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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Shoulder of Athos, the Belt of Porthos, and the Handkerchief of Aramis
By Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870)
 
From ‘The Three Musketeers’

FURIOUS with rage, D’Artagnan crossed the ante-room in three strides, and began to descend the stairs four steps at a time, without looking where he was going; when suddenly he was brought up short by knocking violently against the shoulder of a musketeer who was leaving the apartments of M. De Treville. The young man staggered backwards from the shock, uttering a cry, or rather a yell.  1
  “Excuse me,” said D’Artagnan, trying to pass him, “but I am in a great hurry.”  2
  He had hardly placed his foot on the next step, when he was stopped by the grasp of an iron wrist on his sash.  3
  “You are in a great hurry!” cried the musketeer, whose face was the color of a shroud; “and you think that is enough apology for nearly knocking me down? Not so fast, my young man. I suppose you imagine that because you heard M. De Treville speaking to us rather brusquely to-day, that everybody may treat us in the same way? But you are mistaken, and it is as well you should learn that you are not M. De Treville.”  4
  “Upon my honor,” replied D’Artagnan, recognizing Athos, who was returning to his room after having his wound dressed, “upon my honor, it was an accident, and therefore I begged your pardon. I should have thought that was all that was necessary. I repeat that I am in a very great hurry, and I should be much obliged if you would let me go my way.”  5
  “Monsieur,” said Athos, loosening his hold, “you are sadly lacking in courtesy, and one sees that you must have had a rustic upbringing.”  6
  D’Artagnan was by this time half-way down another flight; but on hearing Athos’s remark he stopped short.  7
  “My faith, monsieur!” exclaimed he, “however rustic I may be, I shall not come to you to teach me manners.”  8
  “I am not so sure of that,” replied Athos.  9
  “Oh, if I was only not in such haste,” cried D’Artagnan; “if only I was not pursuing somebody—”  10
  “Monsieur, you will find me without running after me. Do you understand?”  11
  “And where, if you please?”  12
  “Near Carmes-Deschaux.”  13
  “At what hour?”  14
  “Twelve o’clock.”  15
  “Very good. At twelve I will be there.”  16
  “And don’t be late, for at a quarter past twelve I will cut off your ears for you.”  17
  “All right,” called out D’Artagnan, dashing on down-stairs after his man; “you may expect me at ten minutes before the hour.”  18
  But he was not to escape so easily. At the street door stood Porthos, talking to a sentry, and between the two men there was barely space for a man to pass. D’Artagnan took it for granted that he could get through, and darted on, swift as an arrow, but he had not reckoned on the gale that was blowing. As he passed, a sudden gust wrapped Porthos’s mantle tight round him; and though the owner of the garment could easily have freed him had he so chosen, for reasons of his own he preferred to draw the folds still closer.  19
  D’Artagnan, hearing the volley of oaths let fall by the musketeers, feared he might have damaged the splendor of the belt, and struggled to unwind himself; but when he at length freed his head, he found that like most things in this world the belt had two sides, and while the front bristled with gold, the back was mere leather; which explains why Porthos always had a cold and could not part from his mantle.  20
  “Confound you!” cried Porthos, struggling in his turn, “have you gone mad, that you tumble over people like this?”  21
  “Excuse me,” answered D’Artagnan, “but I am in a great hurry. I am pursuing some one, and—”  22
  “And I suppose that on such occasions you leave your eyes behind you?” asked Porthos.  23
  “No,” replied D’Artagnan, rather nettled; “and thanks to my eyes, I often see things that other people don’t.”  24
  Possibly Porthos might have understood this allusion, but in any case he did not attempt to control his anger, and said sharply:—  25
  “Monsieur, we shall have to give you a lesson if you take to tumbling against the musketeers like this!”  26
  “A lesson, monsieur!” replied D’Artagnan; “that is rather a severe expression.”  27
  “It is the expression of a man who is always accustomed to look his enemies in the face.”  28
  “Oh, if that is all, there is no fear of your turning your back on anybody,” and enchanted at his own wit, the young man walked away in fits of laughter.  29
  Porthos foamed with rage, and rushed after D’Artagnan.  30
  “By-and-by, by-and-by,” cried the latter; “when you have not got your mantle on.”  31
  “At one o’clock then, behind the Luxembourg.”  32
  “All right; at one o’clock,” replied D’Artagnan as he vanished around the corner.  33
  But he could see no one either in the street he had passed through, or in the one his eager gaze was searching; however slowly the stranger might have walked, he had gone his way, or perhaps into some house. D’Artagnan inquired of everybody he met, but could find nothing at all about him. This chase however did him good in one way; for in proportion as the sweat started out on his forehead, his heart began to cool.  34
  He began to think over the many unlucky things which had happened. It was scarcely eleven in the morning, and yet this morning had already brought him into disgrace with M. Treville, who must think the way D’Artagnan had left him was rather boorish.  35
  Moreover, he had gotten himself into two fierce duels with two men, each able to kill three D’Artagnans; in a word, with two musketeers,—beings he set so high that he placed them above all other men.  36
  It was a sad lookout. To be sure, as the youth was certain to be killed by Athos, he was not much disturbed about Porthos. As hope is the last thing to die in a man’s heart, however, he ended by hoping that he might come out alive from both duels, even if dreadfully injured; and on that supposition he scored himself in this way for his conduct:—  37
  “What a rattle-headed dunce I am! That brave and unfortunate Athos was wounded right on that shoulder I ran against head-foremost, like a ram. The only thing that surprises me is that he didn’t strike me dead on the spot; he had provocation enough, for I must have hurt him savagely. As to Porthos—oh! as to Porthos—that’s a funny affair!”  38
  And the youth began to laugh aloud in spite of himself; looking round carefully, however, to see if his laughing alone in public without apparent cause aroused any suspicion.  39
  “As to Porthos, it is funny enough, to be sure, but I am a crazy blockhead all the same. Are people to be run into without warning? No! And have I any right to peep under their cloaks to see what they haven’t got? He would have forgiven me, I am sure, if I had said nothing to him about that cursed cloak,—with a double meaning, it is true, but too broad a joke in one of them! Ah! cursed Gascon that I am, I believe I should crack a joke if I was being roasted over a slow fire. Friend D’Artagnan,” he went on, speaking to himself with the gentleness he thought fair, “if you get away, which there is not much chance of, I would advise you to practice entire politeness for the future. You must henceforth be admired and quoted as a model of it. To be obliging and civil does not necessarily make a man a coward. Look at Aramis, now: mildness and grace embodied; and did anybody ever dream of calling Aramis a coward? No indeed, and from this instant I will try to model myself after him. And luckily, here he is.”  40
  D’Artagnan, walking and soliloquizing, had come within a few steps of the Aiguillon House, and in front of it saw Aramis chatting gayly with three of the King’s Guards. Aramis also saw D’Artagnan; but not having forgotten that it was in his presence M. de Treville had got so angry in the morning, and as a witness of the rebuke was not at all pleasant, he pretended not to see him. D’Artagnan, on the other hand, full of his plans of conciliation and politeness, approached the young man with a profound bow accompanied by a most gracious smile. Aramis bowed slightly but did not smile. Moreover, all four immediately broke off their conversation.  41
  D’Artagnan was not so dull as not to see he was not wanted; but he was not yet used enough to social customs to know how to extricate himself dexterously from his false position, which his generally is who accosts people he is little acquainted with, and mingles in a conversation which does not concern him. He was mentally casting about for the least awkward manner of retreat, when he noticed that Aramis had let his handkerchief fall, and (doubtless by mistake) put his foot on it. This seemed a favorable chance to repair his mistake of intrusion: he stooped down, and with the most gracious air he could assume, drew the handkerchief from under the foot in spite of the efforts made to detain it, and holding it out to Aramis, said:—  42
  “I believe, sir, this is a handkerchief you would be sorry to lose?”  43
  The handkerchief was in truth richly embroidered, and had a cornet and a coat of arms at one corner. Aramis blushed excessively, and snatched rather than took the handkerchief.  44
  “Ha! ha!” exclaimed one of the guards, “will you go on saying now, most discreet Aramis, that you are not on good terms with Madame de Bois-Tracy, when that gracious lady does you the favor of lending you her handkerchief!”  45
  Aramis darted at D’Artagnan one of those looks which tell a man that he has made a mortal enemy; then assuming his mild air he said:—  46
  “You are mistaken, gentlemen: this handkerchief is not mine, and I cannot understand why this gentleman has taken it into his head to offer it to me rather than to one of you. And as a proof of what I say, here is mine in my pocket.”  47
  So saying, he pulled out his handkerchief, which was also not only a very dainty one, and of fine linen (though linen was then costly), but was embroidered and without arms, bearing only a single cipher, the owner’s.  48
  This time D’Artagnan saw his mistake; but Aramis’s friends were by no means convinced, and one of them, addressing the young musketeer with pretended gravity, said:—  49
  “If things were as you make out, I should feel obliged, my dear Aramis, to reclaim it myself; for as you very well know, Bois-Tracy is an intimate friend of mine, and I cannot allow one of his wife’s belongings to be exhibited as a trophy.”  50
  “You make the demand clumsily,” replied Aramis; “and while I acknowledge the justice of your reclamation, I refuse it on account of the form.”  51
  “The fact is,” D’Artagnan put in hesitatingly, “I did not actually see the handkerchief fall from M. Aramis’s pocket. He had his foot on it, that’s all, and I thought it was his.”  52
  “And you were deceived, my dear sir,” replied Aramis coldly, very little obliged for the explanation; then turning to the guard who had professed himself Bois-Tracy’s friend—“Besides,” he went on, “I have reflected, my dear intimate friend of Bois-Tracy, that I am not less devotedly his friend than you can possibly be, so that this handkerchief is quite as likely to have fallen from your pocket as from mine!”  53
  “On my honor, no!”  54
  “You are about to swear on your honor, and I on my word; and then it will be pretty evident that one of us will have lied. Now here, Montaran, we will do better than that: let each take a half.”  55
  “Perfectly fair,” cried the other two guardsmen; “the judgment of Solomon! Aramis, you are certainly full of wisdom!”  56
  They burst into a loud laugh, and as may be supposed, the incident bore no other fruit. In a minute or two the conversation stopped, and the three guards and the musketeer, after heartily shaking hands, separated, the guards going one way and Aramis another.  57
  “Now is the time to make my peace with this gentleman,” said D’Artagnan to himself, having stood on one side during all the latter part of the conversation; and in this good spirit drawing near to Aramis, who was going off without paying any attention to him, he said:—  58
  “You will excuse me, I hope.”  59
  “Ah!” interrupted Aramis, “permit me to observe to you, sir, that you have not acted in this affair as a man of good breeding ought.”  60
  “What!” cried D’Artagnan, “do you suppose—”  61
  “I suppose that you are not a fool, and that you knew very well, even though you come from Gascony, that people do not stand on handkerchiefs for nothing. What the devil! Paris is not paved with linen!”  62
  “Sir, you do wrong in trying to humiliate me,” said D’Artagnan, in whom his native pugnacity began to speak louder than his peaceful resolutions. “I come from Gascony, it is true; and since you know it, there is no need to tell you that Gascons are not very patient, so that when they have asked pardon once, even for a folly, they think they have done at least as much again as they ought to have done.”  63
  “Sir, what I say to you about this matter,” said Aramis, “is not for the sake of hunting a quarrel. Thank Heaven, I am not a swashbuckler, and being a musketeer only for a while, I only fight when I am forced to do so, and always with great reluctance; but this time the affair is serious, for here is a lady compromised by you.”  64
  “By us, you mean,” cried D’Artagnan.  65
  “Why did you give me back the handkerchief so awkwardly?”  66
  “Why did you let it fall so awkwardly?”  67
  “I have said that the handkerchief did not fall from my pocket.”  68
  “Well, by saying that you have told two lies, sir; for I saw it fall.”  69
  “Oh ho! you take it up that way, do you, Master Gascon? Well, I will teach you how to behave yourself.”  70
  “And I will send you back to your pulpit, Master Priest. Draw, if you please, and instantly—”  71
  “Not so, if you please, my good friend; not here, at least. Do you not see that we are opposite Aiguillon House, full of the Cardinal’s creatures? How do I know that it is not his Eminence who has honored you with the commission to bring him in my head? Now, I entertain an absurd partiality for my head, it seems to suit my shoulders so finely. I have no objection to killing you, you may be sure, but quietly, in a snug, distant spot, where you will not be able to boast of your death to anybody.”  72
  “I agree, but don’t be too confident; and take away your handkerchief—whether it belongs to you or somebody else, perhaps you may stand in need of it to bandage up a wound. As a Gascon, I don’t put off engagements for prudence’s sake.”  73
  “Prudence is a virtue useless enough to musketeers, I know, but indispensable to churchmen; and as I am only a temporary musketeer, I hold it best to be prudent. At two o’clock I shall have the honor of expecting you at Treville’s. There I will point out the best place and time to you.”  74
  The two bowed and separated. Aramis went up the street which led to the Luxembourg; while D’Artagnan, seeing that the appointed hour was coming near, took the road to the Carmes-Deschaux, saying to himself, “I certainly cannot hope to come out of these scrapes alive; but if I am doomed to be killed, it will be by a royal musketeer.”  75
 
 
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