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11. IN WHICH THE PLOT THICKENS

His visit to M. de Treville being paid, the pensive d'Artagnan
took the longest way homeward.

On what was d'Artagnan thinking, that he strayed thus from his
path, gazing at the stars of heaven, and sometimes sighing,
sometimes smiling?

He was thinking of Mme. Bonacieux. For an apprentice Musketeer
the young woman was almost an ideal of love. Pretty, mysterious,
initiated in almost all the secrets of the court, which reflected
such a charming gravity over her pleasing features, it might be
surmised that she was not wholly unmoved; and this is an
irresistible charm to novices in love. Moreover, d'Artagnan had
delivered her from the hands of the demons who wished to search
and ill treat her; and this important service had established
between them one of those sentiments of gratitude which so easily
assume a more tender character.

D'Artagnan already fancied himself, so rapid is the flight of our
dreams upon the wings of imagination, accosted by a messenger
from the young woman, who brought him some billet appointing a
meeting, a gold chain, or a diamond. We have observed that young
cavaliers received presents from their king without shame. Let
us add that in these times of lax morality they had no more
delicacy with respect to the mistresses; and that the latter
almost always left them valuable and durable remembrances, as if
they essayed to conquer the fragility of their sentiments by the
solidity of their gifts.

Without a blush, men made their way in the world by the means of
women blushing. Such as were only beautiful gave their beauty,
whence, without doubt, comes the proverb, "The most beautiful
girl in the world can only give what she has." Such as were rich
gave in addition a part of their money; and a vast number of
heroes of that gallant period may be cited who would neither have
won their spurs in the first place, nor their battles afterward,
without the purse, more or less furnished, which their mistress
fastened to the saddle bow.

D'Artagnan owned nothing. Provincial diffidence, that slight
varnish, the ephemeral flower, that down of the peach, had
evaporated to the winds through the little orthodox counsels
which the three Musketeers gave their friend. D'Artagnan,
following the strange custom of the times, considered himself at
Paris as on a campaign, neither more nor less than if he had been
in Flanders--Spain yonder, woman here. In each there was an
enemy to contend with, and contributions to be levied.

But, we must say, at the present moment d'Artagnan was ruled by
a feeling much more noble and disinterested. The mercer had
said that he was rich; the young man might easily guess that
with so weak a man as M. Bonacieux; and interest was almost
foreign to this commencement of love, which had been the
consequence of it. We say ALMOST, for the idea that a young,
handsome, kind, and witty woman is at the same time rich takes
nothing from the beginning of love, but on the contrary
strengthens it.

There are in affluence a crowd of aristocratic cares and caprices
which are highly becoming to beauty. A fine and white stocking,
a silken robe, a lace kerchief, a pretty slipper on the foot, a
tasty ribbon on the head do not make an ugly woman pretty, but
they make a pretty woman beautiful, without reckoning the hands,
which gain by all this; the hands, among women particularly, to
be beautiful must be idle.

Then d'Artagnan, as the reader, from whom we have not concealed
the state of his fortune, very well knows--d'Artagnan was not a
millionaire; he hoped to become one someday, but the time which
in his own mind he fixed upon for this happy change was still far
distant. In the meanwhile, how disheartening to see the woman
one loves long for those thousands of nothings which constitute a
woman's happiness, and be unable to give her those thousands of
nothings. At least, when the woman is rich and the lover is not,
that which he cannot offer she offers to herself; and although it
is generally with her husband's money that she procures herself
this indulgence, the gratitude for it seldom reverts to him.

Then d'Artagnan, disposed to become the most tender of lovers,
was at the same time a very devoted friend, In the midst of his
amorous projects for the mercer's wife, he did not forget his
friends. The pretty Mme. Bonacieux was just the woman to walk
with in the Plain St. Denis or in the fair of St. Germain, in
company with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, to whom d'Artagnan had
often remarked this. Then one could enjoy charming little
dinners, where one touches on one side the hand of a friend, and
on the other the foot of a mistress. Besides, on pressing
occasions, in extreme difficulties, d'Artagnan would become the
preserver of his friends.

And M. Bonacieux? whom d'Artagnan had pushed into the hands of
the officers, denying him aloud although he had promised in a
whisper to save him. We are compelled to admit to our readers
that d'Artagnan thought nothing about him in any way; or that if
he did think of him, it was only to say to himself that he was
very well where he was, wherever it might be. Love is the most
selfish of all the passions.

Let our readers reassure themselves. IF d'Artagnan forgets his
host, or appears to forget him, under the pretense of not knowing
where he has been carried, we will not forget him, and we know
where he is. But for the moment, let us do as did the amorous
Gascon; we will see after the worthy mercer later.

D'Artagnan, reflecting on his future amours, addressing himself
to the beautiful night, and smiling at the stars, ascended the
Rue Cherish-Midi, or Chase-Midi, as it was then called. As he
found himself in the quarter in which Aramis lived, he took it
into his head to pay his friend a visit in order to explain the
motives which had led him to send Planchet with a request that he
would come instantly to the mousetrap. Now, if Aramis had been
at home when Planchet came to his abode, he had doubtless
hastened to the Rue des Fossoyeurs, and finding nobody there but
his other two companions perhaps, they would not be able to
conceive what all this meant. This mystery required an
explanation; at least, so d'Artagnan declared to himself.

He likewise thought this was an opportunity for talking about
pretty little Mme. Bonacieux, of whom his head, if not his heart,
was already full. We must never look for discretion in first
love. First love is accompanied by such excessive joy that
unless the joy be allowed to overflow, it will stifle you.

Paris for two hours past had been dark, and seemed a desert.
Eleven o'clock sounded from all the clocks of the Faubourg St.
Germain. It was delightful weather. D'Artagnan was passing
along a lane on the spot where the Rue d'Assas is now situated,
breathing the balmy emanations which were borne upon the wind
from the Rue de Vaugirard, and which arose from the gardens
refreshed by the dews of evening and the breeze of night. From a
distance resounded, deadened, however, by good shutters, the
songs of the tipplers, enjoying themselves in the cabarets
scattered along the plain. Arrived at the end of the lane,
d'Artagnan turned to the left. The house in which Aramis dwelt
was situated between the Rue Cassette and the Rue Servandoni.

D'Artagnan had just passed the Rue Cassette, and already
perceived the door of his friend's house, shaded by a mass of
sycamores and clematis which formed a vast arch opposite the
front of it, when he perceived something like a shadow issuing
from the Rue Servandoni. This something was enveloped in a
cloak, and d'Artagnan at first believed it was a man; but by the
smallness of the form, the hesitation of the walk, and the
indecision of the step, he soon discovered that it was a woman.
Further, this woman, as if not certain of the house she was
seeking, lifted up her eyes to look around her, stopped, went
backward, and then returned again. D'Artagnan was perplexed.

"Shall I go and offer her my services?" thought he. "By her step
she must be young; perhaps she is pretty. Oh, yes! But a woman
who wanders in the streets at this hour only ventures out to meet
her lover. If I should disturb a rendezvous, that would not be
the best means of commencing an acquaintance."

Meantime the young woman continued to advance, counting the
houses and windows. This was neither long nor difficult. There
were but three hotels in this part of the street; and only two
windows looking toward the road, one of which was in a pavilion
parallel to that which Aramis occupied, the other belonging to
Aramis himself.

"PARIDIEU!" said d'Artagnan to himself, to whose mind the niece
of the theologian reverted, "PARDIEU, it would be droll if this
belated dove should be in search of our friend's house. But on
my soul, it looks so. Ah, my dear Aramis, this time I shall find
you out." And d'Artagnan, making himself as small as he could,
concealed himself in the darkest side of the street near a stone
bench placed at the back of a niche.

The young woman continued to advance; and in addition to the
lightness of her step, which had betrayed her, she emitted a
little cough which denoted a sweet voice. D'Artagnan believed
this cough to be a signal.

Nevertheless, whether the cough had been answered by a similar
signal which had fixed the irresolution of the nocturnal seeker,
or whether without this aid she saw that she had arrived at the
end of her journey, she resolutely drew near to Aramis's shutter,
and tapped, at three equal intervals, with her bent finger.

"This is all very fine, dear Aramis," murmured d'Artagnan.

"Ah, Monsieur Hypocrite, I understand how you study theology."

The three blows were scarcely struck, when the inside blind was
opened and a light appeared through the panes of the outside
shutter.

"Ah, ah!" said the listener, "not through doors, but through
windows! Ah, this visit was expected. We shall see the windows
open, and the lady enter by escalade. Very pretty!"

But to the great astonishment of d'Artagnan, the shutter remained
closed. Still more, the light which had shone for an instant
disappeared, and all was again in obscurity.

D'Artagnan thought this could not last long, and continued to
look with all his eyes and listen with all his ears.

He was right; at the end of some seconds two sharp taps were
heard inside. The young woman in the street replied by a single
tap, and the shutter was opened a little way.

It may be judged whether d'Artagnan looked or listened with
avidity. Unfortunately the light had been removed into another
chamber; but the eyes of the young man were accustomed to the
night. Besides, the eyes of the Gascons have, as it is asserted,
like those of cats, the faculty of seeing in the dark.

D'Artagnan then saw that the young woman took from her pocket a
white object, which she unfolded quickly, and which took the form
of a handkerchief. She made her interlocutor observe the corner
of this unfolded object.

This immediately recalled to d'Artagnan's mind the handkerchief
which he had found at the feet of Mme. Bonacieux, which had
reminded him of that which he had dragged from under the feet of
Aramis.

"What the devil could that handkerchief signify?"

Placed where he was, d'Artagnan could not perceive the face of
Aramis. We say Aramis, because the young man entertained no
doubt that it was his friend who held this dialogue from the
interior with the lady of the exterior. Curiosity prevailed over
prudence; and profiting by the preoccupation into which the sight
of the handkerchief appeared to have plunged the two personages
now on the scene, he stole from his hiding place, and quick as
lightning, but stepping with utmost caution, he ran and placed
himself close to the angle of the wall, from which his eye could
pierce the interior of Aramis's room.

Upon gaining this advantage d'Artagnan was near uttering a cry of
surprise; it was not Aramis who was conversing with the nocturnal
visitor, it was a woman! D'Artagnan, however, could only see
enough to recognize the form of her vestments, not enough to
distinguish her features.

At the same instant the woman inside drew a second handkerchief
from her pocket, and exchanged it for that which had just been
shown to her. Then some words were spoken by the two women. At
length the shutter closed. The woman who was outside the window
turned round, and passed within four steps of d'Artagnan, pulling
down the hood of her mantle; but the precaution was too late,
d'Artagnan had already recognized Mme. Bonacieux.

Mme. Bonacieux! The suspicion that it was she had crossed the
mind of d'Artagnan when she drew the handkerchief from her
pocket; but what probability was there that Mme. Bonacieux, who
had sent for M. Laporte in order to be reconducted to the Louvre,
should be running about the streets of Paris at half past eleven
at night, at the risk of being abducted a second time?

This must be, then, an affair of importance; and what is the most
important affair to a woman of twenty-five! Love.

But was it on her own account, or on account of another, that she
exposed herself to such hazards? This was a question the young
man asked himself, whom the demon of jealousy already gnawed,
being in heart neither more nor less than an accepted lover.

There was a very simple means of satisfying himself whither Mme.
Bonacieux was going; that was to follow her. This method was so
simple that d'Artagnan employed it quite naturally and
instinctively.

But at the sight of the young man, who detached himself from the
wall like a statue walking from its niche, and at the noise of
the steps which she heard resound behind her, Mme. Bonacieux
uttered a little cry and fled.

D'Artagnan ran after her. It was not difficult for him to
overtake a woman embarrassed with her cloak. He came up with her
before she had traversed a third of the street. The unfortunate
woman was exhausted, not by fatigue, but by terror, and when
d'Artagnan placed his hand upon her shoulder, she sank upon one
knee, crying in a choking voice, "Kill me, if you please, you
shall know nothing!"

D'Artagnan raised her by passing his arm round her waist; but as
he felt by her weight she was on the point of fainting, he made
haste to reassure her by protestations of devotedness. These
protestations were nothing for Mme. Bonacieux, for such
protestations may be made with the worst intentions in the world;
but the voice was all Mme. Bonacieux thought she recognized the
sound of that voice; she reopened her eyes, cast a quick glance
upon the man who had terrified her so, and at once perceiving it
was d'Artagnan, she uttered a cry of joy, "Oh, it is you, it is
you! Thank God, thank God!"

"Yes, it is I," said d'Artagnan, "it is I, whom God has sent to
watch over you."

"Was it with that intention you followed me?" asked the young
woman, with a coquettish smile, whose somewhat bantering
character resumed its influence, and with whom all fear had
disappeared from the moment in which she recognized a friend in
one she had taken for an enemy.

"No," said d'Artagnan; "no, I confess it. It was chance that
threw me in your way; I saw a woman knocking at the window of one
of my friends."

"One of your friends?" interrupted Mme. Bonacieux.

"Without doubt; Aramis is one of my best friends."

"Aramis! Who is he?"

"Come, come, you won't tell me you don't know Aramis?"

"This is the first time I ever heard his name pronounced."

"It is the first time, then, that you ever went to that house?"

"Undoubtedly."

"And you did not know that it was inhabited by a young man?"

"No."

"By a Musketeer?"

"No, indeed!"

"It was not he, then, you came to seek?"

"Not the least in the world. Besides, you must have seen that
the person to whom I spoke was a woman."

"That is true; but this woman is a friend of Aramis--"

"I know nothing of that."

"--since she lodges with him."

"That does not concern me."

"But who is she?"

"Oh, that is not my secret."

"My dear Madame Bonacieux, you are charming; but at the same time
you are one of the most mysterious women."

"Do I lose by that?"

"No; you are, on the contrary, adorable."

"Give me your arm, then."

"Most willingly. And now?"

"Now escort me."

"Where?"

"Where I am going."

"But where are you going?"

"You will see, because you will leave me at the door."

"Shall I wait for you?"

"That will be useless."

"You will return alone, then?"

"Perhaps yes, perhaps no."

"But will the person who shall accompany you afterward be a man
or a woman?"

"I don't know yet."

"But I will know it!"

"How so?"

"I will wait until you come out."

"In that case, adieu."

"Why so?"

"I do not want you."

"But you have claimed--"

"The aid of a gentleman, not the watchfulness of a spy."

"The word is rather hard."

"How are they called who follow others in spite of them?"

"They are indiscreet."

"The word is too mild."

"Well, madame, I perceive I must do as you wish."

"Why did you deprive yourself of the merit of doing so at once?"

"Is there no merit in repentance?"

"And do you really repent?"

"I know nothing about it myself. But what I know is that I
promise to do all you wish if you allow me to accompany you where
you are going."

"And you will leave me then?"

"Yes."

"Without waiting for my coming out again?"

"Yes."

"Word of honor?"

"By the faith of a gentleman. Take my arm, and let us go."

D'Artagnan offered his arm to Mme. Bonacieux, who willingly took
it, half laughing, half trembling, and both gained the top of Rue
de la Harpe. Arriving there, the young woman seemed to hesitate,
as she had before done in the Rue Vaugirard. She seemed,
however, by certain signs, to recognize a door, and approaching
that door, "And now, monsieur," said she, "it is here I have
business; a thousand thanks for your honorable company, which has
saved me from all the dangers to which, alone I was exposed. But
the moment is come to keep your word; I have reached my
destination."

"And you will have nothing to fear on your return?"

"I shall have nothing to fear but robbers."

"And that is nothing?"

"What could they take from me? I have not a penny about me."

"You forget that beautiful handkerchief with the coat of arms."

"Which?"

"That which I found at your feet, and replaced in your pocket."

"Hold your tongue, imprudent man! Do you wish to destroy me?"

"You see very plainly that there is still danger for you, since a
single word makes you tremble; and you confess that if that word
were heard you would be ruined. Come, come, madame!" cried
d'Artagnan, seizing her hands, and surveying her with an ardent
glance, "come, be more generous. Confide in me. Have you not
read in my eyes that there is nothing but devotion and sympathy
in my heart?"

"Yes," replied Mme. Bonacieux; "therefore, ask my own secrets,
and I will reveal them to you; but those of others--that is quite
another thing."

"Very well," said d'Artagnan, "I shall discover them; as these
secrets may have an influence over your life, these secrets must
become mine."

"Beware of what you do!" cried the young woman, in a manner so
serious as to make d'Artagnan start in spite of himself. "Oh,
meddle in nothing which concerns me. Do not seek to assist me in
that which I am accomplishing. This I ask of you in the name of
the interest with which I inspire you, in the name of the service
you have rendered me and which I never shall forget while I have
life. Rather, place faith in what I tell you. Have no more
concern about me; I exist no longer for you, any more than if you
had never seen me."

"Must Aramis do as much as I, madame?" said d'Artagnan, deeply
piqued.

"This is the second or third time, monsieur, that you have
repeated that name, and yet I have told you that I do not know
him."

"You do not know the man at whose shutter you have just knocked?
Indeed, madame, you believe me too credulous!"

"Confess that it is for the sake of making me talk that you
invent this story and create this personage."

"I invent nothing, madame; I create nothing. I only speak that
exact truth."

"And you say that one of your friends lives in that house?"

"I say so, and I repeat it for the third time; that house is one
inhabited by my friend, and that friend is Aramis."

"All this will be cleared up at a later period," murmured the
young woman; "no, monsieur, be silent."

"If you could see my heart," said d'Artagnan, "you would there
read so much curiosity that you would pity me and so much love
that you would instantly satisfy my curiosity. We have nothing
to fear from those who love us."

"You speak very suddenly of love, monsieur," said the young
woman, shaking her head.

"That is because love has come suddenly upon me, and for the
first time; and because I am only twenty."

The young woman looked at him furtively.

"Listen; I am already upon the scent," resumed d'Artagnan.
"About three months ago I was near having a duel with Aramis
concerning a handkerchief resembling the one you showed to the
woman in his house--for a handkerchief marked in the same manner,
I am sure."

"Monsieur," said the young woman, "you weary me very much, I
assure you, with your questions."

"But you, madame, prudent as you are, think, if you were to be
arrested with that handkerchief, and that handkerchief were to be
seized, would you not be compromised?"

"In what way? The initials are only mine--C. B., Constance
Bonacieux."

"Or Camille de Bois-Tracy."

"Silence, monsieur! Once again, silence! Ah, since the dangers
I incur on my own account cannot stop you, think of those you may
yourself run!"

"Me?"

"Yes; there is peril of imprisonment, risk of life in knowing
me."

"Then I will not leave you."

"Monsieur!" said the young woman, supplicating him and clasping
her hands together, "monsieur, in the name of heaven, by the
honor of a soldier, by the courtesy of a gentleman, depart!
There, there midnight sounds! That is the hour when I am
expected."

"Madame," said the young man, bowing; "I can refuse nothing asked
of me thus. Be content; I will depart."

"But you will not follow me; you will not watch me?"

"I will return home instantly."

"Ah, I was quite sure you were a good and brave young man," said
Mme. Bonacieux, holding out her hand to him, and placing the
other upon the knocker of a little door almost hidden in the
wall.

D'Artagnan seized the hand held out to him, and kissed it
ardently.

"Ah! I wish I had never seen you!" cried d'Artagnan, with that
ingenuous roughness which women often prefer to the affectations
of politeness, because it betrays the depths of the thought and
proves that feeling prevails over reason.

"Well!" resumed Mme. Bonacieux, in a voice almost caressing, and
pressing the hand of d'Artagnan, who had not relinquished hers,
"well: I will not say as much as you do; what is lost for today
may not be lost forever. Who knows, when I shall be at liberty,
that I may not satisfy your curiosity?"

"And will you make the same promise to my love?" cried
d'Artagnan, beside himself with joy.

"Oh, as to that, I do not engage myself. That depends upon the
sentiments with which you may inspire me."

"Then today, madame--"

"Oh, today, I am no further than gratitude."

"Ah! You are too charming," said d'Artagnan, sorrowfully; "and
you abuse my love."

"No, I use your generosity, that's all. But be of good cheer;
with certain people, everything comes round."

"Oh, you render me the happiest of men! Do not forget this
evening--do not forget that promise."

"Be satisfied. In the proper time and place I will remember
everything. Now then, go, go, in the name of heaven! I was
expected at sharp midnight, and I am late."

"By five minutes."

"Yes; but in certain circumstances five minutes are five ages."

"When one loves."

"Well! And who told you I had no affair with a lover?"

"It is a man, then, who expects you?" cried d'Artagnan. "A man!"

"The discussion is going to begin again!" said Mme. Bonacieux,
with a half-smile which was not exempt from a tinge of
impatience.

"No, no; I go, I depart! I believe in you, and I would have all
the merit of my devotion, even if that devotion were stupidity.
Adieu, madame, adieu!"

And as if he only felt strength to detach himself by a violent
effort from the hand he held, he sprang away, running, while Mme.
Bonacieux knocked, as at the shutter, three light and regular
taps. When he had gained the angle of the street, he turned.
The door had been opened, and shut again; the mercer's pretty
wife had disappeared.

D'Artagnan pursued his way. He had given his word not to watch
Mme. Bonacieux, and if his life had depended upon the spot to
which she was going or upon the person who should accompany her,
d'Artagnan would have returned home, since he had so promised.
Five minutes later he was in the Rue des Fossoyeurs.

"Poor Athos!" said he; "he will never guess what all this means.
He will have fallen asleep waiting for me, or else he will have
returned home, where he will have learned that a woman had been
there. A woman with Athos! After all," continued d'Artagnan,
"there was certainly one with Aramis. All this is very strange;
and I am curious to know how it will end."

"Badly, monsieur, badly!" replied a voice which the young man
recognized as that of Planchet; for, soliloquizing aloud, as very
preoccupied people do, he had entered the alley, at the end of
which were the stairs which led to his chamber.

"How badly? What do you mean by that, you idiot?" asked
d'Artagnan. "What has happened?"

"All sorts of misfortunes."

"What?"

"In the first place, Monsieur Athos is arrested."

"Arrested! Athos arrested! What for?"

"He was found in your lodging; they took him for you."

"And by whom was he arrested?"

"By Guards brought by the men in black whom you put to flight."

"Why did he not tell them his name? Why did he not tell them he
knew nothing about this affair?"

"He took care not to do so, monsieur; on the contrary, he came up
to me and said, 'It is your master that needs his liberty at this
moment and not I, since he knows everything and I know nothing.
They will believe he is arrested, and that will give him time; in
three days I will tell them who I am, and they cannot fail to let
me go.'"

"Bravo, Athos! Noble heart!" murmured d'Artagnan. "I know him
well there! And what did the officers do?"

"Four conveyed him away, I don't know where--to the Bastille or
Fort l'Eveque. Two remained with the men in black, who rummaged
every place and took all the papers. The last two mounted guard
at the door during this examination; then, when all was over,
they went away, leaving the house empty and exposed."

"And Porthos and Aramis?"

"I could not find them; they did not come."

"But they may come any moment, for you left word that I awaited
them?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Well, don't budge, then; if they come, tell them what has
happened. Let them wait for me at the Pomme-de-Pin. Here it
would be dangerous; the house may be watched. I will run to
Monsieur de Treville to tell them all this, and will meet them
there."

"Very well, monsieur," said Planchet.

"But you will remain; you are not afraid?" said d'Artagnan,
coming back to recommend courage to his lackey.

"Be easy, monsieur," said Planchet; "you do not know me yet. I
am brave when I set about it. It is all in beginning. Besides,
I am a Picard."

"Then it is understood," said d'Artagnan; "you would rather be
killed than desert your post?"

"Yes, monsieur; and there is nothing I would not do to prove to
Monsieur that I am attached to him."

"Good!" said d'Artagnan to himself. "It appears that the method
I have adopted with this boy is decidedly the best. I shall use
it again upon occasion."

And with all the swiftness of his legs, already a little fatigued
however, with the perambulations of the day, d'Artagnan directed
his course toward M. de Treville's.

M. de Treville was not at his hotel. His company was on guard at
the Louvre; he was at the Louvre with his company.

It was necessary to reach M. de Treville; it was important that
he should be informed of what was passing. D'Artagnan resolved
to try and enter the Louvre. His costume of Guardsman in the
company of M. Dessessart ought to be his passport.

He therefore went down the Rue des Petits Augustins, and came up
to the quay, in order to take the New Bridge. He had at first an
idea of crossing by the ferry; but on gaining the riverside, he
had mechanically put his hand into his pocket, and perceived that
he had not wherewithal to pay his passage.

As he gained the top of the Rue Guenegaud, he saw two persons
coming out of the Rue Dauphine whose appearance very much struck
him. Of the two persons who composed this group, one was a man
and the other a woman. The woman had the outline of Mme.
Bonacieux; the man resembled Aramis so much as to be mistaken for
him.

Besides, the woman wore that black mantle which d'Artagnan could
still see outlined on the shutter of the Rue de Vaugirard and on
the door of the Rue de la Harpe; still further, the man wore the
uniform of a Musketeer.

The woman's hood was pulled down, and the man geld a handkerchief
to his face. Both, as this double precaution indicated, had an
interest in not being recognized.

They took the bridge. That was d'Artagnan's road, as he was
going to the Louvre. D'Artagnan followed them.

He had not gone twenty steps before he became convinced that the
woman was really Mme. Bonacieux and that the man was Aramis.

He felt at that instant all the suspicions of jealousy agitating
his heart. He felt himself doubly betrayed, by his friend and by
her whom he already loved like a mistress. Mme. Bonacieux had
declared to him, by all the gods, that she did not know Aramis;
and a quarter of an hour after having made this assertion, he
found her hanging on the arm of Aramis.

D'Artagnan did not reflect that he had only known the mercer's
pretty wife for three hours; that she owed him nothing but a
little gratitude for having delivered her from the men in black,
who wished to carry her off, and that she had promised him
nothing. He considered himself an outraged, betrayed, and
ridiculed lover. Blood and anger mounted to his face; he was
resolved to unravel the mystery.

The young man and young woman perceived they were watched, and
redoubled their speed. D'Artagnan determined upon his course.
He passed them, then returned so as to meet them exactly before
the Samaritaine. Which was illuminated by a lamp which threw its
light over all that part of the bridge.

D'Artagnan stopped before them, and they stopped before him.

"What do you want, monsieur?" demanded the Musketeer, recoiling a
step, and with a foreign accent, which proved to d'Artagnan that
he was deceived in one of his conjectures.

"It is not Aramis!" cried he.

"No, monsieur, it is not Aramis; and by your exclamation I
perceive you have mistaken me for another, and pardon you."

"You pardon me?" cried d'Artagnan.

"Yes," replied the stranger. "Allow me, then, to pass on, since
it is not with me you have anything to do."

"You are right, monsieur, it is not with you that I have anything
to do; it is with Madame."

"With Madame! You do not know her," replied the stranger.

"You are deceived, monsieur; I know her very well."

"Ah," said Mme. Bonacieux; in a tone of reproach, "ah, monsieur,
I had your promise as a soldier and your word as a gentleman. I
hoped to be able to rely upon that."

"And I, madame!" said d'Artagnan, embarrassed; "you promised me--
"

"Take my arm, madame," said the stranger, "and let us continue
our way."

D'Artagnan, however, stupefied, cast down, annihilated by all
that happened, stood, with crossed arms, before the Musketeer and
Mme. Bonacieux.

The Musketeer advanced two steps, and pushed d'Artagnan aside
with his hand. D'Artagnan made a spring backward and drew his
sword. At the same time, and with the rapidity of lightning, the
stranger drew his.

"In the name of heaven, my Lord!" cried Mme. Bonacieux, throwing
herself between the combatants and seizing the swords with her
hands.

"My Lord!" cried d'Artagnan, enlightened by a sudden idea, "my
Lord! Pardon me, monsieur, but you are not--"

"My Lord the Duke of Buckingham," said Mme. Bonacieux, in an
undertone; "and now you may ruin us all."

"My Lord, Madame, I ask a hundred pardons! But I love her, my
Lord, and was jealous. You know what it is to love, my Lord.
Pardon me, and then tell me how I can risk my life to serve your
Grace?"

"You are a brave young man," said Buckingham, holding out his
hand to d'Artagnan, who pressed it respectfully. "You offer me
your services; with the same frankness I accept them. Follow us
at a distance of twenty paces, as far as the Louvre, and if
anyone watches us, slay him!"

D'Artagnan placed his naked sword under his arm, allowed the duke
and Mme. Bonacieux to take twenty steps ahead, and then followed
them, ready to execute the instructions of the noble and elegant
minister of Charles I.

Fortunately, he had no opportunity to give the duke this proof of
his devotion, and the young woman and the handsome Musketeer
entered the Louvre by the wicket of the Echelle without any
interference.

As for d'Artagnan, he immediately repaired to the cabaret of the
Pomme-de-Pin, where he found Porthos and Aramis awaiting him.
Without giving them any explanation of the alarm and
inconvenience he had caused them, he told them that he had
terminated the affair alone in which he had for a moment believed
he should need their assistance.

Meanwhile, carried away as we are by our narrative, we must leave
our three friends to themselves, and follow the Duke of
Buckingham and his guide through the labyrinths of the Louvre.





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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