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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"But who will give me notice?" said the poet.

"Your fellow-traveler," replied the host.

"But I scarcely know him."

"When you hear him departing, it will be time for you to go."

"Is he going to Belle-Isle, likewise, then?"

"Yes."

"The traveler who has a lackey?" asked D'Artagnan.  "He is some
gentleman, no doubt?"

"I know nothing of him."

"What! - know nothing of him?"

"No, all I know is, that he is drinking the same wine as you."

"_Peste!_ - that is a great honor for us," said D'Artagnan, filling his
companion's glass, whilst the host went out.

"So," resumed the poet, returning to his dominant ideas, "you never saw
any printing done?"

"Never."

"Well, then, take the letters thus, which compose the word, you see: A B;
_ma foi!_ here is an R, two E E, then a G."  And he assembled the letters
with a swiftness and skill which did not escape the eye of D'Artagnan.

"_Abrege_," said he, as he ended.

"Good!" said D'Artagnan; "here are plenty of letters got together; but
how are they kept so?"  And he poured out a second glass for the poet.
M. Jupenet smiled like a man who has an answer for everything; then he
pulled out - still from his pocket - a little metal ruler, composed of
two parts, like a carpenter's rule, against which he put together, and in
a line, the characters, holding them under his left thumb.

"And what do you call that little metal ruler?" said D'Artagnan, "for, I
suppose, all these things have names."

"This is called a composing-stick," said Jupenet; "it is by the aid of
this stick that the lines are formed."

"Come, then, I was not mistaken in what I said; you have a press in your
pocket," said D'Artagnan, laughing with an air of simplicity so stupid,
that the poet was completely his dupe.

"No," replied he; "but I am too lazy to write, and when I have a verse in
my head, I print it immediately.  That is a labor spared."

"_Mordioux!_" thought D'Artagnan to himself, "this must be cleared up."
And under a pretext, which did not embarrass the musketeer, who was
fertile in expedients, he left the table, went downstairs, ran to the
shed under which stood the poet's little cart, and poked the point of his
poniard into the stuff which enveloped one of the packages, which he
found full of types, like those which the poet had in his pocket.

"Humph!" said D'Artagnan, "I do not yet know whether M. Fouquet wishes to
fortify Belle-Isle; but, at all events, here are some spiritual munitions
for the castle."  Then, enchanted with his rich discovery, he ran
upstairs again, and resumed his place at the table.

D'Artagnan had learnt what he wished to know.  He, however, remained,
none the less, face to face with his partner, to the moment when they
heard from the next room symptoms of a person's being about to go out.
The printer was immediately on foot; he had given orders for his horse to
be got ready.  His carriage was waiting at the door.  The second traveler
got into his saddle, in the courtyard, with his lackey.  D'Artagnan
followed Jupenet to the door; he embarked his cart and horse on board the
boat.  As to the opulent traveler, he did the same with his two horses
and servant.  But all the wit D'Artagnan employed in endeavoring to find
out his name was lost - he could learn nothing.  Only he took such notice
of his countenance, that it was impressed upon his mind forever.
D'Artagnan had a great inclination to embark with the two travelers, but
an interest more powerful than curiosity - that of success - repelled him
from the shore, and brought him back again to the hostelry.  He entered
with a sigh, and went to bed directly in order to be ready early in the
morning with fresh ideas and the sage counsel of sufficing sleep.


Chapter LXVIII:
D'Artagnan continues his Investigations.

At daybreak D'Artagnan saddled Furet, who had fared sumptuously all
night, devouring the remainder of the oats and hay left by his
companions.  The musketeer sifted all he possibly could out of the host,
who he found cunning, mistrustful, and devoted, body and soul, to M.
Fouquet.  In order not to awaken the suspicions of this man, he carried
on his fable of being a probable purchaser of some salt-mines.  To have
embarked for Belle-Isle at Roche-Bernard, would have been to expose
himself still further to comments which had, perhaps, been already made,
and would be carried to the castle.  Moreover, it was singular that this
traveler and his lackey should have remained a mystery to D'Artagnan, in
spite of all the questions addressed by him to the host, who appeared to
know him perfectly well.  The musketeer then made some inquiries
concerning the salt-mines, and took the road to the marshes, leaving the
sea on his right, and penetrating into that vast and desolate plain which
resembles a sea of mud, of which, here and there, a few crests of salt
silver the undulations.  Furet walked admirably, with his little nervous
legs, along the foot-wide causeways which separate the salt-mines.
D'Artagnan, aware of the consequences of a fall, which would result in a
cold bath, allowed him to go as he liked, contenting himself with looking
at, on the horizon, three rocks, that rose up like lance-blades from the
bosom of the plain, destitute of verdure.  Piriac, the bourgs of Batz and
Le Croisic, exactly resembling each other, attracted and suspended his
attention.  If the traveler turned round, the better to make his
observations, he saw on the other side an horizon of three other
steeples, Guerande, Le Pouliguen, and Saint-Joachim, which, in their
circumference, represented a set of skittles, of which he and Furet were
but the wandering ball.  Piriac was the first little port on his right.
He went thither, with the names of the principal salters on his lips.  At
the moment he reached the little port of Piriac, five large barges, laden
with stone, were leaving it.  It appeared strange to D'Artagnan, that
stones should be leaving a country where none are found.  He had recourse
to all the amenity of M. Agnan to learn from the people of the port the
cause of this singular arrangement.  An old fisherman replied to M.
Agnan, that the stones very certainly did not come from Piriac or the
marshes.

"Where do they come from, then?" asked the musketeer.

"Monsieur, they come from Nantes and Paimboeuf."

"Where are they going, then?"

"Monsieur, to Belle-Isle."

"Ah! ah!" said D'Artagnan, in the same tone he had assumed to tell the
printer that his character interested him; "are they building at Belle-
Isle, then?"

"Why, yes, monsieur, M. Fouquet has the walls of the castle repaired
every year."

"It is in ruins, then?"

"It is old."

"Thank you."

"The fact is," said D'Artagnan to himself, "nothing is more natural;
every proprietor has a right to repair his own property.  It would be
like telling me I was fortifying the Image-de-Notre-Dame, when I was
simply obliged to make repairs.  In good truth, I believe false reports
have been made to his majesty, and he is very likely to be in the wrong."

"You must confess," continued he then, aloud, and addressing the
fisherman - for his part of a suspicious man was imposed upon him by the
object even of his mission - "you must confess, my dear monsieur, that
these stones travel in a very curious fashion."

"How so?" said the fisherman.

"They come from Nantes or Paimboeuf by the Loire, do they not?"

"With the tide."

"That is convenient, - I don't say it is not; but why do they not go
straight from Saint-Nazaire to Belle-Isle?"

"Eh! because the _chalands_ (barges) are fresh-water boats, and take the
sea badly," replied the fisherman.

"That is not sufficient reason."

"Pardon me, monsieur, one may see that you have never been a sailor,"
added the fisherman, not without a sort of disdain.

"Explain to me, if you please, my good man.  It appears to me that to
come from Paimboeuf to Piriac, and go from Piriac to Belle-Isle, is as if
we went from Roche-Bernard to Nantes, and from Nantes to Piriac."

"By water that would be the nearest way," replied the fisherman
imperturbably.

"But there is an elbow?"

The fisherman shook his head.

"The shortest road from one place to another is a straight line,"
continued D'Artagnan.

"You forget the tide, monsieur."

"Well! take the tide."

"And the wind."

"Well, and the wind."

"Without doubt; the current of the Loire carries barks almost as far as
Croisic.  If they want to lie by a little, or to refresh the crew, they
come to Piriac along the coast; from Piriac they find another inverse
current, which carries them to the Isle-Dumal, two leagues and a half."

"Granted."

"There the current of the Vilaine throws them upon another isle, the Isle
of Hoedic."

"I agree with that."

"Well, monsieur, from that isle to Belle-Isle the way is quite straight.
The sea, broken both above and below, passes like a canal - like a mirror
between the two isles; the _chalands_ glide along upon it like ducks upon
the Loire; that's how it is."

"It does not signify," said the obstinate M. Agnan; "it is a long way
round."

"Ah! yes; but M. Fouquet will  have it so," replied, as conclusive, the
fisherman, taking off his woolen cap at the enunciation of that respected
name.

A look from D'Artagnan, a look as keen and piercing as a sword-blade,
found nothing in the heart of the old man but a simple confidence - on
his features, nothing but satisfaction and indifference.  He said, "M.
Fouquet will have it so," as he would have said, "God has willed it."

D'Artagnan had already advanced too far in this direction; besides, the
_chalands_ being gone, there remained nothing at Piriac but a single bark
- that of the old man, and it did not look fit for sea without great
preparation.  D'Artagnan therefore patted Furet, who, as a new proof of
his charming character, resumed his march with his feet in the salt-
mines, and his nose to the dry wind, which bends the furze and the broom
of this country.  They reached Le Croisic about five o'clock.

If D'Artagnan had been a poet, it was a beautiful spectacle: the immense

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