"It was not he, then, you came to seek?"
"Not the least in the world. Besides, you must have seen that the person to whom I spoke was a woman."
"That is true; but this woman is a friend of Aramis — "
"I know nothing of that."
" — since she lodges with him."
"That does not concern me."
"But who is she?"
"Oh, that is not my secret."
"My dear Madame Bonacieux, you are charming; but at the same time you are one of the most mysterious women."
"Do I lose by that?"
"No; you are, on the contrary, adorable."
"Give me your arm, then."
"Most willingly. And now?"
"Now escort me."
"Where I am going."
"But where are you going?"
"You will see, because you will leave me at the door."
"Shall I wait for you?"
"That will be useless."
"You will return alone, then?"
"Perhaps yes, perhaps no."
"But will the person who shall accompany you afterward be a man or a woman?"
"I don't know yet."
"But I will know it!"
"I will wait until you come out."
"In that case, adieu."
"I do not want you."
"But you have claimed — "
"The aid of a gentleman, not the watchfulness of a spy."
"The word is rather hard."
"How are they called who follow others in spite of them?"
"They are indiscreet."
"The word is too mild."
"Well, madame, I perceive I must do as you wish."
"Why did you deprive yourself of the merit of doing so at once?"
"Is there no merit in repentance?"
"And do you really repent?"
"I know nothing about it myself. But what I know is that I promise to do all you wish if you allow me to accompany you where you are going."
"And you will leave me then?"
"Without waiting for my coming out again?"
"Word of honor?"
"By the faith of a gentleman. Take my arm, and let us go."
D'Artagnan offered his arm to Mme. Bonacieux, who willingly took it, half laughing, half trembling, and both gained the top of Rue de la Harpe. Arriving there, the young woman seemed to hesitate, as she had before done in the Rue Vaugirard. She seemed, however, by certain signs, to recognize a door, and approaching that door, "And now, monsieur," said she, "it is here I have business; a thousand thanks for your honorable company, which has saved me from all the dangers to which, alone I was exposed. But the moment is come to keep your word; I have reached my destination."
"And you will have nothing to fear on your return?"
"I shall have nothing to fear but robbers."
"And that is nothing?"
"What could they take from me? I have not a penny about me."
"You forget that beautiful handkerchief with the coat of arms."
"That which I found at your feet, and replaced in your pocket."
"Hold your tongue, imprudent man! Do you wish to destroy me?"
"You see very plainly that there is still danger for you, since a single word makes you tremble; and you confess that if that word were heard you would be ruined. Come, come, madame!" cried d'Artagnan, seizing her hands, and surveying her with an ardent glance, "come, be more generous. Confide in me. Have you not read in my eyes that there is nothing but devotion and sympathy in my heart?"
"Yes," replied Mme. Bonacieux; "therefore, ask my own secrets, and I will reveal them to you; but those of others — that is quite another thing."
"Very well," said d'Artagnan, "I shall discover them; as these secrets may have an influence over your life, these secrets must become mine."
"Beware of what you do!" cried the young woman, in a manner so serious as to make d'Artagnan start in spite of himself. "Oh, meddle in nothing which concerns me. Do not seek to assist me in that which I am accomplishing. This I ask of you in the name of the interest with which I inspire you, in the name of the service you have rendered me and which I never shall forget while I have life. Rather, place faith in what I tell you. Have no more concern about me; I exist no longer for you, any more than if you had never seen me."
"Must Aramis do as much as I, madame?" said d'Artagnan, deeply piqued.
"This is the second or third time, monsieur, that you have repeated that name, and yet I have told you that I do not know him."
"You do not know the man at whose shutter you have just knocked? Indeed, madame, you believe me too credulous!"
"Confess that it is for the sake of making me talk that you invent this story and create this personage."
"I invent nothing, madame; I create nothing. I only speak that exact truth."
"And you say that one of your friends lives in that house?"
"I say so, and I repeat it for the third time; that house is one inhabited by my friend, and that friend is Aramis."
"All this will be cleared up at a later period," murmured the young woman; "no, monsieur, be silent."
"If you could see my heart," said d'Artagnan, "you would there read so much curiosity that you would pity me and so much love that you would instantly satisfy my curiosity. We have nothing to fear from those who love us."
"You speak very suddenly of love, monsieur," said the young woman, shaking her head.
"That is because love has come suddenly upon me, and for the first time; and because I am only twenty."