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."
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 d'Artagnan, seizing the letter.
"No; for another."
"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.
"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."
"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.