“Next Monday.”

“Next Monday! Five days yet. That’s more time than we need.— Patrick!” cried the duke, opening the door of the chapel—“Patrick!”

His confidential valet appeared.

“My jeweller and my secretary.”

The valet went out with a mute promptness and silence that showed he was accustomed to obey blindly and without reply.

But although the jeweller had been summoned first, it was the secretary who first made his appearance. This was simple enough. He lived in the palace. He found Buckingham seated at a table in his bedchamber writing orders with his own hand.

“Master Jackson,” said he, “go instantly to the lord chancellor, and tell him that I desire him to execute these orders. I wish them to be promulgated immediately.”

The secretary bowed and retired.

“We are safe on that side,” said Buckingham, turning toward D’Artagnan. “If the studs are not yet gone to Paris, they will not arrive till after you.”

“How so, milord?”

“I have just placed an embargo on all vessels at present in his Majesty’s ports, and without special permission not one will dare raise an anchor.”

D’Artagnan was astonished to see by what fragile and unknown threads the destinies of a nation and the lives of men are sometimes suspended.

He was lost in these reflections when the goldsmith entered. He was an Irishman, one of the most skilful of his craft, and who himself confessed that he gained a hundred thousand pounds a year by the Duke of Buckingham.

“Master O’Reilly,” said the Duke to him, leading him into the chapel, “look at these diamond studs, and tell me what they are worth apiece.”

The goldsmith cast a glance at the elegant manner in which they were set, calculated, one with another, what the diamonds were worth, and without hesitation,

“Fifteen hundred pistoles each, your Grace,” replied he.

“How many days would it require to make two studs exactly like them? You see there are two wanting.”

“A week, your Grace.”

“I will give you three thousand pistoles each if I can have them by the day after to-morrow.”

“Your Grace, you shall have them.”

An hour later the ordinance was published in London that no vessel bound for France should leave the ports—not even the packet-boat with letters. In the eyes of everybody this was a declaration of war between the two kingdoms.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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