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Chapter 6

Chapter VI:
Showing What Could Be Seen from Planchet's House.

The next morning found the three heroes sleeping soundly. Truchen had
closed the outside blinds to keep the first rays of the sun from the
leaden-lidded eyes of her guests, like a kind, good housekeeper. It was
still perfectly dark, then, beneath Porthos's curtains and under
Planchet's canopy, when D'Artagnan, awakened by an indiscreet ray of
light which made its way through a peek-hole in the shutters, jumped
hastily out of bed, as if he wished to be the first at a forlorn hope.
He took by assault Porthos's room, which was next to his own. The worthy
Porthos was sleeping with a noise like distant thunder; in the dim
obscurity of the room his gigantic frame was prominently displayed, and
his swollen fist hung down outside the bed upon the carpet. D'Artagnan
awoke Porthos, who rubbed his eyes in a tolerably good humor. In the
meantime Planchet was dressing himself, and met at their bedroom doors
his two guests, who were still somewhat unsteady from their previous
evening's entertainment. Although it was yet very early, the whole
household was already up. The cook was mercilessly slaughtering in the
poultry-yard; Celestin was gathering white cherries in the garden.
Porthos, brisk and lively as ever, held out his hand to Planchet's, and
D'Artagnan requested permission to embrace Madame Truchen. The latter,
to show that she bore no ill-will, approached Porthos, upon whom she
conferred the same favor. Porthos embraced Madame Truchen, heaving an
enormous sigh. Planchet took both his friends by the hand.

"I am going to show you over the house," he said; "when we arrived last
night it was as dark as an oven, and we were unable to see anything; but
in broad daylight, everything looks different, and you will be satisfied,
I hope."

"If we begin by the view you have here," said D'Artagnan, "that charms me
beyond everything; I have always lived in royal mansions, you know, and
royal personages have tolerably sound ideas upon the selection of points
of view."

"I am a great stickler for a good view myself," said Porthos. "At my
Chateau de Pierrefonds, I have had four avenues laid out, and at the end
of each is a landscape of an altogether different character from the
others."

"You shall see _my_ prospect," said Planchet; and he led his two guests
to a window.

"Ah!" said D'Artagnan, "this is the Rue de Lyon."

"Yes, I have two windows on this side, a paltry, insignificant view, for
there is always that bustling and noisy inn, which is a very disagreeable
neighbor. I had four windows here, but I bricked up two."

"Let us go on," said D'Artagnan.

They entered a corridor leading to the bedrooms, and Planchet pushed open
the outside blinds.

"Hollo! what is that out yonder?" said Porthos.

"The forest," said Planchet. "It is the horizon, - a thick line of
green, which is yellow in the spring, green in the summer, red in the
autumn, and white in the winter."

"All very well, but it is like a curtain, which prevents one seeing a
greater distance."

"Yes," said Planchet; "still, one can see, at all events, everything that
intervenes."

"Ah, the open country," said Porthos. "But what is that I see out there,
- crosses and stones?"

"Ah, that is the cemetery," exclaimed D'Artagnan.

"Precisely," said Planchet; "I assure you it is very curious. Hardly a
day passes that some one is not buried there; for Fontainebleau is by no
means an inconsiderable place. Sometimes we see young girls clothed in
white carrying banners; at others, some of the town-council, or rich
citizens, with choristers and all the parish authorities; and then, too,
we see some of the officers of the king's household."

"I should not like that," said Porthos.

"There is not much amusement in it, at all events," said D'Artagnan.

"I assure you it encourages religious thoughts," replied Planchet.

"Oh, I don't deny that."

"But," continued Planchet, "we must all die one day or another, and I
once met with a maxim somewhere which I have remembered, that the thought
of death is a thought that will do us all good."

"I am far from saying the contrary," said Porthos.

"But," objected D'Artagnan, "the thought of green fields, flowers,
rivers, blue horizons, extensive and boundless plains, is no likely to do
us good."

"If I had any, I should be far from rejecting them," said Planchet; "but
possessing only this little cemetery, full of flowers, so moss-grown,
shady, and quiet, I am contented with it, and I think of those who live
in town, in the Rue des Lombards, for instance, and who have to listen to
the rumbling of a couple of thousand vehicles every day, and to the
soulless tramp, tramp, tramp of a hundred and fifty thousand foot-
passengers."

"But living," said Porthos; "living, remember that."

"That is exactly the reason," said Planchet, timidly, "why I feel it does
me good to contemplate a few dead."

"Upon my word," said D'Artagnan, "that fellow Planchet is born a
philosopher as well as a grocer."

"Monsieur," said Planchet, "I am one of those good-humored sort of men
whom Heaven created for the purpose of living a certain span of days, and
of considering all good they meet with during their transitory stay on
earth."

D'Artagnan sat down close to the window, and as there seemed to be
something substantial in Planchet's philosophy, he mused over it.

"Ah, ah!" exclaimed Planchet, "if I am not mistaken, we are going to have
a representation now, for I think I heard something like chanting."

"Yes," said D'Artagnan, "I hear singing too."

"Oh, it is only a burial of a very poor description," said Planchet,
disdainfully; "the officiating priest, the beadle, and only one chorister
boy, nothing more. You observe, messieurs, that the defunct lady or
gentleman could not have been of very high rank."

"No; no one seems to be following the coffin."

"Yes," said Porthos; "I see a man."

"You are right; a man wrapped in a cloak," said D'Artagnan.

"It's not worth looking at," said Planchet.

"I find it interesting," said D'Artagnan, leaning on the window-sill.

"Come, come, you are beginning to take a fancy to the place already,"
said Planchet, delightedly; "it is exactly my own case. I was so
melancholy at first that I could do nothing but make the sign of the
cross all day, and the chants were like so many nails being driven into
my head; but now, they lull me to sleep, and no bird I have ever seen or
heard can sing better than those which are to be met with in this
cemetery."

"Well," said Porthos, "this is beginning to get a little dull for me, and
I prefer going downstairs."

Planchet with one bound was beside his guest, whom he offered to lead
into the garden.

"What!" said Porthos to D'Artagnan, as he turned round, "are you going to
remain here?"

"Yes, I will join you presently."

"Well, M. D'Artagnan is right, after all," said Planchet: "are they
beginning to bury yet?"

"Not yet."

"Ah! yes, the grave-digger is waiting until the cords are fastened round
the bier. But, see, a woman has just entered the cemetery at the other
end."

"Yes, yes, my dear Planchet," said D'Artagnan, quickly, "leave me, leave
me; I feel I am beginning already to be much comforted by my meditations,
so do not interrupt me."

Planchet left, and D'Artagnan remained, devouring with his eager gaze
from behind the half-closed blinds what was taking place just before
him. The two bearers of the corpse had unfastened the straps by which
they carried the litter, and were letting their burden glide gently into
the open grave. At a few paces distant, the man with the cloak wrapped
round him, the only spectator of this melancholy scene, was leaning with
his back against a large cypress-tree, and kept his face and person
entirely concealed from the grave-diggers and the priests; the corpse was
buried in five minutes. The grave having been filled up, the priests
turned away, and the grave-digger having addressed a few words to them,
followed them as they moved away. The man in the mantle bowed as they
passed him, and put a piece of gold into the grave-digger's hand.

"_Mordioux!_" murmured D'Artagnan; "it is Aramis himself."

Aramis, in fact, remained alone, on that side at least; for hardly had he
turned his head when a woman's footsteps, and the rustling of her dress,
were heard in the path close to him. He immediately turned round, and
took off his hat with the most ceremonious respect; he led the lady under
the shelter of some walnut and lime trees, which overshadowed a
magnificent tomb.

"Ah! who would have thought it," said D'Artagnan; "the bishop of Vannes
at a rendezvous! He is still the same Abbe Aramis as he was at Noisy-le-
Sec. Yes," he added, after a pause; "but as it is in a cemetery, the
rendezvous is sacred." But he almost laughed.

The conversation lasted for fully half an hour. D'Artagnan could not see
the lady's face, for she kept her back turned towards him; but he saw
perfectly well, by the erect attitude of both the speakers, by their
gestures, by the measured and careful manner with which they glanced at
each other, either by way of attack or defense, that they must be
conversing about any other subject than of love. At the end of the
conversation the lady rose, and bowed profoundly to Aramis.

"Oh, oh," said D'Artagnan; "this rendezvous finishes like one of a very
tender nature though. The cavalier kneels at the beginning, the young
lady by and by gets tamed down, and then it is she who has to
supplicate. Who is this lady? I would give anything to ascertain."

This seemed impossible, however, for Aramis was the first to leave; the
lady carefully concealed her head and face, and then immediately
departed. D'Artagnan could hold out no longer; he ran to the window
which looked out on the Rue de Lyon, and saw Aramis entering the inn.
The lady was proceeding in quite an opposite direction, and seemed, in
fact, to be about to rejoin an equipage, consisting of two led horses and
a carriage, which he could see standing close to the borders of the
forest. She was walking slowly, her head bent down, absorbed in the
deepest meditation.

"_Mordioux! Mordioux!_ I must and will learn who that woman is," said
the musketeer again; and then, without further deliberation, he set off
in pursuit of her. As he was going along, he tried to think how he could
possibly contrive to make her raise her veil. "She is not young," he
said, "and is a woman of high rank in society. I ought to know that
figure and peculiar style of walk." As he ran, the sound of his spurs
and of his boots upon the hard ground of the street made a strange
jingling noise; a fortunate circumstance in itself, which he was far
from reckoning upon. The noise disturbed the lady; she seemed to fancy
she was being either followed or pursued, which was indeed the case, and
turned round. D'Artagnan started as if he had received a charge of small
shot in his legs, and then turning suddenly round as if he were going
back the same way he had come, he murmured, "Madame de Chevreuse!"
D'Artagnan would not go home until he had learnt everything. He asked
Celestin to inquire of the grave-digger whose body it was they had buried
that morning.

"A poor Franciscan mendicant friar," replied the latter, "who had not
even a dog to love him in this world, and to accompany him to his last
resting-place."

"If that were really the case," thought D'Artagnan, "we should not have
found Aramis present at his funeral. The bishop of Vannes is not
precisely a dog as far as devotion goes: his scent, however, is quite as
keen, I admit."

Alexandre Dumas pere