List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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easily these affairs are arranged.  I shall merely side against M.
Fouquet, and nothing more; and, in a war of party against party, a weapon
is always a weapon."

"No doubt."

"And once on friendly terms again with the queen-mother, I may be
dangerous towards some persons."

"You are at liberty to prove so, duchesse."

"A liberty of which I shall avail myself."

"You are not ignorant, I suppose, duchesse, that M. Fouquet is on the
best terms with the king of Spain."

"I suppose so."

"If, therefore, you begin a party warfare against M. Fouquet, he will
reply in the same way; for he, too, is at perfect liberty to do so, is he
not?"

"Oh! certainly."

"And as he is on good terms with Spain, he will make use of that
friendship as a weapon of attack."

"You mean, that he is, naturally, on good terms with the general of the
order of the Jesuits, my dear Aramis."

"That may be the case, duchesse."

"And that, consequently, the pension I have been receiving from the order
will be stopped."

"I am greatly afraid it might be."

"Well; I must contrive to console myself in the best way I can; for after
Richelieu, after the Fronde, after exile, what is there left for Madame
de Chevreuse to be afraid of?"

"The pension, you are aware, is forty-eight thousand francs."

"Alas!  I am quite aware of it."

"Moreover, in party contests, you know, the friends of one's enemy do not
escape."

"Ah! you mean that poor Laicques will have to suffer."

"I am afraid it is almost inevitable, duchesse."

"Oh! he only receives twelve thousand francs pension."

"Yes, but the king of Spain has some influence left; advised by M.
Fouquet, he might get M. Laicques shut up in prison for a little while."

"I am not very nervous on that point, my dear friend; because, once
reconciled with Anne of Austria, I will undertake that France would
insist upon M. Laicques's liberation."

"True.  In that case, you will have something else to apprehend."

"What can that be?" said the duchesse, pretending to be surprised and
terrified.

"You will learn; indeed, you must know it already, that having once been
an affiliated member of the order, it is not easy to leave it; for the
secrets that any particular member may have acquired are unwholesome, and
carry with them the germs of misfortune for whosoever may reveal them."

The duchesse paused and reflected for a moment, and then said, "That is
more serious: I will think it over."

And notwithstanding the profound obscurity, Aramis seemed to feel a
basilisk glance, like a white-hot iron, escape from his friend's eyes,
and plunge into his heart.

"Let us recapitulate," said Aramis, determined to keep himself on his
guard, and gliding his hand into his breast where he had a dagger
concealed.

"Exactly, let us recapitulate; short accounts make long friends."

"The suppression of your pension - "

"Forty-eight thousand francs, and that of Laicques's twelve, make
together sixty thousand francs; that is what you mean, I suppose?"

"Precisely; and I was trying to find out what would be your equivalent
for that."

"Five hundred thousand francs, which I shall get from the queen."

"Or, which you will _not_ get."

"I know a means of procuring them," said the duchesse, thoughtlessly.

This remark made the chevalier prick up his ears; and from the moment his
adversary had committed this error, his mind was so thoroughly on its
guard, that he seemed every moment to gain the advantage more and more;
and she, consequently, to lose it.  "I will admit, for argument's sake,
that you obtain the money," he resumed; "you will lose twice as much,
having a hundred thousand francs' pension to receive instead of sixty
thousand, and that for a  period of ten years."

"Not so, for I shall only be subjected to this reduction of my income
during the period of M. Fouquet's remaining in power, a period which I
estimate at two months."

"Ah!" said Aramis.

"I am frank, you see."

"I thank you for it, duchesse; but you would be wrong to suppose that
after M. Fouquet's disgrace the order would resume the payment of your
pension."

"I know a means of making the order pay, as I know a means of forcing the
queen-mother to concede what I require."

"In that case, duchesse, we are all obliged to strike our flags to you.
The victory is yours, and the triumph also.  Be clement, I entreat you."

"But is it possible," resumed the duchesse, without taking notice of the
irony, "that you really draw back from a miserable sum of five hundred
thousand francs, when it is a question of sparing you - I mean your
friend - I beg your pardon, I ought rather to say your protector - the
disagreeable consequences which a party contest produces?"

"Duchesse, I tell you why; supposing the five hundred thousand francs
were to be given you, M. Laicques will require his share, which will be
another five hundred thousand francs, I presume? and then, after M. de
Laicques's and your own portions have been arranged, the portions which
your children, your poor pensioners, and various other persons will
require, will start up as fresh claims, and these letters, however
compromising they may be in their nature, are not worth from three to
four millions.  Can you have forgotten the queen of France's diamonds? 
they were surely worth more than these bits of waste paper signed by
Mazarin, and yet their recovery did not cost a fourth part of what you
ask for yourself."

"Yes, that is true; but the merchant values his goods at his own price,
and it is for the purchaser to buy or refuse."

"Stay a moment, duchesse; would you like me to tell you why I will not
buy your letters?"

"Pray tell me."

"Because the letters you claim to be Mazarin's are false."

"What an absurdity."

"I have no doubt of it, for it would, to say the least, be very singular,
that after you had quarreled with the queen through M. Mazarin's means,
you should have kept up any intimate acquaintance with the latter; it
would look as if you had been acting as a spy; and upon my word, I do not
like to make use of the word."

"Oh! pray do."

"You great complacence would seem suspicions, at all events."

"That is quite true; but the contents of the letters are even more so."

"I pledge you my word, duchesse, that you will not be able to make use of
it with the queen."

"Oh! yes, indeed; I can make use of everything with the queen."

"Very good," thought Aramis.  "Croak on, old owl - hiss, beldame-viper."

But the duchesse had said enough, and advanced a few steps towards the
door.  Aramis, however, had reserved one exposure which she did _not_
expect.

He rang the bell, candles immediately appeared in the adjoining room, and
the bishop found himself completely encircled by lights, which shone upon
the worn, haggard face of the duchesse, revealing every feature but too
clearly.  Aramis fixed a long ironical look upon her pale, thin, withered
cheeks - her dim, dull eyes - and upon her lips, which she kept carefully
closed over her discolored scanty teeth.  He, however, had thrown himself
into a graceful attitude, with his haughty and intelligent head thrown
back; he smiled so as to reveal teeth still brilliant and dazzling.  The
antiquated coquette understood the trick that had been played her.  She
was standing immediately before a large mirror, in which her decrepitude,
so carefully concealed, was only made more manifest.  And, thereupon,
without even saluting Aramis, who bowed with the ease and grace of the
musketeer of early days, she hurried away with trembling steps, which her
very precipitation only the more impeded.  Aramis sprang across the room,
like a zephyr, to lead her to the door.  Madame de Chevreuse made a sign
to her servant, who resumed his musket, and she left the house where such
tender friends had not been able to understand each other only because
they had understood each other too well.


Chapter XLI:
Wherein May Be Seen that a Bargain Which Cannot Be Made with One Person,
Can Be Carried Out with Another.

Aramis had been perfectly correct in his supposition; for hardly had she
left the house in the Place Baudoyer than Madame de Chevreuse proceeded
homeward.  She was doubtless afraid of being followed, and by this means
thought she might succeed in throwing those who might be following her
off their guard; but scarcely had she arrived within the door of the
hotel, and hardly had assured herself that no one who could cause her any
uneasiness was on her track, when she opened the door of the garden,
leading into another street, and hurried towards the Rue Croix des Petits-
Champs, where M. Colbert resided.

We have already said that evening, or rather night, had closed in; it was
a dark, thick night, besides; Paris had once more sunk into its calm,
quiescent state, enshrouding alike within its indulgent mantle the high-
born duchesse carrying out her political intrigue, and the simple
citizen's wife, who, having been detained late by a supper in the city,
was making her way slowly homewards, hanging on the arm of a lover, by
the shortest possible route.  Madame de Chevreuse had been too well
accustomed to nocturnal political intrigues to be ignorant that a
minister never denies himself, even at his own private residence, to any
young and beautiful woman who may chance to object to the dust and
confusion of a public office, or to old women, as full of experience as
of years, who dislike the indiscreet echo of official residences.  A
valet received the duchesse under the peristyle, and received her, it
must be admitted, with some indifference of manner; he intimated, after
having looked at her face, that it was hardly at such an hour that one so
advanced in years as herself could be permitted to disturb Monsieur
Colbert's important occupations.  But Madame de Chevreuse, without
looking or appearing to be annoyed, wrote her name upon a leaf of her
tablets - a name which had but too frequently sounded so disagreeably in
the ears of Louis XIII. and of the great cardinal.  She wrote her name in
the large, ill-formed characters of the higher classes of that period,

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