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6. D'Artagnan in his Fortieth Year. (continued)
From the time D'Artagnan took quarters in that hotel, the mistress of the house, a pretty and fresh looking Flemish woman, twenty-five or twenty-six years old, had been singularly interested in him; and after certain love passages, much obstructed by an inconvenient husband to whom a dozen times D'Artagnan had made a pretence of passing a sword through his body, that husband had disappeared one fine morning, after furtively selling certain choice lots of wine, carrying away with him money and jewels. He was thought to be dead; his wife, especially, who cherished the pleasing idea that she was a widow, stoutly maintained that death had taken him. Therefore, after the connection had continued three years, carefully fostered by D'Artagnan, who found his bed and his mistress more agreeable every year, each doing credit to the other, the mistress conceived the extraordinary desire of becoming a wife and proposed to D'Artagnan that he should marry her.
"Ah, fie!" D'Artagnan replied. "Bigamy, my dear! Come now, you don't really wish it?"
"But he is dead; I am sure of it."
"He was a very contrary fellow and might come back on purpose to have us hanged."
"All right; if he comes back you will kill him, you are so skillful and so brave."
"Peste! my darling! another way of getting hanged."
"So you refuse my request?"
"To be sure I do -- furiously!"
The pretty landlady was desolate. She would have taken D'Artagnan not only as her husband, but as her God, he was so handsome and had so fierce a mustache.
Then along toward the fourth year came the expedition of Franche-Comte. D'Artagnan was assigned to it and made his preparations to depart. There were then great griefs, tears without end and solemn promises to remain faithful -- all of course on the part of the hostess. D'Artagnan was too grand to promise anything; he purposed only to do all that he could to increase the glory of his name.
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