“Trifles all that,” said Athos—“nothing but trifles!” That was Athos’s favourite expression.

“You always say trifles, my dear Athos,” said D’Artagnan, “and that comes very ill from you, who have never been in love.”

Athos’s dull eye flashed suddenly, but it was only a flash; it became dull and vacant as before.

“True,” said he quietly, “I have never been in love.”

“Acknowledge, then, you stony-hearted man,” said D’Artagnan, “that you have no right to be so hard on us whose hearts are tender.”

“Your misfortune is laughable,” said Athos, shrugging his shoulders. “I should like to know what you would say if I were to relate to you a real tale of love.”

“Which concerns you?”

“Or one of my friends. What difference does it make?”

“Tell it, Athos, tell it.”

“Let us drink! That will be better.”

“Drink while you tell it!”

“Not a bad idea!” said Athos, emptying and filling his glass; “the two things go marvellously well together.”

“I am all attention,” said D’Artagnan.

Athos collected himself, and in proportion as he did so, D’Artagnan saw that he became paler. He was at that period of intoxication in which vulgar drinkers fall on the floor and go to sleep. But he dreamed aloud, without sleeping. This somnambulism of drunkenness had something frightful about it.

“You absolutely wish it?” he asked.

“I beg you to do it,” said D’Artagnan.

“Be it, then, as you desire. A friend of mine—please to observe, a friend of mine, not myself,” said Athos, interrupting himself with a gloomy smile—“one of the counts of my province (that is to say, of Berry), noble as a Dandolo or a Montmorency, when he was twenty-five years old fell in love with a girl of sixteen, beautiful as an angel. Through the ingenuousness of her age beamed an ardent mind—not a woman’s mind, but a poet’s. She did not please; she intoxicated. She lived in a small town with her brother, who was a vicar. Both had recently come into the country. Nobody knew where they came from; but on seeing her so lovely and her brother so pious, nobody thought of asking where they came from. They were said, however, to be of good extraction. My friend, who was lord of the country, might have seduced her; or he might have seized her forcibly, at his will, for he was master. Who would have come to the assistance of two strangers, two unknown persons? Unfortunately, he was an honourable man; he married her. The fool! the ass! the idiot!”

“How so, if he loved her?” asked D’Artagnan.

“Wait!” said Athos. “He took her to his château, and made her the first lady in the province; and in justice, it must be allowed she supported her rank becomingly.”

“Well?” asked D’Artagnan.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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