"The fact is that I do not doubt your Eminence's genius — "
"Will repair the blunders of his agent — is that it?"
"That is exactly what I was going to say, if your Eminence had let me finish my sentence."
"Meanwhile, do you know where the Duchesse de Chevreuse and the Duke of Buckingham are now concealed?"
"No, monseigneur; my people could tell me nothing on that head."
"But I know."
"Yes; or at least I guess. They were, one in the Rue de Vaugirard, No. 25; the other in the Rue de la Harpe, No. 75."
"Does your Eminence command that they both be instantly arrested?"
"It will be too late; they will be gone."
"But still, we can make sure that they are so."
"Take ten men of my Guardsmen, and search the two houses thoroughly."
"Instantly, monseigneur." And Rochefort went hastily out of the apartment.
The cardinal being left alone, reflected for an instant and then rang the bell a third time. The same officer appeared.
"Bring the prisoner in again," said the cardinal.
M. Bonacieux was introduced afresh, and upon a sign from the cardinal, the officer retired.
"You have deceived me!" said the cardinal, sternly.
"I," cried Bonacieux, "I deceive your Eminence!"
"Your wife, in going to Rue de Vaugirard and Rue de la Harpe, did not go to find linen drapers."
"Then why did she go, just God?"
"She went to meet the Duchesse de Chevreuse and the Duke of Buckingham."
"Yes," cried Bonacieux, recalling all his remembrances of the circumstances, "yes, that's it. Your Eminence is right. I told my wife several times that it was surprising that linen drapers should live in such houses as those, in houses that had no signs; but she always laughed at me. Ah, monseigneur!" continued Bonacieux, throwing himself at his Eminence's feet, "ah, how truly you are the cardinal, the great cardinal, the man of genius whom all the world reveres!"
The cardinal, however contemptible might be the triumph gained over so vulgar a being as Bonacieux, did not the less enjoy it for an instant; then, almost immediately, as if a fresh thought has occurred, a smile played upon his lips, and he said, offering his hand to the mercer, "Rise, my friend, you are a worthy man."
"The cardinal has touched me with his hand! I have touched the hand of the great man!" cried Bonacieux. "The great man has called me his friend!"
"Yes, my friend, yes," said the cardinal, with that paternal tone which he sometimes knew how to assume, but which deceived none who knew him; "and as you have been unjustly suspected, well, you must be indemnified. Here, take this purse of a hundred pistoles, and pardon me."
"I pardon you, monseigneur!" said Bonacieux, hesitating to take the purse, fearing, doubtless, that this pretended gift was but a pleasantry. "But you are able to have me arrested, you are able to have me tortured, you are able to have me hanged; you are the master, and I could not have the least word to say. Pardon you, monseigneur! You cannot mean that!"
"Ah, my dear Monsieur Bonacieux, you are generous in this matter. I see it and I thank you for it. Thus, then, you will take this bag, and you will go away without being too malcontent."
"I go away enchanted."
"Farewell, then, or rather, AU REVOIR!"
And the cardinal made him a sign with his hand, to which Bonacieux replied by bowing to the ground. He then went out backward, and when he was in the antechamber the cardinal heard him, in his enthusiasm, crying aloud, "Long life to the Monseigneur! Long life to his Eminence! Long life to the great cardinal!" The cardinal listened with a smile to this vociferous manifestation of the feelings of M. Bonacieux; and then, when Bonacieux's cries were no longer audible, "Good!" said he, "that man would henceforward lay down his life for me." And the cardinal began to examine with the greatest attention the map of La Rochelle, which, as we have said, lay open on the desk, tracing with a pencil the line in which the famous dyke was to pass which, eighteen months later, shut up the port of the besieged city. As he was in the deepest of his strategic meditations, the door opened, and Rochefort returned.
"Well?" said the cardinal, eagerly, rising with a promptitude which proved the degree of importance he attached to the commission with which he had charged the count.
"Well," said the latter, "a young woman of about twenty-six or twenty-eight years of age, and a man of from thirty-five to forty, have indeed lodged at the two houses pointed out by your Eminence; but the woman left last night, and the man this morning."
"It was they!" cried the cardinal, looking at the clock; "and now it is too late to have them pursued. The duchess is at Tours, and the duke at Boulogne. It is in London they must be found."
"What are your Eminence's orders?"
"Not a word of what has passed. Let the queen remain in perfect security; let her be ignorant that we know her secret. Let her believe that we are in search of some conspiracy or other. Send me the keeper of the seals, Seguier."
"And that man, what has your Eminence done with him?"
"What man?" asked the cardinal.
"I have done with him all that could be done. I have made him a spy upon his wife."
The Comte de Rochefort bowed like a man who acknowledges the superiority of the master as great, and retired.
Left alone, the cardinal seated himself again and wrote a letter, which he secured with his special seal. Then he rang. The officer entered for the fourth time.
"Tell Vitray to come to me," said he, "and tell him to get ready for a journey."
An instant after, the man he asked for was before him, booted and spurred.
"Vitray," said he, "you will go with all speed to London. You must not stop an instant on the way. You will deliver this letter to Milady. Here is an order for two hundred pistoles; call upon my treasurer and get the money. You shall have as much again if you are back within six days, and have executed your commission well."
The messenger, without replying a single word, bowed, took the letter, with the order for the two hundred pistoles, and retired.
Here is what the letter contained:
MILADY, Be at the first ball at which the Duke of Buckingham shall be present. He will wear on his doublet twelve diamond studs; get as near to him as you can, and cut off two.
As soon as these studs shall be in your possession, inform me.