Part 20 out of 21
Aramis mechanically turned over the leaves of the register,
continuing to read the names, but without appearing to take
any interest in the names he read.
"In 1661, you perceive," said Baisemeaux, "eighty entries;
and in 1659, eighty also."
"Ah!" said Aramis. "Seldon; I seem to know that name. Was it
not you who spoke to me about a certain young man?"
"Yes, a poor devil of a student, who made -- What do you
call that where two Latin verses rhyme together?"
"Yes; that is it."
"Poor fellow; for a distich."
"Do you know that he made this distich against the Jesuits?"
"That makes no difference; the punishment seems very
"Do not pity him; last year you seemed to interest yourself
"Yes, I did so."
"Well, as your interest is all-powerful here, my lord, I
have treated him since that time as a prisoner at fifteen
"The same as this one, then," said Aramis, who had continued
turning over the leaves, and who had stopped at one of the
names which followed Martinier.
"Yes, the same as that one."
"Is that Marchiali an Italian?" said Aramis, pointing with
his finger to the name which had attracted his attention.
"Hush!" said Baisemeaux.
"Why hush?" said Aramis, involuntarily clenching his white
"I thought I had already spoken to you about that
"No, it is the first time I ever heard his name pronounced."
"That may be, but perhaps I have spoken to you about him
without naming him."
"Is he an old offender?" asked Aramis, attempting to smile.
"On the contrary, he is quite young."
"Is his crime, then, very heinous?"
"Has he assassinated any one?"
"An incendiary, then?"
"Has he slandered any one?"
"No, no! It is he who -- " and Baisemeaux approached
Aramis's ear, making a sort of ear-trumpet of his hands, and
whispered: "It is he who presumes to resemble the ---- "
"Yes, yes." said Aramis, "I now remember you already spoke
about it last year to me; but the crime appeared to me so
"Slight, do you say?"
"Or rather, so involuntary."
"My lord, it is not involuntarily that such a resemblance is
"Well, the fact is, I had forgotten it. But, my dear host,"
said Aramis, closing the register, "if I am not mistaken, we
Baisemeaux took the register, hastily restored it to its
place in the closet, which he locked, and put the key in his
pocket. "Will it be agreeable to your lordship to breakfast
now?" said he; "for you are right in supposing that
breakfast was announced."
"Assuredly, my dear governor," and they passed into the
The Breakfast at Monsieur de Baisemeaux's
Aramis was generally temperate; but on this occasion, while
taking every care of his constitution, he did ample justice
to Baisemeaux's breakfast, which, in all respects, was most
excellent. The latter, on his side, was animated with the
wildest gayety; the sight of the five thousand pistoles,
which he glanced at from time to time, seemed to open his
heart. Every now and then he looked at Aramis with an
expression of the deepest gratitude; while the latter,
leaning back in his chair, took a few sips of wine from his
glass, with the air of a connoisseur. "Let me never hear any
ill words against the fare of the Bastile," said he, half
closing his eyes; "happy are the prisoners who can get only
half a bottle of such Burgundy every day."
"All those at fifteen francs drink it," said Baisemeaux. "It
is very old Volnay."
"Does that poor student, Seldon, drink such good wine?"
"I thought I heard you say he was boarded at fifteen
"He! no, indeed; a man who makes districts -- distichs, I
mean -- at fifteen francs! No, no! it is his neighbor who is
at fifteen francs."
"The other, second Bertaudiere."
"Excuse me, my dear governor; but you speak a language which
requires quite an apprenticeship to understand."
"Very true," said the governor. "Allow me to explain: second
Bertaudiere is the person who occupies the second floor of
the tower of the Bertaudiere."
"So that Bertaudiere is the name of one of the towers of the
Bastile? The fact is, I think I recollect hearing that each
tower has a name of its own. Whereabouts is the one you are
"Look," said Baisemeaux, going to the window. "It is that
tower to the left ---the second one."
"Is the prisoner at fifteen francs there?"
"Seven or eight years, nearly."
"What do you mean by nearly? Do you not know the dates more
"It was not in my time, M. d'Herblay."
"But I should have thought that Louviere or Tremblay would
have told you."
"The secrets of the Bastile are never handed over with the
keys of the governorship."
"Indeed! Then the cause of his imprisonment is a mystery --
a state secret."
"Oh no! I do not suppose it is a state secret, but a secret
-- like everything else that happens at the Bastile."
"But," said Aramis, "why do you speak more freely of Seldon
than of second Bertaudiere?"
"Because, in my opinion, the crime of the man who writes a
distich is not so great as that of the man who resembles
"Yes, yes, I understand you. Still, do not the turnkeys talk
with your prisoners?"
"The prisoners, I suppose, tell them they are not guilty?"
"They are always telling them that; it is a matter of
course; the same song over and over again."
"But does not the resemblance you were speaking about just
now strike the turnkeys?"
"My dear M. d'Herblay, it is only for men attached to the
court, as you are, to take trouble about such matters."
"You're right, you're right, my dear M. Baisemeaux. Let me
give you another taste of this Volnay."
"Not a taste merely, a full glass; fill yours too."
"Nay, nay! You are a musketeer still, to the very tips of
your fingers, while I have become a bishop. A taste for me;
a glass for yourself."
"As you please." And Aramis and the governor nodded to each
other, as they drank their wine. "But," said Aramis, looking
with fixed attention at the ruby-colored wine he had raised
to the level of his eyes, as if he wished to enjoy it with
all his senses at the same moment, "but what you might call
a resemblance, another would not, perhaps, take any notice
"Most certainly he would, though, if it were any one who
knew the person he resembles."
"I really think, dear M. Baisemeaux, that it can be nothing
more than a resemblance of your own creation."
"Upon my honor, it is not so."
"Stay," continued Aramis, "I have seen many persons very
like the one we are speaking of; but, out of respect, no one
ever said anything about it."
"Very likely; because there is resemblance and resemblance.
This is a striking one, and, if you were to see him, you
would admit it to be so."
"If I were to see him, indeed," said Aramis, in an
indifferent tone; "but in all probability I never shall."
"Because if I were even to put my foot inside one of those
horrible dungeons, I should fancy I was buried there
"No, no; the cells are very good places to live in."
"I really do not, and cannot believe it, and that is a
"Pray do not speak ill of second Bertaudiere. It is really a
good room, very nicely furnished and carpeted. The young
fellow has by no means been unhappy there; the best lodging
the Bastile affords has been his. There is a chance for
"Nay, nay," said Aramis, coldly; "you will never make me
believe there are any good rooms in the Bastile; and, as for
your carpets, they exist only in your imagination. I should
find nothing but spiders, rats, and perhaps toads, too."
"Toads?" cried Baisemeaux.
"Yes, in the dungeons."
"Ah! I don't say there are not toads in the dungeons,"
replied Baisemeaux. "But -- will you be convinced by your
own eyes?" he continued, with a sudden impulse.
"No, certainly not."
"Not even to satisfy yourself of the resemblance which you
deny, as you do the carpets?"
"Some spectral-looking person, a mere shadow; an unhappy,
"Nothing of the kind -- as brisk and vigorous a young fellow
as ever lived."
"Melancholy and ill-tempered, then?"
"Not at all; very gay and lively."
"Nonsense; you are joking."
"Will you follow me?" said Baisemeaux.
"To go the round of the Bastile."
"You will then see for yourself -- see with your own eyes."
"But the regulations?"
"Never mind them. To-day my major has leave of absence; the
lieutenant is visiting the post on the bastions; we are sole
masters of the situation."
"No, no, my dear governor; why, the very idea of the sound
of the bolts makes me shudder. You will only have to forget
me in second or fourth Bertaudiere, and then ---- "
"You are refusing an opportunity that may never present
itself again. Do you know that, to obtain the favor I
propose to you gratis, some of the princes of the blood have
offered me as much as fifty thousand francs."
"Really! he must be worth seeing, then?"
"Forbidden fruit, my lord, forbidden fruit. You who belong
to the church ought to know that."
"Well, if I had any curiosity, it would be to see the poor
author of the distich."
"Very well, we will see him, too; but if I were at all
curious, it would be about the beautiful carpeted room and
"Furniture is very commonplace; and a face with no
expression in it offers little or no interest."
"But a boarder at fifteen francs is always interesting."
"By the by, I forgot to ask you about that. Why fifteen
francs for him, and only three francs for poor Seldon?"
"The distinction made in that instance was a truly noble
act, and one which displayed the king's goodness of heart to
"The king's, you say."
"The cardinal's, I mean. `This unhappy man,' said M.
Mazarin, `is destined to remain in prison forever.'"
"Why, it seems that his crime is a lasting one, and,
consequently, his punishment ought to be so, too."
"No doubt of it, unless he is fortunate enough to catch the
small-pox, and even that is difficult, for we never get any
impure air here."
"Nothing can be more ingenious than your train of reasoning,
my dear M. de Baisemeaux. Do you, however, mean to say that
this unfortunate man must suffer without interruption or
"I did not say he was to suffer, my lord, a fifteen-franc
boarder does not suffer."
"He suffers imprisonment, at all events."
"No doubt; there is no help for that, but this suffering is
sweetened for him. You must admit that this young fellow was
not born to eat all the good things he does eat; for
instance, such things as we have on the table now; this
pasty that has not been touched, these crawfish from the
River Marne, of which we have hardly taken any, and which
are almost as large as lobsters; all these things will at
once be taken to second Bertaudiere, with a bottle of that
Volnay which you think so excellent. After you have seen it
you will believe it, I hope."
"Yes, my dear governor, certainly; but all this time you are
thinking only of your very happy fifteen-franc prisoner, and
you forget poor Seldon, my protege."
"Well, out of consideration for you, it shall be a gala day
for him; he shall have some biscuits and preserves with this
small bottle of port."
"You are a good-hearted fellow; I have said so already, and
I repeat it, my dear Baisemeaux."
"Well, let us set off, then," said the governor, a little
bewildered, partly from the wine he had drunk, and partly
from Aramis's praises.
"Do not forget that I only go to oblige you," said the
"Very well; but you will thank me when you get there."
"Let us go, then."
"Wait until I have summoned the jailer," said Baisemeaux, as
he struck the bell twice, at which summons a man appeared.
"I am going to visit the towers," said the governor. "No
guards, no drums, no noise at all."
"If I were not to leave my cloak here," said Aramis,
pretending to be alarmed; "I should really think I was going
to prison on my own account."
The jailer preceded the governor, Aramis walking on his
right hand; some of the soldiers who happened to be in the
courtyard drew themselves up in line, as stiff as posts, as
the governor passed along. Baisemeaux led the way down
several steps which conducted to a sort of esplanade; thence
they arrived at the draw-bridge, where the sentinels on duty
received the governor with the proper honors. The governor
turned toward Aramis, and, speaking in such a tone that the
sentinels could not lose a word, he observed, -- "I hope you
have a good memory, monsieur?"
"Why?" inquired Aramis.
"On account of your plans and your measurements, for you
know that no one is allowed, not architects even, to enter
where the prisoners are, with paper, pens or pencil."
"Good," said Aramis to himself, "it seems I am an architect,
then. It sounds like one of D'Artagnan's jokes, who
perceived in me the engineer of Belle-Isle." Then he added
aloud: "Be easy on that score, monsieur; in our profession,
a mere glance and a good memory are quite sufficient."
Baisemeaux did not change countenance, and the soldiers took
Aramis for what he seemed to be. "Very well; we will first
visit la Bertaudiere, "said Baisemeaux, still intending the
sentinels to hear him. Then, turning to the jailer, he
added: "You will take the opportunity of carrying to No. 2
the few dainties I pointed out."
"Dear M. de Baisemeaux," said Aramis, "you are always
forgetting No. 3."
"So I am," said the governor; and upon that, they began to
ascend. The number of bolts, gratings, and locks for this
single courtyard would have sufficed for the safety of an
entire city. Aramis was neither an imaginative nor a
sensitive man; he had been somewhat of a poet in his youth,
but his heart was hard and indifferent, as the heart of
every man of fifty-five years of age is, who has been
frequently and passionately attached to women in his
lifetime, or rather who has been passionately loved by them.
But when he placed his foot upon the worn stone steps, along
which so many unhappy wretches had passed, when he felt
himself impregnated, as it were, with the atmosphere of
those gloomy dungeons, moistened with tears, there could be
but little doubt he was overcome by his feelings, for his
head was bowed and his eyes became dim, as he followed
Baisemeaux without a syllable.
The Second Floor of la Bertaudiere
On the second flight of stairs, whether from fatigue or
emotion, the breathing of the visitor began to fail him, and
he leaned against the wall. "Will you begin with this one?"
said Baisemeaux; "for since we are going to both, it matters
very little whether we ascend from the second to the third
story, or descend from the third to the second."
"No, no," exclaimed Aramis, eagerly, "higher, if you please;
the one above is the more urgent." They continued their
ascent. "Ask the jailer for the keys," whispered Aramis.
Baisemeaux did so, took the keys, and, himself, opened the
door of the third room. The jailer was the first to enter;
he placed upon the table the provisions, which the
kind-hearted governor called dainties, and then left the
room. The prisoner had not stirred; Baisemeaux then entered,
while Aramis remained at the threshold, from which place he
saw a youth about eighteen years of age, who, raising his
head at the unusual noise, jumped off the bed, as he
perceived the governor, and clasping his hands together,
began to cry out, "My mother, my mother," in tones which
betrayed such deep distress that Aramis, despite his command
over himself, felt a shudder pass through his frame. "My
dear boy," said Baisemeaux, endeavoring to smile, "I have
brought you a diversion and an extra, -- the one for the
mind, the other for the body; this gentleman has come to
take your measure, and here are some preserves for your
"Oh, monsieur," exclaimed the young man, "keep me in
solitude for a year, let me have nothing but bread and water
for a year, but tell me that at the end of a year I shall
leave this place, tell me that at the end of a year I shall
see my mother again."
"But I have heard you say that your mother was very poor,
and that you were very badly lodged when you were living
with her, while here -- upon my word!"
"If she were poor, monsieur, the greater reason to restore
her only means of support to her. Badly lodged with her! Oh,
monsieur, every one is always well lodged when he is free."
"At all events, since you yourself admit you have done
nothing but write that unhappy distich ---- "
"But without any intention, I swear. Let me be punished --
cut off the hand which wrote it, I will work with the other
-- but restore my mother to me."
"My boy," said Baisemeaux, "you know very well that it does
not depend upon me; all I can do for you is to increase your
rations, give you a glass of port wine now and then, slip in
a biscuit for you between a couple of plates."
"Great heaven!" exclaimed the young man, falling backward
and rolling on the ground.
Aramis, unable to bear this scene any longer, withdrew as
far as the landing. "Unhappy, wretched man," he murmured.
"Yes, monsieur, he is indeed very wretched," said the
jailer; "but it is his parents' fault.
"In what way?"
"No doubt. Why did they let him learn Latin? Too much
knowledge, you see; it is that which does harm. Now I, for
instance, can't read or write, and therefore I am not in
prison." Aramis looked at the man, who seemed to think that
being a jailer in the Bastile was not being in prison. As
for Baisemeaux, noticing the little effect produced by his
advice and his port wine, he left the dungeon quite upset.
"You have forgotten to close the door," said the jailer.
"So I have," said Baisemeaux, "there are the keys, do you do
"I will solicit the pardon of that poor boy," said Aramis.
"And if you do not succeed," said Baisemeaux, "at least beg
that he may be transferred to the ten-franc list, by which
both he and I shall be gainers."
"If the other prisoner calls out for his mother in a similar
manner," said Aramis, "I prefer not to enter at all, but
will take my measure from outside."
"No fear of that, monsieur architect, the one we are now
going to see is as gentle as a lamb; before he could call
after his mother he must open his lips, and he never says a
"Let us go in, then," said Aramis, gloomily.
"Are you the architect of the prisons, monsieur?" said the
"It is odd, then, that you are not more accustomed to all
Aramis perceived that, to avoid giving rise to any
suspicions he must summon all his strength of mind to his
assistance. Baisemeaux, who carried the keys, opened the
door. "Stay outside," he said to the jailer, "and wait for
us at the bottom of the steps." The jailer obeyed and
Baisemeaux entered first and opened the second door himself.
By the light which filtered through the iron-barred window,
could be seen a handsome young man, short in stature, with
closely cut hair, and a beard beginning to grow; he was
sitting on a stool, his elbow resting on an armchair, and
all the upper part of his body reclining against it. His
dress, thrown upon the bed, was of rich black velvet, and he
inhaled the fresh air which blew in upon his breast through
a shirt of the very finest cambric. As the governor entered,
the young man turned his head with a look full of
indifference; and on recognizing Baisemeaux, he arose and
saluted him courteously. But when his eyes fell upon Aramis,
who remained in the background, the latter trembled, turned
pale, and his hat, which he held in his hand, fell upon the
ground, as if all his muscles had become relaxed at once.
Baisemeaux, habituated to the presence of his prisoner, did
not seem to share any of the sensations which Aramis
experienced, but, with all the zeal of a good servant, he
busied himself in arranging on the table the pasty and
crawfish he had brought with him. Occupied in this manner,
he did not remark how disturbed his guest had become. When
he had finished, however, he turned to the young prisoner
and said: "You are looking very well, -- are you so?"
"Quite well, I thank you, monsieur," replied the young man.
The effect of the voice was such as almost to overpower
Aramis, and notwithstanding his control over himself, he
advanced a few steps towards him, with his eyes wide open
and his lips trembling. The movement he made was so marked
that Baisemeaux, notwithstanding his preoccupation, observed
it. "This gentleman is an architect who has come to examine
your chimney," said Baisemeaux, "does it smoke?"
"You were saying just now," said the governor, rubbing his
hands together, "that it was not possible for a man to be
happy in prison; here, however, is one who is so. You have
nothing to complain of, I hope?"
"Do you ever feel weary?" said Aramis.
"Ha, ha," said Baisemeaux, in a low tone of voice; "was I
"Well, my dear governor, it is impossible not to yield to
evidence. Is it allowed to put any question to him?"
"As many as you like."
"Very well; be good enough to ask him if he knows why he is
"This gentleman requests me to ask you," said Baisemeaux,
"if you are aware of the cause of your imprisonment?"
"No, monsieur," said the young man, unaffectedly, "I am
"That is hardly possible," said Aramis, carried away by his
feelings in spite of himself; "if you were really ignorant
of the cause of your detention, you would be furious."
"I was so during the early days of my imprisonment."
"Why are you not so now?"
"Because I have reflected."
"That is strange," said Aramis.
"Is it not odd?" said Baisemeaux.
"May one venture to ask you, monsieur, on what you have
"I felt that as I had committed no crime, Heaven could not
"What is a prison, then," inquired Aramis, "if it be not a
"Alas! I cannot tell, said the young man; "all that I can
tell you now is the very opposite of what I felt seven years
"To hear you converse, to witness your resignation, one
might almost believe that you liked your imprisonment?"
"I endure it.
"In the certainty of recovering your freedom some day, I
"I have no certainty; hope I have, and that is all; and yet
I acknowledge that this hope becomes less every day."
"Still, why should you not again be free, since you have
already been so?"
"That is precisely the reason," replied the young man,
"which prevents me expecting liberty; why should I have been
imprisoned at all if it had been intended to release me
"How old are you?"
"I do not know."
"What is your name?"
"I have forgotten the name by which I was called."
"Who are your parents?"
"I never knew them."
"But those who brought you up?"
"They did not call me their son."
"Did you ever love any one before coming here?"
"I loved my nurse, and my flowers."
"Was that all?"
"I also loved my valet."
"Do you regret your nurse and your valet?"
"I wept very much when they died."
"Did they die since you have been here, or before you came?"
"They died the evening before I was carried off."
"Both at the same time?"
"Yes, both at the same time."
"In what manner were you carried off?"
"A man came for me, directed me to get into a carriage,
which was closed and locked, and brought me here."
"Would you be able to recognize that man again?"
"He was masked."
"Is not this an extraordinary tale?" said Baisemeaux, in a
low tone of voice, to Aramis, who could hardly breathe.
"It is indeed extraordinary," he murmured.
"But what is still more extraordinary is, that he has never
told me so much as he has just told you."
"Perhaps the reason may be that you have never questioned
him," said Aramis.
"It's possible," replied Baisemeaux; "I have no curiosity.
Have you looked at the room? it's a fine one, is it not?"
"Very much so."
"A carpet ---- "
"I'll wager he had nothing like it before he came here."
"I think so, too." And then again turning towards the young
man, he said, "Do you not remember to have been visited at
some time or another by a strange lady or gentleman?"
"Yes, indeed; thrice by a woman, who each time came to the
door in a carriage, and entered covered with a veil, which
she raised when we were together and alone."
"Do you remember that woman?"
"What did she say to you?"
The young man smiled mournfully, and then replied, "She
inquired, as you have just done, if I were happy, and if I
were getting weary?"
"What did she do on arriving, and on leaving you?"
"She pressed me in her arms, held me in her embrace, and
"Do you remember her?"
"Do you recall her features distinctly?"
"You would recognize her, then, if accident brought her
before you, or led you into her presence?"
A flush of fleeting satisfaction passed across Aramis's
face. At this moment Baisemeaux heard the jailer
approaching. "Shall we leave?" he said, hastily, to Aramis.
Aramis, who probably had learnt all that he cared to know,
replied, "When you like."
The young man saw them prepare to leave, and saluted them
politely. Baisemeaux replied merely by a nod of the head,
while Aramis, with a respect, arising perhaps from the sight
of such misfortune, saluted the prisoner profoundly. They
left the room, Baisemeaux closing the door behind them.
"Well," said Baisemeaux, as they descended the staircase,
"what do you think of it all?"
"I have discovered the secret, my dear governor," he said.
"Bah! what is the secret, then?"
"A murder was committed in that house."
"But attend; the valet and nurse died the same day."
"And by poison. What do you think?"
"That it is very likely to be true."
"What! that that young man is an assassin?"
"Who said that? What makes you think that poor young fellow
could be an assassin?"
"The very thing I was saying. A crime was committed in his
house," said Aramis, "and that was quite sufficient; perhaps
he saw the criminals, and it was feared that he might say
"The deuce! if I only thought that ---- "
"I would redouble the surveillance."
"Oh, he does not seem to wish to escape."
"You do not know what prisoners are."
"Has he any books?"
"None; they are strictly prohibited, and under M. de
Mazarin's own hand."
"Have you the writing still?"
"Yes, my lord; would you like to look at it as you return to
take your cloak?
"I should, for I like to look at autographs."
"Well, then, this one is of the most unquestionable
authenticity; there is only one erasure."
"Ah, ah! an erasure; and in what respect?"
"With respect to a figure. At first there was written: `To
be boarded at fifty francs.'"
"As princes of the blood, in fact?"
"But the cardinal must have seen his mistake, you
understand; for he canceled the zero, and has added a one
before the five. But, by the by ---- "
"You do not speak of the resemblance."
"I do not speak of it, dear M. de Baisemeaux, for a very
simple reason -- because it does not exist."
"The deuce it doesn't."
"Or, if it does exist, it is only in your own imagination;
but, supposing it were to exist elsewhere, I think it would
be better for you not to speak about it."
"The king, Louis XIV. -- you understand -- would be
excessively angry with you, if he were to learn that you
contributed in any way to spread the report that one of his
subjects has the effrontery to resemble him."
"It is true, quite true," said Baisemeaux, thoroughly
alarmed; "but I have not spoken of the circumstance to any
one but yourself, and you understand, monseigneur, that I
perfectly rely on your discretion."
"Oh, be easy."
"Do you still wish to see the note?"
While engaged in this manner in conversation, they had
returned to the governor's apartments; Baisemeaux took from
the cupboard a private register, like the one he had already
shown Aramis, but fastened by a lock, the key which opened
it being one of a small bunch of keys which Baisemeaux
always carried with him. Then placing the book upon the
table, he opened it at the letter "M," and showed Aramis the
following note in the column of observations: "No books at
any time; all linen and clothes of the finest and best
quality to be procured; no exercise; always the same jailer;
no communications with any one. Musical instruments; every
liberty and every indulgence which his welfare may require,
to be boarded at fifteen francs. M. de Baisemeaux can claim
more if the fifteen francs be not sufficient."
"Ah," said Baisemeaux, "now I think of it, I shall claim
Aramis shut the book. "Yes," he said, "it is indeed M. de
Mazarin's handwriting; I recognize it well. Now, my dear
governor," he continued, as if this last communication had
exhausted his interest, "let us now turn to our own little
"Well, what time for repayment do you wish me to take? Fix
"There need not be any particular period fixed; give me a
simple acknowledgment for one hundred and fifty thousand
"When to be made payable?"
"When I require it; but, you understand, I shall only wish
it when you yourself do."
"Oh, I am quite easy on that score," said Baisemeaux,
smiling; "but I have already given you two receipts."
"Which I now destroy," said Aramis; and after having shown
the two receipts to Baisemeaux, he destroyed them. Overcome
by so great a mark of confidence, Baisemeaux unhesitatingly
wrote out an acknowledgment of a debt of one hundred and
fifty thousand francs, payable at the pleasure of the
prelate. Aramis, who had, by glancing over the governor's
shoulder, followed the pen as he wrote, put the
acknowledgment into his pocket without seeming to have read
it, which made Baisemeaux perfectly easy. "Now," said
Aramis, "you will not be angry with me if I were to carry
off one of your prisoners?"
"What do you mean?"
"By obtaining his pardon, of course. Have I not already told
you that I took a great interest in poor Seldon?"
"Yes, quite true, you did so."
"That is your affair; do as you think proper. I see you have
an open hand, and an arm that can reach a great way."
"Adieu, adieu." And Aramis left, carrying with him the
governor's best wishes.
The Two Friends
At the very time M. de Baisemeaux was showing Aramis the
prisoners in the Bastile, a carriage drew up at Madame de
Belliere's door, and, at that still early hour, a young
woman alighted, her head muffled in a silk hood. When the
servants announced Madame Vanel to Madame de Belliere, the
latter was engaged, or rather was absorbed, in reading, a
letter, which she hurriedly concealed. She had hardly
finished her morning toilette, her maid being still in the
next room. At the name ---at the footsteps of Marguerite
Vanel -- Madame de Belliere ran to meet her. She fancied she
could detect in her friend's eyes a brightness which was
neither that of health nor of pleasure. Marguerite embraced
her, pressed her hands, and hardly allowed her time to
speak. "Dearest," she said, "have you forgotten me? Have you
quite given yourself up to the pleasures of the court?"
"I have not even seen the marriage fetes."
"What are you doing with yourself, then?"
"I am getting ready to leave for Belliere."
"You are becoming rustic in your tastes, then; I delight to
see you so disposed. But you are pale."
"No, I am perfectly well."
"So much the better; I was becoming uneasy about you. You do
not know what I have been told."
"People say so many things."
"Yes, but this is very singular."
"How well you know how to excite curiosity, Marguerite."
"Well, I was afraid of vexing you."
"Never; you have yourself always admired me for my evenness
"Well, then, it is said that -- no, I shall never be able to
"Do not let us talk about it, then," said Madame de
Belliere, who detected the ill-nature that was concealed by
all these prefaces, yet felt the most anxious curiosity on
"Well, then, my dear marquise, it is said that, for some
time past, you no longer continue to regret Monsieur de
Belliere as you used to."
"It is an ill-natured report, Marguerite. I do regret and
shall always regret, my husband; but it is now two years
since he died. I am only twenty-eight years old, and my
grief at his loss ought not always to control every action
and thought of my life. You, Marguerite, who are the model
of a wife, would not believe me if I were to say so."
"Why not? Your heart is so soft and yielding." she said,
"Yours is so too, Marguerite, and yet I did not perceive
that you allowed yourself to be overcome by grief when your
heart was wounded." These words were in direct allusion to
Marguerite's rupture with the superintendent, and were also
a veiled but direct reproach made against her friend's
As if she only awaited this signal to discharge her shaft,
Marguerite exclaimed, "Well, Elise, it is said you are in
love." And she looked fixedly at Madame de Belliere, who
blushed against her will.
"Women never escape slander," replied the marquise, after a
"No one slanders you, Elise."
"What! -- people say that I am in love, and yet they do not
"In the first place, if it be true, it is no slander, but
simply a scandal-loving report. In the next place -- for you
did not allow me to finish what I was saying -- the public
does not assert that you have abandoned yourself to this
passion. It represents you, on the contrary, as a virtuous
but loving woman, defending yourself with claws and teeth,
shutting yourself up in your own house as in a fortress; in
other respects, as impenetrable as that of Danae,
notwithstanding Danae's tower was made of brass."
"You are witty, Marguerite," said Madame de Belliere,
"You always flatter me, Elise. In short, however you are
reported to be incorruptible and unapproachable. You cannot
decide whether the world is calumniating you or not; but
what is it you are musing about while I am speaking to you?"
"Yes; you are blushing and do not answer me."
"I was trying," said the marquise, raising her beautiful
eyes brightened with an indication of growing temper, "I was
trying to discover to what you could possibly have alluded,
you who are so learned in mythological subjects in comparing
me to Danae."
"You were trying to guess that?" said Marguerite, laughing.
"Yes; do you not remember that at the convent, when we were
solving our problems in arithmetic -- ah! what I have to
tell you is learned also, but it is my turn -- do you not
remember, that if one of the terms were given, we were to
find out the other? Therefore do you guess now?"
"I cannot conjecture what you mean."
"And yet nothing is more simple. You pretend that I am in
love, do you not?"
"So it is said."
"Very well, it is not said, I suppose, that I am in love
with an abstraction. There must surely be a name mentioned
in this report."
"Certainly, a name is mentioned."
"Very well; it is not surprising, then, that I should try to
guess this name, since you do not tell it."
"My dear marquise, when I saw you blush, I did not think you
would have to spend much time in conjectures."
"It was the word Danae which you used that surprised me.
Danae means a shower of gold, does it not?"
"That is to say that the Jupiter of Danae changed himself
into a shower of gold for her."
"My lover, then, he whom you assign me ---- "
"I beg your pardon; I am your friend, and assign you no
"That may be; but those who are ill disposed towards me."
"Do you wish to hear the name?"
"I have been waiting this half hour for it."
"Well, then, you shall hear it. Do not be shocked; he is a
man high in power."
"Good," said the marquise, as she clenched her hands like a
patient at the approach of the knife.
"He is a very wealthy man," continued Marguerite; "the
wealthiest, it may be. In a word, it is ---- "
The marquise closed her eyes for a moment.
"It is the Duke of Buckingham," said Marguerite, bursting
into laughter. This perfidy had been calculated with extreme
ability; the name that was pronounced, instead of the name
which the marquise awaited, had precisely the same effect
upon her as the badly sharpened axes that had hacked,
without destroying, Messieurs de Chalais and De Thou upon
the scaffold. She recovered herself, however, and said, "I
was perfectly right in saying you were a witty woman, for
you are making the time pass away most agreeably. This joke
is a most amusing one, for I have never seen the Duke of
"Never?" said Marguerite, restraining her laughter.
"I have never even left my own house since the duke has been
"Oh!" resumed Madame Vanel, stretching out her foot towards
a paper which was lying on the carpet near the window; "it
is not necessary for people to see each other, since they
can write." The marquise trembled, for this paper was the
envelope of the letter she was reading as her friend had
entered, and was sealed with the superintendent's arms. As
she leaned back on the sofa on which she was sitting, Madame
de Belliere covered the paper with the thick folds of her
large silk dress, and so concealed it.
"Come, Marguerite, tell me, is it to tell me all these
foolish reports that you have come to see me so early in the
"No, I came to see you, in the first place, and to remind
you of those habits of our earlier days, so delightful to
remember, when we used to wander about together at
Vincennes, and, sitting beneath an oak, or in some sylvan
shade, used to talk of those we loved, and who loved us."
"Do you propose that we should go out together now?"
"My carriage is here, and I have three hours at my
"I am not dressed yet, Marguerite; but if you wish that we
should talk together, we can, without going to the woods of
Vincennes, find in my own garden here, beautiful trees,
shady groves, a greensward covered with daisies and violets,
the perfume of which can be perceived from where we are
"I regret your refusal, my dear marquise, for I wanted to
pour out my whole heart into yours."
"I repeat again, Marguerite, my heart is yours just as much
in this room, or beneath the lime-trees in the garden here,
as it would be under the oaks in the wood yonder."
"It is not the same thing for me. In approaching Vincennes,
marquise, my ardent aspirations approach nearer to that
object towards which they have for some days past been
directed." The marquise suddenly raised her head. "Are you
surprised, then, that I am still thinking of Saint-Mande?"
"Of Saint-Mande?" exclaimed Madame de Belliere; and the
looks of both women met each other like two resistless
"You, so proud!" said the marquise, disdainfully.
"I, so proud!" replied Madame Vanel. "Such is my nature. I
do not forgive neglect -- I cannot endure infidelity. When I
leave any one who weeps at my abandonment, I feel induced
still to love him; but when others forsake me and laugh at
their infidelity, I love distractedly."
Madame de Belliere could not restrain an involuntary
"She is jealous," said Marguerite to herself.
"Then," continued the marquise, "you are quite enamored of
the Duke of Buckingham -- I mean of M. Fouquet?" Elise felt
the allusion, and her blood seemed to congeal in her heart.
"And you wished to go to Vincennes, -- to Saint-Mande,
"I hardly know what I wished: you would have advised me
"In what respect?"
"You have often done so."
"Most certainly I should not have done so in the present
instance, for I do not forgive as you do. I am less loving,
perhaps; when my heart has been once wounded, it remains so
"But M. Fouquet has not wounded you," said Marguerite Vanel,
with the most perfect simplicity.
"You perfectly understand what I mean. M. Fouquet has not
wounded me; I do not know of either obligation or injury
received at his hands, but you have reason to complain of
him. You are my friend, and I am afraid I should not advise
you as you would like."
"Ah! you are prejudging the case."
"The sighs you spoke of just now are more than indications."
"You overwhelm me," said the young woman suddenly, as if
collecting her whole strength, like a wrestler preparing for
a last struggle; "you take only my evil dispositions and my
weaknesses into calculation, and do not speak of my pure and
generous feelings. If, at this moment, I feel instinctively
attracted towards the superintendent, if I even make an
advance to him, which, I confess, is very probable, my
motive for it is, that M. Fouquet's fate deeply affects me,
and because he is, in my opinion, one of the most
unfortunate men living."
"Ah!" said the marquise, placing her hand upon her heart,
"something new, then, has occurred?"
"Do you not know it?"
"I am utterly ignorant of everything about him," said Madame
de Belliere, with the poignant anguish that suspends thought
and speech, and even life itself.
"In the first place, then, the king's favor is entirely
withdrawn from M. Fouquet, and conferred on M. Colbert."
"So it is stated."
"It is very clear, since the discovery of the plot of
"I was told that the discovery of the fortifications there
had turned out to M. Fouquet's honor."
Marguerite began to laugh in so cruel a manner that Madame
de Belliere could at that moment have delightedly plunged a
dagger in her bosom. "Dearest," continued Marguerite, "there
is no longer any question of M. Fouquet's honor; his safety
is concerned. Before three days are passed the ruin of the
superintendent will be complete."
"Stay," said the marquise, in her turn smiling, "that is
going a little too fast."
"I said three days, because I wish to deceive myself with a
hope; but probably the catastrophe will be complete within
"For the simplest of all reasons, -- that M. Fouquet has no
"In matters of finance, my dear Marguerite, some are without
money to-day, who to-morrow can procure millions."
"That might be M. Fouquet's case when he had two wealthy and
clever friends who amassed money for him, and wrung it from
every possible or impossible source; but those friends are
"Money does not die, Marguerite; it may be concealed, but it
can be looked for, bought and found."
"You see things on the bright side, and so much the better
for you. It is really very unfortunate that you are not the
Egeria of M. Fouquet; you might now show him the source
whence he could obtain the millions which the king asked him
"Millions!" said the marquise, in terror.
"Four -- an even number."
"Infamous!" murmured Madame de Belliere, tortured by her
friend's merciless delight.
"M. Fouquet, I should think, must certainly have four
millions," she replied, courageously.
"If he has those which the king requires to-day," said
Marguerite, "he will not, perhaps, possess those which the
king will demand in a month or so."
"The king will exact money from him again, then?"
"No doubt; and that is my reason for saying that the ruin of
poor M. Fouquet is inevitable. Pride will induce him to
furnish the money, and when he has no more, he will fall."
"It is true," said the marquise, trembling; "the plan is a
bold one; but tell me, does M. Colbert hate M. Fouquet so
"I think he does not like him. M. Colbert is powerful; he
improves on close acquaintance, he has gigantic ideas, a
strong will, and discretion, he will rise."
"He will be superintendent?"
"It is probable. Such is the reason, my dear marquise, why I
felt myself impressed in favor of that poor man, who once
loved, and even adored me; and why, when I see him so
unfortunate, I forgive his infidelity which I have reason to
believe he also regrets; and why, moreover, I should not
have been disinclined to afford him some consolation, or
some good advice; he would have understood the step I had
taken, and would have thought kindly of me for it. It is
gratifying to be loved, you know. Men value love more highly
when they are no longer blinded by its influence."
The marquise, bewildered and overcome by these cruel
attacks, which had been calculated with the greatest nicety
and precision, hardly knew what answer to return; she even
seemed to have lost all power of thought. Her perfidious
friend's voice had assumed the most affectionate tone; she
spoke as a woman, but concealed the instincts of a wolf.
"Well," said Madame de Belliere, who had a vague hope that
Marguerite would cease to overwhelm a vanquished enemy, "why
do you not go and see M. Fouquet?"
"Decidedly, marquise, you have made me reflect. No, it would
be unbecoming for me to make the first advance. M. Fouquet
no doubt loves me, but he is too proud. I cannot expose
myself to an affront.... besides I have my husband to
consider. You tell me nothing? Very well, I shall consult M.
Colbert on the subject." Marguerite rose smilingly, as
though to take leave, but the marquise had not the strength
to imitate her. Marguerite advanced a few paces, in order
that she might continue to enjoy the humiliating grief in
which her rival was plunged, and then said, suddenly, --
"You do not accompany me to the door, then?" The marquise
rose, pale and almost lifeless, without thinking of the
envelope, which had occupied her attention so greatly at the
commencement of the conversation, and which was revealed at
the first step she took. She then opened the door of her
oratory, and without even turning her head towards
Marguerite Vanel, entered it, closing the door after her.
Marguerite said, or rather muttered a few words, which
Madame de Belliere did not even hear. As soon, however, as
the marquise had disappeared, her envious enemy, not being
able to resist the desire to satisfy herself that her
suspicions were well founded, advanced stealthily towards it
like a panther and seized the envelope. "Ah!" she said,
gnashing her teeth, "it was indeed a letter from M. Fouquet
she was reading when I arrived," and then darted out of the
room. During this interval, the marquise, having arrived
behind the rampart, as it were, of her door, felt that her
strength was failing her; for a moment she remained rigid,
pale and motionless as a statue, and then, like a statue
shaken on its base by an earthquake, tottered and fell
inanimate on the carpet. The noise of the fall resounded at
the same moment as the rolling of Marguerite's carriage
leaving the hotel.
Madame de Belliere's Plate
The blow had been the more painful on account of its being
unexpected. It was some time before the marquise recovered
herself; but once recovered, she began to reflect upon the
events so heartlessly announced to her. She therefore
returned, at the risk even of losing her life in the way, to
that train of ideas which her relentless friend had forced
her to pursue. Treason, then -- deep menaces, concealed
under the semblance of public interest -- such were
Colbert's maneuvers. A detestable delight at an approaching
downfall, untiring efforts to attain this object, means of
seduction no less wicked than the crime itself -- such were
the weapons Marguerite employed. The crooked atoms of
Descartes triumphed; to the man without compassion was
united a woman without heart. The marquise perceived, with
sorrow rather than indignation, that the king was an
accomplice in the plot which betrayed the duplicity of Louis
XIII. in his advanced age, and the avarice of Mazarin at a
period of life when he had not had the opportunity of
gorging himself with French gold. The spirit of thus
courageous woman soon resumed its energy, no longer
overwhelmed by indulgence in compassionate lamentations. The
marquise was not one to weep when action was necessary, nor
to waste time in bewailing a misfortune as long as means
still existed of relieving it. For some minutes she buried
her face in her cold fingers, and then, raising her head,
rang for her attendants with a steady hand, and with a
gesture betraying a fixed determination of purpose. Her
resolution was taken.
"Is everything prepared for my departure?" she inquired of
one of her female attendants who entered.
"Yes, madame; but it was not expected that your ladyship
would leave for Belliere for the next few days."
"All my jewels and articles of value, then, are packed up?"
"Yes, madame; but hitherto we have been in the habit of
leaving them in Paris. Your ladyship does not generally take
your jewels with you into the country."
"But they are all in order, you say?"
"Yes, in your ladyship's own room."
"The gold plate?"
"In the chest."
"And the silver plate?"
"In the great oak closet."
The marquise remained silent for a few moments, and then
said calmly, "Let my goldsmith be sent for."
Her attendants quitted the room to execute the order. The
marquise, however, had entered her own room, and was
inspecting her casket of jewels with the greatest attention.
Never, until now, had she bestowed such close attention upon
riches in which women take so much pride; never, until now,
had she looked at her jewels except for the purpose of
making a selection, according to their settings or their
colors. On this occasion, however, she admired the size of
the rubies and the brilliancy of the diamonds; she grieved
over every blemish and every defect; she thought the gold
light, and the stones wretched. The goldsmith, as he
entered, found her thus occupied. "M. Faucheux " she said,
"I believe you supplied me with my gold service?"
"I did, your ladyship."
"I do not now remember the amount of the account."
"Of the new service, madame, or of that which M. de Belliere
presented to you on your marriage? for I have furnished
"First of all, the new one."
"The covers, the goblets, and the dishes, with their covers,
the eau-epergne, the ice-pails, the dishes for the
preserves, and the tea and coffee urns, cost your ladyship
sixty thousand francs."
"Your ladyship thought the account very high."
"Yes, yes; I remember, in fact, that it was dear; but it was
the workmanship, I suppose?"
"Yes, madame; the designs, the chasings -- all new
"What proportion of the cost does the workmanship form? Do
not hesitate to tell me."
"A third of its value, madame."
"There is the other service, the old one, that which
belonged to my husband?"
"Yes, madame; there is less workmanship in that than in the
other. Its intrinsic value does not exceed thirty thousand
"Thirty thousand," murmured the marquise. "But, M. Faucheux,
there is also the service which belonged to my mother; all
that massive plate which I did not wish to part with, on
account of the associations connected with it."
"Ah! madame, that would indeed be an excellent resource for
those who, unlike your ladyship, might not be in a position
to keep their plate. In chasing that they worked in solid
metal. But that service is no longer in fashion. Its weight
is its only advantage."
"That is all I care about. How much does it weigh?"
"Fifty thousand livres at the very least. I do not allude to
the enormous vases for the buffet, which alone weigh five
thousand livres, or ten thousand the pair."
"One hundred and thirty," murmured the marquise. "You are
quite sure of your figures, M. Faucheux?"
"Positive, madame. Besides, there is no difficulty in
"The amount is entered in my books."
"Your ladyship is extremely methodical, I am aware."
"Let us now turn to another subject," said Madame de,
Belliere; and she opened one of her jewel-boxes.
"I recognize these emeralds," said M. Faucheux; "for it was
I who had the setting of them. They are the most beautiful
in the whole court. No, I am mistaken; Madame de Chatillon
has the most beautiful set; she had them from Messieurs de
Guise; but your set madame, comes next."
"What are they worth?"
"No; supposing I wished to sell them."
"I know very well who would buy them," exclaimed M.
"That is the very thing I ask. They could be sold, then?"
"All your jewels could be sold, madame. It is well known
that you possess the most beautiful jewels in Paris. You are
not changeable in your tastes; when you make a purchase it
is of the very best; and what you purchase you do not part
"What could these emeralds be sold for, then?"
"A hundred and thirty thousand francs."
The marquise wrote down upon her tablets the amount which
the jeweler mentioned. "The ruby necklace?" she said.
"Are they balas-rubies, madame?"
"Here they are."
"They are beautiful -- magnificent. I did not know that your
ladyship had these stones."
"What is their value?"
"Two hundred thousand francs. The center one is alone worth
a hundred thousand."
"I thought so," said the marquise. "As for diamonds, I have
them in numbers; rings, necklaces, sprigs, earrings, clasps.
Tell me their value, M. Faucheux."
The jeweler took his magnifying-glass and scales, weighed
and inspected them, and silently made his calculations.
"These stones," he said, "must have cost your ladyship an
income of forty thousand francs."
"You value them at eight hundred thousand francs?"
"It is about what I imagined ---but the settings are not
"No, madame; but if I were called upon to sell or to buy, I
should be satisfied with the gold of the settings alone as
my profit upon the transaction. I should make a good
twenty-five thousand francs."
"An agreeable sum."
"Very much so, madame."
"Will you accept that profit, then, on condition of
converting the jewels into money?"
"But you do not intend to sell your diamonds, I suppose,
madame?" exclaimed the bewildered jeweler.
"Silence, M. Faucheux, do not disturb yourself about that;
give me an answer simply. You are an honorable man, with
whom my family has dealt for thirty years; you knew my
father and mother, whom your own father and mother served. I
address you as a friend; will you accept the gold of the
settings in return for a sum of ready money to be placed in
"Eight hundred thousand francs! it is enormous."
"I know it."
"Impossible to find."
"But reflect, madame, upon the effect which will be produced
by the sale of your jewels."
"No one need know it. You can get sets of false jewels made
for me, similar to the real. Do not answer a word; I insist
upon it. Sell them separately, sell the stones only."
"In that way it is easy. Monsieur is looking out for some
sets of jewels as well as single stones for Madame's
toilette. There will be a competition for them. I can easily
dispose of six hundred thousand francs' worth to Monsieur. I
am certain yours are the most beautiful."
"When can you do so?"
"In less than three days' time."
"Very well, the remainder you will dispose of among private
individuals. For the present, make me out a contract of
sale, payment to be made in four days."
"I entreat you to reflect, madame; for if you force the
sale, you will lose a hundred thousand francs."
"If necessary, I will lose two hundred; I wish everything to
be settled this evening. Do you accept?"
"I do, your ladyship. I will not conceal from you that I
shall make fifty thousand francs by the transaction."
"So much the better for you. In what way shall I have the
"Either in gold, or in bills of the bank of Lyons, payable
at M. Colbert's."
"I agree," said the marquise, eagerly; "return home and
bring the sum in question in notes, as soon as possible."
"Yes, madame, but for Heaven's sake ---- "
"Not a word, M. Faucheux. By the by, I was forgetting the
silver plate. What is the value of that which I have?"
"Fifty thousand francs, madame."
"That makes a million," said the marquise to herself. "M.
Faucheux, you will take away with you both the gold and
silver plate. I can assign, as a pretext, that I wish it
remodelled on patterns more in accordance with my own taste.
Melt it down, and return me its value in money, at once."
"It shall be done, your ladyship."
"You will be good enough to place the money in a chest, and
direct one of your clerks to accompany the chest, and
without my servants seeing him; and order him to wait for me
in a carriage."
"In Madame de Faucheux's carriage?" said the jeweler.
"If you will allow it, and I will call for it at your
"Certainly, your ladyship."
"I will direct some of my servants to convey the plate to
your house." The marquise rung. "Let the small van be placed
at M. Faucheux's disposal," she said. The jeweler bowed and
left the house, directing that the van should follow him
closely, saying aloud that the marquise was about to have
her plate melted down in order to have other plate
manufactured of a more modern style. Three hours afterwards
she went to M. Faucheux's house and received from him eight
hundred thousand francs in gold inclosed in a chest, which
one of the clerks could hardly carry towards Madame
Faucheux's carriage -- for Madame Faucheux kept her
carriage. As the daughter of a president of accounts, she
had brought a marriage portion of thirty thousand crowns to
her husband, who was syndic of the goldsmiths. These thirty
thousand crowns had become very fruitful during twenty
years. The jeweler, though a millionaire, was a modest man.
He had purchased a substantial carriage, built in 1648, ten
years after the king's birth. This carriage, or rather house
upon wheels, excited the admiration of the whole quarter in
which he resided -- it was covered with allegorical
paintings, and clouds scattered over with stars. The
marquise entered this somewhat extraordinary vehicle,
sitting opposite the clerk, who endeavored to put his knees
out of the way, afraid even of touching the marquise's
dress. It was the clerk, too, who told the coachman, who was
very proud of having a marquise to drive, to take the road
Monsieur Faucheux's horses were serviceable animals, with
thickset knees, and legs that had some difficulty in moving.
Like the carriage, they belonged to the earlier part of the
century. They were not as fleet as the English horses of M.
Fouquet, and consequently took two hours to get to
Saint-Mande. Their progress, it might be said, was majestic.
Majesty, however, precludes hurry. The marquise stopped the
carriage at the door so well known to her, although she had
seen it only once, under circumstances, it will be
remembered, no less painful than those which brought her now
to it again. She drew a key from her pocket, and inserted it
in the lock, pushed open the door, which noiselessly yielded
to her touch, and directed the clerk to carry the chest
upstairs to the first floor. The weight of the chest was so
great that the clerk was obliged to get the coachman to
assist him with it. They placed it in a small cabinet,
anteroom, or boudoir rather, adjoining the saloon where we
once saw M. Fouquet at the marquise's feet. Madame de
Belliere gave the coachman a louis, smiled gracefully at the
clerk, and dismissed them both. She closed the door after
them, and waited in the room, alone and barricaded. There
was no servant to be seen about the rooms, but everything
was prepared as though some invisible genius had divined the
wishes and desires of an expected guest. The fire was laid,
candles in the candelabra, refreshments upon the table,
books scattered about, fresh-cut flowers in the vases. One
might almost have imagined it an enchanted house. The
marquise lighted the candles, inhaled the perfume of the
flowers, sat down, and was soon plunged in profound thought.
Her deep musings, melancholy though they were, were not
untinged with a certain vague joy. Spread out before her was
a treasure, a million wrung from her fortune as a gleaner
plucks the blue corn-flower from her crown of flowers. She
conjured up the sweetest dreams. Her principal thought, and
one that took precedence of all others, was to devise means
of leaving this money for M. Fouquet without his possibly
learning from whom the gift had come. This idea, naturally
enough, was the first to present itself to her mind. But
although, on reflection, it appeared difficult to carry out,
she did not despair of success. She would then ring to
summon M. Fouquet and make her escape, happier than if,
instead of having given a million, she had herself found
one. But, being there, and having seen the boudoir so
coquettishly decorated that it might almost be said the
least particle of dust had but the moment before been
removed by the servants; having observed the drawing-room,
so perfectly arranged that it might almost be said her
presence there had driven away the fairies who were its
occupants, she asked herself if the glance or gaze of those
whom she had displaced -- whether spirits, fairies, elves,
or human creatures -- had not already recognized her. To
secure success, it was necessary that some steps should be
seriously taken, and it was necessary also that the
superintendent should comprehend the serious position in
which he was placed, in order to yield compliance with the
generous fancies of a woman; all the fascinations of an
eloquent friendship would be required to persuade him, and,
should this be insufficient, the maddening influence of a
devoted passion, which, in its resolute determination to
carry conviction, would not be turned aside. Was not the
superintendent, indeed, known for his delicacy and dignity
of feeling? Would he allow himself to accept from any woman
that of which she had stripped herself? No! He would resist,
and if any voice in the world could overcome his resistance,
it would be the voice of the woman he loved.
Another doubt, and that a cruel one, suggested itself to
Madame de Belliere with a sharp, acute pain, like a dagger
thrust. Did he really love her? Would that volatile mind,
that inconstant heart, be likely to be fixed for a moment,
even were it to gaze upon an angel? Was it not the same with
Fouquet, notwithstanding his genius and his uprightness of
conduct, as with those conquerors on the field of battle who
shed tears when they have gained a victory?" I must learn if
it be so, and must judge of that for myself," said the
marquise. "Who can tell whether that heart, so coveted, is
not common in its impulses, and full of alloy? Who can tell
if that mind, when the touchstone is applied to it, will not
be found of a mean and vulgar character? Come, come," she
said, "this is doubting and hesitating too much -- to the
proof." She looked at the timepiece. "It is now seven
o'clock," she said; "he must have arrived, it is the hour
for signing his papers." With a feverish impatience she rose
and walked towards the mirror, in which she smiled with a
resolute smile of devotedness; she touched the spring and
drew out the handle of the bell. Then, as if exhausted
beforehand by the struggle she had just undergone, she threw
herself on her knees, in utter abandonment, before a large
couch, in which she buried her face in her trembling hands.
Ten minutes afterwards she heard the spring of the door
sound. The door moved upon invisible hinges, and Fouquet
appeared. He looked pale, and seemed bowed down by the
weight of some bitter reflection. He did not hurry, but
simply came at the summons. The pre-occupation of his mind
must indeed have been very great, that a man so devoted to
pleasure, for whom indeed pleasure meant everything, should
obey such a summons so listlessly. The previous night, in
fact, fertile in melancholy ideas, had sharpened his
features, generally so noble in their indifference of
expression, and had traced dark lines of anxiety around his
eyes. Handsome and noble he still was, and the melancholy
expression of his mouth, a rare expression with men, gave a
new character to his features, by which his youth seemed to
be renewed. Dressed in black, the lace in front of his chest
much disarranged by his feverishly restless hand, the looks
of the superintendent, full of dreamy reflection, were fixed
upon the threshold of the room which he had so frequently
approached in search of expected happiness. This gloomy
gentleness of manner, this smiling sadness of expression,
which had replaced his former excessive joy, produced an
indescribable effect upon Madame de Belliere, who was
regarding him at a distance.
A woman's eye can read the face of the man she loves, its
every feeling of pride, its every expression of suffering;
it might almost be said that Heaven has graciously granted
to women, on account of their very weakness, more than it
has accorded to other creatures. They can conceal their own
feelings from a man, but from them no man can conceal his.
The marquise divined in a single glance the whole weight of
the unhappiness of the superintendent. She divined a night
passed without sleep, a day passed in deceptions. From that
moment she was firm in her own strength, and she felt that
she loved Fouquet beyond everything else. She arose and
approached him, saying, "You wrote to me this morning to say
you were beginning to forget me, and that I, whom you had
not seen lately, had no doubt ceased to think of you. I have
come to undeceive you, monsieur, and the more completely so,
because there is one thing I can read in your eyes."
"What is that, madame?" said Fouquet, astonished.
"That you have never loved me so much as at this moment; in
the same manner you can read, in my present step towards
you, that I have not forgotten you."
"Oh! madame," said Fouquet, whose face was for a moment
lighted up by a sudden gleam of joy, "you are indeed an
angel, and no man can suspect you. All he can do is to
humble himself before you and entreat forgiveness."
"Your forgiveness is granted, then," said the marquise.
Fouquet was about to throw himself upon his knees. "No, no,"
she said, "sit here by my side. Ah! that is an evil thought
which has just crossed your mind."
"How do you detect it, madame?"
"By the smile that has just marred the expression of your
countenance, Be candid, and tell me what your thought was --
no secrets between friends."
"Tell me, then, madame, why have you been so harsh these
three or four months past?"
"Yes; did you not forbid me to visit you?"
"Alas!" said Madame de Belliere, sighing, "because your
visit to me was the cause of your being visited with a great
misfortune; because my house is watched; because the same
eyes that have seen you already might see you again; because
I think it less dangerous for you that I should come here
than that you should come to my house; and, lastly, because
I know you to be already unhappy enough not to wish to
increase your unhappiness further."
Fouquet started, for these words recalled all the anxieties
connected with his office of superintendent -- he who, for
the last few minutes, had indulged in all the wild
aspirations of the lover. "I unhappy?" he said, endeavoring
to smile: "indeed, marquise, you will almost make me believe
I am so, judging from your own sadness. Are your beautiful
eyes raised upon me merely in pity? I was looking for
another expression from them."
"It is not I who am sad, monsieur; look in the mirror, there
-- it is yourself."
"It is true I am somewhat pale, marquise; but it is from
overwork; the king yesterday required a supply of money from
"Yes, four millions, I am aware of it."
"You know it?" exclaimed Fouquet, in a tone of surprise;
"how can you have learnt it? It was after the departure of
the queen, and in the presence of one person only, that the
king ---- "
"You perceive that I do know it; is not that sufficient?
Well, go on, monsieur, the money the king has required you
to supply ---- "
"You understand, marquise, that I have been obliged to
procure it, then to get it counted, afterwards registered --
altogether a long affair. Since Monsieur de Mazarin's death,
financial affairs occasion some little fatigue and
embarrassment. My administration is somewhat overtaxed, and
this is the reason why I have not slept during the past
"So that you have the amount?" inquired the marquise, with
"It would indeed be strange, marquise," replied Fouquet,
cheerfully, "if a superintendent of finances were not to
have a paltry four millions in his coffers."
"Yes, yes, I believe you either have, or will have them."
"What do you mean by saying I shall have them?"
"It is not very long since you were required to furnish two
"On the contrary, to me it seems almost an age; but do not
let us talk of money matters any longer."
"On the contrary, we will continue to speak of them, for
that is my only reason for coming to see you."
"I am at a loss to compass your meaning," said the
superintendent, whose eyes began to express an anxious
"Tell me, monsieur, is the office of superintendent a
"You surprise me, marchioness, for you speak as if you had
some motive or interest in putting the question."
"My reason is simple enough; I am desirous of placing some
money in your hands, and naturally I wish to know if you are
certain of your post."
"Really, marquise, I am at a loss what to reply; I cannot
conceive your meaning."
"Seriously, then, dear M. Fouquet, funds which somewhat
embarrass me. I am tired of investing my money in land, and
am anxious to intrust it to some friend who will turn it to
"Surely it does not press," said M. Fouquet.
"On the contrary, it is very pressing."
"Very well, we will talk of that by and by."
"By and by will not do, for my money is there," returned the
marquise, pointing out the coffer to the superintendent, and
showing him, as she opened it, the bundles of notes and
heaps of gold. Fouquet, who had risen from his seat at the
same moment as Madame de Belliere, remained for a moment
plunged in thought; then suddenly starting back, he turned
pale, and sank down in his chair, concealing his face in his