Chapter 1: Malaga

  1. Louise de la Valliere
  2. 2: A Letter from H Baisemeaux

During the continuance of the long and violent debates between the opposite ambitions of the court and those of the heart, one of our characters, the least deserving of neglect, perhaps, was, however, very much neglected, very much forgotten, and exceedingly unhappy. In fact, D’Artagnan--D’Artagnan, we say, for we must call him by his name, to remind our readers of his existence--D’Artagnan, we repeat, had absolutely nothing whatever to do amid this brilliant, light-hearted world of fashion. After having followed the king during two whole days at Fontainebleau, and having critically observed all the pastoral fancies and seriocomic transformations of his sovereign, the musketeer felt that he needed something more than this to satisfy the cravings of his existence. At every moment assailed by people asking him, “How do you think this costume suits me, Monsieur d’Artagnan?” he would reply to them, in quiet, sarcastic tones, “Why, I think you are quite as well dressed as the best-dressed monkey to be found in the fair at St. Laurent.” It was just such a compliment as D’Artagnan would choose to pay where he did not feel disposed to pay any other; and, whether agreeable or not, the inquirer was obliged to be satisfied with it. Whenever any one asked him, “How do you intend to dress yourself this evening?” he replied, “I shall undress myself;” at which all the ladies laughed. But after a couple of days passed in this manner, the musketeer, perceiving that nothing serious was likely to arise which would concern him, and that the king had completely, or, at least, appeared to have completely, forgotten Paris, St. Mandé, and Belle-Isle--that M. Colbert’s mind was occupied with illuminations and fireworks--that for the next month, at least, the ladies had plenty of glances to bestow, and also to receive in exchange--D’Artagnan asked the king for leave of absence for a matter of private business. At the moment D’Artagnan I made his request his majesty was on the point of going to bed, quite exhausted from dancing.

“You wish to leave me, Monsieur d’Artagnan?” inquired the king, with an air of astonishment; for Louis XIV. could never understand that any one who had the distinguished honor of being near him could wish to leave him.

“Sire,” said D’Artagnan, “I leave you simply because I am not of the slightest service to you in anything. Ah! if I could only hold the balancing-pole while you were dancing, it would be a very different affair.”

“But, my dear Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said the king gravely, people dance without a balancing-pole.”

“Ah! indeed,” said the musketeer, continuing his imperceptible tone of irony, “I had no idea at all of that.”

“You have not seen me dance, then?” inquired the king.

“Yes, but I always thought it would make you firmer. I was mistaken; a greater reason, therefore, that I should leave for a time. Sire, I repeat, you have no present occasion for my services; besides, if your majesty should have any need of me, you would know where to find me.”

“Very well,” said the king; and he granted him his leave of absence.

We shall not look for D’Artagnan, therefore, at Fontainebleau, for this would be quite useless; but, with the permission of our readers, we shall follow him to the Rue des Lombards, where he was located at the sign of the Pilon d’Or, in the house of our old friend Planchet. It was about eight o’clock in the evening, and the weather was exceedingly warm there was only one window open, and that one belonged to a room on the entresol. A perfume of spices, mingled with another perfume less exotic, but more penetrating, namely, that which arose from the street, ascended to salute the nostrils of the musketeer. D’Artagnan, reclining upon an immense straight-backed chair, with his legs not stretched out, but simply placed upon a stool, formed an angle of the most obtuse form that could possibly be seen. Both his arms were crossed over his head, his head reclining upon his left shoulder, like Alexander the Great. His eyes, usually so quick and intelligent in their expression, were now half-closed, and seemed fastened, as it were, upon a small corner of the blue sky, which was visible behind the opening of the chimneys; there was just enough blue, and no more, to put a piece into one of the sacks of lentils, or haricots,, which formed the principal furniture of the shop on the ground floor. Thus extended at his ease, and thus sheltered in his place of observation behind the window, D’Artagnan seemed as if he had ceased to be a soldier, as if he were no longer an officer belonging to the palace, but was, on the contrary, a quiet, easy-going citizen in a state of stagnation between his dinner and supper, or between his supper and his bed; one of those strong, ossified brains, which have no more room for a single idea, so fiercely does animal matter keep watch at the doors of intelligence, narrowly inspecting the contraband trade which might result from the introduction into the brain of a symptom of thought. We have already said night was closing in, the shops were being lighted while the windows of the upper apartments were being closed, and the irregular steps of a patrol of soldiers forming the night-watch could be heard in the distance. D’Artagnan continued, however, to think of nothing except the blue corner of the sky. A few paces from him, completely in the shade, lying on his stomach, upon a sack of Indian corn, was Planchet, with both his arms under his chin, and his eyes fixed on D’Artagnan, who was either thinking, dreaming, or sleeping, with his eyes open. Planchet had been watching him for a tolerably long time, and, by way of interruption, he began by exclaiming, “Hum! hum!” But D’Artagnan did not stir. Planchet then saw that it was necessary to have recourse to a more effectual means still; after a prolonged reflection on the subject, the most ingenious means which suggested itself to him, under present circumstances, was to let himself roll off the sack on to the floor, murmuring, at the same time, against himself, the word “stupid.” But, notwithstanding the noise produced by Planchet’s fall, D’Artagnan, who had, in the course of his existence, heard many other, and very different noises, did not appear to pay the least attention to the present one. Besides, an enormous cart, laden with stones, passing from La Rue St. Médérie, absorbed, in the noise of its wheels, the noise of Planchet’s fall. And yet Planchet fancied that, in token of tacit approval, he saw him imperceptibly smile at the word “stupid.” This emboldened him to say:

“Are you asleep, Monsieur d’Artagnan?”

“No, Planchet, I am not even asleep,” replied the musketeer.

“I am in despair,” said Planchet, “to hear such a word as eve’?. “

“Well, and why not? Is it not a good French word, Monsieur Planchet?”

“Of course, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”


“Well, then, the word distresses me beyond measure.”

“Tell me why you are distressed, Planchet,” said D’Artagnan.

“If you say that you are not even asleep, it is as much as to say that you have not even the consolation of being able to sleep; or, better still, it is precisely the same as telling me that you are getting bored to death.”

“Planchet, you know I am never bored.”

“Except to-day, and the day before yesterday.”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan, it is a week since you returned here from Fontainebleau; in other words, you have no longer your orders to issue, or your men to review and maneuver. You need the sound of guns, drums, and all that din and confusion; I, who have myself carried a musket, can easily believe that.”

“Planchet,” replied D’Artagnan, “I assure you I am not bored the least in the world.”

“In that case, what are you doing, lying there as if you were dead?

“My dear Planchet, there was, once upon a time, at the siege of Rochelle, when I was there, when you were there, when we both were there, a certain Arab who was celebrated for the manner in which he adjusted culverins. He was a clever fellow, although very singular with regard to his complexion, which was the same color as your olives. Well, this Arab, whenever he had done eating or working, used to sit down to rest himself, as I am resting myself now, and smoked I cannot tell you what sort of magical leaves in a large amber-mouthed tube; and if any officer, happening to pass, reproached him for being always asleep, he used quietly to reply: ‘Better to sit down than to stand up, to lie down than to sit down, to be dead than to lie down.’ He was a very melancholy Arab, and I remember him perfectly well, from his color and style of conversation. He used to cut off the heads of the Protestants with extreme satisfaction. “

“Precisely; and then used to embalm them, when they were worth the trouble.”

“Yes; and when he was engaged in his embalming occupations, with his herbs and other plants about him, he looked like a basket-maker making baskets.”

“You are quite right, Planchet, he did so.”

“Oh! I can remember things very well, at times ‘

“I have no doubt of it; but what do you think of his mode of reasoning?”

“I think it very good in one sense, but very stupid in another. “

“Propound your meaning, Monsieur Planchet.”

“Well, monsieur, in point of fact, then, ‘better to sit down than to stand up,’ is plain enough, especially when one may be fatigued under certain circumstances;” and Planchet smiled in a roguish way. “As for ‘better to be lying down than sitting down,’ let that pass; but as for the last proposition, that it is ‘better to be dead than alive,’ it is, in my opinion, very absurd, my own undoubted preference being for my bed; and if you are not of my opinion, it is simply, as I have already had the honor of telling you, because you are boring yourself to death.”

“Planchet, do you know Monsieur la Fontaine?”

“The chemist at the corner of the Rue St. Médérie?”

“No, the writer of fables?”

“Oh! Maître Corbeau?”

“Exactly so; well, then, I am like his hare.”

“He has got a hare also, then?”

“He has all sorts of animals.”

“Well, what does his hare do, then?”

“His hare thinks.”

“Ah, ha!”

“Planchet, I am like Monsieur la Fontaine’s hare--I am thinking. “

“You’re thinking, you say?” said Planchet uneasily.

“Yes; your house is dull enough to drive people to think; you will admit that, I hope?”

“And yet, monsieur, you have a look out upon the street.” “Yes; and wonderfully interesting that is, of course.”

“But it is no less true, monsieur, that, if you were living at the back of the house, you would bore yourself--I mean, you would think--more than ever.”

“Upon my word, Planchet, I hardly know that.”

“Still,” said the grocer, “if your reflections were at all like those which led you to restore King Charles II.--” and Planchet finished by a little laugh, which was not without its meaning.

“Ah! Planchet, my friend,” returned D’Artagnan, “you are getting ambitious.”

“Is there no other king to be restored, Monsieur d’Artagnan--no other monk to be put into a box?”

“No, my dear Planchet; all the kings are seated on their various thrones; less comfortably so, perhaps, than I am upon this chair; but, at all events, there they are.” And D’Artagnan sighed very deeply.

“Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said Planchet, “you are making me very uneasy.”

“You’re very good, Planchet.”

“I begin to suspect something.”

“What is it?”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan, you are getting thin.”

“Oh!” said D’Artagnan, striking his chest, which sounded like an empty cuirass, “it is impossible, Planchet.”

“Ah!” said Planchet, slightly overcome, “if you were to get thin in my house--”


“I should do something rash.”

“What would you do? Tell me.”

“I should look out for the man who was the cause of all your anxieties.”

“Ah! according to your account, I am anxious now.”

“Yes, you are anxious; and you are getting thin, visibly getting thin. Malaga! if you go on getting thin in this way I will take my sword in my hand, and go straight to Monsieur d’Herblay, and have it out with him.”

“What!” said M. d’Artagnan, starting in his chair, “what’s that you say? And what has Monsieur d’Herblay’s name to do with your groceries”

“Just as you please. Get angry if you like, or call me names, if you prefer it; but the deuce is in it; I know what I know.”

D’Artagnan had, during this second outburst of Planchet so placed himself as not to lose a single look of his face that is, he sat with both his hands resting on both his knees and his head stretched out toward the grocer.

“Come, explain yourself,” he said, “and tell me how you could possibly utter such a blasphemy. Monsieur d’Herblay, your old master, my friend, an ecclesiastic, a musketeer turned bishop--do you mean to say you would raise your sword against him, Planchet?”

“I could raise my sword against my own father when I see you in such a state as you are now.”

“Monsieur d’Herblay, a gentleman!”

“It’s all the same to me whether he’s a gentleman or not. He gives you the blue devils, that is all I know. And the blue devils make people get thin. Malaga! I have no notion of Monsieur d’Artagnan leaving my house thinner than he entered it.”

“How does he give me the blue devils, as you call it? Come, explain, explain.”

“You have had the nightmare during the last three nights. “

“Yes, you; and in your nightmare you called out several times, ‘Aramis, sly Aramis!’”

“Ah! I said that, did I?” murmured D’Artagnan uneasily.

“Yes, those very words, upon my honor.”

“Well, what else? You know the saying, Planchet, ‘dreams go by contraries.’”

“Not so; for every time during the last three days, when you went out, you have not once failed to ask me, on your return, ‘Have you seen Monsieur d’Herblay?’ or else, ‘Have you received any letters for me from Monsieur d’Herblay?’”

“Well, it is very natural I should take an interest in my old friend,” said D’Artagnan.

“Of course; but not to such an extent as to get thin from it.”

“Planchet, I’ll get fatter; I’ll give you my word of honor, I will.”

“Very well, monsieur, I accept it; for I know that when you give your word of honor it is sacred.”

“I will not dream of Aramis any longer, and I will never ask you again if there are any letters from Monsieur d’Herblay, but on condition that you explain one thing to me.”

‘ Tell me what it is, monsieur.”

“I am a great observer; and just now you made use of a very singular oath, which is unusual for you.”

“You mean Malaga! I suppose?”


“It is the oath I have used ever since I have been a grocer. “

“Very proper, too; it is the name of a dried grape, or raisin, I believe?”

“It is my most ferocious oath; when I have once said Malaga! I am a man no longer.”

“Still, I never knew you use that oath before.”

“Very likely not, monsieur. I had a present made me of it,” said Planchet; and as he pronounced these words he winked his eye with a cunning expression which thoroughly awakened D’Artagnan’s attention.

“Come, come, Monsieur Planchet.”

“Why, I am not like you, monsieur,” said Planchet. “I don’t pass my life in thinking.”

“You are wrong, then.”

“I mean in boring myself to death. We have but a very short time to live--why not make the best of it?”

“You are an Epicurean philosopher, I begin to think, Planchet.”

“Why not? My hand is still as steady as ever; I can write, and can weigh out my sugar and spices; my foot is firm; I can dance and walk about; my stomach has its teeth still, for I eat and digest well; my heart is not quite hardened. Well, monsieur?”

“Well, what, Planchet?”

“Why, you see--” said the grocer, rubbing his hands together.

D’Artagnan crossed one leg over the other, and said:

“Planchet, my friend, I am astounded by surprise, for you are revealing yourself to me under a perfectly new light. “

Planchet, flattered in the highest degree by this remark, continued to rub his hands very hard together

“Ah, ah!” he said, “because I happen to be only stupid, you think me, perhaps, a positive fool.”

“Very good, Planchet; very well reasoned.”

“Follow my idea, monsieur, if you please. I said to myself,” continued Planchet, “that, without enjoyment, there is no happiness on this earth.”

“Quite true, what you say, Planchet,” interrupted D’Artagnan.

“At all events, if we cannot obtain pleasure--for pleasure is not so common a thing, after all--let us, at least, get consolations of some kind or other. “

“And so you console yourself?”

“Exactly so.”

“Tell me how you console yourself.”.

“I put on a buckler for the purpose of confronting ennui. I place my time at the direction of patience; and on the very eve of feeling I am going to get bored, I amuse myself.

“And you don’t find any difficulty in that?”

“None. “

“And you found it out quite by yourself?”

“Quite so.”

“It is miraculous.”

“What do you say?”

“I say that your philosophy is not to be matched in the whole world.”

“You think so? Follow my example, then.”

“It is a very tempting one.”

“Do as I do.”

“I could not wish for anything better; but all minds are not of the same stamp; and it might possibly happen that if I were required to amuse myself in the manner you do, I should bore myself horribly.”

‘Bah! at least try it first.”

“Well, tell me what you do.”

“Have you observed that I leave home occasionally?”

“Yes. “

“In any particular way?”

“Periodically. “

“That’s the very thing. You have noticed it, then?”

“My dear Planchet, you must understand that when people see each other every day, and one of the two absents c himself, the other misses him. Do you feel the want of my society when I am in the country?”

“Prodigiously; that is to say, I feel like a body without a soul.”

“That being understood, then, let us go on.”

“What are the periods when I absent myself?”

“On the 15th and 30th of every month.”

“And I remain away?”

“Sometimes two, sometimes three, and sometimes four days at a time.”

‘Have you ever given it a thought, what I have been absent for?”

“To look after your debts, I suppose.”

“And when I returned, how did you think I looked, as far as my face was concerned?”

“Exceedingly satisfied.”

“You admit, you say, that I always looked very satisfied. And what have you attributed my satisfaction to?”

“That your business was going on very well; that your purchases of rice, prunes, raw sugar, dried apples and pears, and treacle, were advantageous. You were always very picturesque in your notions and ideas, Planchet; and I was not in the slightest degree surprised to find you had selected grocery as an occupation, which is, of all trades the most varied, and the very pleasantest, as far as character is concerned; inasmuch as one handles so many natural and perfumed productions.”

“Perfectly true, monsieur; but you are very greatly mistaken. “

“In what way?”

“In thinking that I leave here every fortnight to collect my money or to make purchases. Oh, oh! how could you possibly have thought such a thing? Oh, oh, oh!”

And Planchet began to laugh in a manner that inspired D’Artagnan with very serious misgivings as to his sanity

“I confess,” said the musketeer, “that I do not precisely catch your meaning.”

“Very true, monsieur.”

“What do you mean by ‘very true’?”

“It must be true, since you say it; but pray, be assured that it in no way lessens my opinion of you.”

“Ah, that is very fortunate.”

“No; you are a man of genius; and whenever the question happens to be of war, tactics, surprises, or good honest blows to be dealt, why, kings are all nonsense compared to you. But for the consolations of the mind, the proper care of the body, the agreeable things of life, if one may say so--ah! monsieur, don’t talk to me about men of genius; they are nothing short of executioners “

“Good,” said D’Artagnan, quite fidgety with curiosity, “upon my word, you interest me in the highest degree.”

“You feel already less bored than you did just now, do you not?”

“I was not bored; yet, since you have been talking to me, I feel more amused.”

“Very good, then; that is not a bad beginning. I will cure you, rely upon that.”

“There is nothing I should like better.”

“Will you let me try, then?”

“Immediately, if you like.”

“Very well. Have you any horses here?”

“Yes; ten, twenty, thirty.”

“Oh, there is no occasion for so many as that; two will be quite sufficient.”

“They are quite at your disposal, Planchet.”

“Very good; then I shall carry you off with me.”


“To-morrow. “


“Ah, you are asking me too much.”

“You will admit, however, that it is important I should know where I am going.”

“Do you like the country?”

“Only moderately, Planchet.”

“In that case, you like town better?”

“That is as it may be.”

“Very well; I am going to take you to a place half-town and half-country.”

“Good. “

“To a place where I am sure you will amuse yourself.”

“Is it possible?”

“Yes; and more wonderful still, to a place from which you have just returned, for the purpose only, it would seem, of getting bored here.”

“It is to Fontainebleau you are going, then?”

“Exactly; to Fontainebleau.”

“And, in Heaven’s name, what Fontainebleau?”

Planchet answered D’Artagnan by a wink full of sly humor.

“You have some property there, you rascal.”

“Oh, a very paltry affair; a little bit of a house--nothing more. “

“I understand you.”

“But it is tolerable enough, after all.”

“I am going to Planchet’s country-seat!” exclaimed D’Artagnan.

“Whenever you like.”

“Did we not fix to-morrow?”

“Let us say to-morrow, if you like; and then, besides, to-morrow is the 14th, that is to say, the day before the one when I am afraid of getting bored; so we will look upon it as an understood thing.”

“Agreed, by all means.”

“You will lend me one of your horses?”

“The best I have.”

“No; I prefer the gentlest of all; I never was a very good rider, as you know, and in my grocery business I have got more awkward than ever; besides----”

“Besides what?”

“Why,” added Planchet, “I do not wish to fatigue myself. “

“Why so?” D’Artagnan ventured to ask.

“Because I should lose half the pleasure I expect to enjoy,” replied Planchet.

And thereupon he rose from his sack of Indian corn, stretching himself, and making all his bones crack) one after the other, with a sort of harmony.

“Planchet! Planchet!” exclaimed D’Artagnan, “I do declare that there is no sybarite upon the whole face of the globe who can for a moment be compared to you. Oh, Planchet, it is very clear that we have never yet eaten a ton of salt ;together.”

“Why so, monsieur?”

“Because, even now I can scarcely say I know you,” said D’Artagnan, “and because, in point of fact, I return to the opinion which, for a moment, I had formed of you that day at Boulogne, when you strangled, or did so as nearly as possible, Monsieur de Wardes’ valet, Lubin; in plain language, Planchet, that you are a man of great resources.”

Planchet began to laugh with a laugh full of self-conceit, bid the musketeer good-night, and went downstairs to his back shop, which he used as a bedroom. D’Artagnan resumed his original position upon his chair, and his brow, which had been unruffled for a moment, became more pensive than ever. He had already forgotten the whims and dreams of Planchet.

“Yes,” said he, taking up again the thread of his thoughts, which had been broken by the agreeable conversation in which we have just permitted our readers to participate. “Yes, yes, those three points include everything: First, to ascertain what Baisemeaux wanted with Aramis; secondly, to learn why Aramis does not let me hear from him; and, thirdly, to ascertain where Porthos is. The whole mystery lies in these three points. Since, therefore,” continued D’Artagnan, “our friends tell us nothing, we must have recourse to our own poor intelligence. I must do what I can, mordioux, or, rather, Malaga, as Planchet would say.”

  1. Louise de la Valliere
  2. 2: A Letter from H Baisemeaux