Christmas with the Musketeers
by Harry Hayfield
It was one of those questions that never really cross your mind until actually confronted by it, “What do you get Musketeers for Christmas?” but seeing as I was now a formally endorsed Musketeer cadet, the idea of not getting a present of all of them seemed a bit off, so although it was snowing heavily on the eve of Christmas Eve, I donned my boots and set off to see what the shops of Paris could offer.
I knew roughly what to get all of them; it was just a simple (or relatively simple) idea of actually finding it. Athos was simple, the largest piece of meat I could carry, Aramis would probably fancy a bottle of perfume (to give to one of his many lady friends) or failing that a personalised copy of the Bible, Captain Treville would like something to ease his knees and as for Porthos, well, the largest thing in existence!
The nearest shop to Musketeers Headquarters was a florist, which seemed as good a place as any to start and so I entered and explained that I wanted a number of wreaths. The shopkeeper seemed quite happy to entertain my order and about twenty minutes later I was the owner of five holly wreaths. As I was about to leave, the florist asked if this meant he could hang a sign up saying “By Appointment to the Musketeers”. I replied saying that the moment I became one, I would certainly consent to such a sign, but at the moment I would ask Treville if he could and would return with the reply before the New Year.
I was just about to put the wreaths into my bag when Porthos woahed his horse outside the shop and noted my wreaths. He jumped down and asked what I was doing with five of them. The real reason was to give him, Aramis, Athos and Captain Treville one to hang on their doors as a surprise, so had to lie my head off when I said that I had bought them to wear during Christmas as a remembrance of the birth of the Lord. Porthos gave me one of his “these Gascons and their ideas” looks, before shrugging his shoulders and entering the shop as I gave an almighty sigh of relief before placing the wreaths in my bag and then heading to the next shop.
To say that I got a nasty surprise as I entered the perfumer’s would be an understatement as I walked straight into Aramis who was walking out and asked me what I was doing. I hummed and hawed for a moment which Aramis chuckled at, “don’t tell me” he said, “you’ve been following my advice and have found a lady friend that you wish to impress” and saying so, gave me a pat on the back and headed off presumably to another amorous conquest despite the weather.
The perfumer was very helpful (especially as Aramis was his best customer) and was soon busy preparing a special perfume he named “Eau d’Aramis” made up of the scents that Aramis bought the most. He told me that he would deliver it personally on Christmas Eve. I thanked him for his efforts and paid him.
Getting something to ease the pain in Captain Treville’s knees was not as easy as I had thought. The local apocerthery suggested a mixture that was a combination of belladonna and hemlock, but I decided on something just a little bit less dangerous and in the end opted for a comfortable cushion for him to kneel on when paying homage to their Majesties, then came the real challenge of my expedition, what to buy the strongest man in France?
I toyed with several ideas as I walked around the various shops in Paris. Should I get him a carriage wheel (so he could add it to his collection of objects to torture Cardinal’s guards with), a new bucket (to douse himself with water after exercising) or perhaps maybe some planks of wood so he could propel himself in case the snow got any worse? I was so lost in thought, that I tripped over something partially buried in the snow and ended up head over heels in a farrier’s shop. The farrier (who looked like Porthos but much meaner) leaned over me and demanded to know what I was doing. I explained that I had tripped over something and went to dig out what I had tripped over. It was an anvil used for shaping horseshoes but in a very poor state of repair. I then suddenly had an idea and asked the farrier if I could buy the anvil as compensation for any damage I had caused. No sooner had I said so then his eyes lit up. I offered him fifteen Louis, which I thought was a reasonable price, and asked if he too could deliver it to me on Christmas Eve (as there was no way, I could even lift the anvil let alone carry it).
Christmas morning was a bright, crisp and cold morning and as I had done back in my hometown, I was up bright and early to see the sunrise. As it did, I took off my hat and bowed saying “I, D’Artagnan, beg you welcome, sun, on this most holy of days” and then replaced my hat and headed back inside Musketeer Headquarters and started to doll out my presents.
I knocked on Captain Treville’s door and received an “Entrez”. I entered, and bowed before my commanding officer. “What is it, D’Artagnan?” he asked, “you know that my knees ache something dreadful in this weather!”
“Then perhaps this will offer some relief!” I smiled as I presented him with his present, neatly wrapped in the best paper Paris had to offer and finished with a red bow. Treville took the present, slightly surprised and opened it.
“Mon Dieu” he gasped, “it’s a cushion. Thank you, D’Artagnan, no one has even been this kind before!”
“And a Joyeux Noel to you too, sir!” I said, as I made my way towards Aramis’s room.
It was easy to find Aramis’s room first thing in the morning. It was the only room in the entire building to smell of flowers and as the door opened, I was nearly bowled over by the smell. Aramis grabbed me by the arm and prevented me for toppling over. “Joyeux Noel” I said, trying hard not to be overwhelmed by the smell of flowers and presented my gift. Aramis unwrapped the paper, opened the bottle of fragrance and sighed contentedly.
“D’Artagnan” he said, “thank you so much. This feels like the spirit of my homeland and me. I can smell the flowers of home, the air and the trees of the place that I call home. Monsieur, allow me to doff my hat!” which he did and then he closed the door. As he did I coughed harshly and taking a handkerchief from my pocket wiped my eyes, which were stinging due to the overpowering smell.
Athos was never to be found in his room at the start of the day and today was no exception. As I arrived at the main food court, I chuckled as Athos was already demolishing his way through a roast pig. I sat down opposite him and held my present in front of me. Athos stopped eating and pushed the pig to one side. He looked with disdain at the small parcel I was holding but accepted it and unwrapped it. He looked at the contents and then at me, seeking some form of explanation. “That” I said, “is gum from the gum trees of Asia, it is said to be able to be chewed forever and a day and not lose it’s flavour”. Athos seemed a little doubtful, but broke a piece off and started to chew. The scowl on his face, changed into a beaming smile as he took the rest of the gum and thrust it into his mouth. I smiled and wished him a “Joyeux Noel” before making my way to the dungeons.
The dungeons at Musketeer Headquarters were the dankest and the darkest I knew, even the torch I was carrying only offered limited assistance in seeing, but where I was heading, light wasn’t needed. I only need to follow the sounds of grunting, puffing and swearing to find Porthos wearing just his trousers and lifting a rock. He slammed the rock to the ground and roared “Porthos the Mighty!” a statement to which I applauded.
“And that is why” I added, “I got you this, Joyeux Noel, Porthos” and unveiled the anvil from the farrier. Porthos roared his appreciation and picked it up with one hand, threw it into air, caught it with both his hands and started to squeeze it. His chest inflated and he moaned “Thank you, D’Artagnan, now witness my power” and with that he screamed with effort as the anvil gradually changed from a large, metal anvil into a rounded lump of metal. Porthos dropped the object with a loud clang and breathing hard made his chest jump, something I found personally disgusting but realised that if anyone was fool enough to challenge Porthos to a test of strength, anything I could do to help Porthos would be appreciated.
I arrived back at my room, my heart full of joy at the reactions my gifts had had and remembering that it was not the receipt of gifts that embodied the spirit of Christmas it was the giving, so was completely amazed when I opened the door to find Captain Treville, Athos, Aramis and Porthos (thankfully now fully clothed) waiting for me.
“Are we to ride?” I asked, thinking that we had either been summoned to attend Their Majesties or to prevent the Cardinal from enslaving the people of Paris.
The Captain chuckled and from behind his back, he presented me with a small box and wished me a “Joyeux Noel”. I opened the box carefully and was amazed to find a light blue feather inside. I picked it out and immediately recognised it as coming from a peacock. I looked at my friends and the Captain in amazement, and then quite forgetting myself hugged them all and thanked them for their gift.
“Not in the slightest” said Athos, “after all that gum was so good I’m going to leave it on my bedpost overnight!” a statement the other Musketeers frowned at “besides, what is our motto?” and with that they drew their swords and shouted “All for one”. I drew my sword in response and clinked it against their and completed it with a “and one for all!”.
ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE