“That is well,” replied the king in an agitated voice. “Please to go and tell those ladies that a cavalier of the court wishes to pay his respects to them alone.”
The officer set off at a gallop. “Mordioux!” said he, as he rode on, “here is a new and honorable employment, I hope! I complained of being nobody. I am the king’s confidant: that is enough to make a musketeer burst with pride.”
He approached the carriage, and delivered his message gallantly and intelligently. There were two ladies in the carriage: one of great beauty, although rather thin; the other less favored by nature, but lively, graceful, and uniting in the delicate lines of her brow all the signs of a strong will. Her eyes, animated and piercing, in particular, spoke more eloquently than all the amorous phrases in fashion in those days of gallantry. It was to her D’Artagnan addressed himself, without fear of being mistaken, although the other was, as we have said, the more handsome of the two.
“Madame,” said he, “I am the lieutenant of the musketeers, and there is on the road a horseman who awaits you, and is desirous of paying his respects to you.”
At these words, the effect of which he watched closely, the lady with the black eyes uttered a cry of joy, leant out of the carriage window, and seeing the cavalier approaching, held out her arms, exclaiming:
“Ah, my dear sire!” and the tears gushed from her eyes.
The coachman stopped his team; the women rose in confusion from the back of the carriage, and the second lady made a slight curtsey, terminated by the most ironical smile that jealousy ever imparted to the lips of woman.
“Marie, dear Marie,” cried the king, taking the hand of the black-eyed lady in both his. And opening the heavy door himself, he drew her out of the carriage with so much ardor, that she was in his arms before she touched the ground. The lieutenant, posted on the other side of the carriage, saw and heard all without being observed.
The king offered his arm to Mademoiselle de Mancini, and made a sign to the coachman and lackeys to proceed. It was nearly six o’clock; the road was fresh and pleasant; tall trees with their foliage still inclosed in the golden down of their buds, let the dew of morning filter from their trembling branches, like liquid diamonds; the grass was bursting at the foot of the hedges; the swallows having returned only a few days since, described their graceful curves between the heavens and the water; a breeze, laden with the perfumes of the blossoming woods, sighed along the road, and wrinkled the surface of the waters of the river; all these beauties of the day, all these perfumes of the plants, all these aspirations of the earth towards heaven, intoxicated the two lovers, walking side by side, leaning upon each other, eyes fixed upon eyes, hand clasping hand, and who, lingering as by a common desire, did not dare to speak, they had so much to say.