"I! Not at all. I am dead drunk, that's all, and never did a man more strongly set about getting so. By the Lord, my good host! I must at least have drunk for my part a hundred and fifty bottles."
"Mercy!" cried the host, "if the lackey has drunk only half as much as the master, I am a ruined man."
"Grimaud is a well-bred lackey. He would never think of faring in the same manner as his master; he only drank from the cask. Hark! I don't think he put the faucet in again. Do you hear it? It is running now."
D'Artagnan burst into a laugh which changed the shiver of the host into a burning fever.
In the meantime, Grimaud appeared in his turn behind his master, with the musketoon on his shoulder, and his head shaking. Like one of those drunken satyrs in the pictures of Rubens. He was moistened before and behind with a greasy liquid which the host recognized as his best olive oil.
The four crossed the public room and proceeded to take possession of the best apartment in the house, which d'Artagnan occupied with authority.
In the meantime the host and his wife hurried down with lamps into the cellar, which had so long been interdicted to them and where a frightful spectacle awaited them.
Beyond the fortifications through which Athos had made a breach in order to get out, and which were composed of fagots, planks, and empty casks, heaped up according to all the rules of the strategic art, they found, swimming in puddles of oil and wine, the bones and fragments of all the hams they had eaten; while a heap of broken bottles filled the whole left-hand corner of the cellar, and a tun, the cock of which was left running, was yielding, by this means, the last drop of its blood. "The image of devastation and death," as the ancient poet says, "reigned as over a field of battle."
Of fifty large sausages, suspended from the joists, scarcely ten remained.
Then the lamentations of the host and hostess pierced the vault of the cellar. D'Artagnan himself was moved by them. Athos did not even turn his head.
To grief succeeded rage. The host armed himself with a spit, and rushed into the chamber occupied by the two friends.
"Some wine!" said Athos, on perceiving the host.
"Some wine!" cried the stupefied host, "some wine? Why you have drunk more than a hundred pistoles' worth! I am a ruined man, lost, destroyed!"
"Bah," said Athos, "we were always dry."
"If you had been contented with drinking, well and good; but you have broken all the bottles."
"You pushed me upon a heap which rolled down. That was your fault."
"All my oil is lost!"
"Oil is a sovereign balm for wounds; and my poor Grimaud here was obliged to dress those you had inflicted on him."
"All my sausages are gnawed!"
"There is an enormous quantity of rats in that cellar."
"You shall pay me for all this," cried the exasperated host.
"Triple ass!" said Athos, rising; but he sank down again immediately. He had tried his strength to the utmost. d'Artagnan came to his relief with his whip in his hand.
The host drew back and burst into tears.
"This will teach you," said d'Artagnan, "to treat the guests God sends you in a more courteous fashion."
"God? Say the devil!"
"My dear friend," said d'Artagnan, "if you annoy us in this manner we will all four go and shut ourselves up in your cellar, and we will see if the mischief is as great as you say."
"Oh, gentlemen," said the host, "I have been wrong. I confess it, but pardon to every sin! You are gentlemen, and I am a poor innkeeper. You will have pity on me."
"Ah, if you speak in that way," said Athos, "you will break my heart, and the tears will flow from my eyes as the wine flowed from the cask. We are not such devils as we appear to be. Come hither, and let us talk."
The host approached with hesitation.
"Come hither, I say, and don't be afraid," continued Athos. "At the very moment when I was about to pay you, I had placed my purse on the table."
"That purse contained sixty pistoles; where is it?"
"Deposited with the justice; they said it was bad money."
"Very well; get me my purse back and keep the sixty pistoles."
"But Monseigneur knows very well that justice never lets go that which it once lays hold of. If it were bad money, there might be some hopes; but unfortunately, those were all good pieces."
"Manage the matter as well as you can, my good man; it does not concern me, the more so as I have not a livre left."
"Come," said d'Artagnan, "let us inquire further. Athos's horse, where is that?"
"In the stable."
"How much is it worth?"
"Fifty pistoles at most."
"It's worth eighty. Take it, and there ends the matter."
"What," cried Athos, "are you selling my horse — my Bajazet? And pray upon what shall I make my campaign; upon Grimaud?"
"I have brought you another," said d'Artagnan.
"And a magnificent one!" cried the host.
"Well, since there is another finer and younger, why, you may take the old one; and let us drink."
"What?" asked the host, quite cheerful again.
"Some of that at the bottom, near the laths. There are twenty-five bottles of it left; all the rest were broken by my fall. Bring six of them."
"Why, this man is a cask!" said the host, aside. "If he only remains here a fortnight, and pays for what he drinks, I shall soon re-establish my business."
"And don't forget," said d'Artagnan, "to bring up four bottles of the same sort for the two English gentlemen."
"And now," said Athos, "while they bring the wine, tell me, d'Artagnan, what has become of the others, come!"
D'Artagnan related how he had found Porthos in bed with a strained knee, and Aramis at a table between two theologians. As he finished, the host entered with the wine ordered and a ham which, fortunately for him, had been left out of the cellar.
"That's well!" said Athos, filling his glass and that of his friend; "here's to Porthos and Aramis! But you, d'Artagnan, what is the matter with you, and what has happened to you personally? You have a sad air."
"Alas," said d'Artagnan, "it is because I am the most unfortunate."
"Presently," said d'Artagnan.
"Presently! And why presently? Because you think I am drunk? d'Artagnan, remember this! My ideas are never so clear as when I have had plenty of wine. Speak, then, I am all ears."
D'Artagnan related his adventure with Mme. Bonacieux. Athos listened to him without a frown; and when he had finished, said, "Trifles, only trifles!" That was his favorite word.
"You always say TRIFLES, my dear Athos!" said d'Artagnan, "and that come very ill from you, who have never loved."
The drink-deadened eye of Athos flashed out, but only for a moment; it became as dull and vacant as before.