The voice became more and more indistinct; a tumultuous movement shook the wainscoting. The victim was resisting as much as one woman can resist four men.
Pardon, gentlemen, par murmured the voice, which could now be heard only in inarticulate sounds.
They are gagging her, they are going to drag her away, cried DArtagnan to himself, springing from the floor. My sword! Good! it is by my side. Planchet!
Run and get Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. One of the three will certainly be at homeperhaps all three are. Tell them to arm, to come here, and be quick about it! Ah, I remember; Athos is at M. de Trévilles.
But where are you going, sir, where are you going?
I am going down by the window, in order to be there the sooner, cried DArtagnan. Do you put back the tiles, sweep the floor, go out at the door, and run where I bid you.
O sir, sir, you will kill yourself! cried Planchet.
Hold your tongue, you stupid fellow, said DArtagnan; and laying hold of the window-ledge, he let himself fall from the first story, which luckily was not far, without even scratching himself.
He then went straight to the door and knocked, murmuring,
I will go and be caught in the mouse-trap in my turn, but woe be to the cats that shall pounce upon such a mouse!
The knocker had scarcely sounded under the hand of the young man than the tumult ceased, steps approached, the door opened, and DArtagnan, sword in hand, rushed into M. Bonacieuxs apartment, the door of which, doubtless moved by a spring, closed after him of itself.
Then those who were still living in Bonacieuxs unfortunate house, together with the nearest neighbours, heard loud cries, stamping of feet, clashing of swords, and much breaking of furniture. Then a moment after those who, surprised by this tumult, had gone to their windows to learn the cause of it, could see the door open, and four men, clothed in black, not come out of it, but fly, like so many frightened crows, leaving on the ground, and on the corners of the furniture, feathers from their wingsthat is to say, portions of their clothes and fragments of their cloaks.
DArtagnan was conqueror, without much trouble, it must be confessed, for only one of the bailiffs was armed, and he defended himself only for forms sake. It is true that the three others had endeavoured to knock the young man down with chairs, stools, and crockery; but two or three scratches made by the Gascons blade terrified them. Ten minutes had sufficed for their defeat, and DArtagnan remained master of the field of battle.
The neighbours who had opened their windows, with the indifference peculiar to the inhabitants of Paris in those times of perpetual riots and disturbances, closed them again as soon as they saw the four men in black fly away, their instinct telling them that for the moment all was over.
Besides, it began to grow late, and in those days, as at the present, people went to bed early in the Luxembourg quarter.
On being left alone with Madame Bonacieux, DArtagnan turned towards her. The poor woman had fallen back upon an armchair in a half-fainting state. DArtagnan examined her with a rapid glance.
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