As porthos had first found his idea, and had thought of it earnestly afterwards, he was the first to act. This worthy Porthos was a man of execution. D’Artagnan perceived him one day walking toward the church of St. Leu, and followed him instinctively. He entered the holy place. D’Artagnan entered behind him. Porthos went and leaned against one side of a pillar. D’Artagnan, still unperceived, leaned against the other side of it.

There happened to be a sermon, and this made the church very full of people. Porthos took advantage of this circumstance to ogle the women.

D’Artagnan observed, on the bench nearest to the pillar against which he and Porthos were learning, a sort of ripe beauty, rather yellow and rather dry, but erect and haughty under her black hood. Porthos’s eyes were furtively cast upon this lady, and then roved about at large over the nave.

On her side, the lady, who from time to time blushed, darted with the rapidity of lightning a glance toward the inconstant Porthos, and then immediately Porthos’s eyes went wandering over the church anxiously. It was plain that this was a mode of proceeding that deeply piqued the lady in the black hood, for she bit her lips till they bled, scratched the end of her nose, and sat very uneasily in her seat.

Porthos, seeing this, began to make signals to a beautiful lady who was near the choir, and who was not only a beautiful lady, but also, no doubt, a great lady, for she had behind her a negro boy, who had brought the cushion on which she knelt, and a female servant, who held the emblazoned bag in which was placed the book from which she followed the service.

The lady of the red cushion produced a great effect—for she was very handsome—on the lady in the black hood, who saw in her a rival to be really dreaded; a great effect on Porthos, who thought her much prettier than the lady in the black hood; a great effect upon D’Artagnan, who recognized in her the lady of Meung, of Calais, whom his persecutor, the man with the scar, had saluted by the name of milady.

The sermon over, the solicitor’s wife advanced toward the font of holy water. Porthos went before her, and instead of a finger, dipped his whole hand in.

“Eh, Monsieur Porthos, you don’t offer me any holy water?”

Porthos, at the sound of her voice, started like a man awakening from a sleep of a hundred years.

“Ma—madame!” cried he, “is that you? How is your husband, our dear Monsieur Coquenard? Is he still as stingy as ever? Where can my eyes have been not to have perceived you during the two hours the sermon has lasted?”

“I was within two paces of you, sir,” replied the solicitor’s wife; “but you did not perceive me, because you had eyes only for the pretty lady.”

Porthos pretended to be confused.

“Ah,” said he, “you have noticed—”

“I must have been blind if I had not.”

“Yes,” said Porthos carelessly, “that is a duchess of my acquaintance, whom I have great trouble to meet on account of her husband’s jealousy, and who sent me word that she would come to-day, solely for the purpose of seeing me in this poor church, in this vile quarter.”

“Monsieur Porthos,” said the procureuse, “will you have the kindness to offer me your arm for five minutes? I have something to say to you.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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