The nine musketeers*
in Fancy free
Methuen & Co - 1901 - Royaume-Uni
Humour - Nouvelle
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
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
cinéma au Palais-Cardinal qui décrit les
réactions des personnages du roman à la sortie du film Les
trois mousquetaires - D’Artagnan de Martin
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.
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"They are each worth sixteen English shillings," said
"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
"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
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
"Not Hamilton's?" asked Milady, her eyes flashing as much
with indignation as natural
"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
"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
"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
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!"
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
"Spirit of the old king!" cried Aramis, as the unfortunate
gentleman who impersonated him fell pierced through the
"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
"Where is Porthos?" he inquired.
Aramis stamped furiously and pointed to the bar.
Porthos was drinking bottled beer at the expense of the
"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
"Had Monsieur Tree offered me anything to drink- -" said
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
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
"The ‘Garrick,’ " answered the young Gascon, his eyes
Porthos laughed joyously. "This beer of England is good,"