what I am going to say. That is all." "Oh! be sure beforehand that I shall not understand anything." "Well, well!" "Try, now; let us see!" "That is what I am going to do." "If, on the contrary, you are one of the members of this society, you will immediately answer me - yes or no." "Begin your questions," continued Baisemeaux, trembling. "You will agree, dear Monsieur de Baisemeaux," continued Aramis, with the same impassibility, "that it is evident a man cannot be a member of a society, it is evident that he cannot enjoy the advantages it offers to the affiliated, without being himself bound to certain little services." "In short," stammered Baisemeaux, "that would be intelligible, if - " "Well," resumed Aramis, "there is in the society of which I speak, and of which, as it seems you are not a member - " "Allow me," said Baisemeaux. "I should not like to say absolutely." "There is an engagement entered into by all the governors and captains of fortresses affiliated to the order." Baisemeaux grew pale. "Now the engagement," continued Aramis firmly, "is of this nature." Baisemeaux rose, manifesting unspeakable emotion: "Go on, dear M. d'Herblay: go on," said he. Aramis then spoke, or rather recited the following paragraph, in the same tone as if he had been reading it from a book: "The aforesaid captain or governor of a fortress shall allow to enter, when need shall arise, and on demand of the prisoner, a confessor affiliated to the order." He stopped. Baisemeaux was quite distressing to look at, being so wretchedly pale and trembling. "Is not that the text of the agreement?" quietly asked Aramis. "Monseigneur!" began Baisemeaux. "Ah! well, you begin to understand, I think." "Monseigneur," cried Baisemeaux, "do not trifle so with my unhappy mind! I find myself as nothing in your hands, if you have the malignant desire to draw from me the little secrets of my administration." "Oh! by no means; pray undeceive yourself, dear M. Baisemeaux; it is not the little secrets of your administration, but those of your conscience that I aim at." "Well, then, my conscience be it, dear M. d'Herblay. But have some consideration for the situation I am in, which is no ordinary one." "It is no ordinary one, my dear monsieur," continued the inflexible Aramis, "if you are a member of this society; but it is a quite natural one if free from all engagement. You are answerable only to the king." "Well, monsieur, well! I obey only the king, and whom else would you have a French nobleman obey?" Aramis did not yield an inch, but with that silvery voice of his continued: "It is very pleasant," said he, "for a French nobleman, for a prelate of France, to hear a man of your mark express himself so loyally, dear De Baisemeaux, and having heard you to believe no more than you do." "Have you doubted, monsieur?" "I? oh, no!" "And so you doubt no longer?" "I have no longer any doubt that such a man as you, monsieur," said Aramis, gravely, "does not faithfully serve the masters whom he voluntarily chose for himself." "Masters!" cried Baisemeaux. "Yes, masters, I said." "Monsieur d'Herblay, you are still jesting, are you not?" "Oh, yes! I understand that it is a more difficult position to have several masters than one; but the embarrassment is owing to you, my dear Baisemeaux, and I am not the cause of it." "Certainly not," returned the unfortunate governor, more embarrassed than ever; "but what are you doing? You are leaving the table?" "Assuredly." "Are you going?" "Yes, I am going." "But you are behaving very strangely towards me, monseigneur." "I am behaving strangely - how do you make that out?" "Have you sworn, then, to put me to the torture?" "No, I should be sorry to do so." "Remain, then." "I cannot." "And why?" "Because I have no longer anything to do here; and, indeed, I have duties to fulfil elsewhere." "Duties, so late as this?" "Yes; understand me now, my dear De Baisemeaux: they told me at the place whence I came, 'The aforesaid governor or captain will allow to enter, as need shall arise, on the prisoner's demand, a confessor affiliated with the order.' I came; you do not know what I mean, and so I shall return to tell them that they are mistaken, and that they must send me elsewhere." "What! you are - " cried Baisemeaux, looking at Aramis almost in terror. "The confessor affiliated to the order," said Aramis, without changing his voice. But, gentle as the words were, they had the same effect on the unhappy governor as a clap of thunder. Baisemeaux became livid, and it seemed to him as if Aramis's beaming eyes were two forks of flame, piercing to the very bottom of his soul. "The confessor!" murmured he; "you, monseigneur, the confessor of the order!" "Yes, I; but we have nothing to unravel together, seeing that you are not one of the affiliated." "Monseigneur!" "And I understand that, not being so, you refuse to comply with its command." "Monseigneur, I beseech you, condescend to hear me." "And wherefore?" "Monseigneur, I do not say that I have nothing to do with the society." "Ah! ah!" "I say not that I refuse to obey." "Nevertheless, M. de Baisemeaux, what has passed wears very much the air of resistance." "Oh, no! monseigneur, no; I only wished to be certain." "To be certain of what?" said Aramis, in a tone of supreme contempt. "Of nothing at all, monseigneur." Baisemeaux lowered his voice, and bending before the prelate, said, "I am at all times and in all places at the disposal of my superiors, but - " "Very good. I like you better thus, monsieur," said Aramis, as he resumed his seat, and put out his glass to Baisemeaux, whose hand trembled so that he could not fill it. "You were saying 'but' - " continued Aramis. "But," replied the unhappy man, "having received no notice, I was very far from expecting it." "Does not the Gospel say, 'Watch, for the moment is known only of God?' Do not the rules of the order say, 'Watch, for that which I will, you ought always to will also.' And what pretext will serve you now that you did not expect the confessor, M. de Baisemeaux?" "Because, monseigneur, there is at present in the Bastile no prisoner ill." Aramis shrugged his shoulders. "What do you know about that?" said he. "But, nevertheless, it appears to me - " "M. de Baisemeaux," said Aramis, turning round in his chair, "here is your servant, who wishes to speak with you;" and at this moment, De Baisemeaux's servant appeared at the threshold of the door. "What is it?" asked Baisemeaux, sharply. "Monsieur," said the man, "they are bringing you the doctor's return." Aramis looked at De Baisemeaux with a calm and confident eye. "Well," said he, "let the messenger enter." The messenger entered, saluted, and handed in the report. Baisemeaux ran his eye over it, and raising his head, said in surprise, "No. 12 is ill!" "How was it, then," said Aramis, carelessly, "that you told me everybody was well in your hotel, M. de Baisemeaux?" And he emptied his glass without removing his eyes from Baisemeaux. The governor then made a sign to the messenger, and when he had quitted the room, said, still trembling, "I think that there is in the article, 'on the prisoner's demand.'" "Yes, it is so," answered Aramis. "But see what it is they want with you now." And that moment a sergeant put his head in at the door. "What do you want now?" cried Baisemeaux. "Can you not leave me in peace for ten minutes?" "Monsieur," said the sergeant, "the sick man, No. 12, has commissioned the turnkey to request you to send him a confessor." Baisemeaux very nearly sank on the floor; but Aramis disdained to reassure him, just as he had disdained to terrify him. "What must I answer?" inquired Baisemeaux. "Just what you please," replied Aramis, compressing his lips; "that is your business. _I_ am not the governor of the Bastile." "Tell the prisoner," cried Baisemeaux, quickly, - "tell the prisoner that his request is granted." The sergeant left the room. "Oh! monseigneur, monseigneur," murmured Baisemeaux, "how could I have suspected! - how could I have foreseen this!" "Who requested you to suspect, and who besought you to foresee?" contemptuously answered Aramis. "The order suspects; the order knows; the order foresees - is that not enough?" "What is it you command?" added Baisemeaux. "I? - nothing at all. I am nothing but a poor priest, a simple confessor. Have I your orders to go and see the sufferer?" "Oh, monseigneur, I do not order; I pray you to go." "'Tis well; conduct me to him." End of Louise de la Valliere. The last text in the series is The Man in the Iron Mask. Footnotes 1. "To err is human." 2. Potatoes were not grown in France at that time. La Siecle insists that the error is theirs, and that Dumas meant "tomatoes." 3. In the five-volume edition, Volume 3 ends here. 4. "In your house." 5. This alternate translation of the verse in this chapter: "Oh! you who sadly are wandering alone, Come, come, and laugh with us." - is closer to the original meaning. 6. Marie de Mancini was a former love of the king's. He had to abandon her for the political advantages which the marriage to the Spanish Infanta, Maria Theresa, afforded. See The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Chapter XIII. 7. "[A sun] not eclipsed by many suns." Louis's device was the sun. 8. In the three-volume edition, Volume 2, entitled Louise de la Valliere, ends here. 9. "To what heights may he not aspire?" Fouquet's motto. 10. "A creature rare on earth." 11. "With an eye always to the climax."
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