Sommaire  Tous les livres BD Expositions Musique Objets des mythes
Votre pastiche

The nine musketeers*
in Fancy free

Eden Phillpotts

7 pages
Methuen & Co - 1901 - Royaume-Uni
Humour - Nouvelle

Intérêt: **


Cette nouvelle reproduite ici intégralement est due à la plume de l’écrivain britannique Eden Phillpotts (1862-1960). Elle est incluse dans son recueil Fancy free. Auteur de très nombreux romans et pièces de théâtre, Phillpotts livre avec The nine musketeers une très amusante fantaisie. Il imagine que les quatre mousquetaires ont obtenu « une permission de sortie » du séjour des morts et sont venus passer quelques jours de vacances à Londres à l’époque de l’écriture de la nouvelle, soit vers 1900.

Attablés dans un restaurant, ils découvrent à la lecture des journaux que deux théâtres se sont appropriés leurs personnages en jouant deux versions scéniques des Trois mousquetaires. Cette information les met en rage: les quatre hommes ne supportent pas cette usurpation d’identité et ils décident de châtier les acteurs et plus encore les auteurs des deux pièces.

Ces pièces et ces auteurs sont clairement identifiés dans le texte. Il s’agit de The musketeers par Sydney Grundy avec Beerbohm Tree dans le rôle de d’Artagnan qui se jouait au théâtre Her Majesty’s Theatre et de The three muketeers de Henry Hamilton au Garrick. Hamilton et Grundy étaient effectivement les auteurs de versions théâtrales des Mousquetaires écrites respectivement en 1898 et 1899. Quant à Beerbohm Tree, il était à la fois un acteur célèbre et le propriétaire/directeur du Her Majesty’s Theatre. On constate à cette occasion que la popularité du roman de Dumas était encore telle en Angleterre cinquante-cinq ans après sa parution que deux des théâtres londoniens les plus prestigieux pouvaient en proposer des versions concurrentes au même moment.

La nouvelle raconte donc la descente des quatre mousquetaires de Dumas au Her Majesty’s Theatre. Détail intéressant: leurs différences d’opinion sur ce qu’il convient de faire. Tous veulent châtier les coupables (« Nous le devons au Maître », c’est-à-dire à Dumas, répète en boucle d’Artagnan) et ce dernier et Aramis veulent tuer tout le monde. Beaucoup plus mesuré, Athos veut éviter une effusion de sang, considérant que ces gens ne savent pas ce qu’ils font. Quant à Porthos, il finit par s’installer au bar pour boire des bières avec l’acteur qui joue son personnage…

Un petit régal, donc. Dans un registre similaire, on peut lire Soirée cinéma au Palais-Cardinal qui décrit les réactions des personnages du roman à la sortie du film Les trois mousquetaires - D’Artagnan de Martin Bourboulon.

Une interrogation finale: le titre de cette nouvelle, Neuf mousquetaires. On conçoit bien qu’il y a huit mousquetaires dans le récit: les quatre de Dumas et les quatre du Her Majesty’s Theatre. L’identité du neuvième mousquetaire reste mystérieuse…
Merci à Mihai-Bogdan Ciuca de m’avoir signalé cette nouvelle.

Texte intégral

Two draped figures stood at the entrance of the Criterion Restaurant, and the electric light played upon the huge feathers in their hats, glittered on their trappings, and touched their gilt spurs. One was an enormous man, nearly a foot taller than those about him; the other, though of medium height, appeared to be made of Damascus steel.

" ’Tis the hour, D'Artagnan," said Porthos, as a church clock struck six.

"And the men!" answered D'Artagnan; whereupon two other romantic figures leapt from a hansom-cab.



"God be with us all!"

The friends embraced, then entered the restaurant.

For a few brief hours they had secured leave of absence from the Stygian Fields, and before pushing on to Paris, had determined to visit a scene precious by reason of its manifold memories.

Porthos ordered dinner.

"Come hither, lackey," he roared in a voice that made the china jingle. "The best - the best of everything - and champagne; no baser wine.

He flung down his sword, and made his chair creak and groan.

"What thoughts of Milady and dear Lord Winter rise up in memory!" mused Athos.

"Of Buckingham and the Court," said D'Artagnan.

Aramis read the evening paper.

Suddenly he became violently agitated and transported with feverish excitement.

"Behold!" he cried, "the mummers have us! the mummers have us! At the playhouse named 'Her Majesty's' The Musketeers fret their hour nightly to crowded houses!"

D'Artagnan frowned, and sought the face of Athos; Porthos looked furious, and twirled his huge moustaches; Athos lifted his eyebrows, and the habitual melancholy of his noble and patrician face became much increased.

"What say you to this, friend Athos?" inquired D’Artagnan.

Without a word Athos took the Globe from the hand of Aramis, and studied it.

"One Beerbohm Tree essays your part, dear D'Artagnan; but be calm, be calm! He may mean well."

D'Artagnan drank a bumper of champagne, but his hand trembled, and a terrible light gleamed in his eyes.

"And we - we are all in the play," continued Athos. He started, and grew pale. "And Milady also," he hissed.

"And Richelieu?" inquired Porthos.

"They are all there."

Porthos shut his teeth like a rat-trap.

"It will be like old times," he said.

Aramis answered nothing; he merely drew his blade and made it glitter thrice through the air, then put it up again.

The diners were much surprised, and the waiters also showed uneasiness.

"I perceive the play is alleged to be by one Sydney Grundy," observed Athos, his melancholy increasing.

"Bon Dieu!" observed D’Artagnan.

"Bon Dumas!" said Aramis.

"Speak, Athos," continued D'Artagnan; "deliver your opinion, and we four will execute it in the face of this city. One thing I am determined upon. This profanation must cease. We owe it to the Master."

"Dumas would certainly will it so," declared Porthos. "His mighty shade must not be troubled by these puppets. I have my muscles still, Athos has his brains, Aramis his priestly cunning, D'Artagnan his matchless blade."

"This passes belief!" cried Aramis, suddenly shaking the Globe aloft. He started to his feet, and his friends, moved by that close, mysterious sympathy which at all times united them, likewise leapt from their chairs.

"What now?" cried D'Artagnan, his dark eyes gleaming with Gascon fire.

"Another travesty! Another Three Musketeers - this time at a house of entertainment named the 'Garrick,' and executed by one Hamilton!"

"Sdeath, this passes belief!" murmured Athos.

A tear stood in his eye, but he dashed it away, gripped his companions by the hand, and put one foot on the table. The others instantly followed his example.

"For auld lang syne!" cried Porthos, and, raising his bull-like voice, he made the electric-light fittings shake in the roof.

"So be it; Athos is right," said Aramis.

"He is always right," declared D'Artagnan.

"His word shall be obeyed to the last letter, by--!" swore Porthos.

"I have not spoken yet, however," said Athos.

A roar of laughter greeted this sally, then the friends resumed their business and their meal.

"Briefly, in a little affair of this kind, expedition is the main factor," declared Athos. "We are, of course, agreed," he continued, "that these exhibitions must cease?"

"Agreed!" they shouted like one musketeer.

"Then the only question left is that of the penalty."

"Let them die; it is the reward of sacrilege!" said Aramis coldly.

"Nay, they mean no evil; they probably know not what they do," said Athos. "These
poor knaves must live."

"And I say they must die!" repeated Aramis.

The eyes of Aramis and Athos met, and both turned deathly pale.

"A quarrel?" asked Athos, with the delicate intonation of a royal prince.

Porthos and D'Artagnan waited in breathless suspense for the answer of Aramis.

"Heaven forbid!" cried the musketeer. " ’Twill be time for that when we are back again on the shores of Styx. Duty first, pleasure afterwards."

Athos bowed, and all four friends caressed each other warmly.

Porthos ordered more wine.

"To your plan," cried D'Artagnan. "The night wanes and the playhouse opens its doors ere long."

"We must be there at the rise of the curtain. We will disguise ourselves."

"Nay, no disguise. There is nothing to fear."

"So be it, then. We will take our place among the spectators, and at a given signal from D'Artagnan we will force a way to the stage. Then each man must draw and put a quarrel on the mummer who is impersonating him. If they do not instantly yield, their fate be upon their own shoulders.

"I pray they may draw their weapons," said Porthos.

"Pshaw! What glory comes to us from spitting of players? ’Tis as easy as toasting cheese," said D’Artagnan.

They had now dined well, and Porthos called aloud for the reckoning.

"Hasten, lackey!" he cried, "or I shall lace thy black, frowsy jacket in a new pattern."

The musketeers buckled on their swords, and D'Artagnan spoke to Athos.

"Our adventure, then, is bloodless - a mere farce, nothing like the good old times?"

Athos shook his head.

"Alas! I would it were so. But blood must flow. It is ever our fate to spill it. Two gentlemen must die to - night; we owe it to the Master."

"Their names?" cried Aramis.

"Messieurs Sydney Grundy and Henry Hamilton."

A look of terrible meaning flashed from eye to eye, and the avengers clasped each other's hands.

Then Porthos flung two pistoles upon the table, and arm-in-arm the musketeers clanged and clashed out of the Criterion, to the relief of everybody present.

Their lackeys awaited them.

Mousqueton and Grimaud were directed to go into the pit of the theatre and join their masters on the stage at the critical moment; while Planchet and Bazin were to have the horses in readiness at the stage-door.

"And now?" said Porthos.

"Pardieu! To Her Majesty's Theatre!" answered D'Artagnan.

A flash of lightning flickered over Panton Street as the immortal four moved stealthily in that direction.


Among the first to enter Her Majesty's Theatre on the night with which we are concerned were Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan. Porthos flung three pistoles into the box-office, and demanded four seats near the stage, while the clerk in charge regarded the coins with some suspicion.

"They are each worth sixteen English shillings," said D'Artagnan shortly.

"Then I shall want another of them if you require a box," replied the young man.

Porthos produced the money, and soon the four friends were comfortably seated in a stage-box.

"It is well," said Athos. "From this place we may make our voices heard among the players, and work our will without shedding of blood; at least, it may be permitted to hope so."

"Let me see," answered Porthos; "what lies before us?"

" ’Tis simple. We must put a stop to the performance, and we must secure the person of Sydney Grundy. One does not wish to slay him here in a place of entertainment; but he must be captured and removed," declared Aramis. "We may safely leave that task to D'Artagnan."

With increasing interest the warriors regarded the incoming audience, and marvelled at the changes Time had wrought upon human costume.

"Pardieu! Look at the men!" said Porthos. They are all attired even as the lackeys at the eating-house.

"The English will never learn how to dress," declared Aramis.

Then the band struck up, and the eyes of D'Artagnan, ranging through the theatre, met those of Mousqueton and Grimaud. He made a secret sign, which they showed was understood by an intelligent gleam in their eyes. Meantime Aramis and Athos carefully studied the programme. Presently the drama began, and from the very commencement roar upon roar of deep, lion-like sound thundered and echoed in the stage-box of the Musketeers. It was Porthos regarding his double on the stage.

"It is too droll - these English. Behold the worthy fellow! Look, dear friends, at the English Porthos! Inspect his thews and sinews. Sang bleu! I could eat him like a French roll!"

Loud and indignant cries resounded through the theatre, and Mr. Tree, taking the centre of the stage much against his will, gazed inquiringly at the box from which rolled the huge voice of Porthos and drowned those of the performers. The actor-manager's eyes met those of D'Artagnan, and he turned pale.

"They are there, the three Musketeers - the others!" he whispered to Milady in a voice swept by the deepest emotion.

"Not Hamilton's?" asked Milady, her eyes flashing as much with indignation as natural
feminine curiosity.

"No, no, Dumas’. And D'Artagnan is also there."

"That is different," she said, and manifested an inclination to retire to her dressing-room. Order was restored, however, and the play progressed. With characteristic bulldog British courage the gentlemen of the stage struggled through their parts, drew their swords, and fretted their hour, each with an uneasy eye upon the stage-box.

But the Musketeers were not patient men, and a moment came, about halfway through the second act, when their eyes sought each other's faces, and Aramis, without being asked to do so, rose and gathered the four swords, which were placed in a corner of the box.

Athos could not conceal the nobility of his character even at this moment.

"Consider," he said, "that these good people may have wives and children dependent upon their efforts. They are probably doing their best."

"And we must do ours," said D'Artagnan sternly. "We owe it to the Master."

"We are three to one, Athos," said Porthos. "Aramis, D'Artagnan, and I are all of one mind. Regard your double upon the boards. If he cannot spur you to action, nothing can. For my part, I shall not draw my sword against any man here, because it would be murder, but my namesake on the stage must be whipped - that is, if he shows fight."

"I shall try a pass with this Beerbohm Tree," said D'Artagnan, "for he numbers twelve good inches more than I do, and would appear to have some slight familiarity with his weapon."

"And I shall prick this Aramis of Sydney Grundy also," declared the Aramis of Dumas.

"Are you ready?"

"We are ready."

"Then follow me."

In a moment D'Artagnan had bounded on to the stage. After him came Athos and Aramis, while a moment later, with a sound like thunder, the enormous bulk of Porthos followed. As ill-luck would have it, the giant miscalculated his distance, and fell into the footlights. The shock extinguished half of them, and frightened the orchestra to such an extent that every member of it, with the exception of the conductor, dived like a rabbit and became invisible.

"Your swords, gentlemen," said D'Artagnan, advancing with a polite bow. "You will hardly refuse. I see by your looks that you know us?

"Make way! make way!" shouted Mousqueton and Grimaud from the pit. Giving and receiving hard blows, they finally reached their masters' sides.

Mr. Beerbohm Tree was in a tight place, according to the modern phrase. The house hung upon his words, and roared with savage delight at the unexpected spectacle. Mr. Tree, we repeat, was in a fix. Should he fight or call for base aid? Pride indicated the first course, prudence prompted the latter.

He made a sign to the pretended musketeers behind him.

But Aramis and D'Artagnan observed it, and leapt forward with an ancient expletive
on their lips.

"Treachery! treachery! Then guard yourselves, gentlemen!" they cried.

There was a deathlike stillness. Only one sweet female voice cut the heated air like a knife. It was Milady calling for the police.

Whistles sounded and the hurried tramp of firemen and mechanics was heard behind the scenes.

"A breath of the good past times," panted D'Artagnan, pinning Mr. Tree to the left
upper entrance.

"Spirit of the old king!" cried Aramis, as the unfortunate gentleman who impersonated him fell pierced through the left lung.

"May we meet in heaven, my unhappy friend," ejaculated Athos, while the actor who played his part expired in his arms from twenty mortal thrusts.

"But where is Monsieur Sydney Grundy?" cried D'Artagnan.

"He has escaped!" hissed Aramis. "A vehicle has just hurried from the stage-door."

"We must follow to the world's end if need be."

Athos wiped his blade. There were tears upon it as well as blood.

"Where is Porthos?" he inquired.

Aramis stamped furiously and pointed to the bar.

Porthos was drinking bottled beer at the expense of the Haymarket Porthos.

"Traitor!" gasped Aramis.

"Not so!" said Athos sadly; "he teaches us a lesson. Had we done likewise these good men would not lie where they do.

"Had Monsieur Tree offered me anything to drink- -" said D'Artagnan thoughtfully.

But at the same moment Grimaud pulled at the sleeve of Athos, and said a few hasty words in the deaf and dumb alphabet of the fingers.

"We are surrounded," said Athos quietly. "Fifty policemen stand between us and safety."

"Porthos!" shouted all the others.

"Monsieur Porthos!" cried Mousqueton and Grimaud.

The giant drained a third bottle, then, shaking hands with his impersonator, returned to the stage.

"Forward!" cried D'Artagnan.

An illumination, in some respects resembling summer lightning, flashed along their blades, and police constables fell before them, mowed down like the grass of the field.

A groan of despair rattled in the dying throats of 29 B, 44 D, 83 X, 221 Z, and 339 T.

Porthos had spitted them like a row of larks on a skewer!

The stage-door keeper was the last to fall. Behind them the roar of a maddened audience, deprived of half its money's worth, sounded like the cry of fiends.

They gained the air at last. Their horses awaited them, each with a lackey at the stirrup.

"We have done our duty," said Aramis.

"Only half of it," answered D'Artagnan.

"What next?" inquired Athos. "No more blood, my dear D'Artagnan."

"The ‘Garrick,’ " answered the young Gascon, his eyes aflame.

Porthos laughed joyously. "This beer of England is good," he said.




 Sommaire  Tous les livres BD Expositions Musique Objets des mythes
Votre pastiche