“Monseigneur read it and cried out, “Quick, my horses! my arms!’”
“Oh, good Lord! then it was for some duel?” said D’Artagnan.
“No, monsieur, there were only these words: ’Dear Porthos, set out, if you would wish to arrive before the Equinox. I expect you.’”
“Mordioux!” said D’Artagnan, thoughtfully, “that was pressing, apparently.”
“I think so; therefore,” continued Mousqueton, “monseigneur set out the very same day with his secretary, in order to endeavor to arrive in time.”
“And did he arrive in time?”
“I hope so. Monseigneur, who is hasty, as you know, monsieur, repeated incessantly, ’Tonne Dieu! What can this mean? The Equinox? Never mind, a fellow must be well mounted to arrive before I do.’”
“And you think Porthos will have arrived first, do you?” asked D’Artagnan.
“I am sure of it. This Equinox, however rich he may be, has certainly no horses so good as monseigneur’s.”
D’Artagnan repressed his inclination to laugh, because the brevity of Aramis’s letter gave rise to reflection. He followed Mousqueton, or rather Mousqueton’s chariot, to the castle. He sat down to a sumptuous table, of which they did him the honors as to a king. But he could draw nothing from Mousqueton, — the faithful servant seemed to shed tears at will, but that was all.
D’Artagnan, after a night passed in an excellent bed, reflected much upon the meaning of Aramis’s letter; puzzled himself as to the relation of the Equinox with the affairs of Porthos; and being unable to make anything out unless it concerned some amour of the bishop’s, for which it was necessary that the days and nights should be equal, D’Artagnan left Pierrefonds as he had left Melun, as he had left the chateau of the Comte de la Fere. It was not, however, without a melancholy, which might in good sooth pass for one of the most dismal of D’Artagnan’s moods. His head cast down, his eyes fixed, he suffered his legs to hang on each side of his horse, and said to himself, in that vague sort of reverie which ascends sometimes to the sublimest eloquence:
“No more friends! no more future! no more anything! My energies are broken like the bonds of our ancient friendship. Oh, old age is coming, cold and inexorable; it envelopes in its funeral crepe all that was brilliant, all that was embalming in my youth; then it throws that sweet burthen on its shoulders and carries it away with the rest into the fathomless gulf of death.”
A shudder crept through the heart of the Gascon, so brave and so strong against all the misfortunes of life; and during some moments the clouds appeared black to him, the earth slippery and full of pits as that of cemeteries.
“Whither am I going?” said he to himself. “What am I going to do! Alone, quite alone — without family, without friends! Bah!” cried he all at once. And he clapped spurs to his horse, who, having found nothing melancholy in the heavy oats of Pierrefonds, profited by this permission to show his gayety in a gallop which absorbed two leagues. “To Paris!” said D’Artagnan to himself. And on the morrow he alighted in Paris. He had devoted ten days to this journey.