“Oh yes, yes; you are right. In this way all will go well—all will be for the best; but do not go far from here.”

Milady was wrong in fearing that Madame Bonacieux would have any suspicions. The poor young woman was too innocent to suppose that any woman could be guilty of such perfidy. Besides, the name of the Countess Winter, which she had heard the abbess pronounce, was perfectly unknown to her, and she was even ignorant that she had so great and so fatal a share in the misfortunes of her life.

“You see,” said she, “everything is ready. The abbess suspects nothing. Take a mouthful to eat, drink a swallow of wine, and let us go.”

“Yes,” said Madame Bonacieux mechanically; “let us go.” Milady made her a sign to sit down before her, poured out a small glass of Spanish wine for her, and helped her to some of the breast of a chicken.

Madame Bonacieux ate a few mouthfuls mechanically, and just touched the glass to her lips.

“Come, come!” said milady, lifting hers to her mouth, “do as I do.”

But just as she was putting hers to her mouth her hand remained suspended. She had heard something on the road which sounded like the far-off beat of hoofs approaching; then, almost at the same time, it seemed to her that she heard the neighing of horses.

This noise roused her from her joy as a storm awakens the sleeper in the midst of a beautiful dream. She grew pale and ran to the window, while Madame Bonacieux, rising all of a tremble, supported herself on her chair to avoid falling.

Nothing was yet to be seen, only they heard the galloping constantly draw nearer.

“O Heavens!” cried Madame Bonacieux, “what is that noise?”

“It is either our friends or our enemies,” said milady, with her terrible coolness. “Stay where you are. I will tell you.”

Madame Bonacieux remained standing, mute, pale, and motionless.

The noise became louder; the horses could not be more than a hundred paces distant. If they were not yet to be seen, it was because the road made a bend. Yet the noise became so distinct that the horses might be counted by the sharply defined sound of their hoofs.

Milady gazed with all her eyes; it was just light enough for her to recognize those who were coming.

Suddenly, at a turn of the road, she saw the glitter of laced hats and the waving plumes; she counted two, then five, then eight horsemen. One of them was two lengths of his horse in advance of the others.

Milady uttered a stifled groan. In the first horseman she recognized D’Artagnan.

“O Heavens, Heavens!” cried Madame Bonacieux, “what is it? what is it?”

“It is the cardinal’s guards—not an instant to be lost!” cried milady. “Let us fly! let us fly!”

“Yes, yes, let us fly!” repeated Madame Bonacieux, but without being able to take a step, fixed to the spot as she was by terror.

They heard the horsemen riding under the windows.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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