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"Indeed I am."
"What in the world are we to do, then?"
"We must try and make a good supper, Porthos. The captain of the musketeers keeps a tolerable table. There you will see the handsome Saint-Aignan, and will drink his health."
"I?" cried Porthos, horrified.
"What!" said D'Artagnan, "you refuse to drink the king's health?"
"But, body alive! I am not talking to you about the king at all; I am speaking of M. de Saint-Aignan."
"But when I repeat that it is the same thing?"
"Ah, well, well!" said Porthos, overcome.
"You understand, don't you?"
"No," answered Porthos, "but 'tis all the same."
Chapter LXVII. M. de Baisemeaux's "Society."
The reader has not forgotten that, on quitting the Bastile, D'Artagnan and the Comte de la Fere had left Aramis in close confabulation with Baisemeaux. When once these two guests had departed, Baisemeaux did not in the least perceive that the conversation suffered by their absence.
He used to think that wine after supper, and that of the Bastile in particular, was excellent, and that it was a stimulation quite sufficient to make any honest man talkative. But he little knew his Greatness, who was never more impenetrable that at dessert. His Greatness, however, perfectly understood M. de Baisemeaux, when he reckoned on making the governor discourse by the means which the latter regarded as efficacious. The conversation, therefore, without flagging in appearance, flagged in reality; for Baisemeaux not only had it nearly all to himself, but further, kept speaking only of that singular event, the incarceration of Athos, followed by so prompt an order to set him again at liberty. Nor, moreover, had Baisemeaux failed to observe that the two orders of arrest and of liberation, were both in the king's hand. But then, the king would not take the trouble to write similar orders except under pressing circ.u.mstances. All this was very interesting, and, above all, very puzzling to Baisemeaux; but as, on the other hand, all this was very clear to Aramis, the latter did not attach to the occurrence the same importance as did the worthy governor.
Besides, Aramis rarely put himself out of the way for anything, and he had not yet told M. de Baisemeaux for what reason he had now done so.
And so at the very climax of Baisemeaux's dissertation, Aramis suddenly interrupted him.
"Tell me, my dear Baisemeaux," said he, "have you never had any other diversions at the Bastile than those at which I a.s.sisted during the two or three visits I have had the honor to pay you?"
This address was so unexpected that the governor, like a vane which suddenly receives an impulsion opposed to that of the wind, was quite dumbfounded at it. "Diversions!" said he; "but I take them continually, monseigneur."
"Oh, to be sure! And these diversions?"
"Are of every kind."
"Visits, no doubt?"
"No, not visits. Visits are not frequent at the Bastile."
"What, are visits rare, then?"
"Very much so."
"Even on the part of your society?"
"What do you term my society--the prisoners?"
"Oh, no!--your prisoners, indeed! I know well it is you who visit them, and not they you. By your society, I mean, my dear Baisemeaux, the society of which you are a member."
Baisemeaux looked fixedly at Aramis, and then, as if the idea which had flashed across his mind were impossible, "Oh," he said, "I have very little society at present. If I must own it to you, dear M. d'Herblay, the fact is, to stay at the Bastile appears, for the most part, distressing and distasteful to persons of the gay world. As for the ladies, it is never without a certain dread, which costs me infinite trouble to allay, that they succeed in reaching my quarters. And, indeed, how should they avoid trembling a little, poor things, when they see those gloomy dungeons, and reflect that they are inhabited by prisoners who--" And in proportion as the eyes of Baisemeaux concentrated their gaze on the face of Aramis, the worthy governor's tongue faltered more and more until it ended by stopping altogether.
"No, you don't understand me, my dear M. Baisemeaux; you don't understand me. I do not at all mean to speak of society in general, but of a particular society--of _the_ society, in a word--to which you are affiliated."
Baisemeaux nearly dropped the gla.s.s of muscat which he was in the act of raising to his lips. "Affiliated," cried he, "affiliated!"
"Yes, affiliated, undoubtedly," repeated Aramis, with the greatest self-possession. "Are you not a member of a secret society, my dear M.
"Secret or mysterious."
"Oh, M. d'Herblay!"
"Consider, now, don't deny it."
"But believe me."
"I believe what I know."
"I swear to you."
"Listen to me, my dear M. Baisemeaux; I say yes, you say no; one of us two necessarily says what is true, and the other, it inevitably follows, what is false."
"Well, and then?"
"Well, we shall come to an understanding presently."
"Let us see," said Baisemeaux; "let us see."
"Now drink your gla.s.s of muscat, dear Monsieur de Baisemeaux," said Aramis. "What the devil! you look quite scared."
"No, no; not the least in the world; oh, no."
"Drink then." Baisemeaux drank, but he swallowed the wrong way.
"Well," resumed Aramis, "if, I say, you are not a member of a secret or mysterious society, which you like to call it--the epithet is of no consequence--if, I say, you are not a member of a society similar to that I wish to designate, well, then, you will not understand a word of what I am going to say. That is all."
"Oh! be sure beforehand that I shall not understand anything."
"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."