Alexandre Dumas.

The Three Musketeers





The officer took the papers indicated, gave them to him who asked for them, bowed to the very ground, and left the room.

In these papers Bonancieux recognised his examinations at the Bastile. From time to time the man by the chimney-piece lifted his eyes from the papers, and plunged them, like two poniards, into the very heart of the poor mercer.

At the end of ten minutes reading, and ten seconds scrutiny of Bonancieux, he had made up his mind.

That head has never conspired, murmured the cardinal; but never mind, let us see. Then he said slowly, You are accused of high treason.

That is what they have already told me, my lord! said Bonancieux, giving his interrogator the same title that he had heard the officer give him; but I give you my oath, that I knew nothing about it.

The cardinal suppressed a smile.

You have conspired with your wife, with Madame de Chevreuse, and with my Lord Duke of Buckingham.

I admit, my lord, replied the mercer, I have heard all those names mentioned by her.

And on what occasion?

She said that the Cardinal de Richelieu had enticed the Duke of Buckingham to Paris, to destroy him and the queen.

She said that, did she? cried the cardinal, with great violence.

Yes, my lord; but I told her that she was wrong in saying such a thing, and that his eminence was incapable

Hold your tongueyou are a fool! replied the cardinal.

That is exactly what my wife said to me, my lord.

Do you know who carried off your wife?

No, my lord.

But you had some suspicions?

Yes, my lord; but as these suspicions appeared to displease the commissary, I have them no longer.

Your wife has escaped: did you know that?

Not at the time, my lord; I learned it, since I have been in prison, from the commissary, who is a most amiable man.

The cardinal suppressed another smile.

Then you do not know what has become of your wife since her escape?

Not positively, my lord; but she has probably returned to the Louvre.

At one oclock this morning she had not yet returned there.

Ah! good God! but what can have become of her?

Have no fearit will soon be known; nothing escapes the cardinal; the cardinal knows everything.

In that case, my lord, do you believe that the cardinal will tell me what has become of my wife?

Perhaps so; but it is necessary, first, that you should tell me all you know in relation to the connection of your wife with Madame de Chevreuse.

But, my lord, I know nothing about it; I never saw her.

When you went to fetch your wife from the Louvre, did she return directly to your house?

Scarcely ever. She had business to transact with the queens drapers, to whom I convoyed her.

And how many linen-drapers were there?

Two, my lord.

Where do they live?

One in the Rue Vaugirard, and the other in the Rue de la Harpe.

Did you accompany your wife into these houses?

Never, my lord.

I always waited for her at the door.

And what excuse did she make for entering alone?

None: she told me to wait, and I waited.

You are a most accommodating husband, my dear M. Bonancieux, said the cardinal.

He has called me my dear monsieur, said the mercer to himself. Pon my faith, things are taking a good turn.

Should you know those doors again?

Yes.

Do you know the numbers?

Yes.

What are they?

No. 25 in the Rue Vaugirard, and No. 75 in the Rue de la Harpe.

Good! said the cardinal; and, taking a silver bell, he rang it.

Go, said he in a low voice, to the officer who enteredgo and find Rochefort, and tell him to come here directly, if he is within.

The count is already here, said the officer, and requests an immediate audience of your eminence.

Your eminence! muttered Bonancieux, who knew that such was the title ordinarily given to the cardinal; your eminence!

Let him come in, then, let him come in! said Richelieu eagerly.

The officer hurried out of the room with that rapidity with which the cardinal was generally obeyed by his followers.

Your eminence! again muttered Bonancieux, rolling his eyes in astonishment.

Two seconds had scarcely elapsed after the officer left the room before the door opened again, and another person entered.

It is he! exclaimed Bonancieux.

Who is he? demanded the cardinal.

He who ran away with my wife.

The cardinal rang a second time, and the officer reappeared.

Put this man into the hands of the two guards, and let him wait till I send for him.

No, my lord, no, it is not he! exclaimed Bonancieux; no, I was mistaken; it is another person, not at all like him. The gentleman is an honest man.

Take away that simpleton! said the cardinal.

The officer took him by the arm, and led him to the antechamber, where he was met by the two guards.

The person who had last entered impatiently followed Bonancieux with his eyes till he was gone, and, when the door was closed behind him

They have met, he said, eagerly approaching the cardinal.

Who? demanded the cardinal.

Those two.

The queen and the duke! cried the cardinal.

Yes.

And where?

At the Louvre!

Are you sure?

Perfectly sure!

Who told you of it?

Madame de Lannoy, who is entirely devoted to your eminence, as you well know!

Why did she not tell you sooner?

Either by chance, or by mistrust, the queen made Madame de Surgis sleep in her room, and kept it throughout the day.

Very well; we have been beaten; let us try to have our revenge.

Be assured that I will assist your eminence with all my soul.

How did this happen?

At half-past twelve the queen was with her women.

Where?

In her bed-chamber, where a pocket-handkerchief was brought her from her seamstress.

Well?

The queen immediately showed great emotion; and grew pale, under her rouge.

Well! what then?

Nevertheless, she arose; and, in an agitated voice said, ladies, wait ten minutes for me; I will return. Then, opening the door of her alcove, she went out.

Why did not Madame de Lannoy come and tell you directly?

There was no certainty about the matter; besides, the queen had said, ladies, wait for me. And Madame de Lannoy dared not disobey her majesty.

And how long did the queen remain absent from her room?

Three-quarters of an hour.

Did none of her women accompany her?

Only Donna Estefana.

And she returned?

Yes, but only to take a small rosewood casket, bearing her initials, with which she went out again directly.

And when she came back, finally, did she bring the casket with her?

No!

Does Madame de Lannoy know what the casket contained?

Yes! the diamond studs which his majesty presented to the queen.

And she came back without the casket?

Yes.

Then the opinion of Madame de Lannoy is, that she gave this casket to Buckingham?

She is sure of it.

How so?

During the day, Madame de Lannoy, in her office of tirewoman to the queen, looked for this casket, appeared uneasy at not finding it, and ended by inquiring for it of the queen.

And then the queen

The queen blushed deeply, and answered that, having the evening before broken one of the studs, she had sent it to her jewellers to be repaired.

You must go there, and ascertain whether that is true, or not.

I have been.

Well, and the goldsmith?

The goldsmith has heard nothing about it.

Good! good! Rochefort, all is not lost, and perhapsperhaps all is for the best!

The fact is, that I have no doubt but what the genius of your eminence

May repair the errors of my agent! Is that what you mean?

It was just what I was about to say, if your eminence had permitted me to finish the sentence.

Now, do you know where the Duchesse de Chevreuse and the Duke of Buckingham concealed themselves?

No, my lord; my agents have no positive information upon that point.

I know it myself, though.

You! my lord?

Yes, or at least I have no doubt of it. They lived, the one in the Rue Vaugirard, at No. 25, and the other in the Rue de la Harpe, No. 75.

Would your eminence wish me to arrest them both?

It is too late; they will be gone.

Never mind; there is no harm in trying!

Take ten of my guards, and ransack the two houses.

It shall be done, my lord!

So saying, Rochefort rushed from the room.

When the cardinal was left alone, he remained a moment in thought, and then rang a third time.

The officer who had come before appeared again.

Bring in the prisoner, said the cardinal.

Master Bonancieux was again brought in, and, at a sign from the cardinal, the officer withdrew.

You have deceived me, said the cardinal, with great severity.

I! cried Bonancieux; I deceive your eminence!

When your wife went to the Rue Vaugirard, and the Rue de la Harpe, she did not go to linen-drapers.

Good God! To whom did she go, then?

She went to see the Duchesse de Chevreuse, and the Duke of Buckingham.

Yes! said Bonancieux, with a flash of recollection; yes, exactly so; your eminence is right. I often told my wife that it was astonishing that linen-drapers should live in such houses; in houses which had no signs; and every time I said so, my wife began to laugh. Ah! my lord! he continued, throwing himself at the feet of his eminence, it is plain that you are the cardinal, the great cardinalthe man of genius, whom all the world reveres!

The cardinal, small as was the triumph to be achieved over a being so vulgar as was Bonancieux, did not the less enjoy it for a moment. Then, as if a new idea struck him, he smiled, and, stretching out his hand to the mercer

Rise, my friend, said he, you are a worthy fellow.

The cardinal has taken my hand! I have touched the hand of the great man! exclaimed Bonancieux; the great man has called me his friend!

Yes, my friend, yes, said the cardinal, in that paternal tone which he was sometimes able to assume, but which only deceived those who did not know him; and as you have been unjustly suspected, we must make you some amends. Here, take this bag of a hundred pistoles, and forgive me.

I forgive you, my lord! said Bonancieux, hesitating to take the bag, from a fear that this supposed gift was only a jest. But you were quite at liberty to have me arrested; you are quite at liberty to send me to the torture; you are quite at liberty to hang me; you are the master, and I should not have the smallest word to say against it. Forgive you, my lord! But you cannot mean that!

Ah! my dear M. Bonancieux, you are very generous; I see it, and I thank you. But you must take this bag, and then you will go away not very discontentedwill you?

I go away perfectly enchanted, my lord!

Adieu, then; or, rather, au revoir hair; for I hope that we shall see each other again.

As often as my lord may please; I am at your eminences command.

It shall be often, depend upon it; for I have found your conversation quite charming.

Oh! my lord!

Farewell, till our next meeting, M. Bonancieuxtill our next meeting.

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