Without listening the least in the world to the lamentations of M. Bonacieux — lamentations to which, besides, they must have been pretty well accustomed — the two guards took the prisoner each by an arm, and led him away, while the commissary wrote a letter in haste and dispatched it by an officer in waiting.
Bonacieux could not close his eyes; not because his dungeon was so very disagreeable, but because his uneasiness was so great. He sat all night on his stool, starting at the least noise; and when the first rays of the sun penetrated into his chamber, the dawn itself appeared to him to have taken funereal tints.
All at once he heard his bolts drawn, and made a terrified bound. He believed they were come to conduct him to the scaffold; so that when he saw merely and simply, instead of the executioner he expected, only his commissary of the preceding evening, attended by his clerk, he was ready to embrace them both.
"Your affair has become more complicated since yesterday evening, my good man, and I advise you to tell the whole truth; for your repentance alone can remove the anger of the cardinal."
"Why, I am ready to tell everything," cried Bonacieux, "at least, all that I know. Interrogate me, I entreat you!"
"Where is your wife, in the first place?"
"Why, did not I tell you she had been stolen from me?"
"Yes, but yesterday at five o'clock in the afternoon, thanks to you, she escaped."
"My wife escaped!" cried Bonacieux. "Oh, unfortunate creature! Monsieur, if she has escaped, it is not my fault, I swear."
"What business had you, then, to go into the chamber of Monsieur d'Artagnan, your neighbor, with whom you had a long conference during the day?"
"Ah, yes, Monsieur Commissary; yes, that is true, and I confess that I was in the wrong. I did go to Monsieur d'Artagnan's."
"What was the aim of that visit?"
"To beg him to assist me in finding my wife. I believed I had a right to endeavor to find her. I was deceived, as it appears, and I ask your pardon."
"And what did Monsieur d'Artagnan reply?"
"Monsieur d'Artagnan promised me his assistance; but I soon found out that he was betraying me."
"You impose upon justice. Monsieur d'Artagnan made a compact with you; and in virtue of that compact put to flight the police who had arrested your wife, and has placed her beyond reach."
"Fortunately, Monsieur d'Artagnan is in our hands, and you shall be confronted with him."
"By my faith, I ask no better," cried Bonacieux; "I shall not be sorry to see the face of an acquaintance."
"Bring in the Monsieur d'Artagnan," said the commissary to the guards. The two guards led in Athos.
"Monsieur d'Artagnan," said the commissary, addressing Athos, "declare all that passed yesterday between you and Monsieur."
"But," cried Bonacieux, "this is not Monsieur d'Artagnan whom you show me."
"What! Not Monsieur d'Artagnan?" exclaimed the commissary.
"Not the least in the world," replied Bonacieux.
"What is this gentleman's name?" asked the commissary.
"I cannot tell you; I don't know him."
"How! You don't know him?"
"Did you never see him?"
"Yes, I have seen him, but I don't know what he calls himself."
"Your name?" replied the commissary.
"Athos," replied the Musketeer.
"But that is not a man's name; that is the name of a mountain," cried the poor questioner, who began to lose his head.
"That is my name," said Athos, quietly.
"But you said that your name was d'Artagnan."
"Somebody said to me, 'You are Monsieur d'Artagnan?' I answered, 'You think so?' My guards exclaimed that they were sure of it. I did not wish to contradict them; besides, I might be deceived."
"Monsieur, you insult the majesty of justice."
"Not at all," said Athos, calmly.
"You are Monsieur d'Artagnan."
"You see, monsieur, that you say it again."
"But I tell you, Monsieur Commissary," cried Bonacieux, in his turn, "there is not the least doubt about the matter. Monsieur d'Artagnan is my tenant, although he does not pay me my rent — and even better on that account ought I to know him. Monsieur d'Artagnan is a young man, scarcely nineteen or twenty, and this gentleman must be thirty at least. Monsieur d'Artagnan is in Monsieur Dessessart's Guards, and this gentleman is in the company of Monsieur de Treville's Musketeers. Look at his uniform, Monsieur Commissary, look at his uniform!"
"That's true," murmured the commissary; "PARDIEU, that's true."
At this moment the door was opened quickly, and a messenger, introduced by one of the gatekeepers of the Bastille, gave a letter to the commissary.
"Oh, unhappy woman!" cried the commissary.
"How? What do you say? Of whom do you speak? It is not of my wife, I hope!"
"On the contrary, it is of her. Yours is a pretty business."
"But," said the agitated mercer, "do me the pleasure, monsieur, to tell me how my own proper affair can become worse by anything my wife does while I am in prison?"
"Because that which she does is part of a plan concerted between you — of an infernal plan."
"I swear to you, Monsieur Commissary, that you are in the profoundest error, that I know nothing in the world about what my wife had to do, that I am entirely a stranger to what she has done; and that if she has committed any follies, I renounce her, I abjure her, I curse her!"
"Bah!" said Athos to the commissary, "if you have no more need of me, send me somewhere. Your Monsieur Bonacieux is very tiresome."
The commissary designated by the same gesture Athos and Bonacieux, "Let them be guarded more closely than ever."
"And yet," said Athos, with his habitual calmness, "if it be Monsieur d'Artagnan who is concerned in this matter, I do not perceive how I can take his place."
"Do as I bade you," cried the commissary, "and preserve absolute secrecy. You understand!"
Athos shrugged his shoulders, and followed his guards silently, while M. Bonacieux uttered lamentations enough to break the heart of a tiger.
They locked the mercer in the same dungeon where he had passed the night, and left him to himself during the day. Bonacieux wept all day, like a true mercer, not being at all a military man, as he himself informed us. In the evening, about nine o'clock, at the moment he had made up his mind to go to bed, he heard steps in his corridor. These steps drew near to his dungeon, the door was thrown open, and the guards appeared.
"Follow me," said an officer, who came up behind the guards.
"Follow you!" cried Bonacieux, "follow you at this hour! Where, my God?"
"Where we have orders to lead you."
"But that is not an answer."