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THE THREE PRESENTS OF D'ARTAGNAN THE ELDER

On the first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the market town of Meung, in which the author of ROMANCE OF THE ROSE was born, appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if the Huguenots had just made a second La Rochelle of it. Many citizens, seeing the women flying toward the High Street, leaving their children crying at the open doors, hastened to don the cuirass, and supporting their somewhat uncertain courage with a musket or a partisan, directed their steps toward the hostelry of the Jolly Miller, before which was gathered, increasing every minute, a compact group, vociferous and full of curiosity.

In those times panics were common, and few days passed without some city or other registering in its archives an event of this kind. There were nobles, who made war against each other; there was the king, who made war against the cardinal; there was Spain, which made war against the king. Then, in addition to these concealed or public, secret or open wars, there were robbers, mendicants, Huguenots, wolves, and scoundrels, who made war upon everybody. The citizens always took up arms readily against thieves, wolves or scoundrels, often against nobles or Huguenots, sometimes against the king, but never against cardinal or Spain. It resulted, then, from this habit that on the said first Monday of April, 1625, the citizens, on hearing the clamor, and seeing neither the red-and-yellow standard nor the livery of the Duc de Richelieu, rushed toward the hostel of the Jolly Miller. When arrived there, the cause of the hubbub was apparent to all.

A young man--we can sketch his portrait at a dash. Imagine to yourself a Don Quixote of eighteen; a Don Quixote without his corselet, without his coat of mail, without his cuisses; a Don Quixote clothed in a wooden doublet, the blue color of which had faded into a nameless shade between lees of wine and a heavenly azure; face long and brown; high cheek bones, a sign of sagacity; the maxillary muscles enormously developed, an infallible sign by which a Gascon may always be detected, even without his cap--and our young man wore a cap set off with a sort of feather; the eye open and intelligent; the nose hooked, but finely chiseled. Too big for a youth, too small for a grown man, an experienced eye might have taken him for a farmer's son upon a journey had it not been for the long sword which, dangling from a leather baldric, hit against the calves of its owner as he walked, and against the rough side of his steed when he was on horseback.

For our young man had a steed which was the observed of all observers. It was a Bearn pony, from twelve to fourteen years old, yellow in his hide, without a hair in his tail, but not without windgalls on his legs, which, though going with his head lower than his knees, rendering a martingale quite unnecessary, contrived nevertheless to perform his eight leagues a day. Unfortunately, the qualities of this horse were so well concealed under his strange-colored hide and his unaccountable gait, that at a time when everybody was a connoisseur in horseflesh, the appearance of the aforesaid pony at Meung--which place he had entered about a quarter of an hour before, by the gate of Beaugency--produced an unfavorable feeling, which extended to his rider.

And this feeling had been more painfully perceived by young D'Artagnan--for so was the Don Quixote of this second Rosinante named--from his not being able to conceal from himself the ridiculous appearance that such a steed gave him, good horseman as he was. He had sighed deeply, therefore, when accepting the gift of the pony from M. D'Artagnan the elder. He was not ignorant that such a beast was worth at least twenty livres; and the words which had accompanied the present were above all price.

"My son," said the old Gascon gentleman, in that pure Bearn PATOIS of which Henry IV could never rid himself, "this horse was born in the house of your father about thirteen years ago, and has remained in it ever since, which ought to make you love it. Never sell it; allow it to die tranquilly and honorably of old age, and if you make a campaign with it, take as much care of it as you would of an old servant. At court, provided you have ever the honor to go there," continued M. D'Artagnan the elder, "--an honor to which, remember, your ancient nobility gives you the right--sustain worthily your name of gentleman, which has been worthily borne by your ancestors for five hundred years, both for your own sake and the sake of those who belong to you. By the latter I mean your relatives and friends. Endure nothing from anyone except Monsieur the Cardinal and the king. It is by his courage, please observe, by his courage alone, that a gentleman can make his way nowadays. Whoever hesitates for a second perhaps allows the bait to escape which during that exact second fortune held out to him. You are young. You ought to be brave for two reasons: the first is that you are a Gascon, and the second is that you are my son. Never fear quarrels, but seek adventures. I have taught you how to handle a sword; you have thews of iron, a wrist of steel. Fight on all occasions. Fight the more for duels being forbidden, since consequently there is twice as much courage in fighting. I have nothing to give you, my son, but fifteen crowns, my horse, and the counsels you have just heard. Your mother will add to them a recipe for a certain balsam, which she had from a Bohemian and which has the miraculous virtue of curing all wounds that do not reach the heart. Take advantage of all, and live happily and long. I have but one word to add, and that is to propose an example to you-- not mine, for I myself have never appeared at court, and have only taken part in religious wars as a volunteer; I speak of Monsieur de Treville, who was formerly my neighbor, and who had the honor to be, as a child, the play-fellow of our king, Louis XIII, whom God preserve! Sometimes their play degenerated into battles, and in these battles the king was not always the stronger. The blows which he received increased greatly his esteem and friendship for Monsieur de Treville. Afterward, Monsieur de Treville fought with others: in his first journey to Paris, five times; from the death of the late king till the young one came of age, without reckoning wars and sieges, seven times; and from that date up to the present day, a hundred times, perhaps! So that in spite of edicts, ordinances, and decrees, there he is, captain of the Musketeers; that is to say, chief of a legion of Caesars, whom the king holds in great esteem and whom the cardinal dreads--he who dreads nothing, as it is said. Still further, Monsieur de Treville gains ten thousand crowns a year; he is therefore a great noble. He began as you begin. Go to him with this letter, and make him your model in order that you may do as he has done."

Upon which M. D'Artagnan the elder girded his own sword round his son, kissed him tenderly on both cheeks, and gave him his benediction.

On leaving the paternal chamber, the young man found his mother, who was waiting for him with the famous recipe of which the counsels we have just repeated would necessitate frequent employment. The adieux were on this side longer and more tender than they had been on the other--not that M. D'Artagnan did not love his son, who was his only offspring, but M. D'Artagnan was a man, and he would have considered it unworthy of a man to give way to his feelings; whereas Mme. D'Artagnan was a woman, and still more, a mother. She wept abundantly; and--let us speak it to the praise of M. D'Artagnan the younger--notwithstanding the efforts he made to remain firm, as a future Musketeer ought, nature prevailed, and he shed many tears, of which he succeeded with great difficulty in concealing the half.

The same day the young man set forward on his journey, furnished with the three paternal gifts, which consisted, as we have said, of fifteen crowns, the horse, and the letter for M. de Treville-- the counsels being thrown into the bargain.

With such a VADE MECUM D'Artagnan was morally and physically an exact copy of the hero of Cervantes, to whom we so happily compared him when our duty of an historian placed us under the necessity of sketching his portrait. Don Quixote took windmills for giants, and sheep for armies; D'Artagnan took every smile for an insult, and every look as a provocation--whence it resulted that from Tarbes to Meung his fist was constantly doubled, or his hand on the hilt of his sword; and yet the fist did not descend upon any jaw, nor did the sword issue from its scabbard. It was not that the sight of the wretched pony did not excite numerous smiles on the countenances of passers-by; but as against the side of this pony rattled a sword of respectable length, and as over this sword gleamed an eye rather ferocious than haughty, these passers-by repressed their hilarity, or if hilarity prevailed over prudence, they endeavored to laugh only on one side, like the masks of the ancients. D'Artagnan, then, remained majestic and intact in his susceptibility, till he came to this unlucky city of Meung.

But there, as he was alighting from his horse at the gate of the Jolly Miller, without anyone--host, waiter, or hostler--coming to hold his stirrup or take his horse, D'Artagnan spied, though an open window on the ground floor, a gentleman, well-made and of good carriage, although of rather a stern countenance, talking with two persons who appeared to listen to him with respect. D'Artagnan fancied quite naturally, according to his custom, that he must be the object of their conversation, and listened. This time D'Artagnan was only in part mistaken; he himself was not in question, but his horse was. The gentleman appeared to be enumerating all his qualities to his auditors; and, as I have said, the auditors seeming to have great deference for the narrator, they every moment burst into fits of laughter. Now, as a half-smile was sufficient to awaken the irascibility of the young man, the effect produced upon him by this vociferous mirth may be easily imagined.

Nevertheless, D'Artagnan was desirous of examining the appearance of this impertinent personage who ridiculed him. He fixed his haughty eye upon the stranger, and perceived a man of from forty to forty-five years of age, with black and piercing eyes, pale complexion, a strongly marked nose, and a black and well-shaped mustache. He was dressed in a doublet and hose of a violet color, with aiguillettes of the same color, without any other ornaments than the customary slashes, through which the shirt appeared. This doublet and hose, though new, were creased, like traveling clothes for a long time packed in a portmanteau. D'Artagnan made all these remarks with the rapidity of a most minute observer, and doubtless from an instinctive feeling that this stranger was destined to have a great influence over his future life.

Now, as at the moment in which D'Artagnan fixed his eyes upon the gentleman in the violet doublet, the gentleman made one of his most knowing and profound remarks respecting the Bearnese pony, his two auditors laughed even louder than before, and he himself, though contrary to his custom, allowed a pale smile (if I may allowed to use such an expression) to stray over his countenance. This time there could be no doubt; D'Artagnan was really insulted. Full, then, of this conviction, he pulled his cap down over his eyes, and endeavoring to copy some of the court airs he had picked up in Gascony among young traveling nobles, he advanced with one hand on the hilt of his sword and the other resting on his hip. Unfortunately, as he advanced, his anger increased at every step; and instead of the proper and lofty speech he had prepared as a prelude to his challenge, he found nothing at the tip of his tongue but a gross personality, which he accompanied with a furious gesture.

"I say, sir, you sir, who are hiding yourself behind that shutter--yes, you, sir, tell me what you are laughing at, and we will laugh together!"

The gentleman raised his eyes slowly from the nag to his cavalier, as if he required some time to ascertain whether it could be to him that such strange reproaches were addressed; then, when he could not possibly entertain any doubt of the matter, his eyebrows slightly bent, and with an accent of irony and insolence impossible to be described, he replied to D'Artagnan, "I was not speaking to you, sir."

"But I am speaking to you!" replied the young man, additionally exasperated with this mixture of insolence and good manners, of politeness and scorn.

The stranger looked at him again with a slight smile, and retiring from the window, came out of the hostelry with a slow step, and placed himself before the horse, within two paces of D'Artagnan. His quiet manner and the ironical expression of his countenance redoubled the mirth of the persons with whom he had been talking, and who still remained at the window.

D'Artagnan, seeing him approach, drew his sword a foot out of the scabbard.

"This horse is decidedly, or rather has been in his youth, a buttercup," resumed the stranger, continuing the remarks he had begun, and addressing himself to his auditors at the window, without paying the least attention to the exasperation of D'Artagnan, who, however placed himself between him and them. "It is a color very well known in botany, but till the present time very rare among horses."

"There are people who laugh at the horse that would not dare to

laugh at the master," cried the young emulator of the furious Treville.

"I do not often laugh, sir," replied the stranger, "as you may perceive by the expression of my countenance; but nevertheless I retain the privilege of laughing when I please."

"And I," cried D'Artagnan, "will allow no man to laugh when it displeases me!"

"Indeed, sir," continued the stranger, more calm than ever; "well, that is perfectly right!" and turning on his heel, was about to re-enter the hostelry by the front gate, beneath which D'Artagnan on arriving had observed a saddled horse.

But, D'Artagnan was not of a character to allow a man to escape him thus who had the insolence to ridicule him. He drew his sword entirely from the scabbard, and followed him, crying, "Turn, turn, Master Joker, lest I strike you behind!"

"Strike me!" said the other, turning on his heels, and surveying the young man with as much astonishment as contempt. "Why, my good fellow, you must be mad!" Then, in a suppressed tone, as if speaking to himself, "This is annoying," continued he. "What a godsend this would be for his Majesty, who is seeking everywhere for brave fellows to recruit for his Musketeers!"

He had scarcely finished, when D'Artagnan made such a furious lunge at him that if he had not sprung nimbly backward, it is probable he would have jested for the last time. The stranger, then perceiving that the matter went beyond raillery, drew his sword, saluted his adversary, and seriously placed himself on guard. But at the same moment, his two auditors, accompanied by the host, fell upon D'Artagnan with sticks, shovels and tongs. This caused so rapid and complete a diversion from the attack that D'Artagnan's adversary, while the latter turned round to face this shower of blows, sheathed his sword with the same precision, and instead of an actor, which he had nearly been, became a spectator of the fight--a part in which he acquitted himself with his usual impassiveness, muttering, nevertheless, "A plague upon these Gascons! Replace him on his orange horse, and let him begone!"

"Not before I have killed you, poltroon!" cried D'Artagnan, making the best face possible, and never retreating one step before his three assailants, who continued to shower blows upon him.

"Another gasconade!" murmured the gentleman. "By my honor, these Gascons are incorrigible! Keep up the dance, then, since he will have it so. When he is tired, he will perhaps tell us that he has had enough of it."

But the stranger knew not the headstrong personage he had to do with; D'Artagnan was not the man ever to cry for quarter. The fight was therefore prolonged for some seconds; but at length D'Artagnan dropped his sword, which was broken in two pieces by the blow of a stick. Another blow full upon his forehead at the same moment brought him to the ground, covered with blood and almost fainting.

It was at this moment that people came flocking to the scene of action from all sides. The host, fearful of consequences, with the help of his servants carried the wounded man into the kitchen, where some trifling attentions were bestowed upon him.

As to the gentleman, he resumed his place at the window, and surveyed the crowd with a certain impatience, evidently annoyed by their remaining undispersed.

"Well, how is it with this madman?" exclaimed he, turning round as the noise of the door announced the entrance of the host, who came in to inquire if he was unhurt.

"Your excellency is safe and sound?" asked the host.

"Oh, yes! Perfectly safe and sound, my good host; and I wish to know what has become of our young man."

"He is better," said the host, "he fainted quite away."

"Indeed!" said the gentleman.

"But before he fainted, he collected all his strength to challenge you, and to defy you while challenging you."

"Why, this fellow must be the devil in person!" cried the stranger.

"Oh, no, your Excellency, he is not the devil," replied the host, with a grin of contempt; "for during his fainting we rummaged his valise and found nothing but a clean shirt and eleven crowns-- which however, did not prevent his saying, as he was fainting, that if such a thing had happened in Paris, you should have cause to repent of it at a later period."

"Then," said the stranger coolly, "he must be some prince in disguise."

"I have told you this, good sir," resumed the host, "in order that you may be on your guard."

"Did he name no one in his passion?"

"Yes; he struck his pocket and said, 'We shall see what Monsieur de Treville will think of this insult offered to his protege.'"

"Monsieur de Treville?" said the stranger, becoming attentive, "he put his hand upon his pocket while pronouncing the name of Monsieur de Treville? Now, my dear host, while your young man was insensible, you did not fail, I am quite sure, to ascertain what that pocket contained. What was there in it?"

"A letter addressed to Monsieur de Treville, captain of the Musketeers."

"Indeed!"

"Exactly as I have the honor to tell your Excellency."

The host, who was not endowed with great perspicacity, did not observe the expression which his words had given to the physiognomy of the stranger. The latter rose from the front of the window, upon the sill of which he had leaned with his elbow, and knitted his brow like a man disquieted.

"The devil!" murmured he, between his teeth. "Can Treville have set this Gascon upon me? He is very young; but a sword thrust is a sword thrust, whatever be the age of him who gives it, and a youth is less to be suspected than an older man," and the stranger fell into a reverie which lasted some minutes. "A weak obstacle is sometimes sufficient to overthrow a great design.

"Host," said he, "could you not contrive to get rid of this frantic boy for me? In conscience, I cannot kill him; and yet," added he, with a coldly menacing expression, "he annoys me. Where is he?"

"In my wife's chamber, on the first flight, where they are dressing his wounds."

"His things and his bag are with him? Has he taken off his doublet?"

"On the contrary, everything is in the kitchen. But if he annoys you, this young fool--"

"To be sure he does. He causes a disturbance in your hostelry, which respectable people cannot put up with. Go; make out my bill and notify my servant."

"What, monsieur, will you leave us so soon?"

"You know that very well, as I gave my order to saddle my horse. Have they not obeyed me?"

"It is done; as your Excellency may have observed, your horse is in the great gateway, ready saddled for your departure."

"That is well; do as I have directed you, then."

"What the devil!" said the host to himself. "Can he be afraid of this boy?" But an imperious glance from the stranger stopped him short; he bowed humbly and retired.

"It is not necessary for Milady* to be seen by this fellow," continued the stranger. "She will soon pass; she is already late. I had better get on horseback, and go and meet her. I should like, however, to know what this letter addressed to Treville contains."

*We are well aware that this term, milady, is only properly used

when followed by a family name. But we find it thus in the manuscript,

and we do not choose to take upon ourselves to alter it.

And the stranger, muttering to himself, directed his steps toward the kitchen."

In the meantime, the host, who entertained no doubt that it was the presence of the young man that drove the stranger from his hostelry, re-ascended to his wife's chamber, and found D'Artagnan just recovering his senses. Giving him to understand that the police would deal with him pretty severely for having sought a quarrel with a great lord--for the opinion of the host the stranger could be nothing less than a great lord--he insisted that notwithstanding his weakness D'Artagnan should get up and depart as quickly as possible. D'Artagnan, half stupefied, without his doublet, and with his head bound up in a linen cloth, arose then, and urged by the host, began to descend the stairs; but on arriving at the kitchen, the first thing he saw was his antagonist talking calmly at the step of a heavy carriage, drawn by two large Norman horses.

His interlocutor, whose head appeared through the carriage window, was a woman of from twenty to two-and-twenty years. We have already observed with what rapidity D'Artagnan seized the expression of a countenance. He perceived then, at a glance, that this woman was young and beautiful; and her style of beauty struck him more forcibly from its being totally different from that of the southern countries in which D'Artagnan had hitherto resided. She was pale and fair, with long curls falling in profusion over her shoulders, had large, blue, languishing eyes, rosy lips, and hands of alabaster. She was talking with great animation with the stranger.

"His Eminence, then, orders me--" said the lady.

"To return instantly to England, and to inform him as soon as the duke leaves London."

"And as to my other instructions?" asked the fair traveler.

"They are contained in this box, which you will not open until you are on the other side of the Channel."

"Very well; and you--what will you do?"

"I--I return to Paris."

"What, without chastising this insolent boy?" asked the lady.

The stranger was about to reply; but at the moment he opened his mouth, D'Artagnan, who had heard all, precipitated himself over the threshold of the door.

"This insolent boy chastises others," cried he; "and I hope that this time he whom he ought to chastise will not escape him as before."

"Will not escape him?" replied the stranger, knitting his brow.

"No; before a woman you would dare not fly, I presume?"

"Remember," said Milady, seeing the stranger lay his hand on his sword, "the least delay may ruin everything."

"You are right," cried the gentleman; "begone then, on your part, and I will depart as quickly on mine." And bowing to the lady, sprang into his saddle, while her coachman applied his whip vigorously to his horses. The two interlocutors thus separated, taking opposite directions, at full gallop.

"Pay him, booby!" cried the stranger to his servant, without checking the speed of his horse; and the man, after throwing two or three silver pieces at the foot of mine host, galloped after his master.

"Base coward! false gentleman!" cried D'Artagnan, springing forward, in his turn, after the servant. But his wound had rendered him too weak to support such an exertion. Scarcely had he gone ten steps when his ears began to tingle, a faintness seized him, a cloud of blood passed over his eyes, and he fell in the middle of the street, crying still, "Coward! coward! coward!"

"He is a coward, indeed," grumbled the host, drawing near to D'Artagnan, and endeavoring by this little flattery to make up matters with the young man, as the heron of the fable did with the snail he had despised the evening before.

"Yes, a base coward," murmured D'Artagnan; "but she--she was very beautiful."

"What she?" demanded the host.

"Milady," faltered D'Artagnan, and fainted a second time.

"Ah, it's all one," said the host; "I have lost two customers, but this one remains, of whom I am pretty certain for some days to come. There will be eleven crowns gained."

It is to be remembered that eleven crowns was just the sum that remained in D'Artagnan's purse.

The host had reckoned upon eleven days of confinement at a crown a day, but he had reckoned without his guest. On the following morning at five o'clock D'Artagnan arose, and descending to the kitchen without help, asked, among other ingredients the list of which has not come down to us, for some oil, some wine, and some rosemary, and with his mother's recipe in his hand composed a balsam, with which he anointed his numerous wounds, replacing his bandages himself, and positively refusing the assistance of any doctor, D'Artagnan walked about that same evening, and was almost cured by the morrow.

But when the time came to pay for his rosemary, this oil, and the wine, the only expense the master had incurred, as he had preserved a strict abstinence--while on the contrary, the yellow horse, by the account of the hostler at least, had eaten three times as much as a horse of his size could reasonably supposed to have done--D'Artagnan found nothing in his pocket but his little old velvet purse with the eleven crowns it contained; for as to the letter addressed to M. de Treville, it had disappeared.

The young man commenced his search for the letter with the greatest patience, turning out his pockets of all kinds over and over again, rummaging and rerummaging in his valise, and opening and reopening his purse; but when he found that he had come to the conviction that the letter was not to be found, he flew, for the third time, into such a rage as was near costing him a fresh consumption of wine, oil, and rosemary--for upon seeing this hot- headed youth become exasperated and threaten to destroy everything in the establishment if his letter were not found, the host seized a spit, his wife a broom handle, and the servants the same sticks they had used the day before.

"My letter of recommendation!" cried D'Artagnan, "my letter of recommendation! or, the holy blood, I will spit you all like ortolans!"

Unfortunately, there was one circumstance which created a powerful obstacle to the accomplishment of this threat; which was, as we have related, that his sword had been in his first conflict broken in two, and which he had entirely forgotten. Hence, it resulted when D'Artagnan proceeded to draw his sword in earnest, he found himself purely and simply armed with a stump of a sword about eight or ten inches in length, which the host had carefully placed in the scabbard. As to the rest of the blade, the master had slyly put that on one side to make himself a larding pin.

But this deception would probably not have stopped our fiery young man if the host had not reflected that the reclamation which his guest made was perfectly just.

"But, after all," said he, lowering the point of his spit, "where is this letter?"

"Yes, where is this letter?" cried D'Artagnan. "In the first place, I warn you that that letter is for Monsieur de Treville, and it must be found, he will not know how to find it."

His threat completed the intimidation of the host. After the king and the cardinal, M. de Treville was the man whose name was perhaps most frequently repeated by the military, and even by citizens. There was, to be sure, Father Joseph, but his name was never pronounced but with a subdued voice, such was the terror inspired by his Gray Eminence, as the cardinal's familiar was called.

Throwing down his spit, and ordering his wife to do the same with her broom handle, and the servants with their sticks, he set the first example of commencing an earnest search for the lost letter.

"Does the letter contain anything valuable?" demanded the host, after a few minutes of useless investigation.

"Zounds! I think it does indeed!" cried the Gascon, who reckoned upon this letter for making his way at court. "It contained my fortune!"

"Bills upon Spain?" asked the disturbed host.

"Bills upon his Majesty's private treasury," answered D'Artagnan, who, reckoning upon entering into the king's service in consequence of this recommendation, believed he could make this somewhat hazardous reply without telling of a falsehood.

"The devil!" cried the host, at his wit's end.

"But it's of no importance," continued D'Artagnan, with natural assurance; "it's of no importance. The money is nothing; that letter was everything. I would rather have lost a thousand

pistoles than have lost it." He would not have risked more if he had said twenty thousand; but a certain juvenile modesty restrained him.

A ray of light all at once broke upon the mind of the host as he was giving himself to the devil upon finding nothing.

"That letter is not lost!" cried he.

"What!" cried D'Artagnan.

"No, it has been stolen from you."

"Stolen? By whom?"

"By the gentleman who was here yesterday. He came down into the kitchen, where your doublet was. He remained there some time alone. I would lay a wager he has stolen it."

"Do you think so?" answered D'Artagnan, but little convinced, as he knew better than anyone else how entirely personal the value of this letter was, and was nothing in it likely to tempt cupidity. The fact was that none of his servants, none of the travelers present, could have gained anything by being possessed of this paper.

"Do you say," resumed D'Artagnan, "that you suspect that impertinent gentleman?"

"I tell you I am sure of it," continued the host. "When I informed him that your lordship was the protege of Monsieur de Treville, and that you even had a letter for that illustrious gentleman, he appeared to be very much disturbed, and asked me where that letter was, and immediately came down into the kitchen, where he knew your doublet was."

"Then that's my thief," replied D'Artagnan. "I will complain to Monsieur de Treville, and Monsieur de Treville will complain to the king." He then drew two crowns majestically from his purse and gave them to the host, who accompanied him, cap in hand, to the gate, and remounted his yellow horse, which bore him without any further accident to the gate of St. Antoine at Paris, where his owner sold him for three crowns, which was a very good price, considering that D'Artagnan had ridden him hard during the last stage. Thus the dealer to whom D'Artagnan sold him for the nine livres did not conceal from the young man that he only gave that enormous sum for him on the account of the originality of his color.

Thus D'Artagnan entered Paris on foot, carrying his little packet under his arm, and walked about till he found an apartment to be let on terms suited to the scantiness of his means. This chamber was a sort of garret, situated in the Rue des Fossoyeurs, near the Luxembourg.

As soon as the earnest money was paid, D'Artagnan took possession of his lodging, and passed the remainder of the day in sewing onto his doublet and hose some ornamental braiding which his mother had taken off an almost-new doublet of the elder M. D'Artagnan, and which she had given her son secretly. Next he went to the Quai de Feraille to have a new blade put to his sword, and then returned toward the Louvre, inquiring of the first Musketeer he met for the situation of the hotel of M. de Treville, which proved to be in the Rue du Vieux-Colombier; that is to say, in the immediate vicinity of the chamber hired by D'Artagnan--a circumstance which appeared to furnish a happy augury for the success of his journey.

After this, satisfied with the way in which he had conducted himself at Meung, without remorse for the past, confident in the present, and full of hope for the future, he retired to bed and slept the sleep of the brave.

This sleep, provincial as it was, brought him to nine o'clock in the morning; at which hour he rose, in order to repair to the residence of M. de Treville, the third personage in the kingdom paternal estimation.

 

一六二五年四月的头一个星期一,《玫瑰传奇》①作者的故乡默恩镇,仿佛陷入了大动乱,就像胡格诺派②把它变成了第二个拉罗舍尔③似的。几个店主看见妇女们向大街那边跑,听见孩子们在门口叫喊,便赶忙披上铠甲,拿起火枪或长矛,镇定一下多少有些恐慌的情绪,向诚实磨坊主客店跑去。客店前面挤着一堆人,而且越来越多,一个个吵吵嚷嚷,显得很好奇——

①法国中世纪后期最流行的诗歌之一,全诗二一○○○余行,前四五八○行为吉约姆-德-洛利所作,是向一个以玫瑰花苞为象征的少女求爱的寓言,大约一二八○年由让-德-默恩续完。

②十六世纪欧洲宗教改革运动中兴起于法国而长期惨遭迫害的新教派。

③法国西南部海滨城市,十六至十七世纪胡格诺派教徒抵抗天主派教徒进攻的最大军事据点。

在那个年头,恐慌的情景司空见惯,难得有一天平静无事,不是这个城镇就是那个城镇,总要发生可供记载的这类事件。领主与领主相打,国王与红衣主教相斗,西班牙人向国王开仗。除了这些暗的或明的、秘密的或公开的战争,还有盗匪、乞丐、胡格诺派教徒、野狼以及达官贵人的跟班,也全都与大众为敌。因此,市民都武装起来,常备不懈,抵御盗匪、野狼和达官贵人的跟班,也常常抵御领主和胡格诺派教徒,有时也抵御国王,但从来不抵御西班牙人和红衣主教。久而久之养成了习惯,所以在上文所说的一六二五年四月头一个星期一,默恩镇的人听到沸沸扬扬的声音,也不管看见没看见红黄两色的军旗或黎塞留公爵①部下的号衣,便纷纷向诚实磨坊主客店跑去。

到了那里一看,大家才明白这骚动的原因。

原来是一个年轻人……让我们简单勾画一下他的模样吧:诸位不妨想象一下十八九岁的堂吉诃德②,不过这个唐吉诃德没有披挂防护之物,既没有锁子甲,也没有盔甲,只穿了一件羊毛织的紧身短上衣;那件短上衣本来是蓝色的,但变得酒渣色不像酒渣色,天蓝色不像天蓝色了。一张黑红的长脸,突出的颧骨显示出足智多谋,而下上颌的肌肉非常发达,一眼就可以断定是加斯科尼人,即使不戴无檐平顶软帽也看得出来,何况我们这个年轻人藏了这样一顶软帽,上面还插了一根翎毛呢;一对眼睛显得坦诚、聪慧;鼻子钩钩的,但挺秀气;个子嘛,算小青年太高,算成年人又嫌矮;皮斜带上挂柄长剑,走路时磕碰腿肚子,骑马时摩擦坐骑蓬乱的毛;没有这柄长剑,缺乏经验的人也许会把他看做庄稼人子弟——

①此处指的是当时担任宰相和红衣主教的黎塞留。

②西班牙作家塞万提斯的名作《堂吉诃德》的主人公。

不错,我们这个年轻人有匹坐骑,那匹坐骑甚至还挺出色,引起了大家注意哩。那是一匹贝亚恩矮马,口齿十二或十四岁,一身黄毛,一条秃尾巴,腿弯处生有坏疽,行走时脑袋低到膝盖以下,不需要系颌缰,尽管如此,每天还是可以走八法里①。不幸的是,这匹马的优点完全被古怪的毛色和不得体的姿态掩盖了。因此,在那个人人自命为相马行家的年代,当这匹矮马约一刻钟前从波让西门踏进默恩镇时,它给人的印象不佳,连骑在它背上的主人也受到轻视。

这种轻视使年轻的达达尼昂(这就是这位骑着另一匹洛西南特②的堂吉诃德的姓)感到非常难堪,因为不论他是多么高明的骑手,也无法掩饰这样一匹坐骑使他显得可笑的一面。所以,当达达尼昂老爹把这匹马赏赐给他时,他一边接受,一边长嘘短叹。他心里很清楚,这样一匹马,至少要值二十利弗尔③,而随同这件赏赐给他的训示,的确堪称金玉良言——

①一法里约合四公里。

②堂吉诃德的马的名字。

③金法郎的古称。

“孩子,”那位加斯科尼绅士用纯粹的、连亨利四世也没能改过来的贝亚恩土话说道,“孩子,这匹马生在你老子家里,眼看就满十三个年头了,从生下来就没离开过,你应该珍爱它才是。千万别把它卖了,让它安静、体面地老死吧。假如你骑着它去打仗,一定要好生爱护它,就像爱护一位老仆人一样。到了朝廷里,”达达尼昂老爹接着说道,“如果你有幸进朝廷的话,其实,你古老的贵族出身赋予了你享受这种荣耀的权利。到了朝廷,你决不要辱没自己的绅士姓氏;这个姓氏,你的列祖列宗高贵地保持了五百年。这可是为了你和你的亲人啊。我说你的亲人,就是指你的双亲和你的朋友。你只能听命于红衣主教和国王。如今,一个绅士要想平步青云,全凭自己的勇气,听明白了没有?全凭自己的勇气。你在一刹那间畏首畏尾,很可能就错过了幸运之神在这刹那间送给你的机遇。你年纪轻轻,从两条理由讲你都应当勇敢无畏:第一你是加斯科尼人;第二你是我儿子。不要错过时机,要敢于冒险。我教会了你击剑,你两腿很有劲,手腕子很有力,一有机会就应该大打出手;如今禁止决斗,要打架更需有双倍的勇气。孩儿,我所能给你的,只有十五埃居、我这匹马和你刚才听到的这番忠告。你母亲还要告诉你一种药膏的秘方,那是她从一个吉卜赛女人那里学来的,凡是不触及心脏的伤口,抹那种药膏有奇效。你要事事争先,快快活活地生活,长命百岁。除了这些,我只还有一句话要补充:我建议你效法一个榜样。这个榜样不是我,我从来没有在朝里做过事,只是早年随义勇军参加过宗教战争;我想说的是德-特雷维尔先生。他从前是我的邻居,小时候有幸经常与我们的国王路易十三一块玩耍。愿上帝保佑国王!有时,他们玩着玩着就打起来,而一打起架来,国王并非总是最强者。他没少挨揍,而这反而使他对德-特雷维尔先生颇产生了一些敬重和友情。特雷维尔呢,后来头一次到巴黎旅行就与别人决斗过五次;从老王过世到储王成年亲政期间,他除了参加打仗和攻城,又与别人决斗过七次;而从当今国王登基到现在,他可能又决斗过上百次!所以,尽管有法令,有谕旨,有禁止决斗的规定,他却当上了火枪队的队长,即国王非常倚重的禁军的首领。这支禁军,连红衣主教也惧怕三分,虽然谁都知道,红衣主教是什么也不怕的。特雷维尔先生每年挣一万埃居,算得上一个很大的爵爷啦,可是他当初也与你一样。你带上这封信去拜见他吧,应该以他为榜样,像他一样飞黄腾达。”

达达尼昂老爹说完这番话,就把自己的剑给儿子佩上,深情地亲了亲他的双颊,并为他祝福。

小伙子出了父亲的房间就去找母亲。母亲手里拿着那个神妙的药方,正等着他。正如我们刚才说过的,这个药方以后该会经常使用。母子之间的话别,比父子之间的话别更长久,更充满柔情。这倒不是说达达尼昂老爹不管自己的儿子,不爱这根独苗苗,而是只为他是男子汉,感情上缠缠绵绵,算得上什么男子汉!达达尼昂太太则不同,她是女人,又是母亲,所以一个劲地哭。至于小达达尼昂,倒也值得称道,他想到以后要当火枪手,便竭力表现得意志坚强,不过最终还是让天性占了上风,流了不少眼泪,只是尽力忍着,才忍住了一半。

小伙子当天就上路了,带着父亲的三件赏赐。正如我们在前面所说的,这三件赏赐就是十五埃居、一匹马和一封给德-特雷维尔先生的信;此外当然还有种种嘱咐,这是大家都想得到的。

随身带着这些东西,达达尼昂彻头彻尾活脱脱就是塞万提斯笔下那个主人公,我们刚才本着历史学家的职责为他描绘小照时,已经恰如其分地把他比作那个主人公。堂吉诃德把风车当成巨人,把羊群当成军队,达达尼昂则把每一个微笑当成侮辱,把每一个眼神当成挑衅。正因为如此,他从塔布走到默恩镇,两个拳头一直攥得紧紧的,两只手每天十来次去握剑柄,只不过他的拳头没有揍人,那柄剑也没有出鞘。行人们见到那匹黄矮马的倒霉样子,都禁不住想笑,可是一瞧见黄矮马上面响着一柄长得吓人的剑,瞧见剑上面又闪烁着两道凶狠多于傲慢的目光,便都忍住不敢笑了;万一笑的欲望压倒了谨慎心理,也只是半边脸露出笑容,像古代的面具一样。就这样,一直走到倒霉的默恩镇,达达尼昂始终保持着尊严和敏感。

可是,进了默恩镇,他在诚实磨坊主客店前面准备下马的时候,却不见任何人,既不见店主,也不见茶房或马夫前来替他抓住马镫,只见楼下一个半开的窗口站着一位绅士,体态匀称,神情高傲,微微皱着眉头,正在与另外两个人说话,那两个人毕恭毕敬地听着。达达尼昂自然习惯地以为那三个人议论的就是他,便侧耳细听。这回他只误会了一半:那三个人议论的不是他本人,而是他的马。那位绅士似乎正在列举达达尼昂这匹马的种种品质,另外两个人正如我刚才所讲的,完全是一副洗耳恭听的样子,不时哈哈大笑。既然一丝微笑都足以惹得我们这个年轻人会大动肝火,那么这样哈哈大笑对他会产生什么影响,便可想而知了。

然而,达达尼昂想先看清楚,那个讥讽他的毫无礼貌的家伙是副什么模样,便用傲慢的目光盯住那个陌生人,发现他介于四十至四十五岁之间,黑溜溜的眼睛,目光犀利,脸色苍白,鼻子高高的,黝黑的胡子修剪得很整齐;穿着紫色紧身短上衣、紫色短裤,裤腿系着紫色细带子,浑身上下除了露出衬衣的袖衩之外,没有任何装饰;紧身短上衣和短裤虽然是新的,但全都皱巴巴,像在箱子底压久了的旅行服。这一切,达达尼昂是以最细心的观察者那种迅捷的目光观察到的,大概本能的感觉告诉他,这个人将会对他未来的生活产生巨大的影响。

然而,当达达尼昂两眼盯住穿紫色短上衣的绅士时,那位绅士正对他那匹贝亚恩矮马发表极为精彩而深刻的议论,另外两个人听了大笑不止,绅士本人呢,显然一反常态,脸上掠过一丝淡淡的微笑。这一回确凿无疑了,达达尼昂觉得真是受到了侮辱。他确信对方是在讥笑他,便把帽子往眼睛上面一拉,模仿路过加斯科尼的某些贵族老爷摆出的官架子,一手压住剑柄的护手,一手叉腰,朝他们走过去。不幸的是,他越朝前走,怒火越旺,竟至完全丧失了理智,把想好的傲慢而庄严的挑衅话忘到了脑后,怒气冲冲地用手朝人家一指,嘴里吐出的完全是一个莽汉的语言:

“喂!先生,”他嚷道,“窗板后面的那位先生!不错,我喊的就是您!您在笑什么?说说看,好让我们来一快儿笑!”

那位绅士慢慢地把目光从坐骑移到骑士身上,仿佛一时还没明白这种奇怪的指责是针对他的,等到终于明白过来之后,他略略皱一下眉头,又停顿了相当长时间,才用一种难以形容的讥讽、傲慢的口气说道:

“先生,我并没有和您说话。”

“我吗,可是在和您说话!”。小伙子被这种既傲慢又优雅,既礼貌又蔑视的态度激怒了,这样说道。

陌生人脸上挂着淡淡的微笑,又打量达达尼昂一会儿,然后离开窗口,走出客店,来到与他相距两步远的地方,站在马的对面。另外两个人始终留在窗口,看见陌生人那副从容不迫而又蔑视讥讽的态度,笑得更厉害了。

达达尼昂见他朝自己走过来,便把剑从鞘里拔出一尺光景。

“这匹马的确是,或者更确切地讲,它年轻的时候的确是一朵金色的毛莨花,”陌生人继续对窗口的两个人发表已经开始的议论,似乎根本没有注意到达达尼昂怒不可遏的样子,虽然达达尼昂站在他和那两个人之间。“这种颜色在植物界很常见,不过这种颜色的马,至今很少见。”

“笑马者未必有胆量笑马的主人吧!”特雷维尔先生的效仿者怒气冲冲地说道。

“本人不常笑,先生,”陌生人答道,“这从我的表情您自己可以看得出来,不过,在老子高兴的时候,这笑的特权我是要保留的。”

“可是,老子不愿意别人在我不高兴的时候笑!”达达尼昂嚷道。

“真的吗,先生?”陌生人问道,显得异乎寻常地平静,“好啊,这太合乎情理啦。”说完他一转身,准备从大门回到屋里去。达达尼昂到达的时候,就看见门洞里停着一匹上了鞍子的马。

达达尼昂的性格,岂能放过一个如此无礼嘲笑自己的家伙!他嗖的一声从鞘里把整个剑拔出来,追上去喊道:“转过身来,那位嘲笑人的先生,给我转过身来,我不想从背后给您一剑。”

“给我一剑!”那人转过身,吃惊而又轻蔑地打量着这个年轻人,说道,“啊哈,亲爱的,得了吧,您莫不是疯了!”

接着,他又自言自语般低声说道:

“真遗憾,本来倒是块好料子。国王陛下正派人四处寻找,招募火枪手哩!”

他的话还没落音,达达尼昂就愤怒地一剑刺了过去。他要不是赶紧往后一跳,这辈子恐怕就是最后一回取笑人了。陌生人见事情已经越出唇舌相讥的界限,便也拔出剑,向对手施了施礼,认真地摆出了防卫的姿势。而正在这时,他那两个听众随同店主,挥舞着棍棒、铲子和火钳,劈头盖脸朝达达尼昂打将过去。这突如其来的进攻,立刻把达达尼昂完全牵制住了,使他不得不回转身,对付这雨点般的打击,而他的对手准确地把剑插回了剑鞘,从没有当成的战斗者,变成了战斗的旁观者,不动声色地在一旁观看,一边嘴里咕噜道:

“加斯科尼人真该死!把他扔回到那匹枯黄色的马背上,叫他滚蛋!”

“不宰了你老子才不会走呢,孬种!”达达尼昂一边嚷着,一边尽力抵抗,并没有在三个围攻上来的敌人面前后退一步。

“还是一副加斯科尼人的牛脾气。”绅士嘟囔道,“我敢肯定,这些加斯科尼人的本性是改不了啦!既然他非要这样不可,你们就继续让他这样蹦蹦跳跳,等他跳累了,就会说够了的。”

不过,陌生人不知道他面对的这个人多么倔强。达达尼昂是条绝不会求饶的汉子。因此,战斗又继续了一会儿。终于,达达尼昂筋疲力尽了,手里的剑被对方一棍击断为两截,他只好扔了。另一棍击伤了他的前额,他立刻摔倒在地上,鲜血淋漓,几乎失去了知觉。

就是在这时,镇上的人才从四面八方向出事的地点跑来。店主怕发生丑闻,便叫几个茶房帮忙,把受伤者抬进厨房,稍事包扎。

那位绅士回到了他刚才所站的窗口,带着不耐烦的神情,望着黑压压的人群。这人群待在那里,似乎使他感到非常不痛快。

“喂!那个浑小子怎么样啦?”他听见门吱呀一声开了,便转过头,对出来向他问安的店主问道。

“阁下安然无恙吧?”店主问道。

“是的,绝对安然无恙,亲爱的店主。我问您咱们那个年轻人怎么样了。”

“好些啦。”店主答道,“刚才他完全昏过去了。”

“真的吗?”绅士问道。

“不过,在昏过去之前,他使出吃奶的力气拼命喊您,一边喊一边向您挑衅。”

“这家伙莫非是魔鬼的化身吗?”陌生人大声说道。

“啊!不,大人,他不是魔鬼。”店主轻蔑地做了做鬼脸说道,“因为在他昏迷不醒的时候,我们搜了他身上。他的行囊里只有一件衬衣,钱包里只有十一埃居。在昏过去的时候,他却夸海口说:这种事如果发生在巴黎,你们会立刻后悔莫及的;

在这里,你们只不过晚一点后悔罢了。”

“那么,”陌生人冷冷地说,“他莫非是个乔装改扮的王子?”

“我对您说这些,老爷,”店主接着说道,“是要您提高警惕。”

“他发火的时候提到什么人的姓名没有?”

“提到的。他拍着口袋说:等特雷维尔先生知道有人如此侮辱他所保护的人,看他会怎样收拾你们!”

“特雷维尔先生?”店主的话引起了陌生人注意,“他拍着口袋提到特雷维尔先生的姓名?……啊,亲爱的店主,在您那个小伙子晕过去的时候,我可以肯定,您不会不看看他的口袋的。那里面有什么东西?”

“有一封给火枪队队长特雷维尔先生的信。”

“真有这事?”

“我所禀报的半句不假,老爷。”

店主不是一个很善于察言观色的人,没有注意到陌生人听到这些话之后,脸上表情的变化。陌生人一直将胳膊肘搁在窗台上,这时离开了那里,不安地皱起眉头。

“见鬼!”他自言自语地咕噜道,“特雷维尔居然派了这个加斯科尼人来刺杀我?他还乳臭未干呢!不过刺一剑总是一剑,不论行刺者多大年纪,况且,一个孩子比起其他人,不大会引起警觉。有时,一个小的障碍足以使一项伟大的计划受阻。”

陌生人陷入了沉思,过了几分钟才说道:

“喂,店主,您不能帮助我摆脱这个疯子吗?出于良心,我不能宰了他。可是,”他现出冷酷、威胁的表情继续说,“可是,他碍我的事。他现在在什么地方?”

“在楼上我太太房间里。正在给他包扎。”

“他的衣服和那个口袋可还在身上?他没有脱下紧身短上衣吧?”

“全脱下啦,都放在楼下厨房里哩。既然这个小疯子碍您的事……”

“可能碍我的事。他在您的客店里胡闹,正直的人都不能容忍。您上去给我结账吧,并且通知我的跟班。”

“怎么!先生这就要离开敝店了?”

“这您很清楚,既然我早已吩咐您给我备马。难道没有按照我的吩咐去做?”

“哪能呢,大人您不是看见,马已备好在门洞里,说走就可以走了?”

“好。您就照我说的去办。”

“是。”店主答应着,但心里嘀咕道:“他莫非害怕那个小青年?”

但陌生人威严地瞪他一眼,使他再也不敢多想,谦卑地行个礼,退了下去。

“不能让米拉迪给这个怪家伙看见。”陌生人想道,“米拉迪马上就要经过这里,她甚至已经误了时间。显然,我最好是骑马迎头去找她……要是能知道那封给特雷维尔先生的信的内容就好了。”

陌生人独自嘀咕着向厨房走去。

店主深信不疑,是小青年的到来把陌生人从他的客店里赶走的。这时,他到了楼上太太的房里,发现达达尼昂终于苏醒过来了。于是,他提醒达达尼昂,由于他刚才向一位大爵爷寻衅——据店主的看法,陌生人肯定是一位大爵爷——,警察可能会来找他的麻烦。他可不管达达尼昂身体还很虚弱,硬是劝他起来,去赶他的路。达达尼昂神志还没有完全清醒,身上没有了短上衣,头上缠着许多绷带,就这么爬了起来,由店主推着往楼下走去。走到厨房门口,他第一眼看到的就是那个向他寻衅的家伙,正站在一辆笨重的马车的踏脚板上,平静地与人交谈;那辆马车套了两匹膘肥体壮的诺曼底马。

与陌生人交谈的是个女人,头从车门里露出来,看上去二十至二十二岁光景。我们已经提到过,达达尼昂能如何迅速地观察一个人的容貌。他头一眼就看出,那女人既年轻又漂亮。然而,这女人的美貌令他吃惊,因为在他有生以来居住的南方地区,压根儿就没见到过如此漂亮的女人。这女人脸色苍白,金色的长发鬈曲地披在肩头,一对大眼睛现出忧郁的神色,嘴唇粉红,两手雪白。她正兴奋地与陌生人交谈。

“所以,红衣主教阁下吩咐我……”车子里的女人说道。

“……立刻返回英国,如果公爵离开了伦敦,就直接通知他。”

“那么,给我的其他指示呢?”漂亮的女旅客问道。

“全都封在这个匣子里,您过了拉芒什海峡再打开。”

“很好。您打算干什么呢?”

“我吗,回巴黎。”

“不惩罚一下那个无礼的小子?”

陌生人正要回答,但嘴刚张开,一切全听到了的达达尼昂,已经冲到门口嚷道:

“是那个无礼的小子要来惩罚你们。我希望,这回他要惩罚的家伙,不会像头一回那样逃出他的手掌心了。”

“不会像头一回那样逃出你的手掌心?”陌生人眉头一皱说道。

“是的,当着一个女人的面,我料你也没有脸逃走。”

“三思而行。”米拉迪见绅士伸手拔剑,忙劝阻道,“可要三思而行,稍稍耽搁都可能满盘皆输。”

“言之有理。”绅士大声说道,“您赶您的路吧,我赶我的。”

他向米拉迪点头告别,随即飞身上马,而马车上的车夫也挥鞭抽打牲口。两个交谈的人沿着大街,朝相反的方向飞驰而去。

“喂!您的账!”店主高声喊道。他见这位房客连账也不付就走了,心里对他的好感顿时变成了蔑视。

“给他钱呀,蠢货!”那位旅客马不停蹄地对自己的跟班喊道。跟班掏出两三枚银币往店主脚边一扔,也打马跟着主人飞奔而去。

“哈!胆小鬼。哈!无耻之徒。哈!冒牌绅士。”达达尼昂追在那跟班后面骂道。

但是他受了伤,身体还很虚弱,经受不了折腾,跑了不到十步,耳朵里嗡嗡作响,只觉得天旋地转,眼前一黑,便一头裁倒在地上,嘴里还在骂着:

“胆小鬼!胆小鬼!胆小鬼!”

“他的确是个胆小鬼。”店主低声说着走到达达尼昂身边,试图以这种讨好的方式与可怜的小伙子和解,就像寓言里的鹭鸶傍晚时分对待蜗牛一样①——

①拉封丹寓言:鹭鸶感到饿了,但不屑吃鲤鱼等,熬到傍晚时分,不得不连蜗牛也吃。

“对,真是个胆小鬼。”达达尼昂喃喃道,“可是她,真漂亮啊!”

“她,谁?”店主问道。

“米拉迪啊。”达达尼昂含糊不清地说道。

说完,他第二次晕了过去。

“反正不亏,”店主嘀咕道,“我失去了两个房客,但这一位留下了,可以肯定他至少要呆上几天。十一埃居还是可以赚到手的。”

我们已经知道,十一埃居恰好是达达尼昂钱袋子里的数目。

店主盘算:达达尼昂要留在店里养十一天伤,每天一埃居。不过,这是他的盘算,并没有问过旅客。第二天清晨五点钟,达达尼昂就起了床,自己下到厨房里,要了点葡萄酒、橄榄油和迷迭香,还照方子要了几样我们不得而知的东西,随后一手捏着母亲给他的方子,照着配制了一剂药膏,接着把药膏抹在遍体的伤口上,又自己换了纱布和绷带。大概因为这种药真有效,抑或因为没有医生,傍晚时分,达达尼昂就行走自如,第二天就差不多痊愈了。

他遵守绝对禁食疗法,所以唯一的花销,就是那点迷迭香、橄榄油和葡萄酒钱,可是照老板的说法,他那匹黄马所吃的草料,足比按它的个头估计的数量多三倍。达达尼昂付账时,只找到那只磨损的丝绒钱袋子和里面的十一埃居,至于那封准备交给德-特雷维尔先生的信,则不见了踪影。

小伙子开始很有耐心地找那封信,一次又一次把身上大大小小的口袋翻过来翻过去,又在行囊里反复翻寻,把钱袋子打开又收拢。最后,他确信那封信再也找不到了,就第三次暴跳如雷,差点又要用一剂药膏,因为客店里的人见这位脾气暴躁的年轻人失去了理智,扬言如果不把那封信找出来,就要捣毁整个客店,老板已经绰起一枝长矛,老板娘拿起了一个笤帚把,茶房们也都绰起了先天用过的棍棒。

“我的推荐信!”达达尼昂嚷道,“我的推荐信,他妈的快给我找出来!否则,我把你们像穿雪-一样用铁扦子穿起来!”

遗憾的是,情况根本不允许小伙子把他的威胁付诸实践,因为正如我们前面交代过的,他的剑在头一次交手中已经断成两截。这一点他早已忘得一干二净,所以他伸手去拔剑,可是拔出来捏在手里的,仅仅是一截十来寸长的断剑。那是店主仔细地插在剑鞘里的,至于另一截子,已被厨房里手捷眼快的领班师傅拿去,改制成了剔肥膘的尖刀。

达达尼昂大为失望。然而要不是店主想到他的要求十分合理,这失望大概也不会使我们这位狂怒的年轻人住手。

“对呀,”店主不再把长矛对着达达尼昂,“那封信哪里去了呢?”

“就是嘛,信哪里去了呢?”达达尼昂嚷道,“首先,我告诉您,那封信是写给特雷维尔先生的,非找到不可,要是找不到,特雷维尔先生准会打发人来找的!”

这一威胁终于把店主镇住了。除了国王和红衣主教,特雷维尔这个名字是军人,甚至平民最常提到的。固然还有红衣主教的亲信、被世人称为灰衣主教的若瑟夫神甫,不过人们提到他的名字时总是悄悄的,因为他引起极大的恐怖。

于是,店主把手里的长矛扔得远远的,而且叫妻子扔掉笤帚把,叫茶房们扔掉棍棒,接着便身先士卒,亲自开始寻找那封不见了的信。

“那封信里是不是装有什么珍贵的东西?”店主一无所获地找了一阵之后问道。

“那还用说!当然装了珍贵东西。”加斯科尼人本来指望靠这封信去飞黄腾达的,所以信口说,“里面装着我的全部财产。”

“可是储蓄银行的存票?”老板不安地问道。

“国王特别金库的存票。”达达尼昂指望靠那封推荐信去谋求给国王当差的,所以并不觉得这样回答是说假话。

“见鬼了!”店主完全绝望了。

“不过关系不大,”达达尼昂以法兰西人特有的镇定态度说道,“关系不大,钱算不了什么,要紧的是那封信。我宁愿丢掉一千比斯托尔①,也不愿丢掉那封信。”——

①法国古币名,相当于十利弗尔。

他就是说宁愿丢掉两万比斯托尔,也不会冒什么风险。不过,一种青年人的廉耻心使他没有那么说。

信找不到,店主急得像热锅上的蚂蚁。突然他眼前一亮,大声说道:

“那封信没丢。”

“噢?”达达尼昂这么说了一声。

“没丢,是有人拿走了。”

“拿走了?谁拿走了?”

“昨天那位绅士。他下楼去过厨房,而你的短上衣当时搁在那里。他一个人呆在厨房里,我敢担保是他拿走了。”

“您相信是他?”达达尼昂问道。他不大相信店主的话,因为他比谁都清楚,那封信仅仅对他个人来说挺重要,他看不出别人有什么理由想得到它。事实上,在场的所有仆人和房客,谁得到那封信也没有用处。

“您说您怀疑那位放肆无理的绅士?”达达尼昂又问道。

“我对您说我可以肯定。当我告诉他,老爷您是受德-特雷维尔先生保护的,您甚至有给这位赫赫有名的绅士的一封信,他听了显得很不安,问那封信在什么地方。他知道您的短上衣放在厨房里,便立刻下楼去那里了。”

“那么,这家伙是偷我的东西的贼了,”达达尼昂说道,“我一定到特雷维尔先生那里去告他。特雷维尔先生一定会到国王面前参他一本。”说罢,他挺神气地从口袋里掏出两埃居,给了店主。店主慌忙摘下帽子拿在手里,把他送到大门口。达达尼昂又跨上黄马,一路平安无事到了巴黎圣安端纳门。在那里,他把黄马卖了三埃居。这价钱相当不错,因为在最后阶段,他过度驱使了那匹马。马贩子拿出九利弗尔,达达尼昂便把马卖给了他。马一到手,马贩子毫不隐讳地告诉达达尼昂,他之所以出这么高的价,是因为这匹马的毛色挺稀罕。

这样,达达尼昂只好步行进巴黎城,腋下夹着小小的行囊,走了好多路,才找到一间他口袋里那点钱能租得起的房子。那是一间顶楼的房子,位于卢森堡公园附近的掘墓人街。

交过定金,达达尼昂就住进了那个房间,利用白天剩余的时间,把随身带的绦子缝在自己的紧身短上衣和紧身长裤上。那些绦子,是他母亲从他父亲一件几乎崭新的紧身短上衣上面拆下来的,悄悄地塞给了他。缝完绦子,他走到沿河铁器街,配了剑身,然后折回来走到罗浮宫,向遇到的头一个火枪手打听特雷维尔先生的官邸在什么地方。特雷维尔先生的官邸位于老鸽棚街,恰好与达达尼昂所租的那个房间相距不远。他把这一点视为预示此行成功的好兆头。

而后,他怀着对在默恩镇的行为感到满意,对过去毫不后悔,对现在满怀信心,对未来充满希望的心情,上床安歇,很快就像好汉一样睡着了。

他还是像乡下人一样,一觉睡到早晨九点钟才起床,准备去拜访大名鼎鼎的特雷维尔先生。照他父亲的说法,特雷维尔先生是王国的第三号人物