For a man who had seen so many much more dangerous ones, the position of D’Artagnan with respect to M. Colbert was only comic. D’Artagnan, therefore, did not deny himself the satisfaction of laughing at the expense of monsieur l’intendant, from the Rue des Petits-Champs to the Rue des Lombards. It was a great while since D’Artagnan had laughed so long together. He was still laughing when Planchet appeared, laughing likewise, at the door of his house; for Planchet, since the return of his patron, since the entrance of the English guineas, passed the greater part of his life in doing what D’Artagnan had only done from Rue-Neuve des Petits-Champs to the Rue des Lombards.
“You are home, then, my dear master?” said Planchet.
“No, my friend,” replied the musketeer, “I am off and that quickly. I will sup with you, go to bed, sleep five hours, and at break of day leap into my saddle. Has my horse had an extra feed?”
“Eh! my dear master,” replied Planchet, “you know very well that your horse is the jewel of the family; that my lads are caressing it all day, and cramming it with sugar, nuts, and biscuits. You ask me if he has had an extra feed of oats; you should ask if he has not had enough to burst him.”
“Very well, Planchet, that is all right. Now, then, I pass to what concerns me--my supper?”
“Ready. A smoking roast joint, white wine, crayfish and fresh-gathered cherries. All ready, my master.”
“You are a capital fellow, Planchet; come on, then, let us sup, and I will go to bed.”
During supper D’Artagnan observed that Planchet kept rubbing his forehead, as if to facilitate the issue of some idea closely pent within his brain. He looked with an air of kindness at this worthy companion of former adventures and misadventures, and, clinking glass against glass, “Come, Planchet,” said he, “let us see what it is that gives you so much trouble to bring forth. Mordioux! Speak freely, and quickly.”
“Well, this is it,” replied Planchet: “you appear to me to be going on some expedition or other.”
“I don’t say that I am not.”
“Then you have some new idea?”
“That is possible, too, Planchet.”
“Then there will be fresh capital to be ventured? I will lay down fifty thousand livres upon the idea you are about to carry out.” And so saying, Planchet rubbed his hands one against the other with a rapidity evincing great delight.
“Planchet,” said D’Artagnan, “there is but one misfortune in it.”
“And what is that?”
“That the idea is not mine. I can risk nothing upon it.”
These words drew a deep sigh from the heart of Planchet. That Avarice is an ardent counselor; she carries away her man, as Satan did Jesus, to the mountain, and when once she has shown to an unfortunate all the kingdoms of the earth, she is able to repose herself, knowing full well that she has left her companion, Envy, to gnaw his heart. Planchet had tasted of riches easily acquired, and was never afterwards likely to stop in his desires; but, as he had a good heart in spite of his covetousness, as he adored D’Artagnan, he could not refrain from making him a thousand recommendations, each more affectionate than the others. He would not have been sorry, nevertheless, to have caught a little hint of the secret his master concealed so well; tricks, turns, counsels and traps were all useless, D’Artagnan let nothing confidential escape him. The evening passed thus. After supper the portmanteau occupied D’Artagnan, he took a turn to the stable, patted his horse, and examined his shoes and legs, then, having counted over his money, he went to bed, sleeping as if only twenty, because he had neither inquietude nor remorse; he closed his eyes five minutes after he had blown out his lamp. Many events might, however, have kept him awake. Thought boiled in his brain, conjectures abounded, and D’Artagnan was a great drawer of horoscopes; but, with that imperturbable phlegm which does more than genius for the fortune and happiness of men of action, he put off reflection till the next day, for fear, he said, not to be fresh when he wanted to be so.
The day came. The Rue des Lombards had its share of the caresses of Aurora with the rosy fingers, and D’Artagnan arose like Aurora. He did not awaken anybody, he placed his portmanteau under his arm, descended the stairs without making one of them creak and without disturbing one of the sonorous snorings in every story from the garret to the cellar, then, having saddled his horse, shut the stable and house doors, he set off, at a foot-pace, on his expedition to Bretagne. He had done quite right not to trouble himself with all the political and diplomatic affairs which solicited his attention; for, in the morning, in freshness and mild twilight, his ideas developed themselves in purity and abundance. In the first place, he passed before the house of Fouquet, and threw in a large gaping box the fortunate order which, the evening before, he had had so much trouble to recover from the hooked fingers of the intendant. Placed in an envelope, and addressed to Fouquet, it had not even been divined by Planchet, who in divination was equal to Calchas or the Pythian Apollo. D’Artagnan thus sent back the order to Fouquet, without compromising himself, and without having thenceforward any reproaches to make himself. When he had effected this proper restitution, “Now,” said he to himself, “let us inhale much maternal air, much freedom from cares, much health, let us allow the horse Zephyr, whose flanks puff as if he had to respire an atmosphere to breathe, and let us be very ingenious in our little calculations. It is time,” said D’Artagnan, “to form a plan of the campaign, and, according to the method of M. Turenne, who has a large head full of all sorts of good counsels, before the plan of the campaign it is advisable to draw a striking portrait of the generals to whom we are opposed. In the first place, M. Fouquet presents himself. What is M. Fouquet? M. Fouquet,” replied D’Artagnan to himself, “is a handsome man, very much beloved by the women, a generous man very much beloved by the poets; a man of wit, much execrated by pretenders. Well, now I am neither woman, poet, nor pretender: I neither love nor hate monsieur le surintendant. I find myself, therefore, in the same position in which M. de Turenne found himself when opposed to the Prince de Conde at Jargeau, Gien and the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. He did not execrate monsieur le prince, it is true, but he obeyed the king. Monsieur le prince is an agreeable man, but the king is king. Turenne heaved a deep sigh, called Conde ‘My cousin,’ and swept away his army. Now what does the king wish? That does not concern me. Now, what does M. Colbert wish? Oh, that’s another thing. M. Colbert wishes all that M. Fouquet does not wish. Then what does M. Fouquet wish? Oh, that is serious. M. Fouquet wishes precisely for all which the king wishes.”
This monologue ended, D’Artagnan began to laugh, whilst making his whip whistle in the air. He was already on the high road, frightening the birds in the hedges, listening to the livres chinking and dancing in his leather pocket, at every step; and, let us confess it, every time that D’Artagnan found himself in such conditions tenderness was not his dominant vice. “Come,” said he, “I cannot think the expedition a very dangerous one; and it will fall out with my voyage as with that piece M. Monk took me to see in London, which was called, I think, ‘Much Ado about Nothing.’”