“All at once a tall, dark man, with the manner of a gentleman—Come! the same style as yours, D’Artagnan.”

“The same, perhaps,” said he.

“Possibly,” continued Aramis—“came towards me, accompanied by five or six men, who followed at about ten paces behind him; and in the politest tone, ‘Duke,’ said he to me, ‘and you, madame,’ continued he, addressing the lady, who had hold of my arm—”

“The doctor’s niece?”

“Hold your tongue, Porthos,” said Athos; “you are insupportable.”

“ ‘Be so kind as to get into this carriage, and that without offering the slightest resistance or making the least noise.’ ”

“He took you for Buckingham!” cried D’Artagnan.

“I believe so,” replied Aramis.

“But the lady?” asked Porthos.

“He took her for the queen!” said D’Artagnan.

“Just so,” replied Aramis.

“The Gascon is the devil!” cried Athos; “nothing escapes him.”

“The fact is,” said Porthos, “Aramis is of the same height and something of the form of the handsome duke; but it nevertheless appears to me that the uniform of a musketeer—”

“I wore a very large cloak,” said Aramis.

“In the month of July, the devil!” said Porthos. “Is the doctor afraid you should be recognized?”

“I can understand that the spy may have been deceived by your figure; but your face—”

“I had a very large hat on,” said Aramis.

“Oh, good Lord!” cried Porthos, “how many precautions in order to study theology!”

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” said D’Artagnan, “do not let us lose our time in jesting. Let us separate, and let us seek the mercer’s wife; that is the key of the intrigue.”

“A woman of such inferior condition! Do you believe it, D’Artagnan?” said Porthos, protruding his lip contemptuously.

“She is goddaughter to La Porte, the confidential valet of the queen. Have I not told you so, gentlemen? Besides, it has perhaps been a scheme of her Majesty’s to have sought on this occasion for such lowly support. High heads can be seen from a distance; and the cardinal is far-sighted.”

“Well,” said Porthos, “in the first place, make a bargain with the mercer, and a good bargain, too.”

“That’s useless,” said D’Artagnan; “for I believe if he does not pay us, we shall be well enough paid by another party.”

At this moment a sudden noise of footsteps was heard upon the stairs, the door was thrown violently open, and the unfortunate mercer rushed into the chamber in which the council was being held.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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