of the handkerchief appeared to have plunged the two personages now on the scene, he stole from his hiding-place, and quick as lightning, but stepping with the utmost caution, he went and placed himself close to the angle of the wall, from which his eye could plunge into the interior of the apartment.

Upon gaining this advantage D’Artagnan came near uttering a cry of surprise. It was not Aramis who was conversing with the nocturnal visitor; it was a woman! D’Artagnan, however, could only see enough to recognize the form of her vestments, not enough to distinguish her features.

At the same instant the woman of the apartment drew a second handkerchief from her pocket, and exchanged it for the one which had just been shown to her. Then some words were pronounced by the two women. At length the shutter was closed. The woman who was outside the window turned round, and passed within four steps of D’Artagnan, pulling down the hood of her cloak; but the precaution was too late. D’Artagnan had already recognized Madame Bonacieux.

It must be, then, for some very important affair; and what is the affair of the greatest importance to a pretty woman of twenty-five? Love.

But was it on her own account or on account of another person that she exposed herself to such risks? This was a question the young man asked himself, the demon of jealousy already gnawing at his heart, neither more nor less than at the heart of an accepted lover.

There was, besides, a very simple means of satisfying himself where Madame Bonacieux was going. This was to follow her. The means was so simple that D’Artagnan employed it quite naturally and instinctively.

But at the sight of the young man, who came out from the wall like a statue walking from its niche, and at the noise of the steps which she heard resound behind her, Madame Bonacieux uttered a little cry and fled.

D’Artagnan ran after her. It was not a very difficult thing for him to overtake a woman embarrassed with her cloak. He came up to her before she had traversed a third of the street. The unfortunate woman was exhausted, not by fatigue, but by terror; and when D’Artagnan placed his hand upon her shoulder, she sank upon one knee, crying in a choking voice,

“Kill me, if you will; you shall know nothing!”

D’Artagnan raised her by passing his arm round her waist; but as he felt by her weight she was on the point of fainting, he made haste to reassure her by protestations of devotion. These protestations were nothing for Madame Bonacieux, for such protestations may be made with the worst intentions in the world; but the voice was all. The young woman thought she recognized the sound of that voice. She opened her eyes, cast a quick glance upon the man who had terrified her so, and at once perceiving it was D’Artagnan, she uttered a cry of joy.

“Oh, it is you, it is you! Thank God, thank God!”

“Yes, it is I,” said D’Artagnan—“it is I, whom God has sent to watch over you.”

“Was it with that intention you followed me?”

“No,” said D’Artagnan—“no, I confess it; it was chance that threw me in your way. I saw a female knocking at the window of one of my friends.”

“One of your friends?” interrupted Madame Bonacieux.

“Without doubt; Aramis is one of my most intimate friends.”

“Aramis! Who is he?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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