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D'Artagnan Meets the Musketeers
LONG AGO in France, on a bright spring morning-in April of 1626, to be exact—a young man from the country, of noble but somewhat awkward bearing, walked firmly down a lonely road outside Paris with the near-certain belief that within the hour he would be dead.
This eighteen-year-old gentleman, whose name was D'Artagnan, was newly arrived from Gascony, from which distant province he had come, as proud as he was poor, to pledge his service to the King, the Queen and the Cardinal. Yet he had not been in Paris for more than a few hours before he had somehow committed himself to fighting no fewer than three duels!
Now, this Cardinal, who was also a duke—the Duc de Richelieu—was almost as powerful as the King—some said even more powerful. He was always creating trouble, it seemed, even within the royal household. He had recently managed to raise suspicions in the King's mind against the Queen herself, accusing her of an unlawful relationship with the English Duke of Buckingham. Alas, there was some truth to this charge. Both the Queen and the Cardinal had powerful networks of spies who helped them in their bitter rivalry.
The entire nation of France was the scene of great troubles then, there being violent hatred between the Catholics, led by Cardinal Richelieu, and a sect of French Protestants called the Huguenots, whose main stronghold was the coastal city of La Rochelle.
As D'Artagnan had plunged into this atmosphere of conflict, he was forced to take sides. Though as yet unable to join the elite band of the King's Musketeers, he had been allowed to join the lesser force of the King's Guards (who, with the Musketeers, were rivals of the Cardinal's Guards). He also had dared hope that perhaps he would become the valiant knight of some beautiful damsel in distress.
D'Artagnan had other problems. On his way to Paris, in the town of Meung, he had been mocked by a mysterious, evil-looking blackguard, evidently of high rank, with an ugly scar on his temple, who had set his servants to thrash him. Then, before D'Artagnan could deal with him properly, in gentlemanly sword-to-sword combat, the man, after exchanging mysterious words with an even more mysterious lady in a coach, had sped off on his horse like a coward.
Now came the greatest trouble of all. The three men with whom D'Artagnan was about to fight duels were all Musketeers! It had all come about because of some silly words of anger exchanged between D'Artagnan and the Musketeers in the mansion of Monsieur de Tréville, their leader.
By now, walking along under the hot sun, his sword flapping against his leg at his left hand, D'Artagnan had approached a grim windowless building surrounded by bare fields, part of a convent on the outskirts of Paris. Just then a clock in a nearby tower struck twelve and D'Artagnan, aware that he was about to meet his fate and very likely leave this earth, saw before him the noble figure of Athos, one of the Musketeers.
Athos, though in pain, the result of a wound he had received in another duel, stepped forward to meet his adversary. D'Artagnan, on his part, took off his hat and bowed deeply.
"Monsieur," said Athos, "I have engaged two of my friends as seconds; I do not know why they are late, as it is not their habit."
"I have no seconds, Monsieur," replied D'Artagnan, "as I have just arrived in Paris. But I see you are suffering terribly. I have a balsam for wounds, which I freely offer you. Within three days you will be cured, and then—well, sir, it would then still do me great honor to be your man."
"I am afraid that in three days word of our plans would be certain to leak out and our combat would be prevented. But," said Athos, "your words are those of a true gentleman. There is one of my seconds, I believe."
Walking down the road the gigantic Porthos appeared.
"What!" cried D'Artagnan. "Is your first witness M. Porthos?"
"Does that disturb you?"
"Not at all—and is the second M. Aramis?" Aramis was just then coming up behind Porthos.
"Of course. Are you not aware that we are never seen one without the others, and that we are called, among the Musketeers and the guards, at court and in the city, Athos, Porthos and Aramis—or the Three Inseparables? But then, you would not know that since you are from—"
"Tarbes," said D'Artagnan.
"Porthos, this is the gentleman I am going to fight," said Athos, gesturing toward D'Artagnan and greeting his friend at the same time.
"Ah! What does this mean? It is with him that I also am going to fight!" said Porthos.
"But not before one o'clock," said D'Artagnan.
"And I also am going to fight this gentleman," said Aramis as he walked up.
"But not before two o'clock," said D'Artagnan.
"But what are you going to fight about, Athos?" asked Aramis.
"Faith! I don't well know. He hurt my shoulder. And you, Porthos?"
"We are going to fight because—we are going to fight!"
"We had a little discussion about dress," explained D'Artagnan tactfully.
"And you, Aramis?"
"Oh, ours is a theological quarrel."
"Yes, there is a passage in St. Augustine upon which we could not agree," said D'Artagnan.
At this sign of courteous evasion Athos smiled slightly, thinking, "Decidedly this is a clever fellow."
"And now, gentlemen," announced D'Artagnan, "should M. Athos succeed in dispatching me, I offer my apologies that I will be unable to fight as agreed. But for now—on guard!" With the most gallant air imaginable, D'Artagnan drew his sword.
"As you please, Monsieur," replied Athos, likewise drawing his weapon.
Thus the two stood, with swords crossed, when, from the other side of the nearby convent, a troop of five of the Cardinal's Guards marched into sight.
"The Cardinal's Guards!" cried Aramis and Porthos. "Sheathe your swords, gentlemen, sheathe your swords!"
But it was too late. The Guards' commander, a M. Jussac, advanced toward D'Artagnan and the Musketeers, followed by his men.
"So! Despite the Cardinal's edicts against dueling, I see you are fighting here! Sheathe your swords, if you please, and follow us. We will charge upon you if you disobey."
"There are five of them," said Athos quietly, as if to himself, "and we are but three. We shall be beaten and must die on the spot, for, on my part, I declare I will never again appear before our captain as a conquered man."
"Monsieur," said D'Artagnan, "allow me to correct your words, if you please! You said you were but three, but it appears to me we are four."
"But you are not one of us," said Porthos.
"That is true," replied D'Artagnan, "I have not the uniform but I have the heart of a Musketeer. I am with you. Try me, gentlemen, and I swear to you, by the honor of the name D'Artagnan, that I will not abandon you whether we prevail or are conquered." "
"You are a brave fellow," said Athos.
"Well—have you decided?" asked Jussac.
"Yes," replied Athos. "We are to have the honor of charging you! Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan, forward!"
At this the nine combatants joined in a furious battle. While the Musketeers were fighting certain of the Cardinal's men, it fell to D'Artagnan to fight Jussac himself!
The heart of the young Gascon beat wildly—not from fear, which emotion he scarcely knew, but from the thought that here at last was the opportunity to prove his worth by fighting on the side of the King's Musketeers.
Jussac was a fine swordsman who had had much practice. Nevertheless, with far less experience, D'Artagnan combined the hot blood of youth with both sound theory and extreme agility. When, angered that his skill should be so thwarted by a mere youth, Jussac thrust out in hot haste, lowering his guard, D'Artagnan glided like a serpent beneath his weapon and passed his sword through his body. Jussac fell like a stone. He was seriously wounded, though still breathing.
The rest passed quickly. The Musketeers and D'Artagnan soon overcame the three Guardsmen who were still on their feet, disarming them and forcing a surrender. The wounded were carried under the porch of the convent, and the convent bell was rung.
As the victors returned to Paris, D'Artagnan was intoxicated with joy. The four walked down the street arm in arm.
"If I am not yet a Musketeer," said D'Artagnan to his new friends as he passed through the gateway of M. de Tréville's mansion, "at least I have entered upon my apprenticeship, haven't I?"
After this trial, D'Artagnan became a part of the circle of the three Musketeers, who grew much attached to their young comrade. The friendship that united these four men and the need they felt of seeing one another three or four times a day, whether for dueling, business or pleasure, caused them to be continually running after one another like shadows. Now they were "the Four Inseparables"!CHAPTER 2
An Errand for the Queen
AT THIS TIME, with the financial help of his friends, D'Artagnan rented lodgings from a wealthy merchant, one M. Bonacieux, and secured the services of a manservant named Planchet. In D'Artagnan's lodgings, especially when his duties perforce separated him from the Musketeers, they would all meet in the evenings. By candlelight and over wine, all would recount their adventures of the day, or, occasionally, of days gone by. When it came to the past, however, D'Artagnan noticed frequent gaps, especially in the discourse of Athos. Aramis often discussed his ambitions to leave the military life altogether and commence a career in the church. But, apart from this, in his case it was mainly the present he avoided discussing, especially the mysterious letters his manservant Bazin frequently brought him, the contents of which could instantly transform his face to an image of joy or of gloom. To his annoyance, Athos and Porthos sometimes joked about his having a secret mistress among the high nobility.
Porthos was the least secretive about his life, often boastful of the attention paid him by a woman he referred to as his "duchess." As Athos and Aramis had reason to believe, however—and failed not to chide him about—this "duchess" was a woman some years older, not very good-looking, and the wife of a minor government official. Besides returning Porthos's cavalier attitude with admiration, this woman provided him with something perhaps even more important to him: money, with which he would feed his vanity by attiring himself in splendor.
Athos's past was the most mysterious, although sometimes when he had taken too much wine—which was often enough—he would begin to tell some bizarre story, seemingly unconnected with anything else in his life, but which would suggest that something extremely unfortunate had happened to him years earlier.
And so the days passed. Despite the turmoil and all the half-secret dueling going on at this time, however, the ordinary life of a soldier when not on the battlefield could grow dreary, and D'Artagnan began to pine for excitement. It was not long before he was satisfied.
One evening, before the customary arrival of his friends, he heard a clatter and commotion in the rooms downstairs, the residence of the merchant M. Bonacieux and his young wife. Now, as D'Artagnan was aware, the merchant had gone away for a few days, leaving his wife alone under the protection of a few old servants.
"Help! Help!" came a cry from below. At this, D'Artagnan strapped on his sword and leaped down the stairs into the street where two men were attempting to carry off the merchant's wife. D'Artagnan made quick work of her two assailants, only one of whom was armed anyway, and sent them running, leaving the gasping, terrified Mme. Bonacieux in D'Artagnan's arms.
"Quick, Monsieur, take me away from here, I beg you. These men were trying to kidnap me."
D'Artagnan helped her up the stairs to his own apartment, where he sat her in a chair.
"Planchet! Some water for the young lady, if you please!" he cried. This necessary item having been brought, D'Artagnan signaled for his man to withdraw discreetly.
When the beautiful young lady had recovered some of her calm, she began to show some embarrassment. She only half looked D'Artagnan in the eye, saying,
"Monsieur, please forgive my imposition on your kindness, but I must impose upon it once more by inquiring if you know of any place I can stay to be safe."
"It seems, Madame, that you are involved in matters that grow too large for you to handle, is it not true?" D'Artagnan ventured somewhat daringly.
She was silent. D'Artagnan knew from gossip at M. de Tréville's that the Queen herself, who had her own circle of spies and informers, made frequent use of Mme. Bonacieux (who was a high-ranking personal servant of the Queen's) in her intrigues.
"Of course, I know you must be bound to secrecy," said D'Artagnan more gallantly, "but if you confide in me, I swear upon my honor as a gentleman and a loyal member of the King's Guards that your secret shall not pass my lips to any but a chosen few who can be trusted. I ask this only because I have become acquainted with those who might be in a position to assist you if only they knew the nature of your difficulty."
Now, D'Artagnan, if the truth were told, did not make this offer out of entirely disinterested motives. From the first he had been attracted to his beguiling young neighbor. He had even felt what might be termed love for this ravishing young woman. Though the morals of the period were somewhat loose, this feeling was sustained in him by a degree of genuine idealism. He justified to himself the idea that he might be her rescuer, even her lover, by the thought that her marriage to M. Bonacieux, a man twice her age, had been arranged by her family out of convenience only; it was evident that little love passed between the woman and her staid, stingy merchant of a husband. So here was a situation that afforded D'Artagnan the excitement that he had been craving, the opportunity to save the royalty of France—and even the opportunity to be the knight of a lady in distress.
She hesitated, then said, in a soft, sweet voice, "You appear to be a brave young man who can be trusted...."
Fired up by these words, D'Artagnan grew animated.
"By my honor, by the faith of a gentleman, I will do all that I can to serve the King and be agreeable to the Queen!"
"Well ... I know of no one else I can trust. And ... there is one ... in a very high place who is in grave danger. If you could find the time for a mission of great importance, you will be well rewarded, so long as that is in my power. I dare not show myself near the Louvre now." (The Louvre was in those days still the palace of the French royal family.) "But—can I trust you with a password so you may gain admittance by a door I will tell you of?"
"I swear to you I will forget that password as soon as it has served its purpose!"
Mme. Bonacieux then gave D'Artagnan involved instructions for obtaining a letter from one of the Queen's servants. With this letter would be provided further instructions for its delivery. Here was a mission worthy of the greatest trust and courage!
"Now, Madame," said D'Artagnan, moving closer, sorely tempted to forget his restraint and plant a kiss on her youthful lips, "we must meanwhile decide where you might stay."
"Well, Monsieur," said she, much relieved by the hope of accomplishing a mission that would serve the Queen, yet also a bit frightened at the unanticipated sudden physical proximity of a man who was almost a stranger, "perhaps I may safely remain in my house one more night. Tomorrow my husband returns."
Suddenly she rose and walked quickly toward the stairway.
Feeling that it was just as well that he was thus able to avoid further temptation, D'Artagnan said,
"Very well. But should you require assistance, do not hesitate to call on me. Or if I am away on this most sacred mission, my servant Planchet will see to your safety."
Mme. Bonacieux turned once, nodded in gratitude, and disappeared down the stairs.
For half an hour, D'Artagnan sat, pondering the situation. Then, although it was already quite late, he seized his hat and cloak, and stole off toward the Louvre.
About midnight, with a low fire flickering in the fireplace, Planchet was dozing in a chair when the door burst open and in strode D'Artagnan, a satisfied look on his face.
"Planchet, my man! Up! There will be no sleeping until late tonight—tomorrow I ask for emergency leave—which I have no doubt M. de Tréville will assist me in obtaining—and by nightfall we will be off on a mission of great importance! —Oh, one other thing: has there been any further disturbance downstairs?"
"No, Monsieur, it has been very quiet."
"Very good! Now let us have some nourishment. And then you must pack necessaries for a week and see about our horses in the morning."
The night passed without further incident.
The following day D'Artagnan spent in scurrying about Paris, first to M. de Tréville, then to M. d'Essart, the commander of the King's Guards, and to the three Musketeers as well. M. de Tréville, assured of the urgency of this mission and its value to the Queen, inquired no further and granted the Musketeers leave as well as his intercession with M. d'Essart on D'Artagnan's behalf.
The three Musketeers of course pledged their full support. They all gathered in the evening at their usual meeting place—D'Artagnan's lodgings—but their usual gaiety was tempered by a sense of the importance of the mission on which they were about to embark.
Excerpted from The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, John Green, THOMAS CROFTS. Copyright © 1994 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
1. D'Artagnan Meets the Musketeers
2. An Errand for the Queen
3. D'Artagnan in England
4. Mme. Bonacieux Is Kidnapped
5. Athos's Terrible Story
6. A Conversation with the Cardinal
7. An Important Discovery
8. A Perilous Breakfast
9. A Devilish Adversary
Posted June 3, 2014
Posted January 3, 2000