“It is in ruins, then?”
“It is old.”
“The fact is,” said D’Artagnan to himself, “nothing is more natural; every proprietor has a right to repair his own property. It would be like telling me I was fortifying the Image-de-Notre-Dame, when I was simply obliged to make repairs. In good truth, I believe false reports have been made to his majesty, and he is very likely to be in the wrong.”
“You must confess,” continued he then, aloud, and addressing the fisherman — for his part of a suspicious man was imposed upon him by the object even of his mission — “you must confess, my dear monsieur, that these stones travel in a very curious fashion.”
“How so?” said the fisherman.
“They come from Nantes or Paimboeuf by the Loire, do they not?”
“With the tide.”
“That is convenient, — I don’t say it is not; but why do they not go straight from Saint-Nazaire to Belle-Isle?”
“Eh! because the chalands (barges) are fresh-water boats, and take the sea badly,” replied the fisherman.
“That is not sufficient reason.”
“Pardon me, monsieur, one may see that you have never been a sailor,” added the fisherman, not without a sort of disdain.
“Explain to me, if you please, my good man. It appears to me that to come from Paimboeuf to Piriac, and go from Piriac to Belle-Isle, is as if we went from Roche-Bernard to Nantes, and from Nantes to Piriac.”
“By water that would be the nearest way,” replied the fisherman imperturbably.
“But there is an elbow?”
The fisherman shook his head.
“The shortest road from one place to another is a straight line,” continued D’Artagnan.
“You forget the tide, monsieur.”
“Well! take the tide.”
“And the wind.”
“Well, and the wind.”
“Without doubt; the current of the Loire carries barks almost as far as Croisic. If they want to lie by a little, or to refresh the crew, they come to Piriac along the coast; from Piriac they find another inverse current, which carries them to the Isle-Dumal, two leagues and a half.”
“There the current of the Vilaine throws them upon another isle, the Isle of Hoedic.”
“I agree with that.”
“Well, monsieur, from that isle to Belle-Isle the way is quite straight. The sea, broken both above and below, passes like a canal — like a mirror between the two isles; the chalands glide along upon it like ducks upon the Loire; that’s how it is.”
“It does not signify,” said the obstinate M. Agnan; “it is a long way round.”
“Ah! yes; but M. Fouquet will have it so,” replied, as conclusive, the fisherman, taking off his woolen cap at the enunciation of that respected name.
A look from D’Artagnan, a look as keen and piercing as a sword-blade, found nothing in the heart of the old man but a simple confidence — on his features, nothing but satisfaction and indifference. He said, “M. Fouquet will have it so,” as he would have said, “God has willed it.”