some oysters opened, - your face pleased me much. Besides, I have observed you have a horse just like mine, and that the host, no doubt on account of that resemblance, has placed them side by side in the stable, where they appear to agree amazingly well together. I therefore, monsieur, do not see any reason why the masters should be separated when the horses are united. Accordingly, I am come to request the pleasure of being admitted to your table. My name is Agnan, at your service, monsieur, the unworthy steward of a rich seigneur, who wishes to purchase some salt-mines in this country, and sends me to examine his future acquisitions. In truth, monsieur, I should be well pleased if my countenance were as agreeable to you as yours is to me; for, upon my honor, I am quite at your service." The stranger, whom D'Artagnan saw for the first time, - for before he had only caught a glimpse of him, - the stranger had black and brilliant eyes, a yellow complexion, a brow a little wrinkled by the weight of fifty years, _bonhomie_ in his features collectively, but some cunning in his look. "One would say," thought D'Artagnan, "that this merry fellow has never exercised more than the upper part of his head, his eyes, and his brain. He must be a man of science: his mouth, nose, and chin signify absolutely nothing." "Monsieur," replied the latter, with whose mind and person we have been making so free, "you do me much honor; not that I am ever _ennuye_, for I have," added he, smiling, "a company which amuses me always: but, never mind that, I am happy to receive you." But when saying this, the man with the worn boots cast an uneasy look at his table, from which the oysters had disappeared, and upon which there was nothing left but a morsel of salt bacon. "Monsieur," D'Artagnan hastened to say, "the host is bringing me up a pretty piece of roasted poultry and a superb _tourteau_." D'Artagnan had read in the look of his companion, however rapidly it disappeared, the fear of an attack by a parasite: he divined justly. At this opening, the features of the man of modest exterior relaxed; and, as if he had watched the moment for his entrance, as D'Artagnan spoke, the host appeared, bearing the announced dishes. The _tourteau_ and the teal were added to the morsel of broiled bacon; D'Artagnan and his guest bowed, sat down opposite to each other, and, like two brothers, shared the bacon and the other dishes. "Monsieur," said D'Artagnan, "you must confess that association is a wonderful thing." "How so?" replied the stranger, with his mouth full. "Well, I will tell you," replied D'Artagnan. The stranger gave a short truce to the movement of his jaws, in order to hear the better. "In the first place," continued D'Artagnan, "instead of one candle, which each of us had, we have two." "That is true!" said the stranger, struck with the extreme lucidity of the observation. "Then I see that you eat my _tourteau_ in preference, whilst I, in preference, eat your bacon." "That is true again." "And then, in addition to being better lighted and eating what we prefer, I place the pleasure of your company." "Truly, monsieur, you are very jovial," said the unknown, cheerfully. "Yes, monsieur; jovial, as all people are who carry nothing on their minds, or, for that matter, in their heads. Oh! I can see it is quite another sort of thing with you," continued D'Artagnan; "I can read in your eyes all sorts of genius." "Oh, monsieur!" "Come, confess one thing." "What is that?" "That you are a learned man." "_Ma foi!_ monsieur." "_Hein?_" "Almost." "Come, then!" "I am an author." "There!" cried D'Artagnan, clapping his hands, "I knew I could not be deceived! It is a miracle!" "Monsieur - " "What, shall I have the honor of passing the evening in the society of an author, of a celebrated author, perhaps?" "Oh!" said the unknown, blushing, "celebrated, monsieur, celebrated is not the word." "Modest!" cried D'Artagnan, transported, "he is modest!" Then, turning towards the stranger, with a character of blunt _bonhomie_: "But tell me at least the name of your works, monsieur; for you will please to observe you have not told me your name, and I have been forced to divine your genius." "My name is Jupenet, monsieur," said the author. "A fine name! a grand name! upon my honor; and I do not know why - pardon me the mistake, if it be one - but surely I have heard that name somewhere." "I have made verses," said the poet, modestly. "Ah! that is it, then; I have heard them read." "A tragedy." "I must have seen it played." The poet blushed again, and said: "I do not think that can be the case, for my verses have never been printed." "Well, then, it must have been the tragedy which informed me of your name." "You are again mistaken, for MM. the comedians of the Hotel de Bourgogne, would have nothing to do with it," said the poet, with a smile, the receipt for which certain sorts of pride alone knew the secret. D'Artagnan bit his lips. "Thus, then, you see, monsieur," continued the poet, "you are in error on my account, and that not being at all known to you, you have never heard tell of me." "Ah! that confounds me. That name, Jupenet, appears to me, nevertheless, a fine name, and quite as worthy of being known as those of MM. Corneille, or Rotrou, or Garnier. I hope, monsieur, you will have the goodness to repeat to me a part of your tragedy presently, by way of dessert, for instance. That will be sugared roast meat, - _mordioux!_ Ah! pardon me, monsieur, that was a little oath which escaped me, because it is a habit with my lord and master. I sometimes allow myself to usurp that little oath, as it seems in pretty good taste. I take this liberty only in his absence, please to observe, for you may understand that in his presence - but, in truth, monsieur, this cider is abominable; do you not think so? And besides, the pot is of such an irregular shape it will not stand on the table." "Suppose we were to make it level?" "To be sure; but with what?" "With this knife." "And the teal, with what shall we cut that up? Do you not, by chance, mean to touch the teal?" "Certainly." "Well, then - " "Wait." And the poet rummaged in his pocket, and drew out a piece of brass, oblong, quadrangular, about a line in thickness, and an inch and a half in length. But scarcely had this little piece of brass seen the light, than the poet appeared to have committed an imprudence, and made a movement to put it back again in his pocket. D'Artagnan perceived this, for he was a man that nothing escaped. He stretched forth his hand towards the piece of brass: "Humph! that which you hold in your hand is pretty; will you allow me to look at it?" "Certainly," said the poet, who appeared to have yielded too soon to a first impulse. "Certainly, you may look at it: but it will be in vain for you to look at it," added he, with a satisfied air; "if I were not to tell you its use, you would never guess it." D'Artagnan had seized as an avowal the hesitation of the poet, and his eagerness to conceal the piece of brass which a first movement had induced him to take out of his pocket. His attention, therefore, once awakened on this point, he surrounded himself with a circumspection which gave him a superiority on all occasions. Besides, whatever M. Jupenet might say about it, by a simple inspection of the object, he perfectly well knew what it was. It was a character in printing. "Can you guess, now, what this is?" continued the poet. "No," said D'Artagnan, "no, _ma foi!_" "Well, monsieur," said M. Jupenet, "this little piece of metal is a printing letter." "Bah!" "A capital." "Stop, stop, stop," said D'Artagnan, opening his eyes very innocently. "Yes, monsieur, a capital; the first letter of my name." "And this is a letter, is it?" "Yes, monsieur." "Well, I will confess one thing to you." "And what is that?" "No, I will not, I was going to say something stupid." "No, no," said Master Jupenet, with a patronizing air. "Well, then, I cannot comprehend, if that is a letter, how you can make a word." "A word?" "Yes, a printed word." "Oh, that's very easy." "Let me see." "Does it interest you?" "Enormously." "Well, I will explain the thing to you. Attend." "I am attending." "This is it." "Good." "Look attentively." "I am looking." D'Artagnan, in fact, appeared absorbed in observations. Jupenet drew from his pocket seven or eight other pieces of brass smaller than the first. "Ah, ah," said D'Artagnan. "What!" "You have, then, a whole printing-office in your pocket. _Peste!_ that is curious, indeed." "Is it not?" "Good God, what a number of things we learn by traveling." "To your health!" said Jupenet, quite enchanted. "To yours, _mordioux_, to yours. But - an instant - not in this cider. It is an abominable drink, unworthy of a man who quenches his thirst at the Hippocrene fountain - is not it so you call your fountain, you poets?" "Yes, monsieur, our fountain is so called. That comes from two Greek words - _hippos_, which means a horse, and - " "Monsieur," interrupted D'Artagnan, "you shall drink of a liquor which comes from one single French word, and is none the worse for that - from the word _grape_; this cider gives me the heartburn. Allow me to inquire of your host if there is not a good bottle of Beaugency, or of the Ceran growth, at the back of the large bins in his cellar." The host, being sent for, immediately attended. "Monsieur," interrupted the poet, "take care, we shall not have time to drink the wine, unless we make great haste, for I must take advantage of the tide to secure the boat." "What boat?" asked D'Artagnan. "Why the boat which sets out for Belle-Isle." "Ah - for Belle-Isle," said the musketeer, "that is good." "Bah! you will have plenty of time, monsieur," replied the _hotelier_, uncorking the bottle, "the boat will not leave this hour."
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