List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"Monseigneur?" said he.

"Yes, to be sure; do you not know me, _imbecile?_"

"Yes; you are the Chevalier d'Artagnan."

"Then let me pass."

"It is of no use."

"Why of no use?"

"Because His Greatness is not at home."

"What!  His Greatness is not at home? where is he, then?"

"Gone."

"Gone?"

"Yes."

"Whither?"

"I don't know; but perhaps he tells monsieur le chevalier."

"And how? where? in what fashion?"

"In this letter, which he gave me for monsieur le chevalier."  And the
_valet de chambre_ drew a letter form his pocket."

"Give it me, then, you rascal," said D'Artagnan, snatching it from his
hand.  "Oh, yes," continued he, at the first line, "yes, I understand;"
and he read: -

"Dear Friend, - An affair of the most urgent nature calls me to a distant
parish of my diocese.  I hoped to see you again before I set out; but I
lose that hope in thinking that you are going, no doubt, to remain two or
three days at Belle-Isle, with our dear Porthos.  Amuse yourself as well
as you can; but do not attempt to hold out against him at table.  This is
a counsel I might have given even to Athos, in his most brilliant and
best days.  Adieu, dear friend; believe that I regret greatly not having
better, and for a longer time, profited by your excellent company."

_"Mordioux!_" cried D'Artagnan.  "I am tricked.  Ah! blockhead, brute,
triple fool that I am!  But those laugh best who laugh last.  Oh, duped,
duped like a monkey, cheated with an empty nutshell!"  And with a hearty
blow bestowed upon the nose of the smirking _valet de chambre_, he made
all haste out of the episcopal palace.  Furet, however good a trotter,
was not equal to present circumstances.  D'Artagnan therefore took the
post, and chose a horse which he soon caused to demonstrate, with good
spurs and a light hand, that deer are not the swiftest animals in nature.


Chapter LXXIV:
In which D'Artagnan makes all Speed, Porthos snores, and Aramis counsels.

From thirty to thirty-five hours after the events we have just related,
as M. Fouquet, according to his custom, having interdicted his door, was
working in the cabinet of his house at Saint-Mande, with which we are
already acquainted, a carriage, drawn by four horses steaming with sweat,
entered the court at full gallop.  This carriage was, probably, expected;
for three or four lackeys hastened to the door, which they opened.
Whilst M. Fouquet rose from his bureau and ran to the window, a man got
painfully out of the carriage, descending with difficulty the three steps
of the door, leaning upon the shoulders of the lackeys.  He had scarcely
uttered his name, when the _valet_ upon whom he was not leaning, sprang
up to the _perron_, and disappeared in the vestibule.  This man went to
inform his master; but he had no occasion to knock at the door: Fouquet
was standing on the threshold.

"Monseigneur, the Bishop of Vannes," said he.

"Very well!" replied his master.

Then, leaning over the banister of the staircase, of which Aramis was
beginning to ascend the first steps, -

"Ah, dear friend!" said he, "you, so soon!"

"Yes; I, myself, monsieur! but bruised, battered, as you see."

"Oh! my poor friend," said Fouquet, presenting him his arm, on which
Aramis leant, whilst the servants drew back respectfully.

"Bah!" replied Aramis, "it is nothing, since I am here; the principal
thing was that I should _get_ here, and here I am."

"Speak quickly," said Fouquet, closing the door of the cabinet behind
Aramis and himself.

"Are we alone?"

"Yes, perfectly."

"No one observes us? - no one can hear us?"

"Be satisfied; nobody."

"Is M. du Vallon arrived?"

"Yes."

"And you have received my letter?"

"Yes.  The affair is serious, apparently, since it necessitates your
attendance in Paris, at a moment when your presence was so urgent
elsewhere."

"You are right, it could not be more serious."

"Thank you! thank you!  What is it about?  But, for God's sake! before
anything else, take time to breathe, dear friend.  You are so pale, you
frighten me."

"I am really in great pain.  But, for Heaven's sake, think nothing about
me.  Did M. du Vallon tell you nothing, when he delivered the letter to
you?"

"No; I heard a great noise; I went to the window; I saw at the foot of
the _perron_ a sort of horseman of marble; I went down, he held the
letter out to me, and his horse fell down dead."

"But he?"

"He fell with the horse; he was lifted, and carried to an apartment.
Having read the letter, I went up to him, in hopes of obtaining more
ample information; but he was asleep, and, after such a fashion, that it
was impossible to wake him.  I took pity on him; I gave orders that his
boots should be cut from off his legs, and that he should be left quite
undisturbed."

"So far well; now, this is the question in hand, monseigneur.  You have
seen M. d'Artagnan in Paris, have you not?"

"_Certes_, and think him a man of intelligence, and even a man of heart;
although he did bring about the death of our dear friends, Lyodot and
D'Eymeris."

"Alas! yes, I heard of that.  At Tours I met the courier who was bringing
the letter from Gourville, and the dispatches from Pelisson.  Have you
seriously reflected on that event, monsieur?"

"Yes."

"And in it you perceived a direct attack upon your sovereignty?"

"And do you believe it to be so?"

"Oh, yes, I think so."

"Well, I must confess, that sad idea occurred to me likewise."

"Do not blind yourself, monsieur, in the name of Heaven!  Listen
attentively to me, - I return to D'Artagnan."

"I am all attention."

"Under what circumstances did you see him?"

"He came here for money."

"With what kind of order?"

"With an order from the king."

"Direct?"

"Signed by his majesty."

"There, then!  Well, D'Artagnan has been to Belle-Isle; he was disguised;
he came in the character of some sort of an _intendant_, charged by his
master to purchase salt-mines.  Now, D'Artagnan has no other master but
the king: he came, then, sent by the king.  He saw Porthos."

"Who is Porthos?"

"I beg your pardon, I made a mistake.  He saw M. du Vallon at Belle-Isle;
and he knows, as well as you and I do, that Belle-Isle is fortified."

"And you think that the king sent him there?" said Fouquet, pensively.

"I certainly do."

"And D'Artagnan, in the hands of the king, is a dangerous instrument?"

"The most dangerous imaginable."

"Then I formed a correct opinion of him at the first glance."

"How so?"

"I wished to attach him to myself."

"If you judged him to be the bravest, the most acute, and the most adroit
man in France, you judged correctly."

"He must be had then, at any price."

"D'Artagnan?"

"Is that not your opinion?"

"It may be my opinion, but you will never get him."

"Why?"

"Because we have allowed the time to go by.  He was dissatisfied with the
court, we should have profited by that; since that, he has passed into
England; there he powerfully assisted in the restoration, there he gained
a fortune, and, after all, he returned to the service of the king.  Well,
if he has returned to the service of the king, it is because he is well
paid in that service."

"We will pay him even better, that is all."

"Oh! monsieur, excuse me; D'Artagnan has a high respect for his word, and
where that is once engaged he keeps it."

"What do you conclude, then?" said Fouquet, with great inquietude.

"At present, the principal thing is to parry a dangerous blow."

"And how is it to be parried?"

"Listen."

"But D'Artagnan will come and render an account to the king of his
mission."

"Oh, we have time enough to think about that."

"How so?  You are much in advance of him, I presume?"

"Nearly ten hours."

"Well, in ten hours - "

Aramis shook his pale head.  "Look at these clouds which flit across the
heavens; at these swallows which cut the air.  D'Artagnan moves more
quickly than the clouds or the birds; D'Artagnan is the wind which
carries them."

"A strange man!"

"I tell you, he is superhuman, monsieur.  He is of my own age, and I have
known him these five-and-thirty years."

"Well?"

"Well, listen to my calculation, monsieur.  I send M. du Vallon off to
you two hours after midnight.  M. du Vallon was eight hours in advance of
me; when did M. du Vallon arrive?"

"About four hours ago."

"You see, then, that I gained four upon him; and yet Porthos is a staunch
horseman, and he has left on the road eight dead horses, whose bodies I
came to successively.  I rode post fifty leagues; but I have the gout,
the gravel, and what else I know not; so that fatigue kills me.  I was
obliged to dismount at Tours; since that, rolling along in a carriage,
half dead, sometimes overturned, drawn upon the sides, and sometimes on
the back of the carriage, always with four spirited horses at full
gallop, I have arrived  arrived, gaining four hours upon Porthos; but,
see you, D'Artagnan does not weigh three hundred-weight, as Porthos does;
D'Artagnan has not the gout and gravel, as I have; he is not a horseman,
he is a centaur.  D'Artagnan, look you, set out for Belle-Isle when I set
out for Paris; and D'Artagnan, notwithstanding my ten hours' advance,
D'Artagnan will arrive within two hours after me."

"But, then, accidents?"

"He never meets with accidents."

"Horses may fail him."

"He will run as fast as a horse."

"Good God! what a man!"

"Yes, he is a man whom I love and admire.  I love him because he is good,
great, and loyal; I admire him because he represents in my eyes the
culminating point of human power; but, whilst loving and admiring him, I
fear him, and am on my guard against him.  Now then, I resume, monsieur;
in two hours D'Artagnan will be here; be beforehand with him.  Go to the
Louvre, and see the king, before he sees D'Artagnan."

"What shall I say to the king?"

"Nothing; give him Belle-Isle."

"Oh!  Monsieur d'Herblay!  Monsieur d'Herblay," cried Fouquet, "what
projects crushed all at once!"

"After one project that has failed, there is always another project that

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