Baisemeaux showed him the order to release Seldon. "Very good," said Fouquet; "but Seldon is not Marchiali." "But Marchiali is not at liberty, monseigneur; he is here." "But you said that M. d'Herblay carried him away and brought him back again." "I did not say so." "So surely did you say it, that I almost seem to hear it now." "It was a slip of my tongue, then, monseigneur." "Take care, M. Baisemeaux, take care." "I have nothing to fear, monseigneur; I am acting according to the very strictest regulation." "Do you dare to say so?" "I would say so in the presence of one of the apostles. M. d'Herblay brought me an order to set Seldon at liberty. Seldon is free." "I tell you that Marchiali has left the Bastile." "You must prove that, monseigneur." "Let me see him." "You, monseigneur, who govern this kingdom, know very well that no one can see any of the prisoners without an express order from the king." "M. d'Herblay has entered, however." "That remains to be proved, monseigneur." "M. de Baisemeaux, once more I warn you to pay particular attention to what you are saying." "All the documents are there, monseigneur." "M. d'Herblay is overthrown." "Overthrown? - M. d'Herblay! Impossible!" "You see that he has undoubtedly influenced you." "No, monseigneur; what does, in fact, influence me, is the king's service. I am doing my duty. Give me an order from him, and you shall enter." "Stay, M. le gouverneur, I give you my word that if you allow me to see the prisoner, I will give you an order from the king at once." "Give it to me now, monseigneur." "And that, if you refuse me, I will have you and all your officers arrested on the spot." "Before you commit such an act of violence, monseigneur, you will reflect," said Baisemeaux, who had turned very pale, "that we will only obey an order signed by the king; and that it will be just as easy for you to obtain one to see Marchiali as to obtain one to do me so much injury; me, too, who am perfectly innocent." "True. True!" cried Fouquet, furiously; "perfectly true. M. de Baisemeaux," he added, in a sonorous voice, drawing the unhappy governor towards him, "do you know why I am so anxious to speak to the prisoner?" "No, monseigneur; and allow me to observe that you are terrifying me out of my senses; I am trembling all over - in fact, I feel as though I were about to faint." "You will stand a better chance of fainting outright, Monsieur Baisemeaux, when I return here at the head of ten thousand men and thirty pieces of cannon." "Good heavens, monseigneur, you are losing your senses." "When I have roused the whole population of Paris against you and your accursed towers, and have battered open the gates of this place, and hanged you to the topmost tree of yonder pinnacle!" "Monseigneur! monseigneur! for pity's sake!" "I give you ten minutes to make up your mind," added Fouquet, in a calm voice. "I will sit down here, in this armchair, and wait for you; if, in ten minutes' time, you still persist, I leave this place, and you may think me as mad as you like. Then - you shall _see!_" Baisemeaux stamped his foot on the ground like a man in a state of despair, but he did not reply a single syllable; whereupon Fouquet seized a pen and ink, and wrote: "Order for M. le Prevot des Marchands to assemble the municipal guard and to march upon the Bastile on the king's immediate service." Baisemeaux shrugged his shoulders. Fouquet wrote: "Order for the Duc de Bouillon and M. le Prince de Conde to assume the command of the Swiss guards, of the king's guards, and to march upon the Bastile on the king's immediate service." Baisemeaux reflected. Fouquet still wrote: "Order for every soldier, citizen, or gentleman to seize and apprehend, wherever he may be found, le Chevalier d'Herblay, Eveque de Vannes, and his accomplices, who are: first, M. de Baisemeaux, governor of the Bastile, suspected of the crimes of high treason and rebellion - " "Stop, monseigneur!" cried Baisemeaux; "I do not understand a single jot of the whole matter; but so many misfortunes, even were it madness itself that had set them at their awful work, might happen here in a couple of hours, that the king, by whom I must be judged, will see whether I have been wrong in withdrawing the countersign before this flood of imminent catastrophes. Come with me to the keep, monseigneur, you shall see Marchiali." Fouquet darted out of the room, followed by Baisemeaux as he wiped the perspiration from his face. "What a terrible morning!" he said; "what a disgrace for _me!_" "Walk faster," replied Fouquet. Baisemeaux made a sign to the jailer to precede them. He was afraid of his companion, which the latter could not fail to perceive. "A truce to this child's play," he said, roughly. "Let the man remain here; take the keys yourself, and show me the way. Not a single person, do you understand, must hear what is going to take place here." "Ah!" said Baisemeaux, undecided. "Again!" cried M. Fouquet. "Ah! say 'no' at once, and I will leave the Bastile and will myself carry my own dispatches." Baisemeaux bowed his head, took the keys, and unaccompanied, except by the minister, ascended the staircase. The higher they advanced up the spiral staircase, the more clearly did certain muffled murmurs become distinct appeals and fearful imprecations. "What is that?" asked Fouquet. "That is your Marchiali," said the governor; "this is the way these madmen scream." And he accompanied that reply with a glance more pregnant with injurious allusion, as far as Fouquet was concerned, than politeness. The latter trembled; he had just recognized in one cry more terrible than any that had preceded it, the king's voice. He paused on the staircase, snatching the bunch of keys from Baisemeaux, who thought this new madman was going to dash out his brains with one of them. "Ah!" he cried, "M. d'Herblay did not say a word about that." "Give me the keys at once!" cried Fouquet, tearing them from his hand. "Which is the key of the door I am to open?" "That one." A fearful cry, followed by a violent blow against the door, made the whole staircase resound with the echo. "Leave this place," said Fouquet to Baisemeaux, in a threatening tone. "I ask nothing better," murmured the latter, to himself. "There will be a couple of madmen face to face, and the one will kill the other, I am sure." "Go!" repeated Fouquet. "If you place your foot on this staircase before I call you, remember that you shall take the place of the meanest prisoner in the Bastile." "This job will kill me, I am sure it will," muttered Baisemeaux, as he withdrew with tottering steps. The prisoner's cries became more and more terrible. When Fouquet had satisfied himself that Baisemeaux had reached the bottom of the staircase, he inserted the key in the first lock. It was then that he heard the hoarse, choking voice of the king, crying out, in a frenzy of rage, "Help, help! I am the king." The key of the second door was not the same as the first, and Fouquet was obliged to look for it on the bunch. The king, however, furious and almost mad with rage and passion, shouted at the top of his voice, "It was M. Fouquet who brought me here. Help me against M. Fouquet! I am the king! Help the king against M. Fouquet!" These cries filled the minister's heart with terrible emotions. They were followed by a shower of blows leveled against the door with a part of the broken chair with which the king had armed himself. Fouquet at last succeeded in finding the key. The king was almost exhausted; he could hardly articulate distinctly as he shouted, "Death to Fouquet! death to the traitor Fouquet!" The door flew open. Chapter XXIII: The King's Gratitude. The two men were on the point of darting towards each other when they suddenly and abruptly stopped, as a mutual recognition took place, and each uttered a cry of horror. "Have you come to assassinate me, monsieur?" said the king, when he recognized Fouquet. "The king in this state!" murmured the minister. Nothing could be more terrible indeed than the appearance of the young prince at the moment Fouquet had surprised him; his clothes were in tatters; his shirt, open and torn to rags, was stained with sweat and with the blood which streamed from his lacerated breast and arms. Haggard, ghastly pale, his hair in disheveled masses, Louis XIV. presented the most perfect picture of despair, distress, anger and fear combined that could possibly be united in one figure. Fouquet was so touched, so affected and disturbed by it, that he ran towards him with his arms stretched out and his eyes filled with tears. Louis held up the massive piece of wood of which he had made such a furious use. "Sire," said Fouquet, in a voice trembling with emotion, "do you not recognize the most faithful of your friends?" "A friend - you!" repeated Louis, gnashing his teeth in a manner which betrayed his hate and desire for speedy vengeance. "The most respectful of your servants," added Fouquet, throwing himself on his knees. The king let the rude weapon fall from his grasp. Fouquet approached him, kissed his knees, and took him in his arms with inconceivable tenderness. "My king, my child," he said, "how you must have suffered!" Louis, recalled to himself by the change of situation, looked at himself, and ashamed of the disordered state of his apparel, ashamed of his conduct, and ashamed of the air of pity and protection that was shown towards him, drew back. Fouquet did not understand this movement; he did not perceive that the king's feeling of pride would never forgive him for having been a witness of such an exhibition of weakness. "Come, sire," he said, "you are free." "Free?" repeated the king. "Oh! you set me at liberty, then, after having dared to lift up your hand against me." "You do not believe that!" exclaimed Fouquet, indignantly; "you cannot believe me to be guilty of such an act."
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