"Come, then, let us go to your friend's house. Where does he live?"
"Rue Ferou, two steps from here."
"Let us go!"
Both resumed their way. As d'Artagnan had foreseen, Athos was not within. He took the key, which was customarily given him as one of the family, ascended the stairs, and introduced Mme. Bonacieux into the little apartment of which we have given a description.
"You are at home," said he. "Remain here, fasten the door inside, and open it to nobody unless you hear three taps like this;" and he tapped thrice — two taps close together and pretty hard, the other after an interval, and lighter.
"That is well," said Mme. Bonacieux. "Now, in my turn, let me give you my instructions."
"I am all attention."
"Present yourself at the wicket of the Louvre, on the side of the Rue de l'Echelle, and ask for Germain."
"Well, and then?"
"He will ask you what you want, and you will answer by these two words, 'Tours' and 'Bruxelles.' He will at once put himself at your orders."
"And what shall I command him?"
"To go and fetch Monsieur Laporte, the queen's VALET DE CHAMBRE."
"And when he shall have informed him, and Monsieur Laporte is come?"
"You will send him to me."
"That is well; but where and how shall I see you again?"
"Do you wish to see me again?"
"Well, let that care be mine, and be at ease."
"I depend upon your word."
D'Artagnan bowed to Mme. Bonacieux, darting at her the most loving glance that he could possibly concentrate upon her charming little person; and while he descended the stairs, he heard the door closed and double-locked. In two bounds he was at the Louvre; as he entered the wicket of L'Echelle, ten o'clock struck. All the events we have described had taken place within a half hour.
Everything fell out as Mme. Bonacieux prophesied. On hearing the password, Germain bowed. In a few minutes, Laporte was at the lodge; in two words d'Artagnan informed him where Mme. Bonacieux was. Laporte assured himself, by having it twice repeated, of the accurate address, and set off at a run. Hardly, however, had he taken ten steps before he returned.
"Young man," said he to d'Artagnan, "a suggestion."
"You may get into trouble by what has taken place."
"You believe so?"
"Yes. Have you any friend whose clock is too slow?"
"Go and call upon him, in order that he may give evidence of your having been with him at half past nine. In a court of justice that is called an alibi."
D'Artagnan found his advice prudent. He took to his heels, and was soon at M. de Treville's; but instead of going into the saloon with the rest of the crowd, he asked to be introduced to M. de Treville's office. As d'Artagnan so constantly frequented the hotel, no difficulty was made in complying with his request, and a servant went to inform M. de Treville that his young compatriot, having something important to communicate, solicited a private audience. Five minutes after, M. de Treville was asking d'Artagnan what he could do to serve him, and what caused his visit at so late an hour.
"Pardon me, monsieur," said d'Artagnan, who had profited by the moment he had been left alone to put back M. de Treville's clock three-quarters of an hour, "but I thought, as it was yet only twenty-five minutes past nine, it was not too late to wait upon you."
"Twenty-five minutes past nine!" cried M. de Treville, looking at the clock; "why, that's impossible!"
"Look, rather, monsieur," said d'Artagnan, "the clock shows it."
"That's true," said M. de Treville; "I believed it later. But what can I do for you?"
Then d'Artagnan told M. de Treville a long history about the queen. He expressed to him the fears he entertained with respect to her Majesty; he related to him what he had heard of the projects of the cardinal with regard to Buckingham, and all with a tranquillity and candor of which M. de Treville was the more the dupe, from having himself, as we have said, observed something fresh between the cardinal, the king, and the queen.
As ten o'clock was striking, d'Artagnan left M. de Treville, who thanked him for his information, recommended him to have the service of the king and queen always at heart, and returned to the saloon; but at the foot of the stairs, d'Artagnan remembered he had forgotten his cane. He consequently sprang up again, re-entered the office, with a turn of his finger set the clock right again, that it might not be perceived the next day that it had been put wrong, and certain from that time that he had a witness to prove his alibi, he ran downstairs and soon found himself in the street.