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List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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entered to announce M. Fouquet, who had called to request permission to
pay his respects to her.  She made him repeat the message twice over, for
the poor girl only knew M. Fouquet by name, and could not conceive what
business she could possibly have with a superintendent of finances.
However, as he might represent the king - and, after the conversation we
have recorded, it was very likely - she glanced at her mirror, drew out
still more the ringlets of her hair, and desired him to be admitted.  La
Valliere could not, however, refrain from a certain feeling of
uneasiness.  A visit from the superintendent was not an ordinary event in
the life of any woman attached to the court.  Fouquet, so notorious for
his generosity, his gallantry, and his sensitive delicacy of feeling with
regard to women generally, had received more invitations than he had
requested audiences.  In many houses, the presence of the superintendent
had been significant of fortune; in many hearts, of love.  Fouquet
entered the apartment with a manner full of respect, presenting himself
with that ease and gracefulness of manner which was the distinctive
characteristic of the men of eminence of that period, and which at the
present day seems no longer to be understood, even through the
interpretation of the portraits of the period, in which the painter has
endeavored to recall them to being.  La Valliere acknowledged the
ceremonious salutation which Fouquet addressed to her by a gentle
inclination of the head, and motioned him to a seat.  But Fouquet, with a
bow, said, "I will not sit down until you have pardoned me."

"I?" asked La Valliere, "pardon what?"

Fouquet fixed a most piercing look upon the young girl, and fancied he
could perceive in her face nothing but the most unaffected surprise.  "I
observe," he said, "that you have as much generosity as intelligence, and
I read in your eyes the forgiveness I solicit.  A pardon pronounced by
your lips is insufficient for me, and I need the forgiveness of your
heart and mind."

"Upon my honor, monsieur," said La Valliere, "I assure you most
positively I do not understand your meaning."

"Again, that is a delicacy on your part which charms me," replied
Fouquet, "and I see you do not wish me to blush before you."

"Blush! blush before _me!_  Why should you blush?"

"Can I have deceived myself," said Fouquet; "and can I have been happy
enough not to have offended you by my conduct towards you?"

"Really, monsieur," said La Valliere, shrugging her shoulders, "you speak
in enigmas, and I suppose I am too ignorant to understand you."

"Be it so," said Fouquet; "I will not insist.  Tell me, only, I entreat
you, that I may rely upon your full and complete forgiveness."

"I have but one reply to make to you, monsieur," said La Valliere,
somewhat impatiently, "and I hope that will satisfy you.  If I knew the
wrong you have done me, I would forgive you, and I now do so with still
greater reason since I am ignorant of the wrong you allude to."

Fouquet bit his lips, as Aramis would have done.  "In that case," he
said, "I may hope, that, notwithstanding what has happened, our good
understanding will remain undisturbed, and that you will kindly confer
the favor upon me of believing in my respectful friendship."

La Valliere fancied that she now began to understand, and said to
herself, "I should not have believed M. Fouquet so eager to seek the
source of  a favor so very recent," and then added aloud, "Your
friendship, monsieur! you offer me your friendship.  The honor, on the
contrary, is mine, and I feel overpowered by it."

"I am aware," replied Fouquet, "that the friendship of the master may
appear more brilliant and desirable than that of the servant; but I
assure you the latter will be quite as devoted, quite as faithful, and
altogether disinterested."

La Valliere bowed, for, in fact, the voice of the superintendent seemed
to convey both conviction and real devotion in its tone, and she held out
her hand to him, saying, "I believe you."

Fouquet eagerly took hold of the young girl's hand.  "You see no
difficulty, therefore," he added, "in restoring me that unhappy letter."

"What letter?" inquired La Valliere.

Fouquet interrogated her with his most searching gaze, as he had already
done before, but the same ingenious expressions, the same transparently
candid look met his.  "I am obliged to confess," he said, after this
denial, "that your heart is the most delicate in the world, and I should
not feel I was a man of honor and uprightness if I were to suspect
anything from a woman so generous as yourself."

"Really, Monsieur Fouquet," replied La Valliere, "it is with profound
regret I am obliged to repeat that I absolutely understand nothing of
what you refer to."

"In fact, then, upon your honor, mademoiselle, you have not received any
letter from me?"

"Upon my honor, none," replied La Valliere, firmly.

"Very well, that is quite sufficient; permit me, then, to renew the
assurance of my utmost esteem and respect," said Fouquet.  Then, bowing,
he left the room to seek Aramis, who was waiting for him in his own
apartment, and leaving La Valliere to ask herself whether the
superintendent had not lost his senses.

"Well!" inquired Aramis, who was impatiently waiting Fouquet's return,
"are you satisfied with the favorite?"

"Enchanted," replied Fouquet; "she is a woman full of intelligence and
fine feeling."

"She did not get angry, then?"

"Far from that - she did not even seem to understand."

"To understand what?"

"To understand that I had written to her."

"She must, however, have understood you sufficiently to give the letter
back to you, for I presume she returned it."

"Not at all."

"At least, you satisfied yourself that she had burnt it."

"My dear Monsieur d'Herblay, I have been playing at cross-purposes for
more than an hour, and, however amusing it may be, I begin to have had
enough of this game.  So understand me thoroughly: the girl pretended not
to understand what I was saying to her; she denied having received any
letter; therefore, having positively denied its receipt, she was unable
either to return or burn it."

"Oh, oh!" said Aramis, with uneasiness, "what is this you tell me?"

"I say that she swore most positively she had not received any letter."

"That is too much.  And did you not insist?"

"On the contrary, I did insist, almost impertinently even."

"And she persisted in her denial?"

"Unhesitatingly."

"And did she not contradict herself?"

"Not once."

"But, in that case, then, you have left our letter in her hands?"

"How could I do otherwise?"

"Oh! it was a great mistake."

"What the deuce would you have done in my place?"

"One could not force her, certainly, but it is very embarrassing; such a
letter ought not to remain in existence against us."

"Oh! the young girl's disposition is generosity itself; I looked at her
eyes, and I can read eyes well."

"You think she can be relied upon?"

"From my heart I do."

"Well, I think we are mistaken."

"In what way?"

"I think that, in point of fact, as she herself told you, she did not
receive the letter."

"What! do you suppose - "

"I suppose that, from some motive, of which we know nothing, your man did
not deliver the letter to her."

Fouquet rang the bell.  A servant appeared.  "Send Toby here," he said.
A moment afterwards a man made his appearance, with an anxious, restless
look, shrewd expression of the mouth, with short arms, and his back
somewhat bent.  Aramis fixed a penetrating look upon him.

"Will you allow me to interrogate him myself?" inquired Aramis.

"Do so," said Fouquet.

Aramis was about to say something to the lackey, when he paused.  "No,"
he said; "he would see that we attach too much importance to his answer;
therefore question him yourself; I will pretend to be writing."  Aramis
accordingly placed himself at a table, his back turned towards the old
attendant, whose every gesture and look he watched in a looking-glass
opposite to him.

"Come here, Toby," said Fouquet to the valet, who approached with a
tolerably firm step.  "How did you execute my commission?" inquired
Fouquet.

"In the usual way, monseigneur," replied the man.

"But how, tell me?"

"I succeeded in penetrating as far as Mademoiselle de la Valliere's
apartment; but she was at mass, and so I placed the note on her toilette-
table.  Is not that what you told me to do?"

"Precisely; and is that all?"

"Absolutely all, monseigneur."

"No one was there?"

"No one."

"Did you conceal yourself as I told you?"

"Yes."

"And she returned?"

"Ten minutes afterwards."

"And no one could have taken the letter?"

"No one; for no one had entered the room."

"From the outside, but from the interior?"

"From the place where I was secreted, I could see to the very end of the
room."

"Now listen to me," said Fouquet, looking fixedly at the lackey; "if this
letter did not reach its proper destination, confess it; for, if a
mistake has been made, your head shall be the forfeit."

Toby started, but immediately recovered himself.  "Monseigneur," he said,
"I placed the letter on the very place I told you: and I ask only half an
hour to prove to you that the letter is in Mademoiselle de la Valliere's
hand, or to bring you back the letter itself."

Aramis looked at the valet scrutinizingly.  Fouquet was ready in placing
confidence in people, and for twenty years this man had served him
faithfully.  "Go," he said; "but bring me the proof you speak of."  The
lackey quitted the room.

"Well, what do you think of it?" inquired Fouquet of Aramis.

"I think that you must, by some means or another, assure yourself of the
truth, either that the letter has, or has not, reached La Valliere; that,
in the first case, La Valliere must return it to you, or satisfy you by
burning it in your presence; that, in the second, you must have the
letter back again, even were it to cost you a million.  Come, is not that
your opinion?"

"Yes; but still, my dear bishop, I believe you are exaggerating the

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