Part 01 - The Man in the Iron Mask Audiobook by Alexandre Dumas (Chs 01-04)

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CHAPTER I. The Prisoner.
Part 1
Since Aramis's singular transformation into a confessor of the order, Baisemeaux was no
longer the same man.
Up to that period, the place which Aramis had held in the worthy governor's
estimation was that of a prelate whom he respected and a friend to whom he owed a
debt of gratitude; but now he felt himself
an inferior, and that Aramis was his master.
He himself lighted a lantern, summoned a turnkey, and said, returning to Aramis, "I
am at your orders, monseigneur."
Aramis merely nodded his head, as much as to say, "Very good"; and signed to him with
his hand to lead the way. Baisemeaux advanced, and Aramis followed
It was a calm and lovely starlit night; the steps of three men resounded on the flags
of the terraces, and the clinking of the keys hanging from the jailer's girdle made
itself heard up to the stories of the
towers, as if to remind the prisoners that the liberty of earth was a luxury beyond
their reach.
It might have been said that the alteration effected in Baisemeaux extended even to the
The turnkey, the same who, on Aramis's first arrival had shown himself so
inquisitive and curious, was now not only silent, but impassible.
He held his head down, and seemed afraid to keep his ears open.
In this wise they reached the basement of the Bertaudiere, the two first stories of
which were mounted silently and somewhat slowly; for Baisemeaux, though far from
disobeying, was far from exhibiting any eagerness to obey.
On arriving at the door, Baisemeaux showed a disposition to enter the prisoner's
chamber; but Aramis, stopping him on the threshold, said, "The rules do not allow
the governor to hear the prisoner's confession."
Baisemeaux bowed, and made way for Aramis, who took the lantern and entered; and then
signed to them to close the door behind him.
For an instant he remained standing, listening whether Baisemeaux and the
turnkey had retired; but as soon as he was assured by the sound of their descending
footsteps that they had left the tower, he
put the lantern on the table and gazed around.
On a bed of green serge, similar in all respect to the other beds in the Bastile,
save that it was newer, and under curtains half-drawn, reposed a young man, to whom we
have already once before introduced Aramis.
According to custom, the prisoner was without a light.
At the hour of curfew, he was bound to extinguish his lamp, and we perceive how
much he was favored, in being allowed to keep it burning even till then.
Near the bed a large leathern armchair, with twisted legs, sustained his clothes.
A little table--without pens, books, paper, or ink--stood neglected in sadness near the
window; while several plates, still unemptied, showed that the prisoner had
scarcely touched his evening meal.
Aramis saw that the young man was stretched upon his bed, his face half concealed by
his arms.
The arrival of a visitor did not caused any change of position; either he was waiting
in expectation, or was asleep.
Aramis lighted the candle from the lantern, pushed back the armchair, and approached
the bed with an evident mixture of interest and respect.
The young man raised his head.
"What is it?" said he. "You desired a confessor?" replied Aramis.
"Yes." "Because you were ill?"
"Very ill?" The young man gave Aramis a piercing
glance, and answered, "I thank you." After a moment's silence, "I have seen you
before," he continued.
Aramis bowed.
Doubtless the scrutiny the prisoner had just made of the cold, crafty, and
imperious character stamped upon the features of the bishop of Vannes was little
reassuring to one in his situation, for he added, "I am better."
"And so?" said Aramis. "Why, then--being better, I have no longer
the same need of a confessor, I think."
"Not even of the hair-cloth, which the note you found in your bread informed you of?"
The young man started; but before he had either assented or denied, Aramis
continued, "Not even of the ecclesiastic from whom you were to hear an important
"If it be so," said the young man, sinking again on his pillow, "it is different; I am
Aramis then looked at him more closely, and was struck with the easy majesty of his
mien, one which can never be acquired unless Heaven has implanted it in the blood
or heart.
"Sit down, monsieur," said the prisoner. Aramis bowed and obeyed.
"How does the Bastile agree with you?" asked the bishop.
"Very well."
"You do not suffer?" "No."
"You have nothing to regret?" "Nothing."
"Not even your liberty?"
"What do you call liberty, monsieur?" asked the prisoner, with the tone of a man who is
preparing for a struggle.
"I call liberty, the flowers, the air, light, the stars, the happiness of going
whithersoever the sinewy limbs of one-and- twenty chance to wish to carry you."
The young man smiled, whether in resignation or contempt, it was difficult
to tell.
"Look," said he, "I have in that Japanese vase two roses gathered yesterday evening
in the bud from the governor's garden; this morning they have blown and spread their
vermilion chalice beneath my gaze; with
every opening petal they unfold the treasures of their perfumes, filling my
chamber with a fragrance that embalms it.
Look now on these two roses; even among roses these are beautiful, and the rose is
the most beautiful of flowers.
Why, then, do you bid me desire other flowers when I possess the loveliest of
all?" Aramis gazed at the young man in surprise.
"If flowers constitute liberty," sadly resumed the captive, "I am free, for I
possess them." "But the air!" cried Aramis; "air is so
necessary to life!"
"Well, monsieur," returned the prisoner; "draw near to the window; it is open.
Between high heaven and earth the wind whirls on its waftages of hail and
lightning, exhales its torrid mist or breathes in gentle breezes.
It caresses my face.
When mounted on the back of this armchair, with my arm around the bars of the window
to sustain myself, I fancy I am swimming the wide expanse before me."
The countenance of Aramis darkened as the young man continued: "Light I have! what is
better than light?
I have the sun, a friend who comes to visit me every day without the permission of the
governor or the jailer's company.
He comes in at the window, and traces in my room a square the shape of the window,
which lights up the hangings of my bed and floods the very floor.
This luminous square increases from ten o'clock till midday, and decreases from one
till three slowly, as if, having hastened to my presence, it sorrowed at bidding me
When its last ray disappears I have enjoyed its presence for five hours.
Is not that sufficient?
I have been told that there are unhappy beings who dig in quarries, and laborers
who toil in mines, who never behold it at all."
Aramis wiped the drops from his brow.
"As to the stars which are so delightful to view," continued the young man, "they all
resemble each other save in size and brilliancy.
I am a favored mortal, for if you had not lighted that candle you would have been
able to see the beautiful stars which I was gazing at from my couch before your
arrival, whose silvery rays were stealing through my brain."
Aramis lowered his head; he felt himself overwhelmed with the bitter flow of that
sinister philosophy which is the religion of the captive.
"So much, then, for the flowers, the air, the daylight, and the stars," tranquilly
continued the young man; "there remains but exercise.
Do I not walk all day in the governor's garden if it is fine--here if it rains? in
the fresh air if it is warm; in perfect warmth, thanks to my winter stove, if it be
Ah! monsieur, do you fancy," continued the prisoner, not without bitterness, "that men
have not done everything for me that a man can hope for or desire?"
"Men!" said Aramis; "be it so; but it seems to me you are forgetting Heaven."
"Indeed I have forgotten Heaven," murmured the prisoner, with emotion; "but why do you
mention it?
Of what use is it to talk to a prisoner of Heaven?"
Aramis looked steadily at this singular youth, who possessed the resignation of a
martyr with the smile of an atheist.
"Is not Heaven in everything?" he murmured in a reproachful tone.
"Say rather, at the end of everything," answered the prisoner, firmly.
"Be it so," said Aramis; "but let us return to our starting-point."
"I ask nothing better," returned the young man.
"I am your confessor."
"Yes." "Well, then, you ought, as a penitent, to
tell me the truth." "My whole desire is to tell it you."
"Every prisoner has committed some crime for which he has been imprisoned.
What crime, then, have you committed?" "You asked me the same question the first
time you saw me," returned the prisoner.
"And then, as now you evaded giving me an answer."
"And what reason have you for thinking that I shall now reply to you?"
"Because this time I am your confessor."
"Then if you wish me to tell what crime I have committed, explain to me in what a
crime consists. For as my conscience does not accuse me, I
aver that I am not a criminal."
"We are often criminals in the sight of the great of the earth, not alone for having
ourselves committed crimes, but because we know that crimes have been committed."
The prisoner manifested the deepest attention.
"Yes, I understand you," he said, after a pause; "yes, you are right, monsieur; it is
very possible that, in such a light, I am a criminal in the eyes of the great of the
"Ah! then you know something," said Aramis, who thought he had pierced not merely
through a defect in the harness, but through the joints of it.
"No, I am not aware of anything," replied the young man; "but sometimes I think--and
I say to myself--" "What do you say to yourself?"
"That if I were to think but a little more deeply I should either go mad or I should
divine a great deal." "And then--and then?" said Aramis,
"Then I leave off." "You leave off?"
"Yes; my head becomes confused and my ideas melancholy; I feel ennui overtaking me; I
"What?" "I don't know; but I do not like to give
myself up to longing for things which I do not possess, when I am so happy with what I
"You are afraid of death?" said Aramis, with a slight uneasiness.
"Yes," said the young man, smiling. Aramis felt the chill of that smile, and
"Oh, as you fear death, you know more about matters than you say," he cried.
"And you," returned the prisoner, "who bade me to ask to see you; you, who, when I did
ask to see you, came here promising a world of confidence; how is it that,
nevertheless, it is you who are silent, leaving it for me to speak?
Since, then, we both wear masks, either let us both retain them or put them aside
Aramis felt the force and justice of the remark, saying to himself, "This is no
ordinary man; I must be cautious.--Are you ambitious?" said he suddenly to the
prisoner, aloud, without preparing him for the alteration.
"What do you mean by ambitious?" replied the youth.
"Ambition," replied Aramis, "is the feeling which prompts a man to desire more--much
more--than he possesses." "I said that I was contented, monsieur;
but, perhaps, I deceive myself.
I am ignorant of the nature of ambition; but it is not impossible I may have some.
Tell me your mind; that is all I ask."
"An ambitious man," said Aramis, "is one who covets that which is beyond his
"I covet nothing beyond my station," said the young man, with an assurance of manner
which for the second time made the bishop of Vannes tremble.
He was silent.
But to look at the kindling eye, the knitted brow, and the reflective attitude
of the captive, it was evident that he expected something more than silence,--a
silence which Aramis now broke.
"You lied the first time I saw you," said he.
"Lied!" cried the young man, starting up on his couch, with such a tone in his voice,
and such a lightning in his eyes, that Aramis recoiled, in spite of himself.
"I should say," returned Aramis, bowing, "you concealed from me what you knew of
your infancy."
"A man's secrets are his own, monsieur," retorted the prisoner, "and not at the
mercy of the first chance-comer."
"True," said Aramis, bowing still lower than before, "'tis true; pardon me, but to-
day do I still occupy the place of a chance-comer?
I beseech you to reply, monseigneur."
This title slightly disturbed the prisoner; but nevertheless he did not appear
astonished that it was given him. "I do not know you, monsieur," said he.
"Oh, but if I dared, I would take your hand and kiss it!"
The young man seemed as if he were going to give Aramis his hand; but the light which
beamed in his eyes faded away, and he coldly and distrustfully withdrew his hand
"Kiss the hand of a prisoner," he said, shaking his head, "to what purpose?"
"Why did you tell me," said Aramis, "that you were happy here?
Why, that you aspired to nothing?
Why, in a word, by thus speaking, do you prevent me from being frank in my turn?"
The same light shone a third time in the young man's eyes, but died ineffectually
away as before.
"You distrust me," said Aramis. "And why say you so, monsieur?"
"Oh, for a very simple reason; if you know what you ought to know, you ought to
mistrust everybody."
"Then do not be astonished that I am mistrustful, since you suspect me of
knowing what I do not know." Aramis was struck with admiration at this
energetic resistance.
"Oh, monseigneur! you drive me to despair," said he, striking the armchair with his
fist. "And, on my part, I do not comprehend you,
"Well, then, try to understand me." The prisoner looked fixedly at Aramis.
"Sometimes it seems to me," said the latter, "that I have before me the man whom
I seek, and then--"
"And then your man disappears,--is it not so?" said the prisoner, smiling.
"So much the better." Aramis rose.
"Certainly," said he; "I have nothing further to say to a man who mistrusts me as
you do."
"And I, monsieur," said the prisoner, in the same tone, "have nothing to say to a
man who will not understand that a prisoner ought to be mistrustful of everybody."
"Even of his old friends," said Aramis.
"Oh, monseigneur, you are too prudent!" "Of my old friends?--you one of my old
"Do you no longer remember," said Aramis, "that you once saw, in the village where
your early years were spent--" "Do you know the name of the village?"
asked the prisoner.
"Noisy-le-Sec, monseigneur," answered Aramis, firmly.
"Go on," said the young man, with an immovable aspect.
"Stay, monseigneur," said Aramis; "if you are positively resolved to carry on this
game, let us break off.
I am here to tell you many things, 'tis true; but you must allow me to see that, on
your side, you have a desire to know them.
Before revealing the important matters I still withhold, be assured I am in need of
some encouragement, if not candor; a little sympathy, if not confidence.
But you keep yourself intrenched in a pretended which paralyzes me.
Oh, not for the reason you think; for, ignorant as you may be, or indifferent as
you feign to be, you are none the less what you are, monseigneur, and there is nothing-
-nothing, mark me! which can cause you not to be so."
"I promise you," replied the prisoner, "to hear you without impatience.
Only it appears to me that I have a right to repeat the question I have already
asked, 'Who are you?'"
"Do you remember, fifteen or eighteen years ago, seeing at Noisy-le-Sec a cavalier,
accompanied by a lady in black silk, with flame-colored ribbons in her hair?"
"Yes," said the young man; "I once asked the name of this cavalier, and they told me
that he called himself the Abbe d'Herblay.
I was astonished that the abbe had so warlike an air, and they replied that there
was nothing singular in that, seeing that he was one of Louis XIII.'s musketeers."
"Well," said Aramis, "that musketeer and abbe, afterwards bishop of Vannes, is your
confessor now." "I know it; I recognized you."
"Then, monseigneur, if you know that, I must further add a fact of which you are
ignorant--that if the king were to know this evening of the presence of this
musketeer, this abbe, this bishop, this
confessor, here--he, who has risked everything to visit you, to-morrow would
behold the steely glitter of the executioner's axe in a dungeon more gloomy,
more obscure than yours."
While listening to these words, delivered with emphasis, the young man had raised
himself on his couch, and was now gazing more and more eagerly at Aramis.
The result of his scrutiny was that he appeared to derive some confidence from it.
"Yes," he murmured, "I remember perfectly. The woman of whom you speak came once with
you, and twice afterwards with another."
He hesitated. "With another, who came to see you every
month--is it not so, monseigneur?" "Yes."
"Do you know who this lady was?"
The light seemed ready to flash from the prisoner's eyes.
"I am aware that she was one of the ladies of the court," he said.
"You remember that lady well, do you not?"
"Oh, my recollection can hardly be very confused on this head," said the young
prisoner. "I saw that lady once with a gentleman
about forty-five years old.
I saw her once with you, and with the lady dressed in black.
I have seen her twice since then with the same person.
These four people, with my master, and old Perronnette, my jailer, and the governor of
the prison, are the only persons with whom I have ever spoken, and, indeed, almost the
only persons I have ever seen."
"Then you were in prison?"
"If I am a prisoner here, then I was comparatively free, although in a very
narrow sense--a house I never quitted, a garden surrounded with walls I could not
climb, these constituted my residence, but you know it, as you have been there.
In a word, being accustomed to live within these bounds, I never cared to leave them.
And so you will understand, monsieur, that having never seen anything of the world, I
have nothing left to care for; and therefore, if you relate anything, you will
be obliged to explain each item to me as you go along."
"And I will do so," said Aramis, bowing; "for it is my duty, monseigneur."
"Well, then, begin by telling me who was my tutor."
"A worthy and, above all, an honorable gentleman, monseigneur; fit guide for both
body and soul.
Had you ever any reason to complain of him?"
"Oh, no; quite the contrary.
But this gentleman of yours often used to tell me that my father and mother were
dead. Did he deceive me, or did he speak the
"He was compelled to comply with the orders given him."
"Then he lied?" "In one respect.
Your father is dead."
"And my mother?" "She is dead for you."
"But then she lives for others, does she not?"
"And I--and I, then" (the young man looked sharply at Aramis) "am compelled to live in
the obscurity of a prison?" "Alas!
I fear so."
"And that because my presence in the world would lead to the revelation of a great
secret?" "Certainly, a very great secret."
"My enemy must indeed be powerful, to be able to shut up in the Bastile a child such
as I then was." "He is."
"More powerful than my mother, then?"
"And why do you ask that?" "Because my mother would have taken my
part." Aramis hesitated.
"Yes, monseigneur; more powerful than your mother."
"Seeing, then, that my nurse and preceptor were carried off, and that I, also, was
separated from them--either they were, or I am, very dangerous to my enemy?"
"Yes; but you are alluding to a peril from which he freed himself, by causing the
nurse and preceptor to disappear," answered Aramis, quietly.
"Disappear!" cried the prisoner, "how did they disappear?"
"In a very sure way," answered Aramis-- "they are dead."
The young man turned pale, and passed his hand tremblingly over his face.
"Poison?" he asked. "Poison."
The prisoner reflected a moment.
"My enemy must indeed have been very cruel, or hard beset by necessity, to assassinate
those two innocent people, my sole support; for the worthy gentleman and the poor nurse
had never harmed a living being."
"In your family, monseigneur, necessity is stern.
And so it is necessity which compels me, to my great regret, to tell you that this
gentleman and the unhappy lady have been assassinated."
"Oh, you tell me nothing I am not aware of," said the prisoner, knitting his brows.
"How?" "I suspected it."
"I will tell you."
At this moment the young man, supporting himself on his two elbows, drew close to
Aramis's face, with such an expression of dignity, of self-command and of defiance
even, that the bishop felt the electricity
of enthusiasm strike in devouring flashes from that great heart of his, into his
brain of adamant. "Speak, monseigneur.
I have already told you that by conversing with you I endanger my life.
Little value as it has, I implore you to accept it as the ransom of your own."
"Well," resumed the young man, "this is why I suspected they had killed my nurse and my
preceptor--" "Whom you used to call your father?"
"Yes; whom I called my father, but whose son I well knew I was not."
"Who caused you to suppose so?"
"Just as you, monsieur, are too respectful for a friend, he was also too respectful
for a father." "I, however," said Aramis, "have no
intention to disguise myself."
The young man nodded assent and continued: "Undoubtedly, I was not destined to
perpetual seclusion," said the prisoner; "and that which makes me believe so, above
all, now, is the care that was taken to
render me as accomplished a cavalier as possible.
The gentleman attached to my person taught me everything he knew himself--mathematics,
a little geometry, astronomy, fencing and riding.
Every morning I went through military exercises, and practiced on horseback.
Well, one morning during the summer, it being very hot, I went to sleep in the
Nothing, up to that period, except the respect paid me, had enlightened me, or
even roused my suspicions. I lived as children, as birds, as plants,
as the air and the sun do.
I had just turned my fifteenth year--" "This, then, is eight years ago?"
"Yes, nearly; but I have ceased to reckon time."
"Excuse me; but what did your tutor tell you, to encourage you to work?"
"He used to say that a man was bound to make for himself, in the world, that
fortune which Heaven had refused him at his birth.
He added that, being a poor, obscure orphan, I had no one but myself to look to;
and that nobody either did, or ever would, take any interest in me.
I was, then, in the hall I have spoken of, asleep from fatigue with long fencing.
My preceptor was in his room on the first floor, just over me.
Suddenly I heard him exclaim, and then he called: 'Perronnette!
Perronnette!' It was my nurse whom he called."
"Yes, I know it," said Aramis.
"Continue, monseigneur." "Very likely she was in the garden; for my
preceptor came hastily downstairs. I rose, anxious at seeing him anxious.
He opened the garden-door, still crying out, 'Perronnette!
The windows of the hall looked into the court; the shutters were closed; but
through a chink in them I saw my tutor draw near a large well, which was almost
directly under the windows of his study.
He stooped over the brim, looked into the well, and again cried out, and made wild
and affrighted gestures. Where I was, I could not only see, but
hear--and see and hear I did."
"Go on, I pray you," said Aramis. "Dame Perronnette came running up, hearing
the governor's cries.
He went to meet her, took her by the arm, and drew her quickly towards the edge;
after which, as they both bent over it together, 'Look, look,' cried he, 'what a
"'Calm yourself, calm yourself,' said Perronnette; 'what is the matter?'
"'The letter!' he exclaimed; 'do you see that letter?' pointing to the bottom of the
"'What letter?' she cried. "'The letter you see down there; the last
letter from the queen.' "At this word I trembled.
My tutor--he who passed for my father, he who was continually recommending me modesty
and humility--in correspondence with the queen!
"'The queen's last letter!' cried Perronnette, without showing more
astonishment than at seeing this letter at the bottom of the well; 'but how came it
"'A chance, Dame Perronnette--a singular chance.
I was entering my room, and on opening the door, the window, too, being open, a puff
of air came suddenly and carried off this paper--this letter of her majesty's; I
darted after it, and gained the window just
in time to see it flutter a moment in the breeze and disappear down the well.'
"'Well,' said Dame Perronnette; 'and if the letter has fallen into the well, 'tis all
the same as if it was burnt; and as the queen burns all her letters every time she
"And so you see this lady who came every month was the queen," said the prisoner.
"'Doubtless, doubtless,' continued the old gentleman; 'but this letter contained
instructions--how can I follow them?'
"'Write immediately to her; give her a plain account of the accident, and the
queen will no doubt write you another letter in place of this.'
"'Oh! the queen would never believe the story,' said the good gentleman, shaking
his head; 'she will imagine that I want to keep this letter instead of giving it up
like the rest, so as to have a hold over her.
She is so distrustful, and M. de Mazarin so--Yon devil of an Italian is capable of
having us poisoned at the first breath of suspicion.'"
CHAPTER I. The Prisoner.
Part 2
Aramis almost imperceptibly smiled. "'You know, Dame Perronnette, they are both
so suspicious in all that concerns Philippe.'
"Philippe was the name they gave me," said the prisoner.
"'Well, 'tis no use hesitating,' said Dame Perronnette, 'somebody must go down the
"'Of course; so that the person who goes down may read the paper as he is coming
up.' "'But let us choose some villager who
cannot read, and then you will be at ease.'
"'Granted; but will not any one who descends guess that a paper must be
important for which we risk a man's life?
However, you have given me an idea, Dame Perronnette; somebody shall go down the
well, but that somebody shall be myself.'
"But at this notion Dame Perronnette lamented and cried in such a manner, and so
implored the old nobleman, with tears in her eyes, that he promised her to obtain a
ladder long enough to reach down, while she
went in search of some stout-hearted youth, whom she was to persuade that a jewel had
fallen into the well, and that this jewel was wrapped in a paper.
'And as paper,' remarked my preceptor, 'naturally unfolds in water, the young man
would not be surprised at finding nothing, after all, but the letter wide open.'
"'But perhaps the writing will be already effaced by that time,' said Dame
Perronnette. "'No consequence, provided we secure the
On returning it to the queen, she will see at once that we have not betrayed her; and
consequently, as we shall not rouse the distrust of Mazarin, we shall have nothing
to fear from him.'
"Having come to this resolution, they parted.
I pushed back the shutter, and, seeing that my tutor was about to re-enter, I threw
myself on my couch, in a confusion of brain caused by all I had just heard.
My governor opened the door a few moments after, and thinking I was asleep gently
closed it again.
As soon as ever it was shut, I rose, and, listening, heard the sound of retiring
footsteps. Then I returned to the shutters, and saw my
tutor and Dame Perronnette go out together.
I was alone in the house. They had hardly closed the gate before I
sprang from the window and ran to the well. Then, just as my governor had leaned over,
so leaned I.
Something white and luminous glistened in the green and quivering silence of the
The brilliant disk fascinated and allured me; my eyes became fixed, and I could
hardly breathe.
The well seemed to draw me downwards with its slimy mouth and icy breath; and I
thought I read, at the bottom of the water, characters of fire traced upon the letter
the queen had touched.
Then, scarcely knowing what I was about, and urged on by one of those instinctive
impulses which drive men to destruction, I lowered the cord from the windlass of the
well to within about three feet of the
water, leaving the bucket dangling, at the same time taking infinite pains not to
disturb that coveted letter, which was beginning to change its white tint for the
hue of chrysoprase,--proof enough that it
was sinking,--and then, with the rope weltering in my hands, slid down into the
When I saw myself hanging over the dark pool, when I saw the sky lessening above my
head, a cold shudder came over me, a chill fear got the better of me, I was seized
with giddiness, and the hair rose on my
head; but my strong will still reigned supreme over all the terror and
I gained the water, and at once plunged into it, holding on by one hand, while I
immersed the other and seized the dear letter, which, alas! came in two in my
I concealed the two fragments in my body- coat, and, helping myself with my feet
against the sides of the pit, and clinging on with my hands, agile and vigorous as I
was, and, above all, pressed for time, I
regained the brink, drenching it as I touched it with the water that streamed off
I was no sooner out of the well with my prize, than I rushed into the sunlight, and
took refuge in a kind of shrubbery at the bottom of the garden.
As I entered my hiding-place, the bell which resounded when the great gate was
opened, rang. It was my preceptor come back again.
I had but just time.
I calculated that it would take ten minutes before he would gain my place of
concealment, even if, guessing where I was, he came straight to it; and twenty if he
were obliged to look for me.
But this was time enough to allow me to read the cherished letter, whose fragments
I hastened to unite again. The writing was already fading, but I
managed to decipher it all.
"And will you tell me what you read therein, monseigneur?" asked Aramis, deeply
"Quite enough, monsieur, to see that my tutor was a man of noble rank, and that
Perronnette, without being a lady of quality, was far better than a servant; and
also to perceived that I must myself be
high-born, since the queen, Anne of Austria, and Mazarin, the prime minister,
commended me so earnestly to their care." Here the young man paused, quite overcome.
"And what happened?" asked Aramis.
"It happened, monsieur," answered he, "that the workmen they had summoned found nothing
in the well, after the closest search; that my governor perceived that the brink was
all watery; that I was not so dried by the
sun as to prevent Dame Perronnette spying that my garments were moist; and, lastly,
that I was seized with a violent fever, owing to the chill and the excitement of my
discovery, an attack of delirium
supervening, during which I related the whole adventure; so that, guided by my
avowal, my governor found the pieces of the queen's letter inside the bolster where I
had concealed them."
"Ah!" said Aramis, "now I understand." "Beyond this, all is conjecture.
Doubtless the unfortunate lady and gentleman, not daring to keep the
occurrence secret, wrote of all this to the queen and sent back the torn letter."
"After which," said Aramis, "you were arrested and removed to the Bastile."
"As you see." "Your two attendants disappeared?"
"Let us not take up our time with the dead, but see what can be done with the living.
You told me you were resigned." "I repeat it."
"Without any desire for freedom?"
"As I told you." "Without ambition, sorrow, or thought?"
The young man made no answer. "Well," asked Aramis, "why are you silent?"
"I think I have spoken enough," answered the prisoner, "and that now it is your
turn. I am weary."
Aramis gathered himself up, and a shade of deep solemnity spread itself over his
It was evident that he had reached the crisis in the part he had come to the
prison to play. "One question," said Aramis.
"What is it? speak."
"In the house you inhabited there were neither looking-glasses nor mirrors?"
"What are those two words, and what is their meaning?" asked the young man; "I
have no sort of knowledge of them."
"They designate two pieces of furniture which reflect objects; so that, for
instance, you may see in them your own lineaments, as you see mine now, with the
naked eye."
"No; there was neither a glass nor a mirror in the house," answered the young man.
Aramis looked round him.
"Nor is there anything of the kind here, either," he said; "they have again taken
the same precaution." "To what end?"
"You will know directly.
Now, you have told me that you were instructed in mathematics, astronomy,
fencing, and riding; but you have not said a word about history."
"My tutor sometimes related to me the principal deeds of the king, St. Louis,
King Francis I., and King Henry IV." "Is that all?"
"Very nearly."
"This also was done by design, then; just as they deprived you of mirrors, which
reflect the present, so they left you in ignorance of history, which reflects the
Since your imprisonment, books have been forbidden you; so that you are unacquainted
with a number of facts, by means of which you would be able to reconstruct the
shattered mansion of your recollections and your hopes."
"It is true," said the young man.
"Listen, then; I will in a few words tell you what has passed in France during the
last twenty-three or twenty-four years; that is, from the probable date of your
birth; in a word, from the time that interests you."
"Say on." And the young man resumed his serious and
attentive attitude.
"Do you know who was the son of Henry IV.?" "At least I know who his successor was."
"By means of a coin dated 1610, which bears the effigy of Henry IV.; and another of
1612, bearing that of Louis XIII.
So I presumed that, there being only two years between the two dates, Louis was
Henry's successor." "Then," said Aramis, "you know that the
last reigning monarch was Louis XIII.?"
"I do," answered the youth, slightly reddening.
"Well, he was a prince full of noble ideas and great projects, always, alas! deferred
by the trouble of the times and the dread struggle that his minister Richelieu had to
maintain against the great nobles of France.
The king himself was of a feeble character, and died young and unhappy."
"I know it."
"He had been long anxious about having a heir; a care which weighs heavily on
princes, who desire to leave behind them more than one pledge that their best
thoughts and works will be continued."
"Did the king, then, die childless?" asked the prisoner, smiling.
"No, but he was long without one, and for a long while thought he should be the last of
his race.
This idea had reduced him to the depths of despair, when suddenly, his wife, Anne of
Austria--" The prisoner trembled.
"Did you know," said Aramis, "that Louis XIII.'s wife was called Anne of Austria?"
"Continue," said the young man, without replying to the question.
"When suddenly," resumed Aramis, "the queen announced an interesting event.
There was great joy at the intelligence, and all prayed for her happy delivery.
On the 5th of September, 1638, she gave birth to a son."
Here Aramis looked at his companion, and thought he observed him turning pale.
"You are about to hear," said Aramis, "an account which few indeed could now avouch;
for it refers to a secret which they imagined buried with the dead, entombed in
the abyss of the confessional."
"And you will tell me this secret?" broke in the youth.
"Oh!" said Aramis, with unmistakable emphasis, "I do not know that I ought to
risk this secret by intrusting it to one who has no desire to quit the Bastile."
"I hear you, monsieur."
"The queen, then, gave birth to a son.
But while the court was rejoicing over the event, when the king had show the new-born
child to the nobility and people, and was sitting gayly down to table, to celebrate
the event, the queen, who was alone in her
room, was again taken ill and gave birth to a second son."
"Oh!" said the prisoner, betraying a bitter acquaintance with affairs than he had owned
to, "I thought that Monsieur was only born in--"
Aramis raised his finger; "Permit me to continue," he said.
The prisoner sighed impatiently, and paused.
"Yes," said Aramis, "the queen had a second son, whom Dame Perronnette, the midwife,
received in her arms." "Dame Perronnette!" murmured the young man.
"They ran at once to the banqueting-room, and whispered to the king what had
happened; he rose and quitted the table.
But this time it was no longer happiness that his face expressed, but something akin
to terror.
The birth of twins changed into bitterness the joy to which that of an only son had
given rise, seeing that in France (a fact you are assuredly ignorant of) it is the
oldest of the king's sons who succeeds his father."
"I know it."
"And that the doctors and jurists assert that there is ground for doubting whether
the son that first makes his appearance is the elder by the law of heaven and of
The prisoner uttered a smothered cry, and became whiter than the coverlet under which
he hid himself.
"Now you understand," pursued Aramis, "that the king, who with so much pleasure saw
himself repeated in one, was in despair about two; fearing that the second might
dispute the first's claim to seniority,
which had been recognized only two hours before; and so this second son, relying on
party interests and caprices, might one day sow discord and engender civil war
throughout the kingdom; by these means
destroying the very dynasty he should have strengthened."
"Oh, I understand!--I understand!" murmured the young man.
"Well," continued Aramis; "this is what they relate, what they declare; this is why
one of the queen's two sons, shamefully parted from his brother, shamefully
sequestered, is buried in profound
obscurity; this is why that second son has disappeared, and so completely, that not a
soul in France, save his mother, is aware of his existence."
"Yes! his mother, who has cast him off," cried the prisoner in a tone of despair.
"Except, also," Aramis went on, "the lady in the black dress; and, finally,
"Excepting yourself--is it not?
You who come and relate all this; you, who rouse in my soul curiosity, hatred,
ambition, and, perhaps, even the thirst of vengeance; except you, monsieur, who, if
you are the man to whom I expect, whom the
note I have received applies to, whom, in short, Heaven ought to send me, must
possess about you--" "What?" asked Aramis.
"A portrait of the king, Louis XIV., who at this moment reigns upon the throne of
"Here is the portrait," replied the bishop, handing the prisoner a miniature in enamel,
on which Louis was depicted life-like, with a handsome, lofty mien.
The prisoner eagerly seized the portrait, and gazed at it with devouring eyes.
"And now, monseigneur," said Aramis, "here is a mirror."
Aramis left the prisoner time to recover his ideas.
"So high!--so high!" murmured the young man, eagerly comparing the likeness of
Louis with his own countenance reflected in the glass.
"What do you think of it?" at length said Aramis.
"I think that I am lost," replied the captive; "the king will never set me free."
"And I--I demand to know," added the bishop, fixing his piercing eyes
significantly upon the prisoner, "I demand to know which of these two is king; the one
this miniature portrays, or whom the glass reflects?"
"The king, monsieur," sadly replied the young man, "is he who is on the throne, who
is not in prison; and who, on the other hand, can cause others to be entombed
Royalty means power; and you behold how powerless I am."
"Monseigneur," answered Aramis, with a respect he had not yet manifested, "the
king, mark me, will, if you desire it, be the one that, quitting his dungeon, shall
maintain himself upon the throne, on which his friends will place him."
"Tempt me not, monsieur," broke in the prisoner bitterly.
"Be not weak, monseigneur," persisted Aramis; "I have brought you all the proofs
of your birth; consult them; satisfy yourself that you are a king's son; it is
for us to act."
"No, no; it is impossible."
"Unless, indeed," resumed the bishop ironically, "it be the destiny of your
race, that the brothers excluded from the throne should be always princes void of
courage and honesty, as was your uncle, M.
Gaston d'Orleans, who ten times conspired against his brother Louis XIII."
"What!" cried the prince, astonished; "my uncle Gaston 'conspired against his
brother'; conspired to dethrone him?"
"Exactly, monseigneur; for no other reason. I tell you the truth."
"And he had friends--devoted friends?" "As much so as I am to you."
"And, after all, what did he do?--Failed!"
"He failed, I admit; but always through his own fault; and, for the sake of purchasing-
-not his life--for the life of the king's brother is sacred and inviolable--but his
liberty, he sacrificed the lives of all his friends, one after another.
And so, at this day, he is a very blot on history, the detestation of a hundred noble
families in this kingdom."
"I understand, monsieur; either by weakness or treachery, my uncle slew his friends."
"By weakness; which, in princes, is always treachery."
"And cannot a man fail, then, from incapacity and ignorance?
Do you really believe it possible that a poor captive such as I, brought up, not
only at a distance from the court, but even from the world--do you believe it possible
that such a one could assist those of his friends who should attempt to serve him?"
And as Aramis was about to reply, the young man suddenly cried out, with a violence
which betrayed the temper of his blood, "We are speaking of friends; but how can I have
any friends--I, whom no one knows; and have
neither liberty, money, nor influence, to gain any?"
"I fancy I had the honor to offer myself to your royal highness."
"Oh, do not style me so, monsieur; 'tis either treachery or cruelty.
Bid me not think of aught beyond these prison-walls, which so grimly confine me;
let me again love, or, at least, submit to my slavery and my obscurity."
"Monseigneur, monseigneur; if you again utter these desperate words--if, after
having received proof of your high birth, you still remain poor-spirited in body and
soul, I will comply with your desire, I
will depart, and renounce forever the service of a master, to whom so eagerly I
came to devote my assistance and my life!"
"Monsieur," cried the prince, "would it not have been better for you to have reflected,
before telling me all that you have done, that you have broken my heart forever?"
"And so I desire to do, monseigneur."
"To talk to me about power, grandeur, eye, and to prate of thrones!
Is a prison the fit place?
You wish to make me believe in splendor, and we are lying lost in night; you boast
of glory, and we are smothering our words in the curtains of this miserable bed; you
give me glimpses of power absolute whilst I
hear the footsteps of the every-watchful jailer in the corridor--that step which,
after all, makes you tremble more than it does me.
To render me somewhat less incredulous, free me from the Bastile; let me breathe
the fresh air; give me my spurs and trusty sword, then we shall begin to understand
each other."
"It is precisely my intention to give you all this, monseigneur, and more; only, do
you desire it?" "A word more," said the prince.
"I know there are guards in every gallery, bolts to every door, cannon and soldiery at
every barrier. How will you overcome the sentries--spike
the guns?
How will you break through the bolts and bars?"
"Monseigneur,--how did you get the note which announced my arrival to you?"
"You can bribe a jailer for such a thing as a note."
"If we can corrupt one turnkey, we can corrupt ten."
"Well; I admit that it may be possible to release a poor captive from the Bastile;
possible so to conceal him that the king's people shall not again ensnare him;
possible, in some unknown retreat, to
sustain the unhappy wretch in some suitable manner."
"Monseigneur!" said Aramis, smiling.
"I admit that, whoever would do this much for me, would seem more than mortal in my
eyes; but as you tell me I am a prince, brother of the king, how can you restore me
the rank and power which my mother and my brother have deprived me of?
And as, to effect this, I must pass a life of war and hatred, how can you cause me to
prevail in those combats--render me invulnerable by my enemies?
Ah! monsieur, reflect on all this; place me, to-morrow, in some dark cavern at a
mountain's base; yield me the delight of hearing in freedom sounds of the river,
plain and valley, of beholding in freedom
the sun of the blue heavens, or the stormy sky, and it is enough.
Promise me no more than this, for, indeed, more you cannot give, and it would be a
crime to deceive me, since you call yourself my friend."
Aramis waited in silence.
"Monseigneur," he resumed, after a moment's reflection, "I admire the firm, sound sense
which dictates your words; I am happy to have discovered my monarch's mind."
"Again, again! oh, God! for mercy's sake," cried the prince, pressing his icy hands
upon his clammy brow, "do not play with me! I have no need to be a king to be the
happiest of men."
"But I, monseigneur, wish you to be a king for the good of humanity."
"Ah!" said the prince, with fresh distrust inspired by the word; "ah! with what, then,
has humanity to reproach my brother?"
"I forgot to say, monseigneur, that if you would allow me to guide you, and if you
consent to become the most powerful monarch in Christendom, you will have promoted the
interests of all the friends whom I devote
to the success of your cause, and these friends are numerous."
"Numerous?" "Less numerous than powerful, monseigneur."
"Explain yourself."
"It is impossible; I will explain, I swear before Heaven, on that day that I see you
sitting on the throne of France." "But my brother?"
"You shall decree his fate.
Do you pity him?" "Him, who leaves me to perish in a dungeon?
No, no. For him I have no pity!"
"So much the better."
"He might have himself come to this prison, have taken me by the hand, and have said,
'My brother, Heaven created us to love, not to contend with one another.
I come to you.
A barbarous prejudice has condemned you to pass your days in obscurity, far from
mankind, deprived of every joy. I will make you sit down beside me; I will
buckle round your waist our father's sword.
Will you take advantage of this reconciliation to put down or restrain me?
Will you employ that sword to spill my blood?'
'Oh! never,' I would have replied to him, 'I look on you as my preserver, I will
respect you as my master.
You give me far more than Heaven bestowed; for through you I possess liberty and the
privilege of loving and being loved in this world.'"
"And you would have kept your word, monseigneur?"
"On my life! While now--now that I have guilty ones to
"In what manner, monseigneur?" "What do you say as to the resemblance that
Heaven has given me to my brother?"
"I say that there was in that likeness a providential instruction which the king
ought to have heeded; I say that your mother committed a crime in rendering those
different in happiness and fortune whom
nature created so startlingly alike, of her own flesh, and I conclude that the object
of punishment should be only to restore the equilibrium."
"By which you mean--"
"That if I restore you to your place on your brother's throne, he shall take yours
in prison."
"Alas! there's such infinity of suffering in prison, especially it would be so for
one who has drunk so deeply of the cup of enjoyment."
"Your royal highness will always be free to act as you may desire; and if it seems good
to you, after punishment, you will have it in your power to pardon."
And now, are you aware of one thing, monsieur?"
"Tell me, my prince." "It is that I will hear nothing further
from you till I am clear of the Bastile."
"I was going to say to your highness that I should only have the pleasure of seeing you
once again." "And when?"
"The day when my prince leaves these gloomy walls."
"Heavens! how will you give me notice of it?"
"By myself coming to fetch you."
"Yourself?" "My prince, do not leave this chamber save
with me, or if in my absence you are compelled to do so, remember that I am not
concerned in it."
"And so I am not to speak a word of this to any one whatever, save to you?"
"Save only to me." Aramis bowed very low.
The prince offered his hand.
"Monsieur," he said, in a tone that issued from his heart, "one word more, my last.
If you have sought me for my destruction; if you are only a tool in the hands of my
enemies; if from our conference, in which you have sounded the depths of my mind,
anything worse than captivity result, that
is to say, if death befall me, still receive my blessing, for you will have
ended my troubles and given me repose from the tormenting fever that has preyed on me
for eight long, weary years."
"Monseigneur, wait the results ere you judge me," said Aramis.
"I say that, in such a case, I bless and forgive you.
If, on the other hand, you are come to restore me to that position in the sunshine
of fortune and glory to which I was destined by Heaven; if by your means I am
enabled to live in the memory of man, and
confer luster on my race by deeds of valor, or by solid benefits bestowed upon my
people; if, from my present depths of sorrow, aided by your generous hand, I
raise myself to the very height of honor,
then to you, whom I thank with blessings, to you will I offer half my power and my
glory: though you would still be but partly recompensed, and your share must always
remain incomplete, since I could not divide
with you the happiness received at your hands."
"Monseigneur," replied Aramis, moved by the pallor and excitement of the young man,
"the nobleness of your heart fills me with joy and admiration.
It is not you who will have to thank me, but rather the nation whom you will render
happy, the posterity whose name you will make glorious.
Yes; I shall indeed have bestowed upon you more than life, I shall have given you
immortality." The prince offered his hand to Aramis, who
sank upon his knee and kissed it.
"It is the first act of homage paid to our future king," said he.
"When I see you again, I shall say, 'Good day, sire.'"
"Till then," said the young man, pressing his wan and wasted fingers over his heart,-
-"till then, no more dreams, no more strain on my life--my heart would break!
Oh, monsieur, how small is my prison--how low the window--how narrow are the doors!
To think that so much pride, splendor, and happiness, should be able to enter in and
to remain here!"
"Your royal highness makes me proud," said Aramis, "since you infer it is I who
brought all this." And he rapped immediately on the door.
The jailer came to open it with Baisemeaux, who, devoured by fear and uneasiness, was
beginning, in spite of himself, to listen at the door.
Happily, neither of the speakers had forgotten to smother his voice, even in the
most passionate outbreaks.
"What a confessor!" said the governor, forcing a laugh; "who would believe that a
compulsory recluse, a man as though in the very jaws of death, could have committed
crimes so numerous, and so long to tell of?"
Aramis made no reply.
He was eager to leave the Bastile, where the secret which overwhelmed him seemed to
double the weight of the walls.
As soon as they reached Baisemeaux's quarters, "Let us proceed to business, my
dear governor," said Aramis. "Alas!" replied Baisemeaux.
"You have to ask me for my receipt for one hundred and fifty thousand livres," said
the bishop.
"And to pay over the first third of the sum," added the poor governor, with a sigh,
taking three steps towards his iron strong- box.
"Here is the receipt," said Aramis.
"And here is the money," returned Baisemeaux, with a threefold sigh.
"The order instructed me only to give a receipt; it said nothing about receiving
the money," rejoined Aramis.
"Adieu, monsieur le governeur!" And he departed, leaving Baisemeaux almost
more than stifled with joy and surprise at this regal present so liberally bestowed by
the confessor extraordinary to the Bastile.
CHAPTER II. How Mouston Had Become Fatter without
Giving Porthos Notice Thereof, and of the Troubles Which Consequently Befell that
Worthy Gentleman.
Since the departure of Athos for Blois, Porthos and D'Artagnan were seldom
One was occupied with harassing duties for the king, the other had been making many
purchases of furniture which he intended to forward to his estate, and by aid of which
he hoped to establish in his various
residences something of the courtly luxury he had witnessed in all its dazzling
brightness in his majesty's society.
D'Artagnan, ever faithful, one morning during an interval of service thought about
Porthos, and being uneasy at not having heard anything of him for a fortnight,
directed his steps towards his hotel, and pounced upon him just as he was getting up.
The worthy baron had a pensive--nay, more than pensive--melancholy air.
He was sitting on his bed, only half- dressed, and with legs dangling over the
edge, contemplating a host of garments, which with their fringes, lace, embroidery,
and slashes of ill-assorted hues, were strewed all over the floor.
Porthos, sad and reflective as La Fontaine's hare, did not observe
D'Artagnan's entrance, which was, moreover, screened at this moment by M. Mouston,
whose personal corpulency, quite enough at
any time to hide one man from another, was effectually doubled by a scarlet coat which
the intendant was holding up for his master's inspection, by the sleeves, that
he might the better see it all over.
D'Artagnan stopped at the threshold and looked in at the pensive Porthos and then,
as the sight of the innumerable garments strewing the floor caused mighty sighs to
heave the bosom of that excellent
gentleman, D'Artagnan thought it time to put an end to these dismal reflections, and
coughed by way of announcing himself. "Ah!" exclaimed Porthos, whose countenance
brightened with joy; "ah! ah!
Here is D'Artagnan. I shall then get hold of an idea!"
At these words Mouston, doubting what was going on behind him, got out of the way,
smiling kindly at the friend of his master, who thus found himself freed from the
material obstacle which had prevented his reaching D'Artagnan.
Porthos made his sturdy knees crack again in rising, and crossing the room in two
strides, found himself face to face with his friend, whom he folded to his breast
with a force of affection that seemed to increase with every day.
"Ah!" he repeated, "you are always welcome, dear friend; but just now you are more
welcome than ever."
"But you seem to have the megrims here!" exclaimed D'Artagnan.
Porthos replied by a look expressive of dejection.
"Well, then, tell me all about it, Porthos, my friend, unless it is a secret."
"In the first place," returned Porthos, "you know I have no secrets from you.
This, then, is what saddens me."
"Wait a minute, Porthos; let me first get rid of all this litter of satin and
velvet!" "Oh, never mind," said Porthos,
contemptuously; "it is all trash."
"Trash, Porthos! Cloth at twenty-five livres an ell!
gorgeous satin! regal velvet!" "Then you think these clothes are--"
"Splendid, Porthos, splendid!
I'll wager that you alone in France have so many; and suppose you never had any more
made, and were to live to be a hundred years of age, which wouldn't astonish me in
the very least, you could still wear a new
dress the day of your death, without being obliged to see the nose of a single tailor
from now till then." Porthos shook his head.
"Come, my friend," said D'Artagnan, "this unnatural melancholy in you frightens me.
My dear Porthos, pray get it out, then. And the sooner the better."
"Yes, my friend, so I will: if, indeed, it is possible."
"Perhaps you have received bad news from Bracieux?"
"No: they have felled the wood, and it has yielded a third more than the estimate."
"Then there has been a falling-off in the pools of Pierrefonds?"
"No, my friend: they have been fished, and there is enough left to stock all the pools
in the neighborhood." "Perhaps your estate at Vallon has been
destroyed by an earthquake?"
"No, my friend; on the contrary, the ground was struck with lightning a hundred paces
from the chateau, and a fountain sprung up in a place entirely destitute of water."
"What in the world is the matter, then?"
"The fact is, I have received an invitation for the fete at Vaux," said Porthos, with a
lugubrious expression. "Well! do you complain of that?
The king has caused a hundred mortal heart- burnings among the courtiers by refusing
invitations. And so, my dear friend, you are really
going to Vaux?"
"Indeed I am!" "You will see a magnificent sight."
"Alas! I doubt it, though."
"Everything that is grand in France will be brought together there!"
"Ah!" cried Porthos, tearing out a lock of hair in his despair.
"Eh! good heavens, are you ill?" cried D'Artagnan.
"I am as firm as the Pont-Neuf! It isn't that."
"But what is it, then?"
"'Tis that I have no clothes!" D'Artagnan stood petrified.
"No clothes! Porthos, no clothes!" he cried, "when I see
at least fifty suits on the floor."
"Fifty, truly; but not one which fits me!" "What? not one that fits you?
But are you not measured, then, when you give an order?"
"To be sure he is," answered Mouston; "but unfortunately I have gotten stouter!"
"What! you stouter!" "So much so that I am now bigger than the
Would you believe it, monsieur?" "Parbleu! it seems to me that is quite
evident." "Do you see, stupid?" said Porthos, "that
is quite evident!"
"Be still, my dear Porthos," resumed D'Artagnan, becoming slightly impatient, "I
don't understand why your clothes should not fit you, because Mouston has grown
"I am going to explain it," said Porthos.
"You remember having related to me the story of the Roman general Antony, who had
always seven wild boars kept roasting, each cooked up to a different point; so that he
might be able to have his dinner at any time of the day he chose to ask for it.
Well, then, I resolved, as at any time I might be invited to court to spend a week,
I resolved to have always seven suits ready for the occasion."
"Capitally reasoned, Porthos--only a man must have a fortune like yours to gratify
such whims.
Without counting the time lost in being measured, the fashions are always
"That is exactly the point," said Porthos, "in regard to which I flattered myself I
had hit on a very ingenious device." "Tell me what it is; for I don't doubt your
"You remember what Mouston once was, then?" "Yes; when he used to call himself
Mousqueton." "And you remember, too, the period when he
began to grow fatter?"
"No, not exactly. I beg your pardon, my good Mouston."
"Oh! you are not in fault, monsieur," said Mouston, graciously.
"You were in Paris, and as for us, we were at Pierrefonds."
"Well, well, my dear Porthos; there was a time when Mouston began to grow fat.
Is that what you wished to say?"
"Yes, my friend; and I greatly rejoice over the period."
"Indeed, I believe you do," exclaimed D'Artagnan.
"You understand," continued Porthos, "what a world of trouble it spared for me."
"No, I don't--by any means." "Look here, my friend.
In the first place, as you have said, to be measured is a loss of time, even though it
occur only once a fortnight.
And then, one may be travelling; and then you wish to have seven suits always with
you. In short, I have a horror of letting any
one take my measure.
Confound it! either one is a nobleman or not.
To be scrutinized and scanned by a fellow who completely analyzes you, by inch and
line--'tis degrading!
Here, they find you too hollow; there, too prominent.
They recognize your strong and weak points.
See, now, when we leave the measurer's hands, we are like those strongholds whose
angles and different thicknesses have been ascertained by a spy."
"In truth, my dear Porthos, you possess ideas entirely original."
"Ah! you see when a man is an engineer--" "And has fortified Belle-Isle--'tis
natural, my friend."
"Well, I had an idea, which would doubtless have proved a good one, but for Mouston's
D'Artagnan glanced at Mouston, who replied by a slight movement of his body, as if to
say, "You will see whether I am at all to blame in all this."
"I congratulated myself, then," resumed Porthos, "at seeing Mouston get fat; and I
did all I could, by means of substantial feeding, to make him stout--always in the
hope that he would come to equal myself in
girth, and could then be measured in my stead."
"Ah!" cried D'Artagnan. "I see--that spared you both time and
"Consider my joy when, after a year and a half's judicious feeding--for I used to
feed him up myself--the fellow--" "Oh! I lent a good hand myself, monsieur,"
said Mouston, humbly.
"That's true.
Consider my joy when, one morning, I perceived Mouston was obliged to squeeze
in, as I once did myself, to get through the little secret door that those fools of
architects had made in the chamber of the
late Madame du Vallon, in the chateau of Pierrefonds.
And, by the way, about that door, my friend, I should like to ask you, who know
everything, why these wretches of architects, who ought to have the compasses
run into them, just to remind them, came to
make doorways through which nobody but thin people can pass?"
"Oh, those doors," answered D'Artagnan, "were meant for gallants, and they have
generally slight and slender figures."
"Madame du Vallon had no gallant!" answered Porthos, majestically.
"Perfectly true, my friend," resumed D'Artagnan; "but the architects were
probably making their calculations on a basis of the probability of your marrying
"Ah! that is possible," said Porthos. "And now I have received an explanation of
how it is that doorways are made too narrow, let us return to the subject of
Mouston's fatness.
But see how the two things apply to each other.
I have always noticed that people's ideas run parallel.
And so, observe this phenomenon, D'Artagnan.
I was talking to you of Mouston, who is fat, and it led us on to Madame du Vallon--
"Who was thin?" "Hum! Is it not marvelous?"
"My dear friend, a savant of my acquaintance, M. Costar, has made the same
observation as you have, and he calls the process by some Greek name which I forget."
"What! my remark is not then original?" cried Porthos, astounded.
"I thought I was the discoverer."
"My friend, the fact was known before Aristotle's days--that is to say, nearly
two thousand years ago."
"Well, well, 'tis no less true," said Porthos, delighted at the idea of having
jumped to a conclusion so closely in agreement with the greatest sages of
"Wonderfully--but suppose we return to Mouston.
It seems to me, we have left him fattening under our very eyes."
"Yes, monsieur," said Mouston.
"Well," said Porthos, "Mouston fattened so well, that he gratified all my hopes, by
reaching my standard; a fact of which I was well able to convince myself, by seeing the
rascal, one day, in a waistcoat of mine,
which he had turned into a coat--a waistcoat, the mere embroidery of which was
worth a hundred pistoles." "'Twas only to try it on, monsieur," said
"From that moment I determined to put Mouston in communication with my tailors,
and to have him measured instead of myself."
"A capital idea, Porthos; but Mouston is a foot and a half shorter than you."
They measured him down to the ground, and the end of the skirt came just below my
knee." "What a marvelous man you are, Porthos!
Such a thing could happen only to you."
"Ah! yes; pay your compliments; you have ample grounds to go upon.
It was exactly at that time--that is to say, nearly two years and a half ago--that
I set out for Belle-Isle, instructing Mouston (so as always to have, in every
event, a pattern of every fashion) to have a coat made for himself every month."
"And did Mouston neglect complying with your instructions?
Ah! that was anything but right, Mouston."
"No, monsieur, quite the contrary; quite the contrary!"
"No, he never forgot to have his coats made; but he forgot to inform me that he
had got stouter!"
"But it was not my fault, monsieur! your tailor never told me."
"And this to such an extent, monsieur," continued Porthos, "that the fellow in two
years has gained eighteen inches in girth, and so my last dozen coats are all too
large, from a foot to a foot and a half."
"But the rest; those which were made when you were of the same size?"
"They are no longer the fashion, my dear friend.
Were I to put them on, I should look like a fresh arrival from Siam; and as though I
had been two years away from court." "I understand your difficulty.
You have how many new suits? nine? thirty- six? and yet not one to wear.
Well, you must have a thirty-seventh made, and give the thirty-six to Mouston."
"Ah! monsieur!" said Mouston, with a gratified air.
"The truth is, that monsieur has always been very generous to me."
"Do you mean to insinuate that I hadn't that idea, or that I was deterred by the
But it wants only two days to the fete; I received the invitation yesterday; made
Mouston post hither with my wardrobe, and only this morning discovered my misfortune;
and from now till the day after to-morrow,
there isn't a single fashionable tailor who will undertake to make me a suit."
"That is to say, one covered all over with gold, isn't it?"
"I wish it so! undoubtedly, all over."
"Oh, we shall manage it. You won't leave for three days.
The invitations are for Wednesday, and this is only Sunday morning."
"'Tis true; but Aramis has strongly advised me to be at Vaux twenty-four hours
beforehand." "How, Aramis?"
"Yes, it was Aramis who brought me the invitation."
"Ah! to be sure, I see. You are invited on the part of M. Fouquet?"
"By no means! by the king, dear friend.
The letter bears the following as large as life: 'M. le Baron du Vallon is informed
that the king has condescended to place him on the invitation list--'"
"Very good; but you leave with M. Fouquet?"
"And when I think," cried Porthos, stamping on the floor, "when I think I shall have no
clothes, I am ready to burst with rage! I should like to strangle somebody or smash
"Neither strangle anybody nor smash anything, Porthos; I will manage it all;
put on one of your thirty-six suits, and come with me to a tailor."
"Pooh! my agent has seen them all this morning."
"Even M. Percerin?" "Who is M. Percerin?"
"Oh! only the king's tailor!"
"Oh, ah, yes," said Porthos, who wished to appear to know the king's tailor, but now
heard his name mentioned for the first time; "to M. Percerin's, by Jove!
I was afraid he would be too busy."
"Doubtless he will be; but be at ease, Porthos; he will do for me what he wouldn't
do for another. Only you must allow yourself to be
"Ah!" said Porthos, with a sigh, "'tis vexatious, but what would you have me do?"
"Do? As others do; as the king does." "What! do they measure the king, too? does
he put up with it?"
"The king is a beau, my good friend, and so are you, too, whatever you may say about
it." Porthos smiled triumphantly.
"Let us go to the king's tailor," he said; "and since he measures the king, I think,
by my faith, I may do worse than allow him to measure me!"
CHAPTER III. Who Messire Jean Percerin Was.
The king's tailor, Messire Jean Percerin, occupied a rather large house in the Rue
St. Honore, near the Rue de l'Arbre Sec.
He was a man of great taste in elegant stuffs, embroideries, and velvets, being
hereditary tailor to the king.
The preferment of his house reached as far back as the time of Charles IX.; from whose
reign dated, as we know, fancy in bravery difficult enough to gratify.
The Percerin of that period was a Huguenot, like Ambrose Pare, and had been spared by
the Queen of Navarre, the beautiful Margot, as they used to write and say, too, in
those days; because, in sooth, he was the
only one who could make for her those wonderful riding-habits which she so loved
to wear, seeing that they were marvelously well suited to hide certain anatomical
defects, which the Queen of Navarre used very studiously to conceal.
Percerin being saved, made, out of gratitude, some beautiful black bodices,
very inexpensively indeed, for Queen Catherine, who ended by being pleased at
the preservation of a Huguenot people, on whom she had long looked with detestation.
But Percerin was a very prudent man; and having heard it said that there was no more
dangerous sign for a Protestant than to be smiled up on by Catherine, and having
observed that her smiles were more frequent
than usual, he speedily turned Catholic with all his family; and having thus become
irreproachable, attained the lofty position of master tailor to the Crown of France.
Under Henry III., gay king as he was, this position was a grand as the height of one
of the loftiest peaks of the Cordilleras.
Now Percerin had been a clever man all his life, and by way of keeping up his
reputation beyond the grave, took very good care not to make a bad death of it, and so
contrived to die very skillfully; and that
at the very moment he felt his powers of invention declining.
He left a son and a daughter, both worthy of the name they were called upon to bear;
the son, a cutter as unerring and exact as the square rule; the daughter, apt at
embroidery, and at designing ornaments.
The marriage of Henry IV. and Marie de Medici, and the exquisite court-mourning
for the afore-mentioned queen, together with a few words let fall by M. de
Bassompiere, king of the beaux of the
period, made the fortune of the second generation of Percerins.
M. Concino Concini, and his wife Galligai, who subsequently shone at the French court,
sought to Italianize the fashion, and introduced some Florentine tailors; but
Percerin, touched to the quick in his
patriotism and his self-esteem, entirely defeated these foreigners, and that so well
that Concino was the first to give up his compatriots, and held the French tailor in
such esteem that he would never employ any
other, and thus wore a doublet of his on the very day that Vitry blew out his brains
with a pistol at the Pont du Louvre.
And so it was a doublet issuing from M. Percerin's workshop, which the Parisians
rejoiced in hacking into so many pieces with the living human body it contained.
Notwithstanding the favor Concino Concini had shown Percerin, the king, Louis XIII.,
had the generosity to bear no malice to his tailor, and to retain him in his service.
At the time that Louis the Just afforded this great example of equity, Percerin had
brought up two sons, one of whom made his debut at the marriage of Anne of Austria,
invented that admirable Spanish costume, in
which Richelieu danced a saraband, made the costumes for the tragedy of "Mirame," and
stitched on to Buckingham's mantle those famous pearls which were destined to be
scattered about the pavements of the Louvre.
A man becomes easily notable who has made the dresses of a Duke of Buckingham, a M.
de Cinq-Mars, a Mademoiselle Ninon, a M. de Beaufort, and a Marion de Lorme.
And thus Percerin the third had attained the summit of his glory when his father
This same Percerin III., old, famous and wealthy, yet further dressed Louis XIV.;
and having no son, which was a great cause of sorrow to him, seeing that with himself
his dynasty would end, he had brought up several hopeful pupils.
He possessed a carriage, a country house, men-servants the tallest in Paris; and by
special authority from Louis XIV., a pack of hounds.
He worked for MM. de Lyonne and Letellier, under a sort of patronage; but politic man
as he was, and versed in state secrets, he never succeeded in fitting M. Colbert.
This is beyond explanation; it is a matter for guessing or for intuition.
Great geniuses of every kind live on unseen, intangible ideas; they act without
themselves knowing why.
The great Percerin (for, contrary to the rule of dynasties, it was, above all, the
last of the Percerins who deserved the name of Great), the great Percerin was inspired
when he cut a robe for the queen, or a coat
for the king; he could mount a mantle for Monsieur, the clock of a stocking for
Madame; but, in spite of his supreme talent, he could never hit off anything
approaching a creditable fit for M. Colbert.
"That man," he used often to say, "is beyond my art; my needle can never dot him
We need scarcely say that Percerin was M. Fouquet's tailor, and that the
superintendent highly esteemed him.
M. Percerin was nearly eighty years old, nevertheless still fresh, and at the same
time so dry, the courtiers used to say, that he was positively brittle.
His renown and his fortune were great enough for M. le Prince, that king of fops,
to take his arm when talking over the fashions; and for those least eager to pay
never to dare to leave their accounts in
arrear with him; for Master Percerin would for the first time make clothes upon
credit, but the second never, unless paid for the former order.
It is easy to see at once that a tailor of such renown, instead of running after
customers, made difficulties about obliging any fresh ones.
And so Percerin declined to fit bourgeois, or those who had but recently obtained
patents of nobility.
A story used to circulate that even M. de Mazarin, in exchange for Percerin supplying
him with a full suit of ceremonial vestments as cardinal, one fine day slipped
letters of nobility into his pocket.
It was to the house of this grand llama of tailors that D'Artagnan took the despairing
Porthos; who, as they were going along, said to his friend, "Take care, my good
D'Artagnan, not to compromise the dignity
of a man such as I am with the arrogance of this Percerin, who will, I expect, be very
impertinent; for I give you notice, my friend, that if he is wanting in respect I
will infallibly chastise him."
"Presented by me," replied D'Artagnan, "you have nothing to fear, even though you were
what you are not." "Ah! 'tis because--"
Have you anything against Percerin, Porthos?"
"I think that I once sent Mouston to a fellow of that name."
"And then?"
"The fellow refused to supply me." "Oh, a misunderstanding, no doubt, which it
will be now exceedingly easy to set right. Mouston must have made a mistake."
"He has confused the names." "Possibly.
That rascal Mouston never can remember names."
"I will take it all upon myself."
"Very good." "Stop the carriage, Porthos; here we are."
"Here! how here?
We are at the Halles; and you told me the house was at the corner of the Rue de
l'Arbre Sec." "'Tis true, but look."
"Well, I do look, and I see--"
"What?" "Pardieu! that we are at the Halles!"
"You do not, I suppose, want our horses to clamber up on the roof of the carriage in
front of us?"
"No." "Nor the carriage in front of us to mount
on top of the one in front of it.
Nor that the second should be driven over the roofs of the thirty or forty others
which have arrived before us." "No, you are right, indeed.
What a number of people!
And what are they all about?" "'Tis very simple.
They are waiting their turn." "Bah! Have the comedians of the Hotel de
Bourgogne shifted their quarters?"
"No; their turn to obtain an entrance to M. Percerin's house."
"And we are going to wait too?" "Oh, we shall show ourselves prompter and
not so proud."
"What are we to do, then?" "Get down, pass through the footmen and
lackeys, and enter the tailor's house, which I will answer for our doing, if you
go first."
"Come along, then," said Porthos. They accordingly alighted and made their
way on foot towards the establishment.
The cause of the confusion was that M. Percerin's doors were closed, while a
servant, standing before them, was explaining to the illustrious customers of
the illustrious tailor that just then M. Percerin could not receive anybody.
It was bruited about outside still, on the authority of what the great lackey had told
some great noble whom he favored, in confidence, that M. Percerin was engaged on
five costumes for the king, and that, owing
to the urgency of the case, he was meditating in his office on the ornaments,
colors, and cut of these five suits.
Some, contented with this reason, went away again, contented to repeat the tale to
others, but others, more tenacious, insisted on having the doors opened, and
among these last three Blue Ribbons,
intended to take parts in a ballet, which would inevitably fail unless the said three
had their costumes shaped by the very hand of the great Percerin himself.
D'Artagnan, pushing on Porthos, who scattered the groups of people right and
left, succeeded in gaining the counter, behind which the journeyman tailors were
doing their best to answer queries.
(We forgot to mention that at the door they wanted to put off Porthos like the rest,
but D'Artagnan, showing himself, pronounced merely these words, "The king's order," and
was let in with his friend.)
The poor fellows had enough to do, and did their best, to reply to the demands of the
customers in the absence of their master, leaving off drawing a stitch to knit a
sentence; and when wounded pride, or
disappointed expectation, brought down upon them too cutting a rebuke, he who was
attacked made a dive and disappeared under the counter.
The line of discontented lords formed a truly remarkable picture.
Our captain of musketeers, a man of sure and rapid observation, took it all in at a
glance; and having run over the groups, his eye rested on a man in front of him.
This man, seated upon a stool, scarcely showed his head above the counter that
sheltered him.
He was about forty years of age, with a melancholy aspect, pale face, and soft
luminous eyes.
He was looking at D'Artagnan and the rest, with his chin resting upon his hand, like a
calm and inquiring amateur.
Only on perceiving, and doubtless recognizing, our captain, he pulled his hat
down over his eyes. It was this action, perhaps, that attracted
D'Artagnan's attention.
If so, the gentleman who had pulled down his hat produced an effect entirely
different from what he had desired.
In other respects his costume was plain, and his hair evenly cut enough for
customers, who were not close observers, to take him for a mere tailor's apprentice,
perched behind the board, and carefully stitching cloth or velvet.
Nevertheless, this man held up his head too often to be very productively employed with
his fingers.
D'Artagnan was not deceived,--not he; and he saw at once that if this man was working
at anything, it certainly was not at velvet.
"Eh!" said he, addressing this man, "and so you have become a tailor's boy, Monsieur
Moliere!" "Hush, M. d'Artagnan!" replied the man,
softly, "you will make them recognize me."
"Well, and what harm?" "The fact is, there is no harm, but--"
"You were going to say there is no good in doing it either, is it not so?"
"Alas! no; for I was occupied in examining some excellent figures."
"Go on--go on, Monsieur Moliere.
I quite understand the interest you take in the plates--I will not disturb your
studies." "Thank you."
"But on one condition; that you tell me where M. Percerin really is."
"Oh! willingly; in his own room. Only--"
"Only that one can't enter it?"
"Unapproachable." "For everybody?"
He brought me here so that I might be at my ease to make my observations, and then he
went away." "Well, my dear Monsieur Moliere, but you
will go and tell him I am here."
"I!" exclaimed Moliere, in the tone of a courageous dog, from which you snatch the
bone it has legitimately gained; "I disturb myself!
Ah! Monsieur d'Artagnan, how hard you are upon me!"
"If you don't go directly and tell M. Percerin that I am here, my dear Moliere,"
said D'Artagnan, in a low tone, "I warn you of one thing: that I won't exhibit to you
the friend I have brought with me."
Moliere indicated Porthos by an imperceptible gesture, "This gentleman, is
it not?" "Yes."
Moliere fixed upon Porthos one of those looks which penetrate the minds and hearts
of men.
The subject doubtless appeared a very promising one, for he immediately rose and
led the way into the adjoining chamber.
CHAPTER IV. The Patterns.
During all this time the noble mob was slowly heaving away, leaving at every angle
of the counter either a murmur or a menace, as the waves leave foam or scattered
seaweed on the sands, when they retire with the ebbing tide.
In about ten minutes Moliere reappeared, making another sign to D'Artagnan from
under the hangings.
The latter hurried after him, with Porthos in the rear, and after threading a
labyrinth of corridors, introduced him to M. Percerin's room.
The old man, with his sleeves turned up, was gathering up in folds a piece of gold-
flowered brocade, so as the better to exhibit its luster.
Perceiving D'Artagnan, he put the silk aside, and came to meet him, by no means
radiant with joy, and by no means courteous, but, take it altogether, in a
tolerably civil manner.
"The captain of the king's musketeers will excuse me, I am sure, for I am engaged."
"Eh! yes, on the king's costumes; I know that, my dear Monsieur Percerin.
You are making three, they tell me."
"Five, my dear sir, five." "Three or five, 'tis all the same to me, my
dear monsieur; and I know that you will make them most exquisitely."
"Yes, I know.
Once made they will be the most beautiful in the world, I do not deny it; but that
they may be the most beautiful in the word, they must first be made; and to do this,
captain, I am pressed for time."
"Oh, bah! there are two days yet; 'tis much more than you require, Monsieur Percerin,"
said D'Artagnan, in the coolest possible manner.
Percerin raised his head with the air of a man little accustomed to be contradicted,
even in his whims; but D'Artagnan did not pay the least attention to the airs which
the illustrious tailor began to assume.
"My dear M. Percerin," he continued, "I bring you a customer."
"Ah! ah!" exclaimed Percerin, crossly. "M. le Baron du Vallon de Bracieux de
Pierrefonds," continued D'Artagnan.
Percerin attempted a bow, which found no favor in the eyes of the terrible Porthos,
who, from his first entry into the room, had been regarding the tailor askance.
"A very good friend of mine," concluded D'Artagnan.
"I will attend to monsieur," said Percerin, "but later."
"Later? but when?"
"When I have time." "You have already told my valet as much,"
broke in Porthos, discontentedly. "Very likely," said Percerin; "I am nearly
always pushed for time."
"My friend," returned Porthos, sententiously, "there is always time to be
found when one chooses to seek it." Percerin turned crimson; an ominous sign
indeed in old men blanched by age.
"Monsieur is quite at liberty to confer his custom elsewhere."
"Come, come, Percerin," interposed D'Artagnan, "you are not in a good temper
Well, I will say one more word to you, which will bring you on your knees;
monsieur is not only a friend of mine, but more, a friend of M. Fouquet's."
"Ah! ah!" exclaimed the tailor, "that is another thing."
Then turning to Porthos, "Monsieur le baron is attached to the superintendent?" he
"I am attached to myself," shouted Porthos, at the very moment that the tapestry was
raised to introduce a new speaker in the dialogue.
Moliere was all observation, D'Artagnan laughed, Porthos swore.
"My dear Percerin," said D'Artagnan, "you will make a dress for the baron.
'Tis I who ask you."
"To you I will not say nay, captain." "But that is not all; you will make it for
him at once." "'Tis impossible within eight days."
"That, then, is as much as to refuse, because the dress is wanted for the fete at
Vaux." "I repeat that it is impossible," returned
the obstinate old man.
"By no means, dear Monsieur Percerin, above all if I ask you," said a mild voice at the
door, a silvery voice which made D'Artagnan prick up his ears.
It was the voice of Aramis.
"Monsieur d'Herblay!" cried the tailor. "Aramis," murmured D'Artagnan.
"Ah! our bishop!" said Porthos.
"Good morning, D'Artagnan; good morning, Porthos; good-morning, my dear friends,"
said Aramis.
"Come, come, M. Percerin, make the baron's dress; and I will answer for it you will
gratify M. Fouquet."
And he accompanied the words with a sign, which seemed to say, "Agree, and dismiss
It appeared that Aramis had over Master Percerin an influence superior even to
D'Artagnan's, for the tailor bowed in assent, and turning round upon Porthos,
said, "Go and get measured on the other side."
Porthos colored in a formidable manner.
D'Artagnan saw the storm coming, and addressing Moliere, said to him, in an
undertone, "You see before you, my dear monsieur, a man who considers himself
disgraced, if you measure the flesh and
bones that Heaven has given him; study this type for me, Master Aristophanes, and
profit by it."
Moliere had no need of encouragement, and his gaze dwelt long and keenly on the Baron
"Monsieur," he said, "if you will come with me, I will make them take your measure
without touching you." "Oh!" said Porthos, "how do you make that
out, my friend?"
"I say that they shall apply neither line nor rule to the seams of your dress.
It is a new method we have invented for measuring people of quality, who are too
sensitive to allow low-born fellows to touch them.
We know some susceptible persons who will not put up with being measured, a process
which, as I think, wounds the natural dignity of a man; and if perchance monsieur
should be one of these--"
"Corboeuf! I believe I am too!"
"Well, that is a capital and most consolatory coincidence, and you shall have
the benefit of our invention."
"But how in the world can it be done?" asked Porthos, delighted.
"Monsieur," said Moliere, bowing, "if you will deign to follow me, you will see."
Aramis observed this scene with all his eyes.
Perhaps he fancied from D'Artagnan's liveliness that he would leave with
Porthos, so as not to lose the conclusion of a scene well begun.
But, clear-sighted as he was, Aramis deceived himself.
Porthos and Moliere left together: D'Artagnan remained with Percerin.
From curiosity, doubtless; probably to enjoy a little longer the society of his
good friend Aramis.
As Moliere and Porthos disappeared, D'Artagnan drew near the bishop of Vannes,
a proceeding which appeared particularly to disconcert him.
"A dress for you, also, is it not, my friend?"
Aramis smiled. "No," said he.
"You will go to Vaux, however?"
"I shall go, but without a new dress. You forget, dear D'Artagnan, that a poor
bishop of Vannes is not rich enough to have new dresses for every fete."
"Bah!" said the musketeer, laughing, "and do we write no more poems now, either?"
"Oh! D'Artagnan," exclaimed Aramis, "I have long ago given up all such tomfoolery."
"True," repeated D'Artagnan, only half convinced.
As for Percerin, he was once more absorbed in contemplation of the brocades.
"Don't you perceive," said Aramis, smiling, "that we are greatly boring this good
gentleman, my dear D'Artagnan?" "Ah! ah!" murmured the musketeer, aside;
"that is, I am boring you, my friend."
Then aloud, "Well, then, let us leave; I have no further business here, and if you
are as disengaged as I, Aramis--" "No, not I--I wished--"
"Ah! you had something particular to say to M. Percerin?
Why did you not tell me so at once?" "Something particular, certainly," repeated
Aramis, "but not for you, D'Artagnan.
But, at the same time, I hope you will believe that I can never have anything so
particular to say that a friend like you may not hear it."
"Oh, no, no!
I am going," said D'Artagnan, imparting to his voice an evident tone of curiosity; for
Aramis's annoyance, well dissembled as it was, had not a whit escaped him; and he
knew that, in that impenetrable mind, every
thing, even the most apparently trivial, was designed to some end; an unknown one,
but an end that, from the knowledge he had of his friend's character, the musketeer
felt must be important.
On his part, Aramis saw that D'Artagnan was not without suspicion, and pressed him.
"Stay, by all means," he said, "this is what it is."
Then turning towards the tailor, "My dear Percerin," said he,--"I am even very happy
that you are here, D'Artagnan."
"Oh, indeed," exclaimed the Gascon, for the third time, even less deceived this time
than before. Percerin never moved.
Aramis roused him violently, by snatching from his hands the stuff upon which he was
"My dear Percerin," said he, "I have, near hand, M. Lebrun, one of M. Fouquet's
painters." "Ah, very good," thought D'Artagnan; "but
why Lebrun?"
Aramis looked at D'Artagnan, who seemed to be occupied with an engraving of Mark
"And you wish that I should make him a dress, similar to those of the Epicureans?"
answered Percerin.
And while saying this, in an absent manner, the worthy tailor endeavored to recapture
his piece of brocade. "An Epicurean's dress?" asked D'Artagnan,
in a tone of inquiry.
"I see," said Aramis, with a most engaging smile, "it is written that our dear
D'Artagnan shall know all our secrets this evening.
Yes, friend, you have surely heard speak of M. Fouquet's Epicureans, have you not?"
Is it not a kind of poetical society, of which La Fontaine, Loret, Pelisson, and
Moliere are members, and which holds its sittings at Saint-Mande?"
"Exactly so.
Well, we are going to put our poets in uniform, and enroll them in a regiment for
the king." "Oh, very well, I understand; a surprise M.
Fouquet is getting up for the king.
Be at ease; if that is the secret about M. Lebrun, I will not mention it."
"Always agreeable, my friend.
No, Monsieur Lebrun has nothing to do with this part of it; the secret which concerns
him is far more important than the other."
"Then, if it is so important as all that, I prefer not to know it," said D'Artagnan,
making a show of departure.
"Come in, M. Lebrun, come in," said Aramis, opening a side-door with his right hand,
and holding back D'Artagnan with his left. "I'faith, I too, am quite in the dark,"
quoth Percerin.
Aramis took an "opportunity," as is said in theatrical matters.
"My dear M. de Percerin," Aramis continued, "you are making five dresses for the king,
are you not?
One in brocade; one in hunting-cloth; one in velvet; one in satin; and one in
Florentine stuffs." "Yes; but how--do you know all that,
monseigneur?" said Percerin, astounded.
"It is all very simple, my dear monsieur; there will be a hunt, a banquet, concert,
promenade and reception; these five kinds of dress are required by etiquette."
"You know everything, monseigneur!"
"And a thing or two in addition," muttered D'Artagnan.
"But," cried the tailor, in triumph, "what you do not know, monseigneur--prince of the
church though you are--what nobody will know--what only the king, Mademoiselle de
la Valliere, and myself do know, is the
color of the materials and nature of the ornaments, and the cut, the ensemble, the
finish of it all!"
"Well," said Aramis, "that is precisely what I have come to ask you, dear
"Ah, bah!" exclaimed the tailor, terrified, though Aramis had pronounced these words in
his softest and most honeyed tones.
The request appeared, on reflection, so exaggerated, so ridiculous, so monstrous to
M. Percerin that first he laughed to himself, then aloud, and finished with a
D'Artagnan followed his example, not because he found the matter so "very
funny," but in order not to allow Aramis to cool.
"At the outset, I appear to be hazarding an absurd question, do I not?" said Aramis.
"But D'Artagnan, who is incarnate wisdom itself, will tell you that I could not do
otherwise than ask you this."
"Let us see," said the attentive musketeer; perceiving with his wonderful instinct that
they had only been skirmishing till now, and that the hour of battle was
"Let us see," said Percerin, incredulously. "Why, now," continued Aramis, "does M.
Fouquet give the king a fete?--Is it not to please him?"
"Assuredly," said Percerin.
D'Artagnan nodded assent. "By delicate attentions? by some happy
device? by a succession of surprises, like that of which we were talking?--the
enrolment of our Epicureans."
"Admirable." "Well, then; this is the surprise we
intend. M. Lebrun here is a man who draws most
"Yes," said Percerin; "I have seen his pictures, and observed that his dresses
were highly elaborated.
That is why I at once agreed to make him a costume--whether to agree with those of the
Epicureans, or an original one."
"My dear monsieur, we accept your offer, and shall presently avail ourselves of it;
but just now, M. Lebrun is not in want of the dresses you will make for himself, but
of those you are making for the king."
Percerin made a bound backwards, which D'Artagnan--calmest and most appreciative
of men, did not consider overdone, so many strange and startling aspects wore the
proposal which Aramis had just hazarded.
"The king's dresses! Give the king's dresses to any mortal
whatever! Oh! for once, monseigneur, your grace is
mad!" cried the poor tailor in extremity.
"Help me now, D'Artagnan," said Aramis, more and more calm and smiling.
"Help me now to persuade monsieur, for you understand; do you not?"
"Eh! eh!--not exactly, I declare."
"What! you do not understand that M. Fouquet wishes to afford the king the
surprise of finding his portrait on his arrival at Vaux; and that the portrait,
which be a striking resemblance, ought to
be dressed exactly as the king will be on the day it is shown?"
"Oh! yes, yes," said the musketeer, nearly convinced, so plausible was this reasoning.
"Yes, my dear Aramis, you are right; it is a happy idea.
I will wager it is one of your own, Aramis."
"Well, I don't know," replied the bishop; "either mine or M. Fouquet's."
Then scanning Percerin, after noticing D'Artagnan's hesitation, "Well, Monsieur
Percerin," he asked, "what do you say to this?"
"I say, that--"
"That you are, doubtless, free to refuse. I know well--and I by no means count upon
compelling you, my dear monsieur.
I will say more, I even understand all the delicacy you feel in taking up with M.
Fouquet's idea; you dread appearing to flatter the king.
A noble spirit, M. Percerin, a noble spirit!"
The tailor stammered.
"It would, indeed, be a very pretty compliment to pay the young prince,"
continued Aramis; "but as the surintendant told me, 'if Percerin refuse, tell him that
it will not at all lower him in my opinion, and I shall always esteem him, only--'"
"'Only?'" repeated Percerin, rather troubled.
"'Only,'" continued Aramis, "'I shall be compelled to say to the king,'--you
understand, my dear Monsieur Percerin, that these are M. Fouquet's words,--'I shall be
constrained to say to the king, "Sire, I
had intended to present your majesty with your portrait, but owing to a feeling of
delicacy, slightly exaggerated perhaps, although creditable, M. Percerin opposed
the project."'"
"Opposed!" cried the tailor, terrified at the responsibility which would weigh upon
him; "I to oppose the desire, the will of M. Fouquet when he is seeking to please the
Oh, what a hateful word you have uttered, monseigneur.
Oppose! Oh, 'tis not I who said it, Heaven have
mercy on me.
I call the captain of the musketeers to witness it!
Is it not true, Monsieur d'Artagnan, that I have opposed nothing?"
D'Artagnan made a sign indicating that he wished to remain neutral.
He felt that there was an intrigue at the bottom of it, whether comedy or tragedy; he
was at his wit's end at not being able to fathom it, but in the meanwhile wished to
keep clear.
But already Percerin, goaded by the idea that the king was to be told he stood in
the way of a pleasant surprise, had offered Lebrun a chair, and proceeded to bring from
a wardrobe four magnificent dresses, the
fifth being still in the workmen's hands; and these masterpieces he successively
fitted upon four lay figures, which, imported into France in the time of
Concini, had been given to Percerin II. by
Marshal d'Onore, after the discomfiture of the Italian tailors ruined in their
competition. The painter set to work to draw and then to
paint the dresses.
But Aramis, who was closely watching all the phases of his toil, suddenly stopped
"I think you have not quite got it, my dear Lebrun," he said; "your colors will deceive
you, and on canvas we shall lack that exact resemblance which is absolutely requisite.
Time is necessary for attentively observing the finer shades."
"Quite true," said Percerin, "but time is wanting, and on that head, you will agree
with me, monseigneur, I can do nothing."
"Then the affair will fail," said Aramis, quietly, "and that because of a want of
precision in the colors."
Nevertheless Lebrun went on copying the materials and ornaments with the closest
fidelity--a process which Aramis watched with ill-concealed impatience.
"What in the world, now, is the meaning of this imbroglio?" the musketeer kept saying
to himself.
"That will never do," said Aramis: "M. Lebrun, close your box, and roll up your
canvas." "But, monsieur," cried the vexed painter,
"the light is abominable here."
"An idea, M. Lebrun, an idea! If we had a pattern of the materials, for
example, and with time, and a better light- -"
"Oh, then," cried Lebrun, "I would answer for the effect."
"Good!" said D'Artagnan, "this ought to be the knotty point of the whole thing; they
want a pattern of each of the materials.
Mordioux! Will this Percerin give in now?"
Percerin, beaten from his last retreat, and duped, moreover, by the feigned good-nature
of Aramis, cut out five patterns and handed them to the bishop of Vannes.
"I like this better.
That is your opinion, is it not?" said Aramis to D'Artagnan.
"My dear Aramis," said D'Artagnan, "my opinion is that you are always the same."
"And, consequently, always your friend," said the bishop in a charming tone.
"Yes, yes," said D'Artagnan, aloud; then, in a low voice, "If I am your dupe, double
Jesuit that you are, I will not be your accomplice; and to prevent it, 'tis time I
left this place.--Adieu, Aramis," he added
aloud, "adieu; I am going to rejoin Porthos."
"Then wait for me," said Aramis, pocketing the patterns, "for I have done, and shall
be glad to say a parting word to our dear old friend."
Lebrun packed up his paints and brushes, Percerin put back the dresses into the
closet, Aramis put his hand on his pocket to assure himself the patterns were
secure,--and they all left the study.