Make your own free website on

List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

"Oh, the devil, no!" said D'Artagnan, "the division cannot be made by
half; that would not be just."

"And yet, monsieur, we each lay down half," objected Planchet, timidly.

"Yes; but listen to this clause, my dear Planchet, and if you do not find
if equitable in every respect when it is written, well, we can scratch it
out again: - 'Nevertheless, as M. d'Artagnan brings to the association,
besides his capital of twenty thousand livres, his time, his idea, his
industry, and his skin, - things which he appreciates strongly,
particularly the last, - M. d'Artagnan will keep, of the three hundred
thousand livres, two hundred thousand livres for himself, which will make
his share two-thirds."

"Very well," said Planchet.

"Is it just?" asked D'Artagnan.

"Perfectly just, monsieur."

"And you will be contented with a hundred thousand livres?"

"_Peste!_ I think so.  A hundred thousand for twenty thousand!"

"And in a month, understand."

"How, in a month?"

"Yes, I only ask one month."

"Monsieur," said Planchet, generously, "I give you six weeks."

"Thank you," replied the musketeer, politely; after which the two
partners reperused their deed.

"That is perfect, monsieur," said Planchet; "and the late M. Coquenard,
the first husband of Madame la Baronne du Vallon, could not have done it

"Do you find it so?  Let us sign it then."  And both affixed their

"In this fashion," said D'Artagnan, "I shall be under obligations to no

"But I shall be under obligations to you," said Planchet.

"No; for whatever store I set by it, Planchet, I may lose my skin yonder,
and you will lose all.  _A propos  peste!_ - that makes me think of the
principal, an indispensable clause.  I shall write it: - 'In case of M.
d'Artagnan dying in this enterprise, liquidation will be considered made,
and the Sieur Planchet will give quittance from that moment to the shade
of Messire d'Artagnan for the twenty thousand livres paid by him into the
hands of the said company.'"

This last clause made Planchet knit his brows a little, but when he saw
the brilliant eye, the muscular hand, the supple and strong back of his
associate, he regained his courage, and, without regret, he at once added
another stroke to his signature.  D'Artagnan did the same.  Thus was
drawn the first known company contract; perhaps such things have been
abused a little since, both in form and principle.

"Now," said Planchet, pouring out the last glass of Anjou wine for
D'Artagnan, - "now go to sleep, my dear master."

"No," replied D'Artagnan; "for the most difficult part now remains to be
done, and I will think over that difficult part."

"Bah!" said Planchet; "I have such great confidence in you, M.
d'Artagnan, that I would not give my hundred thousand livres for ninety
thousand livres down."

"And devil take me if I don't think you are right!"  Upon which
D'Artagnan took a candle and went up to his bedroom.

Chapter XXI:
In which D'Artagnan prepares to travel for the Firm of Planchet & Company.

D'Artagnan reflected to such good purpose during the night that his plan
was settled by morning.  "This is it," said he, sitting up in bed,
supporting his elbow on his knee, and his chin in his hand; - "this is
it.  I shall seek out forty steady, firm men, recruited among people a
little compromised, but having habits of discipline.  I shall promise
them five hundred livres for a month if they return; nothing if they do
not return, or half for their kindred.  As to food and lodging, that
concerns the English, who have cattle in their pastures, bacon in their
bacon-racks, fowls in their poultry-yards, and corn in their barns.  I
will present myself to General Monk with my little body of troops.  He
will receive me.  I shall win his confidence, and take advantage of it,
as soon as possible."

But without going further, D'Artagnan shook his head and interrupted
himself.  "No," said he; "I should not dare to relate this to Athos; the
way is therefore not honorable.  I must use violence," continued he, -
"very certainly I must, but without compromising my loyalty.  With forty
men I will traverse the country as a partisan.  But if I fall in with,
not forty thousand English, as Planchet said, but purely and simply with
four hundred, I shall be beaten.  Supposing that among my forty warriors
there should be found at least ten stupid ones - ten who will allow
themselves to be killed one after the other, from mere folly?  No; it is,
in fact, impossible to find forty men to be depended upon - they do not
exist.  I must learn how to be contented with thirty.  With ten men less
I should have the right of avoiding any armed encounter, on account of
the small number of my people; and if the encounter should take place, my
chance is better with thirty men than forty.  Besides, I should save five
thousand francs; that is to say, the eighth of my capital; that is worth
the trial.  This being so, I should have thirty men.  I shall divide them
into three bands, - we will spread ourselves about over the country, with
an injunction to reunite at a given moment; in this fashion, ten by ten,
we should excite no suspicion - we should pass unperceived.  Yes, yes,
thirty - that is a magic number.  There are three tens - three, that
divine number!  And then, truly, a company of thirty men, when all
together, will look rather imposing.  Ah! stupid wretch that I am!"
continued D'Artagnan, "I want thirty horses.  That is ruinous.  Where the
devil was my head when I forgot the horses?  We cannot, however, think of
striking such a blow without horses.  Well, so be it, that sacrifice must
be made; we can get the horses in the country - they are not bad,
besides.  But I forgot - _peste!_  Three bands - that necessitates three
leaders; there is the difficulty.  Of the three commanders I have already
one - that is myself; - yes, but the two others will of themselves cost
almost as much money as all the rest of the troop.  No; positively I must
have but one lieutenant.  In that case, then, I should reduce my troop to
twenty men.  I know very well that twenty men is but very little; but
since with thirty I was determined not to seek to come to blows, I should
do so more carefully still with twenty.  Twenty - that is a round number;
that, besides, reduces the number of the horses by ten, which is a
consideration; and then, with a good lieutenant - _Mordioux!_ what things
patience and calculation are!  Was I not going to embark with forty men,
and I have now reduced them to twenty for an equal success?  Ten thousand
livres saved at one stroke, and more safety; that is well!  Now, then,
let us see; we have nothing to do but to find this lieutenant - let him
be found, then; and after -  That is not so easy; he must be brave and
good, a second myself.  Yes, but a lieutenant must have my secret, and as
that secret is worth a million, and I shall only pay my man a thousand
livres, fifteen hundred at the most, my man will sell the secret to
Monk.  _Mordioux!_ no lieutenant.  Besides, this man, were he as mute as
a disciple of Pythagoras, - this man would be sure to have in the troop
some favorite soldier, whom he would make his sergeant; the sergeant
would penetrate the secret of the lieutenant, in case the latter should
be honest and unwilling to sell it.  Then the sergeant, less honest and
less ambitious, will give up the whole for fifty thousand livres.  Come,
come! that is impossible.  The lieutenant is impossible.  But then I must
have no fractions; I cannot divide my troop in two, and act upon two
points, at once, without another self, who -  But what is the use of
acting upon two points, as we have only one man to take?  What can be the
use of weakening a corps by placing the right here, and the left there?
A single corps - _Mordioux!_ a single one, and that commanded by
D'Artagnan.  Very well.  But twenty men marching in one band are
suspected by everybody; twenty horsemen must not be seen marching
together, or a company will be detached against them and the password
will be required; the which company, upon seeing them embarrassed to give
it, would shoot M. d'Artagnan and his men like so many rabbits.  I reduce
myself then to ten men; in this fashion I shall act simply and with
unity; I shall be forced to be prudent, which is half the success in an
affair of the kind I am undertaking; a greater number might, perhaps,
have drawn me into some folly.  Ten horses are not many, either, to buy
or take.  A capital idea; what tranquillity it infuses into my mind! no
more suspicions - no passwords - no more dangers!  Ten men, they are
valets or clerks.  Ten men, leading ten horses laden with merchandise of
whatever kind, are tolerated, well received everywhere.  Ten men travel
on account of the house of Planchet & Co., of France, - nothing can be
said against that.  These ten men, clothed like manufacturers, have a
good cutlass or a good musket at their saddle-bow, and a good pistol in
the holster.  They never allow themselves to be uneasy, because they have
no evil designs.  They are, perhaps, in truth, a little disposed to be
smugglers, but what harm is in that?  Smuggling is not, like polygamy, a
hanging offense.  The worst that can happen to us is the confiscation of
our merchandise.  Our merchandise confiscated - a fine affair that!
Come, come! it is a superb plan.  Ten men only - ten men, whom I will
engage for my service; ten men who shall be as resolute as forty, who
would cost me four times as much, and to whom, for greater security, I
will never open my mouth as to my designs, and to whom I shall only say
'My friends, there is a blow to be struck.'  Things being after this
fashion, Satan will be very malicious if he plays me one of his tricks.
Fifteen thousand livres saved - that's superb - out of twenty!"

Thus fortified by his laborious calculations, D'Artagnan stopped at this
plan, and determined to change nothing in it.  He had already on a list
furnished by his inexhaustible memory, ten men illustrious amongst the
seekers of adventure, ill-treated by fortune, and not on good terms with

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: