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  • 1847
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d’Artagnan, to-day it is the Duke of Buckingham.”

“You know very well, monsieur,” returned De Wardes, “that I sometimes insult those who are present.”

De Wardes was close to Raoul, their shoulders met, their faces approached, as if to mutually inflame each other by the fire of their looks and of their anger. It could be seen that the one was at the height of fury, the other at the end of his patience. Suddenly a voice was heard behind them full of grace and courtesy saying, “I believe I heard my name pronounced.”

They turned round and saw D’Artagnan, who, with a smiling eye and a cheerful face, had just placed his hand on De Wardes’s shoulder. Raoul stepped back to make room for the musketeer. De Wardes trembled from head to foot, turned pale, but did not move. D’Artagnan, still with the same smile, took the place which Raoul abandoned to him.

“Thank you, my dear Raoul,” he said. “M. de Wardes, I wish to talk with you. Do not leave us Raoul; every one can hear what I have to say to M. de Wardes.” His smile immediately faded away, and his glance became cold and sharp as a sword.

“I am at your orders, monsieur,” said De Wardes.

“For a very long time,” resumed D’Artagnan, “I have sought an opportunity of conversing with you; to-day is the first time I have found it. The place is badly chosen, I admit, but you will perhaps have the goodness to accompany me to my apartments, which are on the staircase at the end of this gallery.”

“I follow you, monsieur,” said De Wardes.

“Are you alone here?” said D’Artagnan.

“No; I have M. Manicamp and M. de Guiche, two of my friends.”

“That’s well,” said D’Artagnan; “but two persons are not sufficient; you will be able to find a few others, I trust.”

“Certainly,” said the young man, who did not know what object D’Artagnan had in view. “As many as you please.”

“Are they friends?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Real friends?”

“No doubt of it.”

“Very well, get a good supply, then. Do you come, too, Raoul; bring M. de Guiche and the Duke of Buckingham.”

“What a disturbance,” replied De Wardes, attempting to smile. The captain slightly signed to him with his hand, as though to recommend him to be patient, and then led the way to his apartments.

CHAPTER 95

Sword-thrusts in the Water (concluded)

D’Artagnan’s apartment was not unoccupied, for the Comte de la Fere, seated in the recess of a window, awaited him. “Well,” said he to D’Artagnan, as he saw him enter.

“Well,” said the latter, “M. de Wardes has done me the honor to pay me a visit, in company with some of his own friends, as well as of ours.” In fact, behind the musketeer appeared De Wardes and Manicamp followed by De Guiche and Buckingham, who looked surprised, not knowing what was expected of them. Raoul was accompanied by two or three gentlemen; and, as he entered, glanced round the room, and perceiving the count, he went and placed himself by his side. D’Artagnan received his visitors with all the courtesy he was capable of; he preserved his unmoved and unconcerned look. All the persons present were men of distinction, occupying posts of honor and credit at the court. After he had apologized to each of them for any inconvenience he might have put them to, he turned towards De Wardes, who, in spite of his customary self-command, could not prevent his face betraying some surprise mingled with not a little uneasiness.

“Now, monsieur,” said D’Artagnan, “since we are no longer within the precincts of the king’s palace, and since we can speak out without failing in respect to propriety, I will inform you why I have taken the liberty to request you to visit me here, and why I have invited these gentlemen to be present at the same time. My friend, the Comte de la Fere, has acquainted me with the injurious reports you are spreading about myself. You have stated that you regard me as your mortal enemy, because I was, so you affirm, that of your father.”

“Perfectly true, monsieur, I have said so,” replied De Wardes, whose pallid face became slightly tinged with color.

“You accuse me, therefore, of a crime, or a fault, or of some mean and cowardly act. Have the goodness to state your charge against me in precise terms.”

“In the presence of witnesses?”

“Most certainly in the presence of witnesses; and you see I have selected them as being experienced in affairs of honor.”

“You do not appreciate my delicacy, monsieur. I have accused you, it is true; but I have kept the nature of the accusation a perfect secret. I entered into no details; but have rested satisfied by expressing my hatred in the presence of those on whom a duty was almost imposed to acquaint you with it. You have not taken the discreetness I have shown into consideration, although you were interested in remaining silent. I can hardly recognize your habitual prudence in that, M. d’Artagnan.”

D’Artagnan, who was quietly biting the corner of his mustache, said, “I have already had the honor to beg you to state the particulars of the grievances you say you have against me.”

“Aloud?”

“Certainly, aloud.”

“In that case, I will speak.”

“Speak, monsieur,” said D’Artagnan, bowing; “we are all listening to you.”

“Well, monsieur, it is not a question of a personal injury towards myself, but one towards my father.”

“That you have already stated.”

“Yes, but there are certain subjects which are only approached with hesitation.”

“If that hesitation, in your case, really does exist, I entreat you to overcome it.”

“Even if it refer to a disgraceful action?”

“Yes; in every and any case.”

Those who were present at this scene had, at first, looked at each other with a good deal of uneasiness. They were reassured, however, when they saw that D’Artagnan manifested no emotion whatever.

De Wardes still maintained the same unbroken silence. “Speak, monsieur,” said the musketeer; “you see you are keeping us waiting.”

“Listen, then: — My father loved a lady of noble birth, and this lady loved my father.” D’Artagnan and Athos exchanged looks. De Wardes continued: “M. d’Artagnan found some letters which indicated a rendezvous, substituted himself, under disguise, for the person who was expected, and took advantage of the darkness.”

“That is perfectly true,” said D’Artagnan.

A slight murmur was heard from those present. “Yes, I was guilty of that dishonorable action. You should have added, monsieur, since you are so impartial, that, at the period when the circumstance which you have just related, happened, I was not one-and-twenty years of age.”

“Such an action is not the less shameful on that account,” said De Wardes; “and it is quite sufficient for a gentleman to have attained the age of reason, to avoid committing an act of indelicacy.”

A renewed murmur was heard, but this time of astonishment, and almost of doubt.

“It was a most shameful deception, I admit,” said D’Artagnan, “and I have not waited for M. de Wardes’s reproaches to reproach myself for it, and very bitterly, too. Age has, however, made me more reasonable, and above all, more upright; and this injury has been atoned for by a long and lasting regret. But I appeal to you, gentlemen; this affair took place in 1626, at a period, happily for yourselves, known to you by tradition only, at a period when love was not over scrupulous, when consciences did not distill, as in the present day, poison and bitterness. We were young soldiers, always fighting, or being attacked, our swords always in our hands, or at least ready to be drawn from their sheaths. Death then always stared us in the face, war hardened us, and the cardinal pressed us sorely. I have repented of it, and more than that — I still repent it, M. de Wardes.”

“I can well understand that, monsieur, for the action itself needed repentance; but you were not the less the cause of that lady’s disgrace. She, of whom you have been speaking, covered with shame, borne down by the affront you brought upon her, fled, quitted France, and no one ever knew what became of her.”

“Stay,” said the Comte de la Fere, stretching his hand towards De Wardes, with a peculiar smile upon his face, “you are mistaken; she was seen; and there are persons even now present, who, having often heard her spoken of, will easily recognize her by the description I am about to give. She was about five-and-twenty years of age, slender in form, of a pale complexion, and fair-haired; she was married in England.”

“Married?” exclaimed De Wardes.

“So, you were not aware she was married? You see we are far better informed than yourself. Do you happen to know she was usually styled `My Lady,’ without the addition of any name to that description?”

“Yes, I know that.”

“Good Heavens!” murmured Buckingham.

“Very well, monsieur. That woman, who came from England, returned to England after having thrice attempted M. d’Artagnan’s life. That was but just, you will say, since M. d’Artagnan had insulted her. But that which was not just was, that, when in England, this woman, by her seductions, completely enslaved a young man in the service of Lord de Winter, by name Felton. You change color, my lord,” said Athos turning to the Duke of Buckingham, “and your eyes kindle with anger and sorrow. Let your Grace finish the recital, then, and tell M. de Wardes who this woman was who placed the knife in the hand of your father’s murderer.”

A cry escaped from the lips of all present. The young duke passed his handkerchief across his forehead, which was covered with perspiration. A dead silence ensued among the spectators.

“You see, M. de Wardes,” said D’Artagnan, whom this recital had impressed more and more, as his own recollection revived as Athos spoke, “you see that my crime did not cause the destruction of any one’s soul, and that the soul in question may fairly be considered to have been altogether lost before my regret. It is, however, an act of conscience on my part. Now this matter is settled, therefore, it remains for me to ask with the greatest humility, your forgiveness for this shameless action, as most certainly I should have asked it of your father, if he were still alive, and if I had met him after my return to France, subsequent to the death of King Charles I.”

“That is too much, M. d’Artagnan,” exclaimed many voices, with animation.

“No, gentlemen,” said the captain. “And now, M. de Wardes, I hope all is finished between us, and that you will have no further occasion to speak ill of me again. Do you consider it completely settled?”

De Wardes bowed, and muttered to himself inarticulately.

“I trust also,” said D’Artagnan, approaching the young man closely, “that you will no longer speak ill of any one, as it seems you have the unfortunate habit of doing; for a man so puritanically conscientious as you are, who can reproach an old soldier for a youthful freak five-and-thirty years after it happened, will allow me to ask whether you who advocate such excessive purity of conscience, will undertake on your side to do nothing contrary either to conscience or the principle of honor. And now, listen attentively to what I am going to say, M. de Wardes, in conclusion. Take care that no tale, with which your name may be associated, reaches my ear.”

“Monsieur,” said De Wardes, “it is useless threatening to no purpose.”

“I have not yet finished, M. de Wardes, and you must listen to me still further.” The circle of listeners, full of eager curiosity, drew closer. “You spoke just now of the honor of a woman, and of the honor of your father. We were glad to hear you speak in that manner; for it is pleasing to think that such a sentiment of delicacy and rectitude, and which did not exist, it seems, in our minds, lives in our children; and it is delightful too, to see a young man, at an age when men from habit become the destroyers of the honor of women, respect and defend it.”

De Wardes bit his lips and clenched his hands, evidently much disturbed to learn how this discourse, the commencement of which was announced in so threatening a manner, would terminate.

“How did it happen, then, that you allowed yourself to say to M. de Bragelonne that he did not know who his mother was?”

Raoul’s eye flashed, as, darting forward, he exclaimed, — “Chevalier, this is a personal affair of my own!” At which exclamation, a smile, full of malice, passed across De Wardes’s face.

D’Artagnan put Raoul aside, saying, — “Do not interrupt me, young man.” And looking at De Wardes in an authoritative manner, he continued: — “I am now dealing with a matter which cannot be settled by means of the sword. I discuss it before men of honor, all of whom have more than once had their swords in their hands in affairs of honor. I selected them expressly. These gentlemen well know that every secret for which men fight ceases to be a secret. I again put my question to M. de Wardes. What was the subject of conversation when you offended this young man, in offending his father and mother at the same time?”

“It seems to me,” returned De Wardes, “that liberty of speech is allowed, when it is supported by every means which a man of courage has at his disposal.”

“Tell me what the means are by which a man of courage can sustain a slanderous expression.”

“The sword.”

“You fail, not only in logic, in your argument, but in religion and honor. You expose the lives of many others, without referring to your own, which seems to be full of hazard. Besides, fashions pass away, monsieur, and the fashion of duelling has passed away, without referring in any way to the edicts of his majesty which forbid it. Therefore, in order to be consistent with your own chivalrous notions, you will at once apologize to M. de Bragelonne; you will tell him how much you regret having spoken so lightly, and that the nobility and purity of his race are inscribed, not in his heart alone, but still more in every action of his life. You will do and say this, M. de Wardes, as I, an old officer, did and said just now to your boy’s mustache.”

“And if I refuse?” inquired De Wardes.

“In that case the result will be — “

“That which you think you will prevent,” said De Wardes, laughing; “the result will be that your conciliatory address will end in a violation of the king’s prohibition.”

“Not so,” said the captain, “you are quite mistaken.”

“What will be the result, then?”

“The result will be that I shall go to the king, with whom I am on tolerably good terms, to whom I have been happy enough to render certain services dating from a period when you were not born, and who at my request, has just sent me an order in blank for M. Baisemeaux de Montlezun, governor of the Bastile; and I shall say to the king: `Sire, a man has in a most cowardly way insulted M. de Bragelonne by insulting his mother; I have written this man’s name upon the lettre de cachet which your majesty has been kind enough to give me, so that M. de Wardes is in the Bastile for three years.'” And D’Artagnan drawing the order signed by the king from his pocket, held it towards De Wardes.

Remarking that the young man was not quite convinced, and received the warning as an idle threat, he shrugged his shoulders and walked leisurely towards the table, upon which lay a writing-case and a pen, the length of which would have terrified the topographical Porthos. De Wardes then saw that nothing could well be more seriously intended than the threat in question for the Bastile, even at that period, was already held in dread. He advanced a step towards Raoul, and, in an almost unintelligible voice, said, — “I offer my apologies in the terms which M. d’Artagnan just now dictated, and which I am forced to make to you.”

“One moment, monsieur,” said the musketeer, with the greatest tranquillity, “you mistake the terms of the apology. I did not say, `and which I am forced to make’; I said, `and which my conscience induces me to make.’ This latter expression, believe me, is better than the former; and it will be far preferable, since it will be the most truthful expression of your own sentiments.”

“I subscribe to it,” said De Wardes; “but submit, gentlemen, that a thrust of a sword through the body, as was the custom formerly, was far better than tyranny like this.”

“No, monsieur,” replied Buckingham; “for the sword-thrust, when received, was no indication that a particular person was right or wrong; it only showed that he was more or less skillful in the use of the weapon.”

“Monsieur!” exclaimed De Wardes.

“There, now,” interrupted D’Artagnan, “you are going to say something very rude, and I am rendering you a service by stopping you in time.”

“Is that all, monsieur?” inquired De Wardes.

“Absolutely everything,” replied D’Artagnan, “and these gentlemen, as well as myself, are quite satisfied with you.”

“Believe me monsieur, that your reconciliations are not successful.”

“In what way?”

“Because, as we are now about to separate. I would wager that M. de Bragelonne and myself are greater enemies than ever.”

“You are deceived, monsieur, as far as I am concerned,” returned Raoul; “for I do not retain the slightest animosity in my heart against you.”

This last blow overwhelmed De Wardes. He cast his eyes around him like a man bewildered. D’Artagnan saluted most courteously the gentlemen who had been present at the explanation; and every one, on leaving the room, shook hands with him; but not one hand was held out towards De Wardes. “Oh!” exclaimed the young man, abandoning himself to the rage which consumed him, “can I not find some one on whom to wreak my vengeance?”

“You can, monsieur, for I am here,” whispered a voice full of menace in his ear.

De Wardes turned round, and saw the Duke of Buckingham, who, having probably remained behind with that intention, had just approached him. “You, monsieur?” exclaimed De Wardes.

“Yes, I! I am no subject of the king of France; I am not going to remain on the territory, since I am about setting off for England. I have accumulated in my heart such a mass of despair and rage, that I, too, like yourself, need to revenge myself upon some one. I approve M. d’Artagnan’s principles profoundly, but I am not bound to apply them to you. I am an Englishman, and, in my turn, I propose to you what you proposed to others to no purpose. Since you, therefore, are so terribly incensed, take me as a remedy. In thirty-four hours’ time I shall be at Calais. Come with me; the journey will appear shorter if together, than if alone. We will fight, when we get there, upon the sands which are covered by the rising tide, and which form part of the French territory during six hours of the day, but belong to the territory of Heaven during the other six.”

“I accept willingly,” said De Wardes.

“I assure you,” said the duke, “that if you kill me, you will be rendering me an infinite service.”

“I will do my utmost to make myself agreeable to you, duke,” said De Wardes.

“It is agreed, then, that I carry you off with me?”

“I shall be at your commands. I needed some real danger and some mortal risk to run, to tranquilize me.”

“In that case, I think you have met with what you are looking for. Farewell, M. de Wardes; to-morrow morning, my valet will tell you the exact hour of our departure; we can travel together like two excellent friends. I generally travel as fast as I can. Adieu.”

Buckingham saluted De Wardes, and returned towards the king’s apartments; De Wardes, irritated beyond measure, left the Palais-Royal, and hurried through the streets homeward to the house where he lodged.

CHAPTER 96

Baisemeaux de Montlezun

After the austere lesson administered to De Wardes, Athos and D’Artagnan together descended the staircase which led to the courtyard of the Palais-Royal. “You perceive,” said Athos to D’Artagnan, “that Raoul cannot, sooner or later, avoid a duel with De Wardes, for De Wardes is as brave as he is vicious and wicked.”

“I know such fellows well,” replied D’Artagnan; “I had an affair with the father. I assure you that, although at that time I had good muscles and a sort of brute courage — I assure you that the father did me some mischief. But you should have seen how I fought it out with him. Ah, Athos, such encounters never take place in these times! I had a hand which could never remain at rest, a hand like quicksilver, — you knew its quality, for you have seen me at work. My sword was no longer a piece of steel; it was a serpent that assumed every form and every length, seeking where it might thrust its head; in other words, where it might fix its bite. I advanced half a dozen paces, then three, and then, body to body, I pressed my antagonist closely, then I darted back again ten paces. No human power could resist that ferocious ardor. Well, De Wardes, the father, with the bravery of his race, with his dogged courage, occupied a good deal of my time; and my fingers, at the end of the engagement, were, I well remember, tired enough.”

“It is, then, as I said,” resumed Athos, “the son will always be looking out for Raoul, and will end by meeting him; and Raoul can easily be found when he is sought for.”

“Agreed; but Raoul calculates well; he bears no grudge against De Wardes, — he has said so; he will wait until he is provoked, and in that case his position is a good one. The king will not be able to get out of temper about the matter; besides we shall know how to pacify his majesty. But why so full of these fears and anxieties? You don’t easily get alarmed.”

“I will tell you what makes me anxious; Raoul is to see the king to-morrow, when his majesty will inform him of his wishes respecting a certain marriage. Raoul, loving as he does, will get out of temper, and once in an angry mood, if he were to meet De Wardes, the shell would explode.”

“We will prevent the explosion.”

“Not I,” said Athos, “for I must return to Blois. All this gilded elegance of the court, all these intrigues, sicken me. I am no longer a young man who can make terms with the meannesses of the day. I have read in the Great Book many things too beautiful and too comprehensive, to longer take any interest in the trifling phrases which these men whisper among themselves when they wish to deceive others. In one word, I am weary of Paris wherever and whenever you are not with me; and as I cannot have you with me always, I wish to return to Blois.”

“How wrong you are, Athos; how you gainsay your origin and the destiny of your noble nature. Men of your stamp are created to continue, to the very last moment, in full possession of their great faculties. Look at my sword, a Spanish blade, the one I wore at Rochelle; it served me for thirty years without fail; one day in the winter it fell upon the marble floor on the Louvre and was broken. I had a hunting-knife made of it which will last a hundred years yet. You, Athos, with your loyalty, your frankness, your cool courage and your sound information, are the very man kings need to warn and direct them. Remain here; Monsieur Fouquet will not last as long as my Spanish blade.”

“Is it possible,” said Athos, smiling, “that my friend, D’Artagnan, who, after having raised me to the skies, making me an object of worship, casts me down from the top of Olympus, and hurls me to the ground? I have more exalted ambition, D’Artagnan. To be a minister — to be a slave, — never! Am I not still greater? I am nothing. I remember having heard you occasionally call me `the great Athos;’ I defy you, therefore, if I were minister, to continue to bestow that title upon me. No, no; I do not yield myself in this manner.”

“We will not speak of it any more, then; renounce everything, even the brotherly feeling which unites us.”

“It is almost cruel what you say.”

D’Artagnan pressed Athos’s hand warmly. “No, no; renounce everything without fear. Raoul can get on without you. I am at Paris.”

“In that case I shall return to Blois. We will take leave of each other to-night, to-morrow at daybreak I shall be on my horse again.”

“You cannot return to your hotel alone; why did you not bring Grimaud with you?”

“Grimaud takes his rest now; he goes to bed early, for my poor old servant gets easily fatigued. He came from Blois with me, and I compelled him to remain within doors; for if, in retracing the forty leagues which separate us from Blois, he needed to draw breath even, he would die without a murmur. But I don’t want to lose Grimaud.”

“You shall have one of my musketeers to carry a torch for you. Hola! some one there,” called out D’Artagnan, leaning over the gilded balustrade. The heads of seven or eight musketeers appeared. “I wish some gentleman who is so disposed to escort the Comte de la Fere,” cried D’Artagnan.

“Thank you for your readiness, gentlemen,” said Athos; “I regret to have occasion to trouble you in this manner.”

“I would willingly escort the Comte de la Fere,” said some one, “if I had not to speak to Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“Who is that?” said D’Artagnan, looking into the darkness.

“I, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“Heaven forgive me, if that is not Monsieur Baisemeaux’s voice.”

“It is, monsieur.”

“What are you doing in the courtyard, my dear Baisemeaux?”

“I am waiting your orders, my dear Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“Wretch that I am,” thought D’Artagnan; “true, you have been told, I suppose, that some one was to be arrested, and have come yourself, instead of sending an officer?”

“I came because I had occasion to speak to you.”

“You did not send to me?”

“I waited until you were disengaged,” said Monsieur Baisemeaux, timidly.

“I leave you, D’Artagnan,” said Athos.

“Not before I have presented Monsieur Baisemeaux de Montlezun, the governor of the Bastile.”

Baisemeaux and Athos saluted each other.

“Surely you must know each other,” said D’Artagnan.

“I have an indistinct recollection of Monsieur Baisemeaux,” said Athos.

“You remember, my dear, Baisemeaux, the king’s guardsman with whom we used formerly to have such delightful meetings in the cardinal’s time?”

“Perfectly,” said Athos, taking leave of him with affability.

“Monsieur le Comte de la Fere, whose nom de guerre was Athos,” whispered D’Artagnan to Baisemeaux.

“Yes, yes, a brave man, one of the celebrated four.”

“Precisely so. But, my dear Baisemeaux, shall we talk now?”

“If you please.”

“In the first place, as for the orders — there are none. The king does not intend to arrest the person in question.”

“So much the worse,” said Baisemeaux with a sigh.

“What do you mean by so much the worse?” exclaimed D’Artagnan, laughing.

“No doubt of it,” returned the governor, “my prisoners are my income.”

“I beg your pardon, I did not see it in that light.”

“And so there are no orders,” repeated Baisemeaux with a sigh. “What an admirable situation yours is captain,” he continued, after a pause, “captain-lieutenant of the musketeers.”

“Oh, it is good enough; but I don’t see why you should envy me; you, governor of the Bastile, the first castle in France.”

“I am well aware of that,” said Baisemeaux, in a sorrowful tone of voice.

“You say that like a man confessing his sins. I would willingly exchange my profits for yours.”

“Don’t speak of profits to me if you wish to save me the bitterest anguish of mind.”

“Why do you look first on one side and then on the other, as if you were afraid of being arrested yourself, you whose business it is to arrest others?”

“I was looking to see whether any one could see or listen to us; it would be safer to confer more in private, if you would grant me such a favor.”

“Baisemeaux, you seem to forget we are acquaintances of five and thirty years’ standing. Don’t assume such sanctified airs; make yourself quite comfortable; I don’t eat governors of the Bastile raw.”

“Heaven be praised!”

“Come into the courtyard with me, it’s a beautiful moonlight night; we will walk up and down arm in arm under the trees, while you tell me your pitiful tale.” He drew the doleful governor into the courtyard, took him by the arm as he had said, and, in his rough, good-humored way, cried: “Out with it, rattle away, Baisemeaux; what have you got to say?”

“It’s a long story.”

“You prefer your own lamentations, then; my opinion is, it will be longer than ever. I’ll wager you are making fifty thousand francs out of your pigeons in the Bastile.”

“Would to heaven that were the case, M. d’Artagnan.”

“You surprise me, Baisemeaux; just look at you, acting the anchorite. I should like to show you your face in a glass, and you would see how plump and florid-looking you are, as fat and round as a cheese, with eyes like lighted coals; and if it were not for that ugly wrinkle you try to cultivate on your forehead, you would hardly look fifty years old, and you are sixty, if I am not mistaken.”

“All quite true.”

“Of course I knew it was true, as true as the fifty thousand francs profit you make,” at which remark Baisemeaux stamped on the ground.

“Well, well,” said D’Artagnan, “I will add up your accounts for you: you were captain of M. Mazarin’s guards; and twelve thousand francs a year would in twelve years amount to one hundred and forty thousand francs.”

“Twelve thousand francs! Are you mad?” cried Baisemeaux; “the old miser gave me no more than six thousand, and the expenses of the post amounted to six thousand five hundred francs. M. Colbert, who deducted the other six thousand francs, condescended to allow me to take fifty pistoles as a gratification; so that, if it were not for my little estate at Montlezun, which brings me in twelve thousand francs a year, I could not have met my engagements.”

“Well, then, how about the fifty thousand francs from the Bastile? There, I trust, you are boarded and lodged, and get your six thousand francs salary besides.”

“Admitted!”

“Whether the year be good or bad, there are fifty prisoners, who, on an average, bring you in a thousand francs a year each.”

“I don’t deny it.”

“Well, there is at once an income of fifty thousand francs; you have held the post three years, and must have received in that time one hundred and fifty thousand francs.”

“You forget one circumstance, dear M. d’Artagnan.”

“What is that?”

“That while you received your appointment as captain from the king himself, I received mine as governor from Messieurs Tremblay and Louviere.”

“Quite right, and Tremblay was not a man to let you have the post for nothing.”

“Nor Louviere either: the result was, that I gave seventy-five thousand francs to Tremblay as his share.”

“Very agreeable that! and to Louviere?”

“The very same.”

“Money down?”

“No: that would have been impossible. The king did not wish, or rather M. Mazarin did not wish, to have the appearance of removing those two gentlemen, who had sprung from the barricades; he permitted them therefore, to make certain extravagant conditions for their retirement.”

“What were those conditions?”

“Tremble…three years’ income for the good-will.”

“The deuce! so that the one hundred and fifty thousand francs have passed into their hands.”

“Precisely so.”

“And beyond that?”

“A sum of one hundred and fifty thousand francs, or fifteen thousand pistoles, whichever you please, in three payments.”

“Exorbitant.”

“Yes, but that is not all.”

“What besides?”

“In default of the fulfillment by me of any one of those conditions, those gentlemen enter upon their functions again. The king has been induced to sign that.”

“It is monstrous, incredible!”

“Such is the fact, however.”

“I do indeed pity you, Baisemeaux. But why, in the name of fortune, did M. Mazarin grant you this pretended favor? It would have been far better to have refused you altogether.”

“Certainly, but he was strongly persuaded to do so by my protector.”

“Who is he?”

“One of your own friends, indeed; M. d’Herblay.”

“M. d’Herblay! Aramis!”

“Just so; he has been very kind towards me.”

“Kind! to make you enter into such a bargain!”

“Listen! I wished to leave the cardinal’s service. M. d’Herblay spoke on my behalf to Louviere and Tremblay — they objected; I wished to have the appointment very much, for I knew what it could be made to produce; in my distress I confided in M. d’Herblay, and he offered to become my surety for the different payments.”

“You astound me! Aramis become your surety?”

“Like a man of honor; he procured the signature; Tremblay and Louviere resigned their appointments, I have paid every year twenty-five thousand francs to these two gentlemen; on the thirty-first of May every year, M. d’Herblay himself comes to the Bastile, and brings me five thousand pistoles to distribute between my crocodiles.”

“You owe Aramis one hundred and fifty thousand francs, then?”

“That is the very thing which is the cause of my despair, for I only owe him one hundred thousand.”

“I don’t quite understand you.”

“He came and settled with the vampires only two years. To-day, however, is the thirty-first of May, and he has not been yet, and to-morrow, at midday, the payment falls due; if, therefore, I don’t pay to-morrow, those gentlemen can, by the terms of the contract, break off the bargain; I shall be stripped of everything; I shall have worked for three years, and given two hundred and fifty thousand francs for nothing, absolutely for nothing at all, dear M. d’Artagnan.”

“This is very strange,” murmured D’Artagnan.

“You can now imagine that I may well have wrinkles on my forehead, can you not?”

“Yes, indeed!”

“And you can imagine, too, that notwithstanding I may be as round as a cheese, with a complexion like an apple, and my eyes like coals on fire, I may almost be afraid that I shall not have a cheese or an apple left me to eat, and that my eyes will be left me only to weep with.”

“It is really a very grievous affair.”

“I have come to you, M. d’Artagnan, for you are the only man who can get me out of my trouble.”

“In what way?”

“You are acquainted with the Abbe d’Herblay and you know that he is a somewhat mysterious gentleman.”

“Yes.”

“Well, you can, perhaps, give me the address of his presbytery, for I have been to Noisy-le-Sec, and he is no longer there.”

“I should think not, indeed. He is Bishop of Vannes.”

“What! Vannes in Bretagne?”

“Yes.”

The little man began to tear his hair, saying, “How can I get to Vannes from here by midday to-morrow? I am a lost man.”

“Your despair quite distresses me.”

“Vannes, Vannes!” cried Baisemeaux.

“But listen; a bishop is not always a resident. M. d’Herblay may not possibly be so far away as you fear.”

“Pray tell me his address.”

“I really don’t know it.”

“In that case I am lost. I will go and throw myself at the king’s feet.”

“But, Baisemeaux, I can hardly believe what you tell me; besides, since the Bastile is capable of producing fifty thousand francs a year, why have you not tried to screw one hundred thousand out of it?”

“Because I am an honest man, M. d’Artagnan, and because my prisoners are fed like ambassadors.”

“Well, you’re in a fair way to get out of your difficulties; give yourself a good attack of indigestion with your excellent living, and put yourself out of the way between this and midday to-morrow.”

“How can you be hard-hearted enough to laugh?”

“Nay, you really afflict me. Come, Baisemeaux, if you can pledge me your word of honor, do so, that you will not open your lips to any one about what I am going to say to you.”

“Never, never!”

“You wish to put your hand on Aramis?”

“At any cost!”

“Well, go and see where M. Fouquet is.”

“Why, what connection can there be —- “

“How stupid you are! Don’t you know that Vannes is in the diocese of Belle-Isle, or Belle-Isle in the diocese of Vannes? Belle-Isle belongs to M. Fouquet, and M. Fouquet nominated M. d’Herblay to that bishopric!”

“I see, I see; you restore me to life again.”

“So much the better. Go and tell M. Fouquet very simply that you wish to speak to M. d’Herblay.”

“Of course, of course,” exclaimed Baisemeaux, delightedly.

“But,” said D’Artagnan, checking him by a severe look, “your word of honor?”

“I give you my sacred word of honor,” replied the little man, about to set off running.

“Where are you going?”

“To M. Fouquet’s house.”

“It is useless doing that, M. Fouquet is playing at cards with the king. All you can do is to pay M. Fouquet a visit early to-morrow morning.”

“I will do so. Thank you.”

“Good luck attend you,” said D’Artagnan.

“Thank you.”

“This is a strange affair,” murmured D’Artagnan, as he slowly ascended the staircase after he had left Baisemeaux. “What possible interest can Aramis have in obliging Baisemeaux in this manner? Well, I suppose we shall learn some day or another.”

CHAPTER 97

The King’s Card-table

Fouquet was present, as D’Artagnan had said, at the king’s card-table. It seemed as if Buckingham’s departure had shed a balm on the lacerated hearts of the previous evening. Monsieur, radiant with delight, made a thousand affectionate signs to his mother. The Count de Guiche could not separate himself from Buckingham and while playing, conversed with him upon the circumstance of his projected voyage. Buckingham, thoughtful, and kind in his manner, like a man who has adopted a resolution, listened to the count, and from time to time cast a look full of regret and hopeless affection at Madame. The princess, in the midst of her elation of spirits, divided her attention between the king, who was playing with her, Monsieur, who quietly joked her about her enormous winnings, and De Guiche, who exhibited an extravagant delight. Of Buckingham she took but little notice; for her, this fugitive, this exile, was now simply a remembrance, no longer a man. Light hearts are thus constituted; while they themselves continue untouched, they roughly break off with every one who may possibly interfere with their little calculations of selfish comfort. Madame had received Buckingham’s smiles and attentions and sighs while he was present; but what was the good of sighing, smiling and kneeling at a distance? Can one tell in what direction the winds in the Channel, which toss mighty vessels to and fro, carry such sighs as these. The duke could not fail to mark this change, and his heart was cruelly hurt. Of a sensitive character, proud and susceptible of deep attachment, he cursed the day on which such a passion had entered his heart. The looks he cast, from time to time at Madame, became colder by degrees at the chilling complexion of his thoughts. He could hardly yet despair, but he was strong enough to impose silence upon the tumultuous outcries of his heart. In exact proportion, however, as Madame suspected this change of feeling, she redoubled her activity to regain the ray of light she was about to lose; her timid and indecisive mind was displayed in brilliant flashes of wit and humor. At any cost she felt that she must be remarked above everything and every one, even above the king himself. And she was so, for the queens, notwithstanding their dignity, and the king, despite the respect which etiquette required, were all eclipsed by her. The queens, stately and ceremonious, were softened and could not restrain their laughter. Madame Henrietta, the queen-mother, was dazzled by the brilliancy which cast distinction upon her family, thanks to the wit of the grand-daughter of Henry IV. The king, jealous, as a young man and as a monarch, of the superiority of those who surrounded him, could not resist admitting himself vanquished by a petulance so thoroughly French in its nature, whose energy was more than ever increased by English humor. Like a child, he was captivated by her radiant beauty, which her wit made still more dazzling. Madame’s eyes flashed like lightning. Wit and humor escaped from her scarlet lips, like persuasion from the lips of Nestor of old. The whole court, subdued by her enchanting grace, noticed for the first time that laughter could be indulged in before the greatest monarch in the world, like people who merited their appellation of the wittiest and most polished people in Europe.

Madame, from that evening, achieved and enjoyed a success capable of bewildering all not born to those altitudes termed thrones; which, in spite of their elevation, are sheltered from such giddiness. From that very moment Louis XIV. acknowledged Madame as a person to be recognized. Buckingham regarded her as a coquette deserving the cruelest tortures, and De Guiche looked upon her as a divinity; the courtiers as a star whose light might some day become the focus of all favor and power. And yet Louis XIV., a few years previously, had not even condescended to offer his hand to that “ugly girl” for a ballet; and Buckingham had worshipped this coquette “on both knees.” De Guiche had once looked upon this divinity as a mere woman; and the courtiers had not dared to extol this star in her upward progress, fearful to disgust the monarch whom such a dull star had formerly displeased.

Let us see what was taking place during this memorable evening at the king’s card-table. The young queen, although Spanish by birth, and the niece of Anne of Austria, loved the king, and could not conceal her affection. Anne of Austria, a keen observer, like all women, and imperious, like every queen, was sensible of Madame’s power, and acquiesced in it immediately, a circumstance which induced the young queen to raise the siege and retire to her apartments. The king hardly paid any attention to her departure, notwithstanding the pretended symptoms of indisposition by which it was accompanied. Encouraged by the rules of etiquette, which he had begun to introduce at the court as an element of every relation of life, Louis XIV. did not disturb himself; he offered his hand to Madame without looking at Monsieur his brother, and led the young princess to the door of her apartments. It was remarked that at the threshold of the door, his majesty, freed from every restraint, or not equal to the situation, sighed very deeply. The ladies present — for nothing escapes a woman’s glance — Mademoiselle Montalais, for instance — did not fail to say to each other, “the king sighed,” and “Madame sighed too.” This had been indeed the case. Madame had sighed very noiselessly, but with an accompaniment very far more dangerous for the king’s repose. Madame had sighed, first closing her beautiful black eyes, next opening them, and then, laden, as they were, with an indescribable mournfulness of expression, she had raised them towards the king, whose face at that moment visibly heightened in color. The consequence of these blushes, of these interchanged sighs, and of this royal agitation, was, that Montalais had committed an indiscretion which had certainly affected her companion, for Mademoiselle de la Valliere, less clear sighted, perhaps, turned pale when the king blushed; and her attendance being required upon Madame, she tremblingly followed the princess without thinking of taking the gloves, which court etiquette required her to do. True it is that this young country girl might allege as her excuse the agitation into which the king seemed to be thrown, for Mademoiselle de la Valliere, busily engaged in closing the door, had involuntarily fixed her eyes upon the king, who, as he retired backwards, had his face towards it. The king returned to the room where the card-tables were set out. He wished to speak to the different persons there, but it was easy to see that his mind was absent. He jumbled different accounts together, which was taken advantage of by some of the noblemen who had retained those habits since the time of Monsieur Mazarin — who had a poor memory, but was a good calculator. In this way Monsieur Manicamp, with a thoughtless and absent air — for M. Manicamp was the honestest man in the world appropriated twenty thousand francs, which were littering the table, and which did not seem to belong to any person in particular. In the same way, Monsieur de Wardes, whose head was doubtless a little bewildered by the occurrences of the evening, somehow forgot to leave behind him the sixty double louis which he had won for the Duke of Buckingham, and which the duke, incapable, like his father, of soiling his hands with coin of any sort, had left lying on the table before him. The king only recovered his attention in some degree at the moment that Monsieur Colbert, who had been narrowly observant for some minutes, approached, and, doubtless, with great respect, yet with much perseverance, whispered a counsel of some sort into the still tingling ears of the king. The king, at the suggestion, listened with renewed attention and immediately looking around him, said, “Is Monsieur Fouquet no longer here?”

“Yes, sire, I am here,” replied the superintendent, till then engaged with Buckingham, and approached the king, who advanced a step towards him with a smiling yet negligent air. “Forgive me,” said Louis, “if I interrupt your conversation; but I claim your attention wherever I may require your services.”

“I am always at the king’s service,” replied Fouquet.

“And your cash-box too,” said the king, laughing with a false smile.

“My cash-box more than anything else,” said Fouquet, coldly.

“The fact is, I wish to give a fete at Fontainebleau — to keep open house for fifteen days, and I shall require —- ” and he stopped glancing at Colbert. Fouquet waited without showing discomposure; and the king resumed, answering Colbert’s icy smile, “four million francs.”

“Four million,” repeated Fouquet, bowing profoundly. And his nails, buried in his bosom, were thrust into his flesh, but the tranquil expression of his face remained unaltered. “When will they be required, sire?”

“Take your time, — I mean — no, no, as soon as possible.”

“A certain time will be necessary, sire.”

“Time!” exclaimed Colbert, triumphantly.

“The time, monsieur,” said the superintendent, with the haughtiest disdain, “simply to count the money: a million can only be drawn and weighed in a day.”

“Four days then,” said Colbert.

“My clerks,” replied Fouquet, addressing himself to the king, “will perform wonders on his majesty’s service, and the sum shall be ready in three days.”

It was for Colbert now to turn pale. Louis looked at him astonished. Fouquet withdrew without any parade or weakness, smiling at his numerous friends, in whose countenances alone he read the sincerity of their friendship — an interest partaking of compassion. Fouquet, however, should not be judged by his smile, for, in reality he felt as if he had been stricken by death. Drops of blood beneath his coat stained the fine linen that clothed his chest. His dress concealed the blood, and his smile the rage which devoured him. His domestics perceived, by the manner in which he approached his carriage, that their master was not in the best of humors: the result of their discernment was, that his orders were executed with that exactitude of maneuver which is found on board a man-of-war, commanded during a storm by an ill-tempered captain. The carriage, therefore, did not simply roll along — it flew. Fouquet had hardly time to recover himself during the drive; on his arrival he went at once to Aramis, who had not yet retired for the night. As for Porthos, he had supped very agreeably off a roast leg of mutton, two pheasants, and a perfect heap of cray-fish; he then directed his body to be anointed with perfumed oils, in the manner of the wrestlers of old; and when this anointment was completed, he had himself wrapped in flannels and placed in a warm bed. Aramis, as we have already said, had not retired. Seated at his ease in a velvet dressing-gown, he wrote letter after letter in that fine and hurried handwriting, a page of which contained a quarter of a volume. The door was thrown hurriedly open, and the superintendent appeared, pale, agitated, anxious. Aramis looked up: “Good-evening,” said he, and his searching look detected his host’s sadness and disordered state of mind. “Was your play as good as his majesty’s?” asked Aramis, by way of beginning the conversation.

Fouquet threw himself upon a couch, and then pointed to the door to the servant who had followed him; when the servant had left he said, “Excellent.”

Aramis, who had followed every movement with his eyes, noticed that he stretched himself upon the cushions with a sort of feverish impatience. “You have lost as usual?” inquired Aramis, his pen still in his hand.

“Even more than usual,” replied Fouquet.

“You know how to support losses?”

“Sometimes.”

“What, Monsieur Fouquet a bad player!”

“There is play and play, Monsieur d’Herblay.”

“How much have you lost?” inquired Aramis, with a slight uneasiness.

Fouquet collected himself a moment, and then, without the slightest emotion, said, “The evening has cost me four millions,” and a bitter laugh drowned the last vibration of these words.

Aramis, who did not expect such an amount, dropped his pen. “Four millions,” he said; “you have lost four millions, — impossible!”

“Monsieur Colbert held my cards for me,” replied the superintendent, with a similar bitter laugh.

“Ah, now I understand; so, so, a new application for funds?”

“Yes, and from the king’s own lips. It was impossible to ruin a man with a more charming smile. What do you think of it?”

“It is clear that your destruction is the object in view.”

“That is your opinion?”

“Still. Besides, there is nothing in it which should astonish you, for we have foreseen it all along”

“Yes; but I did not expect four millions.”

“No doubt the amount is serious, but, after all, four millions are not quite the death of a man, especially when the man in question is Monsieur Fouquet.”

“My dear D’Herblay, if you knew the contents of my coffers, you would be less easy.”

“And you promised?”

“What could I do?”

“That’s true.”

“The very day I refuse, Colbert will procure the money; whence I know not, but he will procure it: and I shall be lost.”

“There is no doubt of that. In how many days did you promise these four millions?”

“In three days. The king seemed exceedingly pressed.”

“In three days?”

“When I think,” resumed Fouquet, “that just now as I passed along the streets, the people cried out, `There is the rich Monsieur Fouquet,’ it is enough to turn my brain.”

“Stay, monsieur, the matter is not worth so much trouble,” said Aramis, calmly, sprinkling some sand over the letter he had just written.

“Suggest a remedy, then, for this evil without a remedy.”

“There is only one remedy for you, — pay.”

“But it is very uncertain whether I have the money. Everything must be exhausted; Belle-Isle is paid for; the pension has been paid; and money, since the investigation of the accounts of those who farm the revenue, is scarce. Besides, admitting that I pay this time, how can I do so on another occasion? When kings have tasted money, they are like tigers who have tasted flesh, they devour everything. The day will arrive — must arrive — when I shall have to say, `Impossible, sire,’ and on that very day I am a lost man.”

Aramis raised his shoulders slightly, saying:

“A man in your position, my lord, is only lost when he wishes to be so.”

“A man, whatever his position may be, cannot hope to struggle against a king.”

“Nonsense; when I was young I wrestled successfully with the Cardinal Richelieu, who was king of France, — nay more — cardinal.”

“Where are my armies, my troops, my treasures? I have not even Belle-Isle.”

“Bah! necessity is the mother of invention, and when you think all is lost, something will be discovered which will retrieve everything.”

“Who will discover this wonderful something?”

“Yourself.”

“I! I resign my office of inventor.”

“Then I will.”

“Be it so. But set to work without delay.”

“Oh! we have time enough!”

“You kill me, D’Herblay, with your calmness,” said the superintendent, passing his handkerchief over his face.

“Do you not remember that I one day told you not to make yourself uneasy, if you possessed courage? Have you any?”

“I believe so.”

“Then don’t make yourself uneasy.”

“It is decided, then, that, at the last moment, you will come to my assistance.”

“It will only be the repayment of a debt I owe you.”

“It is the vocation of financiers to anticipate the wants of men such as yourself, D’Herblay.”

“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 was myself 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 exorbitant.”

“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.”

“Well?”

“One of our bonds becomes due.”

“I did not know we had any bond.”

“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.”

“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 acknowledgments.”

“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 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?”

“Yes.”

“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 98

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-Muse, and stopped opposite the Rue des Tourelles, 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 been again 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 blood royal 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 glance 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 an 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 accounts?”

“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.”

“Thai’s well,” said Baisemeaux, as he struck the bell before him three times.

“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 Louviere 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?”

“Nothing.”

“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 give 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 seen 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.

“Sixty.”

“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 costs 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 fifteen?”

“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 of bottles of champagne, which cost me five sous, I made 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 only that I give these little surprises.”