eBooks Cube
 
62. TWO VARIETIES OF DEMONS

"Ah," cried Milady and Rochefort together, "it is you!"

"Yes, it is I."

"And you come?" asked Milady.

"From La Rochelle; and you?"

"From England."

"Buckingham?"

"Dead or desperately wounded, as I left without having been able to hear
anything of him. A fanatic has just assassinated him."

"Ah," said Rochefort, with a smile; "this is a fortunate chance--one
that will delight his Eminence! Have you informed him of it?"

"I wrote to him from Boulogne. But what brings you here?"

"His Eminence was uneasy, and sent me to find you."

"I only arrived yesterday."

"And what have you been doing since yesterday?"

"I have not lost my time."

"Oh, I don't doubt that."

"Do you know whom I have encountered here?"

"No."

"Guess."

"How can I?"

"That young woman whom the queen took out of prison."

"The mistress of that fellow d'Artagnan?"

"Yes; Madame Bonacieux, with whose retreat the cardinal was
unacquainted."

"Well, well," said Rochefort, "here is a chance which may pair off with
the other! Monsieur Cardinal is indeed a privileged man!"

"Imagine my astonishment," continued Milady, "when I found myself face
to face with this woman!"

"Does she know you?"

"No."

"Then she looks upon you as a stranger?"

Milady smiled. "I am her best friend."

"Upon my honor," said Rochefort, "it takes you, my dear countess, to
perform such miracles!"

"And it is well I can, Chevalier," said Milady, "for do you know what is
going on here?"

"No."

"They will come for her tomorrow or the day after, with an order from
the queen."

"Indeed! And who?"

"d'Artagnan and his friends."

"Indeed, they will go so far that we shall be obliged to send them to
the Bastille."

"Why is it not done already?"

"What would you? The cardinal has a weakness for these men which I
cannot comprehend."

"Indeed!"

"Yes."

"Well, then, tell him this, Rochefort. Tell him that our conversation
at the inn of the Red Dovecot was overheard by these four men; tell him
that after his departure one of them came up to me and took from me by
violence the safe-conduct which he had given me; tell him they warned
Lord de Winter of my journey to England; that this time they nearly
foiled my mission as they foiled the affair of the studs; tell him that
among these four men two only are to be feared--d'Artagnan and Athos;
tell him that the third, Aramis, is the lover of Madame de Chevreuse--he
may be left alone, we know his secret, and it may be useful; as to the
fourth, Porthos, he is a fool, a simpleton, a blustering booby, not
worth troubling himself about."

"But these four men must be now at the siege of La Rochelle?"

"I thought so, too; but a letter which Madame Bonacieux has received
from Madame the Constable, and which she has had the imprudence to show
me, leads me to believe that these four men, on the contrary, are on the
road hither to take her away."

"The devil! What's to be done?"

"What did the cardinal say about me?"

"I was to take your dispatches, written or verbal, and return by post;
and when he shall know what you have done, he will advise what you have
to do."

"I must, then, remain here?"

"Here, or in the neighborhood."

"You cannot take me with you?"

"No, the order is imperative. Near the camp you might be recognized;
and your presence, you must be aware, would compromise the cardinal."

"Then I must wait here, or in the neighborhood?"

"Only tell me beforehand where you will wait for intelligence from the
cardinal; let me now always where to find you."

"Observe, it is probable that I may not be able to remain here."

"Why?"

"You forget that my enemies may arrive at any minute."

"That's true; but is this little woman, then, to escape his Eminence?"

"Bah!" said Milady, with a smile that belonged only to herself; "you
forget that I am her best friend."

"Ah, that's true! I may then tell the cardinal, with respect to this
little woman--"

"That he may be at ease."

"Is that all?"

"He will know what that means."

"He will guess, at least. Now, then, what had I better do?"

"Return instantly. It appears to me that the news you bear is worth the
trouble of a little diligence."

"My chaise broke down coming into Lilliers."

"Capital!"

"What, CAPITAL?"

"Yes, I want your chaise."

"And how shall I travel, then?"

"On horseback."

"You talk very comfortably,--a hundred and eighty leagues!"

"What's that?"

"One can do it! Afterward?"

"Afterward? Why, in passing through Lilliers you will send me your
chaise, with an order to your servant to place himself at my disposal."

"Well."

"You have, no doubt, some order from the cardinal about you?"

"I have my FULL POWER."

"Show it to the abbess, and tell her that someone will come and fetch
me, either today or tomorrow, and that I am to follow the person who
presents himself in your name."

"Very well."

"Don't forget to treat me harshly in speaking of me to the abbess."

"To what purpose?"

"I am a victim of the cardinal. It is necessary to inspire confidence
in that poor little Madame Bonacieux."

"That's true. Now, will you make me a report of all that has happened?"

"Why, I have related the events to you. You have a good memory; repeat
what I have told you. A paper may be lost."

"You are right; only let me know where to find you that I may not run
needlessly about the neighborhood."

"That's correct; wait!"

"Do you want a map?"

"Oh, I know this country marvelously!"

"You? When were you here?"

"I was brought up here."

"Truly?"

"It is worth something, you see, to have been brought up somewhere."

"You will wait for me, then?"

"Let me reflect a little! Ay, that will do--at Armentieres."

"Where is that Armentieres?"

"A little town on the Lys; I shall only have to cross the river, and I
shall be in a foreign country."

"Capital! but it is understood you will only cross the river in case of
danger."

"That is well understood."

"And in that case, how shall I know where you are?"

"You do not want your lackey?"

"Is he a sure man?"

"To the proof."

"Give him to me. Nobody knows him. I will leave him at the place I
quit, and he will conduct you to me."

"And you say you will wait for me at Armentieres?"

"At Armentieres."

"Write that name on a bit of paper, lest I should forget it. There is
nothing compromising in the name of a town. Is it not so?"

"Eh, who knows? Never mind," said Milady, writing the name on half a
sheet of paper; "I will compromise myself."

"Well," said Rochefort, taking the paper from Milady, folding it, and
placing it in the lining of his hat, "you may be easy. I will do as
children do, for fear of losing the paper--repeat the name along the
route. Now, is that all?"

"I believe so."

"Let us see: Buckingham dead or grievously wounded; your conversation
with the cardinal overheard by the four Musketeers; Lord de Winter
warned of your arrival at Portsmouth; d'Artagnan and Athos to the
Bastille; Aramis the lover of Madame de Chevreuse; Porthos an ass;
Madame Bonacieux found again; to send you the chaise as soon as
possible; to place my lackey at your disposal; to make you out a victim
of the cardinal in order that the abbess may entertain no suspicion;
Armentieres, on the banks of the Lys. Is that all, then?"

"In truth, my dear Chevalier, you are a miracle of memory. A PROPOS,
add one thing--"

"What?"

"I saw some very pretty woods which almost touch the convent garden.
Say that I am permitted to walk in those woods. Who knows? Perhaps I
shall stand in need of a back door for retreat."

"You think of everything."

"And you forget one thing."

"What?"

"To ask me if I want money."

"That's true. How much do you want?"

"All you have in gold."

"I have five hundred pistoles, or thereabouts."

"I have as much. With a thousand pistoles one may face everything.
Empty your pockets."

"There."

"Right. And you go--"

"In an hour--time to eat a morsel, during which I shall send for a post
horse."

"Capital! Adieu, Chevalier."

"Adieu, Countess."

"Commend me to the cardinal."

"Commend me to Satan."

Milady and Rochefort exchanged a smile and separated. An hour afterward
Rochefort set out at a grand gallop; five hours after that he passed
through Arras.

Our readers already know how he was recognized by d'Artagnan, and how
that recognition by inspiring fear in the four Musketeers had given
fresh activity to their journey.





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
Nabou.com: the big site