“So,” resumed the poet, returning to his dominant ideas, “you never saw any printing done?”
“Well, then, take the letters thus, which compose the word, you see: A B; ma foi! here is an R, two E E, then a G.” And he assembled the letters with a swiftness and skill which did not escape the eye of D’Artagnan.
“Abrege,” said he, as he ended.
“Good!” said D’Artagnan; “here are plenty of letters got together; but how are they kept so?” And he poured out a second glass for the poet. M. Jupenet smiled like a man who has an answer for everything; then he pulled out — still from his pocket — a little metal ruler, composed of two parts, like a carpenter’s rule, against which he put together, and in a line, the characters, holding them under his left thumb.
“And what do you call that little metal ruler?” said D’Artagnan, “for, I suppose, all these things have names.”
“This is called a composing-stick,” said Jupenet; “it is by the aid of this stick that the lines are formed.”
“Come, then, I was not mistaken in what I said; you have a press in your pocket,” said D’Artagnan, laughing with an air of simplicity so stupid, that the poet was completely his dupe.
“No,” replied he; “but I am too lazy to write, and when I have a verse in my head, I print it immediately. That is a labor spared.”
“Mordioux!” thought D’Artagnan to himself, “this must be cleared up.” And under a pretext, which did not embarrass the musketeer, who was fertile in expedients, he left the table, went downstairs, ran to the shed under which stood the poet’s little cart, and poked the point of his poniard into the stuff which enveloped one of the packages, which he found full of types, like those which the poet had in his pocket.
“Humph!” said D’Artagnan, “I do not yet know whether M. Fouquet wishes to fortify Belle-Isle; but, at all events, here are some spiritual munitions for the castle.” Then, enchanted with his rich discovery, he ran upstairs again, and resumed his place at the table.
D’Artagnan had learnt what he wished to know. He, however, remained, none the less, face to face with his partner, to the moment when they heard from the next room symptoms of a person’s being about to go out. The printer was immediately on foot; he had given orders for his horse to be got ready. His carriage was waiting at the door. The second traveler got into his saddle, in the courtyard, with his lackey. D’Artagnan followed Jupenet to the door; he embarked his cart and horse on board the boat. As to the opulent traveler, he did the same with his two horses and servant. But all the wit D’Artagnan employed in endeavoring to find out his name was lost — he could learn nothing. Only he took such notice of his countenance, that it was impressed upon his mind forever. D’Artagnan had a great inclination to embark with the two travelers, but an interest more powerful than curiosity — that of success — repelled him from the shore, and brought him back again to the hostelry. He entered with a sigh, and went to bed directly in order to be ready early in the morning with fresh ideas and the sage counsel of sufficing sleep.