"Yes; he struck his pocket and said, 'We shall see what Monsieurde Treville will think of this insult offered to his protege.'""Monsieur de Treville?" said the stranger, becoming attentive,"he put his hand upon his pocket while pronouncing the name ofMonsieur de Treville? Now, my dear host, while your young manwas insensible, you did not fail, I am quite sure, to ascertainwhat that pocket contained. What was there in it?""A letter addressed to Monsieur de Treville, captain of theMusketeers."
"Exactly as I have the honor to tell your Excellency."The host, who was not endowed with great perspicacity, did notobserve the expression which his words had given to thephysiognomy of the stranger. The latter rose from the front ofthe window, upon the sill of which he had leaned with his elbow,and knitted his brow like a man disquieted.
"The devil!" murmured he, between his teeth. "Can Treville haveset this Gascon upon me? He is very young; but a sword thrust isa sword thrust, whatever be the age of him who gives it, and ayouth is less to be suspected than an older man," and thestranger fell into a reverie which lasted some minutes. "A weakobstacle is sometimes sufficient to overthrow a great design."Host," said he, "could you not contrive to get rid of thisfrantic boy for me? In conscience, I cannot kill him; and yet,"added he, with a coldly menacing expression, "he annoys me.Where is he?"
"In my wife's chamber, on the first flight, where they aredressing his wounds."
"His things and his bag are with him? Has he taken off hisdoublet?"
"On the contrary, everything is in the kitchen. But if he annoysyou, this young fool--"
"To be sure he does. He causes a disturbance in your hostelry,which respectable people cannot put up with. Go; make out mybill and notify my servant."
"What, monsieur, will you leave us so soon?"
"You know that very well, as I gave my order to saddle my horse.Have they not obeyed me?"
"It is done; as your Excellency may have observed, your horse isin the great gateway, ready saddled for your departure.""That is well; do as I have directed you, then."
"What the devil!" said the host to himself. "Can he be afraid ofthis boy?" But an imperious glance from the stranger stopped himshort; he bowed humbly and retired.
"It is not necessary for Milady* to be seen by this fellow,"continued the stranger. "She will soon pass; she is alreadylate. I had better get on horseback, and go and meet her. Ishould like, however, to know what this letter addressed toTreville contains."
*We are well aware that this term, milady, is only properly usedwhen followed by a family name. But we find it thus in the manuscript,and we do not choose to take upon ourselves to alter it.And the stranger, muttering to himself, directed his steps towardthe kitchen."
In the meantime, the host, who entertained no doubt that it wasthe presence of the young man that drove the stranger from hishostelry, re-ascended to his wife's chamber, and found D'Artagnanjust recovering his senses. Giving him to understand that thepolice would deal with him pretty severely for having sought aquarrel with a great lord--for the opinion of the host thestranger could be nothing less than a great lord--he insistedthat notwithstanding his weakness D'Artagnan should get up anddepart as quickly as possible. D'Artagnan, half stupefied,without his doublet, and with his head bound up in a linen cloth,arose then, and urged by the host, began to descend the stairs;but on arriving at the kitchen, the first thing he saw was hisantagonist talking calmly at the step of a heavy carriage, drawnby two large Norman horses.
His interlocutor, whose head appeared through the carriagewindow, was a woman of from twenty to two-and-twenty years. Wehave already observed with what rapidity D'Artagnan seized theexpression of a countenance. He perceived then, at a glance,that this woman was young and beautiful; and her style of beautystruck him more forcibly from its being totally different fromthat of the southern countries in which D'Artagnan had hithertoresided. She was pale and fair, with long curls falling inprofusion over her shoulders, had large, blue, languishing eyes,rosy lips, and hands of alabaster. She was talking with greatanimation with the stranger.
"His Eminence, then, orders me--" said the lady.
"To return instantly to England, and to inform him as soon as theduke leaves London."
"And as to my other instructions?" asked the fair traveler."They are contained in this box, which you will not open untilyou are on the other side of the Channel."
"Very well; and you--what will you do?"
"I--I return to Paris."
"What, without chastising this insolent boy?" asked the lady.The stranger was about to reply; but at the moment he opened hismouth, D'Artagnan, who had heard all, precipitated himself overthe threshold of the door.
"This insolent boy chastises others," cried he; "and I hope thatthis time he whom he ought to chastise will not escape him asbefore."
"Will not escape him?" replied the stranger, knitting his brow."No; before a woman you would dare not fly, I presume?""Remember," said Milady, seeing the stranger lay his hand on hissword, "the least delay may ruin everything."
"You are right," cried the gentleman; "begone then, on your part,and I will depart as quickly on mine." And bowing to the lady,sprang into his saddle, while her coachman applied his whipvigorously to his horses. The two interlocutors thus separated,taking opposite directions, at full gallop.
"Pay him, booby!" cried the stranger to his servant, withoutchecking the speed of his horse; and the man, after throwing twoor three silver pieces at the foot of mine host, galloped afterhis master.
"Base coward! false gentleman!" cried D'Artagnan, springingforward, in his turn, after the servant. But his wound hadrendered him too weak to support such an exertion. Scarcely hadhe gone ten steps when his ears began to tingle, a faintnessseized him, a cloud of blood passed over his eyes, and he fell inthe middle of the street, crying still, "Coward! coward! coward!""He is a coward, indeed," grumbled the host, drawing near toD'Artagnan, and endeavoring by this little flattery to make upmatters with the young man, as the heron of the fable did withthe snail he had despised the evening before.
"Yes, a base coward," murmured D'Artagnan; "but she--she was verybeautiful."
"What she?" demanded the host.