Alas! like most of the things in this world which have nothing in their favour but appearance, 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 an entirely gold-worked baldric, but had at least half a one. The pretext about the cold and the necessity for the cloak were thus exposed.

“Good Lord!” cried Porthos, making strong efforts to get rid of D’Artagnan, who was wriggling about his back, “the fellow 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 some one, and—”“And do you always forget your eyes when you happen to be in a hurry?” asked Porthos.

“No,” replied D’Artagnan, piqued, “no; and, thanks to my eyes, I can see what other people cannot see.”

Whether Porthos understood him or did not understand him, the fact is that giving way to his anger,

“Sir,” said he, “I warn you that you stand a chance of getting chastised if you run against musketeers in this fashion.”

“Chastised, sir?” said D’Artagnan. “The expression is strong.”

“It is one that becomes a man accustomed to look his enemies in the face.”

“Ah, zounds! I know full well that you do not turn your back to yours.”

And the young man, delighted with his joke, went away laughing with all his might.

Porthos foamed with rage, and started to rush after D’Artagnan.

“Wait awhile, wait awhile,” 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 through which he had passed, nor in the one which his glance now eagerly scanned, could he see any one. However slowly the unknown had walked, he had gained ground, or perhaps had entered some house. D’Artagnan inquired of every one he met, went down to the ferry, came up again by the Rue de Seine and the Croix Rouge, but he could see nothing of him, absolutely nothing! This race 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. D’Artagnan, walking and soliloquizing, had arrived within a few steps of the Hôtel d’Aiguillon, and in front of that hôtel perceived Aramis chatting gaily with three gentlemen of the king’s guards. D’Artagnan approached the young men with a profound bow, accompanied by a most gracious smile. Aramis bowed his head slightly, but did not smile. All four of them immediately ceased talking.

D’Artagnan was not so dull as not to perceive that he was not wanted, but he was not sufficiently acquainted with the ways of the world to know how to withdraw with ease from the awkward position of having forced himself upon persons he scarcely knew, and having joined in a conversation which did not concern him. He was seeking in his mind, then, for the least disagreeable means of retreat, when he remarked that Aramis had let his handkerchief fall, and by mistake, no doubt, had placed his foot upon it, and it appeared a favourable opportunity to atone for his intrusion. He stooped, and with the most gracious air he could assume, drew the handkerchief from under the foot of the musketeer, in spite of the efforts the latter made to detain it, and holding it out to him, said,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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