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Chapter 3

Chapter III:
In Which the Reader will be Delighted to Find that Porthos Has Lost
Nothing of His Muscularity.

D'Artagnan had, according to his usual style, calculated that every hour
is worth sixty minutes, and every minute worth sixty seconds. Thanks to
this perfectly exact calculation of minutes and seconds, he reached the
superintendent's door at the very moment the soldier was leaving it with
his belt empty. D'Artagnan presented himself at the door, which a porter
with a profusely embroidered livery held half opened for him. D'Artagnan
would very much have liked to enter without giving his name, but this was
impossible, and so he gave it. Notwithstanding this concession, which
ought to have removed every difficulty in the way, at least D'Artagnan
thought so, the _concierge_ hesitated; however, at the second repetition
of the title, captain of the king's guards, the _concierge_, without
quite leaving the passage clear for him, ceased to bar it completely.
D'Artagnan understood that orders of the most positive character had
been given. He decided, therefore, to tell a falsehood, - a
circumstance, moreover, which did not seriously affect his peace of mind,
when he saw that beyond the falsehood the safety of the state itself, or
even purely and simply his own individual personal interest, might be at
stake. He moreover added to the declarations he had already made, that
the soldier sent to M. du Vallon was his own messenger, and that the only
object that letter had in view was to announce his intended arrival.
From that moment, no one opposed D'Artagnan's entrance any further, and
he entered accordingly. A valet wished to accompany him, but he answered
that it was useless to take that trouble on his account, inasmuch as he
knew perfectly well where M. du Vallon was. There was nothing, of
course, to say to a man so thoroughly and completely informed on all
points, and D'Artagnan was permitted, therefore, to do as he liked. The
terraces, the magnificent apartments, the gardens, were all reviewed and
narrowly inspected by the musketeer. He walked for a quarter of an hour
in this more than royal residence, which included as many wonders as
articles of furniture, and as many servants as there were columns and
doors. "Decidedly," he said to himself, "this mansion has no other
limits than the pillars of the habitable world. Is it probable Porthos
has taken it into his head to go back to Pierrefonds without even leaving
M. Fouquet's house?" He finally reached a remote part of the chateau
inclosed by a stone wall, which was covered with a profusion of thick
plants, luxuriant in blossoms as large and solid as fruit. At equal
distances on the top of this wall were placed various statues in timid or
mysterious attitudes. These were vestals hidden beneath the long Greek
peplum, with its thick, sinuous folds; agile nymphs, covered with their
marble veils, and guarding the palace with their fugitive glances. A
statue of Hermes, with his finger on his lips; one of Iris, with extended
wings; another of Night, sprinkled all over with poppies, dominated the
gardens and outbuildings, which could be seen through the trees. All
these statues threw in white relief their profiles upon the dark ground
of the tall cypresses, which darted their somber summits towards the
sky. Around these cypresses were entwined climbing roses, whose
flowering rings were fastened to every fork of the branches, and spread
over the lower boughs and the various statues, showers of flowers of the
rarest fragrance. These enchantments seemed to the musketeer the result
of the greatest efforts of the human mind. He felt in a dreamy, almost
poetical, frame of mind. The idea that Porthos was living in so perfect
an Eden gave him a higher idea of Porthos, showing how tremendously true
it is, that even the very highest orders of minds are not quite exempt
from the influence of surroundings. D'Artagnan found the door, and on,
or rather in the door, a kind of spring which he detected; having touched
it, the door flew open. D'Artagnan entered, closed the door behind him,
and advanced into a pavilion built in a circular form, in which no other
sound could be heard but cascades and the songs of birds. At the door of
the pavilion he met a lackey.

"It is here, I believe," said D'Artagnan, without hesitation, "that M. le
Baron du Vallon is staying?"

"Yes, monsieur," answered the lackey.

"Have the goodness to tell him that M. le Chevalier d'Artagnan, captain
of the king's musketeers, is waiting to see him."

D'Artagnan was introduced into the _salon_, and had not long to remain in
expectation: a well-remembered step shook the floor of the adjoining
room, a door opened, or rather flew open, and Porthos appeared and threw
himself into his friend's arms with a sort of embarrassment which did not
ill become him. "You here?" he exclaimed.

"And you?" replied D'Artagnan. "Ah, you sly fellow!"

"Yes," said Porthos, with a somewhat embarrassed smile; "yes, you see I
am staying in M. Fouquet's house, at which you are not a little
surprised, I suppose?"

"Not at all; why should you not be one of M. Fouquet's friends? M.
Fouquet has a very large number, particularly among clever men."

Porthos had the modesty not to take the compliment to himself.
"Besides," he added, "you saw me at Belle-Isle."

"A greater reason for my believing you to be one of M. Fouquet's friends."

"The fact is, I am acquainted with him," said Porthos, with a certain
embarrassment of manner.

"Ah, friend Porthos," said D'Artagnan, "how treacherously you have
behaved towards me."

"In what way?" exclaimed Porthos.

"What! you complete so admirable a work as the fortifications of Belle-
Isle, and you did not tell me of it!" Porthos colored. "Nay, more than
that," continued D'Artagnan, "you saw me out yonder, you know I am in the
king's service, and yet you could not guess that the king, jealously
desirous of learning the name of the man whose abilities had wrought a
work of which he heard the most wonderful accounts, - you could not
guess, I say, that the king sent me to learn who this man was?"

"What! the king sent you to learn - "

"Of course; but don't let us speak of that any more."

"Not speak of it!" said Porthos; "on the contrary, we will speak of it;
and so the king knew that we were fortifying Belle-Isle?"

"Of course; does not the king know everything?"

"But he did not know who was fortifying it?"

"No, he only suspected, from what he had been told of the nature of the
works, that it was some celebrated soldier or another."

"The devil!" said Porthos, "if I had only known that!"

"You would not have run away from Vannes as you did, perhaps?"

"No; what did you say when you couldn't find me?"

"My dear fellow, I reflected."

"Ah, indeed; you reflect, do you? Well, and what did that reflection
lead to?"

"It led me to guess the whole truth."

"Come, then, tell me what did you guess after all?" said Porthos,
settling himself into an armchair, and assuming the airs of a sphinx.

"I guessed, in the first place, that you were fortifying Belle-Isle."

"There was no great difficulty in that, for you saw me at work."

"Wait a minute; I also guessed something else, - that you were fortifying
Belle-Isle by M. Fouquet's orders."

"That's true."

"But even that is not all. Whenever I feel myself in trim for guessing,
I do not stop on my road; and so I guessed that M. Fouquet wished to
preserve the most absolute secrecy respecting these fortifications."

"I believe that was his intention, in fact," said Porthos.

"Yes, but do you know why he wished to keep it secret?"

"In order it should not become known, perhaps," said Porthos.

"That was his principal reason. But his wish was subservient to a bit of
generosity - "

"In fact," said Porthos, "I have head it said that M. Fouquet was a very
generous man."

"To a bit of generosity he wished to exhibit towards the king."

"Oh, oh!"

"You seem surprised at that?"

"Yes."

"And you didn't guess?"

"No."

"Well, I know it, then."

"You are a wizard."

"Not at all, I assure you."

"How do you know it, then?"

"By a very simple means. I heard M. Fouquet himself say so to the king."

"Say what to the king?"

"That he fortified Belle-Isle on his majesty's account, and that he had
made him a present of Belle Isle."

"And you heard M. Fouquet say that to the king?"

"In those very words. He even added: 'Belle-Isle has been fortified by
an engineer, one of my friends, a man of a great deal of merit, whom I
shall ask your majesty's permission to present to you.'

"'What is his name?' said the king.

"'The Baron du Vallon,' M. Fouquet replied.

"'Very well,' returned his majesty, 'you will present him to me.'"

"The king said that?"

"Upon the word of a D'Artagnan!"

"Oh, oh!" said Porthos. "Why have I not been presented, then?"

"Have they not spoken to you about this presentation?"

"Yes, certainly; but I am always kept waiting for it."

"Be easy, it will be sure to come."

"Humph! humph!" grumbled Porthos, which D'Artagnan pretended not to hear;
and, changing the conversation, he said, "You seem to be living in a very
solitary place here, my dear fellow?"

"I always preferred retirement. I am of a melancholy disposition,"
replied Porthos, with a sigh.

"Really, that is odd," said D'Artagnan, "I never remarked that before."

"It is only since I have taken to reading, "said Porthos, with a
thoughtful air.

"But the labors of the mind have not affected the health of the body, I
trust?"

"Not in the slightest degree."

"Your strength is as great as ever?"

"Too great, my friend, too great."

"Ah! I had heard that, for a short time after your arrival - "

"That I could hardly move a limb, I suppose?"

"How was it?" said D'Artagnan, smiling, "and why was it you could not
move?"

Porthos, perceiving that he had made a mistake, wished to correct it.
"Yes, I came from Belle-Isle upon very hard horses," he said, "and that
fatigued me."

"I am no longer astonished, then, since I, who followed you, found seven
or eight lying dead on the road."

"I am very heavy, you know," said Porthos.

"So that you were bruised all over."

"My marrow melted, and that made me very ill."

"Poor Porthos! But how did Aramis act towards you under those
circumstances?"

"Very well, indeed. He had me attended to by M. Fouquet's own doctor.
But just imagine, at the end of a week I could not breathe any longer."

"What do you mean?"

"The room was too small; I had absorbed every atom of air."

"Indeed?"

"I was told so, at least; and so I was removed into another apartment."

"Where you were able to breathe, I hope and trust?"

"Yes, more freely; but no exercise - nothing to do. The doctor pretended
that I was not to stir; I, on the contrary, felt that I was stronger than
ever; that was the cause of a very serious accident."

"What accident?"

"Fancy, my dear fellow, that I revolted against the directions of that
ass of a doctor, and I resolved to go out, whether it suited him or not:
and, consequently, I told the valet who waited on me to bring me my
clothes."

"You were quite naked, then?"

"Oh, no! on the contrary, I had a magnificent dressing-gown to wear. The
lackey obeyed; I dressed myself in my own clothes, which had become too
large for me; but a strange circumstance had happened, - my feet had
become too large."

"Yes, I quite understand."

"And my boots too small."

"You mean your feet were still swollen?"

"Exactly; you have hit it."

"_Pardieu!_ And is that the accident you were going to tell me about?"

"Oh, yes; I did not make the same reflection you have done. I said to
myself: 'Since my feet have entered my boots ten times, there is no
reason why they should not go in the eleventh.'"

"Allow me to tell you, my dear Porthos, that on this occasion you failed
in your logic."

"In short, then, they placed me opposite to a part of the room which was
partitioned; I tried to get my boot on; I pulled it with my hands, I
pushed with all the strength of the muscles of my leg, making the most
unheard-of efforts, when suddenly the two tags of my boot remained in my
hands, and my foot struck out like a ballista."

"How learned you are in fortification, dear Porthos."

"My foot darted out like a ballista, and came against the partition,
which it broke in; I really thought that, like Samson, I had demolished
the temple. And the number of pictures, the quantity of china, vases of
flowers, carpets, and window-panes that fell down were really wonderful."

"Indeed!"

"Without reckoning that on the other side of the partition was a small
table laden with porcelain - "

"Which you knocked over?"

"Which I dashed to the other side of the room," said Porthos,
laughing.

"Upon my word, it is, as you say, astonishing," replied D'Artagnan,
beginning to laugh also; whereupon Porthos laughed louder than ever.

"I broke," said Porthos, in a voice half-choked from his increasing
mirth, "more than three thousand francs worth of china - ha, ha, ha!"

"Good!" said D'Artagnan.

"I smashed more than four thousand francs worth of glass! - ho, ho, ho!"

"Excellent."

"Without counting a luster, which fell on my head and was broken into a
thousand pieces - ha, ha, ha!"

"Upon your head?" said D'Artagnan, holding his sides.

"On top."

"But your head was broken, I suppose?"

"No, since I tell you, on the contrary, my dear fellow, that it was the
luster which was broken, like glass, which, in point of fact, it was."

"Ah! the luster was glass, you say."

"Venetian glass! a perfect curiosity, quite matchless, indeed, and
weighed two hundred pounds."

"And it fell upon your head!"

"Upon my head. Just imagine, a globe of crystal, gilded all over, the
lower part beautifully encrusted, perfumes burning at the top, with jets
from which flame issued when they were lighted."

"I quite understand, but they were not lighted at the time, I suppose?"

"Happily not, or I should have been grilled prematurely."

"And you were only knocked down flat, instead?"

"Not at all."

"How, 'not at all?'"

"Why, the luster fell on my skull. It appears that we have upon the top
of our heads an exceedingly thick crust."

"Who told you that, Porthos?"

"The doctor. A sort of dome which would bear Notre-Dame."

"Bah!"

"Yes, it seems that our skulls are made in that manner."

"Speak for yourself, my dear fellow, it is your own skull that is made in
that manner, and not the skulls of other people."

"Well, that may be so," said Porthos, conceitedly, "so much, however, was
that the case, in my instance, that no sooner did the luster fall upon
the dome which we have at the top of our head, than there was a report
like a cannon, the crystal was broken to pieces, and I fell, covered from
head to foot."

"With blood, poor Porthos!"

"Not at all; with perfumes, which smelt like rich creams; it was
delicious, but the odor was too strong, and I felt quite giddy from it;
perhaps you have experienced it sometimes yourself, D'Artagnan?"

"Yes, in inhaling the scent of the lily of the valley; so that, my poor
friend, you were knocked over by the shock and overpowered by the
perfumes?"

"Yes; but what is very remarkable, for the doctor told me he had never
seen anything like it - "

"You had a bump on your head I suppose?" interrupted D'Artagnan.

"I had five."

"Why five?"

"I will tell you; the luster had, at its lower extremity, five gilt
ornaments; excessively sharp."

"Oh!"

"Well, these five ornaments penetrated my hair, which, as you see, I wear
very thick."

"Fortunately so."

"And they made a mark on my skin. But just notice the singularity of it,
these things seem really only to happen to me! Instead of making
indentations, they made bumps. The doctor could never succeed in
explaining that to me satisfactorily."

"Well, then, I will explain it to you."

"You will do me a great service if you will," said Porthos, winking his
eyes, which, with him, was sign of the profoundest attention.

"Since you have been employing your brain in studies of an exalted
character, in important calculations, and so on, the head has gained a
certain advantage, so that your head is now too full of science."

"Do you think so?"

"I am sure of it. The result is, that, instead of allowing any foreign
matter to penetrate the interior of the head, your bony box or skull,
which is already too full, avails itself of the openings which are made
in allowing this excess to escape."

"Ah!" said Porthos, to whom this explanation appeared clearer than that
of the doctor.

"The five protuberances, caused by the five ornaments of the luster, must
certainly have been scientific globules, brought to the surface by the
force of circumstances."

"In fact," said Porthos, "the real truth is, that I felt far worse
outside my head than inside. I will even confess, that when I put my hat
upon my head, clapping it on my head with that graceful energy which we
gentlemen of the sword possess, if my fist was not very gently applied, I
experienced the most painful sensations."

"I quite believe you, Porthos."

"Therefore, my friend," said the giant, "M. Fouquet decided, seeing how
slightly built the house was, to give me another lodging, and so they
brought me here."

"It is the private park, I think, is it not?"

"Yes."

"Where the rendezvous are made; that park, indeed, which is so celebrated
in some of those mysterious stories about the superintendent?"

"I don't know; I have had no rendezvous or heard mysterious stories
myself, but they have authorized me to exercise my muscles, and I take
advantage of the permission by rooting up some of the trees."

"What for?"

"To keep my hand in, and also to take some birds' nests; I find it more
convenient than climbing."

"You are as pastoral as Tyrcis, my dear Porthos."

"Yes, I like the small eggs; I like them very much better than larger
ones. You have no idea how delicate an _omelette_ is, if made of four or
five hundred eggs of linnets, chaffinches, starlings, blackbirds, and
thrushes."

"But five hundred eggs is perfectly monstrous!"

"A salad-bowl will hold them easily enough," said Porthos.

D'Artagnan looked at Porthos admiringly for full five minutes, as if he
had seen him for the first time, while Porthos spread his chest out
joyously and proudly. They remained in this state several minutes,
Porthos smiling, and D'Artagnan looking at him. D'Artagnan was evidently
trying to give the conversation a new turn. "Do you amuse yourself much
here, Porthos?" he asked at last, very likely after he had found out what
he was searching for.

"Not always."

"I can imagine that; but when you get thoroughly bored, by and by, what
do you intend to do?"

"Oh! I shall not be here for any length of time. Aramis is waiting
until the last bump on my head disappears, in order to present me to the
king, who I am told cannot endure the sight of a bump."

"Aramis is still in Paris, then?"

"No."

"Whereabouts is he, then?"

"At Fontainebleau."

"Alone?"

"With M. Fouquet."

"Very good. But do you happen to know one thing?"

"No, tell it me, and then I shall know."

"Well, then, I think Aramis is forgetting you."

"Do you really think so?"

"Yes; for at Fontainebleau yonder, you must know, they are laughing,
dancing, banqueting, and drawing the corks of M. de Mazarin's wine in
fine style. Are you aware that they have a ballet every evening there?"

"The deuce they have!"

"I assure you that your dear Aramis is forgetting you."

"Well, that is not at all unlikely, and I have myself thought so
sometimes."

"Unless he is playing you a trick, the sly fellow!"

"Oh!"

"You know that Aramis is as sly as a fox."

"Yes, but to play _me_ a trick - "

"Listen: in the first place, he puts you under a sort of sequestration."

"He sequestrates me! Do you mean to say I am sequestrated?"

"I think so."

"I wish you would have the goodness to prove that to me."

"Nothing easier. Do you ever go out?"

"Never."

"Do you ever ride on horseback?"

"Never."

"Are your friends allowed to come and see you?"

"Never."

"Very well, then; never to go out, never to ride on horseback, never to
be allowed to see your friends, that is called being sequestrated."

"But why should Aramis sequestrate me?" inquired Porthos.

"Come," said D'Artagnan, "be frank, Porthos."

"As gold."

"It was Aramis who drew the plan of the fortifications at Belle-Isle, was
it not?"

Porthos colored as he said, "Yes; but that was all he did."

"Exactly, and my own opinion is that it was no very great affair after
all."

"That is mine, too."

"Very good; I am delighted we are of the same opinion."

"He never even came to Belle-Isle," said Porthos.

"There now, you see."

"It was I who went to Vannes, as you may have seen."

"Say rather, as I did see. Well, that is precisely the state of the
case, my dear Porthos. Aramis, who only drew the plans, wishes to pass
himself off as the engineer, whilst you, who, stone by stone, built the
wall, the citadel, and the bastions, he wishes to reduce to the rank of a
mere builder."

"By builder, you mean mason, perhaps?"

"Mason; the very word."

"Plasterer, in fact?"

"Hodman?"

"Exactly."

"Oh, oh! my dear Aramis, you seem to think you are only five and twenty
years of age still."

"Yes, and that is not all, for believes you are fifty."

"I should have amazingly liked to have seen him at work."

"Yes, indeed."

"A fellow who has got the gout?"

"Yes."

"Who has lost three of his teeth?"

"Four."

"While I, look at mine." And Porthos, opening his large mouth very wide,
displayed two rows of teeth not quite as white as snow, but even, hard,
and sound as ivory.

"You can hardly believe, Porthos," said D'Artagnan, "what a fancy the
king has for good teeth. Yours decide me; I will present you to the king
myself."

"You?"

"Why not? Do you think I have less credit at court than Aramis?"

"Oh, no!"

"Do you think I have the slightest pretensions upon the fortifications at
Belle-Isle?"

"Certainly not."

"It is your own interest alone which would induce me to do it."

"I don't doubt it in the least."

"Well, I am the intimate friend of the king; and a proof of that is, that
whenever there is anything disagreeable to tell him, it is I who have to
do it."

"But, dear D'Artagnan, if you present me - "

"Well!"

"Aramis will be angry."

"With me?"

"No, with _me_."

"Bah! whether he or I present you, since you are to be presented, what
does it matter?"

"They were going to get me some clothes made."

"Your own are splendid."

"Oh! those I had ordered were far more beautiful."

"Take care: the king likes simplicity."

"In that case, I will be simple. But what will M. Fouquet say, when he
learns that I have left?"

"Are you a prisoner, then, on parole?"

"No, not quite that. But I promised him I would not leave without
letting him know."

"Wait a minute, we shall return to that presently. Have you anything to
do here?"

"I, nothing: nothing of any importance, at least."

"Unless, indeed, you are Aramis's representative for something of
importance."

"By no means."

"What I tell you - pray, understand that - is out of interest for you. I
suppose, for instance, that you are commissioned to send messages and
letters to him?"

"Ah! letters -yes. I send certain letters to him."

"Where?"

"To Fontainebleau."

"Have you any letters, then?"

"But - "

"Nay, let me speak. Have you any letters, I say?"

"I have just received one for him."

"Interesting?"

"I suppose so."

"You do not read them, then?"

"I am not at all curious," said Porthos, as he drew out of his pocket the
soldier's letter which Porthos had not read, but D'Artagnan had.

"Do you know what to do with it?" said D'Artagnan.

"Of course; do as I always do, send it to him."

"Not so."

"Why not? Keep it, then?"

"Did they not tell you that this letter was important?"

"Very important."

"Well, you must take it yourself to Fontainebleau."

"To Aramis?"

"Yes."

"Very good."

"And since the king is there - "

"You will profit by that."

"I shall profit by the opportunity to present you to the king."

"Ah! D'Artagnan, there is no one like you for expedients."

"Therefore, instead of forwarding to our friend any messages, which may
or may not be faithfully delivered, we will ourselves be the bearers of
the letter."

"I had never even thought of that, and yet it is simple enough."

"And therefore, because it is urgent, Porthos, we ought to set off at
once."

"In fact," said Porthos, "the sooner we set off the less chance there is
of Aramis's letter being delayed."

"Porthos, your reasoning is always accurate, and, in your case, logic
seems to serve as an auxiliary to the imagination."

"Do you think so?" said Porthos.

"It is the result of your hard reading," replied D'Artagnan. "So come
along, let us be off."

"But," said Porthos, "my promise to M. Fouquet?"

"Which?"

"Not to leave Saint-Mande without telling him of it."

"Ah! Porthos," said D'Artagnan, "how very young you still are."

"In what way?"

"You are going to Fontainebleau, are you not, where you will find M.
Fouquet?"

"Yes."

"Probably in the king's palace?"

"Yes," repeated Porthos, with an air full of majesty.

"Well, you will accost him with these words: 'M. Fouquet, I have the
honor to inform you that I have just left Saint-Mande.'"

"And," said Porthos, with the same majestic mien, "seeing me at
Fontainebleau at the king's, M. Fouquet will not be able to tell me I am
not speaking the truth."

"My dear Porthos, I was just on the point of opening my lips to make the
same remark, but you anticipate me in everything. Oh! Porthos, how
fortunately you are gifted! Years have made not the slightest impression
on you."

"Not over-much, certainly."

"Then there is nothing more to say?"

"I think not."

"All your scruples are removed?"

"Quite so."

"In that case I shall carry you off with me."

"Exactly; and I will go and get my horse saddled."

"You have horses here, then?"

"I have five."

"You had them sent from Pierrefonds, I suppose?"

"No, M. Fouquet gave them to me."

"My dear Porthos, we shall not want five horses for two persons; besides,
I have already three in Paris, which would make eight, and that will be
too many."

"It would not be too many if I had some of my servants here; but, alas! I
have not got them."

"Do you regret them, then?"

"I regret Mousqueton; I miss Mousqueton."

"What a good-hearted fellow you are, Porthos," said D'Artagnan; "but the
best thing you can do is to leave your horses here, as you have left
Mousqueton out yonder."

"Why so?"

"Because, by and by, it might turn out a very good thing if M. Fouquet
had never given you anything at all."

"I don't understand you," said Porthos.

"It is not necessary you should understand."

"But yet - "

"I will explain to you later, Porthos."

"I'll wager it is some piece of policy or other."

"And of the most subtle character," returned D'Artagnan.

Porthos nodded his head at this word policy; then, after a moment's
reflection, he added, "I confess, D'Artagnan, that I am no politician."

"I know that well."

"Oh! no one knows what you told me yourself, you, the bravest of the
brave."

"What did I tell you, Porthos?"

"That every man has his day. You told me so, and I have experienced it
myself. There are certain days when one feels less pleasure than others
in exposing one's self to a bullet or a sword-thrust."

"Exactly my own idea."

"And mine, too, although I can hardly believe in blows or thrusts that
kill outright."

"The deuce! and yet you have killed a few in your time."

"Yes; but I have never been killed."

"Your reason is a very good one."

"Therefore, I do not believe I shall ever die from a thrust of a sword or
a gun-shot."

"In that case, then, you are afraid of nothing. Ah! water, perhaps?"

"Oh! I swim like an otter."

"Of a quartan fever, then?"

"I have never had one yet, and I don't believe I ever shall; but there is
one thing I will admit," and Porthos dropped his voice.

"What is that?" asked D'Artagnan, adopting the same tone of voice as
Porthos.

"I must confess," repeated Porthos, "that I am horribly afraid of
politics."

"Ah, bah!" exclaimed D'Artagnan.

"Upon my word, it's true," said Porthos, in a stentorian voice. "I have
seen his eminence Monsieur le Cardinal de Richelieu, and his eminence
Monsieur le Cardinal de Mazarin; the one was a red politician, the other
a black politician; I never felt very much more satisfied with the one
than with the other; the first struck off the heads of M. de Marillac, M.
de Thou, M. de Cinq-Mars, M. Chalais, M. de Bouteville, and M. de
Montmorency; the second got a whole crowd of Frondeurs cut in pieces, and
we belonged to them."

"On the contrary, we did not belong to them," said D'Artagnan.

"Oh! indeed, yes; for if I unsheathed my sword for the cardinal, I struck
it for the king."

"My good Porthos!"

"Well, I have done. My dread of politics is such, that if there is any
question of politics in the matter, I should greatly prefer to return to
Pierrefonds."

"You would be quite right, if that were the case. But with me, my dear
Porthos, no politics at all, that is quite clear. You have labored hard
in fortifying Belle-Isle; the king wished to know the name of the clever
engineer under whose directions the works were carried out; you are
modest, as all men of true genius are; perhaps Aramis wishes to put you
under a bushel. But I happen to seize hold of you; I make it known who
you are; I produce you; the king rewards you; and that is the only policy
I have to do with."

"And the only one I will have to do with either," said Porthos, holding
out his hand to D'Artagnan.

But D'Artagnan knew Porthos's grasp; he knew that, once imprisoned within
the baron's five fingers, no hand ever left it without being half-
crushed. He therefore held out, not his hand, but his fist, and Porthos
did not even perceive the difference. The servants talked a little with
each other in an undertone, and whispered a few words, which D'Artagnan
understood, but which he took very good care not to let Porthos
understand. "Our friend," he said to himself, "was really and truly
Aramis's prisoner. Let us now see what the result will be of the
liberation of the captive."

Alexandre Dumas pere