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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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then signed, and said, "Here it is, Monsieur Vanel."  And the latter
seized the paper, dashed down the money, and was about to make his
escape.

"One moment," said Aramis.  "Are you quite sure the exact amount is
there?  It ought to be counted over, Monsieur Vanel; particularly since
M. Colbert makes presents of money to ladies, I see.  Ah, that worthy M.
Colbert is not so generous as M. Fouquet."  And Aramis, spelling every
word, every letter of the order to pay, distilled his wrath and his
contempt, drop by drop, upon the miserable wretch, who had to submit to
this torture for a quarter of an hour.  He was then dismissed, not in
words, but by a gesture, as one dismisses or discharges a beggar or a
menial.

As soon as Vanel had gone, the minister and the prelate, their eyes fixed
on each other, remained silent for a few moments.

"Well," said Aramis, the first to break the silence; "to what can that
man be compared, who, at the very moment he is on the point of entering
into a conflict with an enemy armed from head to foot, panting for his
life, presents himself for the contest utterly defenseless, throws down
his arms, and smiles and kisses his hands to his adversary in the most
gracious manner?  Good faith, M. Fouquet, is a weapon which scoundrels
frequently make use of against men of honor, and it answers their
purpose.  Men of honor, ought, in their turn, also, to make use of
dishonest means against such scoundrels.  You would soon see how strong
they would become, without ceasing to be men of honor."

"What they did would be termed the acts of a scoundrel," replied Fouquet.

"Far from that; it would be merely coquetting or playing with the truth.
At all events, since you have finished with this Vanel; since you have
deprived yourself of the happiness of confounding him by repudiating your
word; and since you have given up, for the purpose of being used against
yourself, the only weapon which can ruin you - "

"My dear friend," said Fouquet, mournfully, "you are like the teacher of
philosophy whom La Fontaine was telling us about the other day; he saw a
child drowning, and began to read him a lecture divided into three heads."

Aramis smiled as he said, "Philosophy - yes; teacher - yes; a drowning
child - yes; but a child can be saved - you shall see.  But first of all
let us talk about business.  Did you not some time ago," he continued, as
Fouquet looked at him with a bewildered air, "speak to me about an idea
you had of giving a _fete_ at Vaux?"

"Oh!" said Fouquet, "that was when affairs were flourishing."

"A _fete_, I believe, to which the king invited himself of his own
accord?"

"No, no, my dear prelate; a _fete_ to which M. Colbert advised the king
to invite himself."

"Ah - exactly; as it would be a _fete_ of so costly a character that you
would be ruined in giving it."

"Precisely so.  In happier days, as I said just now, I had a kind of
pride in showing my enemies how inexhaustible my resources were; I felt
it a point of honor to strike them with amazement, by creating millions
under circumstances where they imagined nothing but bankruptcies and
failures would follow.  But, at present, I am arranging my accounts with
the state, with the king, with myself; and I must now become a mean,
stingy man; I shall be able to prove to the world that I can act or
operate with my deniers as I used to do with my bags of pistoles, and
from to-morrow my equipages shall be sold, my mansions mortgaged, my
expenses curtailed."

"From to-morrow," interrupted Aramis, quietly, "you will occupy yourself,
without the slightest delay, with your _fete_ at Vaux, which must
hereafter be spoken of as one of the most magnificent productions of your
most prosperous days."

"Are you mad, Chevalier d'Herblay?"

"I! do you think so?"

"What do you mean, then?  Do you not know that a _fete_ at Vaux, one of
the very simplest possible character, would cost four or five millions?"

"I do not speak of a _fete_ of the very simplest possible character, my
dear superintendent."

"But, since the _fete_ is to be given to the king," replied Fouquet, who
misunderstood Aramis's idea, "it cannot be simple."

"Just so: it ought to be on a scale of the most unbounded magnificence."

"In that case, I shall have to spend ten or twelve millions."

"You shall spend twenty, if you require it," said Aramis, in a perfectly
calm voice.

"Where shall I get them?" exclaimed Fouquet.

"That is my affair, monsieur le surintendant; and do not be uneasy for a
moment about it.  The money shall be placed at once at your disposal, the
moment you have arranged the plans of your _fete_."

"Chevalier! chevalier!" said Fouquet, giddy with amazement, "whither are
you hurrying me?"

"Across the gulf into which you were about to fall," replied the bishop
of Vannes.  "Take hold of my cloak, and throw fear aside."

"Why did you not tell me that sooner, Aramis?  There was a day when, with
one million only, you could have saved me; whilst to-day - "

"Whilst to-day I can give you twenty," said the prelate.  "Such is the
case, however - the reason is very simple.  On the day you speak of, I
had not the million which you had need of at my disposal, whilst now I
can easily procure the twenty millions we require."

"May Heaven hear you, and save me!"

Aramis resumed his usual smile, the expression of which was so singular.
"Heaven never fails to hear me," he said.

"I abandon myself to your unreservedly," Fouquet murmured.

"No, no; I do not understand it in that manner.  I am unreservedly
devoted to you.  Therefore, as you have the clearest, the most delicate,
and the most ingenious mind of the two, you shall have entire control
over the _fete_, even to the very smallest details.  Only - "

"Only?" said Fouquet, as a man accustomed to understand and appreciate
the value of a parenthesis.

"Well, then, leaving the entire invention of the details to you, I shall
reserve to myself a general superintendence over the execution."

"In what way?"

"I mean, that you will make of me, on that day, a major-domo, a sort of
inspector-general, or factotum - something between a captain of the guard
and manager or steward.  I will look after the people, and will keep the
keys of the doors.  You will give your orders, of course: but will give
them to no one but me.  They will pass through my lips, to reach those
for whom they are intended - you understand?"

"No, I am very far from understanding."

"But you agree?"

"Of course, of course, my friend."

"That is all I care about, then.  Thanks; and now go and prepare your
list of invitations."

"Whom shall I invite?"

"Everybody you know."


Chapter L:
In Which the Author Thinks It Is High Time to Return to the Vicomte de
Bragelonne.

Our readers will have observed in this story, the adventures of the new
and of the past generation being detailed, as it were, side by side.  He
will have noticed in the former, the reflection of the glory of earlier
years, the experience of the bitter things of this world; in the former,
also, that peace which takes possession of the heart, and that healing of
the scars which were formerly deep and painful wounds.  In the latter,
the conflicts of love and vanity; bitter disappointments, ineffable
delights; life instead of memory.  If, therefore, any variety has been
presented to the reader in the different episodes of this tale, it is to
be attributed to the numerous shades of color which are presented on this
double tablet, where two pictures are seen side by side, mingling and
harmonizing their severe and pleasing tones.  The repose of the emotions
of one is found in harmonious contrast with the fiery sentiments of the
other.  After having talked reason with older heads, one loves to talk
nonsense with youth.  Therefore, if the threads of the story do not seem
very intimately to connect the chapter we are now writing with the one we
have just written, we do not intend to give ourselves any more thought or
trouble about it than Ruysdael took in painting an autumn sky, after
having finished a spring-time scene.  We accordingly resume Raoul de
Bragelonne's story at the very place where our last sketch left him.

In a state of frenzy and dismay, or rather without power or will of his
own, - hardly knowing what he was doing, - he fled swiftly, after the
scene in La Valliere's chamber, that strange exclusion, Louise's grief,
Montalais's terror, the king's wrath - all seemed to indicate some
misfortune.  But what?  He had arrived from London because he had been
told of the existence of a danger; and almost on his arrival this
appearance of danger was manifest.  Was not this sufficient for a lover?
Certainly it was, but it was insufficient for a pure and upright heart
such as his.  And yet Raoul did not seek for explanations in the very
quarter where more jealous or less timid lovers would have done.  He did
not go straightaway to his mistress, and say, "Louise, is it true that
you love me no longer?  Is it true that you love another?"  Full of
courage, full of friendship as he was full of love; a religious observer
of his word, and believing blindly the word of others, Raoul said within
himself, "Guiche wrote to put me on my guard, Guiche knows something; I
will go and ask Guiche what he knows, and tell him what I have seen."
The journey was not a long one.  Guiche, who had been brought from
Fontainebleau to Paris within the last two days, was beginning to recover
from his wounds, and to walk about a little in his room.  He uttered a
cry of joy as he saw Raoul, with the eagerness of friendship, enter the
apartment.  Raoul was unable to refrain from a cry of grief, when he saw
De Guiche, so pale, so thin, so melancholy.  A very few words, and a
simple gesture which De Guiche made to put aside Raoul's arm, were
sufficient to inform the latter of the truth.

"Ah! so it is," said Raoul, seating himself beside his friend; "one loves
and dies."

"No, no, not dies," replied Guiche, smiling, "since I am now recovering,
and since, too, I can press you in my arms."

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