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Chapter 55

Chapter LV
Porthos’s Will
At Pierrefonds everything was in mourning. The courts were deserted, the stables closed, the parterres neglected. In the basins, the fountains, formerly so spreading, noisy, and sparkling, had stopped of themselves. Along the roads around the château came a few grave personages mounted upon mules or farm horses. These were country neighbors, cures, and bailiffs of adjacent estates. All these people entered the château silently, gave their horses to a melancholy-looking groom, and directed their steps, conducted by a huntsman in black, to the great dining-room, where Mousqueton received them at the door. Mousqueton had become so thin in two days that his clothes moved upon him like sheaths which are too large, in which the blades of swords dance about at each motion. His face, composed of red and white, like that of the Madonna of Vandyke, was furrowed by two silver rivulets which had dug their beds in his cheeks, as full formerly as they had become thin since his grief began. At each fresh arrival Mousqueton shed fresh tears, and it was pitiful to see him press his throat with his fat hand to keep from bursting into sobs and lamentations. All these visits were for the purpose of hearing the reading of Porthos’s will, announced for that day, and at which all the covetous and all who were allied by friendship with the deceased were anxious to be present, as he had left no relative behind him.

The visitors took their places as they arrived; and the great room had just been closed when the clock struck twelve, the hour fixed for the reading. Porthos’s procurator- who was naturally the successor of Master Coquenard- began by slowly unfolding the vast parchment upon which the powerful hand of Porthos had traced his last wishes. The seal broken, the spectacles put on, the preliminary cough having sounded, every one opened his ears. Mousqueton had squatted himself in a corner, the better to weep and the less to hear.

All at once the folding-doors of the great room, which had been shut, were thrown open as if by miracle, and a manly figure appeared upon the threshold, resplendent in the full light of the sun. This was d’Artagnan, who had come alone to the gate, and finding nobody to hold his stirrup, had tied his horse to a knocker and announced himself. The splendor of the daylight invading the room, the murmur of all present, and more than all that the instinct of the faithful dog drew Mousqueton from his revery; he raised his head, recognized the old friend of his master, and crying out with grief, embraced the captain’s knees, watering the floor with tears. D’Artagnan raised up the poor intendant, embraced him as if he had been a brother, and having nobly saluted the assembly, who all bowed as they whispered to one another his name, went and took his seat at the extremity of the great carved oak hall, still holding by the hand poor Mousqueton, who was suffocating and sank down upon the steps. Then the procurator, who, like the rest, was considerably agitated, began the reading.

Porthos, after a profession of faith of the most Christian character, asked pardon of his enemies for all the injuries he might have done them. At this paragraph, a ray of inexpressible pride beamed from the eyes of d’Artagnan. He recalled to his mind the old soldier, all those enemies of Porthos brought to the earth by his valiant hand; he reckoned up the numbers of them, and said to himself that Porthos had acted wisely not to detail his enemies or the injuries done to them, or the task would have been too much for the reader. Then came the following enumeration:-

“I possess at this present time, by the grace of God-

“1. The domain of Pierrefonds, lands, woods, meadows, waters, and forests, surrounded by good walls.

“2. The domain of Bracieux, château, forests, ploughed lands, forming three farms.

“3. The little estate Du Vallon, so named because it is in the valley....”

Brave Porthos!

“4. Fifty farms in Touraine, amounting to five hundred acres.

“5. Three mills upon the Cher, bringing in six hundred livres each.

“6. Three fish-pools in Berry, producing two hundred livres a year.

“As to my personal or movable property, so called because it cannot be moved, as is so well explained by my learned friend the Bishop of Vannes....”

D’Artagnan shuddered at the dismal remembrance attached to that name.

The procurator continued imperturbably.

“...they consist-

“1. In goods which I cannot detail here for want of room, and which furnish all my châteaux, or houses, but of which the list is drawn up by my intendant....”

Every one turned his eyes towards Mousqueton, who was absorbed in his grief.

“2. In twenty horses for saddle and draught, which I have particularly at my château of Pierrefonds, and which are called Bayard, Roland, Charlemagne, Pepin, Dunois, La Hire, Ogier, Samson, Milon, Nemrod, Urgande, Armide, Falstrade, Dalila, Rebecca, Yolande, Finette, Grisette, Lisette, and Musette.

“3. In sixty dogs, forming six packs, divided as follows: the first, for the stag; the second, for the wolf; the third, for the wild boar; the fourth, for the hare; and the two others, for watch and guard.

“4. In arms for war and the chase, contained in my gallery of arms.

“5. My wines of Anjou, selected for Athos, who liked them formerly; my wines of Burgundy, Champagne, Bordeaux, and Spain, stocking eight cellars and twelve vaults in my various houses.

“6. My pictures and statues, which are said to be of great value and which are sufficiently numerous to fatigue the sight.

“7. My library, consisting of six thousand volumes, quite new, which have never been opened.

“8. My silver plate, which perhaps is a little worn, but which ought to weigh from a thousand to twelve hundred pounds, for I had great trouble in lifting the coffer that contained it, and could not carry it more than six times round my chamber.

“9. All these objects, in addition to the table and house linen, are divided in the residences I liked the best....”

Here the reader stopped to take breath. Every one sighed, coughed, and redoubled his attention. The procurator resumed:-

“I have lived without having any children, and it is probable I never shall have any, which to me is a cutting grief. And yet I am mistaken, for I have a son, in common with my other friends: he is M. Raoul Auguste Jules de Bragelonne, the true son of M. le Comte de la Fere.

“This young nobleman has appeared to me worthy to succeed to the three valiant gentlemen of whom I am the friend and the very humble servant.”

Here a sharp sound interrupted the reader. It was d’Artagnan’s sword, which, slipping from his baldric, had fallen on the sonorous flooring. Every one turned his eyes that way, and saw that a large tear had rolled from the thick lid of d’Artagnan upon his aquiline nose, the luminous edge of which shone like a crescent enlightened by the sun. The procurator continued:-

“This is why I have left all my property, movable or immovable, comprised in the above enumerations, to M. le Vicomte Raoul Auguste Jules de Bragelonne, son of M. le Comte de la Fere, to console him for the grief he seems to suffer, and enable him to support his name gloriously.”

A long murmur ran through the assemblage. The procurator continued, seconded by the flashing eye of d’Artagnan, which, glancing over the assembly, quickly restored the interrupted silence:-

“On condition that M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne do give to M. le Chevalier d’Artagnan, captain of the King’s Musketeers, whatever the said Chevalier d’Artagnan may demand of my property.

“On condition that M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne do pay a good pension to M. le Chevalier d’Herblay, my friend, if he should be compelled to live in exile.

“On condition that M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne maintain those of my servants who have spent ten years in my service, and that he give five hundred livres to each of the others.

“I leave to my intendant Mousqueton all my clothes, of city, war, or chase, to the number of forty-seven suits, with the assurance that he will wear them till they are worn out, for the love of, and in remembrance of, his master.

“Moreover, I bequeath to M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne my old servant and faithful friend, Mousqueton, already named, with the charge to the said viscount to act in such a way that Mousqueton shall declare when dying that he has never ceased to be happy.”

On hearing these words, Mousqueton, bowed, pale and trembling; his large shoulders shook convulsively; his countenance, impressed by a frightful grief, appeared from between his icy hands, and the spectators saw him stagger and hesitate, as if, though wishing to leave the hall, he did not know the way.

“Mousqueton, my good friend,” said d’Artagnan, “go and make your preparations. I will take you with me to Athos’s house, whither I shall go on leaving Pierrefonds.”

Mousqueton made no reply. He scarcely breathed, feeling as if everything in that hall would from that time be strange to him. He opened the door, and disappeared slowly.

The procurator finished his reading, after which the greater part of those who had come to hear the last will of Porthos dispersed by degrees, many disappointed, but all penetrated with respect. As for d’Artagnan, left alone after having received the formal compliments of the procurator, he was lost in admiration of the wisdom of the testator, who had so judiciously bestowed his wealth upon the most necessitous and the most worthy, with a delicacy that none among the most refined courtiers and the most noble hearts could have displayed more becomingly.

When Porthos enjoined Raoul de Bragelonne to give to d’Artagnan all he would ask, he knew well, did that worthy Porthos, that d’Artagnan would ask or take nothing; and in case he did demand anything, none but himself could say what. Porthos left a pension to Aramis, who, if he should be inclined to ask too much, would be checked by the example of d’Artagnan; and that word “exile,” thrown out by the testator without apparent intention,- was it not the most mild, the most exquisite criticism upon that conduct of Aramis which had brought about the death of Porthos? But there was no mention of Athos in the testament of the dead; could the latter for a moment suppose that the son would not offer the best part to the father? The rough mind of Porthos had judged all these causes, caught all these shades, better than the law, better than custom, better than taste.

“Porthos was a heart,” said d’Artagnan to himself, with a sigh. As he made this reflection he fancied he heard a groan in the room above him, and he thought immediately of poor Mousqueton, whom it was necessary to divert from his grief. For this purpose he left the hall hastily to seek the worthy intendant. He ascended the staircase leading to the first story, and perceived in Porthos’s own chamber a heap of clothes of all colors and all materials, upon which Mousqueton had laid himself down after heaping them together. It was the legacy of the faithful friend. These clothes were truly his own; they had been given to him. The hand of Mousqueton was stretched over these relics, which he kissed with all his lips, with all his face, which he covered with his whole body. D’Artagnan approached to console the poor fellow. “My God!” said he; “he does not stir,- he has fainted!

But d’Artagnan was mistaken; Mousqueton was dead,- dead, like the dog who having lost his master, comes back to die upon his cloak.

Alexandre Dumas pere