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33. SOUBRETTE AND MISTRESS

Meantime, as we have said, despite the cries of his
conscience and the wise counsels of Athos, d'Artagnan became
hourly more in love with Milady. Thus he never failed to
pay his diurnal court to her; and the self-satisfied Gascon
was convinced that sooner or later she could not fail to
respond.

One day, when he arrived with his head in the air, and as
light at heart as a man who awaits a shower of gold, he
found the SOUBRETTE under the gateway of the hotel; but this
time the pretty Kitty was not contented with touching him as
he passed, she took him gently by the hand.

"Good!" thought d'Artagnan, "She is charged with some
message for me from her mistress; she is about to appoint
some rendezvous of which she had not courage to speak." And
he looked down at the pretty girl with the most triumphant
air imaginable.

"I wish to say three words to you, Monsieur Chevalier,"
stammered the SOUBRETTE.

"Speak, my child, speak," said d'Artagnan; "I listen."

"Here? Impossible! That which I have to say is too long,
and above all, too secret."

"Well, what is to be done?"

"If Monsieur Chevalier would follow me?" said Kitty,
timidly.

"Where you please, my dear child."

"Come, then."

And Kitty, who had not let go the hand of d'Artagnan, led
him up a little dark, winding staircase, and after ascending
about fifteen steps, opened a door.

"Come in here, Monsieur Chevalier," said she; "here we shall
be alone, and can talk."

"And whose room is this, my dear child?"

"It is mine, Monsieur Chevalier; it communicates with my
mistress's by that door. But you need not fear. She will
not hear what we say; she never goes to bed before
midnight,.

D'Artagnan cast a glance around him. The little apartment
was charming for its taste and neatness; but in spite of
himself, his eyes were directed to that door which Kitty
said led to Milady's chamber.

Kitty guessed what was passing in the mind of the young man,
and heaved a deep sigh.

"You love my mistress, then, very dearly, Monsieur
Chevalier?" said she.

"Oh, more than I can say, Kitty! I am mad for her!"

Kitty breathed a second sigh.

"Alas, monsieur," said she, "that is too bad."

"What the devil do you see so bad in it?" said d'Artagnan.

"Because, monsieur," replied Kitty, "my mistress loves you
not at all."

"HEIN!" said d'Artagnan, "can she have charged you to tell
me so?"

"Oh, no, monsieur; but out of the regard I have for you, I
have taken the resolution to tell you so."

"Much obliged, my dear Kitty; but for the intention only--for
the information, you must agree, is not likely to be at all
agreeable."

"That is to say, you don't believe what I have told you; is
it not so?"

"We have always some difficulty in believing such things, my
pretty dear, were it only from self-love."

"Then you don't believe me?"

"I confess that unless you deign to give me some proof of
what you advance--"

"What do you think of this?"

Kitty drew a little note from her bosom.

"For me?" said Derogation, seizing the letter.

"No; for another."

"For another?"

"Yes."

"His name; his name!" cried d'Artagnan.

"Read the address."

"Monsieur El Comte de Wardes."

The remembrance of the scene at St. Germain presented itself
to the mind of the presumptuous Gascon. As quick as
thought, he tore open the letter, in spite of the cry which
Kitty uttered on seeing what he was going to do, or rather,
what he was doing.

"Oh, good Lord, Monsieur Chevalier," said she, "what are you
doing?"

"I?" said d'Artagnan; "nothing," and he read,


"You have not answered my first note. Are you indisposed,
or have you forgotten the glances you favored me with at the
ball of Mme. de Guise? You have an opportunity now, Count;
do not allow it to escape."


d'Artagnan became very pale; he was wounded in his SELF-
love: he thought that it was in his LOVE.

"Poor dear Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Kitty, in a voice full
of compassion, and pressing anew the young man's hand.

"You pity me, little one?" said d'Artagnan.

"Oh, yes, and with all my heart; for I know what it is to be
in love."

"You know what it is to be in love?" said d'Artagnan,
looking at her for the first time with much attention.

"Alas, yes."

"Well, then, instead of pitying me, you would do much better
to assist me in avenging myself on your mistress."

"And what sort of revenge would you take?"

"I would triumph over her, and supplant my rival."

"I will never help you in that, Monsieur Chevalier," said
Kitty, warmly.

"And why not?" demanded d'Artagnan.

"For two reasons."

"What ones?"

"The first is that my mistress will never love you."

"How do you know that?"

"You have cut her to the heart."

"I? In what can I have offended her--I who ever since I have
known her have lived at her feet like a slave? Speak, I beg
you!"

"I will never confess that but to the man--who should read to
the bottom of my soul!"

D'Artagnan looked at Kitty for the second time. The young
girl had freshness and beauty which many duchesses would
have purchased with their coronets.

"Kitty," said he, "I will read to the bottom of your soul
when-ever you like; don't let that disturb you." And he gave
her a kiss at which the poor girl became as red as a cherry.

"Oh, no," said Kitty, "it is not me you love! It is my
mistress you love; you told me so just now."

"And does that hinder you from letting me know the second
reason?"

"The second reason, Monsieur the Chevalier," replied Kitty,
emboldened by the kiss in the first place, and still further
by the expression of the eyes of the young man, "is that in
love, everyone for herself!"

Then only d'Artagnan remembered the languishing glances of
Kitty, her constantly meeting him in the antechamber, the
corridor, or on the stairs, those touches of the hand every
time she met him, and her deep sighs; but absorbed by his
desire to please the great lady, he had disdained the
soubrette. He whose game is the eagle takes no heed of the
sparrow.

But this time our Gascon saw at a glance all the advantage
to be derived from the love which Kitty had just confessed
so innocently, or so boldly: the interception of letters
addressed to the Comte de Wardes, news on the spot, entrance
at all hours into Kitty's chamber, which was contiguous to
her mistress's. The perfidious deceiver was, as may plainly
be perceived, already sacrificing, in intention, the poor
girl in order to obtain Milady, willy-nilly.

"Well," said he to the young girl, "are you willing, my dear
Kitty, that I should give you a proof of that love which you
doubt?"

"What love?" asked the young girl.

"Of that which I am ready to feel toward you."

"And what is that proof?"

"Are you willing that I should this evening pass with you
the time I generally spend with your mistress?"

"Oh, yes," said Kitty, clapping her hands, "very willing."

"Well, then, come here, my dear," said d'Artagnan,
establishing himself in an easy chair; "come, and let me
tell you that you are the prettiest SOUBRETTE I ever saw!"

And he did tell her so much, and so well, that the poor
girl, who asked nothing better than to believe him, did
believe him. Nevertheless, to d'Artagnan's great
astonishment, the pretty Kitty defended herself resolutely.

Time passes quickly when it is passed in attacks and
defenses. Midnight sounded, and almost at the same time the
bell was rung in Milady's chamber.

"Good God," cried Kitty, "there is my mistress calling me!
Go; go directly!"

D'Artagnan rose, took his hat, as if it had been his
intention to obey, then, opening quickly the door of a large
closet instead of that leading to the staircase, he buried
himself amid the robes and dressing gowns of Milady.

"What are you doing?" cried Kitty.

D'Artagnan, who had secured the key, shut himself up in the
closet without reply.

"Well," cried Milady, in a sharp voice. "Are you asleep,
that you don't answer when I ring?"

And d'Artagnan heard the door of communication opened
violently.

"Here am I, Milady, here am I!" cried Kitty, springing
forward to meet her mistress.

Both went into the bedroom, and as the door of communication
remained open, d'Artagnan could hear Milady for some time
scolding her maid. She was at length appeased, and the
conversation turned upon him while Kitty was assisting her
mistress.

"Well," said Milady, "I have not seen our Gascon this
evening."

"What, Milady! has he not come?" said Kitty. "Can he be
inconstant before being happy?"

"Oh, no; he must have been prevented by Monsieur de Treville
or Monsieur Dessessart. I understand my game, Kitty; I have
this one safe."

"What will you do with him, madame?"

"What will I do with him? Be easy, Kitty, there is
something between that man and me that he is quite ignorant
of: he nearly made me lose my credit with his Eminence. Oh,
I will be revenged!"

"I believed that Madame loved him."

"I love him? I detest him! An idiot, who held the life of
Lord de Winter in his hands and did not kill him, by which I
missed three hundred thousand livres' income."

"That's true," said Kitty; "your son was the only heir of
his uncle, and until his majority you would have had the
enjoyment of his fortune."

D'Artagnan shuddered to the marrow at hearing this suave
creature reproach him, with that sharp voice which she took
such pains to conceal in conversation, for not having killed
a man whom he had seen load her with kindnesses.

"For all this," continued Milady, "I should long ago have
revenged myself on him if, and I don't know why, the
cardinal had not requested me to conciliate him."

"Oh, yes; but Madame has not conciliated that little woman
he was so fond of."

"What, the mercer's wife of the Rue des Fossoyeurs? Has he
not already forgotten she ever existed? Fine vengeance
that, on my faith!"

A cold sweat broke from d'Artagnan's brow. Why, this woman
was a monster! He resumed his listening, but unfortunately
the toilet was finished.

"That will do," said Milady; "go into your own room, and
tomorrow endeavor again to get me an answer to the letter I
gave you."

"For Monsieur de Wardes?" said Kitty.

"To be sure; for Monsieur de Wardes."

"Now, there is one," said Kitty, "who appears to me quite a
different sort of a man from that poor Monsieur d'Artagnan."

"Go to bed, mademoiselle," said Milady; "I don't like
comments."

D'Artagnan heard the door close; then the noise of two bolts
by which Milady fastened herself in. On her side, but as
softly as possible, Kitty turned the key of the lock, and
then d'Artagnan opened the closet door.

"Oh, good Lord!" said Kitty, in a low voice, "what is the
matter with you? How pale you are!"

"The abominable creature" murmured d'Artagnan.

"Silence, silence, begone!" said Kitty. "There is nothing
but a wainscot between my chamber and Milady's; every word
that is uttered in one can be heard in the other."

"That's exactly the reason I won't go," said d'Artagnan.

"What!" said Kitty, blushing.

"Or, at least, I will go--later."

He drew Kitty to him. She had the less motive to resist,
resistance would make so much noise. Therefore Kitty
surrendered.

It was a movement of vengeance upon Milady. D'Artagnan
believed it right to say that vengeance is the pleasure of
the gods. With a little more heart, he might have been
contented with this new conquest; but the principal features
of his character were ambition and pride. It must, however,
be confessed in his justification that the first use he made
of his influence over Kitty was to try and find out what had
become of Mme. Bonacieux; but the poor girl swore upon the
crucifix to d'Artagnan that she was entirely ignorant on
that head, her mistress never admitting her into half her
secrets--only she believed she could say she was not dead.

As to the cause which was near making Milady lose her credit
with the cardinal, Kitty knew nothing about it; but this
time d'Artagnan was better informed than she was. As he had
seen Milady on board a vessel at the moment he was leaving
England, he suspected that it was, almost without a doubt,
on account of the diamond studs.

But what was clearest in all this was that the true hatred,
the profound hatred, the inveterate hatred of Milady, was
increased by his not having killed her brother-in-law.

D'Artagnan came the next day to Milady's, and finding her in
a very ill-humor, had no doubt that it was lack of an answer
from M. de Wardes that provoked her thus. Kitty came in,
but Milady was very cross with her. The poor girl ventured
a glance at d'Artagnan which said, "See how I suffer on your
account!"

Toward the end of the evening, however, the beautiful
lioness became milder; she smilingly listened to the soft
speeches of d'Artagnan, and even gave him her hand to kiss.

D'Artagnan departed, scarcely knowing what to think, but as
he was a youth who did not easily lose his head, while
continuing to pay his court to Milady, he had framed a
little plan in his mind.

He found Kitty at the gate, and, as on the preceding
evening, went up to her chamber. Kitty had been accused of
negligence and severely scolded. Milady could not at all
comprehend the silence of the Comte de Wardes, and she
ordered Kitty to come at nine o'clock in the morning to take
a third letter.

D'Artagnan made Kitty promise to bring him that letter on
the following morning. The poor girl promised all her lover
desired; she was mad.

Things passed as on the night before. D'Artagnan concealed
himself in his closet; Milady called, undressed, sent away
Kitty, and shut the door. As the night before, d'Artagnan
did not return home till five o'clock in the morning.

At eleven o'clock Kitty came to him. She held in her hand a
fresh billet from Milady. This time the poor girl did not
even argue with d'Artagnan; she gave it to him at once. She
belonged body and soul to her handsome soldier.

D'Artagnan opened the letter and read as follows:


This is the third time I have written to you to tell you
that I love you. Beware that I do not write to you a fourth
time to tell you that I detest you.

If you repent of the manner in which you have acted toward
me, the young girl who brings you this will tell you how a
man of spirit may obtain his pardon.


d'Artagnan colored and grew pale several times in reading
this billet.

"Oh, you love her still," said Kitty, who had not taken her
eyes off the young man's countenance for an instant.

"No, Kitty, you are mistaken. I do not love her, but I will
avenge myself for her contempt."

"Oh, yes, I know what sort of vengeance! You told me that!"

"What matters it to you, Kitty? You know it is you alone
whom I love."

"How can I know that?"

"By the scorn I will throw upon her."

D'Artagnan took a pen and wrote:


Madame, Until the present moment I could not believe that it
was to me your first two letters were addressed, so unworthy
did I feel myself of such an honor; besides, I was so
seriously indisposed that I could not in any case have
replied to them.

But now I am forced to believe in the excess of your
kindness, since not only your letter but your servant
assures me that I have the good fortune to be beloved by
you.

She has no occasion to teach me the way in which a man of
spirit may obtain his pardon. I will come and ask mine at
eleven o'clock this evening.

To delay it a single day would be in my eyes now to commit a
fresh offense.

From him whom you have rendered the happiest of men,
Comte de Wardes


This note was in the first place a forgery; it was likewise
an indelicacy. It was even, according to our present
manners, something like an infamous action; but at that
period people did not manage affairs as they do today.
Besides, d'Artagnan from her own admission knew Milady
culpable of treachery in matters more important, and could
entertain no respect for her. And yet, notwithstanding this
want of respect, he felt an uncontrollable passion for this
woman boiling in his veins--passion drunk with contempt; but
passion or thirst, as the reader pleases.

D'Artagnan's plan was very simple. By Kitty's chamber he
could gain that of her mistress. He would take advantage of
the first moment of surprise, shame, and terror, to triumph
over her. He might fail, but something must be left to
chance. In eight days the campaign would open, and he would
be compelled to leave Paris; d'Artagnan had no time for a
prolonged love siege.

"There," said the young man, handing Kitty the letter
sealed; "give that to Milady. It is the count's reply."

Poor Kitty became as pale as death; she suspected what the
letter contained.

"Listen, my dear girl," said d'Artagnan; "you cannot but
perceive that all this must end, some way or other. Milady
may discover that you gave the first billet to my lackey
instead of to the count's; that it is I who have opened the
others which ought to have been opened by de Wardes. Milady
will then turn you out of doors, and you know she is not the
woman to limit her vengeance. "Alas!" said Kitty, "for whom
have I exposed myself to all that?"

"For me, I well know, my sweet girl," said d'Artagnan. "But
I am grateful, I swear to you."

"But what does this note contain?"

"Milady will tell you."

"Ah, you do not love me!" cried Kitty, "and I am very
wretched."

To this reproach there is always one response which deludes
women. D'Artagnan replied in such a manner that Kitty
remained in her great delusion. Although she cried freely
before deciding to transmit the letter to her mistress, she
did at last so decide, which was all d'Artagnan wished.
Finally he promised that he would leave her mistress's
presence at an early hour that evening, and that when he
left the mistress he would ascend with the maid. This
promise completed poor Kitty's consolation.





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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