"Ah! that is it, then; I have heard them read."
"I must have seen it played."
The poet blushed again, and said: "I do not think that can be the case,
for my verses have never been printed."
"Well, then, it must have been the tragedy which informed me of your
"You are again mistaken, for MM. the comedians of the Hotel de Bourgogne,
would have nothing to do with it," said the poet, with a smile, the
receipt for which certain sorts of pride alone knew the secret.
D'Artagnan bit his lips. "Thus, then, you see, monsieur," continued the
poet, "you are in error on my account, and that not being at all known to
you, you have never heard tell of me."
"Ah! that confounds me. That name, Jupenet, appears to me, nevertheless,
a fine name, and quite as worthy of being known as those of MM.
Corneille, or Rotrou, or Garnier. I hope, monsieur, you will have the
goodness to repeat to me a part of your tragedy presently, by way of
dessert, for instance. That will be sugared roast meat, - _mordioux!_
Ah! pardon me, monsieur, that was a little oath which escaped me, because
it is a habit with my lord and master. I sometimes allow myself to usurp
that little oath, as it seems in pretty good taste. I take this liberty
only in his absence, please to observe, for you may understand that in
his presence - but, in truth, monsieur, this cider is abominable; do you
not think so? And besides, the pot is of such an irregular shape it will
not stand on the table."
"Suppose we were to make it level?"
"To be sure; but with what?"
"With this knife."
"And the teal, with what shall we cut that up? Do you not, by chance,
mean to touch the teal?"
"Well, then - "
And the poet rummaged in his pocket, and drew out a piece of brass,
oblong, quadrangular, about a line in thickness, and an inch and a half
in length. But scarcely had this little piece of brass seen the light,
than the poet appeared to have committed an imprudence, and made a
movement to put it back again in his pocket. D'Artagnan perceived this,
for he was a man that nothing escaped. He stretched forth his hand
towards the piece of brass: "Humph! that which you hold in your hand is
pretty; will you allow me to look at it?"
"Certainly," said the poet, who appeared to have yielded too soon to a
first impulse. "Certainly, you may look at it: but it will be in vain
for you to look at it," added he, with a satisfied air; "if I were not
to tell you its use, you would never guess it."
D'Artagnan had seized as an avowal the hesitation of the poet, and his
eagerness to conceal the piece of brass which a first movement had
induced him to take out of his pocket. His attention, therefore, once
awakened on this point, he surrounded himself with a circumspection which
gave him a superiority on all occasions. Besides, whatever M. Jupenet
might say about it, by a simple inspection of the object, he perfectly
well knew what it was. It was a character in printing.
"Can you guess, now, what this is?" continued the poet.
"No," said D'Artagnan, "no, _ma foi!_"
"Well, monsieur," said M. Jupenet, "this little piece of metal is a
"Stop, stop, stop," said D'Artagnan, opening his eyes very innocently.
"Yes, monsieur, a capital; the first letter of my name."
"And this is a letter, is it?"
"Well, I will confess one thing to you."
"And what is that?"
"No, I will not, I was going to say something stupid."
"No, no," said Master Jupenet, with a patronizing air.
"Well, then, I cannot comprehend, if that is a letter, how you can make a
"Yes, a printed word."
"Oh, that's very easy."
"Let me see."
"Does it interest you?"
"Well, I will explain the thing to you. Attend."
"I am attending."
"This is it."
"I am looking." D'Artagnan, in fact, appeared absorbed in observations.
Jupenet drew from his pocket seven or eight other pieces of brass smaller
than the first.
"Ah, ah," said D'Artagnan.
"You have, then, a whole printing-office in your pocket. _Peste!_ that
is curious, indeed."
"Is it not?"
"Good God, what a number of things we learn by traveling."
"To your health!" said Jupenet, quite enchanted.
"To yours, _mordioux_, to yours. But - an instant - not in this cider.
It is an abominable drink, unworthy of a man who quenches his thirst at
the Hippocrene fountain - is not it so you call your fountain, you poets?"
"Yes, monsieur, our fountain is so called. That comes from two Greek
words - _hippos_, which means a horse, and - "
"Monsieur," interrupted D'Artagnan, "you shall drink of a liquor which
comes from one single French word, and is none the worse for that - from
the word _grape_; this cider gives me the heartburn. Allow me to inquire
of your host if there is not a good bottle of Beaugency, or of the Ceran
growth, at the back of the large bins in his cellar."
The host, being sent for, immediately attended.
"Monsieur," interrupted the poet, "take care, we shall not have time to
drink the wine, unless we make great haste, for I must take advantage of
the tide to secure the boat."
"What boat?" asked D'Artagnan.
"Why the boat which sets out for Belle-Isle."
"Ah - for Belle-Isle," said the musketeer, "that is good."
"Bah! you will have plenty of time, monsieur," replied the _hotelier_,
uncorking the bottle, "the boat will not leave this hour."
"But who will give me notice?" said the poet.
"Your fellow-traveler," replied the host.
"But I scarcely know him."
"When you hear him departing, it will be time for you to go."
"Is he going to Belle-Isle, likewise, then?"
"The traveler who has a lackey?" asked D'Artagnan. "He is some
gentleman, no doubt?"
"I know nothing of him."
"What! - know nothing of him?"
"No, all I know is, that he is drinking the same wine as you."
"_Peste!_ - that is a great honor for us," said D'Artagnan, filling his
companion's glass, whilst the host went out.
"So," resumed the poet, returning to his dominant ideas, "you never saw
any printing done?"
"Well, then, take the letters thus, which compose the word, you see: A B;
_ma foi!_ here is an R, two E E, then a G." And he assembled the letters
with a swiftness and skill which did not escape the eye of D'Artagnan.
"_Abrege_," said he, as he ended.
"Good!" said D'Artagnan; "here are plenty of letters got together; but
how are they kept so?" And he poured out a second glass for the poet.
M. Jupenet smiled like a man who has an answer for everything; then he
pulled out - still from his pocket - a little metal ruler, composed of
two parts, like a carpenter's rule, against which he put together, and in
a line, the characters, holding them under his left thumb.
"And what do you call that little metal ruler?" said D'Artagnan, "for, I
suppose, all these things have names."
"This is called a composing-stick," said Jupenet; "it is by the aid of
this stick that the lines are formed."
"Come, then, I was not mistaken in what I said; you have a press in your
pocket," said D'Artagnan, laughing with an air of simplicity so stupid,
that the poet was completely his dupe.
"No," replied he; "but I am too lazy to write, and when I have a verse in
my head, I print it immediately. That is a labor spared."
"_Mordioux!_" thought D'Artagnan to himself, "this must be cleared up."
And under a pretext, which did not embarrass the musketeer, who was
fertile in expedients, he left the table, went downstairs, ran to the
shed under which stood the poet's little cart, and poked the point of his
poniard into the stuff which enveloped one of the packages, which he
found full of types, like those which the poet had in his pocket.
"Humph!" said D'Artagnan, "I do not yet know whether M. Fouquet wishes to
fortify Belle-Isle; but, at all events, here are some spiritual munitions
for the castle." Then, enchanted with his rich discovery, he ran
upstairs again, and resumed his place at the table.
D'Artagnan had learnt what he wished to know. He, however, remained,
none the less, face to face with his partner, to the moment when they
heard from the next room symptoms of a person's being about to go out.
The printer was immediately on foot; he had given orders for his horse to
be got ready. His carriage was waiting at the door. The second traveler
got into his saddle, in the courtyard, with his lackey. D'Artagnan
followed Jupenet to the door; he embarked his cart and horse on board the
boat. As to the opulent traveler, he did the same with his two horses
and servant. But all the wit D'Artagnan employed in endeavoring to find
out his name was lost - he could learn nothing. Only he took such notice
of his countenance, that it was impressed upon his mind forever.
D'Artagnan had a great inclination to embark with the two travelers, but
an interest more powerful than curiosity - that of success - repelled him
from the shore, and brought him back again to the hostelry. He entered
with a sigh, and went to bed directly in order to be ready early in the
morning with fresh ideas and the sage counsel of sufficing sleep.
D'Artagnan continues his Investigations.
At daybreak D'Artagnan saddled Furet, who had fared sumptuously all
night, devouring the remainder of the oats and hay left by his
companions. The musketeer sifted all he possibly could out of the host,
who he found cunning, mistrustful, and devoted, body and soul, to M.
Fouquet. In order not to awaken the suspicions of this man, he carried
on his fable of being a probable purchaser of some salt-mines. To have
embarked for Belle-Isle at Roche-Bernard, would have been to expose
himself still further to comments which had, perhaps, been already made,
and would be carried to the castle. Moreover, it was singular that this
traveler and his lackey should have remained a mystery to D'Artagnan, in
spite of all the questions addressed by him to the host, who appeared to
know him perfectly well. The musketeer then made some inquiries
concerning the salt-mines, and took the road to the marshes, leaving the
sea on his right, and penetrating into that vast and desolate plain which
resembles a sea of mud, of which, here and there, a few crests of salt
silver the undulations. Furet walked admirably, with his little nervous
legs, along the foot-wide causeways which separate the salt-mines.
D'Artagnan, aware of the consequences of a fall, which would result in a
cold bath, allowed him to go as he liked, contenting himself with looking
at, on the horizon, three rocks, that rose up like lance-blades from the
bosom of the plain, destitute of verdure. Piriac, the bourgs of Batz and
Le Croisic, exactly resembling each other, attracted and suspended his
attention. If the traveler turned round, the better to make his
observations, he saw on the other side an horizon of three other
steeples, Guerande, Le Pouliguen, and Saint-Joachim, which, in their
circumference, represented a set of skittles, of which he and Furet were
but the wandering ball. Piriac was the first little port on his right.
He went thither, with the names of the principal salters on his lips. At
the moment he reached the little port of Piriac, five large barges, laden
with stone, were leaving it. It appeared strange to D'Artagnan, that
stones should be leaving a country where none are found. He had recourse
to all the amenity of M. Agnan to learn from the people of the port the
cause of this singular arrangement. An old fisherman replied to M.
Agnan, that the stones very certainly did not come from Piriac or the
"Where do they come from, then?" asked the musketeer.
"Monsieur, they come from Nantes and Paimboeuf."
"Where are they going, then?"
"Monsieur, to Belle-Isle."
"Ah! ah!" said D'Artagnan, in the same tone he had assumed to tell the
printer that his character interested him; "are they building at Belle-
"Why, yes, monsieur, M. Fouquet has the walls of the castle repaired
"It is in ruins, then?"
"It is old."
"The fact is," said D'Artagnan to himself, "nothing is more natural;
every proprietor has a right to repair his own property. It would be
like telling me I was fortifying the Image-de-Notre-Dame, when I was
simply obliged to make repairs. In good truth, I believe false reports
have been made to his majesty, and he is very likely to be in the wrong."
"You must confess," continued he then, aloud, and addressing the
fisherman - for his part of a suspicious man was imposed upon him by the
object even of his mission - "you must confess, my dear monsieur, that
these stones travel in a very curious fashion."
"How so?" said the fisherman.
"They come from Nantes or Paimboeuf by the Loire, do they not?"
"With the tide."
"That is convenient, - I don't say it is not; but why do they not go
straight from Saint-Nazaire to Belle-Isle?"
"Eh! because the _chalands_ (barges) are fresh-water boats, and take the
sea badly," replied the fisherman.
"That is not sufficient reason."
"Pardon me, monsieur, one may see that you have never been a sailor,"
added the fisherman, not without a sort of disdain.
"Explain to me, if you please, my good man. It appears to me that to
come from Paimboeuf to Piriac, and go from Piriac to Belle-Isle, is as if
we went from Roche-Bernard to Nantes, and from Nantes to Piriac."
"By water that would be the nearest way," replied the fisherman
"But there is an elbow?"
The fisherman shook his head.
"The shortest road from one place to another is a straight line,"
"You forget the tide, monsieur."
"Well! take the tide."
"And the wind."
"Well, and the wind."
"Without doubt; the current of the Loire carries barks almost as far as
Croisic. If they want to lie by a little, or to refresh the crew, they
come to Piriac along the coast; from Piriac they find another inverse
current, which carries them to the Isle-Dumal, two leagues and a half."
"There the current of the Vilaine throws them upon another isle, the Isle
"I agree with that."
"Well, monsieur, from that isle to Belle-Isle the way is quite straight.
The sea, broken both above and below, passes like a canal - like a mirror
between the two isles; the _chalands_ glide along upon it like ducks upon
the Loire; that's how it is."
"It does not signify," said the obstinate M. Agnan; "it is a long way
"Ah! yes; but M. Fouquet will have it so," replied, as conclusive, the
fisherman, taking off his woolen cap at the enunciation of that respected
A look from D'Artagnan, a look as keen and piercing as a sword-blade,
found nothing in the heart of the old man but a simple confidence - on
his features, nothing but satisfaction and indifference. He said, "M.
Fouquet will have it so," as he would have said, "God has willed it."
D'Artagnan had already advanced too far in this direction; besides, the
_chalands_ being gone, there remained nothing at Piriac but a single bark
- that of the old man, and it did not look fit for sea without great
preparation. D'Artagnan therefore patted Furet, who, as a new proof of
his charming character, resumed his march with his feet in the salt-
mines, and his nose to the dry wind, which bends the furze and the broom
of this country. They reached Le Croisic about five o'clock.
If D'Artagnan had been a poet, it was a beautiful spectacle: the immense
strand of a league or more, the sea covers at high tide, and which, at
the reflux, appears gray and desolate, strewed with polypi and seaweed,
with pebbles sparse and white, like bones in some vast old cemetery. But
the soldier, the politician, and the ambitious man, had no longer the
sweet consolation of looking towards heaven to read there a hope or a
warning. A red sky signifies nothing to such people but wind and
disturbance. White and fleecy clouds upon the azure only say that the
sea will be smooth and peaceful. D'Artagnan found the sky blue, the
breeze embalmed with saline perfumes, and he said: "I will embark with
the first tide, if it be but in a nutshell."
At Le Croisic as at Piriac, he had remarked enormous heaps of stone lying
along the shore. These gigantic walls, diminished every tide by the
barges for Belle-Isle, were, in the eyes of the musketeer, the
consequence and the proof of what he had well divined at Piriac. Was it
a wall that M. Fouquet was constructing? Was it a fortification that he
was erecting? To ascertain that, he must make fuller observations.
D'Artagnan put Furet into a stable; supped, went to bed, and on the
morrow took a walk upon the port or rather upon the shingle. Le Croisic
has a port of fifty feet; it has a look-out which resembles an enormous
_brioche_ (a kind of cake) elevated on a dish. The flat strand is the
dish. Hundreds of barrowsful of earth amalgamated with pebbles, and
rounded into cones, with sinuous passages between, are look-outs and
_brioches_ at the same time. It is so now, and it was so two hundred
years ago, only the _brioche_ was not so large, and probably there were
to be seen to trellises of lath around the _brioche_, which constitute an
ornament, planted like _gardes-fous_ along the passages that wind towards
the little terrace. Upon the shingle lounged three or four fishermen
talking about sardines and shrimps. D'Artagnan, with his eyes animated
by a rough gayety, and a smile upon his lips, approached these fishermen.
"Any fishing going on to-day?" said he.
"Yes, monsieur," replied one of them, "we are only waiting for the tide."
"Where do you fish, my friends?"
"Upon the coasts, monsieur."
"Which are the best coasts?"
"Ah, that is all according. The tour of the isles, for example?"
"Yes, but they are a long way off, those isles, are they not?"
"Not very; four leagues."
"Four leagues! That is a voyage."
The fishermen laughed in M. Agnan's face.
"Hear me, then," said the latter with an air of simple stupidity; "four
leagues off you lose sight of land, do you not?"
"Why, not always."
"Ah, it is a long way - too long, or else I would have asked you to take
me aboard, and to show me what I have never seen."
"What is that?"
"A live sea-fish."
"Monsieur comes from the province?" said a fisherman.
"Yes, I come from Pairs."
The Breton shrugged his shoulders; then:
"Have you ever seen M. Fouquet in Paris?" asked he.
"Often," replied D'Artagnan.
"Often!" repeated the fishermen, closing their circle round the
Parisian. "Do you know him?"
"A little; he is the intimate friend of my master."
"Ah!" said the fishermen, in astonishment.
"And," said D'Artagnan, "I have seen all his chateaux of Saint Mande, of
Vaux, and his hotel in Paris."
"Is that a fine place?"
"It is not so fine a place as Belle-Isle," said the fisherman.
"Bah!" cried M. d'Artagnan, breaking into a laugh so loud that he angered
all his auditors.
"It is very plain that you have never seen Belle-Isle," said the most
curious of the fishermen. "Do you know that there are six leagues of it,
and that there are such trees on it as cannot be equaled even at Nates-
"Trees in the sea!" cried D'Artagnan; "well, I should like to see them."
"That can be easily done; we are fishing at the Isle de Hoedic - come
with us. From that place you will see, as a Paradise, the black trees of
Belle-Isle against the sky; you will see the white line of the castle,
which cuts the horizon of the sea like a blade."
"Oh," said D'Artagnan, "that must be very beautiful. But do you know
there are a hundred belfries at M. Fouquet's chateau of Vaux?"
The Breton raised his head in profound admiration, but he was not
convinced. "A hundred belfries! Ah, that may be; but Belle-Isle is
finer than that. Should you like to see Belle-Isle?"
"Is that possible?" asked D'Artagnan.
"Yes, with permission of the governor."
"But I do not know the governor."
"As you know M. Fouquet, you can tell your name."
"Oh, my friends, I am not a gentleman."
"Everybody enters Belle-Isle," continued the fisherman in his strong,
pure language, "provided he means no harm to Belle-Isle or its master."
A slight shudder crept over the body of the musketeer. "That is true,"
thought he. Then recovering himself, "If I were sure," said he, "not to
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