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Chapter 31: The Silver Dish. (continued)
"Well!" replied he, addressing the governor, "I was right; these gentlemen are two Spanish captains with whom I was acquainted at Ypres, last year; they don't know a word of French."
"Ah!" said the governor, sharply. "And yet they were trying to read the inscription on the plate."
D'Artagnan took it out of his hands, effacing the characters with the point of his sword.
"How!" cried the governor, "what are you doing? I cannot read them now!"
"It is a state secret," replied D'Artagnan, bluntly; "and as you know that, according to the king's orders, it is under the penalty of death any one should penetrate it, I will, if you like, allow you to read it, and have you shot immediately afterwards."
During this apostrophe - half serious, half ironical - Athos and Raoul preserved the coolest, most unconcerned silence.
"But, is it possible," said the governor, "that these gentlemen do not comprehend at least some words?"
"Suppose they do! If they do understand a few spoken words, it does not follow that they should understand what is written. They cannot even read Spanish. A noble Spaniard, remember, ought never to know how to read."
The governor was obliged to be satisfied with these explanations, but he was still tenacious. "Invite these gentlemen to come to the fortress," said he.
"That I will willingly do. I was about to propose it to you." The fact is, the captain had quite another idea, and would have wished his friends a hundred leagues off. But he was obliged to make the best of it. He addressed the two gentlemen in Spanish, giving them a polite invitation, which they accepted. They all turned towards the entrance of the fort, and, the incident being at an end, the eight soldiers returned to their delightful leisure, for a moment disturbed by this unexpected adventure.
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