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Ten Years Later

Chapter 20
Sword-Thrusts in the Water (concluded).
D'Artagnan's apartment was not unoccupied; for the Comte de la Fere, seated in the
recess of a window, awaited him. "Well," said he to D'Artagnan, as he saw him enter.
"Well," said the latter, "M. de Wardes has done me the honor to pay me a visit, in
company with some of his own friends, as well as of ours." In fact, behind the musketeer
appeared De Wardes and Manicamp, followed by De Guiche and Buckingham, who
looked surprised, not knowing what was expected of them. Raoul was accompanied by
two or three gentlemen; and, as he entered, glanced round the room, and perceiving the
count, he went and placed himself by his side. D'Artagnan received his visitors with all
the courtesy he was capable of; he preserved his unmoved and unconcerned look. All
the persons present were men of distinction, occupying posts of honor and credit at the
court. After he had apologized to each of them for any inconvenience he might have put
them to, he turned towards De Wardes, who, in spite of his customary self- command,
could not prevent his face betraying some surprise mingled with not a little uneasiness.
"Now, monsieur," said D'Artagnan, "since we are no longer within the precincts of the
king's palace, and since we can speak out without failing in respect to propriety, I will
inform you why I have taken the liberty to request you to visit me here, and why I have
invited these gentlemen to be present at the same time. My friend, the Comte de la
Fere, has acquainted me with the injurious reports you are spreading about myself. You
have stated that you regard me as your mortal enemy, because I was, so you affirm,
that of your father."
"Perfectly true, monsieur, I have said so," replied De Wardes, whose pallid face became
slightly tinged with color.
"You accuse me, therefore, of a crime, or a fault, or of some mean and cowardly act.
Have the goodness to state your charge against me in precise terms."
"In the presence of witnesses?"
"Most certainly in the presence of witnesses; and you see I have selected them as being
experienced in affairs of honor."
"You do not appreciate my delicacy, monsieur. I have accused you, it is true; but I have
kept the nature of the accusation a perfect secret. I entered into no details; but have
rested satisfied by expressing my hatred in the presence of those on whom a duty was
almost imposed to acquaint you with it. You have not taken the discreetness I have
shown into consideration, although you were interested in remaining silent. I can hardly
recognize your habitual prudence in that, M. d'Artagnan."
 
 
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