“Well, now, that’s wonderfully well done,” said Athos; “really, my dear Aramis, you have the pen of a secretary of state. Lord Winter will now be upon his guard, if the letter should reach him; and even if it should fall into the cardinal’s hands, we shall not be compromised. But as the lackey who goes may make us believe he has been to London and may stop at Châtellerault, let us give him only half the sum with the letter, promising that he shall have the other half in exchange for the reply. Have you the diamond?” continued Athos.

“I have what is still better: I have the value of it.”

And D’Artagnan threw the purse on the table. At the sound of the gold Aramis raised his eyes and Porthos started; Athos remained unmoved.

“How much is there in that purse?”

“Seven thousand livres, in louis of twelve francs.”

“Seven thousand livres!” cried Porthos—“that wretched little diamond was worth seven thousand livres?”

“It seems so,” said Athos, “since here they are. I don’t suppose that our friend D’Artagnan has added any of his own.”

“But, gentlemen, in all this,” said D’Artagnan, “we have no thought of the queen. Let us look a little after her dear Buckingham’s health. That is the least we owe her.”

“You are right,” said Athos; “but that falls to Aramis.”

“Well,” replied the latter, “what must I do?”

“Oh, it’s simple enough,” replied Athos. “Write a second letter for that clever personage who lives at Tours.”

Aramis resumed his pen, reflected a little more, and wrote the following lines, which he immediately submitted to his friends’ approbation,

“My dear cousin.”

“Ah, ha!” said Athos; “this clever lady is your relative, then?”

“She’s my cousin-german.”

“Good—for your cousin, then!”

Aramis continued:

“My dear Cousin,—His Eminence the cardinal, whom God preserve for the happiness of France and the confusion of the enemies of the kingdom, is on the point of finishing up with the heretic rebels of Rochelle; it is probable that the aid of the English fleet will never even arrive in sight of the place. I will even venture to say that I am certain the Duke of Buckingham will be prevented from starting for there by some great event. His Eminence is the most illustrious politician of times past, of times present, and probably of times to come. He would extinguish the sun, if the sun incommoded him. Give these happy tidings to your sister, my dear cousin. I have dreamed that that cursed Englishman was dead. I cannot recollect whether it was by steel or by poison; only I am sure of this: I have dreamed he was dead, and you know my dreams never deceive me. Be assured, then, of seeing me soon return.”

“Capital,” cried Athos; “you are the king of poets, my dear Aramis. You speak like the Apocalypse, and you are as true as the gospel. There is nothing now for you to do but to put the address on your letter.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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