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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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has taken it into his head to go back to Pierrefonds without even leaving
M. Fouquet's house?"  He finally reached a remote part of the chateau
inclosed by a stone wall, which was covered with a profusion of thick
plants, luxuriant in blossoms as large and solid as fruit.  At equal
distances on the top of this wall were placed various statues in timid or
mysterious attitudes.  These were vestals hidden beneath the long Greek
peplum, with its thick, sinuous folds; agile nymphs, covered with their
marble veils, and guarding the palace with their fugitive glances.  A
statue of Hermes, with his finger on his lips; one of Iris, with extended
wings; another of Night, sprinkled all over with poppies, dominated the
gardens and outbuildings, which could be seen through the trees.  All
these statues threw in white relief their profiles upon the dark ground
of the tall cypresses, which darted their somber summits towards the
sky.  Around these cypresses were entwined climbing roses, whose
flowering rings were fastened to every fork of the branches, and spread
over the lower boughs and the various statues, showers of flowers of the
rarest fragrance.  These enchantments seemed to the musketeer the result
of the greatest efforts of the human mind.  He felt in a dreamy, almost
poetical, frame of mind.  The idea that Porthos was living in so perfect
an Eden gave him a higher idea of Porthos, showing how tremendously true
it is, that even the very highest orders of minds are not quite exempt
from the influence of surroundings.  D'Artagnan found the door, and on,
or rather in the door, a kind of spring which he detected; having touched
it, the door flew open.  D'Artagnan entered, closed the door behind him,
and advanced into a pavilion built in a circular form, in which no other
sound could be heard but cascades and the songs of birds.  At the door of
the pavilion he met a lackey.

"It is here, I believe," said D'Artagnan, without hesitation, "that M. le
Baron du Vallon is staying?"

"Yes, monsieur," answered the lackey.

"Have the goodness to tell him that M. le Chevalier d'Artagnan, captain
of the king's musketeers, is waiting to see him."

D'Artagnan was introduced into the _salon_, and had not long to remain in
expectation: a well-remembered step shook the floor of the adjoining
room, a door opened, or rather flew open, and Porthos appeared and threw
himself into his friend's arms with a sort of embarrassment which did not
ill become him.  "You here?" he exclaimed.

"And you?" replied D'Artagnan.  "Ah, you sly fellow!"

"Yes," said Porthos, with a somewhat embarrassed smile; "yes, you see I
am staying in M. Fouquet's house, at which you are not a little
surprised, I suppose?"

"Not at all; why should you not be one of M. Fouquet's friends?  M.
Fouquet has a very large number, particularly among clever men."

Porthos had the modesty not to take the compliment to himself.
"Besides," he added, "you saw me at Belle-Isle."

"A greater reason for my believing you to be one of M. Fouquet's friends."

"The fact is, I am acquainted with him," said Porthos, with a certain
embarrassment of manner.

"Ah, friend Porthos," said D'Artagnan, "how treacherously you have
behaved towards me."

"In what way?" exclaimed Porthos.

"What! you complete so admirable a work as the fortifications of Belle-
Isle, and you did not tell me of it!"  Porthos colored.  "Nay, more than
that," continued D'Artagnan, "you saw me out yonder, you know I am in the
king's service, and yet you could not guess that the king, jealously
desirous of learning the name of the man whose abilities had wrought a
work of which he heard the most wonderful accounts, - you could not
guess, I say, that the king sent me to learn who this man was?"

"What! the king sent you to learn - "

"Of course; but don't let us speak of that any more."

"Not speak of it!" said Porthos; "on the contrary, we will speak of it;
and so the king knew that we were fortifying Belle-Isle?"

"Of course; does not the king know everything?"

"But he did not know who was fortifying it?"

"No, he only suspected, from what he had been told of the nature of the
works, that it was some celebrated soldier or another."

"The devil!" said Porthos, "if I had only known that!"

"You would not have run away from Vannes as you did, perhaps?"

"No; what did you say when you couldn't find me?"

"My dear fellow, I reflected."

"Ah, indeed; you reflect, do you?  Well, and what did that reflection
lead to?"

"It led me to guess the whole truth."

"Come, then, tell me what did you guess after all?" said Porthos,
settling himself into an armchair, and assuming the airs of a sphinx.

"I guessed, in the first place, that you were fortifying Belle-Isle."

"There was no great difficulty in that, for you saw me at work."

"Wait a minute; I also guessed something else, - that you were fortifying
Belle-Isle by M. Fouquet's orders."

"That's true."

"But even that is not all.  Whenever I feel myself in trim for guessing,
I do not stop on my road; and so I guessed that M. Fouquet wished to
preserve the most absolute secrecy respecting these fortifications."

"I believe that was his intention, in fact," said Porthos.

"Yes, but do you know why he wished to keep it secret?"

"In order it should not become known, perhaps," said Porthos.

"That was his principal reason.  But his wish was subservient to a bit of
generosity - "

"In fact," said Porthos, "I have head it said that M. Fouquet was a very
generous man."

"To a bit of generosity he wished to exhibit towards the king."

"Oh, oh!"

"You seem surprised at that?"

"Yes."

"And you didn't guess?"

"No."

"Well, I know it, then."

"You are a wizard."

"Not at all, I assure you."

"How do you know it, then?"

"By a very simple means.  I heard M. Fouquet himself say so to the king."

"Say what to the king?"

"That he fortified Belle-Isle on his majesty's account, and that he had
made him a present of Belle Isle."

"And you heard M. Fouquet say that to the king?"

"In those very words.  He even added: 'Belle-Isle has been fortified by
an engineer, one of my friends, a man of a great deal of merit, whom I
shall ask your majesty's permission to present to you.'

"'What is his name?' said the king.

"'The Baron du Vallon,' M. Fouquet replied.

"'Very well,' returned his majesty, 'you will present him to me.'"

"The king said that?"

"Upon the word of a D'Artagnan!"

"Oh, oh!" said Porthos.  "Why have I not been presented, then?"

"Have they not spoken to you about this presentation?"

"Yes, certainly; but I am always kept waiting for it."

"Be easy, it will be sure to come."

"Humph! humph!" grumbled Porthos, which D'Artagnan pretended not to hear;
and, changing the conversation, he said, "You seem to be living in a very
solitary place here, my dear fellow?"

"I always preferred retirement.  I am of a melancholy disposition,"
replied Porthos, with a sigh.

"Really, that is odd," said D'Artagnan, "I never remarked that before."

"It is only since I have taken to reading, "said Porthos, with a
thoughtful air.

"But the labors of the mind have not affected the health of the body, I
trust?"

"Not in the slightest degree."

"Your strength is as great as ever?"

"Too great, my friend, too great."

"Ah!  I had heard that, for a short time after your arrival - "

"That I could hardly move a limb, I suppose?"

"How was it?" said D'Artagnan, smiling, "and why was it you could not
move?"

Porthos, perceiving that he had made a mistake, wished to correct it.
"Yes, I came from Belle-Isle upon very hard horses," he said, "and that
fatigued me."

"I am no longer astonished, then, since I, who followed you, found seven
or eight lying dead on the road."

"I am very heavy, you know," said Porthos.

"So that you were bruised all over."

"My marrow melted, and that made me very ill."

"Poor Porthos!  But how did Aramis act towards you under those
circumstances?"

"Very well, indeed.  He had me attended to by M. Fouquet's own doctor.
But just imagine, at the end of a week I could not breathe any longer."

"What do you mean?"

"The room was too small; I had absorbed every atom of air."

"Indeed?"

"I was told so, at least; and so I was removed into another apartment."

"Where you were able to breathe, I hope and trust?"

"Yes, more freely; but no exercise - nothing to do.  The doctor pretended
that I was not to stir; I, on the contrary, felt that I was stronger than
ever; that was the cause of a very serious accident."

"What accident?"

"Fancy, my dear fellow, that I revolted against the directions of that
ass of a doctor, and I resolved to go out, whether it suited him or not:
and, consequently, I told the valet who waited on me to bring me my
clothes."

"You were quite naked, then?"

"Oh, no! on the contrary, I had a magnificent dressing-gown to wear.  The
lackey obeyed; I dressed myself in my own clothes, which had become too
large for me; but a strange circumstance had happened, - my feet had
become too large."

"Yes, I quite understand."

"And my boots too small."

"You mean your feet were still swollen?"

"Exactly; you have hit it."

"_Pardieu!_  And is that the accident you were going to tell me about?"

"Oh, yes; I did not make the same reflection you have done.  I said to
myself: 'Since my feet have entered my boots ten times, there is no
reason why they should not go in the eleventh.'"

"Allow me to tell you, my dear Porthos, that on this occasion you failed
in your logic."

"In short, then, they placed me opposite to a part of the room which was
partitioned; I tried to get my boot on; I pulled it with my hands, I
pushed with all the strength of the muscles of my leg, making the most
unheard-of efforts, when suddenly the two tags of my boot remained in my
hands, and my foot struck out like a ballista."

"How learned you are in fortification, dear Porthos."

"My foot darted out like a ballista, and came against the partition,
which it broke in; I really thought that, like Samson, I had demolished

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