This is the text missing from the bottom of page 373 of the 1910 P F Collier & Son edition of The Three Guardsmen*. This occurs in Chapter XL, titled "A Terrible Vision," in which D'Artagnan visits the cardinal, who makes certain threats but also an offer of a position in his guards with a guaranteed captaincy to come. Though sorely tempted, D'Artagnan refuses the offer, incurring the cardinal's displeasure. The volume appears to have a flaw in that the three paragraphs here inserted as beginning are present, but the entire rest of the scene is elided, after which page 374 commences with the final paragraph used here to close the sequence.
Athos fell into a profound reverie and answered nothing. But when they were alone:
"You have done that which you ought to have done, D'Artagnan," said, Athos-- "but yet, perhaps, you have done wrong."
D'Artagnan sighed deeply, for this voice responded to a secret voice of his soul, which told him that great misfortune awaited him.
"What does that great sigh signify?" asked Athos. "Peste! One would think from such exhalations you had a premonition."
"In truth, the cardinal did give me as much as a warning," D'Artagnan hedged. "I fear not the battlefield, but he commands such means as may cut short a fine career with no chance of glory."
"This trepidation hardly becomes you, who have cared so little for the vagaries of fortune so far," Athos observed keenly. "What is life without worthy enemies to challenge oneself against? I doubt it is the cardinal's plans that occupies your thoughts so."
"Ma foi, you are right as always. I think perhaps milady is more dangerous even, and I feel she is not done with me, or any of us, quite yet," D'Artagnan said truthfully, then added with that clear ingenuousness that always spoke well of his intelligence, "In truth, had she tricked me as I did her, I would not be satisfied with less than she desires."
Athos gestured grandly, for D'Artagnan's inquietude was a problem he had known himself and solved, at least temporarily, many times. "For maladies of the conscience, I have the perfect prescription." So he made the hand sign to Grimaud informing that worthy to act in his function as apothecary and dispense the medicinal, Spanish wine, of which only a few bottles still remained. Once the wine had been brought and the first glasses poured, Grimaud was allowed to retire, though the hour was no later than many at which he had previously been required to serve.
"Let us drink up the last, for though it travels well enough, we may not meet again until it is all gone." Athos drained half his glass and settled deeper into the fauteuil that threatened already to consume him.
After a first deep draught, D'Artagnan held the glass up and watched the flames of Athos' small fireplace transmitted in pellucid crimson flashes through the wine. "Though I did not agree at first, this may be worth the horses you lost."
"Morbleu, I should say so. Horses such as those would draw the eye of any who saw them, giving you a greater chance of being noticed by someone whose prying you would not find convenient. Whereas wine soothes the mind, and instead leads one away from unwanted attentions."
"You are a philosopher," D'Artagnan pronounced with admiration. His recent interview had caused him to rethink a number of things, and he had found he did not much want to cause wonder at whence such a fine English steed may have come on a guardsman's pay.
"I am a musketeer, no more." Yet the very way in which Athos said it proved his words were not the whole truth, for no common musketeer ever had such a refined way of inflecting even the most mundane observations.
D'Aragnan kept to himself his speculations on how much more Athos might truly be, knowing that anyone who had eyes or sensibilities could tell there was a nobility there that shone in all actions. "Yet, when you lost the horses, you came near to losing my ring as well. For despite its having come to me as a token from the hand of the queen herself, you had no qualm at losing it, and therefore I say, you are a philosopher."
Athos waved his glass with in a graceful, deprecating arc. "Say rather I am experienced, and only know that all things, whether horses, rings, women, or love itself, come to a bad end some day."
That struck a little too close to the younger man's hopes, and he protested, "I cannot agree, for are not good friends forever bound?"
"Perhaps you may be right in that; in a just world the love of friends outlasts that of any other," Athos admitted.
"Do you say we do not live in a just world?" D'Artgnan was not sure himself whether he jested or not, for young as he was, he had begun to understand the world was not always kind to the deserving.
A shadow of fleeting pain darkened his brow and Athos tipped his glass to the dregs. "Not that I have seen." The old bitterness that so often began to predominate when he drank began to twist through his throat, and he poured the last of the bottle to chase it.
D'Artganan hesitated long before saying reluctantly, "That brings to mind a question I must ask, though I am sorry to request you do me the honor to answer." He waited for the nod of assent before continuing, seeing from Athos' expression that he guessed the subject well enough. "Do Aramis and Porthos know of your history?"
"No.** We know nothing of each other's true names nor aught else." His tone was almost a reproof against the notion of prying, making of their incuriosity a virtue.
D'Artagnan had suspected as much, and felt keenly the privilege he had in discovering Athos's secret before his friends who had known him so much longer. "I shall keep your confidence as if it were my own."
Athos shrugged fatalistically. "If we are dealing with milady now, pardieu, it is certain to be revealed sooner or later. She has an evil genius for ruining every life she contacts, and all of ours now may fall to that same fate."
His words only echoed the foresight D'Artagnan had felt, but the repetition made the younger man shiver slightly all the same.
"Let it be later, then. I see the pain on your face whenever the topic is raised, and would not have my carelessness be the cause of more."
Athos only shrugged again, but this time his meaning was clearly read by D'Artagnan as, What does it matter, I bear what I must. The unspoken strength came near to making tears prickle at his eyes, and his heart wrenched with the need to give Athos even the smallest reason to smile. D'Artagnan's mind cast about for only a moment before finding one beautiful and certain thing he had to offer.
"Do you wish to know why I really did not accept the cardinal's offer?" he asked casually, as if it were not the most important thing in the world.
"I thought you had told me." There was neither offense nor interest in his voice, and Athos paid more attention to his wine.
"There is more," D'Artagnan offered diffidently.
"Then I would like to know it." Still it appeared that he spoke only out of innate habits of politeness that he could no more shed than his own skin.
"Then I will tell you."
"I think I have been waiting for nothing else for an hour now." His lips quirked in amusement at how slow D'Artagnan was to divulge something he had volunteered. But even so, he put aside his glass to hear with interest what D'Artagnan felt was so necessary to tell him.
"Here it is, then. It was not fear of anything the cardinal or his minions might undertake, nor even the temptation of a commission, however fair the gloss it might put to my future. I only thought to myself, should I sell my soul so cheaply, you might never give me your hand again," D'Artagnan admitted.
"Ah, my good friend, that could never be. It is yours, with my sword and heart," Suiting action to word, Athos held out his hand to D'Artagnan, who leaned forward and clasped it warmly in both his own.
"I could think of no worse fate than to lose your love," he said with impulsive warmth.
There was an unusual lustre in his fine dark eyes that spoke as clearly as his words. "It is yours, so long as I draw breath."
"I shall need nothing else, now or in the future," D'Artagnan vowed, voice low. When he looked up, his own eyes were overlain with the brightness of tears. Pressing Athos' hand for a moment to his chest, he seemed to tremble with the strength of his emotion before regaining his equanimity. As slow as he was to take his hand back, Athos was slower still to release it.
The whole of the next day was spent in preparations for departure; D'Artagnan went to take leave of M. de Treville. At that time it was believed that the separation of the musketeers and the guards would be but momentary, the king holding his parliament that very day, and proposing to set out the day after. M. de Treville contented himself with asking D'Artagnan if he could do anything for him, but D'Artagnan answered that he was supplied with all he wanted.
*The title of this edition is peculiar, in that while there are, in fact, three musketeers and one guardsman in the story, it is not about three guardsmen, and guardsmen and musketeers are neither synonymous nor interchangeable.
**Here again we find Dumas seems to have been of two minds regarding a basic fact of his narrative. Shortly after this scene, in the aftermath of the Anjou wine affair, D'Artagnan and Athos speak openly about his wife in front of their two friends and noone expresses surprise. Yet, by the final denouement when Athos declares milady is his wife, it comes as a great shock to the others. We take no sides in the matter, only desiring to bring it to the reader's attention so that he may not feel our work has been done without care for detail. TRANS.