During all these long and noisy debates between the opposite ambitions of
politics and love, one of our characters, perhaps the one least deserving
of neglect, was, however, very much neglected, very much forgotten, and
exceedingly unhappy. In fact, D'Artagnan - D'Artagnan, we say, for we
must call him by his name, to remind our readers of his existence -
D'Artagnan, we repeat, had absolutely nothing whatever to do, amidst
these brilliant butterflies of fashion. After following the king during
two whole days at Fontainebleau, and critically observing the various
pastoral fancies and heroi-comic transformations of his sovereign, the
musketeer felt that he needed something more than this to satisfy the
cravings of his nature. At every moment assailed by people asking him,
"How do you think this costume suits me, Monsieur d'Artagnan?" he would
reply to them in quiet, sarcastic tones, "Why, I think you are quite as
well-dressed as the best-dressed monkey to be found in the fair at Saint-
Laurent." It was just such a compliment D'Artagnan would choose where he
did not feel disposed to pay any other: and, whether agreeable or not,
the inquirer was obliged to be satisfied with it. Whenever any one asked
him, "How do you intend to dress yourself this evening?" he replied, "I
shall undress myself;" at which the ladies all laughed, and a few of them
blushed. But after a couple of days passed in this manner, the
musketeer, perceiving that nothing serious was likely to arise which
would concern him, and that the king had completely, or, at least,
appeared to have completely forgotten Paris, Saint-Mande, and Belle-Isle
- that M. Colbert's mind was occupied with illuminations and fireworks -
that for the next month, at least, the ladies had plenty of glances to
bestow, and also to receive in exchange - D'Artagnan asked the king for
leave of absence for a matter of private business. At the moment
D'Artagnan made his request, his majesty was on the point of going to
bed, quite exhausted from dancing.
"You wish to leave me, Monsieur d'Artagnan?" inquired the king, with an
air of astonishment; for Louis XIV. could never understand why any one
who had the distinguished honor of being near him could wish to leave him.
"Sire," said D'Artagnan, "I leave you simply because I am not of the
slightest service to you in anything. Ah! if I could only hold the
balancing-pole while you were dancing, it would be a very different
"But, my dear Monsieur d'Artagnan," said the king, gravely, "people dance
"Ah! indeed," said the musketeer, continuing his imperceptible tone of
irony, "I had no idea such a thing was possible."
"You have not seen me dance, then?" inquired the king.
"Yes; but I always thought dancers went from easy to difficult acrobatic
feats. I was mistaken; all the more greater reason, therefore, that I
should leave for a time. Sire, I repeat, you have no present occasion
for my services; besides, if your majesty should have any need of me, you
would know where to find me."
"Very well," said the king, and he granted him leave of absence.
We shall not look for D'Artagnan, therefore, at Fontainebleau, for to do
so would be useless; but, with the permission of our readers, follow him
to the Rue des Lombards, where he was located at the sign of the Pilon
d'Or, in the house of our old friend Planchet. It was about eight
o'clock in the evening, and the weather was exceedingly warm; there was
only one window open, and that one belonging to a room on the
_entresol_. A perfume of spices, mingled with another perfume less
exotic, but more penetrating, namely, that which arose from the street,
ascended to salute the nostrils of the musketeer. D'Artagnan, reclining
in an immense straight-backed chair, with his legs not stretched out, but
simply placed upon a stool, formed an angle of the most obtuse form that
could possibly be seen. Both his arms were crossed over his head, his
head reclining upon his left shoulder, like Alexander the Great. His
eyes, usually so quick and intelligent in their expression, were now half-
closed, and seemed fastened, as it were, upon a small corner of blue sky
that was visible behind the opening of the chimneys; there was just
enough blue, and no more, to fill one of the sacks of lentils, or
haricots, which formed the principal furniture of the shop on the ground
floor. Thus extended at his ease, and sheltered in his place of
observation behind the window, D'Artagnan seemed as if he had ceased to
be a soldier, as if he were no longer an officer belonging to the palace,
but was, on the contrary, a quiet, easy-going citizen in a state of
stagnation between his dinner and supper, or between his supper and his
bed; one of those strong, ossified brains, which have no more room for a
single idea, so fiercely does animal matter keep watch at the doors of
intelligence, narrowly inspecting the contraband trade which might result
from the introduction into the brain of a symptom of thought. We have
already said night was closing in, the shops were being lighted, while
the windows of the upper apartments were being closed, and the rhythmic
steps of a patrol of soldiers forming the night watch could be heard
retreating. D'Artagnan continued, however, to think of nothing, except
the blue corner of the sky. A few paces from him, completely in the
shade, lying on his stomach, upon a sack of Indian corn, was Planchet,
with both his arms under his chin, and his eyes fixed on D'Artagnan, who
was either thinking, dreaming, or sleeping, with his eyes open. Planchet
had been watching him for a tolerably long time, and, by way of
interruption, he began by exclaiming, "Hum! hum!" But D'Artagnan did not
stir. Planchet then saw that it was necessary to have recourse to more
effectual means still: after a prolonged reflection on the subject, the
most ingenious means that suggested itself to him under the present
circumstances, was to let himself roll off the sack on to the floor,
murmuring, at the same time, against himself, the word "stupid." But,
notwithstanding the noise produced by Planchet's fall, D'Artagnan, who
had in the course of his existence heard many other, and very different
falls, did not appear to pay the least attention to the present one.
Besides, an enormous cart, laden with stones, passing from the Rue Saint-
Mederic, absorbed, in the noise of its wheels, the noise of Planchet's
tumble. And yet Planchet fancied that, in token of tacit approval, he
saw him imperceptibly smile at the word "stupid." This emboldened him to
say, "Are you asleep, Monsieur d'Artagnan?"
"No, Planchet, I am not _even_ asleep," replied the musketeer.
"I am in despair," said Planchet, "to hear such a word as _even_."
"Well, and why not; is it not a grammatical word, Monsieur Planchet?"
"Of course, Monsieur d'Artagnan."
"Well, then, the word distresses me beyond measure."
"Tell me why you are distressed, Planchet," said D'Artagnan.
"If you say that you are not _even_ asleep, it is as much as to say that
you have not even the consolation of being able to sleep; or, better
still, it is precisely the same as telling me that you are getting bored
"Planchet, you know that I am never bored."
"Except to-day, and the day before yesterday."
"Monsieur d'Artagnan, it is a week since you returned here from
Fontainebleau; in other words, you have no longer your orders to issue,
or your men to review and maneuver. You need the sound of guns, drums,
and all that din and confusion; I, who have myself carried a musket, can
easily believe that."
"Planchet," replied D'Artagnan, "I assure you I am not bored in the least
in the world."
"In that case, what are you doing, lying there, as if you were dead?"
"My dear Planchet, there was, once upon a time, at the siege of La
Rochelle, when I was there, when you were there, when we both were there,
a certain Arab, who was celebrated for the manner in which he adjusted
culverins. He was a clever fellow, although of a very odd complexion,
which was the same color as your olives. Well, this Arab, whenever he
had done eating or working, used to sit down to rest himself, as I am
resting myself now, and smoked I cannot tell you what sort of magical
leaves, in a large amber-mouthed tube; and if any officers, happening to
pass, reproached him for being always asleep, he used quietly to reply:
'Better to sit down than to stand up, to lie down than to sit down, to be
dead than to lie down.' He was an acutely melancholy Arab, and I
remember him perfectly well, form the color of his skin, and the style of
his conversation. He used to cut off the heads of Protestants with the
most singular gusto!"
"Precisely; and then used to embalm them, when they were worth the
trouble; and when he was thus engaged with his herbs and plants about
him, he looked like a basket-maker making baskets."
"You are quite right, Planchet, he did."
"Oh! I can remember things very well, at times!"
"I have no doubt of it; but what do you think of his mode of reasoning?"
"I think it good in one sense, but very stupid in another."
"Expound your meaning, M. Planchet."
"Well, monsieur, in point of fact, then, 'better to sit down than to
stand up,' is plain enough, especially when one may be fatigued," and
Planchet smiled in a roguish way; "as for 'better to be lying down,' let
that pass, but as for the last proposition, that it is 'better to be dead
than alive,' it is, in my opinion, very absurd, my own undoubted
preference being for my bed; and if you are not of my opinion, it is
simply, as I have already had the honor of telling you, because you are
boring yourself to death."
"Planchet, do you know M. La Fontaine?"
"The chemist at the corner of the Rue Saint-Mederic?"
"No, the writer of fables."
"Oh! _Maitre Corbeau!_"
"Exactly; well, then, I am like his hare."
"He has got a hare also, then?"
"He has all sorts of animals."
"Well, what does his hare do, then?"
"M. La Fontaine's hare thinks."
"Planchet, I am like that hare - I am thinking."
"You are thinking, you say?" said Planchet, uneasily.
"Yes; your house is dull enough to drive people to think; you will admit
that, I hope."
"And yet, monsieur, you have a look-out upon the street."
"Yes; and wonderfully interesting that is, of course."
"But it is no less true, monsieur, that, if you were living at the back
of the house, you would bore yourself - I mean, you would think - more
"Upon my word, Planchet, I hardly know that."
"Still," said the grocer, "if your reflections are at all like those
which led you to restore King Charles II. - " and Planchet finished by a
little laugh which was not without its meaning.
"Ah! Planchet, my friend," returned D'Artagnan, "you are getting
"Is there no other king to be restored, M. d'Artagnan - no second Monk to
be packed up, like a salted hog, in a deal box?"
"No, my dear Planchet; all the kings are seated on their respective
thrones; less comfortably so, perhaps, than I am upon this chair; but, at
all events, there they are." And D'Artagnan sighed deeply.
"Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Planchet, "you are making me very uneasy."
"You are very good, Planchet."
"I begin to suspect something."
"What is it?"
"Monsieur d'Artagnan, you are getting thin."
"Oh!" said D'Artagnan, striking his chest which sounded like an empty
cuirass, "it is impossible, Planchet."
"Ah!" said Planchet, slightly overcome; "if you were to get thin in my
house - "
"I should do something rash."
"What would you do? Tell me."
"I should look out for the man who was the cause of all your anxieties."
"Ah! according to your account, I am anxious now."
"Yes, you are anxious; and you are getting thin, visibly getting thin.
_Malaga!_ if you go on getting thin, in this way, I will take my sword in
my hand, and go straight to M. d'Herblay, and have it out with him."
"What!" said M. d'Artagnan, starting in his chair; "what's that you say?
And what has M. d'Herblay's name to do with your groceries?"
"Just as you please. Get angry if you like, or call me names, if you
prefer it; but, the deuce is in it. _I know what I know_."
D'Artagnan had, during this second outburst of Planchet's, so placed
himself as not to lose a single look of his face; that is, he sat with
both his hands resting on both his knees, and his head stretched out
towards the grocer. "Come, explain yourself," he said, "and tell me how
you could possibly utter such a blasphemy. M. d'Herblay, your old
master, my friend, an ecclesiastic, a musketeer turned bishop - do you
mean to say you would raise your sword against him, Planchet?"
"I could raise my sword against my own father, when I see you in such a
state as you are now."
"M. d'Herblay, a gentleman!"
"It's all the same to me whether he's a gentleman or not. He gives you
the blue devils, that is all I know. And the blue devils make people get
thin. _Malaga!_ I have no notion of M. d'Artagnan leaving my house
thinner than when he entered it."
"How does he give me the blue devils, as you call it? Come, explain,
"You have had the nightmare during the last three nights."
"Yes, you; and in your nightmare you called out, several times, 'Aramis,
"Ah! I said that, did I?" murmured D'Artagnan, uneasily.
"Yes, those very words, upon my honor."
"Well, what else? You know the saying, Planchet, 'dreams go by
"Not so; for every time, during the last three days, when you went out,
you have not once failed to ask me, on your return, 'Have you seen M.
d'Herblay?' or else 'Have you received any letters for me from M.
"Well, it is very natural I should take an interest in my old friend,"
"Of course; but not to such an extent as to get thin on that account."
"Planchet, I'll get fatter; I give you my word of honor I will."
"Very well, monsieur, I accept it; for I know that when you give your
word of honor, it is sacred."
"I will not dream of Aramis any more; and I will never ask you again if
there are any letters from M. d'Herblay; but on condition that you
explain one thing to me."
"Tell me what it is, monsieur?"
"I am a great observer; and just now you made use of a very singular
oath, which is unusual for you."
"You mean _Malaga!_ I suppose?"
"It is the oath I have used ever since I have been a grocer."
"Very proper, too; it is the name of a dried grape, or raisin, I believe?"
"It is my most ferocious oath; when I have once said _Malaga!_ I am a man
"Still, I never knew you use that oath before."
"Very likely not, monsieur. I had a present made me of it," said
Planchet; and, as he pronounced these words, he winked his eye with a
cunning expression, which thoroughly awakened D'Artagnan's attention.
"Come, come, M. Planchet."
"Why, I am not like you, monsieur," said Planchet. "I don't pass my life
"You do wrong, then."
"I mean in boring myself to death. We have but a very short time to live
- why not make the best of it?"
"You are an Epicurean philosopher, I begin to think, Planchet."
"Why not? My hand is still as steady as ever; I can write, and can weigh
out my sugar and spices; my foot is firm; I can dance and walk about; my
stomach has its teeth still, for I eat and digest very well; my heart is
not quite hardened. Well, monsieur?"
"Well, what, Planchet?"
"Why, you see - " said the grocer, rubbing his hands together.
D'Artagnan crossed one leg over the other, and said, "Planchet, my
friend, I am unnerved with extreme surprise; for you are revealing
yourself to me under a perfectly new light."
Planchet, flattered in the highest degree by this remark, continued to
rub his hands very hard together. "Ah, ah," he said, "because I happen
to be only slow, you think me, perhaps, a positive fool."
"Very good, Planchet; very well reasoned."
"Follow my idea, monsieur, if you please. I said to myself," continued
Planchet, "that, without enjoyment, there is no happiness on this earth."
"Quite true, what you say, Planchet," interrupted D'Artagnan.
"At all events, if we cannot obtain pleasure - for pleasure is not so
common a thing, after all - let us, at least, get consolations of some
kind or another."
"And so you console yourself?"
"Tell me how you console yourself."
"I put on a buckler for the purpose of confronting _ennui_. I place my
time at the direction of patience; and on the very eve of feeling I am
going to get bored, I amuse myself."
"And you don't find any difficulty in that?"
"And you found it out quite by yourself?"
"It is miraculous."
"What do you say?"
"I say, that your philosophy is not to be matched in the Christian or
pagan world, in modern days or in antiquity!"
"You think so? - follow my example, then."
"It is a very tempting one."
"Do as I do."
"I could not wish for anything better; but all minds are not of the same
stamp; and it might possibly happen that if I were required to amuse
myself in the manner you do, I should bore myself horribly."
"Bah! at least try first."
"Well, tell me what you do."
"Have you observed that I leave home occasionally?"
"In any particular way?"
"That's the very thing. You have noticed it, then?"
"My dear Planchet, you must understand that when people see each other
every day, and one of the two absents himself, the other misses him. Do
you not feel the want of my society when I am in the country?"
"Prodigiously; that is to say, I feel like a body without a soul."
"That being understood then, proceed."
"What are the periods when I absent myself?"
"On the fifteenth and thirtieth of every month."
"And I remain away?"
"Sometimes two, sometimes three, and sometimes four days at a time."
"Have you ever given it a thought, why I was absent?"
"To look after your debts, I suppose."
"And when I returned, how did you think I looked, as far as my face was
"You admit, you say, that I always look satisfied. And what have you
attributed my satisfaction to?"
"That your business was going on very well; that your purchases of rice,
prunes, raw sugar, dried apples, pears, and treacle were advantageous.
You were always very picturesque in your notions and ideas, Planchet; and
I was not in the slightest degree surprised to find you had selected
grocery as an occupation, which is of all trades the most varied, and the
very pleasantest, as far as the character is concerned; inasmuch as one
handles so many natural and perfumed productions."
"Perfectly true, monsieur; but you are very greatly mistaken."
"In what way?"
"In thinking that I heave here every fortnight, to collect my money or to
make purchases. Ho, ho! how could you possibly have thought such a
thing? Ho, ho, ho!" And Planchet began to laugh in a manner that
inspired D'Artagnan with very serious misgivings as to his sanity.
"I confess," said the musketeer, "that I do not precisely catch your
"Very true, monsieur."
"What do you mean by 'very true'?"
"It must be true, since you say it; but pray, be assured that it in no
way lessens my opinion of you."
"Ah, that is lucky."
"No; you are a man of genius; and whenever the question happens to be of
war, tactics, surprises, or good honest blows to be dealt with, why,
kings are marionettes, compared to you. But for the consolations of the
mind, the proper care of the body, the agreeable things of like, if one
may say so - ah! monsieur, don't talk to me about men of genius; they are
nothing short of executioners."
"Good," said D'Artagnan, really fidgety with curiosity, "upon my word you
interest me in the highest degree."
"You feel already less bored than you did just now, do you not?"
"I was not bored; yet since you have been talking to me, I feel more
"Very good, then; that is not a bad beginning. I will cure you, rely
"There is nothing I should like better."
"Will you let me try, then?"
"Immediately, if you like."
"Very well. Have you any horses here?"
"Yes; ten, twenty, thirty."
"Oh, there is no occasion for so many as that, two will be quite
"They are quite at your disposal, Planchet."
"Very good; then I shall carry you off with me."
"Ah, you are asking too much."
"You will admit, however, that it is important I should know where I am
"Do you like the country?"
"Only moderately, Planchet."
"In that case you like town better?"
"That is as may be."
"Very well; I am going to take you to a place, half town and half
"To a place where I am sure you will amuse yourself."
"Is it possible?"
"Yes; and more wonderful still, to a place from which you have just
returned for the purpose only, it would seem, of getting bored here."
"It is to Fontainebleau you are going, then?"
"Exactly; to Fontainebleau."
"And, in Heaven's name, what are you going to do at Fontainebleau?"
Planchet answered D'Artagnan by a wink full of sly humor.
"You have some property there, you rascal."
"Oh, a very paltry affair; a little bit of a house - nothing more."
"I understand you."
"But it is tolerable enough, after all."
"I am going to Planchet's country-seat!" exclaimed D'Artagnan.
"Whenever you like."
"Did we not fix to-morrow?"
"Let us say to-morrow, if you like; and then, besides, to-morrow is the
14th, that is to say, the day before the one when I am afraid of getting
bored; so we will look upon it as an understood thing."
"Agreed, by all means."
"You will lend me one of your horses?"
"The best I have."
"No; I prefer the gentlest of all; I never was a very good rider, as you
know, and in my grocery business I have got more awkward than ever;
besides - "
"Why," added Planchet, "I do not wish to fatigue myself."
"Why so?" D'Artagnan ventured to ask.
"Because I should lose half the pleasure I expect to enjoy," replied
Planchet. And thereupon he rose from his sack of Indian corn, stretching
himself, and making all his bones crack, one after the other, with a sort
"Planchet! Planchet!" exclaimed D'Artagnan, "I do declare that there is
no sybarite upon the face of the globe who can for a moment be compared
to you. Oh, Planchet, it is very clear that we have never yet eaten a
ton of salt together."
"Why so, monsieur?"
"Because, even now I can scarcely say I know you," said D'Artagnan, "and
because, in point of fact, I return to the opinion which, for a moment, I
had formed of you that day at Boulogne, when you strangled, or did so as
nearly as possible, M. de Wardes's valet, Lubin; in plain language,
Planchet, that you are a man of great resources."
Planchet began to laugh with a laugh full of self-conceit; bade the
musketeer good-night, and went down to his back shop, which he used as a
bedroom. D'Artagnan resumed his original position upon his chair, and
his brow, which had been unruffled for a moment, became more pensive than
ever. He had already forgotten the whims and dreams of Planchet. "Yes,"
said he, taking up again the thread of his thoughts, which had been
broken by the whimsical conversation in which we have just permitted our
readers to participate. "Yes, yes, those three points include
everything: First, to ascertain what Baisemeaux wanted with Aramis;
secondly, to learn why Aramis does not let me hear from him; and thirdly,
to ascertain where Porthos is. The whole mystery lies in these three
points. Since, therefore," continued D'Artagnan, "our friends tell us
nothing, we must have recourse to our own poor intelligence. I must do
what I can, _mordioux_, or rather _Malaga_, as Planchet would say."
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