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List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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importance of the affair."

"Blind, how blind you are!" murmured Aramis.

"La Valliere," returned Fouquet, "whom we assume to be a schemer of the
first ability, is simply nothing more than a coquette, who hopes that I
shall pay my court to her, because I have already done so, and who, now
that she has received a confirmation of the king's regard, hopes to keep
me in leading strings with the letter.  It is natural enough."

Aramis shook his head.

"Is not that your opinion?" said Fouquet.

"She is not a coquette," he replied.

"Allow me to tell you - "

"Oh!  I am well enough acquainted with women who are coquettes," said
Aramis.

"My dear friend!"

"It is a long time ago since I finished my education, you mean.  But
women are the same, throughout the centuries."

"True; but men change, and you at the present day are far more suspicious
than you formerly were."  And then, beginning to laugh, he added, "Come,
if La Valliere is willing to love me only to the extent of a third, and
the king two-thirds, do you think the condition acceptable?"

Aramis rose impatiently.  "La Valliere," he said, "has never loved, and
never will love, any one but the king."

"At all events," said Fouquet, "what would you do?"

"Ask me rather what I would have done?"

"Well! what would you have done?"

"In the first place, I should not have allowed that man to depart."

"Toby?"

"Yes; Toby is a traitor.  Nay, I am sure of it, and I would not have let
him go until he had told me the truth."

"There is still time.  I will recall him, and do you question him in your
turn."

"Agreed."

"But I assure you it is useless.  He has been with me for twenty years,
and has never made the slightest mistake, and yet," added Fouquet,
laughing, "it would have been easy enough for him to have done so."

"Still, call him back.  This morning I fancy I saw that face, in earnest
conversation with one of M. Colbert's men."

"Where was that?"

"Opposite the stables."

"Bah! all my people are at daggers drawn with that fellow."

"I saw him, I tell you, and his face, which should have been unknown to
me when he entered just now, struck me as disagreeably familiar."

"Why did you not say something, then, while he was here?"

"Because it is only at this very minute that my memory is clear upon the
subject."

"Really," said Fouquet, "you alarm me."  And he again rang the bell.

"Provided that it is not already too late," said Aramis.

Fouquet once more rang impatiently.  The valet usually in attendance
appeared.  "Toby!" said Fouquet, "send Toby."  The valet again shut the
door.

"You leave me at perfect liberty, I suppose?"

"Entirely so."

"I may employ all means, then, to ascertain the truth."

"All."

"Intimidation, even?"

"I constitute you public prosecutor in my place."

They waited ten minutes longer, but uselessly, and Fouquet, thoroughly
out of patience, again rang loudly.

"Toby!" he exclaimed.

"Monseigneur," said the valet, "they are looking for him."

"He cannot be far distant, I have not given him any commission to
execute."

"I will go and see, monseigneur," replied the valet, as he closed the
door.  Aramis, during the interview, walked impatiently, but without a
syllable, up and down the cabinet.  They waited a further ten minutes.
Fouquet rang in a manner to alarm the very dead.  The valet again
presented himself, trembling in a way to induce a belief that he was the
bearer of bad news.

"Monseigneur is mistaken," he said, before even Fouquet could interrogate
him, "you must have given Toby some commission, for he has been to the
stables and taken your lordship's swiftest horse, and saddled it himself."

"Well?"

"And he has gone off."

"Gone!" exclaimed Fouquet.  "Let him be pursued, let him be captured."

"Nay, nay," whispered Aramis, taking him by the hand, "be calm, the evil
is done."

The valet quietly went out.

"The evil is done, you say?"

"No doubt; I was sure of it.  And now, let us give no cause for
suspicion; we must calculate the result of the blow, and ward it off, if
possible."

"After all," said Fouquet, "the evil is not great."

"You think so?" said Aramis.

"Of course.  Surely a man is allowed to write a love-letter to a woman."

"A man, certainly; a subject, no; especially, too, when the woman in
question is one with whom the king is in love."

"But the king was not in love with La Valliere a week ago! he was not in
love with her yesterday, and the letter is dated yesterday; I could not
guess the king was in love, when the king's affection was not even yet in
existence."

"As you please," replied Aramis; "but unfortunately the letter is not
dated, and it is that circumstance particularly which annoys me.  If it
had only been dated yesterday, I should not have the slightest shadow of
uneasiness on your account."

Fouquet shrugged his shoulders.

"Am I not my own master," he said, "and is the king, then, king of my
brain and of my flesh?"

"You are right," replied Aramis, "do not let us attach greater importance
to matters than is necessary; and besides…  Well! if we are menaced, we
have means of defense."

"Oh! menaced!" said Fouquet, "you do not place this gnat bite, as it
were, among the number of menaces which may compromise my fortune and my
life, do you?"

"Do not forget, Monsieur Fouquet, that the bit of an insect can kill a
giant, if the insect be venomous."

"But has this sovereign power you were speaking of, already vanished?"

"I am all-powerful, it is true, but I am not immortal."

"Come, then, the most pressing matter is to find Toby again, I suppose.
Is not that your opinion?"

"Oh! as for that, you will not find him again," said Aramis, "and if he
were of any great value to you, you must give him up for lost."

"At all events he is somewhere or another in the world," said Fouquet.

"You're right, let me act," replied Aramis.


Chapter LXIV:
Madame's Four Chances.

Anne of Austria had begged the young queen to pay her a visit.  For some
time past suffering most acutely, and losing both her youth and beauty
with that rapidity which signalizes the decline of women for whom life
has been one long contest, Anne of Austria had, in addition to her
physical sufferings, to experience the bitterness of being no longer held
in any esteem, except as a surviving remembrance of the past, amidst the
youthful beauties, wits, and influential forces of her court.  Her
physician's opinions, her mirror also, grieved her far less than the
inexorable warnings which the society of the courtiers afforded, who,
like rats in a ship, abandon the hold into which on the very next voyage
the water will infallibly penetrate, owing to the ravages of decay.  Anne
of Austria did not feel satisfied with the time her eldest son devoted to
her.  The king, a good son, more from affectation than from affection,
had at first been in the habit of passing an hour in the morning and one
in the evening with his mother; but, since he had himself undertaken the
conduct of state affairs, the duration of the morning and evening's visit
had been reduced by one half; and then, by degrees, the morning visit had
been suppressed altogether.  They met at mass; the evening visit was
replaced by a meeting, either at the king's assembly or at Madame's,
which the queen attended obligingly enough, out of regard to her two sons.

The result of this was, that Madame gradually acquired an immense
influence over the court, which made her apartments the true royal place
of meeting.  This, Anne of Austria perceived; knowing herself to be very
ill, and condemned by her sufferings to frequent retirement, she was
distressed at the idea that the greater part of her future days and
evenings would pass away solitary, useless, and in despondency.  She
recalled with terror the isolation in which Cardinal Richelieu had
formerly left her, those dreaded and insupportable evenings, during
which, however, she had both youth and beauty, which are ever accompanied
by hope, to console her.  She next formed the project of transporting the
court to her own apartments, and of attracting Madame, with her brilliant
escort, to her gloomy and already sorrowful abode, where the widow of a
king of France, and the mother of a king of France, was reduced to
console, in her artificial widowhood, the weeping wife of a king of
France.

Anne began to reflect.  She had intrigued a good deal in her life.  In
the good times past, when her youthful mind nursed projects that were,
ultimately, invariably successful, she had by her side, to stimulate her
ambition and her love, a friend of her own sex, more eager, more
ambitious than herself, - a friend who had loved her, a rare circumstance
at courts, and whom some petty considerations had removed from her
forever.  But for many years past - except Madame de Motteville, and La
Molena, her Spanish nurse, a confidante in her character of countrywoman
and woman too - who could boast of having given good advice to the
queen?  Who, too, among all the youthful heads there, could recall the
past for her, - that past in which alone she lived?  Anne of Austria
remembered Madame de Chevreuse, in the first place exiled rather by her
wish than the king's, and then dying in exile, the wife of a gentleman of
obscure birth and position.  She asked herself what Madame de Chevreuse
would have advised her to do in similar circumstances, in their mutual
difficulties arising from their intrigues; and after serious reflection,
it seemed as if the clever, subtle mind of her friend, full of experience
and sound judgment, answered her in the well-remembered ironical tones:
"All the insignificant young people are poor and greedy of gain.  They
require gold and incomes to supply means of amusement; it is by interest
you must gain them over."  And Anne of Austria adopted this plan.  Her
purse was well filled, and she had at her disposal a considerable sum of
money, which had been amassed by Mazarin for her, and lodged in a place
of safety.  She possessed the most magnificent jewels in France, and

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