16 IN WHICH M. SEGUIER, KEEPER OF THE SEALS, LOOKS MORE THAN ONCE FOR THE BELL, IN ORDER TO RING IT, AS HE DID BEFORE
It is impossible to form an idea of the impression these few words made upon Louis XIII. He grew pale and red alternately; and the cardinal saw at once that he had recovered by a single blow all the ground he had lost.
"Buckingham in Paris!" cried he, "and why does he come?"
"To conspire, no doubt, with your enemies, the Huguenots and the Spaniards."
"No, PARDIEU, no! To conspire against my honor with Madame de Chevreuse, Madame de Longueville, and the Condes."
"Oh, sire, what an idea! The queen is too virtuous; and besides, loves your Majesty too well."
"Woman is weak, Monsieur Cardinal," said the king; "and as to loving me much, I have my own opinion as to that love."
"I not the less maintain," said the cardinal, "that the Duke of Buckingham came to Paris for a project wholly political."
"And I am sure that he came for quite another purpose, Monsieur Cardinal; but if the queen be guilty, let her tremble!"
"Indeed," said the cardinal, "whatever repugnance I may have to directing my mind to such a treason, your Majesty compels me to think of it. Madame de Lannoy, whom, according to your Majesty's command, I have frequently interrogated, told me this morning that the night before last her Majesty sat up very late, that this morning she wept much, and that she was writing all day."
"That's it!" cried the king; "to him, no doubt. Cardinal, I must have the queen's papers."
"But how to take them, sire? It seems to me that it is neither your Majesty nor myself who can charge himself with such a mission."
"How did they act with regard to the Marechale d'Ancre?" cried the king, in the highest state of choler; "first her closets were thoroughly searched, and then she herself."
"The Marechale d'Ancre was no more than the Marechale d'Ancre. A Florentine adventurer, sire, and that was all; while the august spouse of your Majesty is Anne of Austria, Queen of France — that is to say, one of the greatest princesses in the world."
"She is not the less guilty, Monsieur Duke! The more she has forgotten the high position in which she was placed, the more degrading is her fall. Besides, I long ago determined to put an end to all these petty intrigues of policy and love. She has near her a certain Laporte."
"Who, I believe, is the mainspring of all this, I confess," said the cardinal.
"You think then, as I do, that she deceives me?" said the king.
"I believe, and I repeat it to your Majesty, that the queen conspires against the power of the king, but I have not said against his honor."
"And I — I tell you against both. I tell you the queen does not love me; I tell you she loves another; I tell you she loves that infamous Buckingham! Why did you not have him arrested while in Paris?"
"Arrest the Duke! Arrest the prime minister of King Charles I! Think of it, sire! What a scandal! And if the suspicions of your Majesty, which I still continue to doubt, should prove to have any foundation, what a terrible disclosure, what a fearful scandal!"
"But as he exposed himself like a vagabond or a thief, he should have been — "
Louis XIII stopped, terrified at what he was about to say, while Richelieu, stretching out his neck, waited uselessly for the word which had died on the lips of the king.
"He should have been — ?"
"Nothing," said the king, "nothing. But all the time he was in Paris, you, of course, did not lose sight of him?"
"Where did he lodge?"
"Rue de la Harpe. No. 75."
"Where is that?"
"By the side of the Luxembourg."
"And you are certain that the queen and he did not see each other?"
"I believe the queen to have too high a sense of her duty, sire."
"But they have corresponded; it is to him that the queen has been writing all the day. Monsieur Duke, I must have those letters!"
"Sire, notwithstanding — "
"Monsieur Duke, at whatever price it may be, I will have them."
"I would, however, beg your Majesty to observe — "
"Do you, then, also join in betraying me, Monsieur Cardinal, by thus always opposing my will? Are you also in accord with Spain and England, with Madame de Chevreuse and the queen?"
"Sire," replied the cardinal, sighing, "I believed myself secure from such a suspicion."
"Monsieur Cardinal, you have heard me; I will have those letters."
"There is but one way."
"What is that?"
"That would be to charge Monsieur de Seguier, the keeper of the seals, with this mission. The matter enters completely into the duties of the post."
"Let him be sent for instantly."
"He is most likely at my hotel. I requested him to call, and when I came to the Louvre I left orders if he came, to desire him to wait."
"Let him be sent for instantly."
"Your Majesty's orders shall be executed; but — "
"But the queen will perhaps refuse to obey."
"Yes, if she is ignorant that these orders come from the king."
"Well, that she may have no doubt on that head, I will go and inform her myself."
"Your Majesty will not forget that I have done everything in my power to prevent a rupture."
"Yes, Duke, yes, I know you are very indulgent toward the queen, too indulgent, perhaps; we shall have occasion, I warn you, at some future period to speak of that."
"Whenever it shall please your Majesty; but I shall be always happy and proud, sire, to sacrifice myself to the harmony which I desire to see reign between you and the Queen of France."
"Very well, Cardinal, very well; but, meantime, send for Monsieur the Keeper of the Seals. I will go to the queen."
And Louis XIII, opening the door of communication, passed into the corridor which led from his apartments to those of Anne of Austria.
The queen was in the midst of her women — Mme. de Guitaut, Mme. de Sable, Mme. de Montbazon, and Mme. de Guemene. In a corner was the Spanish companion, Donna Estafania, who had followed her from Madrid. Mme. Guemene was reading aloud, and everybody was listening to her with attention with the exception of the queen, who had, on the contrary, desired this reading in order that she might be able, while feigning to listen, to pursue the thread of her own thoughts.