第61章 At Night all Cats are Grey(1)
The evening so impatiently awaited by D’Artagnan at length arrived. D’Artagnan, as usual, presented himself about nine o’clock at milady’s house. He found her in a charming humour. Never had she received him so kindly. Our Gascon saw at the first glance that his note had been delivered and was doing its work.
Kitty entered, bringing some sherbet. Her mistress was very pleasant to her, and greeted her with her most gracious smile.
At ten o’clock milady began to appear uneasy. D’Artagnan understood what it meant. She looked at the clock, got up, sat down again, and smiled at D’Artagnan as much as to say, “You are doubtless very likeable, but you would be charming if you would go away.”
D’Artagnan rose and took his hat; milady gave him her hand to kiss. The young man felt that she pressed his hand, and he understood that she did so, not out of coquetry, but from a feeling of gratitude at his departure.
This time Kitty was not waiting for him, either in the anteroom, or in the corridor, or under the gateway. D’Artagnan was obliged alone to find the staircase and the little chamber. Kitty was sitting down, her head hidden in her hands, and was weeping.
She heard D’Artagnan enter, but did not raise her head at all. The young man went up to her, took her hands; then she burst out into sobs.
As D’Artagnan had supposed, milady, on receiving the letter, had, in the delirium of her joy, told her maid everything. Then, as a reward for the manner in which she had this time done her errand, she had given Kitty a purse.
On returning to her room Kitty had flung the purse into a corner, where it was lying wide open, disgorging three or four gold coins on the carpet.
The poor girl lifted her head at D’Artagnan’s caresses. He was terrified at the change in her countenance. She clasped her hands supplicatingly, but without venturing to speak a word.
At last, as the time for the interview with the count drew near, milady had all the lights extinguished, and dismissed Kitty with an injunction to introduce De Wardes the moment he arrived.
Kitty was not kept waiting long. Scarcely had D’Artagnan seen that the whole apartment was in darkness, when he sprang from his hiding-place just as Kitty was closing the door.
“What is that noise?” asked milady.
“It is I, the Comte de Wardes,” replied D’Artagnan in a whisper.
“Well,” said milady in a trembling voice, “why do you not come in? Count, count!” added she, “you well know I am waiting for you.”
At this appeal D’Artagnan pushed Kitty gently aside and darted into the chamber.
“Yes, count,” said milady, in her sweetest voice, and pressing his hand tenderly in hers—“yes, I am happy in the love which your looks and words have expressed to me each time we have met. I love you also. To-morrow, to-morrow, I wish some pledge from you to prove to me that you think of me. And lest you forget me, take this!”
She took a ring from her finger and put on D’Artagnan’s.
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.