D’Artagnan took advantage of the lamp burning in the boatman’s cabin to read Madame Bonacieux’s note once again, and satisfy himself that he had not been mistaken, that the appointment was at St. Cloud and not elsewhere, before M. d’Estrées’s pavilion and not in another street.

He again ran back to the château. It appeared to him that something might have happened at the pavilion in his absence, and that fresh information was awaiting him.

The lane was still empty, and the same calm, soft light shone from the window.

D’Artagnan then thought of that mute, blind cottage: it must have seen, and perhaps could speak!

The gate was locked, but he leaped over the hedge, and in spite of the barking of a chained dog, went up to the cabin.

There was no answer to his first knocking. A deathlike silence reigned in the cottage as in the pavilion; but as the cottage was his last resource, he kept knocking.

It soon appeared to him that he heard a slight noise within, a timid noise, seeming itself to tremble.

Then D’Artagnan ceased to knock, and entreated with an accent so full of anxiety and promises, terror and persuasion, that his voice was of a nature to reassure the most timid. At length an old, worm-eaten shutter was opened, or rather pushed ajar, but closed again as soon as the light from a miserable lamp burning in the corner had shone upon D’Artagnan’s baldric, sword-hilt, and pistol pommels. Nevertheless, rapid as the movement had been, D’Artagnan had had time to get a glimpse of an old man’s head.

“In the name of Heaven,” cried he, “listen to me! I have been waiting for some one who has not come. I am dying with anxiety. Could any misfortune have happened in the neighbourhood? Speak!”

The window was again opened slowly, and the same face appeared again. Only it was paler than before.

D’Artagnan related his story simply, with the omission of names. He told how he had an appointment with a young woman before that pavilion, and how, seeing she did not come, he had climbed the linden tree, and by the lamplight had seen the disorder of the chamber.

The old man read so much truth and so much grief in the young man’s face that he made a sign to listen, and speaking in a low voice, said,

“It was about nine o’clock when I heard a noise in the street, and was wondering what it could be, when, on coming to my gate, I found that somebody was endeavouring to open it. As I am poor, and am not afraid of being robbed, I went and opened the gate, and saw three men at a few paces from it. In the shade was a coach with horses, and some saddle-horses. These saddle-horses evidently belonged to the three men, who were dressed as cavaliers.

“‘Ah, my worthy gentlemen,’ cried I, ‘what do you want?’

“‘Have you a ladder?’ said the one who appeared to be the leader of the party.

“Yes, sir—the one with which I gather my fruit.”

“‘Lend it to us, and go into your house again. There is a crown for the trouble we cause you. Only remember this, if you speak a word of what you may see or hear (for you will look and listen, I am quite sure, however we may threaten you), you are lost.’

“At these words he threw me a crown, which I picked up, and he took my ladder.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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