第80章 The Utility of Stove-Pipes(2)
“But,” resumed the lady to whom the cardinal had just addressed this flattering compliment, “if, in spite of all these reasons, the duke does not yield, and continues to threaten France?”
“If he persists—” His Eminence made a pause, and resumed: “If he persists—well, then I shall hope for one of those events which change the destinies of states.”
“If your Eminence would quote to me some of these events in history,” said milady, “perhaps I should partake of your confidence in the future.”
“Well, here, then, for example,” said Richelieu. “When in 1610, for a cause almost similar to the one that moves the duke, King Henry IV, of glorious memory, was about to invade Flanders and Italy at the same time, in order to attack Austria on both sides—well, did there not happen an event which saved Austria? Why should not the king of France have the same chance as the emperor?”
“Your Eminence means the knife-stab of the Rue de la Ferronnerie?”
“Exactly so,” said the cardinal. “The only difficulty at this moment is to find some woman, handsome, young, and clever, who wants to get revenge on the duke. Such a woman may be found. The duke has had many love affairs, and if he has succeeded in many of his intrigues by his promises of eternal constancy, he must likewise have sown the seeds of many hatreds by his eternal infidelities.”
“No doubt,” said milady coolly, “such a woman may be found.”
“Well, such a woman, who would put Jacques Clement’s knife or Ravaillac’s in a fanatic’s hands, would save France.”
“She is found,” said milady.
“Then we must find the miserable fanatic who will serve as an instrument of God’s justice.”
“He will be found.”
“Well,” said the cardinal, “that is it.”
“And now,” said milady, without appearing to remark the change of the cardinal’s tone toward her—“now that I have received your Eminence’s instructions regarding your enemies, will monseigneur permit me to say a few words to him of mine?”
“Who are they?” replied the cardinal.
“In the first place, there is a little intriguing woman named Bonacieux.”
“She is in the prison of Nantes.”
“That is to say, she was there,” replied milady; “but the queen obtained an order from the king, by means of which she has been conveyed to a convent.”
“And what convent?”
“I don’t know; the secret has been well kept.”
“But I will know!”
“And will your Eminence tell me in what convent this woman is?”
“I see nothing improper in that,” said the cardinal.
“Well, now I have an enemy much more to be dreaded by me than this little Madame Bonacieux.”
“Who is that?”
“What is his name?”
“I mean that wretch D’Artagnan.”
“He is a bold fellow,” said the cardinal.
“And because he is a bold fellow he is the more to be feared.”
“I must have,” said the cardinal, “a proof of his connection with Buckingham.”
“A proof!” cried milady; “I will find you ten.”
“Well, then, it is the simplest thing in the world. Get me your proof, and I will send him to the Bastille.”
“So far so good, monseigneur; but afterwards?”
“When one is in the Bastille there is no afterwards!” said the cardinal in a low voice. “Ah, by God!” continued he, “if it were as easy for me to get rid of my enemy as it is easy to get rid of yours, and if it were only against such people you required impunity—”
“Monseigneur,” replied milady, “a fair exchange—life for life, man for man; give me one, I will give you the other.”
“I don’t know what you mean, nor do I even wish to know what you mean,” replied the cardinal; “but I wish to please you, and see nothing out of the way in giving you what you ask for with respect to so mean a creature—the more so as you tell me this petty D’Artagnan is a libertine, a duellist, a traitor.”
“An infamous scoundrel, monseigneur, an infamous scoundrel!”
“Give me a paper, a pen, and some ink, then,” said the cardinal.
“Here they are, monseigneur.”
There was a moment of silence, which proved that the cardinal was engaged in seeking the terms in which he should write the note, or else in writing it. Athos, who had not lost a word of the conversation, took his two companions by the hand and led them to the other end of the room.
“Well,” said Porthos, “what do you want, and why do you not let us listen to the end of the conversation?”
“Hush!” said Athos, speaking in a low voice; “we have heard all it was necessary for us to hear; besides, I don’t prevent you from listening but I must be gone.”
“You must be gone!” said Porthos; “and if the cardinal asks for you, what answer can we make?”
“You will not wait till he asks; you will speak first, and tell him that I am gone as a scout, because certain expressions of our landlord have made me think the road is not safe. I will say a word or two about it to the cardinal’s attendant likewise. The rest concerns myself; don’t be anxious about that.”
“Be prudent, Athos,” said Aramis.
“Don’t be worried,” replied Athos.
Porthos and Aramis resumed their places by the stove-pipe.
Athos went out without any mystery, took his horse, which was tied with those of his friends to the fastenings of the shutters, in four words convinced the attendant of the necessity of a vanguard for their return, carefully examined the priming of his pistol, drew his sword, and, like a forlorn hope, took the road to the camp.