Read CHAPTER LXXIV. - Love and diplomacy of The Queen's Necklace , free online book, by Alexandre Dumas‚ Pere, on ReadCentral.com.

The next morning, about ten o’clock, a carriage bearing the arms of M. de Breteuil entered Versailles.  Our readers will not have forgotten that this gentleman was a personal enemy of M. de Rohan, and had long been on the watch for an opportunity of injuring him.  He now requested an audience from the king, and was admitted.

“It is a beautiful day,” said Louis to his minister; “there is not a cloud in the sky.”

“Sire, I am sorry to bring with me a cloud on your tranquillity.”

“So am I,” replied the king, “but what is it?”

“I feel very much embarrassed, sire, more especially as, perhaps, this affair naturally concerns the lieutenant of police rather than myself, for it is a sort of theft.”

“A theft! well, speak out.”

“Sire, your majesty knows the diamond necklace?”

“M.  Boehmer’s, which the queen refused?”

“Precisely, sire,” said M. de Breteuil; and ignorant of all the mischief he was about to do, he continued, “and this necklace has been stolen.”

“Ah! so much the worse.  But diamonds are very easy to trace.”

“But, sire, this is not an ordinary theft; it is pretended that the queen has kept the necklace.”

“Why, she refused it in my presence.”

“Sire, I did not use the right word; the calumnies are too gross.”

“Ah!” said the king with a smile, “I suppose they say now that the queen has stolen the necklace.”

“Sire,” replied M. Breteuil, “they say that the queen recommenced the negotiation for the purchase privately, and that the jewelers hold a paper signed by her, acknowledging that she kept it.  I need not tell your majesty how much I despise all such scandalous falsehoods.”

“They say this!” said the king, turning pale.  “What do they not say?  Had the queen really bought it afterwards, I should not have blamed her.  She is a woman, and the necklace is marvelously beautiful; and, thank God, she could still afford it, if she wished for it.  I shall only blame her for one thing, for hiding her wishes from me.  But that has nothing to do with the king, only with the husband.  A husband may scold his wife if he pleases, and no one has a right to interfere.  But then,” continued he, “what do you mean by a robbery?”

“Oh!  I fear I have made your majesty angry.”

The king laughed.  “Come, tell me all; tell me even that the queen sold the necklace to the Jews.  Poor woman, she is often in want of money, oftener than I can give it to her.”

“Exactly so; about two months ago the queen asked for 500,000 francs, and your majesty refused it.”

“True.”

“Well, sire, they say that this money was to have been the first payment for the necklace.  The queen, being denied the money, could not pay -

“Well!”

“Well, sire, they say the queen applied to some one to help her.”

“To a Jew?”

“No, sire; not to a Jew.”

“Oh!  I guess, some foreign intrigue.  The queen asked her mother, or some of her family, for money.”

“It would have been better if she had, sire.”

“Well, to whom, then, did she apply?”

“Sire, I dare not -

“Monsieur, I am tired of this.  I order you to speak out at once.  Who lent this money to the queen?”

“M. de Rohan.”

“M. de Rohan!  Are you not ashamed to name to me the most embarrassed man in my kingdom?”

“Sire,” said M. de Breteuil, lowering his eyes.

“M. de Breteuil, your manner annoys me.  If you have anything to say, speak at once.”

“Sire, I cannot bring myself to utter things so compromising to the honor of my king and queen.”

“Speak, sir; if there are calumnies, they must be refuted.”

“Then, sire, M. de Rohan went to the jewelers, and arranged for the purchase of the necklace, and the mode of payment.”

“Really!” cried the king, annoyed and angry.

“It is a fact, sire, capable of being proved with the greatest certainty.  I pledge my word for this.”

“This is most annoying,” said the king; “but still, sir, we have not heard of a theft.”

“Sire, the jewelers say that they have a receipt signed by the queen, and she denies having the necklace.”

“Ah!” cried the king, with renewed hope; “she denies it, you see, M. de Breteuil.”

“Oh, sire!  I never doubted her majesty’s innocence.  I am indeed unfortunate, if your majesty does not see all my respect for the purest of women.”

“Then you only accuse M. de Rohan?”

“Yes, sire.  And appearances demand some inquiry into his conduct.  The queen says she has not the necklace - the jewelers say they sold it to her.  It is not to be found, and the word ‘theft’ is used as connected both with the queen and M. de Rohan.”

“You are right, M. de Breteuil; this affair must be cleared up.  But who is that passing below?  Is it not M. de Rohan going to the chapel?”

“Not yet, sire; he does not come till eleven o’clock, and he will be dressed in his robes, for he officiates to-day.”

“Then I will send for him and speak to him.”

“Permit me to advise your majesty to speak first to the queen.”

“Yes, she will tell me the truth.”

“Doubtless, sire.”

“But first tell me all you know about it.”

M. de Breteuil, with ingenious hate, mentioned every particular which he thought could injure M. de Rohan.  They were interrupted by an officer, who approached the king, and said, “Sire, the queen begs you will come to her.”

“What is it?” asked the king, turning pale.  “Wait here, M. de Breteuil.”