Immediately the twenty men rushed forward, seizing pails, buckets, jars, barrels, and extinguishing the fire with as much ardor as they had, an instant before, employed in promoting it. But already, and before all the rest, D’Artagnan had applied a ladder to the house, crying, “Athos! it is I, D’Artagnan! Do not kill me, my dearest friend!” And in a moment the count was clasped in his arms. In the meantime, Grimaud, preserving his calmness, dismantled the fortification of the ground-floor, and after having opened the door, stood, with his arms folded, quietly on the sill. Only, on hearing the voice of D’Artagnan, he uttered an exclamation of surprise. The fire being extinguished, the soldiers presented themselves, Digby at their head.
“General,” said he, “excuse us; what we have done was for love of your honor, whom we thought lost.”
“You are mad, gentlemen. Lost! Is a man like me to be lost? Am I not permitted to be absent, according to my pleasure, without giving formal notice? Do you, by chance, take me for a citizen from the city? Is a gentleman, my friend, my guest, to be besieged, entrapped, and threatened with death, because he is suspected? What signifies the word, suspected? Curse me if I don’t have every one of you shot like dogs, that the brave gentleman has left alive!
“General,” said Digby, piteously, “there were twenty-eight of us, and see, there are eight on the ground.”
“I authorize M. le Comte de la Fere to send the twenty to join the eight,” said Monk, stretching out his hand to Athos. “Let them return to camp. Mr. Digby, you will consider yourself under arrest for a month.”
“General — "
“That is to teach you, sir, not to act, another time, without orders.”
“I had those of the lieutenant, general.”
“The lieutenant had no such orders to give you, and he shall be placed under arrest, instead of you, if he has really commanded you to burn this gentleman.”
“He did not command that, general; he commanded us to bring him to the camp; but the count was not willing to follow us.”
“I was not willing that they should enter and plunder my house,” said Athos to Monk, with a significant look.
“And you were quite right. To the camp, I say.” The soldiers departed with dejected looks. “Now we are alone,” said Monk to Athos, “have the goodness to tell me, monsieur, why you persisted in remaining here, whilst you had your felucca — "
“I waited for you, general,” said Athos. “Had not your honor appointed to meet me in a week?”
An eloquent look from D’Artagnan made it clear to Monk that these two men, so brave and so loyal, had not acted in concert for his abduction. He knew already it could not be so.
“Monsieur,” said he to D’Artagnan, “you were perfectly right. Have the kindness to allow me a moment’s conversation with M. le Comte de la Fere?”