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List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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carriage with three of her companions, told the queen that he had no
preference, and wherever she would like to go, there would he be with
her.  The queen then desired that the outriders should proceed in the
direction of Apremont.  The outriders set off accordingly before the
others.  The king rode on horseback, and for a few minutes accompanied
the carriage of the queen and Madame.  The weather had cleared up a
little, but a kind of veil of dust, like a thick gauze, was still spread
over the surface of the heavens, and the sun made every atom glisten
within the circuit of its rays.  The heat was stifling; but, as the king
did not seem to pay any attention to the appearance of the heavens, no
one made himself uneasy about it, and the promenade, in obedience to the
orders given by the queen, took its course in the direction of Apremont.
The courtiers who followed were in the very highest spirits; it was
evident that every one tried to forget, and to make others forget, the
bitter discussions of the previous evening.  Madame, particularly, was
delightful.  In fact, seeing the king at the door of her carriage, as she
did not suppose he would be there for the queen's sake, she hoped that
her prince had returned to her.  Hardly, however, had they proceeded a
quarter of a mile on the road, when the king, with a gracious smile,
saluted them and drew up his horse, leaving the queen's carriage to pass
on, then that of the principal ladies of honor, and then all the others
in succession, who, seeing the king stop, wished in their turn to stop
too; but the king made a sign to them to continue their progress.  When
La Valliere's carriage passed, the king approached it, saluted the ladies
who were inside, and was preparing to accompany the carriage containing
the maids of honor, in the same way he had followed that in which Madame
was, when suddenly the whole file of carriages stopped.  It was probable
that Madame, uneasy at the king having left her, had just given
directions for the performance of this maneuver, the direction in which
the promenade was to take place having been left to her.  The king,
having sent to inquire what her object was in stopping the cavalcade, was
informed in reply, that she wished to walk.  She most likely hoped that
the king, who was following the carriages of the maids of honor on
horseback, would not venture to follow the maids of honor themselves on
foot.  They had arrived in the middle of the forest.

The promenade, in fact, was not ill-timed, especially for those who were
dreamers or lovers.  From the little open space where the halt had taken
place, three beautiful long walks, shady and undulating, stretched out
before them.  These walks were covered with moss or with leaves that
formed a carpet from the loom of nature; and each walk had its horizon in
the distance, consisting of about a hand-breadth of sky, apparent through
the interlacing of the branches of the trees.  At the end of almost every
walk, evidently in great tribulation and uneasiness, the startled deer
were seen hurrying to and fro, first stopping for a moment in the middle
of the path, and then raising their heads they fled with the speed of an
arrow or bounded into the depths of the forest, where they disappeared
from view; now and then a rabbit, of philosophical mien, might be noticed
quietly sitting upright, rubbing his muzzle with his fore paws, and
looking about inquiringly, as though wondering whether all these people,
who were approaching in his direction, and who had just disturbed him in
his meditations and his meal, were not followed by their dogs, or had not
their guns under their arms.  All alighted from their carriages as soon
as they observed that the queen was doing so.  Maria Theresa took the arm
of one of her ladies of honor, and, with a side glance towards the king,
who did not perceive that he was in the slightest degree the object of
the queen's attention, entered the forest by the first path before her.
Two of the outriders preceded her majesty with long poles, which they
used for the purpose of putting the branches of the trees aside, or
removing the bushes that might impede her progress.  As soon as Madame
alighted, she found the Comte de Guiche at her side, who bowed and placed
himself at her disposal.  Monsieur, delighted with his bath of the two
previous days, had announced his preference for the river, and, having
given De Guiche leave of absence, remained at the chateau with the
Chevalier de Lorraine and Manicamp.  He was not in the slightest degree
jealous.  He had been looked for to no purpose among those present; but
as Monsieur was a man who thought a great deal of himself, and usually
added very little to the general pleasure, his absence was rather a
subject of satisfaction than regret.  Every one had followed the example
which the queen and Madame had set, doing just as they pleased, according
as chance or fancy influenced them.  The king, we have already observed,
remained near La Valliere, and, throwing himself off his horse at the
moment the door of her carriage was opened, he offered her his hand to
alight.  Montalais and Tonnay-Charente immediately drew back and kept at
a distance; the former from calculated, the latter from natural motives.
There was this difference, however, between the two, that the one had
withdrawn from a wish to please the king, the other for a very opposite
reason.  During the last half-hour the weather also had undergone a
change; the veil which had been spread over the sky, as if driven by a
blast of heated air, had become massed together in the western part of
the heavens; and afterwards, as if driven by a current of air from the
opposite direction, was now advancing slowly and heavily towards them.
The approach of the storm could be felt, but as the king did not perceive
it, no one thought it proper to do so.  The promenade was therefore
continued; some of the company, with minds ill at ease on the subject,
raised their eyes from time to time towards the sky; others, even more
timid still, walked about without wandering too far from the carriages,
where they relied upon taking shelter in case the storm burst.  The
greater number of these, however, observing that the king fearlessly
entered the wood with La Valliere, followed his majesty.  The king,
noticing this, took La Valliere's hand, and led her to a lateral forest-
alley; where no one this time ventured to follow him.


Chapter LXII:
The Shower of Rain.

At this moment, and in the same direction, too, that the king and La
Valliere had taken, except that they were in the wood itself instead of
following the path, two men were walking together, utterly indifferent to
the appearance of the heavens.  Their heads were bent down in the manner
of people occupied with matters of great moment.  They had not observed
either De Guiche or Madame, the king or La Valliere.  Suddenly something
fell through the air like a colossal sheet of flame, followed by a loud
but distant rumbling noise.

"Ah!" said one of them, raising his head, "here comes the storm.  Let us
reach our carriages, my dear D'Herblay."

Aramis looked inquiringly at the heavens.  "There is no occasion to hurry
yet," he said; and then resuming the conversation where it had doubtless
been interrupted, he said, "You were observing that the letter we wrote
last evening must by this time have reached its destination?"

"I was saying that she certainly has it."

"Whom did you send it by?"

"By my own servant, as I have already told you."

"Did he bring back an answer?"

"I have not seen him since; the young girl was probably in attendance on
Madame, or was in her own room dressing, and he may have had to wait.
Our time for leaving arrived, and we set off, of course; I cannot,
therefore, know what is going on yonder."

"Did you see the king before leaving?"

"Yes."

"How did he seem?"

"Nothing could have passed off better, or worse; according as he be
sincere or hypocritical."

"And the _fete?_"

"Will take place in a month."

"He invited himself, you say?"

"With a pertinacity in which I detected Colbert's influence.  But has not
last night removed your illusions?"

"What illusions?"

"With respect to the assistance you may be able to give me under these
circumstances."

"No; I have passed the night writing, and all my orders are given."

"Do not conceal it from yourself, D'Herblay, but the _fete_ will cost
some millions."

"I will supply six; do you on your side get two or three."

"You are a wonderful man, my dear D'Herblay."

Aramis smiled.

"But," inquired Fouquet, with some remaining uneasiness, "how is it that
while you are now squandering millions in this manner, a few days ago you
did not pay the fifty thousand francs to Baisemeaux out of  your own
pocket?"

"Because a few days ago I was as poor as Job."

"And to-day?"

"To-day I am wealthier than the king himself."

"Very well," said Fouquet; "I understand men pretty well; I know you are
incapable of forfeiting your word; I do not wish to wrest your secret
from you, and so let us talk no more about it."

At this moment a dull, heavy rumbling was heard, which suddenly developed
into a violent clap of thunder.

"Oh, oh!" said Fouquet, "I was quite right in what I said."

"Come," said Aramis, "let us rejoin the carriages."

"We shall not have time," said Fouquet," for here comes the rain."

In fact, as he spoke, and as if the heavens were opened, a shower of
large drops of rain was suddenly heard pattering on the leaves about them.

"We shall have time," said Aramis, "to reach the carriages before the
foliage becomes saturated."

"It will be better," said Fouquet, "to take shelter somewhere - in a
grotto, for instance."

"Yes, but where are we to find a grotto?" inquired Aramis.

"I know one," said Fouquet, smiling, "not ten paces from here."  Then
looking round him, he added: "Yes, we are quite right."

"You are very fortunate to have so good a memory," said Aramis, smiling
in his turn, "but are you not afraid that your coachman, finding we do

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