Chapter 54: Porthos’s Plan of Action

  1. 53: A Domiciliary Visit
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 55: Change of Residence

The multiplicity of the personages we have introduced into this long history compels that each shall appear only in his own turn and according to the exigencies of the recital. The result is that our readers have had no opportunity of again meeting our friend Porthos since his return from Fontainebleau. The honors which he had received from the King had not changed the tranquil, affectionate character of that worthy man; only, he held up his head a little higher than usual, and a majesty of demeanor as it were betrayed itself, since the honor of dining at the King’s table had been accorded him.

His Majesty’s banqueting-room had produced a certain effect upon Porthos. Le Seigneur de Bracieux et de Pierrefonds delighted to remember that during that memorable dinner the numerous array of servants and the large number of officials who were in attendance upon the guests gave a certain tone and effect to the repast, and seemed to furnish the room. Porthos proposed to confer upon Mouston a position of some kind or other, in order to establish a sort of hierarchy among his domestics, and to create a military household,- which was not unusual among the great captains of the age, since in the preceding century this luxury had been greatly encouraged by Messieurs de Treville, de Schomberg, de la Vieuville, without alluding to Messieurs de Richelieu, de Conde, and de Bouillon-Turenne. And, therefore, why should not he,- Porthos, the friend of the King and of M. Fouquet, a baron, an engineer, etc.,- why should not he indeed enjoy all the delightful privileges attached to large possessions and great merit? Somewhat neglected by Aramis, who we know was greatly occupied with M. Fouquet; neglected also, on account of his being on duty, by d’Artagnan; tired of Truchen and Planchet,- Porthos was surprised to find himself dreaming, without precisely knowing why; but if any one had said to him, “Do you want anything, Porthos?” he would most certainly have replied, “Yes.”

After one of those dinners, during which Porthos attempted to recall to his mind all the details of the royal banquet,- half joyful, thanks to the excellence of the wines; half melancholy, thanks to his ambitious ideas,- Porthos was gradually falling off into a gentle doze, when his servant entered to announce that M. de Bragelonne wished to speak to him. Porthos passed into an adjoining room, where he found his young friend in the disposition of mind of which we are already aware. Raoul advanced towards Porthos, and shook him by the hand. Porthos, surprised at his seriousness of aspect, offered him a seat.

“Dear M. du Vallon,” said Raoul, “I have a service to ask of you.”

“Nothing could happen more fortunately, my young friend,” replied Porthos. “I have had eight thousand livres sent me this morning from Pierrefonds; and if you want any money-”

“No, I thank you; it is not money, my dear friend.”

“So much the worse, then. I have always heard it said that that is the rarest service, but the easiest to render. The remark struck me; I like to cite remarks that strike me.”

“Your heart is as good as your mind is sound and true.”

“You are too kind, I’m sure. Will you have your dinner immediately?”

“No; I am not hungry.”

“Eh! What a dreadful country England is!”

“Not too much so; but-”

“Well, if such excellent fish and meat were not to be procured there, it would hardly be endurable.”

“Yes. I have come-”

“I am listening. Only allow me to take something to drink. One gets thirsty in Paris”; and Porthos ordered a bottle of champagne to be brought. Then, having first filled Raoul’s glass, he filled his own, took a large draught, and resumed: “I needed that, in order to listen to you with proper attention. I am now quite at your service. What have you to ask me, dear Raoul? What do you want?”

“Give me your opinion upon quarrels in general, my dear friend.”

“My opinion? Well- but- Explain your idea a little,” replied Porthos, rubbing his forehead.

“I mean,- are you generally of accommodating disposition whenever any misunderstanding arises between your friends and strangers?”

“Oh! of excellent disposition, as always.”

“Very good; but what do you do in such a case?”

“Whenever any friend of mine has a quarrel, I always act upon one principle.”

“What is that?”

“That all lost time is irreparable, and that one never arranges an affair so well as when the dispute is still warm.”

“Ah! indeed, that is your principle?”

“Thoroughly; so, as soon as a quarrel takes place, I bring the two parties together.”


“You understand that by this means it is impossible for an affair not to be arranged.”

“I should have thought,” said Raoul, with astonishment, “that, treated in this manner, an affair would, on the contrary-”

“Oh, not the least in the world! Just fancy now! I have had in my life something like a hundred and eighty to a hundred and ninety regular duels, without reckoning hasty encounters or chance meetings.”

“It is a very handsome number,” said Raoul, unable to resist a smile.

“A mere nothing; but I am so gentle. D’Artagnan reckons his duels by hundreds. It is very true he is a little too hard and sharp,- I have often told him so.”

“And so,” resumed Raoul, “you generally arrange the affairs of honor your friends confide to you.”

“There is not a single instance in which I have not finished by arranging every one of them,” said Porthos, with a gentleness and confidence which surprised Raoul.

“But the way in which you settle them is at least honorable, I suppose?”

“Oh, rely upon that! And at this stage I will explain my other principle to you. As soon as my friend has confided his quarrel to me, this is what I do: I go to his adversary at once, armed with a politeness and self-possession which are absolutely requisite under such circumstances.”

“That is the way, then,” said Raoul, bitterly, “that you arrange the affairs so safely?”

“I believe so. I go to the adversary, then, and say to him, ‘It is impossible, Monsieur, that you are ignorant of the extent to which you have insulted my friend.’” Raoul puckered his brows.

“It sometimes happens,- very often indeed,” pursued Porthos,- “that my friend has not been insulted at all; he has even been the first to give offence. You can imagine, therefore, whether my language is not well chosen”; and Porthos burst into a peal of laughter.

“Decidedly,” said Raoul to himself, while the formidable thunder of Porthos’s laughter was ringing in his ears’ “I am very unfortunate. De Guiche treats me with coldness, d’Artagnan with ridicule, Porthos is too tame; no one is ready to ‘arrange’ this affair in my way. And I came to Porthos because I wished to find a sword instead of cold reasoning. Ah, what wretched luck!”

Porthos, who had recovered himself, continued: “By a simple expression, I leave my adversary without an excuse.”

“That is as it may happen,” said Raoul, indifferently.

“Not at all; it is quite certain. I have not left him an excuse; and then it is that I display all my courtesy, in order to attain the happy issue of my project. I advance, therefore, with an air of great politeness, and taking my adversary by the hand-”

“Oh!” said Raoul, impatiently.

“‘Monsieur,’ I say to him, ‘now that you are convinced of having given the offence, we are sure of reparation; between my friend and yourself the future can offer only an exchange of gracious ceremonies. Consequently I am instructed to give you the length of my friend’s sword-’”

“What!” said Raoul.

“Wait a minute!- ‘the length of my friend’s sword. My horse is waiting below; my friend is in such and such a spot, and is impatiently awaiting your agreeable society. I will take you with me; we can call upon your second as we go along. The affair is arranged.’”

“And so,” said Raoul, pale with vexation, “You reconcile the two adversaries on the ground.”

“I beg your pardon,” interrupted Porthos. “Reconcile? What for?”

“You said that the affair was arranged.”

“Of course! since my friend is waiting for him.”

“Well, what then? If he is waiting-”

“Well, if he is waiting, it is merely to stretch his legs a little; the adversary, on the contrary, is stiff from riding. They place themselves in proper order, and my friend kills his opponent; the affair is ended.”

“Ah! he kills him?” cried Raoul.

“I should think so,” said Porthos. “It is likely I should ever have as a friend a man who allows himself to get killed? I have a hundred and one friends; at the head of the list stand your father, Aramis, and d’Artagnan,- all of whom are living and well, I believe.”

“Oh, my dear baron!” exclaimed Raoul, delightedly, as he embraced Porthos.

“You approve of my method, then?” said the giant.

“I approve of it so thoroughly that I shall have recourse to it this very day, without a moment’s delay,- at once, in fact. You are the very man I have been looking for.”

“Good! Here I am, then. You want to fight?”

“Absolutely so.”

“It is very natural. With whom?”

“With M. de Saint-Aignan.”

“I know him,- a most agreeable man, who was exceedingly polite to me the day I had the honor of dining with the King. I shall certainly return his politeness, even if that were not my usual custom. So, he has given you offence?”

“A mortal offence.”

“The devil! I can say ‘mortal offence’?”

“More than that, even, if you like.”

“That is very convenient.”

“I may look upon it as all arranged, may I not?” said Raoul, smiling.

“As a matter of course. Where will you be waiting for him?”

“Ah! I forgot. It is a very delicate matter. M. de Saint-Aignan is a great friend of the King.”

“So I have heard it said.”

“So that if I kill him-”

“Oh, you will kill him certainly; you must take every precaution to do so! But there is no difficulty in these matters now; if you had lived in our early days,- oh, that was something like!”

“My dear friend, you have not quite understood me. I mean that M. de Saint-Aignan being a friend of the King, the affair will be more difficult to manage, since the King might learn beforehand-”

“Oh, no; that is not likely. You know my method: ‘Monsieur, you have injured my friend, and-’”

“Yes, I know it.”

“And then: ‘Monsieur, I have horses below.’ I carry him off before he can have spoken to any one.”

“Will he allow himself, think you, to be carried off like that?”

“I should think so! I should like to see it fail! It would be the first time, if it did. It is true, though, that the young men of the present day- Bah! I would carry him off bodily, if it were necessary”; and Porthos, adding gesture to speech, lifted Raoul and his chair.

“Very good,” said Raoul, laughing. “All we have to do is to state the grounds of the quarrel to M. de Saint-Aignan.”

“Well; but that is done, it seems.”

“No, my dear M. du Vallon, the usage of the present day requires that the cause of the quarrel be explained.”

“By your new method, yes. Well, then, tell me what it is-”

“The fact is-”

“Deuce take it! See how troublesome this is! In former days we never had any occasion to talk. People fought then for the sake of fighting; and I, for one, know no better reason than that.”

“You are quite right, my friend.”

“However, tell me what the cause is.”

“It is too long a story to tell; only, as one must particularize to some extent-”

“Yes, yes, the devil!- with the new method.”

“As it is necessary, I said, to be specific, and as on the other hand the affair is full of difficulties and requires the most absolute secrecy-”

“Oh! oh!”

“You will have the kindness merely to tell M. de Saint-Aignan that he has insulted me,- in the first place, by changing his lodgings.”

“By changing his lodgings? Good!” said Porthos, who began to count on his fingers; “next?”

“Then, in getting a trap-door made in his new apartments.”

“I understand,” said Porthos; “a trapdoor! Upon my word, this is very serious; you ought to be furious at that. What the deuce does the fellow mean by getting trap-doors made without first consulting you? Trap-doors! Mordioux! I haven’t any, except in my dungeons at Bracieux.”

“And you will add,” said Raoul, “that my last motive for considering myself insulted is the portrait that M. de Saint-Aignan well knows.”

“Is it possible? A portrait too! A change of residence, a trap-door, and a portrait! Why, my dear friend, with but one of those causes of complaint there is enough, and more than enough, for all the gentlemen in France and Spain to cut one another’s throats; and that is saying but very little.”

“Well, my dear friend, you are furnished with all you need, I suppose?”

“I shall take a second horse with me. Select your own rendezvous; and while you are waiting there you can practise some of the best passes, so as to get your limbs as elastic as possible.”

“Thank you. I shall be waiting for you in the wood of Vincennes, close to Minimes.”

“All’s right, then. Where am I to find this M. de Saint-Aignan?”

“At the Palais-Royal.”

Porthos rang a huge hand-bell. “My court suit,” he said to the servant who answered the summons, “my horse, and a led horse to accompany me.” Then turning to Raoul as soon as the servant had quitted the room, he said, “Does your father know anything about this?”

“No; I am going to write to him.”

“And d’Artagnan?”

“No, nor d’Artagnan, either. He is very cautious, you know, and might have diverted me from my purpose.”

“D’Artagnan is a sound adviser, though,” said Porthos, astonished that in his own loyal faith in d’Artagnan any one could have thought of himself so long as there was a d’Artagnan in the world.

“Dear M. du Vallon,” replied Raoul, “do not question me any more, I implore you. I have told you all that I had to say; it is prompt action that I now expect, as sharp and decided as you know how to arrange it. That, indeed, is my reason for having chosen you.”

“You will be satisfied with me,” replied Porthos.

“Do not forget, either, that except ourselves no one must know anything of this meeting.”

“People always find these things out,” said Porthos, “when a dead body is discovered in a wood. But I promise you everything, my dear friend, except concealing the dead body. There it is; and it must be seen, as a matter of course. It is a principle of mine not to bury bodies. That has a smack of the assassin about it. Every risk must take its risk, as they say in Normandy.”

“To work, then, my dear friend!”

“Rely upon me,” said the giant, finishing the bottle, while the servant spread out upon a sofa the gorgeously decorated dress trimmed with lace. Raoul left the room, saying to himself with a secret delight: “Perfidious King! traitorous monarch! I cannot reach thee. I do not wish it; for the person of a king is sacred. But your accomplice, your panderer,- the coward who represents you,- shall pay for your crime. I will kill him in thy name, and afterwards we will think of Louise.”

  1. 53: A Domiciliary Visit
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 55: Change of Residence