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List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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At this commendation, bestowed by the traduced on the traducer, the king
felt himself penetrated with confidence and admiration.  There was not,
moreover, either in Fouquet's voice or look, anything which injuriously
affected a single syllable of the remark he had made; he did not pass one
eulogium, as it were, in order to acquire the right of making two
reproaches.  The king comprehended him, and yielding to so much
generosity and address, he said, "You praise M. Colbert, then?"

"Yes, sire, I praise him; for, besides being a man of merit, I believe
him to be devoted to your majesty's interests."

"Is that because he has often interfered with your own views?" said the
king, smiling.

"Exactly, sire."

"Explain yourself."

"It is simple enough.  I am the man who is needed to make the money come
in; he is the man who is needed to prevent it leaving."

"Nay, nay, monsieur le surintendant, you will presently say something
which will correct this good opinion."

"Do you mean as far as administrative abilities are concerned, sire?"

"Yes."

"Not in the slightest."

"Really?"

"Upon my honor, sire, I do not know throughout France a better clerk than
M. Colbert."

This word "clerk" did not possess, in 1661, the somewhat subservient
signification attached to it in the present day; but, as spoken by
Fouquet, whom the king had addressed as the superintendent, it seemed to
acquire an insignificant and petty character, that at this juncture
served admirably to restore Fouquet to his place, and Colbert to his own.

"And yet," said Louis XIV., "it was Colbert, however, that,
notwithstanding his economy, had the arrangement of my _fetes_ here at
Fontainebleau; and I assure you, Monsieur Fouquet, that in now way has he
checked the expenditure of money."  Fouquet bowed, but did not reply.

"Is it not your opinion too?" said the king.

"I think, sire," he replied, "that M. Colbert has done what he had to do
in an exceedingly orderly manner, and that he deserves, in this respect,
all the praise your majesty may bestow upon him."

The word "orderly" was a proper accompaniment for the word "clerk."  The
king possessed that extreme sensitiveness of organization, that delicacy
of perception, which pierced through and detected the regular order of
feelings and sensations, before the actual sensations themselves, and he
therefore comprehended that the clerk had, in Fouquet's opinion, been too
full of method and order in his arrangements; in other words, that the
magnificent _fetes_ of Fontainebleau might have been rendered more
magnificent still.  The king consequently felt that there was something
in the amusements he had provided with which some person or another might
be able to find fault; he experienced a little of the annoyance felt by a
person coming from the provinces to Paris, dressed out in the very best
clothes which his wardrobe can furnish, only to find that the fashionably
dressed man there looks at him either too much or not enough.  This part
of the conversation, which Fouquet had carried on with so much
moderation, yet with extreme tact, inspired the king with the highest
esteem for the character of the man and the capacity of the minister.
Fouquet took his leave at a quarter to three in the morning, and the king
went to bed a little uneasy and confused at the indirect lesson he had
received; and a good hour was employed by him in going over again in
memory the embroideries, the tapestries, the bills of fare of the various
banquets, the architecture of the triumphal arches, the arrangements for
the illuminations and fireworks, all the offspring of the "Clerk
Colbert's" invention.  The result was, the king passed in review before
him everything that had taken place during the last eight days, and
decided that faults could be found in his _fetes_.  But Fouquet, by his
politeness, his thoughtful consideration, and his generosity, had injured
Colbert more deeply than the latter, by his artifice, his ill-will, and
his persevering hatred, had ever yet succeeded in hurting Fouquet.


Chapter XLVIII:
Fontainebleau at Two o'Clock in the Morning.

As we have seen, Saint-Aignan had quitted the king's apartment at the
very moment the superintendent entered it.  Saint-Aignan was charged with
a mission that required dispatch, and he was going to do his utmost to
turn his time to the best advantage.  He whom we have introduced as the
king's friend was indeed an uncommon personage; he was one of those
valuable courtiers whose vigilance and acuteness of perception threw all
other favorites into the shade, and counterbalanced, by his close
attention, the servility of Dangeau, who was not the favorite, but the
toady of the king.  M. de Saint-Aignan began to think what was to be done
in the present position of affairs.  He reflected that his first
information ought to come from De Guiche.  He therefore set out in search
of him, but De Guiche, whom we saw disappear behind one of the wings, and
who seemed to have returned to his own apartments, had not entered the
chateau.  Saint-Aignan therefore went in quest of him, and after having
turned, and twisted, and searched in every direction, he perceived
something like a human form leaning against a tree.  This figure was as
motionless as a statue, and seemed deeply engaged in looking at a window,
although its curtains were closely drawn.  As this window happened to be
Madame's, Saint-Aignan concluded that the form in question must be that
of De Guiche.  He advanced cautiously, and found he was not mistaken.  De
Guiche had, after his conversation with Madame, carried away such a
weight of happiness, that all of his strength of mind was hardly
sufficient to enable him to support it.  On his side, Saint-Aignan knew
that De Guiche had had something to do with La Valliere's introduction to
Madame's household, for a courtier knows everything and forgets nothing;
but he had never learned under what title or conditions De Guiche had
conferred his protection upon La Valliere.  But, as in asking a great
many questions it is singular if a man does not learn something, Saint-
Aignan reckoned upon learning much or little, as the case might be, if he
questioned De Guiche with that extreme tact, and, at the same time, with
that persistence in attaining an object, of which he was capable.  Saint-
Aignan's plan was as follows:  If the information obtained was
satisfactory, he would inform the king, with alacrity, that he had
lighted upon a pearl, and claim the privilege of setting the pearl in
question in the royal crown.  If the information were unsatisfactory, -
which, after all, might be possible, - he would examine how far the king
cared about La Valliere, and make use of his information in such a manner
as to get rid of the girl altogether, and thereby obtain all the merit of
her banishment with all the ladies of the court who might have the least
pretensions to the king's heart, beginning with Madame and finishing with
the queen.  In case the king should show himself obstinate in his fancy,
then he would not produce the damaging information he had obtained, but
would let La Valliere know that this damaging information was carefully
preserved in a secret drawer of her confidant's memory.  In this manner,
he would be able to air his generosity before the poor girl's eyes, and
so keep her in constant suspense between gratitude and apprehension, to
such an extent as to make her a friend at court, interested, as an
accomplice, in trying to make his fortune, while she was making her own.
As far as concerned the day when the bombshell of the past should burst,
if ever there were any occasion, Saint-Aignan promised himself that he
would by that time have taken all possible precautions, and would pretend
an entire ignorance of the matter to the king; while, with regard to La
Valliere, he would still have an opportunity of being considered the
personification of generosity.  It was with such ideas as these, which
the fire of covetousness had caused to dawn in half an hour, that Saint-
Aignan, the son of earth, as La Fontaine would have said, determined to
get De Guiche into conversation: in other words, to trouble him in his
happiness - a happiness of which Saint-Aignan was quite ignorant.  It was
long past one o'clock in the morning when Saint-Aignan perceived De
Guiche, standing, motionless, leaning against the trunk of a tree, with
his eyes fastened upon the lighted window, - the sleepiest hour of night-
time, which painters crown with myrtles and budding poppies, the hour
when eyes are heavy, hearts throb, and heads feel dull and languid - an
hour which casts upon the day which has passed away a look of regret,
while addressing a loving greeting to the dawning light.  For De Guiche
it was the dawn of unutterable happiness; he would have bestowed a
treasure upon a beggar, had one stood before him, to secure him
uninterrupted indulgence in his dreams.  It was precisely at this hour
that Saint-Aignan, badly advised, - selfishness always counsels badly, -
came and struck him on the shoulder, at the very moment he was murmuring
a word, or rather a name.

"Ah!" he cried loudly, "I was looking for you."

"For me?" said De Guiche, starting.

"Yes; and I find you seemingly moon-struck.  Is it likely, my dear comte,
you have been attacked by a poetical malady, and are making verses?"

The young man forced a smile upon his lips, while a thousand conflicting
sensations were muttering defiance of Saint-Aignan in the deep recesses
of his heart.  "Perhaps," he said.  "But by what happy chance - "

"Ah! your remark shows that you did not hear what I said."

"How so?"

"Why, I began by telling you I was looking for you."

"You were looking for me?"

"Yes: and I find you now in the very act."

"Of doing what, I should like to know?"

"Of singing the praises of Phyllis."

"Well, I do not deny it," said De Guiche, laughing.  "Yes, my dear comte,
I was celebrating Phyllis's praises."

"And you have acquired the right to do so."

"I?"

"You; no doubt of it.  You; the intrepid protector of every beautiful and clever

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