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D’Artagnan’s letter

Henry Bedford-Jones
M. Bedford-Jones

244 pages
1931 - Canada
Roman

Intérêt: 0

 

Contrairement aux autres romans de H. Bedford-Jones (D'Artagnan et The King's passport) et à ce que pourrait faire croire le titre, ce livre ne met nullement en scène les mousquetaires. L'histoire se passe au XXème siècle et raconte les aventures de jeunes Américains héritiers d'une petite île sauvage au large de la Bretagne. Le vieux château de leurs ancêtres, truffé de passages secrets et de souterrains, est censé cacher le trésor familial, enterré avant la Révolution. Avant de le trouver, il leur faudra affronter d'affreux cousins, avides eux aussi de richesses, et sans scrupules.

Et d'Artagnan? Le célèbre mousquetaire ne joue strictement aucun rôle dans le récit. Simplement, les indications pour trouver le trésor ont jadis été écrites au dos d'un certificat de démobilisation accordé à l'ancêtre français des héros, qui servait dans le régiment de d'Artagnan, et signé par ce dernier. C'est ce certificat, qualifié de "lettre" et acheté aux enchères à Drouot au début du récit, qui donne son nom au roman.

Détail intéressant: ce document semble exister réellement, puisqu'il est reproduit en fac-similé au début du volume. Il s'agit là, en fait, d'une technique habituelle de Bedford-Jones, qui aime partir d'un élément réel pour imaginer ses récits: un véritable laissez-passer pour The King's passport; un fragment d'article de Dumas pour D'Artagnan.

Mais D'Artagnan's letter se révèle doublement décevant: par l'absence de véritable lien avec l'oeuvre de Dumas d'une part, et par le manque d'originalité du récit, d'autre part.

Extrait du chapitre 1 A letter from d'Artagnan is always worth having

Then Quaintance forgot it all, as the bids droned on and he saw his objective about to come up next. This was a large sheaf of papers bound about with twine-a collection of autographs owned by the defunct family, autographs of minor celebrities, to be sold as a lot. To Quaintance it meant a good deal, however. Did it not contain a document written and signed by d'Artagnan?

At a tap on the arm, Quaintance turned and shook hands warmly with the venerable Paillot, whose old bookshop on the Quai des Augustins was one of his favorite haunts. Paillot fixed him with his bleary eye and chuckled.

"You, my friend? Do not tell me that you have swallowed the bait. Look round-do you observe Cretin here, or M. Jupel, or that estimable Frontin? Not at all."

"I observe you, though," and Quaintance laughed. "Are you after the d'Artagnan document?"

"Bah! Not I," said the dealer, with a grimace. "A fraud! I have examined it, me! It is dated 1676-three years after the death of the great d'Artagnan!"

"There was more than one d'Artagnan," said Quaintance, as the hammer fell and the sheaf of documents was brought forward by a commissaire.

"True; also there was more than one Bonaparte," and the old dealer chuckled. Quaintance turned quickly to him.

"Come, mon ami! Fraud or not, I want the d'Artagnan document! The others in the lot are of no importance to me. Must I bid against you or not?"

"Of a certainty," and Paillot nodded. "Look you! In the lot is a letter dated 1835, from the actor Lepeintre to the more eminent artist Sarthé, regretting that he could not make the other a loan. Later, the one starved to death in an attic in Paris, and the other drowned himself in the Seine. That is why I am here."

"Good!" broke in Quaintance hastily. "Leave the bidding to me. Let me buy the lot, keep the d'Artagnan letter, and you can have the rest for nothing. Agreed?"

Paillot shrugged his lean shoulders. "But yes!" he exclaimed, his bleary eyes greedy at the thought of the profitable deal. The expert was just droning out his description of the lot.

"-including a document in the writing of M. d'Artagnan, not guaranteed genuine, but known to have been in the possession of this family since the First Republic. Ten francs."

"Ten francs!" repeated Maître Gabriel. "Pressez, messieurs-fifteen?"

"A hundred," said an eager voice, choked with excitement. Quaintance glanced around and found everyone staring at the dark, vulpine young man in the front row.

"A thousand," said Quaintance, catching the eye of Gabriel. The latter stared at him.

"A thousand, M. Quaintance?"

The American nodded. With an impetuous, angered start, the young man turned, his eyes blazing to see who had lifted his bid so insanely. The commissaire spoke to him quickly.

"At the side, m'sieu, against you!"

"Two thousand!" said the young man. There was a gasp from the crowd. The bidder stared at Quaintance triumphantly, and the look stung.

"Ten thousand," said Quaintance calmly.

There was a chorus of excited voices. "Mon Dieu!" sighed Paillot. "Name of a little black dog! This is incredible!" Every face turned to Quaintance.

"American!" said some one. But Quaintance, smiling slightly now, was regarding his opponent intently. The young man, his face deeply flushed, sprang to his feet, heedless of the commissaire.

"But this-this is madness!" he cried out furiously. "It is crooked work!"

The ivory hammer fell.


 

 

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