63 THE DROP OF WATER
Rochefort had scarcely departed when Mme. Bonacieux re-entered. She found Milady with a smiling countenance.
"Well," said the young woman, "what you dreaded has happened. This evening, or tomorrow, the cardinal will send someone to take you away."
"Who told you that, my dear?" asked Milady.
"I heard it from the mouth of the messenger himself."
"Come and sit down close to me," said Milady.
"Here I am."
"Wait till I assure myself that nobody hears us."
"Why all these precautions?"
"You shall know."
Milady arose, went to the door, opened it, looked in the corridor, and then returned and seated herself close to Mme. Bonacieux.
"Then," said she, "he has well played his part."
"He who just now presented himself to the abbess as a messenger from the cardinal."
"It was, then, a part he was playing?"
"Yes, my child."
"That man, then, was not — "
"That man," said Milady, lowering her voice, "is my brother."
"Your brother!" cried Mme. Bonacieux.
"No one must know this secret, my dear, but yourself. If you reveal it to anyone in the world, I shall be lost, and perhaps yourself likewise."
"Oh, my God!"
"Listen. This is what has happened: My brother, who was coming to my assistance to take me away by force if it were necessary, met with the emissary of the cardinal, who was coming in search of me. He followed him. At a solitary and retired part of the road he drew his sword, and required the messenger to deliver up to him the papers of which he was the bearer. The messenger resisted; my brother killed him."
"Oh!" said Mme. Bonacieux, shuddering.
"Remember, that was the only means. Then my brother determined to substitute cunning for force. He took the papers, and presented himself here as the emissary of the cardinal, and in an hour or two a carriage will come to take me away by the orders of his Eminence."
"I understand. It is your brother who sends this carriage."
"Exactly; but that is not all. That letter you have received, and which you believe to be from Madame de Chevreuse — "
"It is a forgery."
"How can that be?"
"Yes, a forgery; it is a snare to prevent your making any resistance when they come to fetch you."
"But it is d'Artagnan that will come."
"Do not deceive yourself. D'Artagnan and his friends are detained at the siege of La Rochelle."
"How do you know that?"
"My brother met some emissaries of the cardinal in the uniform of Musketeers. You would have been summoned to the gate; you would have believed yourself about to meet friends; you would have been abducted, and conducted back to Paris."
"Oh, my God! My senses fail me amid such a chaos of iniquities. I feel, if this continues," said Mme. Bonacieux, raising her hands to her forehead, "I shall go mad!"
"Stop — "
"I hear a horse's steps; it is my brother setting off again. I should like to offer him a last salute. Come!"
Milady opened the window, and made a sign to Mme. Bonacieux to join her. The young woman complied.
Rochefort passed at a gallop.
"Adieu, brother!" cried Milady.
The chevalier raised his head, saw the two young women, and without stopping, waved his hand in a friendly way to Milady.
"The good George!" said she, closing the window with an expression of countenance full of affection and melancholy. And she resumed her seat, as if plunged in reflections entirely personal.
"Dear lady," said Mme. Bonacieux, "pardon me for interrupting you; but what do you advise me to do? Good heaven! You have more experience than I have. Speak; I will listen."
"In the first place," said Milady, "it is possible I may be deceived, and that d'Artagnan and his friends may really come to your assistance."
"Oh, that would be too much!" cried Mme. Bonacieux, "so much happiness is not in store for me!"
"Then you comprehend it would be only a question of time, a sort of race, which should arrive first. If your friends are the more speedy, you are to be saved; if the satellites of the cardinal, you are lost."
"Oh, yes, yes; lost beyond redemption! What, then, to do? What to do?"
"There would be a very simple means, very natural — "
"Tell me what!"
"To wait, concealed in the neighborhood, and assure yourself who are the men who come to ask for you."
"But where can I wait?"
"Oh, there is no difficulty in that. I shall stop and conceal myself a few leagues hence until my brother can rejoin me. Well, I take you with me; we conceal ourselves, and wait together."
"But I shall not be allowed to go; I am almost a prisoner."
"As they believe that I go in consequence of an order from the cardinal, no one will believe you anxious to follow me."
"Well! The carriage is at the door; you bid me adieu; you mount the step to embrace me a last time; my brother's servant, who comes to fetch me, is told how to proceed; he makes a sign to the postillion, and we set off at a gallop."
"But d'Artagnan! D'Artagnan! if he comes?"
"Shall we not know it?"
"Nothing easier. We will send my brother's servant back to Bethune, whom, as I told you, we can trust. He shall assume a disguise, and place himself in front of the convent. If the emissaries of the cardinal arrive, he will take no notice; if it is Monsieur d'Artagnan and his friends, he will bring them to us."
"He knows them, then?"
"Doubtless. Has he not seen Monsieur d'Artagnan at my house?"
"Oh, yes, yes; you are right. Thus all may go well — all may be for the best; but we do not go far from this place?"
"Seven or eight leagues at the most. We will keep on the frontiers, for instance; and at the first alarm we can leave France."
"And what can we do there?"
"But if they come?"
"My brother's carriage will be here first."