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List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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Aramis had handed him.  Then, taking hold of Aramis's hand, he drew him
towards him, and inquired: "In what manner and by whose means could you
possibly become acquainted with such a secret?"

"Through Madame de Chevreuse, the intimate friend and _confidante_ of the
queen."

"And Madame de Chevreuse - "

"Is dead."

"Did any others know it?"

"A man and a woman only, and they of the lower classes."

"Who are they?"

"Persons who had brought him up."

"What has become of them?"

"Dead also.  This secret burns like vitriol."

"But you survive?"

"No one is aware that I know it."

"And for what length of time have you possessed this secret?"

"For the last fifteen years."

"And you have kept it?"

"I wished to live."

"And you give it to the order without ambition, without acknowledgement?"

"I give it to the order with ambition and with a hope of return," said
Aramis; "for if you live, my lord, you will make of me, now you know me,
what I can and ought to be."

"And as I am dying," exclaimed the Franciscan, "I constitute you my
successor...  Thus."  And drawing off the ring, he passed it on Aramis's
finger.  Then, turning towards the two spectators of this scene, he said:
"Be ye witnesses of this, and testify, if need be, that, sick in body,
but sound in mind, I have freely and voluntarily bestowed this ring, the
token of supreme authority, upon Monseigneur d'Herblay, bishop of Vannes,
whom I nominate my successor, and before whom I, an humble sinner, about
to appear before Heaven, prostrate myself, as an example for all to
follow."  And the Franciscan bowed lowly and submissively, whilst the
physician and the Jesuit fell on their knees.  Aramis, even while he
became paler than the dying man himself, bent his looks successively upon
all the actors of this scene.  Profoundly gratified ambition flowed with
life-blood towards his heart.

"We must lose no time," said the Franciscan; "what I had still to do on
earth was urgent.  I shall never succeed in carrying it out."

"I will do it," said Aramis.

"It is well," said the Franciscan, and then turning towards the Jesuit
and the doctor, he added, "Leave us alone," a direction they instantly
obeyed.

"With this sign," he said, "you are the man needed to shake the world
from one end to the other; with this sign you will overthrow; with this
sign you will edify; _in hoc signo vinces!_" (9)

"Close the door," continued the Franciscan after a pause.  Aramis shut
and bolted the door, and returned to the side of the Franciscan.

"The pope is conspiring against the order," said the monk; "the pope must
die."

"He shall die," said Aramis, quietly.

"Seven hundred thousand livres are owing to a Bremen merchant of the name
of Bonstett, who came here to get the guarantee of my signature."

"He shall be paid," said Aramis.

"Six knights of Malta, whose names are written here, have discovered, by
the indiscretion of one of the affiliated of the eleventh year, the three
mysteries; it must be ascertained what else these men have done with the
secret, to get it back again and bury it."

"It shall be done."

"Three dangerous affiliated members must be sent away into Tibet, there
to perish; they stand condemned.  Here are their names."

"I will see that the sentence be carried out."

"Lastly, there is a lady at Anvers, grand-niece of Ravaillac; she holds
certain papers in her hands that compromise the order.  There has been
payable to the family during the last fifty-one years a pension of fifty
thousand livres.  The pension is a heavy one, and the order is not
wealthy.  Redeem the papers, for a sum of money paid down, or, in case of
refusal, stop the pension - but run no risk."

"I will quickly decide what is best to be done," said Aramis.

"A vessel chartered from Lima entered the port of Lisbon last week;
ostensibly it is laden with chocolate, in reality with gold.  Every ingot
is concealed by a coating of chocolate.  The vessel belongs to the order;
it is worth seventeen millions of livres; you will see that it is
claimed; here are the bills of landing."

"To what port shall I direct it to be taken?"

"To Bayonne."

"Before three weeks are over it shall be there, wind and weather
permitting.  Is that all?"  The Franciscan made a sign in the
affirmative, for he could no longer speak; the blood rushed to his throat
and his head, and gushed from his mouth, his nostrils, and his eyes.  The
dying man had barely time to press Aramis's hand, when he fell in
convulsions from his bed upon the floor.  Aramis placed his hand upon the
Franciscan's heart, but it had ceased to beat.  As he stooped down,
Aramis observed that a fragment of the paper he had given the Franciscan
had escaped being burnt.  He picked it up, and burnt it to the last
atom.  Then, summoning the confessor and the physician, he said to the
former: "Your penitent is in heaven; he needs nothing more than prayers
and the burial bestowed upon the pious dead.  Go and prepare what is
necessary for a simple interment, such as a poor monk only would
require.  Go."

The Jesuit left the room.  Then, turning towards the physician, and
observing his pale and anxious face, he said, in a low tone of voice:
"Monsieur Grisart, empty and clean this glass; _there is too much left in
it of what the grand council desired you to put in_."

Grisart, amazed, overcome, completely astounded, almost fell backwards in
his extreme terror.  Aramis shrugged his shoulders in sign of pity, took
the glass, and poured out the contents among the ashes of the hearth.  He
then left the room, carrying the papers of the dead man with him.


Chapter LIV:
A Mission.

The next day, or rather the same day (for the events we have just
described were concluded only at three o'clock in the morning), before
breakfast was served, and as the king was preparing to go to mass with
the two queens; as Monsieur, with the Chevalier de Lorraine, and a few
other intimate companions, was mounting his horse to set off for the
river, to take one of those celebrated baths with which the ladies of the
court were so infatuated, as, in fact, no one remained in the chateau,
with the exception of Madame who, under the pretext of indisposition,
would not leave her room; Montalais was seen, or rather not was not seen,
to glide stealthily out of the room appropriated to the maids of honor,
leading La Valliere after her, who tried to conceal herself as much as
possible, and both of them, hurrying secretly through the gardens,
succeeded, looking round them at every step they took, in reaching the
thicket.  The weather was cloudy, a warm breeze bowed the flowers and the
shrubs, the burning dust, swept along in clouds by the wind, was whirled
in eddies towards the trees.  Montalais, who, during their progress, had
discharged the functions of a clever scout, advanced a few steps further,
and turning round again, to be quite sure that no one was either
listening or approaching, said to her companion, "Thank goodness, we are
quite alone!  Since yesterday every one spies on us here, and a circle
seems to be drawn round us, as if we were plague-stricken."  La Valliere
bent down her head and sighed.  "It is positively unheard of," continued
Montalais; "from M. Malicorne to M. de Saint-Aignan, every one wishes to
get hold of our secret.  Come, Louise, let us take counsel, you and I,
together, in order that I may know what to do."

La Valliere lifted towards her companion her beautiful eyes, pure and
deep as the azure of a spring sky, "And I," she said, "will ask you why
we have been summoned to Madame's own room?  Why have we slept close to
her apartment, instead of sleeping as usual in our own?  Why did you
return so late, and whence are these measures of strict supervision which
have been adopted since this morning, with respect to us both?"

"My dear Louise, you answer my question by another, or rather, by ten
others, which is not answering me at all.  I will tell you all you want
to know later, and as it is of secondary importance, you can wait.  What
I ask you - for everything will depend upon that - is, whether there is
or is not any secret?"

"I do not know if there is any secret," said La Valliere; "but I do know,
for my part at least, that there has been great imprudence committed.
Since the foolish remark I made, and my still more silly fainting
yesterday, every one here is making remarks about us."

"Speak for yourself," said Montalais, laughing, "speak for yourself and
for Tonnay-Charente; for both of you made your declarations of love to
the skies, which unfortunately were intercepted."

La Valliere hung down her head.  "Really you overwhelm me," she said.

"I?"

"Yes, you torture me with your jests."

"Listen to me, Louise.  These are no jests, for nothing is more serious;
on the contrary, I did not drag you out of the chateau; I did not miss
attending mass; I did not pretend to have a cold, as Madame did, which
she has no more than I have; and, lastly, I did not display ten times
more diplomacy than M. Colbert inherited from M. de Mazarin, and makes
use of with respect to M. Fouquet, in order to find means of confiding my
perplexities to you, for the sole end and purpose that, when at last we
were alone, with no one to listen to us, you should deal hypocritically
with me.  No, no; believe me, that when I ask you a question, it is not
from curiosity alone, but really because the position is a critical one.
What you said yesterday is now known, - it is a text on which every one
is discoursing.  Every one embellishes it to the utmost, and according to
his own fancy; you had the honor last night, and you have it still to-
day, of occupying the whole court, my dear Louise; and the number of
tender and witty remarks which have been ascribed to you, would make
Mademoiselle de Scudery and her brother burst from very spite, if they
were faithfully reported."

"But, dearest Montalais," said the poor girl, "you know better than any
one exactly what I said, since you were present when I said it."

"Yes, I know.  But that is not the question.  I have not forgotten a

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