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31. ENGLISH AND FRENCH

The hour having come, they went with their four lackeys to a
spot behind the Luxembourg given up to the feeding of goats.
Athos threw a piece of money to the goatkeeper to withdraw.
The lackeys were ordered to act as sentinels.

A silent party soon drew near to the same enclosure,
entered, and joined the Musketeers. Then, according to
foreign custom, the presentations took place.

The Englishmen were all men of rank; consequently the odd
names of their adversaries were for them not only a matter
of surprise, but of annoyance.

"But after all," said Lord de Winter, when the three friends
had been named, "we do not know who you are. We cannot
fight with such names; they are names of shepherds."

"Therefore your lordship may suppose they are only assumed
names," said Athos.

"Which only gives us a greater desire to know the real
ones," replied the Englishman.

"You played very willingly with us without knowing our
names," said Athos, "by the same token that you won our
horses."

"That is true, but we then only risked our pistoles; this
time we risk our blood. One plays with anybody; but one
fights only with equals."

"And that is but just," said Athos, and he took aside the
one of the four Englishmen with whom he was to fight, and
communicated his name in a low voice.

Porthos and Aramis did the same.

"Does that satisfy you?" said Athos to his adversary. "Do
you find me of sufficient rank to do me the honor of
crossing swords with me?"

"Yes, monsieur," said the Englishman, bowing.

"Well! now tell I tell you something?" added Athos, coolly.

"What?" replied the Englishman.

"Why, that is that you would have acted much more wisely if
you had not required me to make myself known."

"Why so?"

"Because I am believed to be dead, and have reasons for
wishing nobody to know I am living; so that I shall be
obliged to kill you to prevent my secret from roaming over
the fields."

The Englishman looked at Athos, believing that he jested,
but Athos did not jest the least in the world.

"Gentlemen," said Athos, addressing at the same time his
companions and their adversaries, "are we ready?"

"Yes!" answered the Englishmen and the Frenchmen, as with
one voice.

"On guard, then!" cried Athos.

Immediately eight swords glittered in the rays of the
setting sun, and the combat began with an animosity very
natural between men twice enemies.

Athos fenced with as much calmness and method as if he had
been practicing in a fencing school.

Porthos, abated, no doubt, of his too-great confidence by
his adventure of Chantilly, played with skill and prudence.
Aramis, who had the third canto of his poem to finish,
behaved like a man in haste.

Athos killed his adversary first. He hit him but once, but
as he had foretold, that hit was a mortal one; the sword
pierced his heart.

Second, Porthos stretched his upon the grass with a wound
through his thigh, As the Englishman, without making any
further resistance, then surrendered his sword, Porthos took
him up in his arms and bore him to his carriage.

Aramis pushed his so vigorously that after going back fifty
paces, the man ended by fairly taking to his heels, and
disappeared amid the hooting of the lackeys.

As to d'Artagnan, he fought purely and simply on the
defensive; and when he saw his adversary pretty well
fatigued, with a vigorous side thrust sent his sword flying.
The baron, finding himself disarmed, took two or three steps
back, but in this movement his foot slipped and he fell
backward.

D'Artagnan was over him at a bound, and said to the
Englishman, pointing his sword to his throat, "I could kill
you, my Lord, you are completely in my hands; but I spare
your life for the sake of your sister."

D'Artagnan was at the height of joy; he had realized the
plan he had imagined beforehand, whose picturing had
produced the smiles we noted upon his face.

The Englishman, delighted at having to do with a gentleman
of such a kind disposition, pressed d'Artagnan in his arms,
and paid a thousand compliments to the three Musketeers, and
as Porthos's adversary was already installed in the
carriage, and as Aramis's had taken to his heels, they had
nothing to think about but the dead.

As Porthos and Aramis were undressing him, in the hope of
finding his wound not mortal, a large purse dropped from his
clothes. d'Artagnan picked it up and offered it to Lord de
Winter.

"What the devil would you have me do with that?" said the
Englishman.

"You can restore it to his family," said d'Artagnan.

"His family will care much about such a trifle as that! His
family will inherit fifteen thousand louis a year from him.
Keep the purse for your lackeys."

D'Artagnan put the purse into his pocket.

"And now, my young friend, for you will permit me, I hope,
to give you that name," said Lord de Winter, "on this very
evening, if agreeable to you, I will present you to my
sister, Milady Clarik, for I am desirous that she should
take you into her good graces; and as she is not in bad odor
at court, she may perhaps on some future day speak a word
that will not prove useless to you.

D'Artagnan blushed with pleasure, and bowed a sign of
assent.

At this time Athos came up to d'Artagnan.

"What do you mean to do with that purse?" whispered he.

"Why, I meant to pass it over to you, my dear Athos."

"Me! why to me?"

"Why, you killed him! They are the spoils of victory."

"I, the heir of an enemy!" said Athos; "for whom, then, do
you take me?"

"It is the custom in war," said d'Artagnan, "why should it
not be the custom in a duel?"

"Even on the field of battle, I have never done that."

Porthos shrugged his shoulders; Aramis by a movement of his
lips endorsed Athos.

"Then," said d'Artagnan, "let us give the money to the
lackeys, as Lord de Winter desired us to do."

"Yes," said Athos; "let us give the money to the lackeys--not
to our lackeys, but to the lackeys of the Englishmen."

Athos took the purse, and threw it into the hand of the
coachman. "For you and your comrades."

This greatness of spirit in a man who was quite destitute
struck even Porthos; and this French generosity, repeated by
Lord de Winter and his friend, was highly applauded, except
by MM. Grimaud, Bazin, Mousqueton and Planchet.

Lord de Winter, on quitting d'Artagnan, gave him his
sister's address. She lived in the Place Royale--then the
fashionable quarter--at Number 6, and he undertook to call
and take d'Artagnan with him in order to introduce him.
d'Artagnan appointed eight o'clock at Athos's residence.

This introduction to Milady Clarik occupied the head of our
Gascon greatly. He remembered in what a strange manner this
woman had hitherto been mixed up in his destiny. According
to his conviction, she was some creature of the cardinal,
and yet he felt himself invincibly drawn toward her by one
of those sentiments for which we cannot account. His only
fear was that Milady would recognize in him the man of Meung
and of Dover. Then she knew that he was one of the friends
of M. de Treville, and consequently, that he belonged body
and soul to the king; which would make him lose a part of
his advantage, since when known to Milady as he knew her, he
played only an equal game with her. As to the commencement
of an intrigue between her and M. de Wardes, our
presumptuous hero gave but little heed to that, although the
marquis was young, handsome, rich, and high in the
cardinal's favor. It is not for nothing we are but twenty years old,
above all if we were born at Tarbes.

D'Artagnan began by making his most splendid toilet, then
returned to Athos's, and according to custom, related
everything to him. Athos listened to his projects, then
shook his head, and recommended prudence to him with a shade
of bitterness.

"What!" said he, "you have just lost one woman, whom you
call good, charming, perfect; and here you are, running
headlong after another."

D'Artagnan felt the truth of this reproach.

"I loved Madame Bonacieux with my heart, while I only love
Milady with my head," said he. "In getting introduced to
her, my principal object is to ascertain what part she plays
at court."

"The part she plays, PARDIEU! It is not difficult to divine
that, after all you have told me. She is some emissary of
the cardinal; a woman who will draw you into a snare in
which you will leave your head."

"The devil! my dear Athos, you view things on the dark side,
methinks."

"My dear fellow, I mistrust women. Can it be otherwise? I
bought my experience dearly--particularly fair women. Milady
is fair, you say?"

"She has the most beautiful light hair imaginable!"

"Ah, my poor d'Artagnan!" said Athos.

"Listen to me! I want to be enlightened on a subject; then,
when I shall have learned what I desire to know, I will
withdraw."

"Be enlightened!" said Athos, phlegmatically.

Lord de Winter arrived at the appointed time; but Athos,
being warned of his coming, went into the other chamber. He
therefore found d'Artagnan alone, and as it was nearly eight
o'clock he took the young man with him.

An elegant carriage waited below, and as it was drawn by two
excellent horses, they were soon at the Place Royale.

Milady Clarik received d'Artagnan ceremoniously. Her hotel
was remarkably sumptuous, and while the most part of the
English had quit, or were about to quit, France on account
of the war, Milady had just been laying out much money upon
her residence; which proved that the general measure which
drove the English from France did not affect her.

"You see," said Lord de Winter, presenting d'Artagnan to his
sister, "a young gentleman who has held my life in his
hands, and who has not abused his advantage, although we
have been twice enemies, although it was I who insulted him,
and although I am an Englishman. Thank him, then, madame,
if you have any affection for me."

Milady frowned slightly; a scarcely visible cloud passed
over her brow, and so peculiar a smile appeared upon her
lips that the young man, who saw and observed this triple
shade, almost shuddered at it.

The brother did not perceive this; he had turned round to
play with Milady's favorite monkey, which had pulled him by
the doublet.

"You are welcome, monsieur," said Milady, in a voice whose
singular sweetness contrasted with the symptoms of ill-humor
which d'Artagnan had just remarked; "you have today acquired
eternal rights to my gratitude."

The Englishman then turned round and described the combat
without omitting a single detail. Milady listened with the
greatest attention, and yet it was easily to be perceived,
whatever effort she made to conceal her impressions, that
this recital was not agreeable to her. The blood rose to
her head, and her little foot worked with impatience beneath
her robe.

Lord de Winter perceived nothing of this. When he had
finished, he went to a table upon which was a salver with
Spanish wine and glasses. He filled two glasses, and by a
sign invited d'Artagnan to drink.

D'Artagnan knew it was considered disobliging by an
Englishman to refuse to pledge him. He therefore drew near
to the table and took the second glass. He did not,
however, lose sight of Milady, and in a mirror he perceived
the change that came over her face. Now that she believed
herself to be no longer observed, a sentiment resembling
ferocity animated her countenance. She bit her handkerchief
with her beautiful teeth.

That pretty little SOUBRETTE whom d'Artagnan had already
observed then came in. She spoke some words to Lord de
Winter in English, who thereupon requested d'Artagnan's
permission to retire, excusing himself on account of the
urgency of the business that had called him away, and
charging his sister to obtain his pardon.

D'Artagnan exchanged a shake of the hand with Lord de
Winter, and then returned to Milady. Her countenance, with
surprising mobility, had recovered its gracious expression;
but some little red spots on her handkerchief indicated that
she had bitten her lips till the blood came. Those lips
were magnificent; they might be said to be of coral.

The conversation took a cheerful turn. Milady appeared to
have entirely recovered. She told d'Artagnan that Lord de
Winter was her brother-in-law, and not her brother. She had
married a younger brother of the family, who had left her a
widow with one child. This child was the only heir to Lord
de Winter, if Lord de Winter did not marry. All this showed
d'Artagnan that there was a veil which concealed something;
but he could not yet see under this veil.

In addition to this, after a half hour's conversation
d'Artagnan was convinced that Milady was his compatriot; she
spoke French with an elegance and a purity that left no
doubt on that head.

D'Artagnan was profuse in gallant speeches and protestations
of devotion. To all the simple things which escaped our
Gascon, Milady replied with a smile of kindness. The hour
came for him to retire. D'Artagnan took leave of Milady,
and left the saloon the happiest of men.

On the staircase he met the pretty SOUBRETTE, who brushed
gently against him as she passed, and then, blushing to the
eyes, asked his pardon for having touched him in a voice so
sweet that the pardon was granted instantly.

D'Artagnan came again on the morrow, and was still better
received than on the evening before. Lord de Winter was not
at home; and it was Milady who this time did all the honors
of the evening. She appeared to take a great interest in
him, asked him whence he came, who were his friends, and
whether he had not sometimes thought of attaching himself to
the cardinal.

D'Artagnan, who, as we have said, was exceedingly prudent
for a young man of twenty, then remembered his suspicions
regarding Milady. He launched into a eulogy of his
Eminence, and said that he should not have failed to enter
into the Guards of the cardinal instead of the king's Guards
if he had happened to know M. de Cavois instead of M. de
Treville.

Milady changed the conversation without any appearance of
affectation, and asked d'Artagnan in the most careless
manner possible if he had ever been in England.

D'Artagnan replied that he had been sent thither by M. de
Treville to treat for a supply of horses, and that he had
brought back four as specimens.

Milady in the course of the conversation twice or thrice bit
her lips; she had to deal with a Gascon who played close.

At the same hour as on the preceding evening, d'Artagnan
retired. In the corridor he again met the pretty Kitty; that
was the name of the SOUBRETTE. She looked at him with an
expression of kindness which it was impossible to mistake;
but d'Artagnan was so preoccupied by the mistress that he
noticed absolutely nothing but her.

D'Artagnan came again on the morrow and the day after that,
and each day Milady gave him a more gracious reception.

Every evening, either in the antechamber, the corridor, or
on the stairs, he met the pretty SOUBRETTE. But, as we have
said, d'Artagnan paid no attention to this persistence of
poor Kitty.





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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