The Shoulder of Athos, the Baldric of Porthos, and the Handkerchief of Aramis

D’artagnan, in a state of rage, crossed the antechamber in three bounds, and was darting towards the stairs, which he reckoned upon descending four steps at a time, when, in his heedless course, he ran head foremost against a musketeer who was coming out of one of M. de Tréville’s private rooms, and hitting his shoulder violently, made him utter a cry, or rather a howl.

“Excuse me,” said D’Artagnan, endeavouring 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 scarf and stopped him.

“You are in a hurry,” said the musketeer, as pale as a sheet. “Under that pretence you run against me. You say ‘Excuse me!’ and you believe that that is sufficient?”

“Loose your hold, then, I beg of you, and let me go where my business calls me,” replied D’Artagnan.

“Sir,” 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 when Athos’s last remark stopped him short.

“Zounds, sir!” said he, “however far I may have 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 some one!” said D’Artagnan.

“Mr. Man-in-a-hurry, you can find me without running after me—me! Do you understand me?”

“And where, I pray you?”

“Near the Carmes-Deschaux.”

“At what hour?”

“About noon.”

“About noon. That will do; I will be there.”

“Try not to make me wait, for at a 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 unknown, 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 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 essential part of his vestments, for instead of letting go the flap, which he was holding, he pulled it towards him, so that D’Artagnan rolled himself up in the velvet by a movement of rotation explained by the resistance of the obstinate Porthos.

D’Artagnan, hearing the musketeer swear, wished to escape from under the cloak which blinded him, and endeavoured to make his way out of its folds. 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.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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