Unfortunately I was not able to impart these on the instant. During my absence a trifling matter had carried the King to Dieppe, whence his anxiety on the queen's account, who was shortly to be brought to bed, led him to take the road to Paris. He sent word to me to follow him, but necessarily some days elapsed before we met; an opportunity of which his enemies and mine were quick to take advantage, and that so insidiously and with so much success as to imperil not my reputation only but his happiness.
The time at their disposal was increased by the fact; that when I reached the Arsenal I found the Louvre vacant, the queen, who lay at Fontainebleau, having summoned the King thither. Ferret, his secretary, however, awaited me with a letter, in which Henry, after expressing his desire to see we, bade me nevertheless stay in Paris a day to transact some business. "Then," he continued, "come to me, my friend, and we will discuss the matter of which you know. In the meantime send me your papers by Ferret, who will give you a receipt for them."
Suspecting no danger in a course which was usual enough, I hastened to comply. Summoning Maignan, who, whenever I travelled, carried my portfolio, I unlocked it, and emptying the papers in a mass on the table, handed them in detail to Ferret. Presently, to my astonishment, I found that one, and this the most important, was missing. I went over the papers again, and again, and yet again. Still it was not to be found.
It will be remembered that whenever I travelled on a mission of importance I wrote my despatches in one of three modes, according as they were of little, great, or the first importance; in ordinary characters that is, in a cipher to which the council possessed the key, or in a cipher to which only the King and I held keys. This last, as it was seldom used, was rarely changed; but it was my duty, on my return from each mission, immediately to remit my key to the King, who deposited it in a safe place until another occasion for its use arose.
It was this key which was missing. I had been accustomed to carry it in the portfolio with the other papers; but in a sealed envelope which I broke and again sealed with my own signet whenever I had occasion to use the cipher. I had last seen the envelope at Calais, when I handed the portfolio to Maignan before beginning my journey to Paris; the portfolio had not since been opened, yet the sealed packet was missing.
More than a little uneasy, I recalled Maignan, who had withdrawn after delivering up his charge, "You rascal!" I said with some heat. "Has this been out of your custody?"
"The bag?" he answered, looking at it. Then his face changed. "You have cut your finger, my lord," he said.
I had cut it slightly in unbuckling the portfolio, and a drop or two of blood had fallen on the papers. But his reference to it at this moment, when my mind was full of my loss, angered me, and even awoke my suspicions. "Silence!" I said, "and answer me. Have you let this bag out of your possession?" This time he replied straightforwardly that he had not.
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