But that was not all; they must get to London. In England the post was well served. D'Artagnan and Planchet took each a post horse, and a postillion rode before them. In a few hours they were in the capital.
D'Artagnan did not know London; he did not know a word of English; but he wrote the name of Buckingham on a piece of paper, and everyone pointed out to him the way to the duke's hotel.
The duke was at Windsor hunting with the king. D'Artagnan inquired for the confidential valet of the duke, who, having accompanied him in all his voyages, spoke French perfectly well; he told him that he came from Paris on an affair of life and death, and that he must speak with his master instantly.
The confidence with which d'Artagnan spoke convinced Patrick, which was the name of this minister of the minister. He ordered two horses to be saddled, and himself went as guide to the young Guardsman. As for Planchet, he had been lifted from his horse as stiff as a rush; the poor lad's strength was almost exhausted. d'Artagnan seemed iron.
On their arrival at the castle they learned that Buckingham and the king were hawking in the marshes two or three leagues away. In twenty minutes they were on the spot named. Patrick soon caught the sound of his master's voice calling his falcon.
"Whom must I announce to my Lord Duke?" asked Patrick.
"The young man who one evening sought a quarrel with him on the Pont Neuf, opposite the Samaritaine."
"A singular introduction!"
"You will find that it is as good as another."
Patrick galloped off, reached the duke, and announced to him in the terms directed that a messenger awaited him.
Buckingham at once remembered the circumstance, and suspecting that something was going on in France of which it was necessary he should be informed, he only took the time to inquire where the messenger was, and recognizing from afar the uniform of the Guards, he put his horse into a gallop, and rode straight up to d'Artagnan. Patrick discreetly kept in the background.
"No misfortune has happened to the queen?" cried Buckingham, the instant he came up, throwing all his fear and love into the question.
"I believe not; nevertheless I believe she runs some great peril from which your Grace alone can extricate her."
"I!" cried Buckingham. "What is it? I should be too happy to be of any service to her. Speak, speak!"
"Take this letter," said d'Artagnan.
"This letter! From whom comes this letter?"
"From her Majesty, as I think."
"From her Majesty!" said Buckingham, becoming so pale that d'Artagnan feared he would faint as he broke the seal.
"What is this rent?" said he, showing d'Artagnan a place where it had been pierced through.
"Ah," said d'Artagnan, "I did not see that; it was the sword of the Comte de Wardes which made that hole, when he gave me a good thrust in the breast."
"You are wounded?" asked Buckingham, as he opened the letter.
"Oh, nothing but a scratch," said d'Artagnan.
"Just heaven, what have I read?" cried the duke. "Patrick, remain here, or rather join the king, wherever he may be, and tell his Majesty that I humbly beg him to excuse me, but an affair of the greatest importance recalls me to London. Come, monsieur, come!" and both set off towards the capital at full gallop.