Make your own free website on

List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >


"Yes; that you might not yet be in a position to purchase."

"Oh, monseigneur!"

"Do not make yourself uneasy on that score, Monsieur Vanel; I shall not
blame you for a failure in your word, which evidently may arise from
inability on your part."

"Oh, yes, monseigneur, you would blame me, and you would be right in
doing so," said Vanel; "for a man must either be very imprudent, or a
fool, to undertake engagements which he cannot keep; and I, at least,
have always regarded a thing agreed on as a thing actually carried out."

Fouquet colored, while Aramis uttered a "Hum!" of impatience.

"You would be wrong to exaggerate such notions as those, monsieur," said
the superintendent; "for a man's mind is variable, and full of these very
excusable caprices, which are, however, sometimes estimable enough; and a
man may have wished for something yesterday of which he repents to-day."

Vanel felt a cold sweat trickle down his face.  "Monseigneur!" he

Aramis, who was delighted to find the superintendent carry on the debate
with such clearness and precision, stood leaning his arm upon the marble
top of a console table and began to play with a small gold knife, with a
malachite handle.  Fouquet did not hasten to reply; but after a moment's
pause, "Come, my dear Monsieur Vanel," he said, "I will explain to you
how I am situated."  Vanel began to tremble.

"Yesterday I wished to sell - "

"Monseigneur did more than wish to sell, he actually sold."

"Well, well, that may be so; but to-day I ask you the favor to restore me
my word which I pledged you."

"I received your _word_ as a satisfactory assurance that it would be

"I know that, and that is the reason why I now entreat you; do you
understand me?  I entreat you to restore it to me."

Fouquet suddenly paused.  The words "I entreat you," the effect of which
he did not immediately perceive, seemed almost to choke him as he uttered
it.  Aramis, still playing with his knife, fixed a look upon Vanel which
seemed as if he wished to penetrate the recesses of his heart.  Vanel
simply bowed, as he said, "I am overcome, monseigneur, at the honor you
do me to consult me upon a matter of business which is already completed;
but - "

"Nay, do not say _but_, dear Monsieur Vanel."

"Alas! monseigneur, you see," he said, as he opened a large pocket-book,
"I have brought the money with me, - the whole sum, I mean.  And here,
monseigneur, is the contract of sale which I have just effected of a
property belonging to my wife.  The order is authentic in every
particular, the necessary signatures have been attached to it, and it is
made payable at sight; it is ready money, in fact, and, in one word, the
whole affair is complete."

"My dear Monsieur Vanel, there is not a matter of business in this world,
however important it may be, which cannot be postponed in order to oblige
a man, who, by that means, might and would be made a devoted friend."

"Certainly," said Vanel, awkwardly.

"And much more justly acquired would that friend become, Monsieur Vanel,
since the value of the service he had received would have been so
considerable.  Well, what do you say? what do you decide?"

Vanel preserved a perfect silence.  In the meantime, Aramis had continued
his close observation of the man.  Vanel's narrow face, his deeply sunken
eyes, his arched eyebrows, had revealed to the bishop of Vannes the type
of an avaricious and ambitious character.  Aramis's method was to oppose
one passion by another.  He saw that M. Fouquet was defeated - morally
subdued - and so he came to his rescue with fresh weapons in his hands.
"Excuse me, monseigneur," he said; "you forgot to show M. Vanel that his
own interests are diametrically opposed to this renunciation of the sale."

Vanel looked at the bishop with astonishment; he had hardly expected to
find an auxiliary in him.  Fouquet also paused to listen to the bishop.

"Do you not see," continued Aramis, "that M. Vanel, in order to purchase
your appointment, has been obliged to sell a property belonging to his
wife; well, that is no slight matter; for one cannot displace, as he has
done, fourteen or fifteen hundred thousand francs without some
considerable loss, and very serious inconvenience."

"Perfectly true," said Vanel, whose secret Aramis had, with keen-sighted
gaze, wrung from the bottom of his heart.

"Inconveniences such as these are matters of great expense and
calculation, and whenever a man has money matters to deal with, the
expenses are generally the very first thing thought of."

"Yes, yes," said Fouquet, who began to understand Aramis's meaning.

Vanel remained perfectly silent; he, too, had understood him.  Aramis
observed his coldness of manner and his silence.  "Very good," he said to
himself, "you are waiting, I see, until you know the amount; but do not
fear, I shall send you such a flight of crowns that you cannot but
capitulate on the spot."

"We must offer M. Vanel a hundred thousand crowns at once," said Fouquet,
carried away by his generous feelings.

The sum was a good one.  A prince, even, would have been satisfied with
such a bonus.  A hundred thousand crowns at that period was the dowry of
a king's daughter.  Vanel, however, did not move.

"He is a perfect rascal!" thought the bishop, "well, we must offer the
five hundred thousand francs at once," and he made a sign to Fouquet

"You seem to have spent more than that, dear Monsieur Vanel," said the
superintendent.  "The price of ready money is enormous.  You must have
made a great sacrifice in selling your wife's property.  Well, what can I
have been thinking of?  I ought to have offered to sign you an order for
five hundred thousand francs; and even in that case I shall feel that I
am greatly indebted to you."

There was not a gleam of delight or desire on Vanel's face, which
remained perfectly impassible; not a muscle of it changed in the
slightest degree.  Aramis cast a look almost of despair at Fouquet, and
then, going straight up to Vanel and taking hold of him by the coat, in
a familiar manner, he said, "Monsieur Vanel, it is neither the
inconvenience, nor the displacement of your money, nor the sale of your
wife's property even, that you are thinking of at this moment; it is
something more important still.  I can well understand it; so pay
particular attention to what I am going to say."

"Yes, monseigneur," Vanel replied, beginning to tremble in every limb, as
the prelate's eyes seemed almost ready to devour him.

"I offer you, therefore, in the superintendent's name, not three hundred
thousand livres, nor five hundred thousand, but a million.  A million 
do you understand me?" he added, as he shook him nervously.

"A million!" repeated Vanel, as pale as death.

"A million; in other words, at the present rate of interest, an income of
seventy thousand francs."

"Come, monsieur," said Fouquet, "you can hardly refuse that.  Answer - do
you accept?"

"Impossible," murmured Vanel.

Aramis bit his lips, and something like a cloud seemed to pass over his
face.  The thunder behind this cloud could easily be imagined.  He still
kept his hold on Vanel.  "You have purchased the appointment for fifteen
hundred thousand francs, I think.  Well, you will receive these fifteen
hundred thousand francs back again; by paying M. Fouquet a visit, and
shaking hands with him on the bargain, you will have become a gainer of a
million and a half.  You get honor and profit at the same time, Monsieur

"I cannot do it," said Vanel, hoarsely.

"Very well," replied Aramis, who had grasped Vanel so tightly by the coat
that, when he let go his hold, Vanel staggered back a few paces, "very
well; one can now see clearly enough your object in coming here."

"Yes," said Fouquet, "one can easily see that."

"But - " said Vanel, attempting to stand erect before the weakness of
these two men of honor.

"Does the fellow presume to speak?" said Aramis, with the tone of an

"Fellow!" repeated Vanel.

"The scoundrel, I meant to say," added Aramis, who had now resumed his
usual self-possession.  "Come, monsieur, produce your deed of sale, - you
have it about you, I suppose, in one of your pockets, already prepared,
as an assassin holds his pistol or his dagger concealed under his cloak.

Vanel began to mutter something.

"Enough!" cried Fouquet.  "Where is this deed?"

Vanel tremblingly searched in his pockets, and as he drew out his pocket-
book, a paper fell out of it, while Vanel offered the other to Fouquet.
Aramis pounced upon the paper which had fallen out, as soon as he
recognized the handwriting.  "I beg your pardon," said Vanel, "that is a
rough draft of the deed."

"I see that very clearly," retorted Aramis, with a smile more cutting
than a lash of a whip; "and what I admire most is, that this draft is in
M. Colbert's handwriting.  Look, monseigneur, look."

And he handed the draft to Fouquet, who recognized the truth of the fact;
for, covered with erasures, with inserted words, the margins filled with
additions, this deed - a living proof of Colbert's plot - had just
revealed everything to its unhappy victim.  "Well!" murmured Fouquet.

Vanel, completely humiliated, seemed as if he were looking for some hole
wherein to hide himself.

"Well!" said Aramis, "if your name were not Fouquet, and if your enemy's
name were not Colbert - if you had not this mean thief before you, I
should say to you, 'Repudiate it;' such a proof as this absolves you from
your word; but these fellows would think you were afraid; they would fear
you less than they do; therefore sign the deed at once."  And he held out
a pen towards him.

Fouquet pressed Aramis's hand; but, instead of the deed which Vanel
handed to him, he took the rough draft of it.

"No, not that paper," said Aramis, hastily; "this is the one.  The other
is too precious a document for you to part with."

"No, no!" replied Fouquet; "I will sign under M. Colbert's own
handwriting even; and I write, 'The handwriting is approved of.'"  He

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: