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Chapter 44 THE UTILITY OF STOVEPIPES

  • It was evident that without suspecting it, and actuated solely by thei_hivalrous and adventurous character, our three friends had just rendered _ervice to someone the cardinal honored with his special protection.
  • Now, who was that someone? That was the question the three Musketeers put t_ne another. Then, seeing that none of their replies could throw any light o_he subject, Porthos called the host and asked for dice.
  • Porthos and Aramis placed themselves at the table and began to play. Atho_alked about in a contemplative mood.
  • While thinking and walking, Athos passed and repassed before the pipe of th_tove, broken in halves, the other extremity passing into the chamber above; and every time he passed and repassed he heard a murmur of words, which a_ength fixed his attention. Athos went close to it, and distinguished som_ords that appeared to merit so great an interest that he made a sign to hi_riends to be silent, remaining himself bent with his ear directed to th_pening of the lower orifice.
  • "Listen, Milady," said the cardinal, "the affair is important. Sit down, an_et us talk it over."
  • "Milady!" murmured Athos.
  • "I listen to your Eminence with greatest attention," replied a female voic_hich made the Musketeer start.
  • "A small vessel with an English crew, whose captain is on my side, awaits yo_t the mouth of Charente, at fort of the Point. He will set sail tomorro_orning."
  • "I must go thither tonight?"
  • "Instantly! That is to say, when you have received my instructions. Two men, whom you will find at the door on going out, will serve you as escort. Yo_ill allow me to leave first; then, after half an hour, you can go away i_our turn."
  • "Yes, monseigneur. Now let us return to the mission with which you wish t_harge me; and as I desire to continue to merit the confidence of you_minence, deign to unfold it to me in terms clear and precise, that I may no_ommit an error."
  • There was an instant of profound silence between the two interlocutors. It wa_vident that the cardinal was weighing beforehand the terms in which he wa_bout to speak, and that Milady was collecting all her intellectual facultie_o comprehend the things he was about to say, and to engrave them in he_emory when they should be spoken.
  • Athos took advantage of this moment to tell his two companions to fasten th_oor inside, and to make them a sign to come and listen with him.
  • The two Musketeers, who loved their ease, brought a chair for each o_hemselves and one for Athos. All three then sat down with their head_ogether and their ears on the alert.
  • "You will go to London," continued the cardinal. "Arrived in London, you wil_eek Buckingham."
  • "I must beg your Eminence to observe," said Milady, "that since the affair o_he diamond studs, about which the duke always suspected me, his Grac_istrusts me."
  • "Well, this time," said the cardinal, "it is not necessary to steal hi_onfidence, but to present yourself frankly and loyally as a negotiator."
  • "Frankly and loyally," repeated Milady, with an unspeakable expression o_uplicity.
  • "Yes, frankly and loyally," replied the cardinal, in the same tone. "All thi_egotiation must be carried on openly."
  • "I will follow your Eminence's instructions to the letter. I only wait til_ou give them."
  • "You will go to Buckingham in my behalf, and you will tell him I am acquainte_ith all the preparations he has made; but that they give me no uneasiness, since at the first step he takes I will ruin the queen."
  • "Will he believe that your Eminence is in a position to accomplish the threa_hus made?"
  • "Yes; for I have the proofs."
  • "I must be able to present these proofs for his appreciation."
  • "Without doubt. And you will tell him I will publish the report of Bois-Rober_nd the Marquis de Beautru, upon the interview which the duke had at th_esidence of Madame the Constable with the queen on the evening Madame th_onstable gave a masquerade. You will tell him, in order that he may no_oubt, that he came there in the costume of the Great Mogul, which th_hevalier de Guise was to have worn, and that he purchased this exchange fo_he sum of three thousand pistoles."
  • "Well, monseigneur?"
  • "All the details of his coming into and going out of the palace—on the nigh_hen he introduced himself in the character of an Italian fortune teller—yo_ill tell him, that he may not doubt the correctness of my information; tha_e had under his cloak a large white robe dotted with black tears, death'_eads, and crossbones—for in case of a surprise, he was to pass for th_hantom of the White Lady who, as all the world knows, appears at the Louvr_very time any great event is impending."
  • "Is that all, monseigneur?"
  • "Tell him also that I am acquainted with all the details of the adventure a_miens; that I will have a little romance made of it, wittily turned, with _lan of the garden and portraits of the principal actors in that nocturna_omance."
  • "I will tell him that."
  • "Tell him further that I hold Montague in my power; that Montague is in th_astille; that no letters were found upon him, it is true, but that tortur_ay make him tell much of what he knows, and even what he does not know."
  • "Exactly."
  • "Then add that his Grace has, in the precipitation with which he quit the Isl_f Re, forgotten and left behind him in his lodging a certain letter fro_adame de Chevreuse which singularly compromises the queen, inasmuch as i_roves not only that her Majesty can love the enemies of the king but that sh_an conspire with the enemies of France. You recollect perfectly all I hav_old you, do you not?"
  • "Your Eminence will judge: the ball of Madame the Constable; the night at th_ouvre; the evening at Amiens; the arrest of Montague; the letter of Madame d_hevreuse."
  • "That's it," said the cardinal, "that's it. You have an excellent memory, Milady."
  • "But," resumed she to whom the cardinal addressed this flattering compliment,
  • "if, in spite of all these reasons, the duke does not give way and continue_o menace France?"
  • "The duke is in love to madness, or rather to folly," replied Richelieu, wit_reat bitterness. "Like the ancient paladins, he has only undertaken this wa_o obtain a look from his lady love. If he becomes certain that this war wil_ost the honor, and perhaps the liberty, of the lady of his thoughts, as h_ays, I will answer for it he will look twice."
  • "And yet," said Milady, with a persistence that proved she wished to se_learly to the end of the mission with which she was about to be charged, "i_e persists?"
  • "If he persists?" said the cardinal. "That is not probable."
  • "It is possible," said Milady.
  • "If he persists—" His Eminence made a pause, and resumed: "If h_ersists—well, then I shall hope for one of those events which change th_estinies of states."
  • "If your Eminence would quote to me some one of these events in history," sai_ilady, "perhaps I should partake of your confidence as to the future."
  • "Well, here, for example," said Richelieu: "when, in 1610, for a cause simila_o that which moves the duke, King Henry IV, of glorious memory, was about, a_he same time, to invade Flanders and Italy, in order to attack Austria o_oth sides. Well, did there not happen an event which saved Austria? Wh_hould not the king of France have the same chance as the emperor?"
  • "Your Eminence means, I presume, the knife stab in the Rue de la Feronnerie?"
  • "Precisely," said the cardinal.
  • "Does not your Eminence fear that the punishment inflicted upon Ravaillac ma_eter anyone who might entertain the idea of imitating him?"
  • "There will be, in all times and in all countries, particularly if religiou_ivisions exist in those countries, fanatics who ask nothing better than t_ecome martyrs. Ay, and observe—it just occurs to me that the Puritans ar_urious against Buckingham, and their preachers designate him as th_ntichrist."
  • "Well?" said Milady.
  • "Well," continued the cardinal, in an indifferent tone, "the only thing to b_ought for at this moment is some woman, handsome, young, and clever, who ha_ause of quarrel with the duke. The duke has had many affairs of gallantry; and if he has fostered his amours by promises of eternal constancy, he mus_ikewise have sown the seeds of hatred by his eternal infidelities."
  • "No doubt," said Milady, coolly, "such a woman may be found."
  • "Well, such a woman, who would place the knife of Jacques Clement or o_availlac in the hands of a fanatic, would save France."
  • "Yes; but she would then be the accomplice of an assassination."
  • "Were the accomplices of Ravaillac or of Jacques Clement ever known?"
  • "No; for perhaps they were too high-placed for anyone to dare look for the_here they were. The Palace of Justice would not be burned down for everybody, monseigneur."
  • "You think, then, that the fire at the Palace of Justice was not caused b_hance?" asked Richelieu, in the tone with which he would have put a questio_f no importance.
  • "I, monseigneur?" replied Milady. "I think nothing; I quote a fact, that i_ll. Only I say that if I were named Madame de Montpensier, or the Queen Mari_e Medicis, I should use less precautions than I take, being simply calle_ilady Clarik."
  • "That is just," said Richelieu. "What do you require, then?"
  • "I require an order which would ratify beforehand all that I should thin_roper to do for the greatest good of France."
  • "But in the first place, this woman I have described must be found who i_esirous of avenging herself upon the duke."
  • "She is found," said Milady.
  • "Then the miserable fanatic must be found who will serve as an instrument o_od's justice."
  • "He will be found."
  • "Well," said the cardinal, "then it will be time to claim the order which yo_ust now required."
  • "Your Eminence is right," replied Milady; "and I have been wrong in seeing i_he mission with which you honor me anything but that which it really is—tha_s, to announce to his Grace, on the part of your Eminence, that you ar_cquainted with the different disguises by means of which he succeeded i_pproaching the queen during the fete given by Madame the Constable; that yo_ave proofs of the interview granted at the Louvre by the queen to a certai_talian astrologer who was no other than the Duke of Buckingham; that you hav_rdered a little romance of a satirical nature to be written upon th_dventures of Amiens, with a plan of the gardens in which those adventure_ook place, and portraits of the actors who figured in them; that Montague i_n the Bastille, and that the torture may make him say things he remembers, and even things he has forgotten; that you possess a certain letter fro_adame de Chevreuse, found in his Grace's lodging, which singularl_ompromises not only her who wrote it, but her in whose name it was written.
  • Then, if he persists, notwithstanding all this—as that is, as I have said, th_imit of my mission—I shall have nothing to do but to pray God to work _iracle for the salvation of France. That is it, is it not, monseigneur, and _hall have nothing else to do?"
  • "That is it," replied the cardinal, dryly.
  • "And now," said Milady, without appearing to remark the change of the duke'_one toward her—"now that I have received the instructions of your Eminence a_oncerns your enemies, Monseigneur will permit me to say a few words to him o_ine?"
  • "Have you enemies, then?" asked Richelieu.
  • "Yes, monseigneur, enemies against whom you owe me all your support, for _ade them by serving your Eminence."
  • "Who are they?" replied the duke.
  • "In the first place, there is a little intrigante named Bonacieux."
  • "She is in the prison of Nantes."
  • "That is to say, she was there," replied Milady; "but the queen has obtaine_n order from the king by means of which she has been conveyed to a convent."
  • "To a convent?" said the duke.
  • "Yes, to a convent."
  • "And to which?"
  • "I don't know; the secret has been well kept."
  • "But I will know!"
  • "And your Eminence will tell me in what convent that woman is?"
  • "I can see nothing inconvenient in that," said the cardinal.
  • "Well, now I have an enemy much more to be dreaded by me than this littl_adame Bonacieux."
  • "Who is that?"
  • "Her lover."
  • "What is his name?"
  • "Oh, your Eminence knows him well," cried Milady, carried away by her anger.
  • "He is the evil genius of both of us. It is he who in an encounter with you_minence's Guards decided the victory in favor of the king's Musketeers; it i_e who gave three desperate wounds to de Wardes, your emissary, and who cause_he affair of the diamond studs to fail; it is he who, knowing it was I wh_ad Madame Bonacieux carried off, has sworn my death."
  • "Ah, ah!" said the cardinal, "I know of whom you speak."
  • "I mean that miserable d'Artagnan."
  • "He is a bold fellow," said the cardinal.
  • "And it is exactly because he is a bold fellow that he is the more to b_eared."
  • "I must have," said the duke, "a proof of his connection with Buckingham."
  • "A proof?" cried Milady; "I will have ten."
  • "Well, then, it becomes the simplest thing in the world; get me that proof, and I will send him to the Bastille."
  • "So far good, monseigneur; but afterwards?"
  • "When once in the Bastille, there is no afterward!" said the cardinal, in _ow voice. "Ah, pardieu!" continued he, "if it were as easy for me to get ri_f my enemy as it is easy to get rid of yours, and if it were against suc_eople you require impunity—"
  • "Monseigneur," replied Milady, "a fair exchange. Life for life, man for man; give me one, I will give you the other."
  • "I don't know what you mean, nor do I even desire to know what you mean,"
  • replied the cardinal; "but I wish to please you, and see nothing out of th_ay in giving you what you demand with respect to so infamous a creature—th_ore so as you tell me this d'Artagnan is a libertine, a duelist, and _raitor."
  • "An infamous scoundrel, monseigneur, a scoundrel!"
  • "Give me paper, a quill, and some ink, then," said the cardinal.
  • "Here they are, monseigneur."
  • There was a moment of silence, which proved that the cardinal was employed i_eeking the terms in which he should write the note, or else in writing it.
  • Athos, who had not lost a word of the conversation, took his two companions b_he hand, and led them to the other end of the room.
  • "Well," said Porthos, "what do you want, and why do you not let us listen t_he end of the conversation?"
  • "Hush!" said Athos, speaking in a low voice. "We have heard all it wa_ecessary we should hear; besides, I don't prevent you from listening, but _ust be gone."
  • "You must be gone!" said Porthos; "and if the cardinal asks for you, wha_nswer can we make?"
  • "You will not wait till he asks; you will speak first, and tell him that I a_one on the lookout, because certain expressions of our host have given m_eason to think the road is not safe. I will say two words about it to th_ardinal's esquire likewise. The rest concerns myself; don't be uneasy abou_hat."
  • "Be prudent, Athos," said Aramis.
  • "Be easy on that head," replied Athos; "you know I am cool enough."
  • Porthos and Aramis resumed their places by the stovepipe.
  • As to Athos, he went out without any mystery, took his horse, which was tie_ith those of his friends to the fastenings of the shutters, in four word_onvinced the attendant of the necessity of a vanguard for their return, carefully examined the priming of his pistols, drew his sword, and took, lik_ forlorn hope, the road to the camp.