38 HOW, WITHOUT INCOMMODING HIMSELF, ATHOS PROCURES HIS EQUIPMENT
D'Artagnan was so completely bewildered that without taking any heed of what might become of Kitty he ran at full speed across half Paris, and did not stop till he came to Athos's door. The confusion of his mind, the terror which spurred him on, the cries of some of the patrol who started in pursuit of him, and the hooting of the people who, notwithstanding the early hour, were going to their work, only made him precipitate his course.
He crossed the court, ran up the two flights to Athos's apartment, and knocked at the door enough to break it down.
Grimaud came, rubbing his half-open eyes, to answer this noisy summons, and d'Artagnan sprang with such violence into the room as nearly to overturn the astonished lackey.
In spite of his habitual silence, the poor lad this time found his speech.
"Holloa, there!" cried he; "what do you want, you strumpet? What's your business here, you hussy?"
D'Artagnan threw off his hood, and disengaged his hands from the folds of the cloak. At sight of the mustaches and the naked sword, the poor devil perceived he had to deal with a man. He then concluded it must be an assassin.
"Help! murder! help!" cried he.
"Hold your tongue, you stupid fellow!" said the young man; "I am d'Artagnan; don't you know me? Where is your master?"
"You, Monsieur d'Artagnan!" cried Grimaud, "impossible."
"Grimaud," said Athos, coming out of his apartment in a dressing gown, "Grimaud, I thought I heard you permitting yourself to speak?"
"Ah, monsieur, it is — "
Grimaud contented himself with pointing d'Artagnan out to his master with his finger.
Athos recognized his comrade, and phlegmatic as he was, he burst into a laugh which was quite excused by the strange masquerade before his eyes — petticoats falling over his shoes, sleeves tucked up, and mustaches stiff with agitation.
"Don't laugh, my friend!" cried d'Artagnan; "for heaven's sake, don't laugh, for upon my soul, it's no laughing matter!"
And he pronounced these words with such a solemn air and with such a real appearance of terror, that Athos eagerly seized his hand, crying, "Are you wounded, my friend? How pale you are!"
"No, but I have just met with a terrible adventure! Are you alone, Athos?"
"PARBLEU! whom do you expect to find with me at this hour?"
"Well, well!" and d'Artagnan rushed into Athos's chamber.
"Come, speak!" said the latter, closing the door and bolting it, that they might not be disturbed. "Is the king dead? Have you killed the cardinal? You are quite upset! Come, come, tell me; I am dying with curiosity and uneasiness!"
"Athos," said d'Artagnan, getting rid of his female garments, and appearing in his shirt, "prepare yourself to hear an incredible, an unheard-of story."
"Well, but put on this dressing gown first," said the Musketeer to his friend.
D'Artagnan donned the robe as quickly as he could, mistaking one sleeve for the other, so greatly was he still agitated.
"Well?" said Athos.
"Well," replied d'Artagnan, bending his mouth to Athos's ear, and lowering his voice, "Milady is marked with a FLEUR-DE-LIS upon her shoulder!"
"Ah!" cried the Musketeer, as if he had received a ball in his heart.
"Let us see," said d'Artagnan. "Are you SURE that the OTHER is dead?"
"THE OTHER?" said Athos, in so stifled a voice that d'Artagnan scarcely heard him.
"Yes, she of whom you told me one day at Amiens."
Athos uttered a groan, and let his head sink on his hands.
"This is a woman of twenty-six or twenty-eight years."
"Fair," said Athos, "is she not?"
"Blue and clear eyes, of a strange brilliancy, with black eyelids and eyebrows?"
"Tall, well-made? She has lost a tooth, next to the eyetooth on the left?"
"The FLEUR-DE-LIS is small, rosy in color, and looks as if efforts had been made to efface it by the application of poultices?"
"But you say she is English?"
"She is called Milady, but she may be French. Lord de Winter is only her brother-in-law."
"I will see her, d'Artagnan!"
"Beware, Athos, beware. You tried to kill her; she is a woman to return you the like, and not to fail."
"She will not dare to say anything; that would be to denounce herself."
"She is capable of anything or everything. Did you ever see her furious?"
"No," said Athos.
"A tigress, a panther! Ah, my dear Athos, I am greatly afraid I have drawn a terrible vengeance on both of us!"
D'Artagnan then related all — the mad passion of Milady and her menaces of death.
"You are right; and upon my soul, I would give my life for a hair," said Athos. "Fortunately, the day after tomorrow we leave Paris. We are going according to all probability to La Rochelle, and once gone — "
"She will follow you to the end of the world, Athos, if she recognizes you. Let her, then, exhaust her vengeance on me alone!"
"My dear friend, of what consequence is it if she kills me?" said Athos. "Do you, perchance, think I set any great store by life?"
"There is something horribly mysterious under all this, Athos; this woman is one of the cardinal's spies, I am sure of that."
"In that case, take care! If the cardinal does not hold you in high admiration for the affair of London, he entertains a great hatred for you; but as, considering everything, he cannot accuse you openly, and as hatred must be satisfied, particularly when it's a cardinal's hatred, take care of yourself. If you go out, do not go out alone; when you eat, use every precaution. Mistrust everything, in short, even your own shadow."
"Fortunately," said d'Artagnan, "all this will be only necessary till after tomorrow evening, for when once with the army, we shall have, I hope, only men to dread."
"In the meantime," said Athos, "I renounce my plan of seclusion, and wherever you go, I will go with you. You must return to the Rue des Fossoyeurs; I will accompany you."
"But however near it may be," replied d'Artagnan, "I cannot go thither in this guise."
"That's true," said Athos, and he rang the bell.