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Ten Years Later by Alexandre Dumas, Pere

Part 5 out of 13

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"If obligingness is the vocation of financiers, charity is the virtue of
the clergy. Only, on this occasion, do you act, monsieur. You are not
yet sufficiently reduced, and at the last moment we will see what is to
be done."

"We shall see, then, in a very short time."

"Very well. However, permit me to tell you that, personally, I regret
exceedingly that you are at present so short of money, because I myself
was about to ask you for some."

"For yourself?"

"For myself, or some of my people, for mine or for ours."

"How much do you want?"

"Be easy on that score; a roundish sum, it is true, but not too

"Tell me the amount."

"Fifty thousand francs."

"Oh! a mere nothing. Of course one has always fifty thousand francs.
Why the deuce cannot that knave Colbert be as easily satisfied as you are
- and I should give myself far less trouble than I do. When do you need
this sum?"

"To-morrow morning; but you wish to know its destination?"

"Nay, nay, chevalier, I need no explanation."

"To-morrow is the first of June."


"One of our bonds becomes due."

"I did not know we had any bonds."

"Certainly, to-morrow we pay our last third instalment."

"What third?"

"Of the one hundred and fifty thousand francs to Baisemeaux."

"Baisemeaux? Who is he?"

"The governor of the Bastile."

"Yes, I remember. On what grounds am I to pay one hundred and fifty
thousand francs for that man."

"On account of the appointment which he, or rather we, purchased from
Louviere and Tremblay."

"I have a very vague recollection of the matter."

"That is likely enough, for you have so many affairs to attend to.
However, I do not believe you have any affair in the world of greater
importance than this one."

"Tell me, then, why we purchased this appointment."

"Why, in order to render him a service in the first place, and afterwards

"Ourselves? You are joking."

"Monseigneur, the time may come when the governor of the Bastile may
prove a very excellent acquaintance."

"I have not the good fortune to understand you, D'Herblay."

"Monseigneur, we had our own poets, our own engineer, our own architect,
our own musicians, our own printer, and our own painters; we needed our
own governor of the Bastile."

"Do you think so?"

"Let us not deceive ourselves, monseigneur; we are very much opposed to
paying the Bastile a visit," added the prelate, displaying, beneath his
pale lips, teeth which were still the same beautiful teeth so much
admired thirty years previously by Marie Michon.

"And you think it is not too much to pay one hundred and fifty thousand
francs for that? I thought you generally put out money at better
interest than that."

"The day will come when you will admit your mistake."

"My dear D'Herblay, the very day on which a man enters the Bastile, he is
no longer protected by his past."

"Yes, he is, if the bonds are perfectly regular; besides, that good
fellow Baisemeaux has not a courtier's heart. I am certain, my lord,
that he will not remain ungrateful for that money, without taking into
account, I repeat, that I retain the acknowledgements."

"It is a strange affair! usury in a matter of benevolence."

"Do not mix yourself up with it, monseigneur; if there be usury, it is I
who practice it, and both of us reap the advantage from it - that is all."

"Some intrigue, D'Herblay?"

"I do not deny it."

"And Baisemeaux an accomplice in it?"

"Why not? - there are worse accomplices than he. May I depend, then,
upon the five thousand pistoles to-morrow?"

"Do you want them this evening?"

"It would be better, for I wish to start early; poor Baisemeaux will not
be able to imagine what has be become of me, and must be upon thorns."

"You shall have the amount in an hour. Ah, D'Herblay, the interest of
your one hundred and fifty thousand francs will never pay my four
millions for me."

"Why not, monseigneur?"

"Good-night, I have business to transact with my clerks before I retire."

"A good night's rest, monseigneur."

"D'Herblay, you wish things that are impossible."

"Shall I have my fifty thousand francs this evening?"


"Go to sleep, then, in perfect safety - it is I who tell you to do so."

Notwithstanding this assurance, and the tone in which it was given,
Fouquet left the room shaking his head, and heaving a sigh.

Chapter XXIII:
M. Baisemeaux de Montlezun's Accounts.

The clock of St. Paul was striking seven as Aramis, on horseback, dressed
as a simple citizen, that is to say, in colored suit, with no distinctive
mark about him, except a kind of hunting-knife by his side, passed before
the Rue du Petit-Musc, and stopped opposite the Rue des Tournelles, at
the gate of the Bastile. Two sentinels were on duty at the gate; they
made no difficulty about admitting Aramis, who entered without
dismounting, and they pointed out the way he was to go by a long passage
with buildings on both sides. This passage led to the drawbridge, or, in
other words, to the real entrance. The drawbridge was down, and the duty
of the day was about being entered upon. The sentinel at the outer
guardhouse stopped Aramis's further progress, asking him, in a rough tone
of voice, what had brought him there. Aramis explained, with his usual
politeness, that a wish to speak to M. Baisemeaux de Montlezun had
occasioned his visit. The first sentinel then summoned a second
sentinel, stationed within an inner lodge, who showed his face at the
grating, and inspected the new arrival most attentively. Aramis
reiterated the expression of his wish to see the governor; whereupon the
sentinel called to an officer of lower grade, who was walking about in a
tolerably spacious courtyard and who, in turn, on being informed of his
object, ran to seek one of the officers of the governor's staff. The
latter, after having listened to Aramis's request, begged him to wait a
moment, then went away a short distance, but returned to ask his name.
"I cannot tell it you, monsieur," said Aramis; "I need only mention that
I have matters of such importance to communicate to the governor, that I
can only rely beforehand upon one thing, that M. de Baisemeaux will be
delighted to see me; nay, more than that, when you have told him that it
is the person whom he expected on the first of June, I am convinced he
will hasten here himself." The officer could not possibly believe that a
man of the governor's importance should put himself out for a person of
so little importance as the citizen-looking visitor on horseback. "It
happens most fortunately, monsieur," he said, "that the governor is just
going out, and you can perceive his carriage with the horses already
harnessed, in the courtyard yonder; there will be no occasion for him to
come to meet you, as he will see you as he passes by." Aramis bowed to
signify his assent; he did not wish to inspire others with too exalted an
opinion of himself, and therefore waited patiently and in silence,
leaning upon the saddle-bow of his horse. Ten minutes had hardly elapsed
when the governor's carriage was observed to move. The governor appeared
at the door, and got into the carriage, which immediately prepared to
start. The same ceremony was observed for the governor himself as with a
suspected stranger; the sentinel at the lodge advanced as the carriage
was about to pass under the arch, and the governor opened the carriage-
door, himself setting the example of obedience to orders; so that, in
this way, the sentinel could convince himself that no one quitted the
Bastile improperly. The carriage rolled along under the archway, but at
the moment the iron-gate was opened, the officer approached the carriage,
which had again been stopped, and said something to the governor, who
immediately put his head out of the door-way, and perceived Aramis on
horseback at the end of the drawbridge. He immediately uttered almost a
shout of delight, and got out, or rather darted out of his carriage,
running towards Aramis, whose hands he seized, making a thousand
apologies. He almost embraced him. "What a difficult matter to enter
the Bastile!" said Aramis. "Is it the same for those who are sent here
against their wills, as for those who come of their own accord?"

"A thousand pardons, my lord. How delighted I am to see your Grace!"

"Hush! What are you thinking of, my dear M. Baisemeaux? What do you
suppose would be thought of a bishop in my present costume?"

"Pray, excuse me, I had forgotten. Take this gentleman's horse to the
stables," cried Baisemeaux.

"No, no," said Aramis; "I have five thousand pistoles in the saddle-bags."

The governor's countenance became so radiant, that if the prisoners had
seen him they would have imagined some prince of the royal blood had
arrived. "Yes, you are right, the horse shall be taken to the government
house. Will you get into the carriage, my dear M. d'Herblay? and it
shall take us back to my house."

"Get into a carriage to cross a courtyard! do you believe I am so great
an invalid? No, no, we will go on foot."

Baisemeaux then offered his arm as a support, but the prelate did not
accept it. They arrived in this manner at the government house,
Baisemeaux rubbing his hands and glancing at the horse from time to time,
while Aramis was looking at the bleak bare walls. A tolerably handsome
vestibule and a staircase of white stone led to the governor's
apartments, who crossed the ante-chamber, the dining-room, where
breakfast was being prepared, opened a small side door, and closeted
himself with his guest in a large cabinet, the windows of which opened
obliquely upon the courtyard and the stables. Baisemeaux installed the
prelate with that all-inclusive politeness of which a good man, or a
grateful man, alone possesses the secret. An arm-chair, a footstool, a
small table beside him, on which to rest his hand, everything was
prepared by the governor himself. With his own hands, too, he placed
upon the table, with much solicitude, the bag containing the gold, which
one of the soldiers had brought up with the most respectful devotion; and
the soldier having left the room, Baisemeaux himself closed the door
after him, drew aside one of the window-curtains, and looked steadfastly
at Aramis to see if the prelate required anything further.

"Well, my lord," he said, still standing up, "of all men of their word,
you still continue to be the most punctual."

"In matters of business, dear M. de Baisemeaux, exactitude is not a
virtue only, it is a duty as well."

"Yes, in matters of business, certainly; but what you have with me is not
of that character; it is a service you are rendering me."

"Come, confess, dear M. de Baisemeaux, that, notwithstanding this
exactitude, you have not been without a little uneasiness."

"About your health, I certainly have," stammered out Baisemeaux.

"I wished to come here yesterday, but I was not able, as I was too
fatigued," continued Aramis. Baisemeaux anxiously slipped another
cushion behind his guest's back. "But," continued Aramis, "I promised
myself to come and pay you a visit to-day, early in the morning."

"You are really very kind, my lord."

"And it was a good thing for me I was punctual, I think."

"What do you mean?"

"Yes, you were going out." At which latter remark Baisemeaux colored and
said, "It is true I was going out."

"Then I prevent you," said Aramis; whereupon the embarrassment of
Baisemeaux became visibly greater. "I am putting you to inconvenience,"
he continued, fixing a keen glace upon the poor governor; "if I had known
that, I should not have come."

"How can your lordship imagine that you could ever inconvenience me?"

"Confess you were going in search of money."

"No," stammered out Baisemeaux, "no! I assure you I was going to - "

"Does the governor still intend to go to M. Fouquet?" suddenly called out
the major from below. Baisemeaux ran to the window like a madman. "No,
no," he exclaimed in a state of desperation, "who the deuce is speaking
of M. Fouquet? are you drunk below there? why am I interrupted when I am
engaged on business?"

"You were going to M. Fouquet's," said Aramis, biting his lips, "to M.
Fouquet, the abbe, or the superintendent?"

Baisemeaux almost made up his mind to tell an untruth, but he could not
summon courage to do so. "To the superintendent," he said.

"It is true, then, that you were in want of money, since you were going
to a person who gives it away!"

"I assure you, my lord - "

"You were afraid?"

"My dear lord, it was the uncertainty and ignorance in which I was as to
where you were to be found."

"You would have found the money you require at M. Fouquet's, for he is a
man whose hand is always open."

"I swear that I should never have ventured to ask M. Fouquet for money.
I only wished to ask him for your address."

"To ask M. Fouquet for my address?" exclaimed Aramis, opening his eyes in
real astonishment.

"Yes," said Baisemeaux, greatly disturbed by the glance which the prelate
fixed upon him, - "at M. Fouquet's certainly."

"There is no harm in that, dear M. Baisemeaux, only I would ask, why ask
my address of M. Fouquet?"

"That I might write to you."

"I understand," said Aramis smiling, "but that is not what I meant; I do
not ask you what you required my address for: I only ask why you should
go to M. Fouquet for it?"

"Oh!" said Baisemeaux, "as Belle-Isle is the property of M. Fouquet, and
as Belle-Isle is in the diocese of Vannes, and as you are bishop of
Vannes - "

"But, my dear Baisemeaux, since you knew I was bishop of Vannes, you had
no occasion to ask M. Fouquet for my address."

"Well, monsieur," said Baisemeaux, completely at bay, "if I have acted
indiscreetly, I beg your pardon most sincerely."

"Nonsense," observed Aramis calmly: "how can you possibly have acted
indiscreetly?" And while he composed his face, and continued to smile
cheerfully on the governor, he was considering how Baisemeaux, who was
not aware of his address, knew, however, that Vannes was his residence.
"I shall clear all this up," he said to himself; and then speaking aloud,
added, - "Well, my dear governor shall we now arrange our little

"I am at your orders, my lord; but tell me beforehand, my lord, whether
you will do me the honor to breakfast with me as usual?"

"Very willingly, indeed."

"That's well," said Baisemeaux, as he struck the bell before him three

"What does that mean?" inquired Aramis.

"That I have some one to breakfast with me, and that preparations are to
be made accordingly."

"And you rang thrice. Really, my dear governor, I begin to think you are
acting ceremoniously with me."

"No, indeed. Besides, the least I can do is to receive you in the best
way I can."

"But why so?"

"Because not even a prince could have done what you have done for me."

"Nonsense! nonsense!"

"Nay, I assure you - "

"Let us speak of other matters," said Aramis. "Or rather, tell me how
your affairs here are getting on."

"Not over well."

"The deuce!"

"M. de Mazarin was not hard enough."

"Yes, I see; you require a government full of suspicion - like that of
the old cardinal, for instance."

"Yes; matters went on better under him. The brother of his 'gray
eminence' made his fortune here."

"Believe me, my dear governor," said Aramis, drawing closer to
Baisemeaux, "a young king is well worth an old cardinal. Youth has its
suspicions, its fits of anger, its prejudices, as old age has its
hatreds, its precautions, and its fears. Have you paid your three years'
profits to Louvidre and Tremblay?"

"Most certainly I have."

"So that you have nothing more to give them than the fifty thousand
francs I have brought with me?"


"Have you not saved anything, then?"

"My lord, in giving the fifty thousand francs of my own to these
gentlemen, I assure you that I gave them everything I gain. I told M.
d'Artagnan so yesterday evening."

"Ah!" said Aramis, whose eyes sparkled for a moment, but became
immediately afterwards as unmoved as before; "so you have been to see my
old friend D'Artagnan; how was he?"

"Wonderfully well."

"And what did you say to him, M. de Baisemeaux?"

"I told him," continued the governor, not perceiving his own
thoughtlessness; "I told him that I fed my prisoners too well."

"How many have you?" inquired Aramis, in an indifferent tone of voice.


"Well, that is a tolerably round number."

"In former times, my lord, there were, during certain years, as many as
two hundred."

"Still a minimum of sixty is not to be grumbled at."

"Perhaps not; for, to anybody but myself, each prisoner would bring in
two hundred and fifty pistoles; for instance, for a prince of the blood I
have fifty francs a day."

"Only you have no prince of the blood; at least, I suppose so," said
Aramis, with a slight tremor in his voice.

"No, thank heaven! - I mean, no, unfortunately."

"What do you mean by unfortunately?"

"Because my appointment would be improved by it. So fifty francs per day
for a prince of the blood, thirty-six for a marechal of France - "

"But you have as many marechals of France, I suppose, as you have princes
of the blood?"

"Alas! no more. It is true lieutenant-generals and brigadiers pay twenty-
six francs, and I have two of them. After that, come councilors of
parliament, who bring me fifteen francs, and I have six of them."

"I did not know," said Aramis, "that councilors were so productive."

"Yes; but from fifteen francs I sink at once to ten francs; namely, for
an ordinary judge, and for an ecclesiastic."

"And you have seven, you say; an excellent affair."

"Nay, a bad one, and for this reason. How can I possibly treat these
poor fellows, who are of some good, at all events, otherwise than as a
councilor of parliament?"

"Yes, you are right; I do not see five francs difference between them."

"You understand; if I have a fine fish, I pay four or five francs for it;
if I get a fine fowl, it cost me a franc and a half. I fatten a good
deal of poultry, but I have to buy grain, and you cannot imagine the army
of rats that infest this place."

"Why not get half a dozen cats to deal with them?"

"Cats, indeed; yes, they eat them, but I was obliged to give up the idea
because of the way in which they treated my grain. I have been obliged
to have some terrier dogs sent me from England to kill the rats. These
dogs, unfortunately, have tremendous appetites; they eat as much as a
prisoner of the fifth order, without taking into account the rabbits and
fowls they kill."

Was Aramis really listening or not? No one could have told; his downcast
eyes showed the attentive man, but the restless hand betrayed the man
absorbed in thought - Aramis was meditating.

"I was saying," continued Baisemeaux, "that a good-sized fowl costs me a
franc and a half, and that a fine fish costs me four or five francs.
Three meals are served at the Bastile, and, as the prisoners, having
nothing to do, are always eating, a ten-franc man costs me seven francs
and a half."

"But did you not say that you treated those at ten francs like those at

"Yes, certainly."

"Very well! Then you gain seven francs and a half upon those who pay you
fifteen francs."

"I _must_ compensate myself somehow," said Baisemeaux, who saw how he had
been snapped up.

"You are quite right, my dear governor; but have you no prisoners below
ten francs?"

"Oh, yes! we have citizens and barristers at five francs."

"And do they eat, too?"

"Not a doubt about it; only you understand that they do not get fish or
poultry, nor rich wines at every meal; but at all events thrice a week
they have a good dish at their dinner."

"Really, you are quite a philanthropist, my dear governor, and you will
ruin yourself."

"No; understand me; when the fifteen-franc has not eaten his fowl, or the
ten-franc has left his dish unfinished, I send it to the five-franc
prisoner; it is a feast for the poor devil, and one must be charitable,
you know."

"And what do you make out of your five-franc prisoners?"

"A franc and a half."

"Baisemeaux, you're an honest fellow; in honest truth I say so."

"Thank you, my lord. But I feel most for the small tradesmen and
bailiffs' clerks, who are rated at three francs. They do not often see
Rhine carp or Channel sturgeon."

"But do not the five-franc gentlemen sometimes leave some scraps?"

"Oh! my lord, do not believe I am so stingy as that; I delight the heart
of some poor little tradesman or clerk by sending him a wing of a red
partridge, a slice of venison, or a slice of a truffled pasty, dishes
which he never tasted except in his dreams; these are the leavings of
the twenty-four-franc prisoners; and as he eats and drinks, at dessert he
cries 'Long live the King,' and blesses the Bastile; with a couple
bottles of champagne, which cost me five sous, I make him tipsy every
Sunday. That class of people call down blessings upon me, and are sorry
to leave the prison. Do you know that I have remarked, and it does me
infinite honor, that certain prisoners, who have been set at liberty,
have, almost immediately afterwards, got imprisoned again? Why should
this be the case, unless it be to enjoy the pleasures of my kitchen? It
is really the fact."

Aramis smiled with an expression of incredulity.

"You smile," said Baisemeaux.

"I do," returned Aramis.

"I tell you that we have names which have been inscribed on our books
thrice in the space of two years."

"I must see it before I believe it," said Aramis.

"Well, I can show it to you, although it is prohibited to communicate the
registers to strangers; and if you really wish to see it with your own
eyes - "

"I should be delighted, I confess."

"Very well," said Baisemeaux, and he took out of a cupboard a large
register. Aramis followed him most anxiously with his eyes, and
Baisemeaux returned, placed the register upon the table, and turned over
the leaves for a minute, and stayed at the letter M.

"Look here," said he, "Martinier, January, 1659; Martinier, June, 1660;
Martinier, March, 1661. Mazarinades, etc.; you understand it was only a
pretext; people were not sent to the Bastile for jokes against M.
Mazarin; the fellow denounced himself in order to get imprisoned here."

"And what was his object?"

"None other than to return to my kitchen at three francs a day."

"Three francs - poor devil!"

"The poet, my lord, belongs to the lowest scale, the same style of board
as the small tradesman and bailiff's clerk; but I repeat, it is to those
people that I give these little surprises."

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?"

"A distich."

"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 severe. Do not pity
him; last year you seemed to interest yourself in him."

"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 francs."

"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

"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 hand.

"I thought I had already spoken to you about that Marchiali."

"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

"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."

"Slight, do you say?"

"Or rather, so involuntary."

"My lord, it is not involuntarily that such a resemblance is detected."

"Well, the fact is, I had forgotten it. But, my dear host," said Aramis,
closing the register, "if I am not mistaken, we are summoned."

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 dining-room.

Chapter XXIV:
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

"Does that poor student, Seldon, drink such good wine?"

"Oh, no!"

"I thought I heard you say he was boarded at fifteen francs."

"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."

"Which neighbor?"

"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

"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 speaking of?"

"Look," said Baisemeaux, going to the window. "It is that tower to the
left - the second one."

"Is the prisoner at fifteen francs there?"


"Since when?"

"Seven or eight years, nearly."

"What do you mean by nearly? Do you not know the dates more precisely?"

"It was not in my time, M. d'Herblay."

"But I should have thought that Louviere or Tremblay would have told

"The secrets of the Bastile are never handed over with the keys of the

"Indeed! Then the cause of his imprisonment is a mystery - a state

"Oh, no! I do not suppose it is a state secret, but a secret - like
everything 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

"Of course."

"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

"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 of."

"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."

"Why not?"

"Because if I were even to put my foot inside one of those horrible
dungeons, I should fancy I was buried there forever."

"No, no; the cells are very good places to live in."

"I really do not, and cannot believe it, and that is a fact."

"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 you."

"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, dying man."

"Nothing of the kind - as brisk and vigorous a young fellow as ever

"Melancholy and ill-tempered, then?"

"Not at all; very gay and lively."

"Nonsense; you are joking."

"Will you follow me?" said Baisemeaux.

"What for?"

"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

"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 had any curiosity, it would be to see the poor author of the

"Very well, we will see him, too; but if I were at all curious, it would
be about the beautiful carpeted room and its lodger."

"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 great advantage."

"The king's, you say."

"The cardinal's, I mean. 'This unhappy man,' said M. Mazarin, 'is
destined to remain in prison forever.'"

"Why so?"

"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.
Baisemeaux. Do you, however, mean to say that this unfortunate man must
suffer without interruption or termination?"

"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 prelate.

"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
a 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 drawbridge, 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.

Chapter XXV:
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 dessert."

"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 it."

"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

"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

"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 word."

"Let us go in, then," said Aramis, gloomily.

"Are you the architect of the prisons, monsieur?" said the jailer.

"I am."

"It is odd, then, that you are not more accustomed to all this."

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 withdrew.

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 with 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?"

"Never, monsieur."

"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


"Do you ever feel weary?" said Aramis.


"Ha, ha," said Baisemeaux, in a low tone of voice; "was I right?"

"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 here."

"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 not."

"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 reflected?"

"I felt that as I had committed no crime, Heaven could not punish me."

"What is a prison, then," inquired Aramis, "if it be not a punishment."

"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 ago."

"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 suppose?"

"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
from expecting liberty; why should I have been imprisoned at all if it
had been intended to release me afterwards?"

"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 this not 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

"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 kissed me."

"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 person?"

"Most certainly."

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 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

"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 something."

"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

"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 of 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 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 it."

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 over to our own little affairs."

"Well, what time for repayment do you wish me to take? Fix it yourself."

"There need not be any particular period fixed; give me a simple
acknowledgement for one hundred and fifty thousand francs."

"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 acknowledgement 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 acknowledgement 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

Chapter XXVI:
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."

"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 of temper."

"Well, then, it is said that - no, I shall never be able to tell you."

"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 the subject.

"Well, then, my dear marquise, it is said, 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, spitefully.

"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 heart.

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 can never escape slander," replied the marquise, after a moment's

"No one slanders you, Elise."

"What! - people say that I am in love, and yet they do not slander me!"

"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, angrily.

"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 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

"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 one."

"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

"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 Buckingham."

"Never?" said Marguerite, restraining her laughter.

"I have never even left my own house since the duke has been at Paris."

"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 day?"

"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 disposal."

"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 green sward covered with
daisies and violets, the perfume of which can be perceived from where we
are sitting."

"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 woods 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 swords.

"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 movement.

"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, even?"

"I hardly know what I wished: you would have advised me perhaps."

"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 always."

"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

"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 Belle-Isle."

"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

"I said three days, because I wish to deceive myself with a hope; but
probably the catastrophe will be complete within twenty-four hours."

"Why so?"

"For the simplest of all reasons, - that M. Fouquet has no more money."

"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 dead."

"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 your. 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 for yesterday."

"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

"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 very much?"

"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

The marquise, bewildered and overcome by these cruel attacks, which had
been calculated with the greatest nicety and precision, hardly knew what
to answer in 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 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.

Chapter XXVII:
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 this 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 both."

"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."

"No more?"

"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 patterns."

"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

"Yes, madame; there is less workmanship in that than in the other. Its
intrinsic value does not exceed thirty thousand francs."

"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 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?"

"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. Faucheux.

"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 with."

"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 your ladyship had
these stones."

"What is their value?"

"Two hundred thousand francs. The center one is alone worth a hundred

"I thought so," said the marquise. "As for diamonds, I have them in
numbers; rings, necklaces, sprigs, ear-rings, 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?"

"Nearly so."

"It is about what I imagined - but the settings are not included?"

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