"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 first."
"Well, tell me what you do."
"Have you observed that I leave home occasionally?"
"In any particular way?"
"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 himself, the other misses him. Do you not 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, proceed."
"What are the periods when I absent myself?"
"On the fifteenth and thirtieth 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, why I was absent?"
"To look after your debts, I suppose."
"And when I returned, how did you think I looked, as far as my face was concerned?"
"You admit, you say, that I always look 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, 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 the 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. Ho, ho! how could you possibly have thought such a thing? Ho, ho, ho!" 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 lucky."
"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 with, why, kings are marionettes, compared to you. But for the consolations of the mind, the proper care of the body, the agreeable things of like, 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, really 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 animated."
"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."
"Ah, you are asking 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 may be."
"Very well; I am going to take you to a place, half town and half country."
"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 are you going to do at 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—"
"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 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, M. de Wardes's 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; bade the musketeer good-night, and went down 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 whimsical 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."