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Chapter 63

Chapter LXIII:
Three Guests Astonished to Find Themselves at Supper Together.

The carriage arrived at the outside of the gate of the Bastile. A
soldier on guard stopped it, but D'Artagnan had only to utter a single
word to procure admittance, and the carriage passed on without further
difficulty. Whilst they were proceeding along the covered way which led
to the courtyard of the governor's residence, D'Artagnan, whose lynx eyes
saw everything, even through the walls, suddenly cried out, "What is that
out yonder?"

"Well," said Athos, quietly; "what is it?"

"Look yonder, Athos."

"In the courtyard?"

"Yes, yes; make haste!"

"Well, a carriage; very likely conveying a prisoner like myself."

"That would be too droll."

"I do not understand you."

"Make haste and look again, and look at the man who is just getting out
of that carriage."

At that very moment a second sentinel stopped D'Artagnan, and while the
formalities were being gone through, Athos could see at a hundred paces
from him the man whom his friend had pointed out to him. He was, in
fact, getting out of the carriage at the door of the governor's house.
"Well," inquired D'Artagnan, "do you see him?"

"Yes; he is a man in a gray suit."

"What do you say of him?"

"I cannot very well tell; he is, as I have just now told you, a man in a
gray suit, who is getting out of a carriage; that is all."

"Athos, I will wager anything that it is he."

"He, who?"

"Aramis."

"Aramis arrested? Impossible!"

"I do not say he is arrested, since we see him alone in his carriage."

"Well, then, what is he doing here?"

"Oh! he knows Baisemeaux, the governor," replied the musketeer, slyly;
"so we have arrived just in time."

"What for?"

"In order to see what we can see."

"I regret this meeting exceedingly. When Aramis sees me, he will be very
much annoyed, in the first place, at seeing me, and in the next at being
seen."

"Very well reasoned."

"Unfortunately, there is no remedy for it; whenever any one meets another
in the Bastile, even if he wished to draw back to avoid him, it would be
impossible."

"Athos, I have an idea; the question is, to spare Aramis the annoyance
you were speaking of, is it not?"

"What is to be done?"

"I will tell you; or in order to explain myself in the best possible way,
let me relate the affair in my own manner; I will not recommend you to
tell a falsehood, for that would be impossible for you to do; but I will
tell falsehoods enough for both; it is easy to do that when one is born
to the nature and habits of a Gascon."

Athos smiled. The carriage stopped where the one we have just now
pointed out had stopped; namely, at the door of the governor's house.
"It is understood, then?" said D'Artagnan, in a low voice to his friend.
Athos consented by a gesture. They ascended the staircase. There will
be no occasion for surprise at the facility with which they had entered
into the Bastile, if it be remembered that, before passing the first
gate, in fact, the most difficult of all, D'Artagnan had announced that
he had brought a prisoner of state. At the third gate, on the contrary,
that is to say, when he had once fairly entered the prison, he merely
said to the sentinel, "To M. Baisemeaux;" and they both passed on. In a
few minutes they were in the governor's dining-room, and the first face
which attracted D'Artagnan's observation was that of Aramis, who was
seated side by side with Baisemeaux, awaiting the announcement of a meal
whose odor impregnated the whole apartment. If D'Artagnan pretended
surprise, Aramis did not pretend at all; he started when he saw his two
friends, and his emotion was very apparent. Athos and D'Artagnan,
however, complimented him as usual, and Baisemeaux, amazed, completely
stupefied by the presence of his three guests, began to perform a few
evolutions around them.

"By what lucky accident - "

"We were just going to ask you," retorted D'Artagnan.

"Are we going to give ourselves up as prisoners?" cried Aramis, with an
affection of hilarity.

"Ah! ah!" said D'Artagnan; "it is true the walls smell deucedly like a
prison. Monsieur de Baisemeaux, you know you invited me to sup with you
the other day."

"I?" cried Baisemeaux.

"Yes, of course you did, although you now seem so struck with amazement.
Don't you remember it?"

Baisemeaux turned pale and then red, looked at Aramis, who looked at him,
and finished by stammering out, "Certainly - I am delighted - but, upon
my honor - I have not the slightest - Ah! I have such a wretched memory."

"Well! I am wrong, I see," said D'Artagnan, as if he were offended.

"Wrong, what for?"

"Wrong to remember anything about it, it seems."

Baisemeaux hurried towards him. "Do not stand on ceremony, my dear
captain," he said; "I have the worst memory in the world. I no sooner
leave off thinking of my pigeons and their pigeon-house, than I am no
better than the rawest recruit."

"At all events, you remember it now," said D'Artagnan, boldly.

"Yes, yes," replied the governor, hesitating; "I think I do remember."

"It was when you came to the palace to see me; you told me some story or
other about your accounts with M. de Louviere and M. de Tremblay."

"Oh, yes! perfectly."

"And about M. d'Herblay's kindness towards you."

"Ah!" exclaimed Aramis, looking at the unhappy governor full in the face,
"and yet you just now said you had no memory, Monsieur de Baisemeaux."

Baisemeaux interrupted the musketeer in the middle of his revelations.
"Yes, yes; you're quite right; how could I have forgotten; I remember it
now as well as possible; I beg you a thousand pardons. But now, once for
all, my dear M. d'Artagnan, be sure that at this present time, as at any
other, whether invited or not, you are perfectly at home here, you and M.
d'Herblay, your friend," he said, turning towards Aramis; "and this
gentleman, too," he added, bowing to Athos.

"Well, I thought it would be sure to turn out so," replied D'Artagnan,
"and that is the reason I came. Having nothing to do this evening at the
Palais Royal, I wished to judge for myself what your ordinary style of
living was like; and as I was coming along, I met the Comte de la Fere."

Athos bowed. "The comte, who had just left his majesty, handed me an
order which required immediate attention. We were close by here; I
wished to call in, even if it were for no other object than that of
shaking hands with you and of presenting the comte to you, of whom you
spoke so highly that evening at the palace when - "

"Certainly, certainly - M. le Comte de la Fere?"

"Precisely."

"The comte is welcome, I am sure."

"And he will sup with you two, I suppose, whilst I, unfortunate dog that
I am, must run off on a matter of duty. Oh! what happy beings you are,
compared to myself," he added, sighing as loud as Porthos might have done.

"And so you are going away, then?" said Aramis and Baisemeaux together,
with the same expression of delighted surprised, the tone of which was
immediately noticed by D'Artagnan.

"I leave you in my place," he said, "a noble and excellent guest." And
he touched Athos gently on the shoulder, who, astonished also, could not
help exhibiting his surprise a little; which was noticed by Aramis only,
for M. de Baisemeaux was not quite equal to the three friends in point of
intelligence.

"What, are you going to leave us?" resumed the governor.

"I shall only be about an hour, or an hour and a half. I will return in
time for dessert."

"Oh! we will wait for you," said Baisemeaux.

"No, no; that would be really disobliging me."

"You will be sure to return, though?" said Athos, with an expression of
doubt.

"Most certainly," he said, pressing his friend's hand confidently; and he
added, in a low voice, "Wait for me, Athos; be cheerful and lively as
possible, and above all, don't allude even to business affairs, for
Heaven's sake."

And with a renewed pressure of the hand, he seemed to warn the comte of
the necessity of keeping perfectly discreet and impenetrable. Baisemeaux
led D'Artagnan to the gate. Aramis, with many friendly protestations of
delight, sat down by Athos, determined to make him speak; but Athos
possessed every virtue and quality to the very highest degree. If
necessity had required it, he would have been the finest orator in the
world, but on other occasions he would rather have died than have opened
his lips.

Ten minutes after D'Artagnan's departure, the three gentlemen sat down to
table, which was covered with the most substantial display of gastronomic
luxury. Large joints, exquisite dishes, preserves, the greatest variety
of wines, appeared successively upon the table, which was served at the
king's expense, and of which expense M. Colbert would have found no
difficulty in saving two thirds, without any one in the Bastile being the
worse for it. Baisemeaux was the only one who ate and drank with
gastronomic resolution. Aramis allowed nothing to pass by him, but
merely touched everything he took; Athos, after the soup and three _hors
d'oeuvres_, ate nothing more. The style of conversation was such as
might have been anticipated between three men so opposite in temper and
ideas. Aramis was incessantly asking himself by what extraordinary
chance Athos was there at Baisemeaux's when D'Artagnan was no longer
there, and why D'Artagnan did not remain when Athos was there. Athos
sounded all the depths of the mind of Aramis, who lived in the midst of
subterfuge, evasion, and intrigue; he studied his man well and
thoroughly, and felt convinced that he was engaged upon some important
project. And then he too began to think of his own personal affair, and
to lose himself in conjectures as to D'Artagnan's reason for having left
the Bastile so abruptly, and for leaving behind him a prisoner so badly
introduced and so badly looked after by the prison authorities. But we
shall not pause to examine into the thoughts and feelings of these
personages, but will leave them to themselves, surrounded by the remains
of poultry, game, and fish, which Baisemeaux's generous knife and fork
had so mutilated. We are going to follow D'Artagnan instead, who,
getting into the carriage which had brought him, said to the coachman,
"Return to the palace, as fast as the horses can gallop."

Alexandre Dumas pere