"Athos, you make me tremble!" cried d'Artagnan.
"I mentioned your diamond then to my adversary, who had likewise remarked it. What the devil, my dear, do you think you can wear a star from heaven on your finger, and nobody observe it? Impossible!"
"Go on, go on, my dear fellow!" said d'Artagnan; "for upon my honor, you will kill me with your indifference."
"We divided, then, this diamond into ten parts of a hundred pistoles each."
"You are laughing at me, and want to try me!" said d'Artagnan, whom anger began to take by the hair, as Minerva takes Achilles, in the ILIAD.
"No, I do not jest, MORDIEU! I should like to have seen you in my place! I had been fifteen days without seeing a human face, and had been left to brutalize myself in the company of bottles."
"That was no reason for staking my diamond!" replied d'Artagnan, closing his hand with a nervous spasm.
"Hear the end. Ten parts of a hundred pistoles each, in ten throws, without revenge; in thirteen throws I had lost all — in thirteen throws. The number thirteen was always fatal to me; it was on the thirteenth of July that — "
"VENTREBLEU!" cried d'Artagnan, rising from the table, the story of the present day making him forget that of the preceding one.
"Patience!" said Athos; "I had a plan. The Englishman was an original; I had seen him conversing that morning with Grimaud, and Grimaud had told me that he had made him proposals to enter into his service. I staked Grimaud, the silent Grimaud, divided into ten portions."
"Well, what next?" said d'Artagnan, laughing in spite of himself.
"Grimaud himself, understand; and with the ten parts of Grimaud, which are not worth a ducatoon, I regained the diamond. Tell me, now, if persistence is not a virtue?"
"My faith! But this is droll," cried d'Artagnan, consoled, and holding his sides with laughter.
"You may guess, finding the luck turned, that I again staked the diamond."
"The devil!" said d'Artagnan, becoming angry again.
"I won back your harness, then your horse, then my harness, then my horse, and then I lost again. In brief, I regained your harness and then mine. That's where we are. That was a superb throw, so I left off there."
D'Artagnan breathed as if the whole hostelry had been removed from his breast.
"Then the diamond is safe?" said he, timidly.
"Intact, my dear friend; besides the harness of your Bucephalus and mine."
"But what is the use of harnesses without horses?"
"I have an idea about them."
"Athos, you make me shudder."
"Listen to me. You have not played for a long time, d'Artagnan."
"And I have no inclination to play."
"Swear to nothing. You have not played for a long time, I said; you ought, then, to have a good hand."
"Well, what then?"
"Well; the Englishman and his companion are still here. I remarked that he regretted the horse furniture very much. You appear to think much of your horse. In your place I would stake the furniture against the horse."
"But he will not wish for only one harness."
"Stake both, PARDIEU! I am not selfish, as you are."
"You would do so?" said d'Artagnan, undecided, so strongly did the confidence of Athos begin to prevail, in spite of himself.
"On my honor, in one single throw."
"But having lost the horses, I am particularly anxious to preserve the harnesses."
"Stake your diamond, then."
"This? That's another matter. Never, never!"
"The devil!" said Athos. "I would propose to you to stake Planchet, but as that has already been done, the Englishman would not, perhaps, be willing."
"Decidedly, my dear Athos," said d'Artagnan, "I should like better not to risk anything."
"That's a pity," said Athos, coolly. "The Englishman is overflowing with pistoles. Good Lord, try one throw! One throw is soon made!"
"And if I lose?"
"You will win."
"But if I lose?"
"Well, you will surrender the harnesses."
"Have with you for one throw!" said d'Artagnan.
Athos went in quest of the Englishman, whom he found in the stable, examining the harnesses with a greedy eye. The opportunity was good. He proposed the conditions — the two harnesses, either against one horse or a hundred pistoles. The Englishman calculated fast; the two harnesses were worth three hundred pistoles. He consented.
D'Artagnan threw the dice with a trembling hand, and turned up the number three; his paleness terrified Athos, who, however, consented himself with saying, "That's a sad throw, comrade; you will have the horses fully equipped, monsieur."
The Englishman, quite triumphant, did not even give himself the trouble to shake the dice. He threw them on the table without looking at them, so sure was he of victory; d'Artagnan turned aside to conceal his ill humor.
"Hold, hold, hold!" said Athos, wit his quiet tone; "that throw of the dice is extraordinary. I have not seen such a one four times in my life. Two aces!"
The Englishman looked, and was seized with astonishment. d'Artagnan looked, and was seized with pleasure.
"Yes," continued Athos, "four times only; once at the house of Monsieur Crequy; another time at my own house in the country, in my chateau at — when I had a chateau; a third time at Monsieur de Treville's where it surprised us all; and the fourth time at a cabaret, where it fell to my lot, and where I lost a hundred louis and a supper on it."
"Then Monsieur takes his horse back again," said the Englishman.
"Certainly," said d'Artagnan.
"Then there is no revenge?"
"Our conditions said, 'No revenge,' you will please to recollect."
"That is true; the horse shall be restored to your lackey, monsieur."
"A moment," said Athos; "with your permission, monsieur, I wish to speak a word with my friend."
Athos drew d'Artagnan aside.
"Well, Tempter, what more do you want with me?" said d'Artagnan. "You want me to throw again, do you not?"
"No, I would wish you to reflect."
"You mean to take your horse?"
"You are wrong, then. I would take the hundred pistoles. You know you have staked the harnesses against the horse or a hundred pistoles, at your choice."