The Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas
Chapter LXI. The Cabaret of the Image-de-Notre-Dame.
At two o'clock the next day fifty thousand spectators had taken their position upon the Place, around the two gibbets which had been elevated between the Quai de la Greve and the Quai Pelletier; one close to the other, with their backs to the embankment of the river. In the morning also, all the sworn criers of the good city of Paris had traversed the quarters of the city, particularly the halles and the faubourgs, announcing with their hoarse and indefatigable voices the great justice done by the king upon two speculators, two thieves, devourers of the people. And these people, whose interests were so warmly looked after, in order not to fail in respect for their king, quitted shops, stalls, and atliers, to go and evince a little gratitude to Louis XIV., absolutely like invited guests, who feared to commit an impoliteness in not repairing to the house of him who had invited them. According to the tenor of the sentence, which the criers read aloud and incorrectly, two farmers of the revenues, monopolists of money, dilapidators of the royal provisions, extortioners, and forgers, were about to undergo capital punishment on the Place de Greve, with their names blazoned over their heads, according to their sentence. As to those names, the sentence made no mention of them. The curiosity of the Parisians was at its height, and, as we have said, an immense crowd waited with feverish impatience the hour fixed for the execution. The news had already spread that the prisoners, transferred to the Chateau of Vincennes, would be conducted from that prison to the Place de Greve. Consequently, the faubourg and the Rue Saint Antoine were crowded; for the population of Paris in those days of great executions was divided into two categories: those who came to see the condemned pass - these were of timid and mild hearts, but philosophically curious - and those who wished to see the condemned die - these had hearts that hungered for sensation. On this day M. d'Artagnan received his last instructions from the king, and made his adieus to his friends, the number of whom was, at the moment, reduced to Planchet, then he traced the plan of his day, as every busy man whose moments are counted ought to do, because he appreciates their importance.
"My departure is to be," said he, "at break of day, three o'clock in the morning; I have then fifteen hours before me. Take from them the six hours of sleep which are indispensable for me - six; one hour for repasts - seven; one hour for a farewell visit to Athos - eight; two hours for chance circumstances - total, ten. There are then five hours left. One hour to get my money, - that is, to have payment refused by M. Fouquet; another hour to go and receive my money of M. Colbert, together with his questions and grimaces; one hour to look over my clothes and arms, and get my boots cleaned. I still have two hours left. Mordioux! how rich I am." And so saying, D'Artagnan felt a strange joy, a joy of youth, a perfume of those great and happy years of former times mount into his brain and intoxicate him. "During these two hours I will go," said the musketeer, "and take my quarter's rent of the Image-de-Notre-Dame. That will be pleasant. Three hundred and seventy-five livres! Mordioux! but that is astonishing! If the poor man who has but one livre in his pocket, found a livre and twelve deniers, that would be justice, that would be excellent; but never does such a godsend fall to the lot of the poor man. The rich man, on the contrary, makes himself revenue with his money, which he does not even touch. Here are three hundred and seventy- five livres which fall to me from heaven. I will go then to the Image-de- Notre-Dame, and drink a glass of Spanish wine with my tenant, which he cannot fail to offer me. But order must be observed, Monsieur d'Artagnan, order must be observed! Let us organize our time, then, and distribute the employment of it! Art. 1st, Athos; Art. 2d, the Image-de- Notre-Dame; Art. 3rd, M. Fouquet; Art. 4th, M. Colbert; Art. 5th, supper; Art. 6th, clothes, boots, horse, portmanteau; Art. 7th and last, sleep."
In consequence of this arrangement, D'Artagnan went straight to the Comte de la Fere, to whom, modestly and ingenuously, he related a part of his fortunate adventures. Athos had not been without uneasiness on the subject of D'Artagnan's visit to the king; but few words sufficed for an explanation of that. Athos divined that Louis had charged D'Artagnan with some important mission, and did not even make an effort to draw the secret from him. He only recommended him to take care of himself, and offered discreetly to accompany him if that were desirable.
"But, my dear friend," said D'Artagnan, " I am going nowhere."
"What! you come and bid me adieu, and are going nowhere?"
"Oh! yes, yes," replied D'Artagnan, coloring a little, "I am going to make an acquisition."
"That is quite another thing. Then I change my formula. Instead of 'Do not get yourself killed,' I will say, - 'Do not get yourself robbed.'"
"My friend, I will inform you if I set eyes on any property that pleases me, and shall expect you will favor me with your opinion."
"Yes, yes," said Athos, too delicate to permit himself even the consolation of a smile. Raoul imitated the paternal reserve. But D'Artagnan thought it would appear too mysterious to leave his friends under a pretense, without even telling them the route he was about to take."
"I have chosen Le Mans," said he to Athos. "It is a good country?"
"Excellent, my friend," replied the count, without making him observe that Le Mans was in the same directions as La Touraine, and that by waiting two days, at most, he might travel with a friend. But D'Artagnan, more embarrassed than the count, dug, at every explanation, deeper into the mud, into which he sank by degrees. "I shall set out to- morrow at daybreak," said he at last. "Till that time, will you come with me, Raoul?"
"Yes, monsieur le chevalier," said the young man, "if monsieur le comte does not want me."
"No, Raoul; I am to have an audience to-day of Monsieur, the king's brother; that is all I have to do."
Raoul asked Grimaud for his sword, which the old man brought him immediately. "Now then," added D'Artagnan, opening his arms to Athos, "adieu, my dear friend!" Athos held him in a long embrace, and the musketeer, who knew his discretion so well, murmured in his ear - "An affair of state," to which Athos only replied by a pressure of the hand, still more significant. They then separated. Raoul took the arm of his old friend, who led him along the Rue Saint-Honore. "I an conducting you to the abode of the god Plutus," said D'Artagnan to the young man; "prepare yourself. The whole day you will witness the piling up of crowns. Heavens! how I am changed!"
"Oh! what numbers of people there are in the street!" said Raoul.
"Is there a procession to-day?" asked D'Artagnan of a passer-by.
"Monsieur, it is a hanging," replied the man.
"What! a hanging at the Greve?" said D'Artagnan.
"The devil take the rogue who gets himself hung the day I want to go and take my rent!" cried D'Artagnan. "Raoul, did you ever see anybody hung?"
"Never, monsieur - thank God!"
"Oh! how young that sounds! If you were on guard in the trenches, as I was, and a spy! But, pardon me, Raoul, I am doting - you are quite right, it is a hideous sight to see a person hung! At what hour do they hang them, monsieur, if you please?"
"Monsieur," replied the stranger respectfully, delighted at joining conversation with two men of the sword, "it will take place at about three o'clock."
"Aha! it is now only half-past one; let us step out, we shall be there in time to touch my three hundred and seventy-five livres, and get away before the arrival of the malefactor."
"Malefactors, monsieur," continued the bourgeois; "there are two of them."
"Monsieur, I return to you many thanks," said D'Artagnan, who as he grew older, had become polite to a degree. Drawing Raoul along, he directed his course rapidly in the direction of La Greve. Without that great experience musketeers have of a crowd, to which were joined an irresistible strength of wrist, and an uncommon suppleness of shoulders, our two travelers would not have arrived at their place of destination. They followed the line of the Quai, which they had gained on quitting the Rue Saint-Honore, where they left Athos. D'Artagnan went first; his elbow, his wrist, his shoulder formed three wedges which he knew how to insinuate with skill into the groups, to make them split and separate like firewood. He made use sometimes of the hilt of his sword as an additional help: introducing it between ribs that were too rebellious, making it take the part of a lever or crowbar, to separate husband from wife, uncle from nephew, and brother from brother. And all that was done so naturally, and with such gracious smiles, that people must have had ribs of bronze not to cry thank you when the wrist made its play, or hearts of diamond not to be enchanted when such a bland smile enlivened the lips of the musketeer. Raoul, following his friend, cajoled the women who admired his beauty, pushed back the men who felt the rigidity of his muscles, and both opened, thanks to these maneuvers, the compact and muddy tide of the populace. They arrived in sight of the two gibbets, from which Raoul turned away his eyes in disgust. As for D'Artagnan, he did not even see them; his house with its gabled roof, its windows crowded with the curious, attracted and even absorbed all the attention he was capable of. He distinguished in the Place and around the houses a good number of musketeers on leave, who, some with women, others with friends, awaited the crowning ceremony. What rejoiced him above all was to see that his tenant, the cabaretier, was so busy he hardly knew which way to turn. Three lads could not supply the drinkers. They filled the shop, the chambers, and the court, even. D'Artagnan called Raoul's attention to this concourse, adding: "The fellow will have no excuse for not paying his rent. Look at those drinkers, Raoul, one would say they were jolly companions. Mordioux! why, there is no room anywhere!" D'Artagnan, however, contrived to catch hold of the master by the corner of his apron, and to make himself known to him.
"Ah, monsieur le chevalier," said the cabaretier, half distracted, "one minute if you please. I have here a hundred mad devils turning my cellar upside down."
"The cellar, if you like, but not the money-box."
"Oh, monsieur, your thirty-seven and a half pistoles are all counted out ready for you, upstairs in my chamber; but there are in that chamber thirty customers, who are sucking the staves of a little barrel of Oporto which I tapped for them this very morning. Give me a minute, - only a minute?"
"So be it; so be it."
"I will go," said Raoul, in a low voice, to D'Artagnan; "this hilarity is vile!"
"Monsieur," replied D'Artagnan, sternly, "you will please to remain where you are. The soldier ought to familiarize himself with all kinds of spectacles. There are in the eye, when it is young, fibers which we must learn how to harden; and we are not truly generous and good save from the moment when the eye has become hardened, and the heart remains tender. Besides, my little Raoul, would you leave me alone here? That would be very wrong of you. Look, there is yonder in the lower court a tree, and under the shade of that tree we shall breathe more freely than in this hot atmosphere of spilt wine."
From the spot on which they had placed themselves the two new guests of the Image-de-Notre-Dame heard the ever-increasing hubbub of the tide of people, and lost neither a cry nor a gesture of the drinkers, at tables in the cabaret, or disseminated in the chambers. If D'Artagnan had wished to place himself as a vidette for an expedition, he could not have succeeded better. The tree under which he and Raoul were seated covered them with its already thick foliage; it was a low, thick chestnut- tree, with inclined branches, that cast their shade over a table so dilapidated the drinkers had abandoned it. We said that from this post D'Artagnan saw everything. He observed the goings and comings of the waiters; the arrival of fresh drinkers; the welcome, sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile, given to the newcomers by others already installed. He observed all this to amuse himself, for the thirty-seven and a half pistoles were a long time coming. Raoul recalled his attention to it. "Monsieur," said he, "you do not hurry your tenant, and the condemned will soon be here. There will then be such a press we shall not be able to get out."
"You are right," said the musketeer; "Hola! oh! somebody there! Mordioux!" But it was in vain he cried and knocked upon the wreck of the old table, which fell to pieces beneath his fist; nobody came. D'Artagnan was preparing to go and seek the cabaretier himself, to force him to a definite explanation, when the door of the court in which he was with Raoul, a door which communicated with the garden situated at the back, opened, and a man dressed as a cavalier, with his sword in the sheath, but not at his belt, crossed the court without closing the door; and having cast an oblique glance at D'Artagnan and his companion, directed his course towards the cabaret itself, looking about in all directions with his eyes capable of piercing walls of consciences. "Humph!" said D'Artagnan, "my tenants are communicating. That, no doubt, now, is some amateur in hanging matters." At the same moment the cries and disturbance in the upper chambers ceased. Silence, under such circumstances, surprises more than a twofold increase of noise. D'Artagnan wished to see what was the cause of this sudden silence. He then perceived that this man, dressed as a cavalier, had just entered the principal chamber, and was haranguing the tipplers, who all listened to him with the greatest attention. D'Artagnan would perhaps have heard his speech but for the dominant noise of the popular clamors, which made a formidable accompaniment to the harangue of the orator. But it was soon finished, and all the people the cabaret contained came out, one after the other, in little groups, so that there only remained six in the chamber; one of these six, the man with the sword, took the cabaretier aside, engaging him in discourse more or less serious, whilst the others lit a great fire in the chimney-place - a circumstance rendered strange by the fine weather and the heat.
"It is very singular," said D'Artagnan to Raoul, "but I think I know those faces yonder."
"Don't you think you can smell the smoke here?" said Raoul.
"I rather think I can smell a conspiracy," replied D'Artagnan.
He had not finished speaking, when four of these men came down into the court, and without the appearance of any bad design, mounted guard at the door of communication, casting, at intervals, glances at D'Artagnan, which signified many things.
"Mordioux!" said D'Artagnan, in a low voice," there is something going on. Are you curious, Raoul?"
"According to the subject, chevalier."
"Well, I am as curious as an old woman. Come a little more in front; we shall get a better view of the place. I would lay a wager that view will be something curious."
"But you know, monsieur le chevalier, that I am not willing to become a passive and indifferent spectator of the death of the two poor devils."
"And I, then - do you think I am a savage? We will go in again, when it is time to do so. Come along!" And they made their way towards the front of the house, and placed themselves near the window which, still more strangely than the rest, remained unoccupied. The two last drinkers, instead of looking out at this window, kept up the fire. On seeing D'Artagnan and his friend enter: - "Ah! ah! a reinforcement," murmured they.
D'Artagnan jogged Raoul's elbow. "Yes, my braves, a reinforcement," said he; "cordieu! there is a famous fire. Whom are you going to cook?"
The two men uttered a shout of jovial laughter, and, instead of answering, threw on more wood. D'Artagnan could not take his eyes off them.
"I suppose," said one of the fire-makers, "they sent you to tell us the time - did not they?"
"Without doubt they have," said D'Artagnan, anxious to know what was going on; "why should I be here else, if it were not for that?"
"Then place yourself at the window, if you please, and observe." D'Artagnan smiled in his mustache, made a sign to Raoul, and placed himself at the window.