62 TWO VARIETIES OF DEMONS
"Ah," cried Milady and Rochefort together, "it is you!"
"Yes, it is I."
"And you come?" asked Milady.
"From La Rochelle; and you?"
"Dead or desperately wounded, as I left without having been able to hear anything of him. A fanatic has just assassinated him."
"Ah," said Rochefort, with a smile; "this is a fortunate chance — one that will delight his Eminence! Have you informed him of it?"
"I wrote to him from Boulogne. But what brings you here?"
"His Eminence was uneasy, and sent me to find you."
"I only arrived yesterday."
"And what have you been doing since yesterday?"
"I have not lost my time."
"Oh, I don't doubt that."
"Do you know whom I have encountered here?"
"How can I?"
"That young woman whom the queen took out of prison."
"The mistress of that fellow d'Artagnan?"
"Yes; Madame Bonacieux, with whose retreat the cardinal was unacquainted."
"Well, well," said Rochefort, "here is a chance which may pair off with the other! Monsieur Cardinal is indeed a privileged man!"
"Imagine my astonishment," continued Milady, "when I found myself face to face with this woman!"
"Does she know you?"
"Then she looks upon you as a stranger?"
Milady smiled. "I am her best friend."
"Upon my honor," said Rochefort, "it takes you, my dear countess, to perform such miracles!"
"And it is well I can, Chevalier," said Milady, "for do you know what is going on here?"
"They will come for her tomorrow or the day after, with an order from the queen."
"Indeed! And who?"
"d'Artagnan and his friends."
"Indeed, they will go so far that we shall be obliged to send them to the Bastille."
"Why is it not done already?"
"What would you? The cardinal has a weakness for these men which I cannot comprehend."
"Well, then, tell him this, Rochefort. Tell him that our conversation at the inn of the Red Dovecot was overheard by these four men; tell him that after his departure one of them came up to me and took from me by violence the safe-conduct which he had given me; tell him they warned Lord de Winter of my journey to England; that this time they nearly foiled my mission as they foiled the affair of the studs; tell him that among these four men two only are to be feared — d'Artagnan and Athos; tell him that the third, Aramis, is the lover of Madame de Chevreuse — he may be left alone, we know his secret, and it may be useful; as to the fourth, Porthos, he is a fool, a simpleton, a blustering booby, not worth troubling himself about."
"But these four men must be now at the siege of La Rochelle?"
"I thought so, too; but a letter which Madame Bonacieux has received from Madame the Constable, and which she has had the imprudence to show me, leads me to believe that these four men, on the contrary, are on the road hither to take her away."
"The devil! What's to be done?"
"What did the cardinal say about me?"
"I was to take your dispatches, written or verbal, and return by post; and when he shall know what you have done, he will advise what you have to do."
"I must, then, remain here?"
"Here, or in the neighborhood."
"You cannot take me with you?"
"No, the order is imperative. Near the camp you might be recognized; and your presence, you must be aware, would compromise the cardinal."
"Then I must wait here, or in the neighborhood?"
"Only tell me beforehand where you will wait for intelligence from the cardinal; let me know always where to find you."
"Observe, it is probable that I may not be able to remain here."
"You forget that my enemies may arrive at any minute."
"That's true; but is this little woman, then, to escape his Eminence?"
"Bah!" said Milady, with a smile that belonged only to herself; "you forget that I am her best friend."
"Ah, that's true! I may then tell the cardinal, with respect to this little woman — "
"That he may be at ease."
"Is that all?"
"He will know what that means."
"He will guess, at least. Now, then, what had I better do?"
"Return instantly. It appears to me that the news you bear is worth the trouble of a little diligence."
"My chaise broke down coming into Lilliers."
"Yes, I want your chaise."
"And how shall I travel, then?"
"You talk very comfortably, — a hundred and eighty leagues!"
"One can do it! Afterward?"
"Afterward? Why, in passing through Lilliers you will send me your chaise, with an order to your servant to place himself at my disposal."
"You have, no doubt, some order from the cardinal about you?"
"I have my FULL POWER."
"Show it to the abbess, and tell her that someone will come and fetch me, either today or tomorrow, and that I am to follow the person who presents himself in your name."
"Don't forget to treat me harshly in speaking of me to the abbess."
"To what purpose?"
"I am a victim of the cardinal. It is necessary to inspire confidence in that poor little Madame Bonacieux."
"That's true. Now, will you make me a report of all that has happened?"
"Why, I have related the events to you. You have a good memory; repeat what I have told you. A paper may be lost."