At this movement, which nobody opposed, he gained a little courage, and ventured to draw up one leg and then the other. At length, with the help of both hands, he raised himself up upon the bench, and found himself upon his feet.

At that moment an officer of pleasant appearance opened a door, continued to exchange some words with a person in the next room, and then came up to the prisoner.

“Is your name Bonacieux?” said he.

“Yes, officer,” stammered the mercer, more dead than alive, “at your service.”

“Come in,” said the officer.

And he moved aside to let the mercer pass. The latter obeyed without reply, and entered the room, where it appeared he was expected.

It was a large, close, and stifling cabinet, the walls furnished with arms offensive and defensive, and where there was already a fire, although it was scarcely the end of September. A square table, covered with books and papers, upon which was unrolled an immense plan of the city of Rochelle, occupied the centre of the apartment.

Standing before the fireplace was a man of middle height, of a haughty, proud mien, with piercing eyes, a broad brow, and a thin face, which was made still longer by a royal (or imperial, as it is now called), surmounted by a pair of moustaches. Although this man was scarcely thirty-six or thirty-seven years of age, hair, moustaches, and royal all were growing grey. This man, though without a sword, had all the appearance of a soldier; and his buff leather boots, still slightly covered with dust, showed that he had been on horseback in the course of the day.

This man was Armand Jean Duplessis, Cardinal Richelieu.

At first sight nothing indicated the cardinal, and it was impossible for those who did not know his face to guess in whose presence they were.

“Is this Bonacieux?” asked he, after a moment of silence.

“Yes, monseigneur,” replied the officer.

“Very well. Give me those papers, and leave us.”

The officer took the papers pointed out from the table, gave them to him who asked for them, bowed to the ground, and retired.

“Do you know who carried off your wife?” said the cardinal.

“No, monseigneur.”

“You have suspicions, nevertheless?”

“Yes, monseigneur.”

“Your wife has escaped. Did you know that?”

“No, monseigneur.”

“When you went to fetch your wife from the Louvre, did you always return directly home?”

“Scarcely ever. She had business to transact with linen-drapers, to whose shops I escorted her.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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