retreating footsteps. The king wished to see who had uttered the cry and whose were the footsteps he had heard; and it was in vain that Montalais sought to retain him, for Louis, quitting his hold of La Valliere, hurried towards the door, too late, however, for Raoul was already at a distance, and the king only beheld a shadow that quickly vanished in the silent corridor. (8) Chapter XL: Two Old Friends. Whilst every one at court was busily engaged with his own affairs, a man mysteriously took up his post behind the Place de Greve, in the house which we once saw besieged by D'Artagnan on the occasion of the _emeute_. The principal entrance of the house was in the Place Baudoyer; it was tolerably large, surrounded by gardens, inclosed in the Rue Saint- Jean by the shops of toolmakers, which protected it from prying looks, and was walled in by a triple rampart of stone, noise, and verdure, like an embalmed mummy in its triple coffin. The man we have just alluded to walked along with a firm step, although he was no longer in his early prime. His dark cloak and long sword plainly revealed one who seemed in search of adventures; and, judging from his curling mustache, his fine smooth skin, which could be seen beneath his _sombrero_, it would not have been difficult to pronounce that gallantry had not a little share in his adventures. In fact, hardly had the cavalier entered the house, when the clock struck eight; and ten minutes afterwards a lady, followed by a servant armed to the teeth, approached and knocked at the same door, which an old woman immediately opened for her. The lady raised her veil as she entered; though no longer beautiful or young, she was still active and of an imposing carriage. She concealed, beneath a rich toilette and the most exquisite taste, an age which Ninon de l'Enclos alone could have smiled at with impunity. Hardly had she reached the vestibule, when the cavalier, whose features we have only roughly sketched, advanced towards her, holding out his hand. "God day, my dear duchesse," he said. "How do you do, my dear Aramis?" replied the duchesse. He led her to a most elegantly furnished apartment, on whose high windows were reflected the expiring rays of the setting sun, which filtered gaudily through the dark green needles of the adjacent firs. They sat down side by side. Neither of them thought of asking for additional light in the room, and they buried themselves as it were in the shadow, as if they wished to bury themselves in forgetfulness. "Chevalier," said the duchesse, "you have never given me a single sign of life since our interview at Fontainebleau, and I confess that your presence there on the day of the Franciscan's death, and your initiation in certain secrets, caused me the liveliest astonishment I ever experienced in my whole life." "I can explain my presence there to you, as well as my initiation," said Aramis. "But let us, first of all," said the duchess, "talk a little of ourselves, for our friendship is by no means of recent date." "Yes, madame: and if Heaven wills it, we shall continue to be friends, I will not say for a long time, but forever." "That is quite certain, chevalier, and my visit is a proof of it." "Our interests, duchess, are no longer the same as they used to be," said Aramis, smiling without apprehension in the growing gloom by which the room was overcast, for it could not reveal that his smile was less agreeable and not so bright as formerly. "No, chevalier, at the present day we have other interests. Every period of life brings its own; and, as we now understand each other in conversing, as perfectly as we formerly did without saying a word, let us talk, if you like." "I am at your orders, duchesse. Ah! I beg your pardon, how did you obtain my address, and what was your object?" "You ask me why? I have told you. Curiosity in the first place. I wished to know what you could have to do with the Franciscan, with whom I had certain business transactions, and who died so singularly. You know that on the occasion of our interview at Fontainebleau, in the cemetery, at the foot of the grave so recently closed, we were both so much overcome by our emotions that we omitted to confide to each other what we may have to say." "Yes, madame." "Well, then, I had no sooner left you than I repented, and have ever since been most anxious to ascertain the truth. You know that Madame de Longueville and myself are almost one, I suppose?" "I was not aware," said Aramis, discreetly. "I remembered, therefore," continued the duchesse, "that neither of us said anything to the other in the cemetery; that you did not speak of the relationship in which you stood to the Franciscan, whose burial you superintended, and that I did not refer to the position in which I stood to him; all which seemed very unworthy of two such old friends as ourselves, and I have sought an opportunity of an interview with you in order to give you some information that I have recently acquired, and to assure you that Marie Michon, now no more, has left behind her one who has preserved her recollection of events." Aramis bowed over the duchess's hand, and pressed his lips upon it. "You must have had some trouble to find me again," he said. "Yes," she answered, annoyed to find the subject taking a turn which Aramis wished to give it; "but I knew you were a friend of M. Fouquet's, and so I inquired in that direction." "A friend! oh!" exclaimed the chevalier, "I can hardly pretend to be _that_. A poor priest who has been favored by a generous protector, and whose heart is full of gratitude and devotion, is all that I pretend to be to M. Fouquet." "He made you a bishop?" "Yes, duchesse." "A very good retiring pension for so handsome a musketeer." "Yes; in the same way that political intrigue is for yourself," thought Aramis. "And so," he added, "you inquired after me at M. Fouquet's?" "Easily enough. You had been to Fontainebleau with him, and had undertaken a voyage to your diocese, which is Belle-Ile-en-Mer, I believe." "No, madame," said Aramis. "My diocese is Vannes." "I meant that. I only thought that Belle-Ile-en-Mer - " "Is a property belonging to M. Fouquet, nothing more." "Ah! I had been told that Belle-Isle was fortified; besides, I know how great the military knowledge is you possess." "I have forgotten everything of the kind since I entered the Church," said Aramis, annoyed. "Suffice it to know that I learned you had returned from Vannes, and I sent off to one of our friends, M. le Comte de la Fere, who is discretion itself, in order to ascertain it, but he answered that he was not aware of your address." "So like Athos," thought the bishop; "the really good man never changes." "Well, then, you know that I cannot venture to show myself here, and that the queen-mother has always some grievance or other against me." "Yes, indeed, and I am surprised at it." "Oh! there are various reasons for it. But, to continue, being obliged to conceal myself, I was fortunate enough to meet with M. d'Artagnan, who was formerly one of your old friends, I believe?" "A friend of mine still, duchesse." "He gave me certain information, and sent me to M. Baisemeaux, the governor of the Bastile." Aramis was somewhat agitated at this remark, and a light flashed from his eyes in the darkness of the room, which he could not conceal from his keen-sighted friend. "M. de Baisemeaux!" he said, "why did D'Artagnan send you to M. de Baisemeaux?" "I cannot tell you." "What can this possibly mean?" said the bishop, summoning all the resources of his mind to his aid, in order to carry on the combat in a befitting manner. "M. de Baisemeaux is greatly indebted to you, D'Artagnan told me." "True, he is so." "And the address of a creditor is as easily ascertained as that of a debtor." "Very true; and so Baisemeaux indicated to you - " "Saint-Mande, where I forwarded a letter to you." "Which I have in my hand, and which is most precious to me," said Aramis, "because I am indebted to it for the pleasure of seeing you here." The duchesse, satisfied at having successfully overcome the various difficulties of so delicate an explanation, began to breathe freely again, which Aramis, however, could not succeed in doing. "We had got as far as your visit to M. Baisemeaux, I believe?" "Nay," she said, laughing, "farther than that." "In that case we must have been speaking about the grudge you have against the queen-mother." "Further still," she returned, "further still; we were talking of the connection - " "Which existed between you and the Franciscan," said Aramis, interrupting her eagerly, "well, I am listening to you very attentively." "It is easily explained," returned the duchesse. "You know that I am living at Brussels with M. de Laicques?" "I heard so." "You know that my children have ruined and stripped me of everything." "How terrible, dear duchesse." "Terrible indeed; this obliged me to resort to some means of obtaining a livelihood, and, particularly, to avoid vegetating for the remainder of my existence. I had old hatreds to turn to account, old friendships to make use of; I no longer had either credit or protectors." "_You_, who had extended protection towards so many persons," said Aramis, softly. "It is always the case, chevalier. Well, at the present time I am in the habit of seeing the king of Spain very frequently." "Ah!" "Who has just nominated a general of the Jesuits, according to the usual custom." "Is it usual, indeed?" "Were you not aware of it?" "I beg your pardon; I was inattentive." "You must be aware of that - you who were on such good terms with the Franciscan." "With the general of the Jesuits, you mean?" "Exactly. Well, then, I have seen the king of Spain, who wished me to do a service, but was unable. He gave me recommendations, however, to Flanders, both for myself and for Laicques too; and conferred a pension on me out of the funds belonging to the order."
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