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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