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25. An Adventure on the High Road.
The musketeers rode the whole length of the Faubourg Saint Antoine and of the road to Vincennes, and soon found themselves out of the town, then in a forest and then within sight of a village.
The horses seemed to become more lively with each successive step; their nostrils reddened like glowing furnaces. D'Artagnan, freely applying his spurs, was in advance of Porthos two feet at the most; Mousqueton followed two lengths behind; the guards were scattered according to the varying excellence of their respective mounts.
From the top of an eminence D'Artagnan perceived a group of people collected on the other side of the moat, in front of that part of the donjon which looks toward Saint Maur. He rode on, convinced that in this direction he would gain intelligence of the fugitive. In five minutes he had arrived at the place, where the guards joined him, coming up one by one.
The several members of that group were much excited. They looked at the cord, still hanging from the loophole and broken at about twenty feet from the ground. Their eyes measured the height and they exchanged conjectures. On the top of the wall sentinels went and came with a frightened air.
A few soldiers, commanded by a sergeant, drove away idlers from the place where the duke had mounted his horse. D'Artagnan went straight to the sergeant.
"My officer," said the sergeant, "it is not permitted to stop here."
"That prohibition is not for me," said D'Artagnan. "Have the fugitives been pursued?"
"Yes, my officer; unfortunately, they are well mounted."
"How many are there?"
"Four, and a fifth whom they carried away wounded."
"Four!" said D'Artagnan, looking at Porthos. "Do you hear, baron? They are only four!"
A joyous smile lighted Porthos's face.
"How long a start have they?"
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