The night was quiet enough. Toward two o'clock in the morning somebody endeavored to open the door; but as Planchet awoke in an instant and cried, "Who goes there?" somebody replied that he was mistaken, and went away.
At four o'clock in the morning they heard a terrible riot in the stables. Grimaud had tried to waken the stable boys, and the stable boys had beaten him. When they opened the window, they saw the poor lad lying senseless, with his head split by a blow with a pitchfork.
Planchet went down into the yard, and wished to saddle the horses; but the horses were all used up. Mousqueton's horse which had traveled for five or six hours without a rider the day before, might have been able to pursue the journey; but by an inconceivable error the veterinary surgeon, who had been sent for, as it appeared, to bleed one of the host's horses, had bled Mousqueton's.
This began to be annoying. All these successive accidents were perhaps the result of chance; but they might be the fruits of a plot. Athos and d'Artagnan went out, while Planchet was sent to inquire if there were not three horses for sale in the neighborhood. At the door stood two horses, fresh, strong, and fully equipped. These would just have suited them. He asked where their masters were, and was informed that they had passed the night in the inn, and were then settling their bill with the host.
Athos went down to pay the reckoning, while d'Artagnan and Planchet stood at the street door. The host was in a lower and back room, to which Athos was requested to go.
Athos entered without the least mistrust, and took out two pistoles to pay the bill. The host was alone, seated before his desk, one of the drawers of which was partly open. He took the money which Athos offered to him, and after turning and turning it over and over in his hands, suddenly cried out that it was bad, and that he would have him and his companions arrested as forgers.
"You blackguard!" cried Athos, going toward him, "I'll cut your ears off!"
At the same instant, four men, armed to the teeth, entered by side doors, and rushed upon Athos.
"I am taken!" shouted Athos, with all the power of his lungs. "Go on, d'Artagnan! Spur, spur!" and he fired two pistols.
D'Artagnan and Planchet did not require twice bidding; they unfastened the two horses that were waiting at the door, leaped upon them, buried their spurs in their sides, and set off at full gallop.
"Do you know what has become of Athos?" asked d'Artagnan of Planchet, as they galloped on.
"Ah, monsieur," said Planchet, "I saw one fall at each of his two shots, and he appeared to me, through the glass door, to be fighting with his sword with the others."
"Brave Athos!" murmured d'Artagnan, "and to think that we are compelled to leave him; maybe the same fate awaits us two paces hence. Forward, Planchet, forward! You are a brave fellow."
"As I told you, monsieur," replied Planchet, "Picards are found out by being used. Besides, I am here in my own country, and that excites me."
And both, with free use of the spur, arrived at St. Omer without drawing bit. At St. Omer they breathed their horses with the bridles passed under their arms for fear of accident, and ate a morsel from their hands on the stones of the street, after they departed again.
At a hundred paces from the gates of Calais, d'Artagnan's horse gave out, and could not by any means be made to get up again, the blood flowing from his eyes and his nose. There still remained Planchet's horse; but he stopped short, and could not be made to move a step.
Fortunately, as we have said, they were within a hundred paces of the city; they left their two nags upon the high road, and ran toward the quay. Planchet called his master's attention to a gentleman who had just arrived with his lackey, and only preceded them by about fifty paces. They made all speed to come up to this gentleman, who appeared to be in great haste. His boots were covered with dust, and he inquired if he could not instantly cross over to England.
"Nothing would be more easy," said the captain of a vessel ready to set sail, "but this morning came an order to let no one leave without express permission from the cardinal."
"I have that permission," said the gentleman, drawing the paper from his pocket; "here it is."
"Have it examined by the governor of the port," said the shipmaster, "and give me the preference."
"Where shall I find the governor?"
"At his country house."
"And that is situated?"
"At a quarter of a league from the city. Look, you may see it from here — at the foot of that little hill, that slated roof."
"Very well," said the gentleman. And, with his lackey, he took the road to the governor's country house.
D'Artagnan and Planchet followed the gentleman at a distance of five hundred paces. Once outside the city, d'Artagnan overtook the gentleman as he was entering a little wood.
"Monsieur, you appear to be in great haste?"
"No one can be more so, monsieur."
"I am sorry for that," said d'Artagnan; "for as I am in great haste likewise, I wish to beg you to render me a service."
"To let me sail first."
"That's impossible," said the gentleman; "I have traveled sixty leagues in forty hours, and by tomorrow at midday I must be in London."
"I have performed that same distance in forty hours, and by ten o'clock in the morning I must be in London."
"Very sorry, monsieur; but I was here first, and will not sail second."
"I am sorry, too, monsieur; but I arrived second, and must sail first."
"The king's service!" said the gentleman.
"My own service!" said d'Artagnan.
"But this is a needless quarrel you seek with me, as it seems to me."
"PARBLEU! What do you desire it to be?"
"What do you want?"
"Would you like to know?"
"Well, then, I wish that order of which you are bearer, seeing that I have not one of my own and must have one."
"You jest, I presume."
"I never jest."
"Let me pass!"
"You shall not pass."
"My brave young man, I will blow out your brains. HOLA, Lubin, my pistols!"
"Planchet," called out d'Artagnan, "take care of the lackey; I will manage the master."