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The Regent's Daughter
by Alexandre Dumas (Pere)
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"'Parbleu!' said he, 'this good woman certainly is in league with the rabbits at Savernay. What do you say to it, Clement: would you like to go home and lose the sport?'

"'Uncle,' I replied, 'I would rather go on with you.'

"'You look pale and odd—are you afraid?'

"'I am not afraid,' said I.

"I lied, for I felt a certain shudder pass through me, which was very like fear.

"My father has since owned to me, that if it had not been for my uncle's words, which caused a certain false shame in him, he would have sent me home or given my horse to one of the servants; but what an example for a boy of my age, who declared himself to have no fear, and what a subject for ridicule to my uncle.

"I continued, then, to ride my pony; we reached the warren, and the chase commenced.

"While it lasted, the pleasures made us forget the prediction; but the chase over, and having started on our road home—

"'Well, Clement,' said my uncle, 'still on your pony; you are a brave boy.'

"My father and I both laughed; we were then crossing a plain as flat and even as this room—no obstacles in the way, nothing that could frighten a horse, yet at that moment my pony gave a bound which shook me from my seat, then he reared violently, and threw me off; my uncle laughed, but my father became as pale as death. I did not move, and my father leaped from his horse and came to me, and found that my leg was broken.

"To describe my father's grief and the cries of the grooms would be impossible; but my uncle's despair was indescribable—kneeling by my side, removing my clothes with a trembling hand, covering me with tears and caresses, his every word was a fervent prayer. My father was obliged to console him, but to all his consolations and caresses he answered not.

"They sent for the first surgeon at Nantes, who pronounced me in great danger. My uncle begged my mother's pardon all day long; and we remarked that, during my illness, he had quite changed his mode of life; instead of drinking and hunting with the officers—instead of going on fishing expeditions, of which he was so fond—he never left my pillow.

"The fever lasted six weeks, and the illness nearly four months; but I was saved, and retained no trace of the accident. When I went out for the first time, my uncle gave me his arm; but when the walk was over, he took leave of us with tears in his eyes.

"'Where are you going, Crysogon?' asked my father in astonishment.

"'I made a vow,' replied the good man, 'that if our child recovered, I would turn Carthusian, and I go to fulfill it.'

"This was a new grief. My father and my mother shed tears; I hung on my uncle's neck, and begged him not to leave us; but the viscount was a man who never broke a promise or a resolution. Our tears and prayers were vain.

"'My brother,' said he, 'I did not know that God sometimes deigns to reveal Himself to man in acts of mystery. I doubted, and deserve to be punished; besides, I do not wish to lose my salvation in the pleasures of this life.'

"At these words the viscount embraced me again, mounted his horse, and disappeared. He went to the Carthusian monastery at Morlaix. Two years afterward, fasts, macerations, and grief had made of this bon vivant, this joyous companion, this devoted friend, a premature skeleton. At the end of three years he died, leaving me all his wealth."

"Diable! what a frightful tale," said Du Couedic; "but the old woman forgot to tell you that breaking your leg would double your fortune."

"Listen," said Pontcalec, more gravely than ever.

"Ah! it is not finished," said Talhouet.

"We are only at the commencement."

"Continue, we are listening."

"You have all heard of the strange death of the Baron de Caradec, have you not?"

"Our old college friend at Nantes," said Montlouis, "who was found murdered ten years ago in the forest of Chateaubriant?"

"Yes. Now listen; but remember that this is a secret which till this moment has been only known to me, and which even now must go no further than ourselves."

The three Bretons, who were deeply interested, gave the required promises.

"Well," said Pontcalec, "this college friendship of which Montlouis speaks had undergone some change between Caradec and myself, on account of a rivalry. We loved the same woman, and I was loved by her.

"One day I determined to hunt the stag in the forest of Chateaubriant; my dogs and huntsmen had been sent out the day before, and I was on my way to the rendezvous, when, on the road before me, I saw an enormous fagot walking along. This did not surprise me, for our peasants carry such enormous fagots, that they quite disappear under their load; but this fagot appeared from behind to move alone. Soon it stopped; an old woman, turning round, showed her face to me. As I approached, I could not take my eyes off her, for I recognized the sorceress of Savernay, who had predicted the misfortune caused by my white pony.

"My first impulse, I confess, was to take another road, and avoid the prophetess of evil; but she had already seen me, and she seemed to wait for me with a smile full of malice. I was ten years older than when her first threat had frightened me. I was ashamed to go back.

"'Good-day, Viscount de Pontcalec,' said she; 'how is the Marquis de Guer?'

"'Well, good woman; and I shall be quite easy about him, if you will assure me that nothing will happen to him during my absence.'

"'Ah! ah!' said she laughing; 'you have not forgotten the plains of Savernay. You have a good memory, viscount; but yet, if I gave you some advice, you would not follow it any more than the first time. Man is blind.'

"'And what is your advice?'

"'Not to go hunting to-day.'

"'Why not?'

"'And to return at once to Pontcalec.'

"'I cannot; I have a rendezvous with some friends at Chateaubriant.'

"'So much the worse, viscount, for blood will be spilled.'

"'Mine?'

"'Yours, and another's.'

"'Bah! are you mad?'

"'So said your uncle Crysogon. How is he?'

"'Do you not know that he died seven years ago at Morlaix?'

"'Poor fellow!' said the woman, 'like you, he would not believe: at length he beheld, but it was too late.'

"I shuddered involuntarily; but a false shame whispered that it would be cowardly to give way, and that doubtless the fulfillment of the pretended witch's former prediction had been but a chance.

"'Ah! I see that a former experience has not made you wiser, my fine fellow,' said she. 'Well, go to Chateaubriant then, since you must have it so, but at least send back that handsome hunting-knife.'

"'And with what will monsieur cut the stag's foot?' asked the servant who followed me.

"'With your knife,' said the old woman.

"'That stag is a royal animal,' replied the servant, 'and deserves a hunting-knife.'

"'Besides,' said I, 'you said my blood would flow. What means that?—I shall be attacked, and if so, I shall want it to defend myself.'

"'I do not know what it means,' replied the old woman; 'but I do know, that in your place, my brave gentleman, I would listen to a poor old woman, and that I would not go to Chateaubriant; or, if I did go, it would be without my hunting-knife.'

"'Do not listen to the old witch, monsieur,' said the servant, who was doubtless afraid to take the fatal weapon.

"If I had been alone, I should have returned; but before my servant I did not like to do so.

"'Thank you, my good, woman,' said I, 'but really I do not see what reason there is for not going to Chateaubriant. As to my knife, I shall keep it; if I be attacked, I must have a weapon to defend myself.'

"'Go, then, and defend yourself,' said the old woman, shaking her head; 'we cannot escape our destiny.'

"I heard no more. I urged my horse to a gallop; but, turning a corner, I saw that the old woman had resumed her route, and I lost sight of her.

"An hour after I was in the forest of Chateaubriant; and I met you, Montlouis and Talhouet, for you were both of the party."

"It is true," said Talhouet, "and I began to understand."

"And I," said Montlouis.

"But I know nothing of it," said Du Couedic; "so pray continue, Pontcalec."

"Our dogs started the deer, and we set off in pursuit; but we were not the only hunters in the forest—at a distance we heard the sound of another pack, which gradually approached; soon the two crossed, and some of my dogs by mistake went after the wrong deer. I ran after them to stop them, which separated me from you. You followed the rest of our pack; but some one had forestalled me. I heard the howls of my dogs under the lash of a whip; I redoubled my pace, and found the Baron de Caradec striking them. I told you there were causes of dislike between us, which only needed an opportunity to burst out. I asked him why he struck my dogs. His reply was haughtier than my question. We were alone—we were both twenty years of age—we were rivals—each was armed. We drew our knives—threw ourselves one upon the other, and Caradec fell from his horse, pierced through the body. To tell you what I felt when I saw him, bleeding and writhing in agony, would be impossible; I spurred my horse, and darted through the forest like a madman.

"I heard the voices of the hunters, and I arrived, one of the first, but I remember—do you remember it, Montlouis?—that you asked me why I was so pale."

"I do," said Montlouis.

"Then I remembered the advice of the sorceress, and reproached myself bitterly for neglecting it. This solitary and fatal duel seemed to me like an assassination. Nantes and its environs became insupportable to me, for every day I heard of the murder of Caradec. It is true that no one suspected me, but the secret voice of my conscience spoke so loud that twenty times I was on the point of denouncing myself.

"Then I left Nantes and went to Paris, but not until I had searched for the sorceress; not knowing either her name or her residence, I could not find her."

"It is strange," said Talhouet; "and have you ever seen her since?"

"Wait," said Pontcalec, "and listen, for now comes the terrible part. This winter—or rather last autumn—I say winter, because there was snow falling, though it was only in November—I was returning from Guer, and had ordered a halt at Pontcalec-des-Aulnes, after a day during which I had been shooting snipes in the marshes with two of my tenants. We arrived, benumbed with cold, at the rendezvous, and found a good fire and supper awaiting us.

"As I entered, and received the salutations and compliments of my people, I perceived in the chimney-corner an old woman wrapped in a large gray-and-black cloak, who appeared to be asleep.

"'Who is that?' I asked of the farmer, and trembling involuntarily.

"'An old beggar, whom I do not know, and she looks like a witch,' said he; 'but she was perishing with cold, hunger and fatigue. She came begging; I told her to come in, and gave her a piece of bread, which she eat while she warmed herself, and now she has gone to sleep.'

"The figure moved slightly in its corner.

"'What has happened to you, Monsieur le Marquis,' asked the farmer's wife, 'that you are so wet, and that your clothes are splashed with mud up to the shoulder?'

"'You nearly had to dine without me, my good Martine,' I replied, 'although this repast and this fire were prepared for me.'——"'Truly!' cried the good woman, alarmed.

"'Ah! monsieur had a narrow escape!' said the farmer.

"'How so, my good lord?'

"'You know your marshes are full of bogs; I ventured without sounding the ground, and all at once I felt that I was sinking in; so that, had it not been for my gun, which I held across, enabling your husband to come and pull me out, I should have been smothered, which is not only a cruel but a stupid death.'

"'Oh, monsieur,' said the wife, 'pray do not expose yourself in this way!'

"'Let him alone,' said the sepulchral voice of the figure crouched in the chimney-corner; 'he will not die thus; I foretell that.'

"And, lowering the hood of her gray cloak, she showed me the face of that woman who had twice crossed my path with sad prediction.

"I remained motionless and petrified.

"'You recognize me?' she asked, without moving.

"I made a sign of assent, but had not really the courage to reply. All gathered in a circle round us.

"'No, no,' continued she; 'be easy, Marquis de Guer; you will not die thus.'

"'How do you know?' I stammered out, with a conviction, however, that she did know.

"'I cannot tell you, for I do not know myself; but you know well that I do not make mistakes.'

"'And how shall I die?' asked I, making an effort over myself to ask this question and to listen to her reply.

"'You will die by the sea. Beware of the water, Marquis de Guer!' she replied.

"'How?' asked I. 'What do you mean?'

"'I have spoken, and cannot explain further, marquis; but again I say, Beware of the water!'

"All the peasants looked frightened; some muttered prayers, others crossed themselves; the old woman returned to her corner, buried herself again in her cloak, and did not speak another syllable.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE ARREST.

"The details of this affair may some day escape my memory, but the impression it made will never be effaced. I had not the shadow of a doubt; and this prediction took the aspect of a reality, as far as I was concerned. Yes," continued Pontcalec, "even though you should laugh, like my Uncle Crysogon, you would never change my opinion, or take away from me the conviction that the prediction will be realized; therefore, I tell you, were it true that we are pursued by Dubois's exempts—were there a boat ready to take us to Belle Isle to escape them, so convinced am I that the sea will be fatal to me, and that no other death has any power over me, that I would give myself up to my pursuers, and say, 'Do your worst; I shall not die by your hands.'"

The three Bretons had listened in silence to this strange declaration, which gathered solemnity from the circumstances in which they stood.

"Then," said Du Couedic, after a pause, "we understand your courage, my friend; believing yourself destined to one sort of death, you are indifferent to all other danger; but take care, if the anecdote were known, it would rob you of all merit; not in our eyes, for we know what you really are; but others would say that you entered this conspiracy because you can neither be beheaded, shot, nor killed by the dagger, but that it would have been very different if conspirators were drowned."

"And perhaps they would speak the truth," said Pontcalec, smiling.

"But, my dear marquis," said Montlouis, "we, who have not the same grounds for security, should, I think, pay some attention to the advice of our unknown friend, and leave Nantes, or even France, as soon as possible."

"But this may be wrong," said Pontcalec; "and I do not believe our projects are known at Nantes or elsewhere."

"And probably nothing will be known till Gaston has done his work," said Talhouet, "and then we shall have nothing to fear but enthusiasm, and that does not kill. As to you, Pontcalec, never approach a seaport, never go to sea, and you will live to the age of Methuselah!"

The conversation might have continued in this jocular strain; but at this moment several gentlemen, with whom they had appointed a meeting, came in by different secret ways, and in different costumes.

It was not that they had much to fear from the provincial police—that of Nantes, though Nantes was a large town, was not sufficiently well organized to alarm conspirators, who had in the locality the influence of name and social position—but the police of Paris—the regent's police, or that of Dubois—sent down spies, who were easily detected by their ignorance of the place, and the difference of their dress and speech.

Though this Breton association was numerous, we shall only occupy ourselves with its four chiefs, who were beyond all the others in name, fortune, courage, and intelligence.

They discussed a new edict of Montesquieu's, and the necessity of arming themselves in case of violence on the marshal's part: thus it was nothing less than the beginning of a civil war, for which the pretexts were the impiety of the regent's court and Dubois's sacrileges; pretexts which would arouse the anathemas of an essentially religious province, against a reign so little worthy to succeed that of Louis XIV.

Pontcalec explained their plan, not suspecting that at that moment Dubois's police had sent a detachment to each of their dwellings, and that an exempt was even then on the spot with orders to arrest them. Thus all who had taken part in the meeting, saw, from afar, the bayonets of soldiers at their houses: and thus, being forewarned, they might probably escape by a speedy flight; they might easily find retreats among their numerous friends: many of them might gain the coast, and escape to Holland, Spain, or England.

Pontcalec, Du Couedic, Montlouis, and Talhouet, as usual, went out together; but, on arriving at the end of the street where Montlouis's house was situated, they perceived lights crossing the windows of the apartments, and a sentinel barring the door with his musket.

"Oh," said Montlouis, stopping his companions, "what is going on at my house?"

"Indeed, there is something," said Talhouet; "and just now I fancied I saw a sentinel at the Hotel de Rouen."

"Why did you not say so?" asked Du Couedic, "it was surely worth mentioning."

"Oh, I was afraid of appearing an alarmist, and I thought it might be only a patrol."

"But this man belongs to the regiment of Picardy," said Montlouis, stepping back.

"It is strange," said Pontcalec; "let me go up the lane which leads to my house—if that also be guarded, there will be no further doubt."

Keeping together, in case of an attack, they went on silently till they saw a detachment of twenty men grouped round Pontcalec's house.

"This passes a joke," said Du Couedic, "and unless our houses have all caught fire at once, I do not understand these uniforms around them; as to me, I shall leave mine, most certainly."

"And I," said Talhouet, "shall be off to Saint-Nazaire, and from thence to Le Croisic; take my advice and come with me. I know a brig about to start for Newfoundland, and the captain is a servant of mine; if the air on shore becomes too bad, we will embark, set sail, and vogue la galeres; come, Pontcalec, forget your old witch and come with us."

"No, no," said Pontcalec, "I will not rush on my fate; reflect, my friends; we are the chiefs, and we should set a strange example by flying before we even know if a real danger exists. There is no proof against us. La Jonquiere is incorruptible; Gaston is intrepid; our letters from him say that all will soon be over; perhaps, at this very moment, France may be delivered and the regent dead. What would be thought of us if, at such a time, we had taken flight? the example of our desertion would ruin everything here. Consider it well; I do not command you as a chief, but I counsel you as a friend; you are not obliged to obey, for I free you from your oath, but in your place I would not go. We have given an example of devotion; the worst that can happen to us is to give that of martyrdom; but this will not, I hope, be the case. If we are arrested, the Breton parliament will judge us. Of what is it composed?—of our friends and accomplices. We are safer in a prison of which they hold the key, than on a vessel at the mercy of the winds; besides, before the parliament has assembled, all Bretagne will be in arms; tried, we are absolved; absolved, we are triumphant!"

"He is right," said Talhouet; "my uncle, my brothers, all my family are compromised with me. I shall save myself with them, or die with him."

"My dear Talhouet," said Montlouis, "all this is very fine; but I have a worse opinion of this affair than you have. If we are in the hands of any one, it is Dubois, who is not a gentleman, and hates those who are. I do not like these people who belong to no class—who are neither nobles, soldiers, nor priests. I like better a true gentleman, a soldier, or a monk: at least they are all supported by the authority of their profession. However, I appeal, as we generally do, to the majority; but I confess, that if it be for flight, I shall fly most willingly."

"And I," said Du Couedic; "Montesquieu may be better informed than we suppose; and if it be Dubois who holds us in his clutches, we shall have some difficulty in freeing ourselves."

"And I repeat, we must remain," said Pontcalec; "the duty of a general is to remain at the head of his soldiers; the duty of the chief of a conspiracy is to die at the head of the plot."

"My dear friend," said Montlouis, "your sorceress blinds you; to gain credence for her prediction, you are ready to drown yourself intentionally. I am less enthusiastic about this pythoness, I confess; and as I do not know what kind of death is in store for me, I am somewhat uneasy."

"You are mistaken, Montlouis," said Pontcalec, "it is duty above all which influences me, and besides, if I do not die for this, you will not, for I am your chief, and certainly before the judges I should reclaim the title which I have abjured to-day. If I do not die by Dubois, neither will you. We soldiers, and afraid to pay an official visit to parliament, for that is it, after all, and nothing else; benches covered with black robes—smiles of intelligence between the accused and the judge: it is a battle with the regent; let us accept it, and when parliament shall absolve us, we shall have done as well as if we had put to flight all the troops in Bretagne."

"Montlouis proposed to refer it to a majority," said Du Couedic, "let us do so."

"I did not speak from fear," said Montlouis; "but I do not see the use of walking into the lion's mouth if we can muzzle him."

"That was unnecessary, Montlouis," said Pontcalec; "we all know you, and we accept your proposition. Let those who are for flight hold up their hands."

Montlouis and Du Couedic raised their hands.

"We are two and two," said Montlouis; "we must, then, trust to inspiration."

"You forget," said Pontcalec, "that, as president, I have two votes."

"It is true."

"Let those, then, who are for remaining here hold up their hands."

Pontcalec and Talhouet raised their hands; thus the majority was fixed.

This deliberation in the open street might have seemed absurd, had it not involved in its results the question of life or death to four of the noblest gentlemen in Bretagne.

"Well," said Montlouis, "it appears, Du Couedic, that we were wrong: and now, marquis, we obey your orders."

"See what I do," said Pontcalec, "and then do as you like."

And he walked straight up to his house, followed by his three friends.

Arriving at the door, he tapped a soldier on the shoulder.

"My friend," said he, "call your officer, I beg."

The soldier passed the order to the sergeant, who called the captain.

"What do you want?" asked the latter.——"I want to come into my house."

"Who are you?"

"I am the Marquis de Pontcalec."

"Silence!" said the officer, in a low voice, "and fly instantly—I am here to arrest you." Then aloud, "You cannot pass," said he, pushing back the marquis, and closing in his soldiers before him.

Pontcalec took the officer's hand, pressed it, and said:

"You are a brave fellow, but I must go in. I thank you, and may God reward you!"

The officer, surprised, opened his ranks, and Pontcalec, followed by his friends, crossed the court. On seeing him, his family uttered cries of terror.

"What is it?" asked the marquis, calmly; "and what is going on here?"

"I arrest you, Monsieur le Marquis," said an exempt of the provost of Paris.

"Pardieu! what a fine exploit!" said Montlouis; "and you seem a clever fellow—you, a provost's exempt, and absolutely those whom you are sent to arrest are obliged to come and take you by the collar."

The exempt saluted this gentleman, who joked so pleasantly at such a time, and asked his name.

"I am Monsieur de Montlouis. Look, my dear fellow, if you have not got an order against me, too—if you have, execute it."

"Monsieur," said the exempt, bowing lower as he became more astonished, "it is not I, but my comrade, Duchevon, who is charged to arrest you; shall I tell him?"——"Where is he?"

"At your house, waiting for you."

"I should be sorry to keep you waiting long," said Montlouis, "and I will go to him. Thanks, my friend."

The exempt was bewildered.

Montlouis pressed Pontcalec's hand and those of the others; then, whispering a few words to them, he set out for his house, and was arrested.

Talhouet and Du Couedic did the same; so that by eleven at night the work was over.

The news of the arrest ran through the town, but every one said, "The parliament will absolve them."

The next day, however, their opinions changed, for there arrived from Nantes the commission, perfectly constituted, and wanting, as we have said, neither president, procureur du roi, secretary, nor even executioners. We use the plural, for there were three.

The bravest men are sometimes stupefied by great misfortune. This fell on the province with the power and rapidity of a thunderstroke; it made no cry, no movement; Bretagne expired.

The commission installed itself at once, and expected that, in consideration of its powers, people would bow before it rather than give offense; but the terror was so great, that each one thought of themselves alone, and merely deplored the fate of the others.

This, then, was the state of affairs in Bretagne three or four days after the arrest of Pontcalec and his three friends. Let us leave them awhile at Nantes, in Dubois's toils, and see what was passing in Paris.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE BASTILLE.

And now, with the reader's permission, we will enter the Bastille—that formidable building at which even the passing traveler trembled, and which, to the whole neighborhood, was an annoyance and cause of alarm; for often at night the cries of the unfortunate prisoners who were under torture might be heard piercing the thick walls, so much so, that the Duchesse de Lesdequieres once wrote to the governor, that, if he did not prevent his patients from making such a noise, she should complain to the king.

At this time, however, under the reign of Philippe d'Orleans, there were no cries to be heard; the society was select, and too well bred to disturb the repose of a lady.

In a room in the Du Coin tower, on the first floor, was a prisoner alone; the room was large, and resembled an immense tomb lighted by two windows, furnished with an unusual allowance of bars and irons. A painted couch, two rough wooden chairs, and a black table, were the whole furniture; the walls were covered with strange inscriptions, which the prisoner consulted from time to time when he was overcome by ennui.



He had, however, been but one day in the Bastille, and yet already he paced his vast chamber, examining the iron-barred doors, looking through the grated windows, listening, sighing, waiting. This day, which was Sunday, a pale sun silvered the clouds, and the prisoner watched, with a feeling of inexpressible melancholy, the walkers on the Boulevards. It was easy to see that every passer-by looked at the Bastille with a feeling of terror, and of self-gratulation at not being within its walls. A noise of bolts and creaking hinges drew the prisoner from this sad occupation, and he saw the man enter before whom he had been taken the day before. This man, about thirty years of age, with an agreeable appearance and polite bearing, was the governor, M. de Launay, father of that De Launay who died at his post in '89.

The prisoner, who recognized him, did not know how rare such visits were.

"Monsieur de Chanlay," said the governor, bowing, "I come to know if you have passed a good night, and are satisfied with the fare of the house and the conduct of the employes"—thus M. de Launay, in his politeness, called the turnkeys and jailers.

"Yes, monsieur; and these attentions paid to a prisoner have surprised me, I own."

"The bed is hard and old, but yet it is one of the best; luxury being forbidden by our rules. Your room, monsieur, is the best in the Bastille; it has been occupied by the Duc d'Angouleme, by the Marquis de Bassompierre, and by the Marshals de Luxembourg and Biron; it is here that I lodge the princes when his majesty does me the honor to send them to me."

"It is an excellent lodging," said Gaston, smiling, "though ill furnished; can I have some books, some paper, and pens?"

"Books, monsieur, are strictly forbidden; but if you very much wish to read, as many things are allowed to a prisoner who is ennuye, come and see me, then you can put in your pocket one of those volumes which my wife or I leave about; you will hide it from all eyes; on a second visit you will take the second volume, and to this abstraction we will close our eyes."

"And paper, pens, ink?" said Gaston, "I wish most particularly to write."

"No one writes here, monsieur; or, at least, only to the king, the regent, the minister, or to me; but they draw, and I can let you have drawing-paper and pencils."

"Monsieur, how can I thank you sufficiently for your kindness?"

"By granting me the request I came to make, for my visit is an interested one. I came to ask if you would do me the honor to dine with me to-day?"

"With you, monsieur! truly, you surprise me; however, I cannot tell you how sensible I am of your courtesy, and should retain for it an everlasting gratitude if I had any prospect but death before my eyes."

"Death! monsieur, you are gloomy; you should not think of these things—forget them and accept—"

"I do, monsieur."

"A la bonne heure," said the governor, bowing to Gaston, "I will take back your answer;" and he went out, leaving the prisoner plunged in a new train of ideas.

The politeness which at first charmed the chevalier, on reflection began to arouse some suspicion. Might it not be intended to inspire him with confidence, and lead him on to betray himself and his companions; he remembered the tragic chronicle of the Bastille, the snares laid for prisoners, and that famous dungeon chamber so much spoken of, which none who had entered ever left alive. Gaston felt himself alone and abandoned. He also felt that the crime he had meditated deserved death; did not all these flattering and strange advances conceal some snare? In fact, the Bastille had done its ordinary work; the prison acted on the prisoner, who became cold, suspicious, and uneasy.

"They take me for a provincial," he thought, "and they hope that—prudent in my interrogatories—I shall be imprudent in my conduct; they do not, they cannot, know my accomplices; and they hope that in giving me the means of communicating with them, of writing to them, or of inadvertently speaking of them, they will get something out of me. Dubois and D'Argenson are at the bottom of this."

Then Gaston thought of his friends who were waiting for him without news from him, who would not know what had become of him, or, worse still, on some false news, might act and ruin themselves.

Then came the thought of his poor Helene, isolated, as he himself was, whom he had not even presented to the Duc d'Olivares, her sole protector for the future, and who might himself be arrested or have taken flight. Then, what would become of Helene, without support, and pursued by that unknown person, who had sought her even in the heart of Bretagne?

In a paroxysm of despair at this thought, Gaston threw himself on his bed, cursing the doors and bars which imprisoned him, and striking the stones with his hands.

At this moment there was a noise at the door. Gaston rose hastily, and met D'Argenson with a law officer, and behind them an imposing escort of soldiers. He understood that he was to be interrogated.

D'Argenson, with his great wig, large black eyes, and dark shaggy eyebrows, made little impression on the chevalier; he knew that in joining the conspiracy he sacrificed his happiness, and that in entering the Bastille he had sacrificed his life. In this mood, it was difficult to frighten him. D'Argenson asked a hundred questions which Gaston refused to answer, replying only by complaints of being unjustly arrested, and demanding proof. M. d'Argenson became angry, and Gaston laughed in his face; then D'Argenson spoke of the Breton conspiracy; Gaston assumed astonishment, and listened to the list of his accomplices with the greatest sangfroid. When the magistrate had finished, he thanked him for giving him intelligence of events which were quite new to him. D'Argenson again lost patience, and gave his ordinary angry cough. Then he passed from interrogatory to accusation.

"You wanted to kill the regent," said he, all at once, to the chevalier.

"How do you know that?" asked Gaston, calmly.

"Never mind how, since I know it."

"Then I will answer you as Agamemnon did Achilles. Why ask, since you know it?"

"Monsieur, I am not jesting," said D'Argenson.

"Nor I," said Gaston; "I only quote Racine."

"Take care, monsieur, you may find this system of defense do you no good."

"Do you think it would be better to confess what you ask me?"

"It is useless to deny a fact which I am aware of."

"Then permit me to repeat my question: what is the use of asking me about a project of which apparently you are so much better informed than I am?"

"I want the details."

"Ask your police, which reads even people's most secret thoughts."

"Hum, hum," said D'Argenson, in a tone which, in spite of Gaston's courage, made some impression on him, "what would you say if I asked news of your friend La Jonquiere?"

"I should say," replied Gaston, turning pale, "that I hope the same mistake has not been made about him as about me."

"Ah!" said D'Argenson, "that name touches you, I think—you know M. la Jonquiere?"

"I know him as a friend, recommended to me to show me Paris."

"Yes—Paris and its environs; the Palais Royal, the Rue du Bac, or La Muette: he was to show you all these, was he not?"

"They know all," thought Gaston.

"Well, monsieur," said D'Argenson, "can you find another verse from Racine which will serve as an answer to my question?"

"Perhaps I might, if I knew what you meant; certainly I wished to see the Palais Royal, for it is a curious place, and I have heard it much spoken of. As to the Rue du Bac, I know little of it; then there only remains La Muette, of which I know nothing."

"I do not say that you have been there; I say that La Jonquiere was to take you there—do you dare to deny it."

"Ma foi, monsieur, I neither deny nor avow; I refer you to him; he will answer you if he think fit."

"It is useless, monsieur; he has been asked, and has replied."

Gaston felt a shudder pass through him. He might be betrayed, but he would divulge nothing. He kept silence.

D'Argenson waited a moment, then, seeing that Gaston remained silent—

"Would you like to meet La Jonquiere?" asked he.

"You can do with me as you please, monsieur," said Gaston; "I am in your hands."

But at the same time he resolved, if he were to face La Jonquiere, he would crush him beneath his contempt.

"It is well. As you say, I am the master, and I choose just now to apply the ordinary and extraordinary question: Do you know what they are, monsieur?" said D'Argenson, leaning on each syllable.

A cold sweat bathed Gaston's temples, not that he feared to die, but torture was worse than death. A victim of the torture was always disfigured or crippled, and the best of these alternatives was a cruel one for a young man of five and twenty.

D'Argenson saw, as in a mirror, what was passing in Gaston's mind.

"Hola!" said the interrogator.

Two men entered.

"Here is a gentleman who seems to have no dislike to the question ordinary or extraordinary. Take him to the room."

"It is the dark hour, the hour I expected," murmured Gaston. "Oh, my God! give me courage."

Doubtless his prayer was heard, for, making a sign that he was ready, he followed the guards with a firm step.

D'Argenson came behind him.

They descended the stone staircase and passed the first dungeon in the tower. There they crossed two courts. As they crossed the second court, some prisoners, looking through their windows and seeing a gentleman well dressed, called out:

"Hola! monsieur, you are set free then?"

A woman's voice added:

"Monsieur, if you are asked about us when you are free from here, say that we said nothing."

A young man's voice said:

"You are happy, monsieur—you will see her you love."

"You are mistaken, monsieur," said the chevalier. "I am about to suffer the question."

A terrible silence succeeded. Then the sad procession went over the drawbridge, Gaston was placed in a closed and locked chair and taken to the arsenal, which was separated from the Bastille by a narrow passage.

D'Argenson had taken the lead, and awaited the prisoner, who found himself in a low room covered with damp. On the wall hung chains, collars, and other strange instruments; chafing dishes stood on the ground, and crosses of Saint Andre were in the corner.

"You see this," said D'Argenson, showing the chevalier two rings fastened into flagstones at six feet apart, and separated by a wooden bench about three feet high; "in these rings are placed the head and feet of the patient; then this tressel is placed under him, so that his stomach is two feet higher than his mouth; then we pour pots of water holding two pints each into his mouth. The number is fixed at eight for the ordinary, ten for the extraordinary question. If the patient refuses to swallow, we pinch his nose so that he cannot breathe; then he opens his mouth, then he swallows. This question," continued he, emphasizing every detail, "is very disagreeable, and yet I do not think I should prefer the boot. Both kill sometimes; the boot disfigures the patient, and it is true that the water destroys his health for the future; but it is rare, for the prisoner always speaks at the ordinary question if he be guilty, and generally at the extraordinary, if he be not."

Gaston, pale and silent, listened and watched.

"Do you prefer the wedges, chevalier? Here, bring the wedges."

A man brought six wedges and showed them, still stained with blood and flattened at the edges by the blows which had been struck upon them.

"Do you know the way in which these are used? The knees and ankles of the patient are pressed between two wooden slabs as tightly as possible, then one of these men forces a wedge between the knees, which is followed by a larger one. There are eight for the ordinary torture, and two larger for the extraordinary. These wedges, I warn you, chevalier, break bones like glass, and wound the flesh insupportably."

"Enough, enough," said Gaston, "unless you wish to double the torture by describing it; but, if it be only to guide my choice, I leave it to you, as you must know them better than I, and I shall be grateful if you will choose the one which will kill me most quickly."

D'Argenson could not conceal the admiration with which Gaston's strength of will inspired him.

"Come," said he, "speak, and you shall not be tortured."

"I have nothing to say, monsieur, so I cannot."

"Do not play the Spartan, I advise you. One may cry, but between the cries one always speaks under torture."

"Try," said Gaston.

Gaston's resolute air, in spite of the struggle of nature—a struggle which was evidenced by his paleness, and by a slight nervous tremor which shook him—gave D'Argenson the measure of his courage. He was accustomed to this kind of thing, and was rarely mistaken. He saw that he should get nothing out of him, yet he persisted.

"Come, monsieur," said he, "it is still time. Do not force us to do you any violence."

"Monsieur," said Gaston, "I swear before God who hears me, that if you put me to the torture, instead of speaking, I will hold my breath, and stifle myself, if the thing be possible. Judge, then, if I am likely to yield to threats, where I am determined not to yield to pain."

D'Argenson signed to the tormentors, who approached Gaston; but, as they did so, he seemed to gain new strength. With a calm smile, he helped them to remove his coat and to unfasten his cuffs.

"It is to be the water, then?" asked the man.

"The water first," said D'Argenson.

They passed the cords through the rings, brought the tressels, filled the vases—Gaston did not flinch.

D'Argenson reflected.

After about ten minutes' thought, which seemed an age to the chevalier—

"Let him go," said D'Argenson, with a grunt of discontent, "and take him back to the Bastille."



CHAPTER XXVI.

HOW LIFE PASSED IN THE BASTILLE WHILE WAITING FOR DEATH.

Gaston was inclined to thank the lieutenant of police, but he refrained. It might appear as though he had been afraid. He took his hat and coat, and returned to the Bastille as he had come.

"They did not like to put a man of high birth to the torture," thought he; "they will try me and condemn me to death."

But death seemed easy when divested of the preliminary agonies which the lieutenant of police had so minutely described.

On re-entering his room, Gaston saw, almost with joy, all that had seemed so horrible to him an hour before. The prison seemed gay, the view charming, the saddest inscriptions on the walls were madrigals compared to the menacing appearance of the room he had just quitted.

The major of the Bastille came to fetch him about an hour afterward, accompanied by a turnkey.

"I understand," thought Gaston; "the governor's invitation is a pretext, in such a case, to take from the prisoner the anguish of expectation. I shall, doubtless, cross some dungeon, into which I shall fall and die. God's will be done." And, with a firm step, he followed the major, expecting every moment to be precipitated into some secret dungeon, and murmuring Helene's name, that he might die with it on his lips.

But, no accident following this poetical and loving invocation, the prisoner quietly arrived at the governor's door.

M. de Launay came to meet him.

"Will you give me your word of honor, chevalier," said he, "not to attempt to escape while you are in my house? It is understood, of course," he added, smiling, "that this parole is withdrawn as soon as you are taken back to your own room, and it is only a precaution to insure me a continuance of your society."

"I give you my word so far," said Gaston.

"'Tis well, monsieur, enter; you are expected."

And he led Gaston to a well-furnished room, where a numerous company was already assembled.

"I have the honor to present to you M. le Chevalier Gaston de Chanlay," said the governor. Then naming, in turn, each of the persons assembled—

"M. le Duc de Richelieu."

"M. le Comte de Laval."

"M. le Chevalier Dumesnil."

"M. de Malezieux."

"Ah," said Gaston, smiling, "all the Cellamare conspiracy."

"Except M. and Madame de Maine, and the Prince of Cellamare," said the Abbe Brigaud, bowing.

"Ah, monsieur," said Gaston, in a reproachful tone, "you forget the brave D'Harmental and the learned Mademoiselle de Launay."

"D'Harmental is kept in bed by his wounds," said Brigaud.

"As to Mademoiselle de Launay," said the Chevalier Dumesnil, reddening with pleasure, "here she comes; she does us the honor of dining with us."

"Present me, monsieur," said Gaston; "among prisoners we must not make ceremonies; I reckon, therefore, on you."'

And Dumesnil, taking Gaston by the hand, presented him to Mademoiselle de Launay.

Gaston could not repress a certain expression of astonishment at all he saw.

"Ah, chevalier," said the governor, "I see that, like three-quarters of the inhabitants of Paris, you thought I devoured my prisoners."

"No, monsieur," said Gaston, "but I certainly thought for a moment that I should not have had the honor of dining with you to-day."——"How so?"

"Is it the habit to give your prisoners an appetite for their dinners by the walk I have had to-day?"

"Ah, yes," cried Mademoiselle de Launay, "was it not you who were being led to the torture just now?"

"Myself, mademoiselle; and be assured that only such a hindrance would have kept me from so charming a society."

"Ah, these things are not in my jurisdiction," said the governor; "thank Heaven, I am a soldier, and not a judge. Do not confound arms and the toga, as Cicero says. My business is to keep you here, and to make your stay as agreeable as possible, so that I may have the pleasure of seeing you again. M. d'Argenson's business is to have you tortured, hanged, beheaded, put on the wheel, quartered, if possible; each to his task. Mademoiselle de Launay," added he, "dinner is ready, will you take my arm? Your pardon, Chevalier Dumesnil; you think me a tyrant, I am sure, but as host I am privileged. Gentlemen, seat yourselves."

"What a horrible thing a prison is," said Richelieu, delicately turning up his cuffs, "slavery, irons, bolts, chains."

"Shall I pass you this potage a l'ecrevisses?" said the governor.

"Yes, monsieur," said the duke, "your cook does it beautifully, and I am really annoyed that mine did not conspire with me; he might have profited by his stay in the Bastille."

"There is champagne," said De Launay, "I have it direct from Ai."

"You must give me the address," said Richelieu, "for if the regent leaves me my head, I shall drink no other wine than this. I have got accustomed to it during my sojourns here, and I am a creature of habit."

"Indeed," said the governor, "you may all take example by Richelieu; he is most faithful to me; and, in fact, unless we are overcrowded, I always keep his room ready for him."

"That tyrant of a regent may force us all to keep a room here," said Brigaud.

"Monsieur de Launay," said Laval, in an angry tone, "permit me to ask if it was by your orders that I was awoke at two o'clock this morning, and the meaning of this persecution?"

"It is not my fault, monsieur; you must blame these gentlemen and ladies, who will not keep quiet, in spite of all I tell them."

"We!" cried all the guests.

"Certainly," replied the governor, "you all break through rules; I am always having reports of communications, correspondences, notes, etc."

Richelieu laughed, Dumesnil and Mademoiselle de Launay blushed.

"But we will speak of that at dessert. You do not drink, M. de Chanlay?"

"No, I am listening."

"Say that you are dreaming; you cannot deceive me thus."

"And of what?" asked Malezieux.

"Ah, it is easy to see that you are getting old, my poetical friend; of what should M. de Chanlay dream but of his love."

"Is it not better, M. de Chanlay," cried Richelieu, "to have your head separated from your body, than your body from your soul?"

"Apropos," interrupted Laval, "is there any news from the court; how is the king?"

"No politics, gentlemen, if you please," said the governor. "Let us discuss poetry, arts, war, and even the Bastille, if you like, but let us avoid politics."

"Ah, yes," said Richelieu, "let us talk of the Bastille. What have you done with Pompadour?"

"I am sorry to say he forced me to place him in the dungeon."

"What had he done?" asked Gaston.

"He had beaten his jailer."

"How long has it been forbidden for a gentleman to beat his servant?" asked Richelieu.

"The jailers are servants of the king, M. le Duc," said De Launay, smiling.

"Say rather of the regent."

"A subtle distinction."

"A just one."

"Shall I pass you the Chambertin, M. de Laval?"

"If you will drink with me to the health of the king."

"Certainly—if afterward you will drink with me to the health of the regent."

"Monsieur," said Laval, "I am no longer thirsty."

"I believe it—you have just drunk some wine from his highness's cellar."

"From the regent's?"

"He sent it me yesterday, knowing that I was to have the pleasure of your company."

"In that case," said Brigaud, throwing the contents of his glass upon the floor, "no more poison."

"Oh!" said Malezieux, "I did not know you were such a fanatic for the good cause."

"You were wrong to spill it, abbe," said Richelieu, "I know that wine, and you will hardly find such out of the Palais Royal—if it were against your principles to drink it, you should have passed it to your neighbor, or put it back in the bottle. 'Vinum in amphoram,' said my schoolmaster."

"M. le Duc," said Brigaud, "you do not know Latin as well as Spanish."

"I know French still less, and I want to learn it."

"Oh! that would be long and tedious; better get admitted into the Academy, it would be far easier."

"And do you speak Spanish?" asked Richelieu of De Chanlay.

"Report says, monsieur, that I am here for the abuse of that tongue."

"Monsieur," said the governor, "if you return to politics I must leave the table."

"Then," said Richelieu, "tell Mademoiselle de Launay to talk mathematics; that will not frighten any one."

Mademoiselle de Launay started; she had been carrying on a conversation with Dumesnil, which had been greatly exciting the jealousy of Maison-Rouge, who was in love with her.

When dinner was over, the governor conducted each guest back to his own room, and when it came to Gaston's turn he asked M. de Launay if he could have some razors, instruments which appeared necessary in a place where such elegant company was assembled.

"Monsieur le Chevalier," said the governor, "I am distressed to refuse you a thing of which I see the necessity; but it is against the rules for any one to shave themselves unless they have special permission from the lieutenant of police—no doubt you will obtain the permission if you apply for it."

"But are those gentlemen whom I met here privileged, for they were well dressed and shaved?"

"No, they all had to ask permission; the Duc de Richelieu remained for a month with a beard like a patriarch."

"I find it difficult to reconcile such severity in detail with the liberty I have just seen."

"Monsieur, I also have my privileges, which do not extend to giving you books, razors, or pens, but which allow me to invite to my table such prisoners as I choose to favor—always supposing that it is a favor. True, it is stipulated that I shall give an account of anything which is spoken against the government, but by preventing my guests from touching on politics, I avoid the necessity of betraying them."

"Is it not feared, monsieur," said Gaston, "that this intimacy between you and your prisoners should lead to indulgences on your part, which might be contrary to the intentions of the government?"

"I know my duty, monsieur, and keep within its strict limits; I receive my orders from the court, and my guests—who know that I have nothing to do with them—bear me no ill will for them. I hope you will do the same."

"The precaution was not unnecessary," said Gaston, "for doubtless I shall not long be left in the enjoyment of the pleasure I have had to-day."

"You have doubtless some protector at court?"

"None," said Gaston.

"Then you must trust to chance, monsieur."

"I have never found it propitious."

"The more reason that it should weary of persecuting you."

"I am a Breton, and Bretons trust only in God."

"Take that as my meaning when I said chance."

Gaston retired, charmed with the manners and attentions of M. de Launay.



CHAPTER XXVII.

HOW THE NIGHT PASSED IN THE BASTILLE WHILE WAITING FOR THE DAY.

Gaston had already, on the preceding night, asked for a light, and been told that it was against the rules—this night he did not renew the request, but went quietly to bed; his morning's visit to the torture-room had given him a lesson in philosophy.

Thus, rather from youthful carelessness than from force of will or courage, he slept quietly and soundly.

He did not know how long he had slept when he was awoke by the sound of a small bell, which seemed to be in his room, although he could see neither bell nor ringer; it is true that the room was very dark, even by day, and doubly so at that hour. The bell, however, continued to sound distinctly, but with caution, as though it were afraid of being heard. Gaston thought the sound seemed to come from the chimney.

He rose, and approaching it gently, became convinced that he was right.

Presently he heard blows struck—under the floor on which he stepped—at regular intervals, with some blunt instrument.

It was evident that these were signals among the prisoners.

Gaston went to the window to raise the curtain of green serge which intercepted the rays of the moon, and in doing so he perceived an object hanging at the end of a string and swinging before the bars.

"Good," said he; "it appears that I shall have occupation, but each one in turn; regularity above all things; let us see what the bell wants, that was the first."

Gaston returned to the chimney, extended his hand, and soon felt a string, at the end of which a bell was hanging, he pulled, but it resisted.

"Good," said a voice, which came down the chimney, "you are there?"

"Yes," said Gaston; "what do you want?"

"Parbleu, I want to talk."

"Very well," said the chevalier, "let us talk."

"Are you not M. de Chanlay, with whom I had the pleasure of dining to-day?"

"Exactly so, monsieur."

"In that case I am at your service."

"And I at yours."

"Then have the goodness to tell me the state of the Bretagne affairs."

"You see they are in the Bastille."

"Good," said a voice, whose joyous tone Gaston could hear with ease.

"Pardon me," said Gaston, "but what interest have you in these affairs?"

"Why, when affairs are bad in Bretagne, they treat us well, and when they prosper we are treated badly; thus the other day, apropos of some affair, I do not know what, which they pretended was connected with ours, we were all put in the dungeon."

"Ah, diable!" said Gaston to himself, "if you do not know, I do." Then he added, aloud, "Well then, monsieur, be content, they are very bad, and that is perhaps the reason why we had the pleasure of dining together to-day."

"Eh, monsieur, are you compromised?"

"I fear so."

"Receive my excuses."

"I beg you, on the contrary, to accept mine, but I have a neighbor below who is becoming impatient, and who is striking hard enough to break the boards of my floor; permit me to reply to him."

"Do so, monsieur; if my topographical calculations are correct, it must be the Marquis de Pompadour."

"It will be difficult to ascertain."

"Not so difficult as you suppose."

"How so?"

"Does he not strike in a peculiar manner?"

"Yes; has it a meaning?"

"Certainly; it is our method of talking without direct communication."

"Have the kindness to give me the key to the vocabulary."

"It is not difficult; every letter has a rank in the alphabet."

"Decidedly."

"There are twenty-four letters."

"I have never counted them, but no doubt you are right."

"Well, one blow for a, two for b, three for c, and so on."

"I understand, but this method of communication must be somewhat lengthy, and I see a string at my window which is getting impatient—I will strike a blow or two to show my neighbor that I have heard him, and then attend to the string."

"Go, monsieur, I beg, for if I am not mistaken that string is of importance to me; but first strike three blows on the floor—in Bastille language that means patience; the prisoner will then wait for a new signal."

Gaston struck three blows with the leg of his chair, and the noise ceased.

He then went to the window.

It was not easy to reach the bars, but he at length succeeded in doing so and raising the string, which was gently pulled by some hand as a sign of acknowledgment.

Gaston drew the packet—which would scarcely pass the bars—toward him; it contained a pot of sweetmeats and a book. He saw that there was something written on the paper which covered the pot, but it was too dark to read it.

The string vibrated gently, to show that an answer was expected, and Gaston, remembering his neighbor's lesson, took a broom, which he saw in the corner, and struck three blows on the ceiling.

This, it will be remembered, meant patience.

The prisoner withdrew the string, freed from its burden.

Gaston returned to the chimney.

"Eh! monsieur," said he.

"All right, what is it?"

"I have just received, by means of a string, a pot of sweets and a book."

"Is not there something written on one of them?"

"About the book I do not know, but there is on the pot; unfortunately it is too dark to read."

"Wait," said the voice, "I will send a light."

"I thought lights were forbidden."

"Yes, but I have procured one."

"Well, then send it, for I am as impatient as you to know what is written to me." And Gaston, feeling cold, began to dress himself.

All at once he saw a light in his chimney; the bell came down again transformed into a lantern.

This transformation was effected in the most simple manner, the bell turned upside down, so as to form a vessel, into which some oil had been poured, and in the oil burned a little wick.

Gaston found this so ingenious that for a moment he forgot both the pot and the book. "Monsieur," said he to his neighbor, "may I, without indiscretion, ask you how you procured the different objects with which you fabricated this lamp?"

"Nothing more simple, monsieur; I asked for a bell, which was given me, then I saved some oil from my breakfasts and dinners, till I had a bottle full; I made wicks by unraveling one of my handkerchiefs; I picked up a pebble when I was walking in the yard; I made some tinder with burned linen; I stole some matches when I dined at the governor's: then I struck a light with a knife, which I possess; and with the aid of which I made the hole through which we correspond."

"Receive my compliments, monsieur, you are a man of great invention."

"Thank you, monsieur; will you now see what book has been sent you, and what is written on the paper of the pot of sweetmeats."

"Monsieur, the book is a Virgil."

"That is it—she promised it to me," cried the voice, in an accent of happiness which surprised the chevalier, who could not understand that a Virgil should be so impatiently expected.

"Now," said the prisoner with the bell, "pass on, I beg, to the pot of sweetmeats."

"Willingly," said Gaston, and he read:

"MONSIEUR LE CHEVALIER—I hear from the lieutenant of the prison that you occupy the room on the first floor, which has a window immediately below mine. Prisoners should aid and help each other; eat the sweetmeats, and pass the Virgil up to the Chevalier Dumesnil, whose chimney looks into the court."

"That is what is expected," said the prisoner with the bell; "I was told at dinner to-day that I should receive this message."

"Then you are the Chevalier Dumesnil?"

"Yes, monsieur, and your humble servant."

"I am yours," replied Gaston, "I have to thank you for a pot of sweetmeats, and I shall not forget my obligation."

"In that case, monsieur," replied the prisoner, "have the kindness to detach the bell, and fasten on the Virgil instead."

"But if you have not the light, you cannot read."

"Oh, I will make another lantern."

Gaston, who trusted to his neighbor's ingenuity, after the proofs he had had of it, made no further difficulties; he took the bell, which he placed in the neck of an empty bottle, and fastened on the Virgil, conscientiously replacing a letter which fell from between the leaves.

"Thank you, monsieur," said Dumesnil; "and now, if you will reply to your neighbor below?"

"You give me liberty?"

"Yes, monsieur; though presently I shall make an appeal to your good nature."

"At your orders, monsieur; you say, then, that for the letters——?"

"One blow for A.; twenty-four for Z."

"Thank you."

The chevalier struck a blow with the handle of the broom, to give notice to his neighbor that he was ready to enter into conversation with him; it was instantly answered by another blow.

At the end of half an hour the prisoners had succeeded in saying this—

"Good-evening, monsieur; what is your name?"

"Thank you, monsieur; I am the Chevalier Gaston de Chanlay."

"And I, the Marquis de Pompadour."

At this moment Gaston, looking toward the windows, saw the string shaking convulsively.

He struck three blows, to ask for patience, and returned to the chimney.

"Monsieur," said he to Dumesnil, "I beg you to remember that the string at the window seems prodigiously ennuye."

"Beg her to have patience; I will attend to her presently."

Gaston renewed the signal for patience on the ceiling, and then returned to the chimney, and the Virgil soon returned.

"Monsieur," said Dumesnil, "have the goodness to fasten the Virgil to the string; that is what she wants."

Gaston had the curiosity to see if Dumesnil had replied to Mademoiselle de Launay. He opened the Virgil; there was no letter, but some words were underlined in pencil, and Gaston read: "Meos amores," and "Carceris oblivia longa." He understood this method of correspondence, which consisted in underlining words which, placed together, made sense.

"Ah," said Gaston, fastening the book to the string, "it seems that I have become the postman."

Then he sighed deeply, remembering that he had no means of corresponding with Helene, and that she was entirely ignorant what had become of him. This gave him sympathy for the attachment of Mademoiselle de Launay and the Chevalier Dumesnil. He returned to the chimney.

"Monsieur," said he, "your letter is dispatched."

"A thousand thanks, chevalier. Now a word more, and I will leave you to sleep in peace."

"Oh, say whatever you wish, monsieur."

"Have you spoken with the prisoner below?"

"Yes."

"Who is he?"

"The Marquis de Pompadour."

"I thought so. What did he say?"

"'Good-evening,' and asked who I was; he had no time to ask more; the method of communication is not as expeditious as it is ingenious."

"You must make a hole, and then you can talk as we do."

"What with?"

"I will lend you my knife."

"Thank you."

"It will serve to amuse you, at least."

"Give it me."

"Here it is."

And the knife fell at Gaston's feet.

"Now, shall I send back the bell?"

"Yes; for my jailers might miss it to-morrow morning, and you do not want light for your conversation with Pompadour."

"No; certainly not."

And the bell was drawn up.

"Now," said the chevalier, "you must have something to drink with your sweets, and I will send you a bottle of champagne."

"Thank you," said Gaston, "do not deprive yourself of it; I do not care much for it."

"Then when you have made the hole, you shall pass it to Pompadour, who is of a very different opinion. Stay, here it is."

"Thank you, chevalier."

"Good-night."

"Good-night."

And the string ascended.

Gaston looked for the string at the window, and saw that it had disappeared.

"Ah," sighed he, "the Bastille would be a palace for me, if my poor Helene were in Mademoiselle de Launay's place."

Then he resumed a conversation with Pompadour, which lasted till three in the morning, and in which he told him that he was going to pierce a hole, that they might have more direct communication.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

A COMPANION IN THE BASTILLE.

Thus occupied, Gaston was more uneasy than ennuye; besides, he found another source of amusement. Mademoiselle de Launay, who obtained whatever she liked from the lieutenant, Maison-Rouge, provided her request were only accompanied by a sweet smile, obtained paper and pens; she had sent some to Dumesnil, who had shared them with Gaston, with whom he still communicated, and with Richelieu, with whom also he managed to correspond. Then Gaston formed the idea of making some verses to Helene.

On his part, the Chevalier Dumesnil made some for Mademoiselle de Launay, who made them in return for him, so that the Bastille was a true Parnassus. There was only Richelieu who dishonored the society by writing prose.

Time passed, as it will pass, even in the Bastille.

Gaston was asked if he would like to attend mass, and as he was deeply religious, he had assented most gladly. The next day they came to fetch him.

The mass was celebrated in a little church, having, instead of chapels, separate closets, with bulls-eye windows into the choir, so that they could only see the officiating priest at the moment of elevation, and he could not see the prisoners at all.

Gaston saw M. de Laval and the Duc de Richelieu, who had apparently come to mass for the purpose of talking, for they knelt side by side, and kept up an incessant whispering. Monsieur de Laval appeared to have some important news to communicate, and kept looking at Gaston as though he were interested in it. As neither spoke to him, however, except in the way of mere salutation, he asked no questions.

When the mass was over, the prisoners were taken back. As they crossed a dark corridor, Gaston passed a man who seemed to be an employe of the house. This man sought Gaston's hand, and slipped a paper into it, which he put quietly into his waistcoat pocket.

When he was alone in his own room he eagerly took it out. It was written on sugar paper, with the point of a sharpened coal, and contained this line—"Feign illness from ennui."

It seemed to Gaston that the writing was not unknown to him, but it was so roughly traced that it was difficult to recognize. He waited for the evening impatiently, that he might consult with the Chevalier Dumesnil.

At night Gaston told him what had passed, asking him, as he had a longer acquaintance with the Bastille, what he thought of the advice of his unknown correspondent.

"Ma foi, though I do not understand the advice, I should follow it, for it cannot hurt you; the worse that can happen is, that they may give you less to eat."

"But," said Gaston, "suppose they discover the illness to be feigned."

"Oh! as to that," replied Dumesnil, "the doctor is entirely ignorant, and will give you whatever you may ask for; perhaps they will let you walk in the garden, and that would be a great amusement."

Gaston consulted Mademoiselle de Launay, whose advice, by logic or sympathy, was the same as that of the chevalier; but she added,

"If they diet you, let me know, and I will send you chicken, sweets, and Bordeaux."

Pompadour did not reply; the hole was not yet pierced.

Gaston then played the sick man, did not eat what they sent him, relying on his neighbor's liberality. At the end of the second day M. de Launay appeared—he had been told that Gaston was eating nothing, and he found the prisoner in bed.

"Monsieur," he said, "I fear you are suffering, and have come to see you."

"You are too good, monsieur," said Gaston; "it is true that I am suffering."

"What is the matter?"

"Ma foi, monsieur, I do not know that there is any amour propre here; I am ennuye in this place."

"What, in four or five days?"

"From the first hour."

"What kind of ennui do you feel?"

"Are there several?"

"Certainly—one pines for his family."

"I have none."

"For his mistress."

Gaston sighed.

"For one's country."

"Yes," said Gaston, "it is that," seeing that he must say something.

The governor appeared to reflect.

"Monsieur," said he, "since I have been governor of the Bastille, my only agreeable moments have been those in which I have been of service to the gentlemen confided to my care by the king. I am ready to do anything for you if you will promise to be reasonable."

"I promise you, monsieur."

"I can put you in communication with one of your compatriots, or at least with a man who seems to know Bretagne perfectly."

"Is he a prisoner?"

"Like yourself."

A vague sentiment passed through Gaston's mind that it must be this man who had slipped the note into his hand. "I should be very grateful if you would do this," said he.

"Well, to-morrow you shall see him; but as I am recommended to be strict with him, you can only remain with him an hour, and as he may not quit his chamber, you must go to him."

"As you please, monsieur," said Gaston.

"Then it is decided; at five o'clock expect me or the major; but it is on one condition."

"What is it?"

"That in consideration of this distraction you will eat a little to-day."

"I will try."

Gaston eat a little chicken and drank a little wine to keep his promise.

In the evening he told Dumesnil what had passed.

"Ma foi," said he, "you are lucky; the Count de Laval had the same idea, and all he got was to be put into a room in the tower Du Tresor, where he said he was dreadfully dull, and had no amusement but speaking to the prison apothecary."

"Diable!" said Gaston, "why did you not tell me that before?"

"I had forgotten it."

This tardy recollection troubled Gaston somewhat; placed as he was between Pompadour, Dumesnil, and Mademoiselle de Launay, his position was tolerable; if he were to be removed, he would be really attacked by the malady he had feigned.

At the appointed time the major of the Bastille came, and led Gaston across several courts, and they stopped at the tower Du Tresor. Every tower had its separate name.

In the room number one was a prisoner asleep on a folding bed, with his back turned to the light; the remains of his dinner were by him on a worn-out wooden table, and his costume, torn in many places, indicated a man of low station.

"Ouais," said Gaston, "did they think that I was so fond of Bretagne, that any fellows who happened to have been born at Nismes or at Penmarch may be raised to the rank of my Pylades? No, this fellow is too ragged, and seems to eat too much; but as one must not be too capricious in prison, let us make use of the hour—I will recount my adventure to Mademoiselle de Launay, and she will put it into verse for the Chevalier Dumesnil."

Gaston was now alone with the prisoner, who yawned and turned in his bed.

"Ugh! how cold it is in this cursed Bastille," said he, rubbing his nose.

"That voice, that gesture—it is he!" said Gaston, and he approached the bed.

"What," cried the prisoner, sitting up in bed, and looking at Gaston, "you here, M. de Chanlay?"

"Captain la Jonquiere," cried Gaston.

"Myself—that is to say, I am the person you name; but my name is changed."

"To what?"——"First Tresor."

"What?"

"First Tresor. It is a custom in the Bastille for the prisoner to take the name of his room—that saves the turnkey the trouble of remembering names; however, if the Bastille be full, and two or three prisoners in the same room, they take two numbers; for example: I am first Tresor, if you were put here you would be first Tresor number two; another would be first Tresor number three—the jailers have a kind of Latin literature for this."

"Yes, I understand," said Gaston, watching La Jonquiere intently; "then you are a prisoner?"

"Parbleu, you see for yourself; I presume we are neither of us here for pleasure."

"Then we are discovered."

"I am afraid so."

"Thanks to you."

"How to me?" cried La Jonquiere, feigning surprise. "No jokes, I beg."

"You have made revelations, traitor!"

"I! come, come, young man, you are mad; you ought not to be in the Bastille, but in the Petites Maisons."

"Do not deny it, M. d'Argenson told me!"

"D'Argenson; pardieu, the authority is good; and do you know what he told me?"

"No."

"That you had denounced me."

"Monsieur!"

"Well; what then? Are we to cut each other's throats because the police has followed out its trade and lied?"

"But how could he discover?"

"I ask the same of you. But one thing is certain; if I had told anything, I should not be here. You have not seen much of me, but you ought to know that I should not be fool enough to give information gratis; revelations are bought and sold, monsieur, and I know that Dubois pays high for them."

"Perhaps you are right," said Gaston; "but at least let us bless the chance which brings us together."

"Certainly."

"You do not appear enchanted, nevertheless."

"I am only moderately so, I confess."

"Captain!"

"Ah, monsieur, how bad-tempered you are."

"I?"

"Yes; you are always getting angry. I like my solitude; that does not speak."

"Monsieur!"

"Again. Now listen. Do you believe, as you say, that chance has brought us together?"

"What should it be?"

"Some combination of our jailers—of D'Argenson's, or perhaps Dubois's."

"Did you not write to me?"

"I?"

"Telling me to feign illness from ennui."

"And how should I have written?—on what?—by whom?"

Gaston reflected; and this time it was La Jonquiere who watched him.

"Then," said the captain presently, "I think, on the contrary, that it is to you we owe the pleasure of meeting in the Bastille."

"To me, monsieur?"

"Yes, chevalier; you are too confiding. I give you that information in case you leave here; but more particularly in case you remain here."

"Thank you."

"Have you noticed if you were followed?"

"No."

"A conspirator should never look before, but always behind him."

Gaston confessed that he had not taken this precaution.

"And the duke," asked La Jonquiere, "is he arrested?"

"I know not; I was going to ask you."

"Peste! that is disagreeable. You took a young woman to him?"

"You know that."

"Ah! my dear fellow, everything becomes known. Did not she give the information? Ah! woman, woman!"

"This was a brave girl, monsieur; I would answer for her discretion, courage, and devotion."

"Yes, I understand. We love her—so she is honey and gold. What an idea of a conspiracy you must have to take a woman to the chief of the plot!"

"But I told her nothing; and she could know no secrets of mine but such as she may have surprised."

"She has a keen eye."

"And if she knew my projects, I am convinced she would never have spoken."

"Oh, monsieur, without counting her natural disposition to that exercise, can we not always make a woman speak? Some one might have said, without any preparation 'Your love for M. de Chanlay will lose your head'—I will wager that she will speak."

"There is no danger—she loves me too much."

"That is the very reason, pardieu! that she would chatter like a magpie, and that we are both caged up. However, let us drop this. What do you do here?"

"Amuse myself."

"Amuse yourself—how?"

"With making verses, eating sweets, and making holes in the floor."

"Holes in the king's boards?" said La Jonquiere. "Oh, oh! that is good to know. Does not M. de Launay scold?"

"He does not know it; besides, I am not singular—everybody makes a hole in something; one his floor, the other his chimney, the next his wall. Do you not make holes in something?"

La Jonquiere looked to see if Gaston were not laughing at him.

"But now, monsieur," said La Jonquiere, "let us speak seriously. Are you condemned to death?"

"I?"

"Yes, you."

"You say that coolly."

"It is a habit in the Bastille. There are twenty here condemned to death, and not a bit the worse for it."

"I have been interrogated."

"Ah! you see."

"But I do not believe I am condemned."

"That will come."

"My dear captain, do you know that, although you do not look so, you are marvelously merry?"

"You think so?"

"Yes."

"Does it astonish you?"

"I did not know you were so brave."

"Then you would regret life?"

"I confess it; I only want one thing to make me happy, and that is to live."

"And you became a conspirator with a chance of happiness before you? I do not understand you; I thought people conspired from despair, as they marry when they have no other resource."

"When I joined the conspiracy I did not love."

"And afterward?"

"I would not draw back."

"Bravo! that is what I call character. Have you been tortured?"

"No; but I had a narrow escape."

"Then you will be."

"Why so?"

"Because I have been; and it would be unfair to treat us differently. Look at the state of my clothes."

"Which did they give you?" asked Gaston, shuddering at the recollection of what had passed between D'Argenson and himself.

"The water. They made me drink a barrel and a half; my stomach was like a bladder; I did not think I could have held so much."

"And did you suffer much?" asked Gaston, with interest.

"Yes; but my temperament is robust—the next day I thought no more of it. It is true that since then I have drunk a great deal of wine. If you have to choose, select the water—it cleans. All the mixtures doctors give us are only a means of making us swallow water. Fangon says the best doctor he ever heard of was Doctor Sangrado; he only existed in Le Sage's brain, or he would have done miracles."

"You know Fangon?" asked Gaston, surprised.

"By reputation; besides, I have read his works. But do you intend to persist in saying nothing?"

"Doubtless."

"You are right. I should tell you, if you regret life so much as you say, to whisper a few words to M. d'Argenson, but he is a talker who would reveal your confession."

"I will not speak, be assured; these are points on which I do not need strengthening."

"I believe it; pardieu! you seem to me like Sardanapalus in your tower. Here I have only M. de Laval, who takes medicine three times a day—it is an amusement he has invented. Well, tastes differ; and perhaps he wants to get accustomed to the water."

"But did you not say I should certainly be condemned?"

"Do you wish to know the whole truth?"

"Yes."

"Well, D'Argenson told me that you were."

Gaston turned pale, in spite of his courage. La Jonquiere remarked it.

"However," said he, "I believe you might save yourself by certain revelations."

"Why, do you think I should do what you refused?"

"Our characters and our positions are different—I am no longer young—I am not in love—I do not leave a mistress in tears." Gaston sighed.

"You see there is a great difference between us; when did you ever hear me sigh like that?"

"Ah! if I die, his excellency will take care of Helene."

"And if he be arrested?"

"You are right."

"Then—"

"God will protect her."

"Decidedly you are young," said La Jonquiere.

"Explain."

"Suppose his excellency be not arrested?"

"Well."

"What age is he?"

"Forty-five or six, I suppose."

"And if he fell in love with Helene; is not that her name?"

"The duke fall in love with her! he to whose protection I confided her! it would be infamous!"

"The world is full of infamy; that is how it gets on."

"Oh, I will not dwell on such a thought."

"I do not tell you to dwell on it; I only suggested it for you to make what use you liked of."

"Hush," said Gaston, "some one is coming."

"Have you asked for anything?"

"No."

"Then the time allowed for your visit is out," and La Jonquiere threw himself quickly on his bed.

The bolts creaked, the door opened, and the governor appeared.

"Well, monsieur," said he to Gaston; "does your companion suit you?"

"Yes, particularly as I know Captain la Jonquiere."

"That makes my task more delicate; but, however, I made you an offer, and I will not draw back. I will permit one visit daily, at any hour you please: shall it be morning or evening?"

Gaston looked at La Jonquiere.

"Say five in the evening," said La Jonquiere, quickly.

"In the evening at five o'clock, if you please."

"The same as to-day, then?"

"Yes."

"It shall be as you desire, monsieur."

Gaston and La Jonquiere exchanged a glance, and the chevalier was taken back to his chamber.



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE SENTENCE.

It was half-past six, and quite dark; the chevalier's first act on being left in his room was to run to the chimney.

"Chevalier," said he.

Dumesnil replied.

"I have paid my visit."

"Well?"

"I have found an acquaintance, if not a friend."

"A new prisoner."

"Of the same date as myself."

"His name?"

"Captain la Jonquiere."

"What?"

"Do you know him?"

"Yes!"

"Then do me a favor: what is he?"

"Oh, an enemy of the regent's."

"Are you sure?"

"Quite; he was in our conspiracy, and only withdrew because we preferred abduction to assassination."

"Then he was—?"

"For assassination."

"That is it," murmured Gaston; "he is a man to be trusted."

"If it be the same I mean, he lives in the Rue Bourdonnais, at the Muids d'Amour."

"The same."

"Then he is a safe man."

"That is well," said Gaston, "for he holds the lives of four brave gentlemen in his hands."

"Of whom you are one."

"No, I put myself aside, for it seems all is over with me."

"How all is over?"

"Yes, I am condemned."

"To what?"

"To death."

There was a moment's silence.

"Impossible!" cried the Chevalier Dumesnil, at length.

"Why impossible?"

"Because, if I be not mistaken, your affair is attached to ours."

"It follows on it."

"Well?"

"Well."

"Our affairs prospering, yours cannot go wrong."

"And who says you are prospering?"

"Listen, for with you I will have no secrets."

"I am listening."

"Mademoiselle de Launay wrote me this yesterday. She was walking with Maison-Rouge, who, as you know, loves her, and at whom we both laugh, but who is useful to us. On pretext of illness, she asked, as you did, for a doctor; he told her that the prison doctor was at her orders. I must tell you that we have known this doctor intimately; his name is Herment.

"However, she did not hope to get much out of him, for he is a timid man; but when he entered the garden, where she was walking, and gave her a consultation in the open air, he said to her, 'Hope!' In the mouth of any one else this would have been nothing—in his it was a vast deal; since we are told to hope, you have nothing to fear, as our affairs are intimately connected."

"However," said Gaston, "La Jonquiere seemed sure of what he said."

At this moment Pompadour knocked.

Gaston went to the hole, which, with the aid of his knife, he soon made practicable.

"Ask the Chevalier Dumesnil if he does not know anything more from Mademoiselle de Launay."

"About what?"

"One of us; I overheard some words between the governor and the major at my door—they were, 'condemned to death.'" Gaston shuddered.

"Be easy, marquis; I believe they spoke of me."

"Diable! that would not make me easy at all; firstly, because we have quickly become friends, and I should be grieved if anything were to happen to you; and, secondly, because what happened to you might well happen to us, our affairs being so similar."

"And you believe that Mademoiselle de Launay could remove your doubts."

"Yes, her windows look on the arsenal."

"Well."

"She would have seen if there were anything new going on there to-day."

"Ah! she is striking now!"

At that moment Mademoiselle de Launay struck two blows, which meant attention.

Gaston replied by one, which meant that he was listening.

Then he went to the window.

A minute after the string appeared with a letter.

Gaston took the letter, and went to the hole to Pompadour.

"Well?" said the marquis.

"A letter," replied Gaston.

"What does she say?"

"I cannot see, but I will send it to Dumesnil, who will read it."

"Make haste."

"Pardon," said Gaston, "I am as anxious as you;" and he ran to the chimney.

"The string," he cried.

"You have a letter."

"Yes; have you a light?"

"Yes."

"Lower the string."

Gaston tied on the letter, which was drawn up.

"It is for you and not for me," said Dumesnil.

"Never mind, read it, and tell me what it is; I have no light, and it would lose time to send me one."



"You permit me?"

"Certainly."

A moment's silence.

"Well," said Gaston.

"Diable!"

"Bad news, is it not?"

"Judge for yourself."

And Dumesnil read:

"MY DEAR NEIGHBOR—Some judge extraordinary has arrived at the arsenal this evening. I recognized D'Argenson's livery. We shall know more soon, when I see the doctor. A thousand remembrances to Dumesnil."

"That is what La Jonquiere told me; it is I that am condemned."

"Bah, chevalier," said Dumesnil; "you are too easily alarmed."

"Not at all. I know well what to think, and then—hark!"

"What!"

"Silence; some one is coming." And Gaston went away from the chimney.

The door opened, and the major and lieutenant, with four soldiers, came for Gaston, who followed them.

"I am lost," murmured he. "Poor Helene."

And he raised his head with the intrepidity of a brave man, who, knowing death was near, went boldly to meet it.

"Monsieur," said D'Argenson, "your crime has been examined by the tribunal of which I am the president. In the preceding sittings you were permitted to defend yourself; if you were not granted advocates, it was not with the intention of inquiring your defense, but, on the contrary, because it was useless to give you the extreme indulgence of a tribunal charged to be severe."

"I do not understand you."

"Then I will be more explicit. Discussion would have made one thing evident, even in the eyes of your defenders—that you are a conspirator and an assassin. How could you suppose that with these points established indulgence would be shown you. But here you are before us, every facility will be given for your justification. If you ask a delay, you shall have it. If you wish researches, they shall be made. If you speak, you have the reply, and it will not be refused you."

"I understand, and thank the tribunal for this kindness," replied Gaston. "The excuse it gives me for the absence of a defender seems sufficient. I have not to defend myself."

"Then you do not wish for witnesses, delays, or documents?"

"I wish my sentence—that is all."

"Do not be obstinate, chevalier; make some confessions."

"I have none to make, for in all my interrogatories you have not made one precise accusation."

"And you wish—?"

"Certainly—I should like to know of what I am accused."

"I will tell you. You came to Paris, appointed by the republican committee of Nantes, to assassinate the regent. You were referred to one La Jonquiere, your accomplice, now condemned with you."

Gaston felt that he turned pale at these true accusations. "This might be true, monsieur," said he, "but you could not know it. A man who wishes to commit such a deed does not confess it till it be accomplished."

"No; but his accomplices confess for him."

"That is to say, that La Jonquiere denounces me."

"I do not refer to La Jonquiere, but the others."

"The others!" cried Gaston; "are there, then, others arrested beside La Jonquiere and myself?"

"Yes. Messieurs de Pontcalec, de Talhouet, du Couedic, and de Montlouis."

"I do not understand," said Gaston, with a vague feeling of terror—not for himself, but for his friends.

"What! do you not understand that Messieurs de Pontcalec, de Talhouet, du Couedic, and de Montlouis are now being tried at Nantes?"

"Arrested!" cried Gaston, "impossible!"

"Yes," said D'Argenson, "you thought that the province would revolt rather than allow its defenders—as you rebels call yourselves—to be arrested. Well, the province has said nothing. The province has gone on singing, laughing, and dancing, and is already asking where they will be beheaded, in order to hire windows."

"I do not believe you, monsieur," said Gaston, coldly.

"Give me that portfolio," said D'Argenson to a man standing behind him. "Here, monsieur," continued he, "are the writs of arrest. Do you doubt their authenticity?"

"That does not say that they have accused me."

"They told all we wanted to know, and your culpability is the result."

"In that case, if they have told all you want to know, you have no need of my confession."

"Is that your final answer?"

"Yes."

"Officer, read the sentence."

The officer read—

"As the result of the investigation commenced on the 19th of February, that M. Gaston de Chanlay came from Nantes to Paris with the intention of committing the crime of murder on the person of his Royal Highness Monseigneur the Regent of France, which was to have been followed by a revolt against the authority of the king, the extraordinary commission instituted to inquire into this crime has adjudged the Chevalier Gaston de Chanlay worthy of the punishment for high treason, the person of the regent being as inviolable as that of the king. In consequence—We ordain that the Chevalier Gaston de Chanlay be degraded from all his titles and dignities; that he and his posterity be declared ignoble in perpetuity; that his goods be confiscated, his woods cut down to the height of six feet from the ground, and he himself beheaded on the Greve, or wheresoever it shall please the provost to appoint, saving his majesty's pardon."

Gaston was pale, but still as marble.

"And when am I to be executed?" asked he.

"As soon as it may please his majesty."

Gaston felt a cloud pass before his eyes, and his ideas became confused; but this soon vanished, and the serenity of his bearing returned, the blood rushed back to his cheeks, and a contemptuous smile settled on his lips.

"It is well, monsieur," said he; "at whatever moment his majesty's order may arrive, it will find me prepared; but I wish to know whether I may not see some persons who are very dear to me before I die, and I wish to ask a favor of the king."

D'Argenson's eyes glistened with malignant joy. "Monsieur," said he, "I told you that you would be treated with indulgence. You might therefore have spoken sooner, and perhaps his highness's kindness might not have waited for a prayer."

"You mistake me, monsieur," said Gaston, with dignity; "neither his majesty's honor nor mine will suffer from the favor which I shall ask."

"What would you ask?" said D'Argenson; "speak, and I will tell you at once if there be a chance of your request being granted."

"I ask, first, that my titles and dignities—which are not very great—should not be canceled, as I have no posterity. I am alone in the world; my name only survives me; but as that name is only noble, and not illustrious, it would not survive long."

"This is quite a royal favor, monsieur. His majesty alone can and will reply. Is that all you wish to ask?"

"No; I have another request to make, but I do not know to whom I should apply."

"First to me, monsieur, in my character of lieutenant of police. I shall see if I can grant it, or if I must refer it to his majesty."

"Well, then, monsieur, I desire to see Mademoiselle Helene de Chaverny, ward of his excellency the Duc d'Olivares, and also the duke himself."

D'Argenson, at this request, made a singular gesture, which Gaston interpreted as one of hesitation.

"Monsieur," said Gaston, "I would see them in any place, and for as short a time as may be thought advisable."

"You shall see them," said D'Argenson.

"Ah! monsieur," said Gaston, stepping forward as though to take his hand, "you lay me under the greatest obligation."

"On one condition, however, monsieur."

"What is it? there is no condition compatible with my honor that I will not accept in exchange for so great a favor."

"You must tell no one of your condemnation, and this on your word as a gentleman."

"I accede to that all the more willingly," said Gaston, "as one of the persons named would certainly die if she knew of it."

"Then all is well; have you anything further to say?"

"Nothing, monsieur, except to beg that you will record my denials."

"They are already firmly attached—officer, hand the papers to Monsieur de Chanlay, that he may read and sign them."

Gaston sat down by a table, and, while D'Argenson and the judges chatted around him, he carefully perused the papers and the report of his own answers to the interrogatory—then, finding all correct, he signed.

"Monsieur," said he, "here are the documents. Shall I have the pleasure of seeing you again?"

"I do not think so," said D'Argenson, with that brutality which was the terror of those who were subjected to him.

"Then to our meeting in another world, monsieur."

The major led Gaston to his own room.



CHAPTER XXX.

THE FAMILY FEUD.

When Gaston returned to his room, he was obliged to answer the questions of Dumesnil and Pompadour, who were waiting to hear news from him; but, in compliance with his promise made to D'Argenson, he did not mention his sentence, but simply announced a severer interrogatory than before—but as he wished to write some letters, he asked Dumesnil for a light. Dumesnil sent him a candle—things were progressing, it may be remarked; Maison-Rouge could refuse nothing to Mademoiselle de Launay, and she shared all with Dumesnil, who, in his turn, again shared with his neighbors, Gaston and Richelieu.

Gaston doubted whether, in spite of D'Argenson's promise, he would be allowed to see Helene, but he knew that at least he should see a priest before he died; there could be no doubt that the priest would forward two letters for him.

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