The hour having come, they went with their four lackeys to a spot behind th_uxembourg given up to the feeding of goats. Athos threw a piece of money t_he goatkeeper to withdraw. The lackeys were ordered to act as sentinels.
A silent party soon drew near to the same enclosure, entered, and joined th_usketeers. Then, according to foreign custom, the presentations took place.
The Englishmen were all men of rank; consequently the odd names of thei_dversaries 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 name_f 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 th_nglishman.
"You played very willingly with us without knowing our names," said Athos, "b_he same token that you won our horses."
"That is true, but we then only risked our pistoles; this time we risk ou_lood. 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 fou_nglishmen with whom he was to fight, and communicated his name in a lo_oice.
Porthos and Aramis did the same.
"Does that satisfy you?" said Athos to his adversary. "Do you find me o_ufficient rank to do me the honor of crossing swords with me?"
"Yes, monsieur," said the Englishman, bowing.
"Well! now shall 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 no_equired me to make myself known."
"Because I am believed to be dead, and have reasons for wishing nobody to kno_ am living; so that I shall be obliged to kill you to prevent my secret fro_oaming over the fields."
The Englishman looked at Athos, believing that he jested, but Athos did no_est the least in the world.
"Gentlemen," said Athos, addressing at the same time his companions and thei_dversaries, "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 th_ombat began with an animosity very natural between men twice enemies.
Athos fenced with as much calmness and method as if he had been practicing i_ fencing school.
Porthos, abated, no doubt, of his too-great confidence by his adventure o_hantilly, played with skill and prudence. Aramis, who had the third canto o_is 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 hi_word, 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 ma_nded by fairly taking to his heels, and disappeared amid the hooting of th_ackeys.
As to d'Artagnan, he fought purely and simply on the defensive; and when h_aw his adversary pretty well fatigued, with a vigorous side thrust sent hi_word flying. The baron, finding himself disarmed, took two or three step_ack, 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 hi_word to his throat, "I could kill you, my Lord, you are completely in m_ands; 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 imagine_eforehand, whose picturing had produced the smiles we noted upon his face.
The Englishman, delighted at having to do with a gentleman of such a kin_isposition, pressed d'Artagnan in his arms, and paid a thousand compliment_o the three Musketeers, and as Porthos's adversary was already installed i_he carriage, and as Aramis's had taken to his heels, they had nothing t_hink about but the dead.
As Porthos and Aramis were undressing him, in the hope of finding his woun_ot mortal, a large purse dropped from his clothes. D'Artagnan picked it u_nd 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 wil_nherit fifteen thousand louis a year from him. Keep the purse for you_ackeys."
D'Artagnan put the purse into his pocket.
"And now, my young friend, for you will permit me, I hope, to give you tha_ame," said Lord de Winter, "on this very evening, if agreeable to you, I wil_resent you to my sister, Milady Clarik, for I am desirous that she shoul_ake you into her good graces; and as she is not in bad odor at court, she ma_erhaps 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 custo_n a duel?"
"Even on the field of battle, I have never done that."
Porthos shrugged his shoulders; Aramis by a movement of his lips endorse_thos.
"Then," said d'Artagnan, "let us give the money to the lackeys, as Lord d_inter 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 an_our 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, wa_ighly applauded, except by MM. Grimaud, Bazin, Mousqueton and Planchet.
Lord de Winter, on quitting d'Artagnan, gave him his sister's address. Sh_ived in the Place Royale—then the fashionable quarter—at Number 6, and h_ndertook 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. H_emembered in what a strange manner this woman had hitherto been mixed up i_is destiny. According to his conviction, she was some creature of th_ardinal, and yet he felt himself invincibly drawn toward her by one of thos_entiments for which we cannot account. His only fear was that Milady woul_ecognize in him the man of Meung and of Dover. Then she knew that he was on_f the friends of M. de Treville, and consequently, that he belonged body an_oul to the king; which would make him lose a part of his advantage, sinc_hen known to Milady as he knew her, he played only an equal game with her. A_o the commencement of an intrigue between her and M. de Wardes, ou_resumptuous hero gave but little heed to that, although the marquis wa_oung, handsome, rich, and high in the cardinal's favor. It is not for nothin_e 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 hi_rojects, then shook his head, and recommended prudence to him with a shade o_itterness.
"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 m_ead," said he. "In getting introduced to her, my principal object is t_scertain what part she plays at court."
"The part she plays, PARDIEU! It is not difficult to divine that, after al_ou have told me. She is some emissary of the cardinal; a woman who will dra_ou 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 experienc_early—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 hav_earned 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 hi_oming, went into the other chamber. He therefore found d'Artagnan alone, an_s 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 remarkabl_umptuous, and while the most part of the English had quit, or were about t_uit, France on account of the war, Milady had just been laying out much mone_pon her residence; which proved that the general measure which drove th_nglish from France did not affect her.
"You see," said Lord de Winter, presenting d'Artagnan to his sister, "a youn_entleman who has held my life in his hands, and who has not abused hi_dvantage, although we have been twice enemies, although it was I who insulte_im, and although I am an Englishman. Thank him, then, madame, if you have an_ffection for me."
Milady frowned slightly; a scarcely visible cloud passed over her brow, and s_eculiar a smile appeared upon her lips that the young man, who saw an_bserved this triple shade, almost shuddered at it.
The brother did not perceive this; he had turned round to play with Milady'_avorite monkey, which had pulled him by the doublet.
"You are welcome, monsieur," said Milady, in a voice whose singular sweetnes_ontrasted 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 _ingle detail. Milady listened with the greatest attention, and yet it wa_asily 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, an_er little foot worked with impatience beneath her robe.
Lord de Winter perceived nothing of this. When he had finished, he went to _able upon which was a salver with Spanish wine and glasses. He filled tw_lasses, and by a sign invited d'Artagnan to drink.
D'Artagnan knew it was considered disobliging by an Englishman to refuse t_ledge him. He therefore drew near to the table and took the second glass. H_id not, however, lose sight of Milady, and in a mirror he perceived th_hange that came over her face. Now that she believed herself to be no longe_bserved, a sentiment resembling ferocity animated her countenance. She bi_er handkerchief with her beautiful teeth.
That pretty little SOUBRETTE whom d'Artagnan had already observed then cam_n. She spoke some words to Lord de Winter in English, who thereupon requeste_'Artagnan's permission to retire, excusing himself on account of the urgenc_f the business that had called him away, and charging his sister to obtai_is pardon.
D'Artagnan exchanged a shake of the hand with Lord de Winter, and the_eturned to Milady. Her countenance, with surprising mobility, had recovere_ts gracious expression; but some little red spots on her handkerchie_ndicated that she had bitten her lips till the blood came. Those lips wer_agnificent; they might be said to be of coral.
The conversation took a cheerful turn. Milady appeared to have entirel_ecovered. She told d'Artagnan that Lord de Winter was her brother-in-law, an_ot her brother. She had married a younger brother of the family, who had lef_er a widow with one child. This child was the only heir to Lord de Winter, i_ord de Winter did not marry. All this showed d'Artagnan that there was a vei_hich concealed something; but he could not yet see under this veil.
In addition to this, after a half hour's conversation d'Artagnan was convince_hat Milady was his compatriot; she spoke French with an elegance and a purit_hat left no doubt on that head.
D'Artagnan was profuse in gallant speeches and protestations of devotion. T_ll the simple things which escaped our Gascon, Milady replied with a smile o_indness. 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 hi_s she passed, and then, blushing to the eyes, asked his pardon for havin_ouched 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 th_vening before. Lord de Winter was not at home; and it was Milady who thi_ime did all the honors of the evening. She appeared to take a great interes_n him, asked him whence he came, who were his friends, and whether he had no_ometimes thought of attaching himself to the cardinal.
D'Artagnan, who, as we have said, was exceedingly prudent for a young man o_wenty, then remembered his suspicions regarding Milady. He launched into _ulogy of his Eminence, and said that he should not have failed to enter int_he Guards of the cardinal instead of the king's Guards if he had happened t_now M. de Cavois instead of M. de Treville.
Milady changed the conversation without any appearance of affectation, an_sked d'Artagnan in the most careless manner possible if he had ever been i_ngland.
D'Artagnan replied that he had been sent thither by M. de Treville to trea_or 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 ha_o deal with a Gascon who played close.
At the same hour as on the preceding evening, d'Artagnan retired. In th_orridor 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 t_istake; but d'Artagnan was so preoccupied by the mistress that he notice_bsolutely nothing but her.
D'Artagnan came again on the morrow and the day after that, and each da_ilady gave him a more gracious reception.
Every evening, either in the antechamber, the corridor, or on the stairs, h_et the pretty SOUBRETTE. But, as we have said, d'Artagnan paid no attentio_o this persistence of poor Kitty.