"How many days would it require to make two studs exactly like them? You see there are two wanting."
"Eight days, my Lord."
"I will give you three thousand pistoles apiece if I can have them by the day after tomorrow."
"My Lord, they shall be yours."
"You are a jewel of a man, Mr. O'Reilly; but that is not all. These studs cannot be trusted to anybody; it must be done in the palace."
"Impossible, my Lord! There is no one but myself can so execute them that one cannot tell the new from the old."
"Therefore, my dear Mr. O'Reilly, you are my prisoner. And if you wish ever to leave my palace, you cannot; so make the best of it. Name to me such of your workmen as you need, and point out the tools they must bring."
The goldsmith knew the duke. He knew all objection would be useless, and instantly determined how to act.
"May I be permitted to inform my wife?" said he.
"Oh, you may even see her if you like, my dear Mr. O'Reilly. Your captivity shall be mild, be assured; and as every inconvenience deserves its indemnification, here is, in addition to the price of the studs, an order for a thousand pistoles, to make you forget the annoyance I cause you."
D'Artagnan could not get over the surprise created in him by this minister, who thus open-handed, sported with men and millions.
As to the goldsmith, he wrote to his wife, sending her the order for the thousand pistoles, and charging her to send him, in exchange, his most skillful apprentice, an assortment of diamonds, of which he gave the names and the weight, and the necessary tools.
Buckingham conducted the goldsmith to the chamber destined for him, and which, at the end of half an hour, was transformed into a workshop. Then he placed a sentinel at each door, with an order to admit nobody upon any pretense but his VALET DE CHAMBRE, Patrick. We need not add that the goldsmith, O'Reilly, and his assistant, were prohibited from going out under any pretext. This point, settled, the duke turned to d'Artagnan. "Now, my young friend," said he, "England is all our own. What do you wish for? What do you desire?"
"A bed, my Lord," replied d'Artagnan. "At present, I confess, that is the thing I stand most in need of."
Buckingham gave d'Artagnan a chamber adjoining his own. He wished to have the young man at hand — not that he at all mistrusted him, but for the sake of having someone to whom he could constantly talk of the queen.
In one hour after, the ordinance was published in London that no vessel bound for France should leave port, not even the packet boat with letters. In the eyes of everybody this was a declaration of war between the two kingdoms.
On the day after the morrow, by eleven o'clock, the two diamond studs were finished, and they were so completely imitated, so perfectly alike, that Buckingham could not tell the new ones from the old ones, and experts in such matters would have been deceived as he was. He immediately called d'Artagnan. "Here," said he to him, "are the diamond studs that you came to bring; and be my witness that I have done all that human power could do."
"Be satisfied, my Lord, I will tell all that I have seen. But does your Grace mean to give me the studs without the casket?"
"The casket would encumber you. Besides, the casket is the more precious from being all that is left to me. You will say that I keep it."
"I will perform your commission, word for word, my Lord."
"And now," resumed Buckingham, looking earnestly at the young man, "how shall I ever acquit myself of the debt I owe you?"
D'Artagnan blushed up to the whites of his eyes. He saw that the duke was searching for a means of making him accept something and the idea that the blood of his friends and himself was about to be paid for with English gold was strangely repugnant to him.
"Let us understand each other, my Lord," replied d'Artagnan, "and let us make things clear beforehand in order that there may be no mistake. I am in the service of the King and Queen of France, and form part of the company of Monsieur Dessessart, who, as well as his brother-in-law, Monsieur de Treville, is particularly attached to their Majesties. What I have done, then, has been for the queen, and not at all for your Grace. And still further, it is very probable I should not have done anything of this, if it had not been to make myself agreeable to someone who is my lady, as the queen is yours."
"Yes," said the duke, smiling, "and I even believe that I know that other person; it is — "
"My Lord, I have not named her!" interrupted the young man, warmly.
"That is true," said the duke; "and it is to this person I am bound to discharge my debt of gratitude."
"You have said, my Lord; for truly, at this moment when there is question of war, I confess to you that I see nothing in your Grace but an Englishman, and consequently an enemy whom I should have much greater pleasure in meeting on the field of battle than in the park at Windsor or the corridors of the Louvre — all which, however, will not prevent me from executing to the very point my commission or from laying down my life, if there be need of it, to accomplish it; but I repeat it to your Grace, without your having personally on that account more to thank me for in this second interview than for what I did for you in the first."
"We say, 'Proud as a Scotsman,'" murmured the Duke of Buckingham.
"And we say, 'Proud as a Gascon,'" replied d'Artagnan. "The Gascons are the Scots of France."
D'Artagnan bowed to the duke, and was retiring.
"Well, are you going away in that manner? Where, and how?"
"Fore Gad, these Frenchmen have no consideration!"
"I had forgotten that England was an island, and that you were the king of it."
"Go to the riverside, ask for the brig SUND, and give this letter to the captain; he will convey you to a little port, where certainly you are not expected, and which is ordinarily only frequented by fishermen."
"The name of that port?"
"St. Valery; but listen. When you have arrived there you will go to a mean tavern, without a name and without a sign — a mere fisherman's hut. You cannot be mistaken; there is but one."
"You will ask for the host, and will repeat to him the word 'Forward!'"
"In French, EN AVANT. It is the password. He will give you a horse all saddled, and will point out to you the road you ought to take. You will find, in the same way, four relays on your route. If you will give at each of these relays your address in Paris, the four horses will follow you thither. You already know two of them, and you appeared to appreciate them like a judge. They were those we rode on; and you may rely upon me for the others not being inferior to them. These horses are equipped for the field. However proud you may be, you will not refuse to accept one of them, and to request your three companions to accept the others — that is, in order to make war against us. Besides, the end justified the means, as you Frenchmen say, does it not?"
"Yes, my Lord, I accept them," said d'Artagnan; "and if it please God, we will make a good use of your presents."
"Well, now, your hand, young man. Perhaps we shall soon meet on the field of battle; but in the meantime we shall part good friends, I hope."
"Yes, my Lord; but with the hope of soon becoming enemies."