4 THE SHOULDER OF ATHOS, THE BALDRIC OF PORTHOS AND THE HANDKERCHIEF OF ARAMIS
D'Artagnan, in a state of fury, crossed the antechamber at three bounds, and was darting toward the stairs, which he reckoned upon descending four at a time, when, in his heedless course, he ran head foremost against a Musketeer who was coming out of one of M. de Treville's private rooms, and striking his shoulder violently, made him utter a cry, or rather a howl.
"Excuse me," said d'Artagnan, endeavoring to resume his course, "excuse me, but I am in a hurry."
Scarcely had he descended the first stair, when a hand of iron seized him by the belt and stopped him.
"You are in a hurry?" said the Musketeer, as pale as a sheet. "Under that pretense you run against me! You say. 'Excuse me,' and you believe that is sufficient? Not at all my young man. Do you fancy because you have heard Monsieur de Treville speak to us a little cavalierly today that other people are to treat us as he speaks to us? Undeceive yourself, comrade, you are not Monsieur de Treville."
"My faith!" replied d'Artagnan, recognizing Athos, who, after the dressing performed by the doctor, was returning to his own apartment. "I did not do it intentionally, and not doing it intentionally, I said 'Excuse me.' It appears to me that this is quite enough. I repeat to you, however, and this time on my word of honor — I think perhaps too often — that I am in haste, great haste. Leave your hold, then, I beg of you, and let me go where my business calls me."
"Monsieur," said Athos, letting him go, "you are not polite; it is easy to perceive that you come from a distance."
D'Artagnan had already strode down three or four stairs, but at Athos's last remark he stopped short.
"MORBLEU, monsieur!" said he, "however far I may come, it is not you who can give me a lesson in good manners, I warn you."
"Perhaps," said Athos.
"Ah! If I were not in such haste, and if I were not running after someone," said d'Artagnan.
"Monsieur Man-in-a-hurry, you can find me without running — ME, you understand?"
"And where, I pray you?"
"Near the Carmes-Deschaux."
"At what hour?"
"About noon? That will do; I will be there."
"Endeavor not to make me wait; for at quarter past twelve I will cut off your ears as you run."
"Good!" cried d'Artagnan, "I will be there ten minutes before twelve." And he set off running as if the devil possessed him, hoping that he might yet find the stranger, whose slow pace could not have carried him far.
But at the street gate, Porthos was talking with the soldier on guard. Between the two talkers there was just enough room for a man to pass. D'Artagnan thought it would suffice for him, and he sprang forward like a dart between them. But d'Artagnan had reckoned without the wind. As he was about to pass, the wind blew out Porthos's long cloak, and d'Artagnan rushed straight into the middle of it. Without doubt, Porthos had reasons for not abandoning this part of his vestments, for instead of quitting his hold on the flap in his hand, he pulled it toward him, so that d'Artagnan rolled himself up in the velvet by a movement of rotation explained by the persistency of Porthos.
D'Artagnan, hearing the Musketeer swear, wished to escape from the cloak, which blinded him, and sought to find his way from under the folds of it. He was particularly anxious to avoid marring the freshness of the magnificent baldric we are acquainted with; but on timidly opening his eyes, he found himself with his nose fixed between the two shoulders of Porthos — that is to say, exactly upon the baldric.
Alas, like most things in this world which have nothing in their favor but appearances, the baldric was glittering with gold in the front, but was nothing but simple buff behind. Vainglorious as he was, Porthos could not afford to have a baldric wholly of gold, but had at least half. One could comprehend the necessity of the cold and the urgency of the cloak.
"Bless me!" cried Porthos, making strong efforts to disembarrass himself of d'Artagnan, who was wriggling about his back; "you must be mad to run against people in this manner."
"Excuse me," said d'Artagnan, reappearing under the shoulder of the giant, "but I am in such haste — I was running after someone and — "
"And do you always forget your eyes when you run?" asked Porthos.
"No," replied d'Artagnan, piqued, "and thanks to my eyes, I can see what other people cannot see."
Whether Porthos understood him or did not understand him, giving way to his anger, "Monsieur," said he, "you stand a chance of getting chastised if you rub Musketeers in this fashion."
"Chastised, Monsieur!" said d'Artagnan, "the expression is strong."
"It is one that becomes a man accustomed to look his enemies in the face."
"Ah, PARDIEU! I know full well that you don't turn your back to yours."
And the young man, delighted with his joke, went away laughing loudly.
Porthos foamed with rage, and made a movement to rush after d'Artagnan.
"Presently, presently," cried the latter, "when you haven't your cloak on."
"At one o'clock, then, behind the Luxembourg."
"Very well, at one o'clock, then," replied d'Artagnan, turning the angle of the street.
But neither in the street he had passed through, nor in the one which his eager glance pervaded, could he see anyone; however slowly the stranger had walked, he was gone on his way, or perhaps had entered some house. D'Artagnan inquired of everyone he met with, went down to the ferry, came up again by the Rue de Seine, and the Red Cross; but nothing, absolutely nothing! This chase was, however, advantageous to him in one sense, for in proportion as the perspiration broke from his forehead, his heart began to cool.
He began to reflect upon the events that had passed; they were numerous and inauspicious. It was scarcely eleven o'clock in the morning, and yet this morning had already brought him into disgrace with M. de Treville, who could not fail to think the manner in which d'Artagnan had left him a little cavalier.
Besides this, he had drawn upon himself two good duels with two men, each capable of killing three d'Artagnans — with two Musketeers, in short, with two of those beings whom he esteemed so greatly that he placed them in his mind and heart above all other men.
The outlook was sad. Sure of being killed by Athos, it may easily be understood that the young man was not very uneasy about Porthos. As hope, however, is the last thing extinguished in the heart of man, he finished by hoping that he might survive, even though with terrible wounds, in both these duels; and in case of surviving, he made the following reprehensions upon his own conduct: