Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 5

Chapter V:
Planchet's Country-House.

The cavaliers looked up, and saw that what Planchet had announced to them
was true. Ten minutes afterwards they were in the street called the Rue
de Lyon, on the opposite side of the hostelry of the Beau Paon. A high
hedge of bushy elders, hawthorn, and wild hops formed an impenetrable
fence, behind which rose a white house, with a high tiled roof. Two of
the windows, which were quite dark, looked upon the street. Between the
two, a small door, with a porch supported by a couple of pillars, formed
the entrance to the house. The door was gained by a step raised a little
from the ground. Planchet got off his horse, as if he intended to knock
at the door; but, on second thoughts, he took hold of his horse by the
bridle, and led it about thirty paces further on, his two companions
following him. He then advanced about another thirty paces, until he
arrived at the door of a cart-house, lighted by an iron grating; and,
lifting up a wooden latch, pushed open one of the folding-doors. He
entered first, leading his horse after him by the bridle, into a small
courtyard, where an odor met them which revealed their close vicinity to
a stable. "That smells all right," said Porthos, loudly, getting off his
horse, "and I almost begin to think I am near my own cows at Pierrefonds."

"I have only one cow," Planchet hastened to say modestly.

"And I have thirty," said Porthos; "or rather, I don't exactly know how
many I have."

When the two cavaliers had entered, Planchet fastened the door behind
them. In the meantime, D'Artagnan, who had dismounted with his usual
agility, inhaled the fresh perfumed air with the delight a Parisian feels
at the sight of green fields and fresh foliage, plucked a piece of
honeysuckle with one hand, and of sweet-briar with the other. Porthos
clawed hold of some peas which were twined round poles stuck into the
ground, and ate, or rather browsed upon them, shells and all: and
Planchet was busily engaged trying to wake up an old and infirm peasant,
who was fast asleep in a shed, lying on a bed of moss, and dressed in an
old stable suit of clothes. The peasant, recognizing Planchet, called
him "the master," to the grocer's great satisfaction. "Stable the horses
well, old fellow, and you shall have something good for yourself," said
Planchet.

"Yes, yes; fine animals they are too," said the peasant. "Oh! they shall
have as much as they like."

"Gently, gently, my man," said D'Artagnan, "we are getting on a little
too fast. A few oats and a good bed - nothing more."

"Some bran and water for my horse," said Porthos, "for it is very warm, I
think."

"Don't be afraid, gentlemen," replied Planchet; "Daddy Celestin is an old
gendarme, who fought at Ivry. He knows all about horses; so come into
the house." And he led the way along a well-sheltered walk, which
crossed a kitchen-garden, then a small paddock, and came out into a
little garden behind the house, the principal front of which, as we have
already noticed, faced the street. As they approached, they could see,
through two open windows on the ground floor, which led into a sitting-
room, the interior of Planchet's residence. This room, softly lighted by
a lamp placed on the table, seemed, from the end of the garden, like a
smiling image of repose, comfort, and happiness. In every direction
where the rays of light fell, whether upon a piece of old china, or upon
an article of furniture shining from excessive neatness, or upon the
weapons hanging against the wall, the soft light was softly reflected;
and its rays seemed to linger everywhere upon something or another,
agreeable to the eye. The lamp which lighted the room, whilst the
foliage of jasmine and climbing roses hung in masses from the window-
frames, splendidly illuminated a damask table-cloth as white as snow.
The table was laid for two persons. Amber-colored wine sparkled in a
long cut-glass bottle; and a large jug of blue china, with a silver lid,
was filled with foaming cider. Near the table, in a high-backed
armchair, reclined, fast asleep, a woman of about thirty years of age,
her face the very picture of health and freshness. Upon her knees lay a
large cat, with her paws folded under her, and her eyes half-closed,
purring in that significant manner which, according to feline habits,
indicates perfect contentment. The two friends paused before the window
in complete amazement, while Planchet, perceiving their astonishment, was
in no little degree secretly delighted at it.

"Ah! Planchet, you rascal," said D'Artagnan, "I now understand your
absences."

"Oh, oh! there is some white linen!" said Porthos, in his turn, in a
voice of thunder. At the sound of this gigantic voice, the cat took
flight, the housekeeper woke up with a start, and Planchet, assuming a
gracious air, introduced his two companions into the room, where the
table was already laid.

"Permit me, my dear," he said, "to present to you Monsieur le Chevalier
d'Artagnan, my patron." D'Artagnan took the lady's hand in his in the
most courteous manner, and with precisely the same chivalrous air as he
would have taken Madame's.

"Monsieur le Baron du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds," added
Planchet. Porthos bowed with a reverence which Anne of Austria would
have approved of.

It was then Planchet's turn, and he unhesitatingly embraced the lady in
question, not, however, until he had made a sign as if requesting
D'Artagnan's and Porthos's permission, a permission as a matter of course
frankly conceded. D'Artagnan complimented Planchet, and said, "You are
indeed a man who knows how to make life agreeable."

"Life, monsieur," said Planchet, laughing, "is capital which a man ought
to invest as sensibly as he possibly can."

"And you get very good interest for yours," said Porthos, with a burst of
laughter like a peal of thunder.

Planchet turned to his housekeeper. "You have before you," he said to
her, "the two gentlemen who influenced the greatest, gayest, grandest
portion of my life. I have spoken to you about them both very
frequently."

"And about two others as well," said the lady, with a very decided
Flemish accent.

"Madame is Dutch?" inquired D'Artagnan. Porthos curled his mustache, a
circumstance which was not lost upon D'Artagnan, who noticed everything.

"I am from Antwerp," said the lady.

"And her name is Madame Getcher," said Planchet.

"You should not call her madame," said D'Artagnan.

"Why not?" asked Planchet.

"Because it would make her seem older every time you call her so."

"Well, I call her Truchen."

"And a very pretty name too," said Porthos.

"Truchen," said Planchet, "came to me from Flanders with her virtue and
two thousand florins. She ran away from a brute of a husband who was in
the habit of beating her. Being myself a Picard born, I was always very
fond of the Artesian women, and it is only a step from Artois to
Flanders; she came crying bitterly to her godfather, my predecessor in
the Rue des Lombards; she placed her two thousand florins in my
establishment, which I have turned to very good account, and which have
brought her in ten thousand."

"Bravo, Planchet."

"She is free and well off; she has a cow, a maid servant and old Celestin
at her orders; she mends my linen, knits my winter stockings; she only
sees me every fortnight, and seems to make herself in all things
tolerably happy.

"And indeed, gentlemen, I _am_ very happy and comfortable," said Truchen,
with perfect ingenuousness.

Porthos began to curl the other side of his mustache. "The deuce,"
thought D'Artagnan, "can Porthos have any intentions in that quarter?"

In the meantime Truchen had set her cook to work, had laid the table for
two more, and covered it with every possible delicacy that could convert
a light supper into a substantial meal, a meal into a regular feast.
Fresh butter, salt beef, anchovies, tunny, a shopful of Planchet's
commodities, fowls, vegetables, salad, fish from the pond and the river,
game from the forest - all the produce, in fact, of the province.
Moreover, Planchet returned from the cellar, laden with ten bottles of
wine, the glass of which could hardly be seen for the thick coating of
dust which covered them. Porthos's heart began to expand as he said, "I
am hungry," and he sat himself beside Madame Truchen, whom he looked at
in the most killing manner. D'Artagnan seated himself on the other side
of her, while Planchet, discreetly and full of delight, took his seat
opposite.

"Do not trouble yourselves," he said, "if Truchen should leave the table
now and then during supper; for she will have to look after your bedrooms."

In fact, the housekeeper made her escape quite frequently, and they could
hear, on the first floor above them, the creaking of the wooden bedsteads
and the rolling of the castors on the floor. While this was going on,
the three men, Porthos especially, ate and drank gloriously, - it was
wonderful to see them. The ten full bottles were ten empty one by the
time Truchen returned with the cheese. D'Artagnan still preserved his
dignity and self-possession, but Porthos had lost a portion of his; and
the mirth soon began to grow somewhat uproarious. D'Artagnan recommended
a new descent into the cellar, and, as Planchet no longer walked with the
steadiness of a well-trained foot-soldier, the captain of the musketeers
proposed to accompany him. They set off, humming songs wild enough to
frighten anybody who might be listening. Truchen remained behind at
table with Porthos. While the two wine-bibbers were looking behind the
firewood for what they wanted, a sharp report was heard like the impact
of a pair of lips on a lady's cheek.

"Porthos fancies himself at La Rochelle," thought D'Artagnan, as they
returned freighted with bottles. Planchet was singing so loudly that he
was incapable of noticing anything. D'Artagnan, whom nothing ever
escaped, remarked how much redder Truchen's left cheek was than her
right. Porthos was sitting on Truchen's left, and was curling with both
his hands both sides of his mustache at once, and Truchen was looking at
him with a most bewitching smile. The sparkling wine of Anjou very soon
produced a remarkable effect upon the three companions. D'Artagnan had
hardly strength enough left to take a candlestick to light Planchet up
his own staircase. Planchet was pulling Porthos along, who was following
Truchen, who was herself jovial enough. It was D'Artagnan who found out
the rooms and the beds. Porthos threw himself into the one destined for
him, after his friend had undressed him. D'Artagnan got into his own
bed, saying to himself, "_Mordioux!_ I had made up my mind never to
touch that light-colored wine, which brings my early camp days back
again. Fie! fie! if my musketeers were only to see their captain in such
a state." And drawing the curtains of his bed, he added, "Fortunately
enough, though, they will not see me."

"The country is very amusing," said Porthos, stretching out his legs,
which passed through the wooden footboard, and made a tremendous crash,
of which, however, no one in the house was capable of taking the
slightest notice. By two o'clock in the morning every one was fast
asleep.

Alexandre Dumas pere