annoyance he had some trouble to disguise. "Can I put your majesty in the way?" inquired the Comte de Saint-Aignan. "No; for I no longer remember to whom I intended to refer; indeed, I only remember very indistinctly, that one of the maids of honor was to marry – the name, however, has escaped me." "Was it Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente he was going to marry?" inquired Saint-Aignan. "Very likely," said the king. "In that case, the intended was M. de Montespan; but Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente did not speak of it, it seemed to me, in such a manner as would frighten suitors away." "At all events," said the king, "I know nothing, or almost nothing, about Mademoiselle de la Valliere. Saint-Aignan, I rely upon you to procure me every information about her." "Yes, sire, and when shall I have the honor of seeing your majesty again, to give you the latest news?" "Whenever you have procured it." "I shall obtain it speedily, then, if the information can be as quickly obtained as my wish to see your majesty again." "Well said, count! By the by, has Madame displayed any ill-feeling against this poor girl?" "None, sire." "Madame did not get angry, then?" "I do not know; I only know that she laughed continually." "That's well; but I think I hear voices in the ante-rooms - no doubt a courier has just arrived. Inquire, Saint-Aignan." The count ran to the door and exchanged a few words with the usher; he returned to the king, saying, "Sire, it is M. Fouquet who has this moment arrived, by your majesty's orders, he says. He presented himself, but, because of the lateness of the hour, he does not press for an audience this evening, and is satisfied to have his presence here formally announced." "M. Fouquet! I wrote to him at three o'clock, inviting him to be at Fontainebleau the following day, and he arrives at Fontainebleau at two o'clock in the morning! This is, indeed, zeal!" exclaimed the king, delighted to see himself so promptly obeyed. "On the contrary, M. Fouquet shall have his audience. I summoned him, and will receive him. Let him be introduced. As for you, count, pursue your inquiries, and be here to-morrow." The king placed his finger on his lips; and Saint-Aignan, his heart brimful of happiness, hastily withdrew, telling the usher to introduce M. Fouquet, who, thereupon, entered the king's apartment. Louis rose to receive him. "Good evening, M. Fouquet," he said, smiling graciously; "I congratulate you on your punctuality; and yet my message must have reached you late?" "At nine in the evening, sire." "You have been working very hard lately, M. Fouquet, for I have been informed that you have not left your rooms at Saint-Mande during the last three or four days." "It is perfectly true, your majesty, that I have kept myself shut up for the past three days," replied Fouquet. "Do you know, M. Fouquet, that I had a great many things to say to you?" continued the king, with a most gracious air. "Your majesty overwhelms me, and since you are so graciously disposed towards me, will you permit me to remind you of the promise made to grant an audience?" "Ah, yes! some church dignitary, who thinks he has to thank me for something, is it not?" "Precisely so, sire. The hour is, perhaps, badly chosen; but the time of the companion whom I have brought with me is valuable, and as Fontainebleau is on the way to his diocese - " "Who is it, then?" "The bishop of Vannes, whose appointment your majesty, at my recommendation, deigned, three months since, to sign." "That is very possible," said the king, who had signed without reading; "and he is here?" "Yes, sire; Vannes is an important diocese; the flock belonging to this pastor needed his religious consolation; they are savages, whom it is necessary to polish, at the same time that he instructs them, and M. d'Herblay is unequalled in such kind of missions." "M. d'Herblay!" said the king, musingly, as if his name, heard long since, was not, however, unknown to him. "Oh!" said Fouquet, promptly, "your majesty is not acquainted with the obscure name of one of your most faithful and valuable servants?" "No, I confess I am not. And so he wishes to set off again?" "He has this very day received letters which will, perhaps, compel him to leave, so that, before setting off for that unknown region called Bretagne, he is desirous of paying his respects to your majesty." "Is he waiting?" "He is here, sire." "Let him enter." Fouquet made a sign to the usher in attendance, who was waiting behind the tapestry. The door opened, and Aramis entered. The king allowed him to finish the compliments which he addressed to him, and fixed a long look upon a countenance which no one could forget, after having once beheld it. "Vannes!" he said: "you are bishop of Vannes, I believe?" "Yes, sire." "Vannes is in Bretagne, I think?" Aramis bowed. "Near the coast?" Aramis again bowed. "A few leagues from Bell-Isle, is it not?" "Yes, sire," replied Aramis; "six leagues, I believe." "Six leagues; a mere step, then," said Louis XIV. "Not for us poor Bretons, sire," replied Aramis: "six leagues, on the contrary, is a great distance, if it be six leagues on land; and an immense distance, if it be leagues on the sea. Besides, I have the honor to mention to your majesty that there are six leagues of sea from the river to Belle-Isle." "It is said that M. Fouquet has a very beautiful house there?" inquired the king. "Yes, it is said so," replied Aramis, looking quietly at Fouquet. "What do you mean by 'it is said so?'" exclaimed the king. "He has, sire." "Really, M. Fouquet, I must confess that one circumstance surprises me." "What may that be, sire?" "That you should have at the head of the diocese a man like M. d'Herblay, and yet should not have shown him Belle-Isle." "Oh, sire," replied the bishop, without giving Fouquet time to answer, "we poor Breton prelates seldom leave our residences." "M. de Vannes," said the king, "I will punish M. Fouquet for his indifference." "In what way, sire?" "I will change your bishopric." Fouquet bit his lips, but Aramis only smiled. "What income does Vannes bring you in?" continued the king. "Sixty thousand livres, sire," said Aramis. "So trifling an amount as that; but you possess other property, Monsieur de Vannes?" "I have nothing else, sire; only M. Fouquet pays me one thousand two hundred livres a year for his pew in the church." "Well, M. d'Herblay, I promise you something better than that." "Sire - " "I will not forget you." Aramis bowed, and the king also bowed to him in a respectful manner, as he was accustomed to do towards women and members of the Church. Aramis gathered that his audience was at an end; he took his leave of the king in the simple, unpretending language of a country pastor, and disappeared. "He is, indeed, a remarkable face," said the king, following him with his eyes as long as he could see him, and even to a certain degree when he was no longer to be seen. "Sire," replied Fouquet, "if that bishop had been educated early in life, no prelate in the kingdom would deserve the highest distinctions better than he." "His learning is not extensive, then?" "He changed the sword for the crucifix, and that rather late in life. But it matters little, if your majesty will permit me to speak of M. de Vannes again on another occasion - " "I beg you to do so. But before speaking of him, let us speak of yourself, M. Fouquet." "Of me, sire?" "Yes, I have to pay you a thousand compliments." "I cannot express to your majesty the delight with which you overwhelm me." "I understand you, M. Fouquet. I confess, however, to have had certain prejudices against you." "In that case, I was indeed unhappy, sire." "But they exist no longer. Did you not perceive - " "I did, indeed, sire; but I awaited with resignation the day when the truth would prevail; and it seems that that day has now arrived." "Ah! you knew, then, you were in disgrace with me?" "Alas! sire, I perceived it." "And do you know the reason?" "Perfectly well; your majesty thought that I had been wastefully lavish in expenditure." "Not so; far from that." "Or, rather an indifferent administrator. In a word, you thought that, as the people had no money, there would be none for your majesty either." "Yes, I thought so; but I was deceived." Fouquet bowed. "And no disturbances, no complaints?" "And money enough," said Fouquet. "The fact is that you have been profuse with it during the last month." "I have more, not only for all your majesty's requirements, but for all your caprices." "I thank you, Monsieur Fouquet," replied the king, seriously. "I will not put you to the proof. For the next two months I do not intend to ask you for anything." "I will avail myself of the interval to amass five or six millions, which will be serviceable as money in hand in case of war." "Five or six millions!" "For the expenses of your majesty's household only, be it understood." "You think war probable, M. Fouquet?" "I think that if Heaven has bestowed on the eagle a beak and claws, it is to enable him to show his royal character." The king blushed with pleasure. "We have spent a great deal of money these few days past, Monsieur Fouquet; will you not scold me for it?" "Sire, your majesty has still twenty years of youth to enjoy, and a thousand million francs to lavish in those twenty years." "That is a great deal of money, M. Fouquet," said the king. "I will economize, sire. Besides, your majesty as two valuable servants in M. Colbert and myself. The one will encourage you to be prodigal with your treasures - and this shall be myself, if my services should continue to be agreeable to your majesty; and the other will economize money for you, and this will be M. Colbert's province." "M. Colbert?" returned the king, astonished. "Certainly, sire; M. Colbert is an excellent accountant."
db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com