Chapter 5: Planchet’s Country House.

  1. 4: The Rat and the Cheese
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 6: From Planchet’s House

The cavaliers looked up, and saw that what Planchet had announced to them was true. Ten minutes afterward they were in the street called the Rue de Lyon, on the opposite side of the inn of the sign of the Beau Paon. A high hedge of bushy elders, hawthorn, and wild hops formed an impenetrable fence, behind which rose a white house, with a large tiled roof. Two of the windows, which were quite dark, looked upon the street. Between the two a small door, with a porch supported by a couple of pillars, formed the entrance to the house. The door was gained by a step raised a little from the ground. Planchet got off his horse, as if he intended to knock at the door; but on second thought, he took hold of his horse by the bridle, and led it about thirty paces further on, his two companions following him. He then advanced about another thirty paces, until he arrived at the door of a cart-house lighted by an iron grating, and, lifting up a wooden latch, pushed open one of the folding-doors. He entered first, leading his horse after him by the bridle, into a small courtyard, where an odor met them which revealed their close vicinity to a stable. “That smells all right,” said Porthos loudly, getting off his horse, “and I almost begin to think I am near my own cows at Pierrefonds.”

“I have only one cow,” Planchet hastened to say modestly.

“And I have thirty,” said Porthos; “or rather, I don’t exactly know how many I have.”

When the two cavaliers had entered Planchet fastened the door behind them. In the meantime, D’Artagnan, who had dismounted with his usual agility, inhaled the fresh perfumed air with the delight a Parisian feels at the sight of green fields and fresh foliage, plucked a piece of honeysuckle with one hand, and of sweetbrier with the other. Porthos had laid hold of some pease which were twined round poles stuck into the ground, and ate, or rather browsed upon them, shells and all, and Planchet was busily engaged trying to wake up an old and infirm peasant, who was fast asleep in a shed, lying on a bed of moss, and dressed in an old stable suit of clothes. The peasant, recognizing Planchet, called him “the master,” to the grocer’s great satisfaction. “Stable the horses well, old fellow, and you shall have something good for yourself,” said Planchet.

“Yes, yes; fine animals they are, too,” said the peasant. “Oh! they shall have as much as they like.”

“Gently, my man,” said D’Artagnan, “we are getting on a little too fast. A few oats, and a good bed--nothing more.”

“Some bran and water for my horse,” said Porthos, “for it is very warm, I think.”

“Don’t be afraid, gentlemen,” replied Planchet; “Daddy Celestin is an old gendarme who fought at Ivry. He knows all about stables; so come into the house.” And he led the way along a well-sheltered walk, which crossed a kitchen-garden, then a small paddock, and came out into a little garden behind the house, the principal front of which, as we have already noticed, was facing the street. As they approached they could see, through the two open windows on the ground floor, which led into a sitting-room, the interior of Planchet’s residence. This room, softly lighted by a lamp placed on the table, seemed, from the end of the garden, like a smiling image of repose, comfort, and happiness. In every direction where the rays of light fell, whether upon a piece of old china or upon an article of furniture shining from excessive neatness, or upon the weapons hanging against the wall, the soft light was as softly reflected; and its rays seemed to linger everywhere upon something or another agreeable to the eye. The lamp which lighted the room, while the foliage of jasmine and climbing roses hung in masses from the window-frames, splendidly illuminated a damask tablecloth as white as snow. The table was laid for two persons. An amber-colored wine sparkled in the long cut-glass bottle, and a large jug of blue china, with a silver lid, was filled with foaming cider Near the table, in a high-backed armchair, reclined fast asleep a woman of about thirty years of age, her face the very picture of health and freshness. Upon her knees lay a large cat, with her paws folded under her, and her eyes half-closed, purring in that significant manner which, according to feline habits, indicates perfect contentment. The two friends paused before the window, in complete amazement, while Planchet, perceiving their astonishment, was, in no little degree, secretly delighted at it.”

“Ah! Planchet, you rascal,” said D’Artagnan, “I now understand your absences.”

“Oh! oh! there is some white linen!” said Porthos, in his turn, in a voice of thunder. At the sound of this voice the cat took flight, the housekeeper woke up suddenly, and Planchet, assuming a gracious air, introduced his two companions into the room, where the table was already laid.

“Permit me, my dear,” he said, “to present to you Monsieur le Chevalier d’Artagnan, my patron.” D’Artagnan took the lady’s hand in his in the most courteous manner, and with precisely the same chivalrous air as he would have taken madame’s.

“Monsieur le Baron du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds,” added Planchet. Porthos bowed with a reverence of which Anne of Austria would have approved.

It was then Planchet’s turn, and he unhesitatingly embraced the lady in question, not, however, until he had made a sign as if requesting D’Artagnan’s and Porthos’ permission, a permission which was of course frankly conceded. D’Artagnan complimented Planchet, and said, “You are indeed a man who knows how to make life agreeable. “

“Life, monsieur,” said Planchet, laughing, “is a capital which a man ought to invest as sensibly as he possibly can.”

“And you get very good interest for yours,” said Porthos, with a burst of laughter like a peal of thunder.

Planchet turned to his housekeeper. “You have before you,” he said to her, “the two men who have influenced no small portion of my life. I have spoken to you about them both very frequently.”

“And to others as well,” said the lady, with a very decided Flemish accent.

“Madame is Dutch?” inquired D’Artagnan. Porthos curled his mustache, a circumstance which was not lost upon D’Artagnan, who remarked everything.

“I am from Antwerp,” said the lady.

“And her name is Madame Gechter,” said Planchet.

“You should not call her madame,” said D’Artagnan.

“Why not?” asked Planchet.

“Because it would make her seem older every time you call her so.”

“Well, I call her Trüchen.”

“And a very pretty name, too,” said Porthos.

“Trüchen,” said Planchet, “came to me from Flanders with her virtue and two thousand florins. She ran away from a brute of a husband who was in the habit of beating her. Being myself a Picard born, I was always very fond of the Artesian women, and it is only a step from Artois to Flanders; she came crying bitterly to her godfather, my predecessor in the Rue des Lombards; she placed her two thousand florins in my establishment, which I have turned to very good account, and which bring her in ten thousand.”

“Bravo, Planchet!”

“She is free and well off; she has a cow, a maid-servant, and old Celestin at her orders; she mends my linen, knits my winter stockings; she only sees me every fortnight, and seems anxious to make herself happy.”

“And I am very happy indeed,” said Trüchen, with perfect ingenuousness.

Porthos began to curl the other side of his mustache.

“The deuce,” thought D’Artagnan, “can Porthos have any intentions in that quarter?”

In the meantime Trüchen had set her cook to work, had laid the table for two more, and covered it with every possible delicacy, which converts a light supper into a substantial meal, and a meal into a regular feast. Fresh butter, salt beef, anchovies, tunny, a shopful of Planchet’s commodities, fowls, vegetables, salad, fish from the pond and the river, game from the forest--all the produce, in fact, of the province. Moreover, Planchet returned from the cellar, laden with ten bottles of wine, the glass of which could hardly be seen for the thick coating of dust which covered them. Porthos’ heart seemed to expand as he said, “I am hungry,” and he sat himself beside Mme. Trüchen, whom he looked at in the most killing manner. D’Artagnan seated himself on the other side of her, while Planchet, discreetly and full of delight, took his seat opposite.

“Do not trouble yourselves,” he said, “if Trüchen should leave the table now and then during supper; for she will have to look after your bedrooms.”

In fact, the housekeeper made her escape very frequently, and they could hear, on the first floor above them, the creaking of the wooden bedsteads and the rolling of the castors on the floor. While this was going on the three men, Porthos especially, ate and drank gloriously--it was wonderful to see them. The ten full bottles were ten empty ones by the time Trüchen returned with the cheese. D’Artagnan still preserved his dignity and self-possession, but Porthos had lost a portion of his; the mirth soon began to be somewhat uproarious. D’Artagnan recommended a new descent into the cellar, and, as Planchet did not walk with the steadiness of a well-trained foot-soldier, the captain of the musketeers proposed to accompany him. They set off, humming songs wild enough to frighten anybody who might be listening. Trüchen remained behind at table with Porthos. While the two wine-bibbers were looking behind the firewood for what they wanted, a sharp sonorous sound was heard like the impression of a pair of lips on a cheek.

“Porthos fancies himself at La Rochelle,” thought D’Artagnan, as they returned freighted with bottles. Planchet was singing so loudly that he was incapable of noticing anything. D’Artagnan, whom nothing ever escaped, remarked how much redder Trüchen’s left cheek was than her right.

Porthos was sitting on Trüchen’s left, and was curling with both his hands both sides of his mustache at once, and Trüchen was looking at him with a most bewitching smile. The sparkling wine of Anjou very soon produced a remarkable effect upon the three companions. D’Artagnan had hardly strength enough left to take the candlestick to light Planchet up his own staircase. Planchet was pulling Porthos along, who was following Trüchen, who was herself jovial enough. It was D’Artagnan who found out the rooms and the beds. Porthos threw himself into the one destined for him, after his friend had undressed him. D’Artagnan got into his own bed, saying to himself, “Mordioux! I had made up my mind never to touch that light-colored wine which brings my early camp days back again. Fy! fy! if my musketeers were only to see their captain in such a state.” And drawing the curtains of his bed, he added, “Fortunately enough, though, they will not see me.”

“The country is very amusing,” said Porthos, stretching out his legs, which passed through the wooden footboard, and made a tremendous noise, of which, however, no one in the house was capable of taking the slightest notice. By two o’clock in the morning every one was fast asleep.

  1. 4: The Rat and the Cheese
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 6: From Planchet’s House