The Vicomte de Bragelonne
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 12 out of 13
"What, upon _her?_" said the fisherman, pointing with pride to his pretty
"Well, you almost persuade me," cried M. Agnan; "I will go and see Belle-
Isle, but they will not admit me."
"We shall enter, safe enough."
"You! What for?"
"Why, _dame!_ to sell fish to the corsairs."
"Ha! Corsairs - what do you mean?"
"Well, I mean that M. Fouquet is having two corsairs built to chase the
Dutch and the English, and we sell our fish to the crews of those little
"Come, come!" said D'Artagnan to himself - "better and better. A
printing-press, bastions, and corsairs! Well, M. Fouquet is not an enemy
to be despised, as I presumed to fancy. He is worth the trouble of
travelling to see him nearer."
"We set out at half-past five," said the fisherman gravely.
"I am quite ready, and I will not leave you now." So D'Artagnan saw the
fishermen haul their barks to meet the tide with a windlass. The sea
rose; M. Agnan allowed himself to be hoisted on board, not without
sporting a little fear and awkwardness, to the amusement of the young
beach-urchins who watched him with their large intelligent eyes. He laid
himself down upon a folded sail, not interfering with anything whilst the
bark prepared for sea; and, with its large square sail, it was fairly out
within two hours. The fishermen, who prosecuted their occupation as they
proceeded, did not perceive that their passenger had not become pale,
neither groaned nor suffered; that in spite of that horrible tossing and
rolling of the bark, to which no hand imparted direction, the novice
passenger had preserved his presence of mind and his appetite. They
fished, and their fishing was sufficiently fortunate. To lines bated
with prawn, soles came, with numerous gambols, to bite. Two nets had
already been broken by the immense weight of congers and haddocks; three
sea-eels plowed the hold with their slimy folds and their dying
contortions. D'Artagnan brought them good luck; they told him so. The
soldier found the occupation so pleasant, that he put his hand to the
work - that is to say, to the lines - and uttered roars of joy, and
_mordioux_ enough to have astonished his musketeers themselves, every
time that a shock given to his line by the captured fish required the
play of the muscles of his arm, and the employment of his best
dexterity. The party of pleasure had made him forget his diplomatic
mission. He was struggling with a very large conger, and holding fast
with one hand to the side of the vessel, in order to seize with the other
the gaping jowl of his antagonist, when the master said to him, "Take
care they don't see you from Belle-Isle!"
These words produced the same effect upon D'Artagnan as the hissing of
the first bullet on a day of battle; he let go of both line and conger,
which, dragging each other, returned again to the water. D'Artagnan
perceived, within half a league at most, the blue and marked profile of
the rocks of Belle-Isle, dominated by the majestic whiteness of the
castle. In the distance, the land with its forests and verdant plains;
cattle on the grass. This was what first attracted the attention of the
musketeer. The sun darted its rays of gold upon the sea, raising a
shining mist round this enchanted isle. Little could be seen of it,
owing to this dazzling light, but the salient points; every shadow was
strongly marked, and cut with bands of darkness the luminous fields and
walls. "Eh! eh!" said D'Artagnan, at the aspect of those masses of black
rocks, "these are fortifications which do not stand in need of any
engineer to render a landing difficult. How the devil can a landing be
effected on that isle which God has defended so completely?"
"This way," replied the patron of the bark, changing the sail, and
impressing upon the rudder a twist which turned the boat in the direction
of a pretty little port, quite coquettish, round, and newly battlemented.
"What the devil do I see yonder?" said D'Artagnan.
"You see Locmaria," replied the fisherman.
"Well, but there?"
"That is Bangor."
"And further on?"
"Sauzon, and then Le Palais."
"_Mordioux!_ It is a world. Ah! there are some soldiers."
"There are seventeen hundred men in Belle-Isle, monsieur," replied the
fisherman, proudly. "Do you know that the least garrison is of twenty
companies of infantry?"
"_Mordioux!_" cried D'Artagnan, stamping with his foot. "His majesty was
In which the Reader, no Doubt, will be as astonished as D'Artagnan was to
meet an Old Acquaintance.
There is always something in a landing, if it be only from the smallest
sea-boat - a trouble and a confusion which do not leave the mind the
liberty of which it stands in need in order to study at the first glance
the new locality presented to it. The moveable bridges, the agitated
sailors, the noise of the water on the pebbles, the cries and
importunities of those who wait upon the shores, are multiplied details
of that sensation which is summed up in one single result - hesitation.
It was not, then, till after standing several minutes on the shore that
D'Artagnan saw upon the port, but more particularly in the interior of
the isle, an immense number of workmen in motion. At his feet D'Artagnan
recognized the five _chalands_ laden with rough stone he had seen leave
the port of Piriac. The smaller stones were transported to the shore by
means of a chain formed by twenty-five or thirty peasants. The large
stones were loaded on trollies which conveyed them in the same direction
as the others, that is to say, towards the works, of which D'Artagnan
could as yet appreciate neither the strength nor the extent. Everywhere
was to be seen an activity equal to that which Telemachus observed on his
landing at Salentum. D'Artagnan felt a strong inclination to penetrate
into the interior; but he could not, under the penalty of exciting
mistrust, exhibit too much curiosity. He advanced then little by little,
scarcely going beyond the line formed by the fishermen on the beach,
observing everything, saying nothing, and meeting all suspicion that
might have been excited with a half-silly question or a polite bow. And
yet, whilst his companions carried on their trade, giving or selling
their fish to the workmen or the inhabitants of the city, D'Artagnan had
gained by degrees, and, reassured by the little attention paid to him, he
began to cast an intelligent and confident look upon the men and things
that appeared before his eyes. And his very first glance fell on certain
movements of earth about which the eye of a soldier could not be
mistaken. At the two extremities of the port, in order that their fires
should converge upon the great axis of the ellipse formed by the basin,
in the first place, two batteries had been raised, evidently destined to
receive flank pieces, for D'Artagnan saw the workmen finishing the
platform and making ready the demi-circumference in wood upon which the
wheels of the pieces might turn to embrace every direction over the
epaulement. By the side of each of these batteries other workmen were
strengthening gabions filled with earth, the lining of another battery.
The latter had embrasures, and the overseer of the works called
successively men who, with cords, tied the _saucissons_ and cut the
lozenges and right angles of turfs destined to retain the matting of the
embrasures. By the activity displayed in these works, already so far
advanced, they might be considered as finished: they were not yet
furnished with their cannons, but the platforms had their _gites_ and
their _madriers_ all prepared; the earth, beaten carefully, was
consolidated; and supposing the artillery to be on the island, in less
than two or three days the port might be completely armed. That which
astonished D'Artagnan, when he turned his eyes from the coast batteries
to the fortifications of the city, was to see that Belle-Isle was
defended by an entirely new system, of which he had often heard the Comte
de la Fere speak as a wonderful advance, but of which he had as yet never
seen the application. These fortifications belonged neither to the Dutch
method of Marollais, nor to the French method of the Chevalier Antoine de
Ville, but to the system of Manesson Mallet, a skillful engineer, who
about six or eight years previously had quitted the service of Portugal
to enter that of France. The works had this peculiarity, that instead of
rising above the earth, as did the ancient ramparts destined to defend a
city from escalades, they, on the contrary, sank into it; and what
created the height of the walls was the depth of the ditches. It did not
take long to make D'Artagnan perceive the superiority of such a system,
which gives no advantage to cannon. Besides, as the _fosses_ were lower
than, or on a level with, the sea, these _fosses_ could be instantly
inundated by means of subterranean sluices. Otherwise, the works were
almost complete, and a group of workmen, receiving orders from a man who
appeared to be conductor of the works, were occupied in placing the last
stones. A bridge of planks thrown over the _fosses_ for the greater
convenience of the maneuvers connected with the barrows, joined the
interior to the exterior. With an air of simple curiosity D'Artagnan
asked if he might be permitted to cross the bridge, and he was told that
no order prevented it. Consequently he crossed the bridge, and advanced
towards the group.
This group was superintended by the man whom D'Artagnan had already
remarked, and who appeared to be the engineer-in-chief. A plan was lying
open before him upon a large stone forming a table, and at some paces
from him a crane was in action. This engineer, who by his evident
importance first attracted the attention of D'Artagnan, wore a
_justaucorps_, which, from its sumptuousness, was scarcely in harmony
with the work he was employed in, that rather necessitated the costume of
a master-mason than of a noble. He was a man of immense stature and
great square shoulders, and wore a hat covered with feathers. He
gesticulated in the most majestic manner, and appeared, for D'Artagnan
only saw his back, to be scolding the workmen for their idleness and want
D'Artagnan continued to draw nearer. At that moment the man with the
feathers ceased to gesticulate, and, with his hands placed upon his
knees, was following, half-bent, the effort of six workmen to raise a
block of hewn stone to the top of a piece of timber destined to support
that stone, so that the cord of the crane might be passed under it. The
six men, all on one side of the stone, united their efforts to raise it
to eight or ten inches from the ground, sweating and blowing, whilst a
seventh got ready for when there should be daylight enough beneath it to
slide in the roller that was to support it. But the stone had already
twice escaped from their hands before gaining a sufficient height for the
roller to be introduced. There can be no doubt that every time the stone
escaped them, they bounded quickly backwards, to keep their feet from
being crushed by the refalling stone. Every time, the stone, abandoned
by them, sunk deeper into the damp earth, which rendered the operation
more and more difficult. A third effort was followed by no better
success, but with progressive discouragement. And yet, when the six men
were bent towards the stone, the man with the feathers had himself, with
a powerful voice, given the word of command, "_Ferme!_" which regulates
maneuvers of strength. Then he drew himself up.
"Oh! oh!" said he, "what is this all about? Have I to do with men of
straw? _Corne de boeuf!_ stand on one side, and you shall see how this
is to be done."
"_Peste!_" said D'Artagnan, "will he pretend to raise that rock? that
would be a sight worth looking at."
The workmen, as commanded by the engineer, drew back with their ears
down, and shaking their heads, with the exception of the one who held the
plank, who prepared to perform the office. The man with the feathers
went up to the stone, stooped, slipped his hands under the face lying
upon the ground, stiffened his Herculean muscles, and without a strain,
with a slow motion, like that of a machine, lifted the end of the rock a
foot from the ground. The workman who held the plank profited by the
space thus given him, and slipped the roller under the stone.
"That's the way," said the giant, not letting the rock fall again, but
placing it upon its support.
"_Mordioux!_" cried D'Artagnan, "I know but one man capable of such a
feat of strength."
"_Hein!_" cried the colossus, turning round.
"Porthos!" murmured D'Artagnan, seized with stupor, "Porthos at Belle-
On his part, the man with the feathers fixed his eyes upon the disguised
lieutenant, and, in spite of his metamorphosis, recognized him.
"D'Artagnan!" cried he; and the color mounted to his face. "Hush!" said
he to D'Artagnan.
"Hush!" in his turn, said the musketeer. In fact, if Porthos had just
been discovered by D'Artagnan, D'Artagnan had just been discovered by
Porthos. The interest of the particular secret of each struck them both
at the same instant. Nevertheless the first movement of the two men was
to throw their arms around each other. What they wished to conceal from
the bystanders, was not their friendship, but their names. But, after
the embrace, came reflection.
"What the devil brings Porthos to Belle-Isle, lifting stones?" said
D'Artagnan; only D'Artagnan uttered that question in a low voice. Less
strong in diplomacy than his friend, Porthos thought aloud.
"How the devil did you come to Belle-Isle?" asked he of D'Artagnan; "and
what do you want to do here?" It was necessary to reply without
hesitation. To hesitate in answer to Porthos would have been a check,
for which the self-love of D'Artagnan would never have consoled itself.
"_Pardieu!_ my friend, I am at Belle-Isle because you are here."
"Ah, bah!" said Porthos, visibly stupefied with the argument and seeking
to account for it to himself, with the felicity of deduction we know to
be particular to him.
"Without doubt," continued D'Artagnan, unwilling to give his friend time
to recollect himself, "I have been to see you at Pierrefonds."
"And you did not find me there?"
"No, but I found Mouston."
"Is he well?"
"Well, but Mouston did not tell you I was here."
"Why should he _not?_ Have I, perchance, deserved to lose his
"No; but he did not know it."
"Well; that is a reason at least that does not offend my self-love."
"Then how did you manage to find me?"
"My dear friend, a great noble like you always leaves traced behind him
on his passage; and I should think but poorly of myself, if I were not
sharp enough to follow the traces of my friends." This explanation,
flattering as it was, did not entirely satisfy Porthos.
"But I left no traces behind me, for I came here disguised," said Porthos.
"Ah! You came disguised did you?" said D'Artagnan.
"As a miller."
"And do you think a great noble, like you, Porthos, can affect common
manners so as to deceive people?"
"Well, I swear to you my friend, that I played my part so well that
_everybody_ was deceived."
"Indeed! so well, that I have not discovered and joined you?"
"Yes; but _how_ did you discover and join me?"
"Stop a bit. I was going to tell you how. Do you imagine Mouston - "
"Ah! it was that fellow, Mouston," said Porthos, gathering up those two
triumphant arches which served him for eyebrows.
"But stop, I tell you - it was no fault of Mouston's because he was
ignorant of where you were."
"I know he was; and that is why I am in such haste to understand - "
"Oh! how impatient you are, Porthos."
"When I do not comprehend, I am terrible."
"Well, you will understand. Aramis wrote to you at Pierrefonds, did he
"And he told you to come before the equinox."
"That is true."
"Well! that is it," said D'Artagnan, hoping that this reason would
mystify Porthos. Porthos appeared to give himself up to a violent mental
"Yes, yes," said he, "I understand. As Aramis told me to come before the
equinox, you have understood that that was to join him. You then
inquired where Aramis was, saying to yourself, 'Where Aramis is, there
Porthos will be.' You have learnt that Aramis was in Bretagne, and you
said to yourself, 'Porthos is in Bretagne.'"
"Exactly. In good truth, Porthos, I cannot tell why you have not turned
conjuror. So you understand that, arriving at Roche-Bernard, I heard of
the splendid fortifications going on at Belle-Isle. The account raised
my curiosity, I embarked in a fishing boat, without dreaming that you
were here: I came, and I saw a monstrous fine fellow lifting a stone Ajax
could not have stirred. I cried out, 'Nobody but the Baron de Bracieux
could have performed such a feat of strength.' You heard me, you turned
round, you recognized me, we embraced; and, _ma foi!_ if you like, my
dear friend, we will embrace again."
"Ah! now all is explained," said Porthos; and he embraced D'Artagnan with
so much friendship as to deprive the musketeer of his breath for five
"Why, you are stronger than ever," said D'Artagnan, "and still, happily,
in your arms." Porthos saluted D'Artagnan with a gracious smile. During
the five minutes D'Artagnan was recovering his breath, he reflected that
he had a very difficult part to play. It was necessary that he always
should question and never reply. By the time his respiration returned,
he had fixed his plans for the campaign.
Wherein the Ideas of D'Artagnan, at first strangely clouded, begin to
clear up a little.
D'Artagnan immediately took the offensive. "Now that I have told you
all, dear friend, or rather you have guessed all, tell me what you are
doing here, covered with dust and mud?"
Porthos wiped his brow, and looked around him with pride. "Why, it
appears," said he, "that you may see what I am doing here."
"No doubt, no doubt, you lift great stones."
"Oh! to show these idle fellows what a _man_ is," said Porthos, with
contempt. "But you understand - "
"Yes, that is not your place to lift stones, although there are many
whose place it is, who cannot lift them as you do. It was that which
made me ask you, just now. What are you doing here, baron?"
"I am studying topography, chevalier."
"You are studying topography?"
"Yes; but you - what are you doing in that common dress?"
D'Artagnan perceived he had committed a fault in giving expression to his
astonishment. Porthos had taken advantage of it, to retort with a
question. "Why," said he, "you know I am a bourgeois, in fact; my dress,
then, has nothing astonishing in it, since it conforms with my condition."
"Nonsense! you are a musketeer."
"You are wrong, my friend; I have given in my resignation."
"Oh, _mon Dieu!_ yes."
"And you have abandoned the service?"
"I have quitted it."
"You have abandoned the king?"
Porthos raised his arms towards heaven, like a man who has heard
extraordinary news. "Well, that _does_ confound me," said he.
"It is nevertheless true."
"And what led you to form such a resolution."
"The king displeased me. Mazarin had disgusted me for a long time, as you
know; so I threw my cassock to the nettles."
"But Mazarin is dead."
"I know that well enough, _parbleu!_ Only, at the period of his death,
my resignation had been given in and accepted two months. Then, feeling
myself free, I set off for Pierrefonds, to see my friend Porthos. I had
heard talk of the happy division you had made of your time, and I wished,
for a fortnight, to divide mine after your fashion."
"My friend, you know that it is not for a fortnight my house is open to
you; it is for a year - for ten years - for life."
"Thank you, Porthos."
"Ah! but perhaps you want money - do you?" said Porthos, making something
like fifty louis chink in his pocket. "In that case, you know - "
"No, thank you; I am not in want of anything. I placed my savings with
Planchet, who pays me the interest of them."
"Yes, to be sure," said D'Artagnan: "why should I not put by my savings,
as well as another, Porthos?"
"Oh, there is no reason why; on the contrary, I always suspected you -
that is to say, Aramis always suspected you to have savings. For my own
part, d'ye see, I take no concern about the management of my household;
but I presume the savings of a musketeer must be small."
"No doubt, relative to yourself, Porthos, who are a millionaire; but you
shall judge. I had laid by twenty-five thousand livres."
"That's pretty well," said Porthos, with an affable air.
"And," continued D'Artagnan, "on the twenty-eighth of last month I added
to it two hundred thousand livres more."
Porthos opened his large eyes, which eloquently demanded of the
musketeer, "Where the devil did you steal such a sum as that, my dear
friend?" "Two hundred thousand livres!" cried he, at length.
"Yes; which, with the twenty-five I had, and twenty thousand I have about
me, complete the sum of two hundred and forty-five thousand livres."
"But tell me, whence comes this fortune?"
"I will tell you all about it presently, dear friend; but as you have, in
the first place, many things to tell me yourself, let us have my recital
in its proper order."
"Bravo!" said Porthos; "then we are both rich. But what can I have to
relate to you?"
"You have to relate to me how Aramis came to be named - "
"Ah! bishop of Vannes."
"That's it," said D'Artagnan, "bishop of Vannes. Dear Aramis! do you
know how he succeeded so well?"
"Yes, yes; without reckoning that he does not mean to stop there."
"What! do you mean he will not be contented with violet stockings, and
that he wants a red hat?"
"Hush! that is _promised_ him."
"Bah! by the king?"
"By somebody more powerful than the king."
"Ah! the devil! Porthos: what incredible things you tell me, my friend!"
"Why incredible? Is there not always somebody in France more powerful
than the king?"
"Oh, yes; in the time of King Louis XIII. it was Cardinal Richelieu; in
the time of the regency it was Cardinal Mazarin. In the time of Louis
XIV. it is M - "
"It is M. Fouquet."
"Jove! you have hit it the first time."
"So, then, I suppose it is M. Fouquet who has promised Aramis the red
Porthos assumed an air of reserve. "Dear friend," said he, "God preserve
me from meddling with the affairs of others, above all from revealing
secrets it may be to their interest to keep. When you see Aramis, he
will tell you all he thinks he ought to tell you."
"You are right, Porthos; and you are quite a padlock for safety. But, to
revert to yourself?"
"Yes," said Porthos.
"You said just now you came hither to study topography?"
"I did so."
"_Tudieu!_ my friend, what fine things you will do!"
"How do you mean?"
"Why, these fortifications are admirable."
"Is that your opinion?"
"Decidedly it is. In truth, to anything but a regular siege, Belle-Isle
is absolutely impregnable."
Porthos rubbed his hands. "That is my opinion," said he.
"But who the devil has fortified this paltry little place in this manner?"
Porthos drew himself up proudly: "Did I not tell you who?"
"Do you not suspect?"
"No; all I can say is that he is a man who has studied all the systems,
and who appears to me to have stopped at the best."
"Hush!" said Porthos; "consider my modesty, my dear D'Artagnan."
"In truth," replied the musketeer, "can it be you - who - oh!"
"Pray - my dear friend - "
"You who have imagined, traced, and combined between these bastions,
these redans, these curtains, these half-moons; and are preparing that
"I beg you - "
"You who have built that lunette with its retiring angles and its salient
"My friend - "
"You who have given that inclination to the openings of your embrasures,
by means of which you so effectively protect the men who serve the guns?"
"Eh! _mon Dieu!_ yes."
"Oh! Porthos, Porthos! I must bow down before you - I must admire you!
But you have always concealed from us this superb, this incomparable
genius. I hope, my dear friend, you will show me all this in detail."
"Nothing more easy. Here lies my original sketch, my plan."
"Show it me." Porthos led D'Artagnan towards the stone that served him
for a table, and upon which the plan was spread. At the foot of the plan
was written, in the formidable writing of Porthos, writing of which we
have already had occasion to speak: -
"Instead of making use of the square or rectangle, as has been done to
this time, you will suppose your place inclosed in a regular hexagon,
this polygon having the advantage of offering more angles than the
quadrilateral one. Every side of your hexagon, of which you will
determine the length in proportion to the dimensions taken upon the
place, will be divided into two parts, and upon the middle point you will
elevate a perpendicular towards the center of the polygon, which will
equal in length the sixth part of the side. By the extremities of each
side of the polygon, you will trace two diagonals, which will cut the
perpendicular. These will form the precise lines of your defense."
"The devil!" said D'Artagnan, stopping at this point of the
demonstration; "why, this is a complete system, Porthos."
"Entirely," said Porthos. "Continue."
"No; I have read enough of it; but, since it is you, my dear Porthos, who
direct the works, what need have you of setting down your system so
formally in writing?"
"Oh! my dear friend, death!"
"Why, we are all mortal, are we not?"
"That is true," said D'Artagnan; "you have a reply for everything, my
friend." And he replaced the plan upon the stone.
But however short the time he had the plan in his hands, D'Artagnan had
been able to distinguish, under the enormous writing of Porthos, a much
more delicate hand, which reminded him of certain letters to Marie
Michon, with which he had been acquainted in his youth. Only the India-
rubber had passed and repassed so often over this writing that it might
have escaped a less practiced eye than that of our musketeer.
"Bravo! my friend, bravo!" said D'Artagnan.
"And now you know all that you want to know, do you not?" said Porthos,
"_Mordioux!_ yes, only do me one last favor, dear friend!"
"Speak, I am master here."
"Do me the pleasure to tell me the name of that gentleman who is walking
"Behind the soldiers."
"Followed by a lackey?"
"In company with a mean sort of fellow, dressed in black?"
"Yes, I mean him."
"That is M. Getard."
"And who is Getard, my friend?"
"He is the architect of the house."
"Of what house?"
"Of M. Fouquet's house."
"Ah! ah!" cried D'Artagnan, "you are of the household of M. Fouquet,
"I! what do you mean by that?" said the topographer, blushing to the top
of his ears.
"Why, you say the house, when speaking of Belle-Isle, as if you were
speaking of the chateau of Pierrefonds."
Porthos bit his lip. "Belle-Isle, my friend," said he, "belongs to M.
Fouquet, does it not?"
"Yes, I believe so."
"As Pierrefonds belongs to me?"
"I told you I believed so; there are no two words to _that_."
"Did you ever see a man there who is accustomed to walk about with a
ruler in his hand?"
"No; but I might have seen him there, if he really walked there."
"Well, that gentleman is M. Boulingrin."
"Who is M. Boulingrin?"
"Now we are coming to it. If, when this gentleman is walking with a
ruler in his hand, any one should ask me, - 'who is M. Boulingrin?' I
should reply: 'He is the architect of the house.' Well! M. Getard is
the Boulingrin of M. Fouquet. But he has nothing to do with the
fortifications, which are my department alone; do you understand? mine,
"Ah! Porthos," cried D'Artagnan, letting his arms fall as a conquered man
gives up his sword; "ah! my friend, you are not only a Herculean
topographer, you are, still further, a dialectician of the first water."
"Is it not powerfully reasoned?" said Porthos: and he puffed and blew
like the conger which D'Artagnan had let slip from his hand.
"And now," said D'Artagnan, "that shabby-looking man, who accompanies M.
Getard, is he also of the household of M. Fouquet?"
"Oh! yes," said Porthos, with contempt; "it is one M. Jupenet, or
Juponet, a sort of poet."
"Who is come to establish himself here?"
"I believe so."
"I thought M. Fouquet had poets enough, yonder - Scudery, Loret,
Pelisson, La Fontaine? If I must tell you the truth, Porthos, that poet
"Eh! - my friend; but what saves us is that he is not here as a poet."
"As what, then, is he?"
"As printer. And you make me remember, I have a word to say to the
"Say it, then."
Porthos made a sign to Jupenet, who perfectly recollected D'Artagnan, and
did not care to come nearer; which naturally produced another sign from
Porthos. This was so imperative, he was obliged to obey. As he
approached, "Come hither!" said Porthos. "You only landed yesterday and
you have begun your tricks already."
"How so, monsieur le baron?" asked Jupenet, trembling.
"Your press was groaning all night, monsieur," said Porthos, "and you
prevented my sleeping, _corne de boeuf!_"
"Monsieur - " objected Jupenet, timidly.
"You have nothing yet to print: therefore you have no occasion to set
your press going. What did you print last night?"
"Monsieur, a light poem of my own composition."
"Light! no, no, monsieur; the press groaned pitifully beneath it. Let it
not happen again. Do you understand?"
"You promise me?"
"I do, monsieur!"
"Very well; this time I pardon you. Adieu!"
The poet retreated as humbly as he had approached.
"Well, now we have combed that fellow's head, let us breakfast."
"Yes," replied D'Artagnan, "let us breakfast."
"Only," said Porthos, "I beg you to observe, my friend, that we only have
two hours for our repast."
"What would you have? We will try to make two hours suffice. But why
have you only two hours?"
"Because it is high tide at one o'clock, and, with the tide, I am going
to Vannes. But, as I shall return to-morrow, my dear friend, you can
stay here; you shall be master; I have a good cook and a good cellar."
"No," interrupted D'Artagnan, "better than that."
"You are going to Vannes, you say?"
"To a certainty."
"To see Aramis?"
"Well! I came from Paris on purpose to see Aramis."
"I will go with you then."
"Do; that's the thing."
"Only, I ought to have seen Aramis first, and you after. But man
proposes, and God disposes. I have begun with you, and will finish with
"And in how many hours can you go from here to Vannes?"
"Oh! _pardieu!_ in six hours. Three hours by sea to Sarzeau, three hours
by road from Sarzeau to Vannes."
"How convenient that is! Being so near to the bishopric; do you often go
"Yes; once a week. But, stop till I get my plan."
Porthos picked up his plan, folded it carefully, and engulfed it in his
"Good!" said D'Artagnan aside; "I think I now know the real engineer who
is fortifying Belle-Isle."
Two hours after, at high tide, Porthos and D'Artagnan set out for Sarzeau.
A Procession at Vannes.
The passage from Belle-Isle to Sarzeau was made rapidly enough, thanks to
one of those little corsairs of which D'Artagnan had been told during his
voyage, and which, shaped for fast sailing and destined for the chase,
were sheltered at that time in the roadstead of Locmaria, where one of
them, with a quarter of its war-crew, performed duty between Belle-Isle
and the continent. D'Artagnan had an opportunity of convincing himself
that Porthos, though engineer and topographer, was not deeply versed in
affairs of state. His perfect ignorance, with any other, might have
passed for well-informed dissimulation. But D'Artagnan knew too well all
the folds and refolds of his Porthos, not to find a secret if there were
one there; like those regular, minute old bachelors, who know how to
find, with their eyes shut, each book on the shelves of their library and
each piece of linen in their wardrobe. So if he had found nothing, our
cunning D'Artagnan, in rolling and unrolling his Porthos, it was because,
in truth, there was nothing to be found.
"Be it so," said D'Artagnan; "I shall get to know more at Vannes in half
an hour than Porthos has discovered at Belle-Isle in two months. Only,
in order that I may know something, it is important that Porthos should
not make use of the only stratagem I leave at his disposal. He must not
warn Aramis of my arrival." All the care of the musketeer was then, for
the moment, confined to the watching of Porthos. And let us hasten to
say, Porthos did not deserve all this mistrust. Porthos thought of no
evil. Perhaps, on first seeing him, D'Artagnan had inspired him with a
little suspicion; but almost immediately D'Artagnan had reconquered in
that good and brave heart the place he had always occupied, and not the
least cloud darkened the large eye of Porthos, fixed from time to time
with tenderness on his friend.
On landing, Porthos inquired if his horses were waiting and soon
perceived them at the crossing of the road that winds round Sarzeau, and
which, without passing through that little city, leads towards Vannes.
These horses were two in number, one for M. de Vallon, and one for his
equerry; for Porthos had an equerry since Mouston was only able to use a
carriage as a means of locomotion. D'Artagnan expected that Porthos
would propose to send forward his equerry upon one horse to bring back
another, and he - D'Artagnan - had made up his mind to oppose this
proposition. But nothing D'Artagnan had expected happened. Porthos
simply told the equerry to dismount and await his return at Sarzeau,
whilst D'Artagnan would ride his horse; which was arranged.
"Eh! but you are quite a man of precaution, my dear Porthos," said
D'Artagnan to his friend, when he found himself in the saddle, upon the
"Yes; but this is a kindness on the part of Aramis. I have not my stud
here, and Aramis has placed his stables at my disposal."
"Good horses for bishop's horses, _mordioux!_" said D'Artagnan. "It is
true, Aramis is a bishop of a peculiar kind."
"He is a holy man!" replied Porthos, in a tone almost nasal, and with his
eyes raised towards heaven.
"Then he is much changed," said D'Artagnan; "you and I have known him
"Grace has touched him," said Porthos.
"Bravo," said D'Artagnan, "that redoubles my desire to see my dear old
friend." And he spurred his horse, which sprang off into a more rapid
"_Peste!_" said Porthos, "if we go on at this rate, we shall only take
one hour instead of two."
"To go how far, do you say, Porthos?"
"Four leagues and a half."
"That will be a good pace."
"I could have embarked you on the canal, but the devil take rowers and
boat-horses! The first are like tortoises; the second like snails; and
when a man is able to put a good horse between his knees, that horse is
better than rowers or any other means."
"You are right; you above all, Porthos, who always look magnificent on
"Rather heavy, my friend; I was weighed the other day."
"And what do you weigh?"
"Three hundred-weight!" said Porthos, proudly.
"So that you must perceive, I am forced to choose horses whose loins are
straight and wide, otherwise I break them down in two hours."
"Yes, giant's horses you must have, must you not?"
"You are very polite, my friend," replied the engineer, with affectionate
"As a case in point," replied D'Artagnan, "your horse seems to sweat
"_Dame!_ It is hot! Ah, ah! do you see Vannes now?"
"Yes, perfectly. It is a handsome city, apparently."
"Charming, according to Aramis, at least; but I think it black; but black
seems to be considered handsome by artists: I am sorry for it."
"Why so, Porthos?"
"Because I have lately had my chateau of Pierrefonds, which was gray with
age, plastered white."
"Humph!" said D'Artagnan, "and white is more cheerful."
"Yes, but it is less august, as Aramis tells me. Fortunately there are
dealers in black as well as white. I will have Pierrefonds replastered
in black; that's all there is about it. If gray is handsome, you
understand, my friend, black must be superb."
"_Dame!_" said D'Artagnan, "that appears logical."
"Were you never at Vannes, D'Artagnan?"
"Then you know nothing of the city?"
"Well, look!" said Porthos, raising himself in his stirrups, which made
the fore-quarters of his horse bend sadly, - "do you see that corner, in
the sun, yonder?"
"Yes, I see it plainly."
"Well, that is the cathedral."
"Which is called?"
"Saint-Pierre. Now look again - in the faubourg on the left, do you see
"That is Saint-Patern, the parish preferred by Aramis."
"Without doubt. Saint-Patern, you see, passes for having been the first
bishop of Vannes. It is true that Aramis pretends he was not. But he is
so learned that that may be only a paro - a para - "
"A paradox," said D'Artagnan.
"Precisely; thank you! my tongue trips, I am so hot."
"My friend," said D'Artagnan, "continue your interesting description, I
beg. What is that large white building with many windows?"
"Oh! that is the college of the Jesuits. _Pardieu!_ you have an apt
hand. Do you see, close to the college, a large house with steeples,
turrets, built in a handsome Gothic style, as that fool, M. Getard, says?"
"Yes, that is plainly to be seen. Well?"
"Well, that is where Aramis resides."
"What! does he not reside at the episcopal palace?"
"No; that is in ruins. The palace likewise is in the city, and Aramis
prefers the faubourgs. That is why, as I told you, he is partial to
Saint-Patern; Saint-Patern is in the faubourg. Besides, there are in
this faubourg a mall, a tennis-court, and a house of Dominicans. Look,
that where the handsome steeple rises to the heavens."
"Next, you see the faubourg is like a separate city, it has its walls,
its towers, its ditches; the quay is upon it likewise, and the boats land
at the quay. If our little corsair did not draw eight feet of water, we
could have come full sail up to Aramis's windows."
"Porthos, Porthos," cried D'Artagnan, "you are a well of knowledge, a
spring of ingenious and profound reflections. Porthos, you no longer
surprise me, you confound me."
"Here we are," said Porthos, turning the conversation with his usual
"And high time we were," thought D'Artagnan, "for Aramis's horse is
melting away like a steed of ice."
They entered almost at the same instant the faubourg; but scarcely had
they gone a hundred paces when they were surprised to find the streets
strewed with leaves and flowers. Against the old walls of Vannes, hung
the oldest and the strangest tapestries of France. From over balconies
fell long white sheets stuck all over with bouquets. The streets were
deserted; it was plain the entire population was assembled on one point.
The blinds were closed, and the breeze penetrated into the houses under
the hangings, which cast long, black shades between their places of issue
and the walls. Suddenly, at the turning of a street, chants struck the
ears of the newly arrived travelers. A crowd in holiday garb appeared
through the vapors of incense which mounted to the heavens in blue
fleeces, and clouds of rose-leaves fluttered as high as the first
stories. Above all heads were to be seen the cross and banners, the
sacred symbols of religion. Then, beneath these crosses and banners, as
if protected by them, walked a whole world of young girls clothed in
white, crowned with corn-flowers. At the two sides of the street,
inclosing the _cortege_, marched the guards of the garrison, carrying
bouquets in the barrels of their muskets and on the points of their
lances. This was the procession.
Whilst D'Artagnan and Porthos were looking on with critical glances,
which disguised an extreme impatience to get forward, a magnificent dais
approached preceded by a hundred Jesuits and a hundred Dominicans, and
escorted by two archdeacons, a treasurer, a penitent and twelve canons.
A singer with a thundering voice - a man certainly picked out from all
the voices of France, as was the drum-major of the imperial guard from
all the giants of the empire - escorted by four other chanters, who
appeared to be there only to serve him as an accompaniment, made the air
resound, and the windows of the houses vibrate. Under the dais appeared
a pale and noble countenance with black eyes, black hair streaked with
threads of white, a delicate, compressed mouth, a prominent and angular
chin. His head, full of graceful majesty, was covered with the episcopal
mitre, a headdress which gave it, in addition to the character of
sovereignty, that of asceticism and evangelic meditation.
"Aramis!" cried the musketeer, involuntarily, as this lofty countenance
passed before him. The prelate started at the sound of the voice. He
raised his large black eyes, with their long lashes, and turned them
without hesitation towards the spot whence the exclamation proceeded. At
a glance, he saw Porthos and D'Artagnan close to him. On his part,
D'Artagnan, thanks to the keenness of his sight, had seen all, seized
all. The full portrait of the prelate had entered his memory, never to
leave it. One thing had particularly struck D'Artagnan. On perceiving
him, Aramis had colored, then he had concentrated under his eyelids the
fire of the look of the master, and the indefinable affection of the
friend. It was evident that Aramis had asked himself this question: -
"Why is D'Artagnan with Porthos, and what does he want at Vannes?"
Aramis comprehended all that was passing in the mind of D'Artagnan, on
turning his look upon him again, and seeing that he had not lowered his
eyes. He knew the acuteness and intelligence of his friend; he feared to
let him divine the secret of his blush and his astonishment. He was
still the same Aramis, always having a secret to conceal. Therefore, to
put an end to his look of an inquisitor, which it was necessary to get
rid of at all events, as, at any price, a general extinguishes a battery
which annoys him, Aramis stretched forth his beautiful white hand, upon
which sparkled the amethyst of the pastoral ring; he cut the air with
sign of the cross, and poured out his benediction upon his two friends.
Perhaps thoughtful and absent, D'Artagnan, impious in spite of himself,
might not have bent beneath this holy benediction; but Porthos saw his
distraction, and laying his friendly hand upon the back of his companion,
he crushed him down towards the earth. D'Artagnan was forced to give
way; indeed, he was little short of being flat on the ground. In the
meantime Aramis had passed. D'Artagnan, like Antaeus, had only touched
the ground, and he turned towards Porthos, almost angry. But there was
no mistaking the intention of the brave Hercules; it was a feeling of
religious propriety that had influenced him. Besides, speech with
Porthos, instead of disguising his thought, always completed it.
"It is very polite of him," said he, "to have given his benediction to us
alone. Decidedly, he is a holy man, and a brave man." Less convinced
than Porthos, D'Artagnan made no reply.
"Observe my friend," continued Porthos, "he has seen us; and, instead of
continuing to walk on at the simple pace of the procession, as he did
just now, - see, what a hurry he is in; do you see how the _cortege_ is
increasing its speed? He is eager to join us and embrace us, is that
"That is true," replied D'Artagnan, aloud. - Then to himself: - "It is
equally true he has seen me, the fox, and will have time to prepare
himself to receive me."
But the procession had passed; the road was free. D'Artagnan and Porthos
walked straight up to the episcopal palace, which was surrounded by a
numerous crowd anxious to see the prelate return. D'Artagnan remarked
that this crowd was composed principally of citizens and military men.
He recognized in the nature of these partisans the address of his
friend. Aramis was not the man to seek for a useless popularity. He
cared very little for being beloved by people who could be of no service
to him. Women, children, and old men, that is to say, the _cortege_ of
ordinary pastors; was not the _cortege_ for him.
Ten minutes after the two friends had passed the threshold of the palace,
Aramis returned like a triumphant conqueror; the soldiers presented arms
to him as to a superior; the citizens bowed to him as to a friend and a
patron, rather than as a head of the Church. There was something in
Aramis resembling those Roman senators who had their doors always
surrounded by clients. At the foot of the steps, he had a conference of
half a minute with a Jesuit, who, in order to speak to him more secretly,
passed his head under the dais. He then re-entered his palace; the doors
closed slowly, and the crowd melted away, whilst chants and prayers were
still resounding abroad. It was a magnificent day. Earthly perfumes
were mingled with the perfumes of the air and the sea. The city breathed
happiness, joy, and strength. D'Artagnan felt something like the
presence of an invisible hand which had, all-powerfully, created this
strength, this joy, this happiness, and spread everywhere these perfumes.
"Oh! oh!" said he, "Porthos has got fat; but Aramis is grown taller."
The Grandeur of the Bishop of Vannes.
Porthos and D'Artagnan had entered the bishop's residence by a private
door, as his personal friends. Of course, Porthos served D'Artagnan as
guide. The worthy baron comported himself everywhere rather as if he
were at home. Nevertheless, whether it was a tacit acknowledgement of
the sanctity of the personage of Aramis and his character, or the habit
of respecting him who imposed upon him morally, a worthy habit which had
always made Porthos a model soldier and an excellent companion; for all
these reasons, say we, Porthos preserved in the palace of His Greatness
the Bishop of Vannes a sort of reserve which D'Artagnan remarked at once,
in the attitude he took with respect to the valets and officers. And yet
this reserve did not go so far as to prevent his asking questions.
Porthos questioned. They learned that His Greatness had just returned to
his apartment and was preparing to appear in familiar intimacy, less
majestic than he had appeared with his flock. After a quarter of an
hour, which D'Artagnan and Porthos passed in looking mutually at each
other with the white of their eyes, and turning their thumbs in all the
different evolutions which go from north to south, a door of the chamber
opened and His Greatness appeared, dressed in the undress, complete, of a
prelate. Aramis carried his head high, like a man accustomed to command:
his violet robe was tucked up on one side, and his white hand was on his
hip. He had retained the fine mustache, and the lengthened _royale_ of
the time of Louis XIII. He exhaled, on entering, that delicate perfume
which, among elegant men and women of high fashion, never changes, and
appears to be incorporated in the person, of whom it has become the
natural emanation. In this case only, the perfume had retained something
of the religious sublimity of incense. It no longer intoxicated, it
penetrated; it no longer inspired desire, it inspired respect. Aramis,
on entering the chamber, did not hesitate an instant; and without
pronouncing one word, which, whatever it might be, would have been cold
on such an occasion, he went straight up to the musketeer, so well
disguised under the costume of M. Agnan, and pressed him in his arms with
a tenderness which the most distrustful could not have suspected of
coldness or affectation.
D'Artagnan, on his part, embraced him with equal ardor. Porthos pressed
the delicate hand of Aramis in his immense hands, and D'Artagnan remarked
that His Greatness gave him his left hand, probably from habit, seeing
that Porthos already ten times had been near injuring his fingers covered
with rings, by pounding his flesh in the vise of his fist. Warned by the
pain, Aramis was cautious, and only presented flesh to be bruised, and
not fingers to be crushed, against the gold or the angles of diamonds.
Between two embraces, Aramis looked D'Artagnan in the face, offered him a
chair, sitting down himself in the shade, observing that the light fell
full upon the face of his interlocutor. This maneuver, familiar to
diplomatists and women, resembles much the advantage of the guard which,
according to their skill or habit, combatants endeavor to take on the
ground at a duel. D'Artagnan was not the dupe of this maneuver; but he
did not appear to perceive it. He felt himself caught; but, precisely
because he was caught he felt himself on the road to discovery, and it
little imported to him, old condottiere as he was, to be beaten in
appearance, provided he drew from his pretended defeat the advantages of
victory. Aramis began the conversation.
"Ah! dear friend! my good D'Artagnan," said he, "what an excellent
"It is a chance, my reverend companion," said D'Artagnan, "that I will
call friendship. I seek you, as I always have sought you, when I had any
grand enterprise to propose to you, or some hours of liberty to give you."
"Ah! indeed," said Aramis, without explosion, "you have been seeking me?"
"Eh! yes, he has been seeking you, Aramis," said Porthos, "and the proof
is that he has unharbored me at Belle-Isle. That is amiable, is it not?"
"Ah! yes," said Aramis, "at Belle-Isle! certainly!"
"Good!" said D'Artagnan; "there is my booby Porthos, without thinking of
it, has fired the first cannon of attack."
"At Belle-Isle!" said Aramis, "in that hole, in that desert! That is
"And it was I who told him you were at Vannes," continued Porthos, in the
D'Artagnan armed his mouth with a finesse almost ironical.
"Yes, I knew, but I was willing to see," replied he.
"To see what?"
"If our old friendship still held out; if, on seeing each other, our
hearts, hardened as they are by age, would still let the old cry of joy
escape, which salutes the coming of a friend."
"Well, and you must have been satisfied," said Aramis.
"How is that?"
"Yes, Porthos said hush! and you - "
"Well! and I?"
"And you gave me your benediction."
"What would you have, my friend?" said Aramis, smiling; "that is the most
precious thing that a poor prelate, like me, has to give."
"Indeed, my dear friend!"
"And yet they say at Paris that the bishopric of Vannes is one of the
best in France."
"Ah! you are now speaking of temporal wealth," said Aramis, with a
"To be sure, I wish to speak of that; I hold by it, on my part."
"In that case, let me speak of it," said Aramis, with a smile.
"You own yourself to be one of the richest prelates in France?"
"My friend, since you ask me to give you an account, I will tell you that
the bishopric of Vannes is worth about twenty thousand livres a year,
neither more nor less. It is a diocese which contains a hundred and
"That is very pretty," said D'Artagnan.
"It is superb!" said Porthos.
"And yet," resumed D'Artagnan, throwing his eyes over Aramis, "you don't
mean to bury yourself here forever?"
"Pardon me. Only I do not admit the word _bury_."
"But it seems to me, that at this distance from Paris a man is buried, or
"My friend, I am getting old," said Aramis; "the noise and bustle of a
city no longer suit me. At fifty-seven we ought to seek calm and
meditation. I have found them here. What is there more beautiful, and
stern at the same time, than this old Armorica. I find here, dear
D'Artagnan, all that is opposite to what I formerly loved, and that is
what must happen at the end of life, which is opposite to the beginning.
A little of my old pleasure of former times still comes to salute me
here, now and then, without diverting me from the road of salvation. I
am still of this world, and yet every step that I take brings me nearer
"Eloquent, wise and discreet; you are an accomplished prelate, Aramis,
and I offer you my congratulations."
"But," said Aramis smiling, "you did not come here only for the purpose
of paying me compliments. Speak; what brings you hither? May it be
that, in some fashion or other, you want me?"
"Thank God, no, my friend," said D'Artagnan, "it is nothing of that kind.
- I am rich and free."
"Rich!" exclaimed Aramis.
"Yes, rich for me; not for you or Porthos, understand. I have an income
of about fifteen thousand livres."
Aramis looked at him suspiciously. He could not believe - particularly
on seeing his friend in such humble guise - that he had made so fine a
fortune. Then D'Artagnan, seeing that the hour of explanations was come,
related the history of his English adventures. During the recital he
saw, ten times, the eyes of the prelate sparkle, and his slender fingers
work convulsively. As to Porthos, it was not admiration he manifested
for D'Artagnan; it was enthusiasm, it was delirium. When D'Artagnan had
finished, "Well!" said Aramis.
"Well!" said D'Artagnan, "you see, then, I have in England friends and
property, in France a treasure. If your heart tells you so, I offer them
to you. That is what I came here for."
However firm was his look, he could not this time support the look of
Aramis. He allowed, therefore, his eye to stray upon Porthos - like the
sword which yields to too powerful a pressure, and seeks another road.
"At all events," said the bishop, "you have assumed a singular traveling
costume, old friend."
"Frightful! I know it is. You may understand why I would not travel as
a cavalier or a noble; since I became rich, I am miserly."
"And you say, then, you came to Belle-Isle?" said Aramis, without
"Yes," replied D'Artagnan; "I knew I should find you and Porthos there."
"Find me!" cried Aramis. "Me! for the last year past I have not once
crossed the sea."
"Oh," said D'Artagnan, "I should never have supposed you such a
"Ah, dear friend, I must tell you that I am no longer the Aramis of
former times. Riding on horseback is unpleasant to me; the sea fatigues
me. I am a poor, ailing priest, always complaining, always grumbling,
and inclined to the austerities which appear to accord with old age, -
preliminary parleyings with death. I linger, my dear D'Artagnan, I
"Well, that is all the better, my friend, for we shall probably be
"Bah!" said Aramis with a degree of surprise he did not even seek to
dissemble. "You my neighbor!"
"I am about to purchase some very profitable salt-mines, which are
situated between Piriac and Le Croisic. Imagine, my dear friend, a clear
profit of twelve per cent. Never any deficiency, never any idle
expenses; the ocean, faithful and regular, brings every twelve hours its
contingency to my coffers. I am the first Parisian who has dreamt of
such a speculation. Do not say anything about it, I beg of you, and in
a short time we will communicate on the matter. I am to have three
leagues of country for thirty thousand livres."
Aramis darted a look at Porthos, as if to ask if all this were true, if
some snare were not concealed beneath this outward indifference. But
soon, as if ashamed of having consulted this poor auxiliary, he collected
all his forces for a fresh assault and new defense. "I heard that you
had had some difference with the court, but that you had come out of it
as you know how to get through everything, D'Artagnan, with the honors of
"I!" said the musketeer, with a burst of laughter that did not conceal
his embarrassment: for, from those words, Aramis was not unlikely to be
acquainted with his last relations with the king. "I! Oh, tell me all
about that, pray, Aramis?"
"Yes, it was related to me, a poor bishop, lost in the middle of the
_Landes_, that the king had taken you as the confidant of his amours."
"With Mademoiselle de Mancini."
D'Artagnan breathed freely again. "Ah! I don't say no to that," replied
"It appears that the king took you one morning, over the bridge of Blois
to talk with his lady-love."
"That's true," said D'Artagnan. "And you know that, do you? Well, then,
you must know that the same day I gave in my resignation!"
"Nothing more so."
"It was after that, then, that you went to the Comte de la Fere's?"
"Afterwards to me?"
"And then Porthos?"
"Was it in order to pay us a simple visit?"
"No, I did no know you were engaged, and I wished to take you with me
"Yes, I understand; and then you executed alone, wonderful man as you
are, what you wanted to propose to us all four. I suspected you had
something to do with that famous restoration, when I learned that you had
been seen at King Charles's receptions, and that he appeared to treat you
like a friend, or rather like a person to whom he was under an
"But how the devil did you learn all that?" asked D'Artagnan, who began
to fear that the investigation of Aramis had extended further than he
"Dear D'Artagnan," said the prelate, "my friendship resembles, in a
degree, the solicitude of that night watch whom we have in the little
tower of the mole, at the extremity of the quay. That brave man, every
night, lights a lantern to direct the barks that come from sea. He is
concealed in his sentry-box, and the fishermen do not see him; but he
follows them with interest; he divines them; he calls them; he attracts
them into the way to the port. I resemble this watcher; from time to
time some news reaches me, and recalls to my remembrance all those I
loved. Then I follow the friends of old days over the stormy ocean of
the world, I, a poor watcher, to whom God has kindly given the shelter of
"Well, what did I do when I came from England?"
"Ah! there," replied Aramis, "you get beyond my depth. I know nothing of
you since your return. D'Artagnan, my eyes are dim. I regretted you did
not think of me. I wept over your forgetfulness. I was wrong. I see
you again, and it is a festival, a great festival, I assure you,
solemnly! How is Athos?"
"Very well, thank you."
"And our young pupil, Raoul?"
"He seems to have inherited the skill of his father, Athos, and the
strength of his tutor, Porthos."
"And on what occasion have you been able to judge of that?"
"Eh! _mon Dieu!_ on the eve of my departure from Paris."
"Indeed! tell me all about it!"
"Yes; there was an execution at the Greve, and in consequence of that
execution, a riot. We happened, by accident, to be in the riot; and in
this riot we were obliged to have recourse to our swords. And he did
"Bah! what did he do?"
"Why, in the first place, he threw a man out of the window, as he would
have flung a sack full of flock."
"Come, that's pretty well," said Porthos.
"Then he drew, and cut and thrust away, as we fellows used to do in the
good old times."
"And what was the cause of this riot?" said Porthos.
D'Artagnan remarked upon the face of Aramis a complete indifference to
this question of Porthos. "Why," said he, fixing his eyes upon Aramis,
"on account of the two farmers of the revenue, friends of M. Fouquet,
whom the king forced to disgorge their plunder, and then hanged them."
A scarcely perceptible contraction of the prelate's brow showed that he
had heard D'Artagnan's reply. "Oh, oh!" said Porthos; "and what were the
names of these friends of M. Fouquet?"
"MM. d'Eymeris and Lyodot," said D'Artagnan. "Do you know these names,
"No," said the prelate, disdainfully; "they sound like the names of
"Exactly; so they were."
"Oh! M. Fouquet allows his friends to be hanged, then," said Porthos.
"And why not?" said Aramis.
"Why, it seems to me - "
"If these culprits were hanged, it was by order of the king. Now M.
Fouquet, although superintendent of the finances, has not, I believe, the
right of life and death."
"That may be," said Porthos; "but in the place of M. Fouquet - "
Aramis was afraid Porthos was about to say something awkward, so
interrupted him. "Come, D'Artagnan," said he; "this is quite enough
about other people, let us talk a little about you."
"Of me you know all that I can tell you. On the contrary let me hear a
little about you, Aramis."
"I have told you, my friend. There is nothing of Aramis left in me."
"Nor of the Abbe d'Herblay even?"
"No, not even of him. You see a man whom Providence has taken by the
hand, whom he has conducted to a position that he could never have dared
even to hope for."
"Providence?" asked D'Artagnan.
"Well, that is strange! I was told it was M. Fouquet."
"Who told you that?" cried Aramis, without being able, with all the power
of his will, to prevent the color rising to his cheeks.
"_Ma foi!_ why, Bazin!"
"I do not say he is a man of genius, it is true; but he told me so; and
after him, I repeat it to you."
"I have never even seen M. Fouquet," replied Aramis with a look as pure
and calm as that of a virgin who has never told a lie.
"Well, but if you had seen him and known him, there is no harm in that,"
replied D'Artagnan. "M. Fouquet is a very good sort of a man."
"A great politician." Aramis made a gesture of indifference.
"An all-powerful minister."
"I only hold to the king and the pope."
"_Dame!_ listen then," said D'Artagnan, in the most natural tone
imaginable. "I said that because everybody here swears by M. Fouquet.
The plain is M. Fouquet's; the salt-mines I am about to buy are M.
Fouquet's; the island in which Porthos studies topography is M.
Fouquet's; the garrison is M. Fouquet's; the galleys are M. Fouquet's. I
confess, then, that nothing would have surprised me in your enfeoffment,
or rather in that of your diocese, to M. Fouquet. He is a different
master from the king, that is all; but quite as powerful as Louis."
"Thank God! I am not vassal to anybody; I belong to nobody, and am
entirely my own master," replied Aramis, who, during this conversation,
followed with his eye every gesture of D'Artagnan, every glance of
Porthos. But D'Artagnan was impassible and Porthos motionless; the
thrusts aimed so skillfully were parried by an able adversary; not one
hit the mark. Nevertheless, both began to feel the fatigue of such a
contest, and the announcement of supper was well received by everybody.
Supper changed the course of conversation. Besides, they felt that, upon
their guard as each one had been, they could neither of them boast of
having the advantage. Porthos had understood nothing of what had been
meant. He had held himself motionless, because Aramis had made him a
sign not to stir. Supper, for him, was nothing but supper; but that was
quite enough for Porthos. The supper, then, went off very well.
D'Artagnan was in high spirits. Aramis exceeded himself in kind
affability. Porthos ate like old Pelops. Their talk was of war,
finance, the arts, and love. Aramis played astonishment at every word of
politics D'Artagnan risked. This long series of surprises increased the
mistrust of D'Artagnan, as the eternal indifference of D'Artagnan
provoked the suspicions of Aramis. At length D'Artagnan, designedly,
uttered the name of Colbert: he had reserved that stroke for the last.
"Who is this Colbert?" asked the bishop.
"Oh! come," said D'Artagnan to himself, "that is too strong! We must be
careful, _mordioux!_ we must be careful."
And he then gave Aramis all the information respecting M. Colbert he
could desire. The supper, or rather, the conversation, was prolonged
till one o'clock in the morning between D'Artagnan and Aramis. At ten
o'clock precisely, Porthos had fallen asleep in his chair and snored like
an organ. At midnight he woke up and they sent him to bed. "Hum!" said
he, "I was near falling asleep; but that was all very interesting you
were talking about."
At one o'clock Aramis conducted D'Artagnan to the chamber destined for
him, which was the best in the episcopal residence. Two servants were
placed at his command. "To-morrow, at eight o'clock," said he, taking
leave of D'Artagnan, "we will take, if agreeable to you, a ride on
horseback with Porthos."
"At eight o'clock!" said D'Artagnan; "so late?"
"You know that I require seven hours' sleep," said Aramis.
"That is true."
"Good-night, dear friend!" And he embraced the musketeer cordially.
D'Artagnan allowed him to depart; then, as soon as the door closed,
"Good!" cried he, "at five o'clock I will be on foot."
This determination being made, he went to bed and quietly, "put two and
two together," as people say.
In which Porthos begins to be sorry for having come with D'Artagnan.
Scarcely had D'Artagnan extinguished his taper, when Aramis, who had
watched through his curtains the last glimmer of light in his friend's
apartment, traversed the corridor on tiptoe, and went to Porthos's room.
The giant who had been in bed nearly an hour and a half, lay grandly
stretched out on the down bed. He was in that happy calm of the first
sleep, which, with Porthos, resisted the noise of bells or the report of
cannon: his head swam in that soft oscillation which reminds us of the
soothing movement of a ship. In a moment Porthos would have begun to
dream. The door of the chamber opened softly under the delicate pressure
of the hand of Aramis. The bishop approached the sleeper. A thick
carpet deadened his steps, besides which Porthos snored in a manner to
drown all noise. He laid one hand on his shoulder - "Rouse," said he,
"wake up, my dear Porthos." The voice of Aramis was soft and kind, but
it conveyed more than a notice, - it conveyed an order. His hand was
light, but it indicated danger. Porthos heard the voice and felt the
hand of Aramis, even in the depth of sleep. He started up. "Who goes
there?" cried he, in his giant's voice.
"Hush! hush! It is I," said Aramis.
"You, my friend? And what the devil do you wake me for?"
"To tell you that you must set off directly."
Porthos bounded up in his bed, and then sank back down again, fixing his
great eyes in agitation upon Aramis.
"A hundred leagues?" said he.
"A hundred and four," replied the bishop.
"Oh! _mon Dieu!_" sighed Porthos, lying down again, like children who
contend with their _bonne_ to gain an hour or two more sleep.
"Thirty hours' riding," said Aramis, firmly. "You know there are good
Porthos pushed out one leg, allowing a groan to escape him.
"Come, come! my friend," insisted the prelate with a sort of impatience.
Porthos drew the other leg out of the bed. "And is it absolutely
necessary that I should go, at once?"
Porthos got upon his feet, and began to shake both walls and floors with
his steps of a marble statue.
"Hush! hush! for the love of Heaven, my dear Porthos!" said Aramis, "you
will wake somebody."
"Ah! that's true," replied Porthos, in a voice of thunder, "I forgot
that; but be satisfied, I am on guard." And so saying, he let fall a
belt loaded with his sword and pistols, and a purse, from which the
crowns escaped with a vibrating and prolonged noise. This noise made the
blood of Aramis boil, whilst it drew from Porthos a formidable burst of
laughter. "How droll that is!" said he, in the same voice.
"Not so loud, Porthos, not so loud."
"True, true!" and he lowered his voice a half-note.
"I was going to say," continued Porthos, "that it is droll that we are
never so slow as when we are in a hurry, and never make so much noise as
when we wish to be silent."
"Yes, that is true; but let us give the proverb the lie, Porthos; let us
make haste, and hold our tongue."
"You see I am doing my best," said Porthos, putting on his _haut de
"This is something in haste?"
"It is more than that, it is serious, Porthos."
"D'Artagnan has questioned you, has he not?"
"Yes, at Belle-Isle?"
"Not the least in the world."
"Are you sure of that, Porthos?"
"It is impossible. Recollect yourself."
"He asked me what I was doing, and I told him - studying topography. I
would have made use of another word which you employed one day."
"Yes, that's it; but I never could recollect it."
"All the better. What more did he ask you?"
"Who M. Getard was."
"Who M. Jupenet was."
"He did not happen to see our plan of fortifications, did he?"
"The devil he did!"
"But don't be alarmed, I had rubbed out your writing with India-rubber.
It was impossible for him to suppose you had given me any advice in those
"Ay; but our friend has phenomenally keen eyes."
"What are you afraid of?"
"I fear that everything is discovered, Porthos; the matter is, then, to
prevent a great misfortune. I have given orders to my people to close
all the gates and doors. D'Artagnan will not be able to get out before
daybreak. Your horse is ready saddled; you will gain the first relay; by
five o'clock in the morning you will have traversed fifteen leagues.
Aramis then assisted Porthos to dress, piece by piece, with as much
celerity as the most skillful _valet de chambre_ could have done.
Porthos, half stupefied, let him do as he liked, and confounded himself
in excuses. When he was ready, Aramis took him by the hand, and led him,
making him place his foot with precaution on every step of the stairs,
preventing him running against door-frames, turning him this way and
that, as if Aramis had been the giant and Porthos the dwarf. Soul set
fire to and animated matter. A horse was waiting, ready saddled, in the
courtyard. Porthos mounted. Then Aramis himself took the horse by the
bridle, and led him over some dung spread in the yard, with the evident
intention of suppressing noise. He, at the same time, held tight the
horse's nose, to prevent him neighing. When arrived at the outward gate,
drawing Porthos towards him, who was going off without even asking him
what for: "Now, friend Porthos, now; without drawing bridle, till you get
to Paris," whispered he in his ears; "eat on horseback, drink on
horseback, but lose not a minute."
"That's enough; I will not stop."
"This letter to M. Fouquet; cost what it may, he must have it to-morrow
"And do not forget _one_ thing, my friend."
"What is that?"
"That you are riding out on a hunt for your _brevet_ of _duc_ and peer."
"Oh! oh!" said Porthos, with his eyes sparkling; "I will do it in twenty-
four hours, in that case."
"Then let go the bridle - and forward, Goliath!"
Aramis did let go, not the bridle, but the horse's nose. Porthos
released his hand, clapped spurs to his horse, which set off at a
gallop. As long as he could distinguish Porthos through the darkness,
Aramis followed him with his eyes: when he was completely out of sight,
he re-entered the yard. Nothing had stirred in D'Artagnan's apartment.
The _valet_ placed on watch at the door had neither seen any light, nor
heard any noise. Aramis closed his door carefully, sent the lackey to
bed, and quickly sought his own. D'Artagnan really suspected nothing,
therefore thought he had gained everything, when he awoke in the morning,
about half-past four. He ran to the window in his shirt. The window
looked out upon the court. Day was dawning. The court was deserted; the
fowls, even, had not left their roosts. Not a servant appeared. Every
door was closed.
"Good! all is still," said D'Artagnan to himself. "Never mind: I am up
first in the house. Let us dress; that will be so much done." And
D'Artagnan dressed himself. But, this time, he endeavored not to give to
the costume of M. Agnan that _bourgeoise_ and almost ecclesiastical
rigidity he had affected before; he managed, by drawing his belt tighter,
by buttoning his clothes in a different fashion, and by putting on his
hat a little on one side, to restore to his person a little of that
military character, the absence of which had surprised Aramis. This
being done, he made free, or affected to make free with his host, and
entered his chamber without ceremony. Aramis was asleep or feigned to be
so. A large book lay open upon his night-desk, a wax-light was still
burning in its silver sconce. This was more than enough to prove to
D'Artagnan the quiescence of the prelate's night, and the good intentions
of his waking. The musketeer did to the bishop precisely as the bishop
had done to Porthos - he tapped him on the shoulder. Evidently Aramis
pretended to sleep; for, instead of waking suddenly, he who slept so
lightly required a repetition of the summons.
"Ah! ah! is that you?" said he, stretching his arms. "What an agreeable
surprise! _Ma foi!_ Sleep had made me forget I had the happiness to
possess you. What o'clock is it?"
"I do not know," said D'Artagnan, a little embarrassed. "Early, I
believe. But, you know, that devil of a habit of waking with the day,
sticks to me still."
"Do you wish that we should go out so soon?" asked Aramis. "It appears
to me to be very early."
"Just as you like."
"I thought we had agreed not to get on horseback before eight."
"Possibly; but I had so great a wish to see you, that I said to myself,
the sooner the better."
"And my seven hours' sleep!" said Aramis: "Take care; I had reckoned upon
them, and what I lose of them I must make up."
"But it seems to me that, formerly, you were less of a sleeper than that,
dear friend; your blood was alive, and you were never to be found in bed."
"And it is exactly on account of what you tell me, that I am so fond of
being there now."
"Then you confess, that it is not for the sake of sleeping, that you have
put me off till eight o'clock."
"I have been afraid you would laugh at me, if I told you the truth."
"Tell me, notwithstanding."
"Well, from six to eight, I am accustomed to perform my devotions."
"I did not believe a bishop's exercises were so severe."
"A bishop, my friend, must sacrifice more to appearance than a simple
"_Mordioux!_ Aramis, that is a word which reconciles me with your
greatness. To appearances! That is a musketeer's word, in good truth!
_Vivent les apparences_, Aramis!"
"Instead of felicitating me upon it, pardon me, D'Artagnan. It is a very
mundane word which I had allowed to escape me."
"Must I leave you, then?"
"I want time to collect my thoughts, my friend, and for my usual prayers."
"Well, I leave you to them; but on account of that poor pagan,
D'Artagnan, abridge them for once, I beg; I thirst for speech with you."
"Well, D'Artagnan, I promise you that within an hour and a half - "
"An hour and a half of devotions! Ah! my friend, be as reasonable with
me as you can. Let me have the best bargain possible."
Aramis began to laugh.
"Still agreeable, still young, still gay," said he. "You have come into
my diocese to set me quarreling with grace."
"And you know well that I was never able to resist your seductions; you
will cost me my salvation, D'Artagnan."
D'Artagnan bit his lips.
"Well," said he, "I will take the sin on my own head, favor me with one
simple Christian sign of the cross, favor me with one prayer, and we will
"Hush!" said Aramis, "we are already no longer alone, I hear strangers
"Well, dismiss them."
"Impossible; I made an appointment with them yesterday; it is the
principal of the college of the Jesuits, and the superior of the
"Your staff? Well, so be it."
"What are you going to do?"
"I will go and wake Porthos, and remain in his company till you have
finished the conference."
Aramis did not stir, his brow remained unbent, he betrayed himself by no
gesture or word; "Go," said he, as D'Artagnan advanced to the door. "_A
propos_, do you know where Porthos sleeps?"
"No, but I will inquire."
"Take the corridor, and open the second door on the left."
"Thank you! _au revoir_." And D'Artagnan departed in the direction
pointed out by Aramis.
Ten minutes had not passed away when he came back. He found Aramis
seated between the superior of the Dominicans and the principal of the
college of the Jesuits, exactly in the same situation as he had found him
formerly in the auberge at Crevecœur. This company did not at all
terrify the musketeer.
"What is it?" said Aramis, quietly. "You have apparently something to
say to me, my friend."
"It is," replied D'Artagnan, fixing his eyes upon Aramis, "it is that
Porthos is not in his apartment."
"Indeed," said Aramis calmly; "are you sure?"
"_Pardieu!_ I came from his chamber."
"Where can he be, then?"
"That is what I am asking _you_."
"And have you not inquired?"
"Yes, I have."
"And what answer did you get?"
"That Porthos, often walking out in a morning, without saying anything,
had probably gone out."
"What did you do, then?"
"I went to the stables," replied D'Artagnan, carelessly.
"What to do?"
"To see if Porthos had departed on horseback."
"And?" interrogated the bishop.
"Well, there is a horse missing, stall No. 3, Goliath."
All this dialogue, it may be easily understood, was not exempt from a
certain affectation on the part of the musketeer, and a perfect
complaisance on the part of Aramis.
"Oh! I guess how it is," said Aramis, after having considered for a
moment, "Porthos is gone out to give us a surprise."
"Yes; the canal which goes from Vannes to the sea abounds in teal and
snipes; that is Porthos's favorite sport, and he will bring us back a
dozen for breakfast."
"Do you think so?" said D'Artagnan.
"I am sure of it. Where else can he be? I would lay a wager he took a
gun with him."
"Well, that is possible," said D'Artagnan.
"Do one thing, my friend. Get on horseback, and join him."
"You are right," said D'Artagnan, "I will."
"Shall I go with you?"
"No, thank you; Porthos is a rather remarkable man: I will inquire as I
"Will you take an arquebus?"
"Order what horse you like to be saddled."
"The one I rode yesterday, on coming from Belle-Isle."
"So be it: use the horse as your own."
Aramis rang, and gave orders to have the horse M. d'Artagnan had chosen
D'Artagnan followed the servant charged with the execution of this
order. When arrived at the door, the servant drew on one side to allow
M. d'Artagnan to pass; and at that moment he caught the eye of his
master. A knitting of the brow gave the intelligent spy to understand
that all should be given to D'Artagnan he wished. D'Artagnan got into
the saddle, and Aramis heard the steps of his horse on the pavement. An
instant after, the servant returned.
"Well?" asked the bishop.
"Monseigneur, he has followed the course of the canal, and is going
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