distributed the notes of invitation, and thanked them in the name of M. Fouquet. "The superintendent," he said, "being kept to his room by business, could not come and see them, but begged them to send him some of the fruits of their day's work, to enable him to forget the fatigue of his labor in the night." At these words, all settled down to work. La Fontaine placed himself at a table, and set his rapid pen an endless dance across the smooth white vellum; Pelisson made a fair copy of his prologue; Moliere contributed fifty fresh verses, with which his visit to Percerin had inspired him; Loret, an article on the marvelous _fetes_ he predicted; and Aramis, laden with his booty like the king of the bees, that great black drone, decked with purple and gold, re-entered his apartment, silent and busy. But before departing, "Remember, gentlemen," said he, "we leave to-morrow evening." "In that case, I must give notice at home," said Moliere. "Yes; poor Moliere!" said Loret, smiling; "he loves his home." "'_He_ loves,' yes," replied Moliere, with his sad, sweet smile. "'He loves,' that does not mean, they love _him_." "As for me," said La Fontaine, "they love me at Chateau Thierry, I am very sure." Aramis here re-entered after a brief disappearance. "Will any one go with me?" he asked. "I am going by Paris, after having passed a quarter of an hour with M. Fouquet. I offer my carriage." "Good," said Moliere, "I accept it. I am in a hurry." "I shall dine here," said Loret. "M. de Gourville has promised me some craw-fish." "He has promised me some whitings. Find a rhyme for that, La Fontaine." Aramis went out laughing, as only he could laugh, and Moliere followed him. They were at the bottom of the stairs, when La Fontaine opened the door, and shouted out: "He has promised us some whitings, In return for these our writings." The shouts of laughter reached the ears of Fouquet at the moment Aramis opened the door of the study. As to Moliere, he had undertaken to order the horses, while Aramis went to exchange a parting word with the superintendent. "Oh, how they are laughing there!" said Fouquet, with a sigh. "Do you not laugh, monseigneur?" "I laugh no longer now, M. d'Herblay. The _fete_ is approaching; money is departing." "Have I not told you that was my business?" "Yes, you promised me millions." "You shall have them the day after the king's _entree_ into Vaux." Fouquet looked closely at Aramis, and passed the back of his icy hand across his moistened brow. Aramis perceived that the superintendent either doubted him, or felt he was powerless to obtain the money. How could Fouquet suppose that a poor bishop, ex-abbe, ex-musketeer, could find any? "Why doubt me?" said Aramis. Fouquet smiled and shook his head. "Man of little faith!" added the bishop. "My dear M. d'Herblay," answered Fouquet, "if I fall - " "Well; if you 'fall'?" "I shall, at least, fall from such a height, that I shall shatter myself in falling." Then giving himself a shake, as though to escape from himself, "Whence came you," said he, "my friend?" "From Paris - from Percerin." "And what have you been doing at Percerin's, for I suppose you attach no great importance to our poets' dresses?" "No; I went to prepare a surprise." "Surprise?" "Yes; which you are going to give to the king." "And will it cost much?" "Oh! a hundred pistoles you will give Lebrun." "A painting? - Ah! all the better! And what is this painting to represent?" "I will tell you; then at the same time, whatever you may say or think of it, I went to see the dresses for our poets." "Bah! and they will be rich and elegant?" "Splendid! There will be few great monseigneurs with so good. People will see the difference there is between the courtiers of wealth and those of friendship." "Ever generous and grateful, dear prelate." "In your school." Fouquet grasped his hand. "And where are you going?" he said. "I am off to Paris, when you shall have given a certain letter." "For whom?" "M. de Lyonne." "And what do you want with Lyonne?" "I wish to make him sign a _lettre de cachet_." "'_Lettre de cachet!_' Do you desire to put somebody in the Bastile?" "On the contrary - to let somebody out." "And who?" "A poor devil - a youth, a lad who has been Bastiled these ten years, for two Latin verses he made against the Jesuits." "'Two Latin verses!' and, for 'two Latin verses,' the miserable being has been in prison for ten years!" "Yes!" "And has committed no other crime?" "Beyond this, he is as innocent as you or I." "On your word?" "On my honor!" "And his name is - " "Seldon." "Yes. - But it is too bad. You knew this, and you never told me!" "'Twas only yesterday his mother applied to me, monseigneur." "And the woman is poor!" "In the deepest misery." "Heaven," said Fouquet, "sometimes bears with such injustice on earth, that I hardly wonder there are wretches who doubt of its existence. Stay, M. d'Herblay." And Fouquet, taking a pen, wrote a few rapid lines to his colleague Lyonne. Aramis took the letter and made ready to go. "Wait," said Fouquet. He opened his drawer, and took out ten government notes which were there, each for a thousand francs. "Stay," he said; "set the son at liberty, and give this to the mother; but, above all, do not tell her - " "What, monseigneur?" "That she is ten thousand livres richer than I. She would say I am but a poor superintendent! Go! and I pray that God will bless those who are mindful of his poor!" "So also do I pray," replied Aramis, kissing Fouquet's hand. And he went out quickly, carrying off the letter for Lyonne and the notes for Seldon's mother, and taking up Moliere, who was beginning to lose patience. Chapter VII: Another Supper at the Bastile. Seven o'clock sounded from the great clock of the Bastile, that famous clock, which, like all the accessories of the state prison, the very use of which is a torture, recalled to the prisoners' minds the destination of every hour of their punishment. The time-piece of the Bastile, adorned with figures, like most of the clocks of the period, represented St. Peter in bonds. It was the supper hour of the unfortunate captives. The doors, grating on their enormous hinges, opened for the passage of the baskets and trays of provisions, the abundance and the delicacy of which, as M. de Baisemeaux has himself taught us, was regulated by the condition in life of the prisoner. We understand on this head the theories of M. de Baisemeaux, sovereign dispenser of gastronomic delicacies, head cook of the royal fortress, whose trays, full-laden, were ascending the steep staircases, carrying some consolation to the prisoners in the shape of honestly filled bottles of good vintages. This same hour was that of M. le gouverneur's supper also. He had a guest to- day, and the spit turned more heavily than usual. Roast partridges, flanked with quails and flanking a larded leveret; boiled fowls; hams, fried and sprinkled with white wine, _cardons_ of Guipuzcoa and _la bisque ecrevisses_: these, together with soups and _hors d'oeuvres_, constituted the governor's bill of fare. Baisemeaux, seated at table, was rubbing his hands and looking at the bishop of Vannes, who, booted like a cavalier, dressed in gray and sword at side, kept talking of his hunger and testifying the liveliest impatience. M. de Baisemeaux de Montlezun was not accustomed to the unbending movements of his greatness my lord of Vannes, and this evening Aramis, becoming sprightly, volunteered confidence on confidence. The prelate had again a little touch of the musketeer about him. The bishop just trenched on the borders only of license in his style of conversation. As for M. de Baisemeaux, with the facility of vulgar people, he gave himself up entirely upon this point of his guest's freedom. "Monsieur," said he, "for indeed to-night I dare not call you monseigneur." "By no means," said Aramis; "call me monsieur; I am booted." "Do you know, monsieur, of whom you remind me this evening?" "No! faith," said Aramis, taking up his glass; "but I hope I remind you of a capital guest." "You remind me of two, monsieur. Francois, shut the window; the wind may annoy his greatness." "And let him go," added Aramis. "The supper is completely served, and we shall eat it very well without waiters. I like exceedingly to be _tete-a- tete_ when I am with a friend." Baisemeaux bowed respectfully. "I like exceedingly," continued Aramis, "to help myself." "Retire, Francois," cried Baisemeaux. "I was saying that your greatness puts me in mind of two persons; one very illustrious, the late cardinal, the great Cardinal de la Rochelle, who wore boots like you." "Indeed," said Aramis; "and the other?" "The other was a certain musketeer, very handsome, very brave, very adventurous, very fortunate, who, from being abbe, turned musketeer, and from musketeer turned abbe." Aramis condescended to smile. "From abbe," continued Baisemeaux, encouraged by Aramis's smile - "from abbe, bishop - and from bishop - " "Ah! stay there, I beg," exclaimed Aramis. "I have just said, monsieur, that you gave me the idea of a cardinal." "Enough, dear M. Baisemeaux. As you said, I have on the boots of a cavalier, but I do not intend, for all that, to embroil myself with the church this evening." "But you have wicked intentions, nevertheless, monseigneur." "Oh, yes, wicked, I own, as everything mundane is." "You traverse the town and the streets in disguise?" "In disguise, as you say." "And you still make use of your sword?" "Yes, I should think so; but only when I am compelled. Do me the pleasure to summon Francois." "Have you no wine there?" "'Tis not for wine, but because it is hot here, and the window is shut." "I shut the windows at supper-time so as not to hear the sounds or the arrival of couriers." "Ah, yes. You hear them when the window is open?"
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