On the sixth of the following month the king, in compliance with the promise he had made the cardinal to return to La Rochelle, left his capital still in amazement at the news which began to spread itself of Buckingham's assassination.
Although warned that the man she had loved so much was in great danger, the queen, when his death was announced to her, would not believe the fact, and even imprudently exclaimed, "it is false; he has just written to me!"
But the next day she was obliged to believe this fatal intelligence; Laporte, detained in England, as everyone else had been, by the orders of Charles I, arrived, and was the bearer of the duke's dying gift to the queen.
The joy of the king was lively. He did not even give himself the trouble to dissemble, and displayed it with affectation before the queen. Louis XIII, like every weak mind, was wanting in generosity.
But the king soon again became dull and indisposed; his brow was not one of those that long remain clear. He felt that in returning to camp he should re-enter slavery; nevertheless, he did return.
The cardinal was for him the fascinating serpent, and himself the bird which flies from branch to branch without power to escape.
The return to La Rochelle, therefore, was profoundly dull. Our four friends, in particular, astonished their comrades; they traveled together, side by side, with sad eyes and heads lowered. Athos alone from time to time raised his expansive brow; a flash kindled in his eyes, and a bitter smile passed over his lips, then, like his comrades, he sank again into reverie.
As soon as the escort arrived in a city, when they had conducted the king to his quarters the four friends either retired to their own or to some secluded cabaret, where they neither drank nor played; they only conversed in a low voice, looking around attentively to see that no one overheard them.
One day, when the king had halted to fly the magpie, and the four friends, according to their custom, instead of following the sport had stopped at a cabaret on the high road, a man coming from la Rochelle on horseback pulled up at the door to drink a glass of wine, and darted a searching glance into the room where the four Musketeers were sitting.
"Holloa, Monsieur d'Artagnan!" said he, "is not that you whom I see yonder?"
D'Artagnan raised his head and uttered a cry of joy. It was the man he called his phantom; it was his stranger of Meung, of the Rue des Fossoyeurs and of Arras.
D'Artagnan drew his sword, and sprang toward the door.
But this time, instead of avoiding him the stranger jumped from his horse, and advanced to meet d'Artagnan.
"Ah, monsieur!" said the young man, "I meet you, then, at last! This time you shall not escape me!"
"Neither is it my intention, monsieur, for this time I was seeking you; in the name of the king, I arrest you."
"How! what do you say?" cried d'Artagnan.
"I say that you must surrender your sword to me, monsieur, and that without resistance. This concerns your head, I warn you."
"Who are you, then?" demanded d'Artagnan, lowering the point of his sword, but without yet surrendering it.
"I am the Chevalier de Rochefort," answered the other, "the equerry of Monsieur le Cardinal Richelieu, and I have orders to conduct you to his Eminence."
"We are returning to his Eminence, monsieur the Chevalier," said Athos, advancing; "and you will please to accept the word of Monsieur d'Artagnan that he will go straight to La Rochelle."
"I must place him in the hands of guards who will take him into camp."
"We will be his guards, monsieur, upon our word as gentlemen; but likewise, upon our word as gentlemen," added Athos, knitting his brow, "Monsieur d'Artagnan shall not leave us."
The Chevalier de Rochefort cast a glance backward, and saw that Porthos and Aramis had placed themselves between him and the gate; he understood that he was completely at the mercy of these four men.
"Gentlemen," said he, "if Monsieur d'Artagnan will surrender his sword to me and join his word to yours, I shall be satisfied with your promise to convey Monsieur d'Artagnan to the quarters of Monseigneur the Cardinal."
"You have my word, monsieur, and here is my sword."
"This suits me the better," said Rochefort, "as I wish to continue my journey."
"If it is for the purpose of rejoining Milady," said Athos, coolly, "it is useless; you will not find her."
"What has become of her, then?" asked Rochefort, eagerly.
"Return to camp and you shall know."
Rochefort remained for a moment in thought; then, as they were only a day's journey from Surgeres, whither the cardinal was to come to meet the king, he resolved to follow the advice of Athos and go with them. Besides, this return offered him the advantage of watching his prisoner.
They resumed their route.
On the morrow, at three o'clock in the afternoon, they arrived at Surgeres. The cardinal there awaited Louis XIII. The minister and the king exchanged numerous caresses, felicitating each other upon the fortunate chance which had freed France from the inveterate enemy who set all Europe against her. After which, the cardinal, who had been informed that d'Artagnan was arrested and who was anxious to see him, took leave of the king, inviting him to come the next day to view the work already done upon the dyke.
On returning in the evening to his quarters at the bridge of La Pierre, the cardinal found, standing before the house he occupied, d'Artagnan, without his sword, and the three Musketeers armed.
This time, as he was well attended, he looked at them sternly, and made a sign with his eye and hand for d'Artagnan to follow him.
"We shall wait for you, d'Artagnan," said Athos, loud enough for the cardinal to hear him.
His Eminence bent his brow, stopped for an instant, and then kept on his way without uttering a single word.
D'Artagnan entered after the cardinal, and behind d'Artagnan the door was guarded.
His Eminence entered the chamber which served him as a study, and made a sign to Rochefort to bring in the young Musketeer.
Rochefort obeyed and retired.
D'Artagnan remained alone in front of the cardinal; this was his second interview with Richelieu, and he afterward confessed that he felt well assured it would be his last.
Richelieu remained standing, leaning against the mantelpiece; a table was between him and d'Artagnan.
"Monsieur," said the cardinal, "you have been arrested by my orders."
"So they tell me, monseigneur."
"Do you know why?"
"No, monseigneur, for the only thing for which I could be arrested is still unknown to your Eminence."
Richelieu looked steadfastly at the young man.
"Holloa!" said he, "what does that mean?"
"If Monseigneur will have the goodness to tell me, in the first place, what crimes are imputed to me, I will then tell him the deeds I have really done."