Europe. Madame, from that evening, achieved and enjoyed a success capable of bewildering all not born to those altitudes termed thrones; which, in spite of their elevation, are sheltered from such giddiness. From that very moment Louis XIV. acknowledged Madame as a person to be recognized. Buckingham regarded her as a coquette deserving the cruelest tortures, and De Guiche looked upon her as a divinity; the courtiers as a star whose light might some day become the focus of all favor and power. And yet Louis XIV., a few years previously, had not even condescended to offer his hand to that "ugly girl" for a ballet; and Buckingham had worshipped this coquette "on both knees." De Guiche had once looked upon this divinity as a mere woman; and the courtiers had not dared to extol this star in her upward progress, fearful to disgust the monarch whom such a dull star had formerly displeased. Let us see what was taking place during this memorable evening at the king's card-table. The young queen, although Spanish by birth, and the niece of Anne of Austria, loved the king, and could not conceal her affection. Anne of Austria, a keen observer, like all women, and imperious, like every queen, was sensible of Madame's power, and acquiesced in it immediately, a circumstance which induced the young queen to raise the siege and retire to her apartments. The king hardly paid any attention to her departure, notwithstanding the pretended symptoms of indisposition by which it was accompanied. Encouraged by the rules of etiquette, which he had begun to introduce at the court as an element of every relation of life, Louis XIV. did not disturb himself; he offered his hand to Madame without looking at Monsieur his brother, and led the young princess to the door of her apartments. It was remarked, that at the threshold of the door, his majesty, freed from every restraint, or not equal to the situation, sighed very deeply. The ladies present - nothing escapes a woman's glance - Mademoiselle Montalais, for instance - did not fail to say to each other, "the king sighed," and "Madame sighed too." This had been indeed the case. Madame had sighed very noiselessly, but with an accompaniment very far more dangerous for the king's repose. Madame had sighed, first closing her beautiful black eyes, next opening them, and then, laden, as they were, with an indescribable mournfulness of expression, she had raised them towards the king, whose face at that moment visibly heightened in color. The consequence of these blushes, of those interchanged sighs, and of this royal agitation, was, that Montalais had committed an indiscretion which had certainly affected her companion, for Mademoiselle de la Valliere, less clear sighted, perhaps, turned pale when the king blushed; and her attendance being required upon Madame, she tremblingly followed the princess without thinking of taking the gloves, which court etiquette required her to do. True it is that the young country girl might allege as her excuse the agitation into which the king seemed to be thrown, for Mademoiselle de la Valliere, busily engaged in closing the door, had involuntarily fixed her eyes upon the king, who, as he retired backwards, had his face towards it. The king returned to the room where the card- tables were set out. He wished to speak to the different persons there, but it was easy to see that his mind was absent. He jumbled different accounts together, which was taken advantage of by some of the noblemen who had retained those habits since the time of Monsieur Mazarin - who had a poor memory, but was a good calculator. In this way, Monsieur Manicamp, with a thoughtless and absent air - for M. Manicamp was the honestest man in the world, appropriated twenty thousand francs, which were littering the table, and which did not seem to belong to any person in particular. In the same way, Monsieur de Wardes, whose head was doubtless a little bewildered by the occurrences of the evening, somehow forgot to leave behind him the sixty double louis which he had won for the Duke of Buckingham, and which the duke, incapable, like his father, of soiling his hands with coin of any sort, had left lying on the table before him. The king only recovered his attention in some degree at the moment that Monsieur Colbert, who had been narrowly observant for some minutes, approached, and, doubtless, with great respect, yet with much perseverance, whispered a counsel of some sort into the still tingling ears of the king. The king, at the suggestion, listened with renewed attention and immediately looking around him, said, "Is Monsieur Fouquet no longer here?" "Yes, sire, I am here," replied the superintendent, till then engaged with Buckingham, and approached the king, who advanced a step towards him with a smiling yet negligent air. "Forgive me," said Louis, "if I interrupt your conversation; but I claim your attention wherever I may require your services." "I am always at the king's service," replied Fouquet. "And your cash-box, too," said the king, laughing with a false smile. "My cash-box more than anything else," said Fouquet, coldly. "The fact is, I wish to give a _fete_ at Fontainebleau - to keep open house for fifteen days, and I shall require - " and he stopped, glancing at Colbert. Fouquet waited without showing discomposure; and the king resumed, answering Colbert's icy smile, "four million francs." "Four million," repeated Fouquet, bowing profoundly. And his nails, buried in his bosom, were thrust into his flesh, but the tranquil expression of his face remained unaltered. "When will they be required, sire?" "Take your time, - I mean - no, no; as soon as possible." "A certain time will be necessary, sire." "Time!" exclaimed Colbert, triumphantly. "The time, monsieur," said the superintendent, with the haughtiest disdain, "simply to _count the money_; a million can only be drawn and weighed in a day." "Four days, then," said Colbert. "My clerks," replied Fouquet, addressing himself to the king, "will perform wonders on his majesty's service, and the sum shall be ready in three days." It was for Colbert now to turn pale. Louis looked at him astonished. Fouquet withdrew without any parade or weakness, smiling at his numerous friends, in whose countenances alone he read the sincerity of their friendship - an interest partaking of compassion. Fouquet, however, should not be judged by his smile, for, in reality, he felt as if he had been stricken by death. Drops of blood beneath his coat stained the fine linen that clothed his chest. His dress concealed the blood, and his smile the rage which devoured him. His domestics perceived, by the manner in which he approached his carriage, that their master was not in the best of humors: the result of their discernment was, that his orders were executed with that exactitude of maneuver which is found on board a man-of-war, commanded during a storm by an ill-tempered captain. The carriage, therefore, did not simply roll along - it flew. Fouquet had hardly time to recover himself during the drive; on his arrival he went at once to Aramis, who had not yet retired for the night. As for Porthos, he had supped very agreeably off a roast leg of mutton, two pheasants, and a perfect heap of cray-fish; he then directed his body to be anointed with perfumed oils, in the manner of the wrestlers of old; and when this anointment was completed, he had himself wrapped in flannels and placed in a warm bed. Aramis, as we have already said, had not retired. Seated at his ease in a velvet dressing-gown, he wrote letter after letter in that fine and hurried handwriting, a page of which contained a quarter of a volume. The door was thrown hurriedly open, and the superintendent appeared, pale, agitated, anxious. Aramis looked up: "Good-evening," said he; and his searching look detected his host's sadness and disordered state of mind. "Was your play as good as his majesty's?" asked Aramis, by way of beginning the conversation. Fouquet threw himself upon a couch, and then pointed to the door to the servant who had followed him; when the servant had left he said, "Excellent." Aramis, who had followed every movement with his eyes, noticed that he stretched himself upon the cushions with a sort of feverish impatience. "You have lost as usual?" inquired Aramis, his pen still in his hand. "Even more than usual," replied Fouquet. "You know how to support losses?" "Sometimes." "What, Monsieur Fouquet a bad player!" "There is play and play, Monsieur d'Herblay." "How much have you lost?" inquired Aramis, with a slight uneasiness. Fouquet collected himself a moment, and then, without the slightest emotion, said, "The evening has cost me four millions," and a bitter laugh drowned the last vibration of these words. Aramis, who did not expect such an amount, dropped his pen. "Four millions," he said; "you have lost four millions, - impossible!" "Monsieur Colbert held my cards for me," replied the superintendent, with a similar bitter laugh. "Ah, now I understand; so, so, a new application for funds?" "Yes, and from the king's own lips. It was impossible to ruin a man with a more charming smile. What do you think of it?" "It is clear that your destruction is the object in view." "That is your opinion?" "Still. Besides, there is nothing in it which should astonish you, for we have foreseen it all along." "Yes; but I did not expect four millions." "No doubt the amount is serious, but, after all, four millions are not quite the death of a man, especially when the man in question is Monsieur Fouquet." "My dear D'Herblay, if you knew the contents of my coffers, you would be less easy." "And you promised?" "What could I _do?_" "That's true." "The very day I refuse, Colbert will procure the money; whence I know not, but he _will_ procure it: and I shall be lost." "There is no doubt of that. In how many days did you promise the four millions?" "In three days. The king seemed exceedingly pressed."
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