The Three Presents of M. D'Artagnan the Elder

On the first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the bourg of Meung, in which the author of the Romance of the Rose was born, appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if the Huguenots had just made a second Rochelle of it. Many citizens, seeing the women flying towards the High Street, leaving their children crying at the open doors, hastened to don the cuirass, and, supporting their somewhat uncertain courage with a musket or a partizan, directed their steps towards the hostelry of the Franc Meunier, before which was gathered, increasing every minute, a compact group, vociferous and full of curiosity.

In those times panics were common, and few days passed without some city or other enregistered in its archives an event of this kind. There were nobles, who made war against one another; there was the king, who made war against the cardinal; there was Spain, who made war against the king. Then in addition to these concealed or public, secret or patent wars, there were robbers, mendicants, Huguenots, wolves, and scoundrels, who made war upon everybody. The citizens always took up arms against thieves, wolves, or scoundrels, often against nobles or Huguenots, sometimes against the king, but never against the cardinal or Spain. It resulted, therefore, from this habit, that on the said first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the citizens, on hearing the clamour, and seeing neither the red and yellow standard nor the livery of the Duc de Richelieu, rushed toward the hostelry of the Franc-Meunier.

On reaching there the cause of this hubbub was apparent to all.

A young man—we can sketch his portrait at a dash: imagine Don Quixote at eighteen; Don Quixote without his corselet, without his coat of mail, without his cuisses; Don Quixote clothed in a woollen doublet the blue colour of which had faded into a nameless shade between lees of wine and a heavenly azure; face long and brown; high cheekbones, indicating craftiness; the maxillary muscles enormously developed, an infallible sign by which a Gascon may always be detected, even without his cap—and our young man wore a cap ornamented with a kind of feather; his eye open and intelligent; his nose hooked, but finely chiselled. Too big for a youth, too small for a grown man, an experienced eye might have taken him for a farmer’s son upon a journey had it not been for the long sword, which, dangling from a leathern baldic, hit against its owner’s calves as he walked, and against his steed’s rough side when he was on horseback.

For our young man had a steed, which was the observed of all observers. It was a Béarn pony, from twelve to fourteen years old, with yellow coat, not a hair in his tail, but not without wind-galls on his legs, which, though going with his head lower than his knees, rendering a martingale quite unnecessary, contrived, nevertheless. to perform his eight leagues a day.

And this feeling was the more painful to young D’Artagnan—for so was the Don Quixote of this second Rosinante named—because he was conscious himself of the ridiculous appearance he made on such a steed, good horseman as he was. He had sighed deeply, therefore, when accepting the gift of the pony from M. d’Artagnan the elder. He was not ignorant that such a beast was worth at least twenty pounds; and the words which accompanied the gift were above all price.

“My son,” said the old Gascon nobleman, in that pure Béarn patois of which Henry IV was never able to rid himself—“my son, this horse was born in your father’s house about thirteen years ago, and has remained in it ever since, which ought to make you love it. Never sell it—allow it to die tranquilly and honourably of old age; and if you make a campaign with it, take as much care of it as you would of an old servant. At court, provided you ever have the honour to go there,” continued M. d’Artagnan the elder, “an honour to which, remember, your ancient nobility gives you the right, sustain worthily your name of gentleman, which has been worthily borne by your ancestors for more than five hundred years, both for your own sake and for those who belong to you. By the latter I mean your relatives and friends. Endure nothing from any one except the cardinal and the king. It is by his courage, you understand, by his courage alone, that a gentleman makes his way to-day. I have but one more word to add, and that is to propose an example to you—not mine, for I myself have never appeared at court, and have only taken part in religious wars as a volunteer; I speak of M. de Tréville, who was formerly my neighbour,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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