D’Artagnan remembered seeing that ring on milady’s hand. It was a magnificent sapphire encircled by brilliants.

At that moment he felt ready to reveal everything. He opened his mouth to tell milady who he was, and with what revengeful purpose he had come, when she added,

“Poor dear angel, whom that monster of a Gascon came so near killing!”

The monster was himself!

“Do you suffer still from your wounds?” continued she.

“Yes, a great deal,” said D’Artagnan, hardly knowing what to answer.

“Be assured,” murmured she, “I will avenge you, and cruelly.”

D’Artagnan needed some time to recover from this short dialogue. But all the ideas of vengeance he had brought had vanished completely. This woman exercised over him an unaccountable fascination: he hated her and adored her at the same moment.

But one o’clock had just struck, and they had to separate. D’Artagnan at the moment of leaving milady felt only a keen regret at departing, and in the passionate farewell they mutually bade each other a new interview was agreed upon for the following week. Poor Kitty hoped she might say some words to D’Artagnan when he came into her room; but milady herself guided him through the darkness, and left him only on the staircase.

The next morning D’Artagnan hastened to Athos’s room. He had started on such a strange adventure that he wished to ask his advice. He told him everything. Athos frowned more than once. “Your milady,” said he, “appears to me an infamous creature, but none the less you did wrong in deceiving her. Now you have, in one way or another, a terrible enemy on your hands.”

While talking to him Athos was gazing earnestly at the sapphire surrounded with diamonds which had replaced on D’Artagnan’s finger the queen’s ring, now carefully kept in a jewel-case.

“You are looking at my ring?” said the Gascon, proud of showing off such a rich gift before his friend.

“Yes,” said Athos; “it reminds me of a family jewel.”

“It is beautiful, isn’t it?” said D’Artagnan.

“Magnificent!” replied Athos. “I did not think there existed two sapphires of such fine water. Did you exchange it for your diamond?”

“No,” said D’Artagnan; “it is a gift from my beautiful Englishwoman, or rather from my beautiful Frenchwoman, for though I never have asked her, I am convinced she was born in France.”

“This ring comes from milady!” cried Athos in a tone which revealed great emotion.

“From herself. She gave it to me last night.”

“Show me your ring, I beg of you,” said Athos.

“Here it is,” replied D’Artagnan, drawing it from his finger.

Athos examined it and grew very pale. Then he tried it on the ring-finger of his left hand. It fitted his finger as if it had been made for it. A shadow of anger and vengeance passed over the nobleman’s brow, usually so calm.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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