"You understand; if I have a fine fish, I pay four or five francs for it; if I get a fine fowl, it cost me a franc and a half. I fatten a good deal of poultry, but I have to buy grain, and you cannot imagine the army of rats that infest this place." "Why not get half a dozen cats to deal with them?" "Cats, indeed; yes, they eat them, but I was obliged to give up the idea because of the way in which they treated my grain. I have been obliged to have some terrier dogs sent me from England to kill the rats. These dogs, unfortunately, have tremendous appetites; they eat as much as a prisoner of the fifth order, without taking into account the rabbits and fowls they kill." Was Aramis really listening or not? No one could have told; his downcast eyes showed the attentive man, but the restless hand betrayed the man absorbed in thought - Aramis was meditating. "I was saying," continued Baisemeaux, "that a good-sized fowl costs me a franc and a half, and that a fine fish costs me four or five francs. Three meals are served at the Bastile, and, as the prisoners, having nothing to do, are always eating, a ten-franc man costs me seven francs and a half." "But did you not say that you treated those at ten francs like those at 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 bottles of champagne, which cost me five sous, I make him tipsy every Sunday. That class of people call down blessings upon me, and are sorry to leave the prison. Do you know that I have remarked, and it does me infinite honor, that certain prisoners, who have been set at liberty, have, almost immediately afterwards, got imprisoned again? Why should this be the case, unless it be to enjoy the pleasures of my kitchen? It is really the fact." Aramis smiled with an expression of incredulity. "You smile," said Baisemeaux. "I do," returned Aramis. "I tell you that we have names which have been inscribed on our books thrice in the space of two years." "I must see it before I believe it," said Aramis. "Well, I can show it to you, although it is prohibited to communicate the registers to strangers; and if you really wish to see it with your own eyes - " "I should be delighted, I confess." "Very well," said Baisemeaux, and he took out of a cupboard a large register. Aramis followed him most anxiously with his eyes, and Baisemeaux returned, placed the register upon the table, and turned over the leaves for a minute, and stayed at the letter M. "Look here," said he, "Martinier, January, 1659; Martinier, June, 1660; Martinier, March, 1661. Mazarinades, etc.; you understand it was only a pretext; people were not sent to the Bastile for jokes against M. Mazarin; the fellow denounced himself in order to get imprisoned here." "And what was his object?" "None other than to return to my kitchen at three francs a day." "Three francs - poor devil!" "The poet, my lord, belongs to the lowest scale, the same style of board as the small tradesman and bailiff's clerk; but I repeat, it is to those people that I give these little surprises." Aramis mechanically turned over the leaves of the register, continuing to read the names, but without appearing to take any interest in the names he read. "In 1661, you perceive," said Baisemeaux, "eighty entries; and in 1659, eighty also." "Ah!" said Aramis. "Seldon; I seem to know that name. Was it not you who spoke to me about a certain young man?" "Yes, a poor devil of a student, who made - What do you call that where two Latin verses rhyme together?" "A distich." "Yes; that is it." "Poor fellow; for a distich." "Do you know that he made this distich against the Jesuits?" "That makes no difference; the punishment seems very severe. Do not pity him; last year you seemed to interest yourself in him." "Yes, I did so." "Well, as your interest is all-powerful here, my lord, I have treated him since that time as a prisoner at fifteen francs." "The same as this one, then," said Aramis, who had continued turning over the leaves, and who had stopped at one of the names which followed Martinier. "Yes, the same as that one." "Is that Marchiali an Italian?" said Aramis, pointing with his finger to the name which had attracted his attention. "Hush!" said Baisemeaux. "Why hush?" said Aramis, involuntarily clenching his white hand. "I thought I had already spoken to you about that Marchiali." "No, it is the first time I ever heard his name pronounced." "That may be, but perhaps I have spoken to you about him without naming him." "Is he an old offender?" asked Aramis, attempting to smile. "On the contrary, he is quite young." "Is his crime, then, very heinous?" "Unpardonable." "Has he assassinated any one?" "Bah!" "An incendiary, then?" "Bah!" "Has he slandered any one?" "No, no! It is he who - " and Baisemeaux approached Aramis's ear, making a sort of ear-trumpet of his hands, and whispered: "It is he who presumes to resemble the - " "Yes, yes," said Aramis; "I now remember you already spoke about it last year to me; but the crime appeared to me so slight." "Slight, do you say?" "Or rather, so involuntary." "My lord, it is not involuntarily that such a resemblance is detected." "Well, the fact is, I had forgotten it. But, my dear host," said Aramis, closing the register, "if I am not mistaken, we are summoned." Baisemeaux took the register, hastily restored it to its place in the closet, which he locked, and put the key in his pocket. "Will it be agreeable to your lordship to breakfast now?" said he; "for you are right in supposing that breakfast was announced." "Assuredly, my dear governor," and they passed into the dining-room. Chapter XXIV: The Breakfast at Monsieur de Baisemeaux's. Aramis was generally temperate; but on this occasion, while taking every care of his constitution, he did ample justice to Baisemeaux's breakfast, which, in all respects, was most excellent. The latter on his side, was animated with the wildest gayety; the sight of the five thousand pistoles, which he glanced at from time to time, seemed to open his heart. Every now and then he looked at Aramis with an expression of the deepest gratitude; while the latter, leaning back in his chair, took a few sips of wine from his glass, with the air of a connoisseur. "Let me never hear any ill words against the fare of the Bastile," said he, half closing his eyes; "happy are the prisoners who can get only half a bottle of such Burgundy every day." "All those at fifteen francs drink it," said Baisemeaux. "It is very old Volnay." "Does that poor student, Seldon, drink such good wine?" "Oh, no!" "I thought I heard you say he was boarded at fifteen francs." "He! no, indeed; a man who makes districts - distichs I mean - at fifteen francs! No, no! it is his neighbor who is at fifteen francs." "Which neighbor?" "The other, second Bertaudiere." "Excuse me, my dear governor; but you speak a language which requires quite an apprenticeship to understand." "Very true," said the governor. "Allow me to explain: second Bertaudiere is the person who occupies the second floor of the tower of the Bertaudiere." "So that Bertaudiere is the name of one of the towers of the Bastile? The fact is, I think I recollect hearing that each tower has a name of its own. Whereabouts is the one you are speaking of?" "Look," said Baisemeaux, going to the window. "It is that tower to the left - the second one." "Is the prisoner at fifteen francs there?" "Yes." "Since when?" "Seven or eight years, nearly." "What do you mean by nearly? Do you not know the dates more precisely?" "It was not in my time, M. d'Herblay." "But I should have thought that Louviere or Tremblay would have told you." "The secrets of the Bastile are never handed over with the keys of the governorship." "Indeed! Then the cause of his imprisonment is a mystery - a state secret." "Oh, no! I do not suppose it is a state secret, but a secret - like everything that happens at the Bastile." "But," said Aramis, "why do you speak more freely of Seldon than of second Bertaudiere?" "Because, in my opinion, the crime of the man who writes a distich is not so great as that of the man who resembles - " "Yes, yes; I understand you. Still, do not the turnkeys talk with your prisoners?" "Of course."
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