The Vicomte de Bragelonne
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 4 out of 13
of Porthos, situated on the shores of a small lake, and contiguous to a
magnificent forest. It was the same place we have already had the honor
of describing to our readers; we shall therefore satisfy ourselves with
naming it. The first thing D'Artagnan perceived after the fine trees,
the May sun gilding the sides of the green hills, the long rows of
feather-topped trees which stretched out towards Compiegne, was a large
rolling box, pushed forward by two servants and dragged by two others.
In this box there was an enormous green-and-gold thing, which went along
the smiling glades of the park, thus dragged and pushed. This thing, at
a distance, could not be distinguished, and signified absolutely nothing;
nearer, it was a hogshead muffled in gold-bound green cloth; when close,
it was a man, or rather a _poussa_, the inferior extremity of whom,
spreading over the interior of the box, entirely filled it; when still
closer, the man was Mousqueton - Mousqueton, with gray hair and a face as
red as Punchinello's.
"_Pardieu!_" cried D'Artagnan; "why, that's my dear Monsieur Mousqueton!"
"Ah!" cried the fat man - "ah! what happiness! what joy! There's M.
d'Artagnan. Stop, you rascals!" These last words were addressed to the
lackeys who pushed and dragged him. The box stopped, and the four
lackeys, with a precision quite military, took off their laced hats and
ranged themselves behind it.
"Oh, Monsieur d'Artagnan!" said Mousqueton, "why can I not embrace your
knees? But I have become impotent, as you see."
"_Dame!_ my dear Mousqueton, it is age."
"No, monsieur, it is not age; it is infirmities - troubles."
"Troubles! you, Mousqueton?" said D'Artagnan, making the tour of the box;
"are you out of your mind, my dear friend? Thank God! you are as hearty
as a three-hundred-year-old oak."
"Ah! but my legs, monsieur, my legs!" groaned the faithful servant.
"What's the matter with your legs?"
"Oh, they will no longer bear me!"
"Ah, the ungrateful things! And yet you feed them well, Mousqueton,
"Alas, yes! They can reproach me with nothing in that respect," said
Mousqueton, with a sigh; "I have always done what I could for my poor
body; I am not selfish." And Mousqueton sighed afresh.
"I wonder whether Mousqueton wants to be a baron, too, as he sighs after
that fashion?" thought D'Artagnan.
"_Mon Dieu_, monsieur!" said Mousqueton, as if rousing himself from a
painful reverie; "how happy monseigneur will be that you have thought of
"Kind Porthos!" cried D'Artagnan, "I am anxious to embrace him."
"Oh!" said Mousqueton, much affected, "I shall certainly write to him."
"What!" cried D'Artagnan, "you will write to him?"
"This very day; I shall not delay it an hour."
"Is he not here, then?"
"But is he near at hand? - is he far off?"
"Oh, can I tell, monsieur, can I tell?"
"_Mordioux!_" cried the musketeer, stamping with his foot, "I am
unfortunate. Porthos is such a stay-at-home!"
"Monsieur, there is not a more sedentary man that monseigneur, but - "
"When a friend presses you - "
"Doubtless - the worthy M. d'Herblay."
"What, has Aramis pressed Porthos?"
"This is how the thing happened, Monsieur d'Artagnan. M. d'Herblay wrote
to monseigneur - "
"A letter, monsieur, such a pressing letter that it threw us all into a
"Tell me all about it, my dear friend," said D'Artagnan; "but remove
these people a little further off first."
Mousqueton shouted, "Fall back, you fellows," with such powerful lungs
that the breath, without the words, would have been sufficient to
disperse the four lackeys. D'Artagnan seated himself on the shaft of the
box and opened his ears. "Monsieur," said Mousqueton, "monseigneur,
then, received a letter from M. le Vicaire-General d'Herblay, eight or
nine days ago; it was the day of the rustic pleasures, yes, it must have
"What do you mean?" said D'Artagnan. "The day of rustic pleasures?"
"Yes, monsieur; we have so many pleasures to take in this delightful
country, that we were encumbered by them; so much so, that we have been
forced to regulate the distribution of them."
"How easily do I recognize Porthos's love of order in that! Now, that
idea would never have occurred to me; but then I am not encumbered with
"We were, though," said Mousqueton.
"And how did you regulate the matter, let me know?" said D'Artagnan.
"It is rather long, monsieur."
"Never mind, we have plenty of time; and you speak so well, my dear
Mousqueton, that it is really a pleasure to hear you."
"It is true," said Mousqueton, with a sigh of satisfaction, which
emanated evidently from the justice which had been rendered him, "it is
true I have made great progress in the company of monseigneur."
"I am waiting for the distribution of the pleasures, Mousqueton, and with
impatience. I want to know if I have arrived on a lucky day."
"Oh, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Mousqueton in a melancholy tone, "since
monseigneur's departure all the pleasures have gone too!"
"Well, my dear Mousqueton, refresh your memory."
"With what day shall I begin?"
"Eh, _pardieux!_ begin with Sunday; that is the Lord's day."
"Sunday pleasures are religious: monseigneur goes to mass, makes the
bread-offering, and has discourses and instructions made to him by his
almoner-in-ordinary. That is not very amusing, but we expect a Carmelite
from Paris who will do the duty of our almonry, and who, we are assured,
speaks very well, which will keep us awake, whereas our present almoner
always sends us to sleep. These are Sunday religious pleasures. On
Monday, worldly pleasures."
"Ah, ah!" said D'Artagnan, "what do you mean by that? Let us have a
glimpse at your worldly pleasures."
"Monsieur, on Monday we go into the world; we pay and receive visits, we
play on the lute, we dance, we make verses, and burn a little incense in
honor of the ladies."
"_Peste!_ that is the height of gallantry," said the musketeer, who was
obliged to call to his aid all the strength of his facial muscles to
suppress an enormous inclination to laugh.
"Tuesday, learned pleasures."
"Good!" cried D'Artagnan. "What are they? Detail them, my dear
"Monseigneur has bought a sphere or globe, which I shall show you; it
fills all the perimeter of the great tower, except a gallery which he has
had built over the sphere: there are little strings and brass wires to
which the sun and moon are hooked. It all turns; and that is very
beautiful. Monseigneur points out to me the seas and distant countries.
We don't intend to visit them, but it is very interesting."
"Interesting! yes, that's the word," repeated D'Artagnan. "And
"Rustic pleasures, as I have had the honor to tell you, monsieur le
chevalier. We look over monseigneur's sheep and goats; we make the
shepherds dance to pipes and reeds, as is written in a book monseigneur
has in his library, which is called 'Bergeries.' The author died about a
"Monsieur Racan, perhaps," said D'Artagnan.
"Yes, that was his name - M. Racan. But that is not all: we angle in the
little canal, after which we dine, crowned with flowers. That is
"_Peste!_" said D'Artagnan; "you don't divide your pleasures badly. And
Thursday? - what can be left for poor Thursday?"
"It is not very unfortunate, monsieur," said Mousqueton, smiling.
"Thursday, Olympian pleasures. Ah, monsieur, that is superb! We get
together all monseigneur's young vassals, and we make them throw the
disc, wrestle, and run races. Monseigneur can't run now, no more can I;
but monseigneur throws the disc as nobody else can throw it. And when he
does deal a blow, oh, that proves a misfortune!"
"Yes, monsieur, we were obliged to renounce the cestus. He cracked
heads; he broke jaws - beat in ribs. It was charming sport; but nobody
was willing to play with him."
"Then his wrist - "
"Oh, monsieur, firmer than ever. Monseigneur gets a trifle weaker in his
legs, - he confesses that himself; but his strength has all taken refuge
in his arms, so that - "
"So that he can knock down bullocks, as he used to formerly."
"Monsieur, better than that - he beats in walls. Lately, after having
supped with one of our farmers - you know how popular and kind
monseigneur is - after supper, as a joke, he struck the wall a blow. The
wall crumbled away beneath his hand, the roof fell in, and three men and
an old woman were stifled."
"Good God, Mousqueton! And your master?"
"Oh, monseigneur, a little skin was rubbed off his head. We bathed the
wounds with some water which the monks gave us. But there was nothing
the matter with his hand."
"No, nothing, monsieur."
"Deuce take the Olympic pleasures! They must cost your master too dear;
for widows and orphans - "
"They all had pensions, monsieur; a tenth of monseigneur's revenue was
spent in that way."
"Then pass on to Friday," said D'Artagnan.
"Friday, noble and warlike pleasures. We hunt, we fence, we dress
falcons and break horses. Then, Saturday is the day for intellectual
pleasures: we adorn our minds; we look at monseigneur's pictures and
statues; we write, even, and trace plans: and then we fire monseigneur's
"You draw plans, and fire cannon?"
"Why, my friend," said D'Artagnan, "M. du Vallon, in truth, possesses the
most subtle and amiable mind that I know. But there is one kind of
pleasure you have forgotten, it appears to me."
"What is that, monsieur?" asked Mousqueton, with anxiety.
"The material pleasures."
Mousqueton colored. "What do you mean by that, monsieur?" said he,
casting down his eyes.
"I mean the table - good wine - evenings occupied in passing the bottle."
"Ah, monsieur, we don't reckon those pleasures, - we practice them every
"My brave Mousqueton," resumed D'Artagnan, "pardon me, but I was so
absorbed in your charming recital that I have forgotten the principal
object of our conversation, which was to learn what M. le Vicaire-General
d'Herblay could have to write to your master about."
"That is true, monsieur," said Mousqueton; "the pleasures have misled
us. Well, monsieur, this is the whole affair."
"I am all attention, Mousqueton."
"On Wednesday - "
"The day of the rustic pleasures?"
"Yes - a letter arrived; he received it from my hands. I had recognized
"Monseigneur read it and cried out, "Quick, my horses! my arms!'"
"Oh, good Lord! then it was for some duel?" said D'Artagnan.
"No, monsieur, there were only these words: 'Dear Porthos, set out, if
you would wish to arrive before the Equinox. I expect you.'"
"_Mordioux!_" said D'Artagnan, thoughtfully, "that was pressing,
"I think so; therefore," continued Mousqueton, "monseigneur set out the
very same day with his secretary, in order to endeavor to arrive in time."
"And did he arrive in time?"
"I hope so. Monseigneur, who is hasty, as you know, monsieur, repeated
incessantly, '_Tonne Dieu!_ What can this mean? The Equinox? Never
mind, a fellow must be well mounted to arrive before I do.'"
"And you think Porthos will have arrived first, do you?" asked D'Artagnan.
"I am sure of it. This Equinox, however rich he may be, has certainly no
horses so good as monseigneur's."
D'Artagnan repressed his inclination to laugh, because the brevity of
Aramis's letter gave rise to reflection. He followed Mousqueton, or
rather Mousqueton's chariot, to the castle. He sat down to a sumptuous
table, of which they did him the honors as to a king. But he could draw
nothing from Mousqueton, - the faithful servant seemed to shed tears at
will, but that was all.
D'Artagnan, after a night passed in an excellent bed, reflected much upon
the meaning of Aramis's letter; puzzled himself as to the relation of the
Equinox with the affairs of Porthos; and being unable to make anything
out unless it concerned some amour of the bishop's, for which it was
necessary that the days and nights should be equal, D'Artagnan left
Pierrefonds as he had left Melun, as he had left the chateau of the Comte
de la Fere. It was not, however, without a melancholy, which might in
good sooth pass for one of the most dismal of D'Artagnan's moods. His
head cast down, his eyes fixed, he suffered his legs to hang on each side
of his horse, and said to himself, in that vague sort of reverie which
ascends sometimes to the sublimest eloquence:
"No more friends! no more future! no more anything! My energies are
broken like the bonds of our ancient friendship. Oh, old age is coming,
cold and inexorable; it envelopes in its funeral crepe all that was
brilliant, all that was embalming in my youth; then it throws that sweet
burthen on its shoulders and carries it away with the rest into the
fathomless gulf of death."
A shudder crept through the heart of the Gascon, so brave and so strong
against all the misfortunes of life; and during some moments the clouds
appeared black to him, the earth slippery and full of pits as that of
"Whither am I going?" said he to himself. "What am I going to do!
Alone, quite alone - without family, without friends! Bah!" cried he all
at once. And he clapped spurs to his horse, who, having found nothing
melancholy in the heavy oats of Pierrefonds, profited by this permission
to show his gayety in a gallop which absorbed two leagues. "To Paris!"
said D'Artagnan to himself. And on the morrow he alighted in Paris. He
had devoted ten days to this journey.
What D'Artagnan went to Paris for.
The lieutenant dismounted before a shop in the Rue des Lombards, at the
sign of the Pilon d'Or. A man of good appearance, wearing a white apron,
and stroking his gray mustache with a large hand, uttered a cry of joy on
perceiving the pied horse. "Monsieur le chevalier," said he, "ah, is
"_Bon jour_, Planchet," replied D'Artagnan, stooping to enter the shop.
"Quick, somebody," cried Planchet, "to look after Monsieur d'Artagnan's
horse, - somebody to get ready his room, - somebody to prepare his
"Thanks, Planchet. Good-day, my children!" said D'Artagnan to the eager
"Allow me to send off this coffee, this treacle, and these raisins,"
said Planchet; "they are for the store-room of monsieur le surintendant."
"Send them off, send them off!"
"That is only the affair of a moment, then we shall sup."
"Arrange it that we may sup alone; I want to speak to you."
Planchet looked at his old master in a significant manner.
"Oh, don't be uneasy, it is nothing unpleasant," said D'Artagnan.
"So much the better - so much the better!" And Planchet breathed freely
again, whilst D'Artagnan seated himself quietly down in the shop, upon a
bale of corks, and made a survey of the premises. The shop was well
stocked; there was a mingled perfume of ginger, cinnamon, and ground
pepper, which made D'Artagnan sneeze. The shop-boy, proud of being in
company with so renowned a warrior, of a lieutenant of musketeers, who
approached the person of the king, began to work with an enthusiasm which
was something like delirium, and to serve the customers with a disdainful
haste that was noticed by several.
Planchet put away his money, and made up his accounts, amidst civilities
addressed to his former master. Planchet had with his equals the short
speech and haughty familiarity of the rich shopkeeper who serves
everybody and waits for nobody. D'Artagnan observed this habit with a
pleasure which we shall analyze presently. He saw night come on by
degrees, and at length Planchet conducted him to a chamber on the first
story, where, amidst bales and chests, a table very nicely set out
awaited the two guests.
D'Artagnan took advantage of a moment's pause to examine the countenance
of Planchet, whom he had not seen for a year. The shrewd Planchet had
acquired a slight protuberance in front, but his countenance was not
puffed. His keen eye still played with facility in its deep-sunk orbit;
and fat, which levels all the characteristic saliences of the human face,
had not yet touched either his high cheek-bones, the sign of cunning and
cupidity, or his pointed chin, the sign of acuteness and perseverance.
Planchet reigned with as much majesty in his dining-room as in his shop.
He set before his master a frugal, but perfectly Parisian repast: roast
meat, cooked at the baker's, with vegetables, salad, and a dessert
borrowed from the shop itself. D'Artagnan was pleased that the grocer
had drawn from behind the fagots a bottle of that Anjou wine which during
all his life had been D'Artagnan's favorite wine.
"Formerly, monsieur," said Planchet, with a smile full of _bonhomie_, "it
was I who drank your wine; now you do me the honor to drink mine."
"And, thank God, friend Planchet, I shall drink it for a long time to
come, I hope; for at present I am free."
"Free? You have a leave of absence, monsieur?"
"You are leaving the service?" said Planchet, stupefied.
"Yes, I am resting."
"And the king?" cried Planchet, who could not suppose it possible that
the king could do without the services of such a man as D'Artagnan.
"The king will try his fortune elsewhere. But we have supped well, you
are disposed to enjoy yourself; you invite me to confide in you. Open
your ears, then."
"They are open." And Planchet, with a laugh more frank than cunning,
opened a bottle of white wine.
"Leave me my reason, at least."
"Oh, as to you losing your head - you, monsieur!"
"Now my head is my own, and I mean to take better care of it than ever.
In the first place we shall talk business. How fares our money-box?"
"Wonderfully well, monsieur. The twenty thousand livres I had of you are
still employed in my trade, in which they bring me nine per cent. I give
you seven, so I gain two by you."
"And you are still satisfied?"
"Delighted. Have you brought me any more?"
"Better than that. But do you want any?"
"Oh! not at all. Every one is willing to trust me now. I am extending
"That was your intention."
"I play the banker a little. I buy goods of my needy brethren; I lend
money to those who are not ready for their payments."
"Oh! monsieur, in the course of the last week I have had two meetings on
the boulevards, on account of the word you have just pronounced."
"You shall see: it concerned a loan. The borrower gives me in pledge
some raw sugars, on condition that I should sell if repayment were not
made within a fixed period. I lend a thousand livres. He does not pay
me, and I sell the sugars for thirteen hundred livres. He learns this
and claims a hundred crowns. _Ma foi!_ I refused, pretending that I
could not sell them for more than nine hundred livres. He accused me of
usury. I begged him to repeat that word to me behind the boulevards. He
was an old guard, and he came: and I passed your sword through his left
"_Tu dieu!_ what a pretty sort of banker you make!" said D'Artagnan.
"For above thirteen per cent I fight," replied Planchet; "that is my
"Take only twelve," said D'Artagnan, "and call the rest premium and
"You are right, monsieur; but to your business."
"Ah! Planchet, it is very long and very hard to speak."
"Do speak it, nevertheless."
D'Artagnan twisted his mustache like a man embarrassed with the
confidence he is about to make and mistrustful of his confidant.
"Is it an investment?" asked Planchet.
"At good profit?"
"A capital profit, - four hundred per cent, Planchet."
Planchet gave such a blow with his fist upon the table, that the bottles
bounded as if they had been frightened.
"Good heavens! is that possible?"
"I think it will be more," replied D'Artagnan coolly; "but I like to lay
it at the lowest!"
"The devil!" said Planchet, drawing nearer. "Why, monsieur, that is
magnificent! Can one put much money in it?"
"Twenty thousand livres each, Planchet."
"Why, that is all you have, monsieur. For how long a time?"
"For a month."
"And that will give us - "
"Fifty thousand livres each, profit."
"It is monstrous! It is worth while to fight for such interest as that!"
"In fact, I believe it will be necessary to fight not a little," said
D'Artagnan, with the same tranquillity; "but this time there are two of
us, Planchet, and I shall take all the blows to myself."
"Oh! monsieur, I will not allow that."
"Planchet, you cannot be concerned in it; you would be obliged to leave
your business and your family."
"The affair is not in Paris, then."
"A speculative country, that is true," said Planchet, - "a country that I
know well. What sort of an affair, monsieur, without too much curiosity?"
"Planchet, it is a restoration."
"Yes, of monuments; we shall restore Whitehall."
"That is important. And in a month, you think?"
"I shall undertake it."
"That concerns you, monsieur, and when once you are engaged - "
"Yes, that concerns me. I know what I am about; nevertheless, I will
freely consult with you."
"You do me great honor; but I know very little about architecture."
"Planchet, you are wrong; you are an excellent architect, quite as good
as I am, for the case in question."
"Thanks, monsieur. But your old friends of the musketeers?"
"I have been, I confess, tempted to speak of the thing to those
gentlemen, but they are all absent from their houses. It is vexatious,
for I know none more bold or able."
"Ah! then it appears there will be an opposition, and the enterprise will
"Oh, yes, Planchet, yes."
"I burn to know the details, monsieur."
"Here they are, Planchet - close all the doors tight."
"Yes, monsieur." And Planchet double-locked them.
"That is well; now draw near." Planchet obeyed.
"And open the window, because the noise of the passers-by and the carts
will deafen all who might hear us." Planchet opened the window as
desired, and the gust of tumult which filled the chamber with cries,
wheels, barkings, and steps deafened D'Artagnan himself, as he had
wished. He then swallowed a glass of white wine, and began in these
terms: "Planchet, I have an idea."
"Ah! monsieur, I recognize you so well in that!" replied Planchet,
panting with emotion.
Of the Society which was formed in the Rue des Lombards, at the Sign of
the Pilon d'Or, to carry out M. d'Artagnan's Idea.
After a moment's silence, in which D'Artagnan appeared to be collecting,
not one idea but all his ideas, - "It cannot be, my dear Planchet," said
he, "that you have not heard of his majesty Charles I. of England?"
"Alas! yes, monsieur, since you left France in order to assist him, and
that, in spite of that assistance, he fell, and was near dragging you
down in his fall."
"Exactly so; I see you have a good memory, Planchet."
"_Peste!_ the astonishing thing would be, if I could have lost that
memory, however bad it might have been. When one has heard Grimaud, who,
you know, is not given to talking, relate how the head of King Charles
fell, how you sailed the half of a night in a scuttled vessel, and saw
floating on the water that good M. Mordaunt with a certain gold-hafted
dagger buried in his breast, one is not very likely to forget such
"And yet there are people who forget them, Planchet."
"Yes, such as have not seen them, or have not heard Grimaud relate them."
"Well, it is all the better that you recollect all that; I shall only
have to remind you of one thing, and that is that Charles I. had a son."
"Without contradicting you, monsieur, he had two," said Planchet; "for I
saw the second one in Paris, M. le Duke of York, one day, as he was going
to the Palais Royal, and I was told that he was not the eldest son of
Charles I. As to the eldest, I have the honor of knowing him by name,
but not personally."
"That is exactly the point, Planchet, we must come to: it is to this
eldest son, formerly called the Prince of Wales, and who is now styled
Charles II., king of England."
"A king without a kingdom, monsieur," replied Planchet, sententiously.
"Yes, Planchet, and you may add an unfortunate prince, more unfortunate
than the poorest man of the people lost in the worst quarter of Paris."
Planchet made a gesture full of that sort of compassion which we grant to
strangers with whom we think we can never possibly find ourselves in
contact. Besides, he did not see in this politico-sentimental operation
any sign of the commercial idea of M. d'Artagnan, and it was in this idea
that D'Artagnan, who was, from habit, pretty well acquainted with men and
things, had principally interested Planchet.
"I am come to our business. This young Prince of Wales, a king without
a kingdom, as you have so well said, Planchet, has interested me. I,
D'Artagnan, have seen him begging assistance of Mazarin, who is a miser,
and the aid of Louis, who is a child, and it appeared to me, who am
acquainted with such things, that in the intelligent eye of the fallen
king, in the nobility of his whole person, a nobility apparent above all
his miseries, I could discern the stuff of a man and the heart of a king."
Planchet tacitly approved of all this; but it did not at all, in his eyes
at least, throw any light upon D'Artagnan's idea. The latter continued:
"This, then, is the reasoning which I made with myself. Listen
attentively, Planchet, for we are coming to the conclusion."
"I am listening."
"Kings are not so thickly sown upon the earth, that people can find them
whenever they want them. Now, this king without a kingdom is, in my
opinion, a grain of seed which will blossom in some season or other,
provided a skillful, discreet, and vigorous hand sow it duly and truly,
selecting soil, sky, and time."
Planchet still approved by a nod of his head, which showed that he did
not perfectly comprehend all that was said.
"'Poor little seed of a king,' said I to myself, and really I was
affected, Planchet, which leads me to think I am entering upon a foolish
business. And that is why I wished to consult you, my friend."
Planchet colored with pleasure and pride.
"'Poor little seed of a king! I will pick you up and cast you into good
"Good God!" said Planchet, looking earnestly at his old master, as if in
doubt as to the state of his reason.
"Well, what is it?" said D'Artagnan; "who hurts you?"
"Me! nothing, monsieur."
"You said, 'Good God!'"
"I am sure you did. Can you already understand?"
"I confess, M. d'Artagnan, that I am afraid - "
"To understand that I wish to replace upon his throne this King Charles
II., who has no throne? Is that it?"
Planchet made a prodigious bound in his chair. "Ah, ah!" said he, in
evident terror, "that is what you call a restoration!"
"Yes, Planchet; is it not the proper term for it?"
"Oh, no doubt, no doubt! But have you reflected seriously?"
"Upon what is going on yonder."
"And what is that? Let us see, Planchet."
"In the first place, monsieur, I ask you pardon for meddling in these
things, which have nothing to do with my trade; but since it is an affair
that you propose to me - for you are proposing an affair, are you not? - "
"A superb one, Planchet."
"But as it is business you propose to me, I have the right to discuss it."
"Discuss it, Planchet; out of discussion is born light."
"Well, then, since I have monsieur's permission, I will tell him that
there is yonder, in the first place, the parliament."
"And then the army."
"Good! Do you see anything else?"
"Why, then the nation."
"Is that all?"
"The nation which consented to the overthrow and death of the late king,
the father of this one, and which will not be willing to belie its acts."
"Planchet," said D'Artagnan, "you argue like a cheese! The nation - the
nation is tired of these gentlemen who give themselves such barbarous
names, and who sing songs to it. Chanting for chanting, my dear
Planchet; I have remarked that nations prefer singing a merry chant to
the plain chant. Remember the Fronde; what did they sing in those
times? Well, those were good times."
"Not too good, not too good! I was near being hung in those times."
"Well, but you were not."
"And you laid the foundations of your fortune in the midst of all those
"That is true."
"Then you have nothing to say against them."
"Well, I return, then, to the army and parliament."
"I say that I borrow twenty thousand livres of M. Planchet, and that I
put twenty thousand livres of my own to it; and with these forty thousand
livres I raise an army."
Planchet clasped his hands; he saw that D'Artagnan was in earnest, and,
in good truth, he believed his master had lost his senses.
"An army! - ah, monsieur," said he, with his most agreeable smile, for
fear of irritating the madman, and rendering him furious, - "an army! –
"Of forty men," said D'Artagnan.
"Forty against forty thousand! that is not enough. I know very well that
you, M. d'Artagnan, alone, are equal to a thousand men; but where are we
to find thirty-nine men equal to you? Or, if we could find them, who
would furnish you with money to pay them?"
"Not bad, Planchet. Ah, the devil! you play the courtier."
"No, monsieur, I speak what I think, and that is exactly why I say that,
in the first pitched battle you fight with your forty men, I am very much
afraid - "
"Therefore I shall fight no pitched battles, my dear Planchet," said the
Gascon, laughing. "We have very fine examples in antiquity of skillful
retreats and marches, which consisted in avoiding the enemy instead of
attacking them. You should know that, Planchet, you who commanded the
Parisians the day on which they ought to have fought against the
musketeers, and who so well calculated marches and countermarches, that
you never left the Palais Royal."
Planchet could not help laughing. "It is plain," replied he, "that if
your forty men conceal themselves, and are not unskillful, they may hope
not to be beaten: but you propose obtaining some result, do you not?"
"No doubt. This, then, in my opinion, is the plan to be proceeded upon
in order quickly to replace his majesty Charles II. on his throne."
"Good!" said Planchet, increasing his attention; "let us see your plan.
But in the first place it seems to me we are forgetting something."
"What is that?"
"We have set aside the nation, which prefers singing merry songs to
psalms, and the army, which we will not fight; but the parliament
remains, and that seldom sings."
"Nor does it fight. How is it, Planchet, that an intelligent man like
yourself should take any heed of a set of brawlers who call themselves
Rumps and Barebones? The parliament does not trouble me at all,
"As soon as it ceases to trouble you, monsieur, let us pass on."
"Yes, and arrive at the result. You remember Cromwell, Planchet?"
"I have heard a great deal of talk about him.
"He was a rough soldier."
"And a terrible eater, moreover."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Why, at one gulp he swallowed all England."
"Well, Planchet, the evening before the day on which he swallowed
England, if any one had swallowed M. Cromwell?"
"Oh, monsieur, it is one of the axioms of mathematics that the container
must be greater than the contained."
"Very well! That is our affair, Planchet."
"But M. Cromwell is dead, and his container is now the tomb."
"My dear Planchet, I see with pleasure that you have not only become a
mathematician, but a philosopher."
"Monsieur, in my grocery business I use much printed paper, and that
"Bravo! You know then, in that case - for you have not learnt
mathematics and philosophy without a little history - that after this
Cromwell so great, there came one who was very little."
"Yes; he was named Richard, and he as done as you have, M. d'Artagnan –
he has tendered his resignation."
"Very well said - very well! After the great man who is dead, after the
little one who tendered his resignation, there came a third. This one is
named Monk; he is an able general, considering he has never fought a
battle; he is a skillful diplomatist, considering that he never speaks in
public, and that having to say 'good-day' to a man, he meditates twelve
hours, and ends by saying 'good night;' which makes people exclaim
'_miracle!_' seeing that it falls out correctly."
"That is rather strong," said Planchet; "but I know another political man
who resembles him very much."
"M. Mazarin you mean?"
"You are right, Planchet; only M. Mazarin does not aspire to the throne
of France; and that changes everything. Do you see? Well, this M. Monk,
who has England ready-roasted in his plate, and who is already opening
his mouth to swallow it - this M. Monk, who says to the people of Charles
II., and to Charles II. himself, '_Nescio vos_' - "
"I don't understand English," said Planchet.
"Yes, but I understand it," said D'Artagnan. "'_Nescio vos_' means 'I do
not know you.' This M. Monk, the most important man in England, when he
shall have swallowed it - "
"Well?" asked Planchet.
"Well, my friend, I shall go over yonder, and with my forty men I shall
carry him off, pack him up, and bring him into France, where two modes of
proceeding present themselves to my dazzled eyes."
"Oh! and to mine too," cried Planchet, transported with enthusiasm. "We
will put him in a cage and show him for money."
"Well, Planchet, that is a third plan, of which I had not thought."
"Do you think it a good one?"
"Yes, certainly, but I think mine better."
"Let us see yours, then."
"In the first place, I shall set a ransom on him."
"Of how much?"
"_Peste!_ a fellow like that must be well worth a hundred thousand
"You see, then - in the first place, a ransom of a hundred thousand
"Or else - "
"Or else, what is much better, I deliver him up to King Charles, who,
having no longer either a general or an army to fear, nor a diplomatist
to trick him, will restore himself, and when once restored, will pay down
to me the hundred thousand crowns in question. That is the idea I have
formed; what do you say to it, Planchet?"
"Magnificent, monsieur!" cried Planchet, trembling with emotion. "How
did you conceive that idea?"
"It came to me one morning on the banks of the Loire, whilst our beloved
king, Louis XIV., was pretending to weep upon the hand of Mademoiselle de
"Monsieur, I declare the idea is sublime. But - "
"Ah! is there a _but?_"
"Permit me! But this is a little like the skin of that fine bear - you
know - that they were about to sell, but which it was necessary to take
from the back of the living bear. Now, to take M. Monk, there will be a
bit of a scuffle, I should think."
"No doubt; but as I shall raise an army to - "
"Yes, yes - I understand, _parbleu!_ - a _coup-de-main_. Yes, then,
monsieur, you will triumph, for no one equals you in such sorts of
"I certainly am lucky in them," said D'Artagnan, with a proud
simplicity. "You know that if for this affair I had my dear Athos, my
brave Porthos, and my cunning Aramis, the business would be settled; but
they are all lost, as it appears, and nobody knows where to find them.
I will do it, then, alone. Now, do you find the business good, and the
"Too much so - too much so."
"How can that be?"
"Because fine things never reach the expected point."
"This is infallible, Planchet, and the proof is that I undertake it. It
will be for you a tolerably pretty gain, and for me a very interesting
stroke. It will be said, 'Such was the old age of M. d'Artagnan,' and I
shall hold a place in tales and even in history itself, Planchet. I am
greedy of honor."
"Monsieur," cried Planchet, "when I think that it is here, in my home, in
the midst of my sugar, my prunes, and my cinnamon, that this gigantic
project is ripened, my shop seems a palace to me."
"Beware, beware, Planchet! If the least report of this escapes, there is
the Bastile for both of us. Beware, my friend, for this is a plot we are
hatching. M. Monk is the ally of M. Mazarin - beware!"
"Monsieur, when a man has had the honor to belong to you, he knows
nothing of fear; and when he has had the advantage of being bound up in
interests with you, he holds his tongue."
"Very well; that is more your affair than mine, seeing that in a week I
shall be in England."
"Depart, monsieur, depart - the sooner the better."
"Is the money, then, ready?"
"It will be to-morrow; to-morrow you shall receive it from my own hands.
Will you have gold or silver?"
"Gold; that is most convenient. But how are we going to arrange this?
Let us see."
"Oh, good Lord! in the simplest way possible. You shall give me a
receipt, that is all."
"No, no," said D'Artagnan, warmly; "we must preserve order in all things."
"That is likewise my opinion; but with you, M. d'Artagnan - "
"And if I should die yonder - if I should be killed by a musket-ball - if
I should burst from drinking beer?"
"Monsieur, I beg you to believe that in that case I should be so much
afflicted at your death, that I should not think about the money."
"Thank you, Planchet; but no matter. We shall, like two lawyers' clerks,
draw up together an agreement, a sort of act, which may be called a deed
"I know it is difficult to draw such a thing up, but we can try."
"Let us try, then." And Planchet went in search of pens, ink, and
paper. D'Artagnan took the pen and wrote: - "Between Messire d'Artagnan,
ex-lieutenant of the king's musketeers, at present residing in the Rue
Tiquetonne, Hotel de la Chevrette; and the Sieur Planchet, grocer,
residing in the Rue des Lombards, at the sign of the Pilon d'Or, it has
been agreed as follows: - A company, with a capital of forty thousand
livres, and formed for the purpose of carrying out an idea conceived by
M. d'Artagnan, and the said Planchet approving of it in all points, will
place twenty thousand livres in the hands of M. d'Artagnan. He will
require neither repayment nor interest before the return of M. d'Artagnan
from a journey he is about to take into England. On his part, M.
d'Artagnan undertakes it to find twenty thousand livres, which he will
join to the twenty thousand already laid down by the Sieur Planchet. He
will employ the said sum of forty thousand livres according to his
judgment in an undertaking which is described below. On the day when M.
d'Artagnan shall have re-established, by whatever means, his majesty King
Charles II. upon the throne of England, he will pay into the hands of M.
Planchet the sum of - "
"The sum of a hundred and fifty thousand livres," said Planchet,
innocently, perceiving that D'Artagnan hesitated.
"Oh, the devil, no!" said D'Artagnan, "the division cannot be made by
half; that would not be just."
"And yet, monsieur, we each lay down half," objected Planchet, timidly.
"Yes; but listen to this clause, my dear Planchet, and if you do not find
if equitable in every respect when it is written, well, we can scratch it
out again: - 'Nevertheless, as M. d'Artagnan brings to the association,
besides his capital of twenty thousand livres, his time, his idea, his
industry, and his skin, - things which he appreciates strongly,
particularly the last, - M. d'Artagnan will keep, of the three hundred
thousand livres, two hundred thousand livres for himself, which will make
his share two-thirds."
"Very well," said Planchet.
"Is it just?" asked D'Artagnan.
"Perfectly just, monsieur."
"And you will be contented with a hundred thousand livres?"
"_Peste!_ I think so. A hundred thousand for twenty thousand!"
"And in a month, understand."
"How, in a month?"
"Yes, I only ask one month."
"Monsieur," said Planchet, generously, "I give you six weeks."
"Thank you," replied the musketeer, politely; after which the two
partners reperused their deed.
"That is perfect, monsieur," said Planchet; "and the late M. Coquenard,
the first husband of Madame la Baronne du Vallon, could not have done it
"Do you find it so? Let us sign it then." And both affixed their
"In this fashion," said D'Artagnan, "I shall be under obligations to no
"But I shall be under obligations to you," said Planchet.
"No; for whatever store I set by it, Planchet, I may lose my skin yonder,
and you will lose all. _A propos – peste!_ - that makes me think of the
principal, an indispensable clause. I shall write it: - 'In case of M.
d'Artagnan dying in this enterprise, liquidation will be considered made,
and the Sieur Planchet will give quittance from that moment to the shade
of Messire d'Artagnan for the twenty thousand livres paid by him into the
hands of the said company.'"
This last clause made Planchet knit his brows a little, but when he saw
the brilliant eye, the muscular hand, the supple and strong back of his
associate, he regained his courage, and, without regret, he at once added
another stroke to his signature. D'Artagnan did the same. Thus was
drawn the first known company contract; perhaps such things have been
abused a little since, both in form and principle.
"Now," said Planchet, pouring out the last glass of Anjou wine for
D'Artagnan, - "now go to sleep, my dear master."
"No," replied D'Artagnan; "for the most difficult part now remains to be
done, and I will think over that difficult part."
"Bah!" said Planchet; "I have such great confidence in you, M.
d'Artagnan, that I would not give my hundred thousand livres for ninety
thousand livres down."
"And devil take me if I don't think you are right!" Upon which
D'Artagnan took a candle and went up to his bedroom.
In which D'Artagnan prepares to travel for the Firm of Planchet & Company.
D'Artagnan reflected to such good purpose during the night that his plan
was settled by morning. "This is it," said he, sitting up in bed,
supporting his elbow on his knee, and his chin in his hand; - "this is
it. I shall seek out forty steady, firm men, recruited among people a
little compromised, but having habits of discipline. I shall promise
them five hundred livres for a month if they return; nothing if they do
not return, or half for their kindred. As to food and lodging, that
concerns the English, who have cattle in their pastures, bacon in their
bacon-racks, fowls in their poultry-yards, and corn in their barns. I
will present myself to General Monk with my little body of troops. He
will receive me. I shall win his confidence, and take advantage of it,
as soon as possible."
But without going further, D'Artagnan shook his head and interrupted
himself. "No," said he; "I should not dare to relate this to Athos; the
way is therefore not honorable. I must use violence," continued he, -
"very certainly I must, but without compromising my loyalty. With forty
men I will traverse the country as a partisan. But if I fall in with,
not forty thousand English, as Planchet said, but purely and simply with
four hundred, I shall be beaten. Supposing that among my forty warriors
there should be found at least ten stupid ones - ten who will allow
themselves to be killed one after the other, from mere folly? No; it is,
in fact, impossible to find forty men to be depended upon - they do not
exist. I must learn how to be contented with thirty. With ten men less
I should have the right of avoiding any armed encounter, on account of
the small number of my people; and if the encounter should take place, my
chance is better with thirty men than forty. Besides, I should save five
thousand francs; that is to say, the eighth of my capital; that is worth
the trial. This being so, I should have thirty men. I shall divide them
into three bands, - we will spread ourselves about over the country, with
an injunction to reunite at a given moment; in this fashion, ten by ten,
we should excite no suspicion - we should pass unperceived. Yes, yes,
thirty - that is a magic number. There are three tens - three, that
divine number! And then, truly, a company of thirty men, when all
together, will look rather imposing. Ah! stupid wretch that I am!"
continued D'Artagnan, "I want thirty horses. That is ruinous. Where the
devil was my head when I forgot the horses? We cannot, however, think of
striking such a blow without horses. Well, so be it, that sacrifice must
be made; we can get the horses in the country - they are not bad,
besides. But I forgot - _peste!_ Three bands - that necessitates three
leaders; there is the difficulty. Of the three commanders I have already
one - that is myself; - yes, but the two others will of themselves cost
almost as much money as all the rest of the troop. No; positively I must
have but one lieutenant. In that case, then, I should reduce my troop to
twenty men. I know very well that twenty men is but very little; but
since with thirty I was determined not to seek to come to blows, I should
do so more carefully still with twenty. Twenty - that is a round number;
that, besides, reduces the number of the horses by ten, which is a
consideration; and then, with a good lieutenant - _Mordioux!_ what things
patience and calculation are! Was I not going to embark with forty men,
and I have now reduced them to twenty for an equal success? Ten thousand
livres saved at one stroke, and more safety; that is well! Now, then,
let us see; we have nothing to do but to find this lieutenant - let him
be found, then; and after - That is not so easy; he must be brave and
good, a second myself. Yes, but a lieutenant must have my secret, and as
that secret is worth a million, and I shall only pay my man a thousand
livres, fifteen hundred at the most, my man will sell the secret to
Monk. _Mordioux!_ no lieutenant. Besides, this man, were he as mute as
a disciple of Pythagoras, - this man would be sure to have in the troop
some favorite soldier, whom he would make his sergeant; the sergeant
would penetrate the secret of the lieutenant, in case the latter should
be honest and unwilling to sell it. Then the sergeant, less honest and
less ambitious, will give up the whole for fifty thousand livres. Come,
come! that is impossible. The lieutenant is impossible. But then I must
have no fractions; I cannot divide my troop in two, and act upon two
points, at once, without another self, who - But what is the use of
acting upon two points, as we have only one man to take? What can be the
use of weakening a corps by placing the right here, and the left there?
A single corps - _Mordioux!_ a single one, and that commanded by
D'Artagnan. Very well. But twenty men marching in one band are
suspected by everybody; twenty horsemen must not be seen marching
together, or a company will be detached against them and the password
will be required; the which company, upon seeing them embarrassed to give
it, would shoot M. d'Artagnan and his men like so many rabbits. I reduce
myself then to ten men; in this fashion I shall act simply and with
unity; I shall be forced to be prudent, which is half the success in an
affair of the kind I am undertaking; a greater number might, perhaps,
have drawn me into some folly. Ten horses are not many, either, to buy
or take. A capital idea; what tranquillity it infuses into my mind! no
more suspicions - no passwords - no more dangers! Ten men, they are
valets or clerks. Ten men, leading ten horses laden with merchandise of
whatever kind, are tolerated, well received everywhere. Ten men travel
on account of the house of Planchet & Co., of France, - nothing can be
said against that. These ten men, clothed like manufacturers, have a
good cutlass or a good musket at their saddle-bow, and a good pistol in
the holster. They never allow themselves to be uneasy, because they have
no evil designs. They are, perhaps, in truth, a little disposed to be
smugglers, but what harm is in that? Smuggling is not, like polygamy, a
hanging offense. The worst that can happen to us is the confiscation of
our merchandise. Our merchandise confiscated - a fine affair that!
Come, come! it is a superb plan. Ten men only - ten men, whom I will
engage for my service; ten men who shall be as resolute as forty, who
would cost me four times as much, and to whom, for greater security, I
will never open my mouth as to my designs, and to whom I shall only say
'My friends, there is a blow to be struck.' Things being after this
fashion, Satan will be very malicious if he plays me one of his tricks.
Fifteen thousand livres saved - that's superb - out of twenty!"
Thus fortified by his laborious calculations, D'Artagnan stopped at this
plan, and determined to change nothing in it. He had already on a list
furnished by his inexhaustible memory, ten men illustrious amongst the
seekers of adventure, ill-treated by fortune, and not on good terms with
justice. Upon this D'Artagnan rose, and instantly set off on the search,
telling Planchet not to expect him to breakfast, and perhaps not to
dinner. A day and a half spent in rummaging amongst certain dens of
Paris sufficed for his recruiting; and, without allowing his adventurers
to communicate with each other, he had picked up and got together, in
less than thirty hours, a charming collection of ill-looking faces,
speaking a French less pure than the English they were about to attempt.
These men were, for the most part, guards, whose merit D'Artagnan had had
an opportunity of appreciating in various encounters, whom drunkenness,
unlucky sword-thrusts, unexpected winnings at play, or the economical
reforms of Mazarin, had forced to seek shade and solitude, those two
great consolers of irritated and chafing spirits. They bore upon their
countenances and in their vestments the traces of the heartaches they had
undergone. Some had their visages scarred, - all had their clothes in
rags. D'Artagnan comforted the most needy of these brotherly miseries by
a prudent distribution of the crowns of the company; then, having taken
care that these crowns should be employed in the physical improvement of
the troop, he appointed a trysting place in the north of France, between
Bergues and Saint Omer. Six days were allowed as the utmost term, and
D'Artagnan was sufficiently acquainted with the good-will, the good-
humor, and the relative probity of these illustrious recruits, to be
certain that not one of them would fail in his appointment. These orders
given, this rendezvous fixed, he went to bid farewell to Planchet, who
asked news of his army. D'Artagnan did not think it proper to inform
him of the reduction he had made in his _personnel_. He feared that the
confidence of his associate would be abated by such an avowal. Planchet
was delighted to learn that the army was levied, and that he (Planchet)
found himself a kind of half king, who from his throne-counter kept in
pay a body of troops destined to make war against perfidious Albion, that
enemy of all true French hearts. Planchet paid down in double louis,
twenty thousand livres to D'Artagnan, on the part of himself (Planchet),
and twenty thousand livres, still in double louis, in account with
D'Artagnan. D'Artagnan placed each of the twenty thousand francs in a
bag, and weighing a bag in each hand, - "This money is very embarrassing,
my dear Planchet," said he. "Do you know this weighs thirty pounds?"
"Bah! your horse will carry that like a feather."
D'Artagnan shook his head. "Don't tell me such things, Planchet: a horse
overloaded with thirty pounds, in addition to the rider and his
portmanteau, cannot cross a river so easily - cannot leap over a wall or
ditch so lightly; and the horse failing, the horseman fails. It is true
that you, Planchet, who have served in the infantry, may not be aware of
"Then what is to be done, monsieur?" said Planchet, greatly embarrassed.
"Listen to me," said D'Artagnan. "I will pay my army on its return
home. Keep my half of twenty thousand livres, which you can use during
"And my half?" said Planchet.
"I shall take that with me."
"Your confidence does me honor," said Planchet: "but supposing you should
"That is possible, though not very probable. Then, Planchet, in case I
should not return - give me a pen; I will make my will." D'Artagnan took
a pen and some paper, and wrote upon a plain sheet, - "I, D'Artagnan,
possess twenty thousand livres, laid up cent per cent during thirty years
that I have been in the service of his majesty the king of France. I
leave five thousand to Athos, five thousand to Porthos, and five thousand
to Aramis, that they may give the said sums in my name and their own to
my young friend Raoul, Vicomte de Bragelonne. I give the remaining five
thousand to Planchet, that he may distribute the fifteen thousand with
less regret among my friends. With which purpose I sign these presents.
Planchet appeared very curious to know what D'Artagnan had written.
"Here," said the musketeer, "read it."
On reading the last lines the tears came into Planchet's eyes. "You
think, then, that I would not have given the money without that? Then I
will have none of your five thousand francs."
D'Artagnan smiled. "Accept it, accept it, Planchet; and in that way you
will only lose fifteen thousand francs instead of twenty thousand, and
you will not be tempted to disregard the signature of your master and
friend, by losing nothing at all."
How well that dear Monsieur d'Artagnan knew the hearts of men and
grocers! They who have pronounced Don Quixote mad because he rode out to
the conquest of an empire with nobody but Sancho his squire, and they who
have pronounced Sancho mad because he accompanied his master in his
attempt to conquer the said empire, - they certainly will have no
hesitation in extending the same judgment to D'Artagnan and Planchet.
And yet the first passed for one of the most subtle spirits among the
astute spirits of the court of France. As to the second, he had acquired
by good right the reputation of having one of the longest heads among the
grocers of the Rue des Lombards; consequently of Paris, and consequently
of France. Now, to consider these two men from the point of view from
which you would consider other men, and the means by the aid of which
they contemplated to restore a monarch to his throne, compared with other
means, the shallowest brains of the country where brains are most shallow
must have revolted against the presumptuous madness of the lieutenant and
the stupidity of his associate. Fortunately, D'Artagnan was not a man to
listen to the idle talk of those around him, or to the comments that were
made on himself. He had adopted the motto, "Act well, and let people
talk." Planchet, on his part had adopted this, "Act and say nothing."
It resulted from this, that, according to the custom of all superior
geniuses, these two men flattered themselves, _intra pectus_, with being
in the right against all who found fault with them.
As a beginning, D'Artagnan set out in the finest of possible weather,
without a cloud in the heavens - without a cloud on his mind, joyous and
strong, calm and decided, great in his resolution, and consequently
carrying with him a tenfold dose of that potent fluid which the shocks of
mind cause to spring from the nerves, and which procure for the human
machine a force and an influence of which future ages will render,
according to all probability, a more arithmetical account than we can
possibly do at present. He was again, as in times past, on that same
road of adventures which had led him to Boulogne, and which he was now
traveling for the fourth time. It appeared to him that he could almost
recognize the trace of his own steps upon the road, and that of his fist
upon the doors of the hostelries; - his memory, always active and
present, brought back that youth which neither thirty years later his
great heart nor his wrist of steel would have belied. What a rich nature
was that of this man! He had all the passions, all the defects, all the
weaknesses, and the spirit of contradiction familiar to his understanding
changed all these imperfections into corresponding qualities.
D'Artagnan, thanks to his ever active imagination, was afraid of a
shadow, and ashamed of being afraid, he marched straight up to that
shadow, and then became extravagant in his bravery, if the danger proved
to be real. Thus everything in him was emotion, and therefore
enjoyment. He loved the society of others, but never became tired of his
own; and more than once, if he could have been heard when he was alone,
he might have been seen laughing at the jokes he related to himself or
the tricks his imagination created just five minutes before _ennui_ might
have been looked for. D'Artagnan was not perhaps so gay this time as he
would have been with the prospect of finding some good friends at Calais,
instead of joining the ten scamps there; melancholy, however, did not
visit him more than once a day, and it was about five visits that he
received from that somber deity before he got sight of the sea at
Boulogne, and then these visits were indeed but short. But when once
D'Artagnan found himself near the field of action, all other feelings but
that of confidence disappeared never to return. From Boulogne he
followed the coast to Calais. Calais was the place of general
rendezvous, and at Calais he had named to each of his recruits the
hostelry of "Le Grande Monarque," where living was not extravagant, where
sailors messed, and where men of the sword, with sheath of leather, be it
understood, found lodging, table, food, and all the comforts of life, for
thirty sous per diem. D'Artagnan proposed to himself to take them by
surprise _in flagrante delicto_ of wandering life, and to judge by the
first appearance if he could count on them as trusty companions.
He arrived at Calais at half past four in the afternoon.
D'Artagnan travels for the House of Planchet and Company.
The hostelry of "Le Grand Monarque" was situated in a little street
parallel to the port without looking out upon the port itself. Some
lanes cut - as steps cut the two parallels of the ladder - the two great
straight lines of the port and the street. By these lanes passengers
came suddenly from the port into the street, or from the street on to the
port. D'Artagnan, arrived at the port, took one of these lanes, and came
out in front of the hostelry of "Le Grand Monarque." The moment was well
chosen and might remind D'Artagnan of his start in life at the hostelry
of the "Franc-Meunier" at Meung. Some sailors who had been playing at
dice had started a quarrel, and were threatening each other furiously.
The host, hostess, and two lads were watching with anxiety the circle of
these angry gamblers, from the midst of which war seemed ready to break
forth, bristling with knives and hatchets. The play, nevertheless, was
continued. A stone bench was occupied by two men, who appeared thence to
watch the door; four tables, placed at the back of the common chamber,
were occupied by eight other individuals. Neither the men at the door,
nor those at the tables took any part in the play or the quarrel.
D'Artagnan recognized his ten men in these cold, indifferent spectators.
The quarrel went on increasing. Every passion has, like the sea, its
tide which ascends and descends. Reaching the climax of passion, one
sailor overturned the table and the money which was upon it. The table
fell, and the money rolled about. In an instant all belonging to the
hostelry threw themselves upon the stakes, and many a piece of silver was
picked up by people who stole away whilst the sailors were scuffling with
The two men on the bench and the eight at the tables, although they
seemed perfect strangers to each other, these ten men alone, we say,
appeared to have agreed to remain impassible amidst the cries of fury and
the chinking of money. Two only contented themselves with pushing with
their feet combatants who came under their table. Two others, rather
than take part in this disturbance, buried their hands in their pockets;
and another two jumped upon the table they occupied, as people do to
avoid being submerged by overflowing water.
"Come, come," said D'Artagnan to himself, not having lost one of the
details we have related, "this is a very fair gathering - circumspect,
calm, accustomed to disturbance, acquainted with blows! _Peste!_ I have
All at once his attention was called to a particular part of the room.
The two men who had pushed the strugglers with their feet, were assailed
with abuse by the sailors, who had become reconciled. One of them, half
drunk with passion, and quite drunk with beer, came, in a menacing
manner, to demand of the shorter of these two sages by what right he had
touched with his foot creatures of the good God, who were not dogs. And
whilst putting this question, in order to make it more direct, he applied
his great fist to the nose of D'Artagnan's recruit.
This man became pale, without its being to be discerned whether his
pallor arose from anger or fear; seeing which, the sailor concluded it
was from fear, and raised his fist with the manifest intention of letting
it fall upon the head of the stranger. But though the threatened man did
not appear to move, he dealt the sailor such a severe blow in the stomach
that he sent him rolling and howling to the other side of the room. At
the same instant, rallied by the _espirit de corps_, all the comrades of
the conquered man fell upon the conqueror
The latter, with the same coolness of which he had given proof, without
committing the imprudence of touching his weapons, took up a beer-pot
with a pewter-lid, and knocked down two or three of his assailants; then,
as he was about to yield to numbers, the seven other silent men at the
tables, who had not yet stirred, perceived that their cause was at stake,
and came to the rescue. At the same time, the two indifferent spectators
at the door turned round with frowning bows, indicating their evident
intention of taking the enemy in the rear, if the enemy did not cease
The host, his helpers, and two watchmen who were passing, and who from
the curiosity had penetrated too far into the room, were mixed up in the
tumult and showered with blows. The Parisians hit like Cyclops, with an
_ensemble_ and a tactic delightful to behold. At length, obliged to beat
a retreat before superior numbers, they formed an intrenchment behind the
large table, which they raised by main force; whilst the two others,
arming themselves each with a trestle, and using it like a great sledge-
hammer, knocked down at a blow eight sailors upon whose heads they had
brought their monstrous catapult in play. The floor was already strewn
with wounded, and the room filled with cries and dust, when D'Artagnan,
satisfied with the test, advanced, sword in hand, and striking with the
pommel every head that came in his way, he uttered a vigorous _hola!_
which put an instantaneous end to the conflict. A great back-flood
directly took place from the center to the sides of the room, so that
D'Artagnan found himself isolated and dominator.
"What is this all about?" then demanded he of the assembly, with the
majestic tone of Neptune pronouncing the _Quos ego_.
At the very instant, at the first sound of his voice, to carry on the
Virgilian metaphor, D'Artagnan's recruits, recognizing each his sovereign
lord, discontinued their plank-fighting and trestle blows. On their
side, the sailors, seeing that long naked sword, that martial air, and
the agile arm which came to the rescue of their enemies, in the person of
a man who seemed accustomed to command, the sailors picked up their
wounded and their pitchers. The Parisians wiped their brows, and viewed
their leader with respect. D'Artagnan was loaded with thanks by the host
of "Le Grand Monarque." He received them like a man who knows that
nothing is being offered that does not belong to him, and then said he
would go and walk upon the port till supper was ready. Immediately each
of the recruits, who understood the summons, took his hat, brushed the
dust off his clothes, and followed D'Artagnan. But D'Artagnan, whilst
walking and observing, took care not to stop; he directed his course
towards the downs, and the ten men - surprised at finding themselves
going in the track of each other, uneasy at seeing on their right, on
their left, and behind them, companions upon whom they had not reckoned -
followed him, casting furtive glances at each other. It was not till he
had arrived at the hollow part of the deepest down that D'Artagnan,
smiling to see them outdone, turned towards them, making a friendly sign
with his hand.
"Eh! come, come, gentlemen," said he, "let us not devour each other; you
are made to live together, to understand each other in all respects, and
not to devour one another."
Instantly all hesitation ceased; the men breathed as if they had been
taken out of a coffin, and examined each other complacently. After this
examination they turned their eyes towards their leader, who had long
been acquainted with the art of speaking to men of that class, and who
improvised the following little speech, pronounced with an energy truly
"Gentlemen, you all know who I am. I have engaged you from knowing you
to be brave, and willing to associate you with me in a glorious
enterprise. Imagine that in laboring for me you labor for the king. I
only warn you that if you allow anything of this supposition to appear, I
shall be forced to crack your skulls immediately, in the manner most
convenient to me. You are not ignorant, gentlemen, that state secrets
are like a mortal poison: as long as that poison is in its box and the
box is closed, it is not injurious; out of the box, it kills. Now draw
near, and you shall know as much of this secret as I am able to tell
you." All drew close to him with an expression of curiosity.
"Approach," continued D'Artagnan, "and let not the bird which passes over
our heads, the rabbit which sports on the downs, the fish which bounds
from the waters, hear us. Our business is to learn and to report to
monsieur le surintendant of the finances to what extent English smuggling
is injurious to the French merchants. I shall enter every place, and see
everything. We are poor Picard fishermen, thrown upon the coast by a
storm. It is certain that we must sell fish, neither more nor less, like
true fishermen. Only people might guess who we are, and might molest us;
it is therefore necessary that we should be in a condition to defend
ourselves. And this is why I have selected men of spirit and courage.
We shall lead a steady life, and not incur much danger, seeing that we
have behind us a powerful protector, thanks to whom no embarrassment is
possible. One thing alone puzzles me; but I hope that after a short
explanation, you will relieve me from that difficulty. The thing which
puzzles me is taking with me a crew of stupid fishermen, which crew will
annoy me immensely, whilst if, by chance, there were among you any who
have seen the sea - "
"Oh! don't let that trouble you," said one of the recruits; "I was a
prisoner among the pirates of Tunis three years, and can maneuver a boat
like an admiral."
"See," said D'Artagnan, "what an admirable thing chance is!" D'Artagnan
pronounced these words with an indefinable tone of feigned _bonhomie_,
for he knew very well that the victim of the pirates was an old corsair,
and had engaged him in consequence of that knowledge. But D'Artagnan
never said more than there was need to say, in order to leave people in
doubt. He paid himself with the explanation, and welcomed the effect,
without appearing to be preoccupied with the cause.
"And I," said a second, "I, by chance, had an uncle who directed the
works of the port of La Rochelle. When quite a child, I played about the
boats, and I know how to handle an oar or a sail as well as the best
Ponantais sailor." The latter did not lie much more than the first, for
he had rowed on board his majesty's galleys six years, at Ciotat. Two
others were more frank: they confessed honestly that they had served on
board a vessel as soldiers as punishment, and did not blush for it.
D'Artagnan found himself, then, the leader of ten men of war and four
sailors, having at once an land army and a sea force, which would have
carried the pride of Planchet to its height, if Planchet had known the
Nothing was now left but arranging the general orders, and D'Artagnan
gave them with precision. He enjoined his men to be ready to set out for
the Hague, some following the coast which leads to Breskens, others the
road to Antwerp. The rendezvous was given, by calculating each day's
march, a fortnight from that time, upon the chief place at the Hague.
D'Artagnan recommended his men to go in couples, as they liked best, from
sympathy. He himself selected from among those with the least
disreputable look, two guards whom he had formerly known, and whose only
faults were being drunkards and gamblers. These men had not entirely
lost all ideas of civilization, and under proper garments their hearts
would beat again. D'Artagnan, not to create any jealousy with the
others, made the rest go forward. He kept his two selected ones, clothed
them from his own wardrobe, and set out with them.
It was to these two, whom he seemed to honor with an absolute confidence,
that D'Artagnan imparted a false secret, destined to secure the success
of the expedition. He confessed to them that the object was not to learn
to what extent French merchants were injured by English smuggling, but to
learn how far French smuggling could annoy English trade. These men
appeared convinced; they were effectively so. D'Artagnan was quite sure
that at the first debauch, when thoroughly drunk, one of the two would
divulge the secret to the whole band. His game appeared infallible.
A fortnight after all we have said had taken place at Calais, the whole
troop assembled at the Hague.
Then D'Artagnan perceived that all his men, with remarkable intelligence,
had already travestied themselves into sailors, more or less ill-treated
by the sea. D'Artagnan left them to sleep in a den in Newkerke street,
whilst he lodged comfortably upon the Grand Canal. He learned that the
king of England had come back to his old ally, William II. of Nassau,
stadtholder of Holland. He learned also that the refusal of Louis XIV.
had a little cooled the protection afforded him up to that time, and in
consequence he had gone to reside in a little village house at
Scheveningen, situated in the downs, on the sea-shore, about a league
from the Hague.
There, it was said, the unfortunate banished king consoled himself in his
exile, by looking, with the melancholy peculiar to the princes of his
race, at that immense North Sea, which separated him from his England, as
it had formerly separated Mary Stuart from France. There, behind the
trees of the beautiful wood of Scheveningen, on the fine sand upon which
grows the golden broom of the down, Charles II. vegetated as it did, more
unfortunate, for he had life and thought, and he hoped and despaired by
D'Artagnan went once as far as Scheveningen, in order to be certain that
all was true that was said of the king. He beheld Charles II., pensive
and alone, coming out of a little door opening into the wood, and walking
on the beach in the setting sun, without even attracting the attention of
the fishermen, who, on their return in the evening, drew, like the
ancient mariners of the Archipelago, their barks up upon the sand of the
D'Artagnan recognized the king; he saw him fix his melancholy look upon
the immense extent of the waters, and absorb upon his pale countenance
the red rays of the sun already cut by the black line of the horizon.
Then Charles returned to his isolated abode, always alone, slow and sad,
amusing himself with making the friable and moving sand creak beneath his
That very evening D'Artagnan hired for a thousand livres a fishing-boat
worth four thousand. He paid a thousand livres down, and deposited the
three thousand with a Burgomaster, after which he brought on board,
without their being seen, the six men who formed his land army; and with
the rising tide, at three o'clock in the morning, he got into the open
sea, maneuvering ostensibly with the four others, and depending upon the
science of his galley slave as upon that of the first pilot of the port.
In which the Author, very unwillingly, is forced to write a Little
While kings and men were thus occupied with England, which governed
itself quite alone, and which, it must be said in its praise, had never
been so badly governed, a man upon whom God had fixed his eye, and placed
his finger, a man predestined to write his name in brilliant letters upon
the page of history, was pursuing in the face of the world a work full of
mystery and audacity. He went on, and no one knew whither he meant to
go, although not only England, but France, and Europe, watched him
marching with a firm step and head held high. All that was known of this
man we are about to tell.
Monk had just declared himself in favor of the liberty of the Rump
Parliament, a parliament which General Lambert, imitating Cromwell, whose
lieutenant he had been, had just blocked up so closely, in order to bring
it to his will, that no member, during all the blockade, was able to go
out, and only one, Peter Wentworth, had been able to get in.
Lambert and Monk - everything was summed up in these two men; the first
representing military despotism, the second pure republicanism. These
men were the two sole political representatives of that revolution in
which Charles I. had first lost his crown, and afterwards his head. As
regarded Lambert, he did not dissemble his views; he sought to establish
a military government, and to be himself the head of that government.
Monk, a rigid republican, some said, wished to maintain the Rump
Parliament, that visible though degenerated representative of the
republic. Monk, artful and ambitious, said others, wished simply to make
of this parliament, which he affected to protect, a solid step by which
to mount the throne which Cromwell had left empty, but upon which he had
never dared to take his seat.
Thus Lambert by persecuting the parliament, and Monk by declaring for it,
had mutually proclaimed themselves enemies of each other. Monk and
Lambert, therefore, had at first thought of creating an army each for
himself: Monk in Scotland, where were the Presbyterians and the
royalists, that is to say, the malcontents; Lambert in London, where was
found, as is always the case, the strongest opposition to the existing
power which it had beneath its eyes.
Monk had pacified Scotland, he had there formed for himself an army, and
found an asylum. The one watched the other. Monk knew that the day was
not yet come, the day marked by the Lord for a great change; his sword,
therefore, appeared glued to the sheath. Inexpugnable in his wild and
mountainous Scotland, an absolute general, king of an army of eleven
thousand old soldiers, whom he had more than once led on to victory; as
well informed, nay, even better, of the affairs of London, than Lambert,
who held garrison in the city, - such was the position of Monk, when, at
a hundred leagues from London, he declared himself for the parliament.
Lambert, on the contrary, as we have said, lived in the capital. That
was the center of all his operations, and he there collected all around
him all his friends, and all the people of the lower class, eternally
inclined to cherish the enemies of constituted power.
It was then in London that Lambert learnt the support that, from the
frontiers of Scotland, Monk lent to the parliament. He judged there was
no time to be lost, and that the Tweed was not so far distant from the
Thames that an army could not march from one river to the other,
particularly when it was well commanded. He knew, besides, that as fast
as the soldiers of Monk penetrated into England, they would form on their
route that ball of snow, the emblem of the globe of fortune, which is for
the ambitious nothing but a step growing unceasingly higher to conduct
him to his object. He got together, therefore, his army, formidable at
the same time for its composition and its numbers, and hastened to meet
Monk, who, on his part, like a prudent navigator sailing amidst rocks,
advanced by very short marches, listening to the reports which came from
The two armies came in sight of each other near Newcastle; Lambert,
arriving first, encamped in the city itself. Monk, always circumspect,
stopped where he was, and placed his general quarters at Coldstream, on
the Tweed. The sight of Lambert spread joy through Monk's army, whilst,
on the contrary, the sight of Monk threw disorder into Lambert's army.
It might have been thought that these intrepid warriors, who had made
such a noise in the streets of London, had set out with the hopes of
meeting no one, and that now seeing that they had met an army, and that
that army hoisted before them not only a standard, but still further, a
cause and a principle, - it might have been believed, we say, that these
intrepid warriors had begun to reflect that they were less good
republicans than the soldiers of Monk, since the latter supported the
parliament; whilst Lambert supported nothing, not even himself.
As to Monk, if he had had to reflect, or if he did reflect, it must have
been after a sad fashion, for history relates - and that modest dame, it
is well known, never lies - history relates, that the day of his arrival
at Coldstream search was made in vain throughout the place for a single
If Monk had commanded an English army, that was enough to have brought
about a general desertion. But it is not with the Scots as it is with
the English, to whom that fluid flesh which is called blood is a
paramount necessity; the Scots, a poor and sober race, live upon a
little barley crushed between two stones, diluted with the water of the
fountain, and cooked upon another stone, heated.
The Scots, their distribution of barley being made, cared very little
whether there was or was not any meat in Coldstream. Monk, little
accustomed to barley-cakes, was hungry, and his staff, at least as hungry
as himself, looked with anxiety right and left, to know what was being
prepared for supper.
Monk ordered search to be made; his scouts had on arriving in the place
found it deserted and the cupboards empty; upon butchers and bakers it
was of no use depending in Coldstream. The smallest morsel of bread,
then, could not be found for the general's table.
As accounts succeeded each other, all equally unsatisfactory, Monk,
seeing terror and discouragement upon every face, declared that he was
not hungry; besides, they should eat on the morrow, since Lambert was
there probably with the intention of giving battle, and consequently
would give up his provisions, if he were forced from Newcastle, or
forever to relieve Monk's soldiers from hunger if he conquered.
This consolation was only efficacious upon a very small number; but of
what importance was it to Monk? for Monk was very absolute, under the
appearance of the most perfect mildness. Every one, therefore, was
obliged to be satisfied, or at least to appear so. Monk, quite as hungry
as his people, but affecting perfect indifference for the absent mutton,
cut a fragment of tobacco, half an inch long, from the _carotte_ of a
sergeant who formed part of his suite, and began to masticate the said
fragment, assuring his lieutenant that hunger was a chimera, and that,
besides, people were never hungry when they had anything to chew.
This joke satisfied some of those who had resisted Monk's first deduction
drawn from the neighborhood of Lambert's army; the number of the
dissentients diminished greatly; the guard took their posts, the patrols
began, and the general continued his frugal repast beneath his open tent.
Between his camp and that of the enemy stood an old abbey, of which, at
the present day, there only remain some ruins, but which then was in
existence, and was called Newcastle Abbey. It was built upon a vast
site, independent at once of the plain and of the river, because it was
almost a marsh fed by springs and kept up by rains. Nevertheless, in the
midst of these pools of water, covered with long grass, rushes, and
reeds, were seen solid spots of ground, formerly used as the kitchen-
garden, the park, the pleasure-gardens, and other dependencies of the
abbey, looking like one of those great sea-spiders, whose body is round,
whilst the claws go diverging round from this circumference.
The kitchen-garden, one of the longest claws of the abbey, extended to
Monk's camp. Unfortunately it was, as we have said, early in June, and
the kitchen-garden, being abandoned, offered no resources.
Monk had ordered this spot to be guarded, as most subject to surprises.
The fires of the enemy's general were plainly to be perceived on the
other side of the abbey. But between these fires and the abbey extended
the Tweed, unfolding its luminous scales beneath the thick shade of tall
green oaks. Monk was perfectly well acquainted with this position,
Newcastle and its environs having already more than once been his
headquarters. He knew that by this day his enemy might without doubt
throw a few scouts into these ruins and promote a skirmish, but that by
night he would take care to abstain from such a risk. He felt himself,
therefore, in security.
Thus his soldiers saw him, after what he boastingly called his supper –
that is to say, after the exercise of mastication reported by us at the
commencement of this chapter - like Napoleon on the eve of Austerlitz,
seated asleep in his rush chair, half beneath the light of his lamp, half
beneath the reflection of the moon, commencing its ascent in the heavens,
which denoted that it was nearly half past nine in the evening. All at
once Monk was roused from his half sleep, fictitious perhaps, by a troop
of soldiers, who came with joyous cries, and kicked the poles of his tent
with a humming noise as if on purpose to wake him. There was no need of
so much noise; the general opened his eyes quickly.
"Well, my children, what is going on now?" asked the general.
"General!" replied several voices at once, "General! you shall have
"I have had my supper, gentlemen," replied he quietly, "and was
comfortably digesting it, as you see. But come in, and tell me what
brings you hither."
"Good news, general."
"Bah! Has Lambert sent us word that he will fight to-morrow?"
"No; but we have just captured a fishing-boat conveying fish to
"And you have done very wrong, my friends. These gentlemen from London
are delicate, must have their first course; you will put them sadly out
of humor this evening, and to-morrow they will be pitiless. It would
really be in good taste to send back to Lambert both his fish and his
fishermen, unless - " and the general reflected an instant.
"Tell me," continued he, "what are these fishermen, if you please?"
"Some Picard seamen who were fishing on the coasts of France or Holland,
and who have been thrown upon ours by a gale of wind."
"Do any among them speak our language?"
"The leader spoke some few words of English."
The mistrust of the general was awakened in proportion as fresh
information reached him. "That is well," said he. "I wish to see these
men; bring them to me."
An officer immediately went to fetch them.
"How many are there of them?" continued Monk; "and what is their vessel?"
"There are ten or twelve of them, general, and they were aboard of a kind
of _chasse-maree_, as it is called - Dutch-built, apparently."
"And you say they were carrying fish to Lambert's camp?"
"Yes, general, and they seem to have had good luck in their fishing."
"Humph! We shall see that," said Monk.
At this moment the officer returned, bringing the leader of the fishermen
with him. He was a man from fifty to fifty-five years old, but good-
looking for his age. He was of middle height, and wore a _justaucorps_
of coarse wool, a cap pulled down over his eyes, a cutlass hung from his
belt, and he walked with the hesitation peculiar to sailors, who, never
knowing, thanks to the movement of the vessel, whether their foot will be
placed upon the plank or upon nothing, give to every one of their steps a
fall as firm as if they were driving a pile. Monk, with an acute and
penetrating look, examined the fisherman for some time, while the latter
smiled, with that smile, half cunning, half silly, peculiar to French
"Do you speak English?" asked Monk, in excellent French.
"Ah! but badly, my lord," replied the fisherman.
This reply was made much more with the lively and sharp accentuation of
the people beyond the Loire, than with the slightly-drawling accent of
the countries of the west and north of France.
"But you do speak it?" persisted Monk, in order to examine his accent
"Eh! we men of the sea," replied the fisherman, "speak a little of all
"Then you are a sea fisherman?"
"I am at present, my lord - a fisherman, and a famous fisherman, too. I
have taken a barbel that weighs at least thirty pounds, and more than
fifty mullets; I have also some little whitings that will fry
"You appear to me to have fished more frequently in the Gulf of Gascony
than in the Channel," said Monk, smiling.
"Well, I am from the south; but does that prevent me from being a good
fisherman, my lord?"
"Oh! not at all; I shall buy your fish. And now speak frankly; for whom
did you destine them?"
"My lord, I will conceal nothing from you. I was going to Newcastle,
following the coast, when a party of horsemen who were passing along in
an opposite direction made a sign to my bark to turn back to your honor's
camp, under penalty of a discharge of musketry. As I was not armed for
fighting," added the fisherman, smiling, "I was forced to submit."
"And why did you go to Lambert's camp in preference to mine?"
"My lord, I will be frank; will your lordship permit me?"
"Yes, and even if need be shall command you to be so."
"Well, my lord, I was going to M. Lambert's camp because those gentlemen
from the city pay well - whilst your Scotchmen, Puritans, Presbyterians,
Covenanters, or whatever you chose to call them, eat but little, and pay
Monk shrugged his shoulders, without, however, being able to refrain from
smiling at the same time. "How is it that, being from the south, you
come to fish on our coasts?"
"Because I have been fool enough to marry in Picardy."
"Yes; but even Picardy is not England."
"My lord, man shoves his boat into the sea, but God and the wind do the
rest, and drive the boat where they please."
"You had, then, no intention of landing on our coasts?"
"And what route were you steering?"
"We were returning from Ostend, where some mackerel had already been
seen, when a sharp wind from the south drove us from our course; then,
seeing that it was useless to struggle against it, we let it drive us.
It then became necessary, not to lose our fish, which were good, to go
and sell them at the nearest English port, and that was Newcastle. We
were told the opportunity was good, as there was an increase of
population in the camp, an increase of population in the city; both, we
were told, were full of gentlemen, very rich and very hungry. So we
steered our course towards Newcastle."
"And your companions, where are they?"
"Oh, my companions have remained on board; they are sailors without the
"Whilst you - " said Monk.
"Who, I?" said the _patron_, laughing; "I have sailed about with my
father; and I know what is called a sou, a crown, a pistole, a louis, and
a double louis, in all the languages of Europe; my crew, therefore,
listen to me as they would to an oracle, and obey me as if I were an
"Then it was you who preferred M. Lambert as the best customer?"
"Yes, certainly. And, to be frank, my lord, was I wrong?"
"You will see that by and by."
"At all events, my lord, if there is a fault, the fault is mine; and my
comrades should not be dealt hardly with on that account."
"This is decidedly an intelligent, sharp fellow," thought Monk. Then,
after a few minutes' silence employed in scrutinizing the fisherman, -
"You come from Ostend, did you not say?" asked the general.
"Yes, my lord, in a straight line."
"You have then heard of the affairs of the day; for I have no doubt that
both in France and Holland they excite interest. What is he doing who
calls himself king of England?"
"Oh, my lord!" cried the fisherman, with loud and expansive frankness,
"that is a lucky question, and you could not put it to anybody better
than to me, for in truth I can make you a famous reply. Imagine, my
lord, that when putting into Ostend to sell the few mackerel we had
caught, I saw the ex-king walking on the downs waiting for his horses,
which were to take him to the Hague. He is a rather tall, pale man, with
black hair, and somewhat hard-featured. He looks ill, and I don't think
the air of Holland agrees with him."
Monk followed with the greatest attention the rapid, heightened, and
diffuse conversation of the fisherman, in a language which was not his
own, but which, as we have said, he spoke with great facility. The
fisherman, on his part, employed sometimes a French word, sometimes an
English word, and sometimes a word which appeared not to belong to any
language, but was, in truth, pure Gascon. Fortunately his eyes spoke for
him, and that so eloquently, that it was possible to lose a word from his
mouth, but not a single intention from his eyes. The general appeared
more and more satisfied with his examination. "You must have heard that
this ex-king, as you call him, was going to the Hague for some purpose?"
"Oh, yes," said the fisherman, "I heard that."
"And what was his purpose?"
"Always the same," said the fisherman. "Must he not always entertain the
fixed idea of returning to England?"
"That is true," said Monk, pensively.
"Without reckoning," added the fisherman, "that the stadtholder - you
know, my lord, William II.? - "
"He will assist him with all his power."
"Ah! did you hear that said?"
"No, but I think so."
"You are quite a politician, apparently," said Monk.
"Why, we sailors, my lord, who are accustomed to study the water and the
air - that is to say, the two most changeable things in the world - are
seldom deceived as to the rest."
"Now, then," said Monk, changing the conversation, "I am told you are
going to provision us."
"I shall do my best, my lord."
"How much do you ask for your fish in the first place?"
"Not such a fool as to name a price, my lord."
"Because my fish is yours."
"By what right?"
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