them - are full of generous feeling." "Such a thing is very possible." "You are conspiring against M. Colbert. If that be all, _mordioux_, tell me so at once. I have the instrument in my own hand, and will pull out the tooth easily enough." Aramis could not conceal a smile of disdain that flitted over his haughty features. "And supposing that I were conspiring against Colbert, what harm would there be in _that?_" "No, no; that would be too trifling a matter for you to take in hand, and it was not on that account you asked Percerin for those patterns of the king's costumes. Oh! Aramis, we are not enemies, remember - we are brothers. Tell me what you wish to undertake, and, upon the word of a D'Artagnan, if I cannot help you, I will swear to remain neuter." "I am undertaking nothing," said Aramis. "Aramis, a voice within me speaks and seems to trickle forth a rill of light within my darkness: it is a voice that has never yet deceived me. It is the king you are conspiring against." "The king?" exclaimed the bishop, pretending to be annoyed. "Your face will not convince me; the king, I repeat." "Will you help me?" said Aramis, smiling ironically. "Aramis, I will do more than help you - I will do more than remain neuter - I will save you." "You are mad, D'Artagnan." "I am the wiser of the two, in this matter." "You to suspect me of wishing to assassinate the king!" "Who spoke of such a thing?" smiled the musketeer. "Well, let us understand one another. I do not see what any one can do to a legitimate king as ours is, if he does not assassinate him." D'Artagnan did not say a word. "Besides, you have your guards and your musketeers here," said the bishop. "True." "You are not in M. Fouquet's house, but in your own." "True; but in spite of that, Aramis, grant me, for pity's sake, one single word of a true friend." "A true friend's word is ever truth itself. If I think of touching, even with my finger, the son of Anne of Austria, the true king of this realm of France - if I have not the firm intention of prostrating myself before his throne - if in every idea I may entertain to-morrow, here at Vaux, will not be the most glorious day my king ever enjoyed - may Heaven's lightning blast me where I stand!" Aramis had pronounced these words with his face turned towards the alcove of his own bedroom, where D'Artagnan, seated with his back towards the alcove, could not suspect that any one was lying concealed. The earnestness of his words, the studied slowness with which he pronounced them, the solemnity of his oath, gave the musketeer the most complete satisfaction. He took hold of both Aramis's hands, and shook them cordially. Aramis had endured reproaches without turning pale, and had blushed as he listened to words of praise. D'Artagnan, deceived, did him honor; but D'Artagnan, trustful and reliant, made him feel ashamed. "Are you going away?" he said, as he embraced him, in order to conceal the flush on his face. "Yes. Duty summons me. I have to get the watch-word. It seems I am to be lodged in the king's ante-room. Where does Porthos sleep?" "Take him away with you, if you like, for he rumbles through his sleepy nose like a park of artillery." "Ah! he does not stay with you, then?" said D'Artagnan. "Not the least in the world. He has a chamber to himself, but I don't know where." "Very good!" said the musketeer; from whom this separation of the two associates removed his last suspicion, and he touched Porthos lightly on the shoulder; the latter replied by a loud yawn. "Come," said D'Artagnan. "What, D'Artagnan, my dear fellow, is that you? What a lucky chance! Oh, yes - true; I have forgotten; I am at the _fete_ at Vaux." "Yes; and your beautiful dress, too." "Yes, it was very attentive on the part of Monsieur Coquelin de Voliere, was it not?" "Hush!" said Aramis. "You are walking so heavily you will make the flooring give way." "True," said the musketeer; "this room is above the dome, I think." "And I did not choose it for a fencing-room, I assure you," added the bishop. "The ceiling of the king's room has all the lightness and calm of wholesome sleep. Do not forget, therefore, that my flooring is merely the covering of his ceiling. Good night, my friends, and in ten minutes I shall be asleep myself." And Aramis accompanied them to the door, laughing quietly all the while. As soon as they were outside, he bolted the door, hurriedly; closed up the chinks of the windows, and then called out, "Monseigneur! - monseigneur!" Philippe made his appearance from the alcove, as he pushed aside a sliding panel placed behind the bed. "M. d'Artagnan entertains a great many suspicions, it seems," he said. "Ah! - you recognized M. d'Artagnan, then?" "Before you called him by his name, even." "He is your captain of musketeers." "He is very devoted to _me_," replied Philippe, laying a stress upon the personal pronoun. "As faithful as a dog; but he bites sometimes. If D'Artagnan does not recognize you before _the other_ has disappeared, rely upon D'Artagnan to the end of the world; for in that case, if he has seen nothing, he will keep his fidelity. If he sees, when it is too late, he is a Gascon, and will never admit that he has been deceived." "I thought so. What are we to do, now?" "Sit in this folding-chair. I am going to push aside a portion of the flooring; you will look through the opening, which answers to one of the false windows made in the dome of the king's apartment. Can you see?" "Yes," said Philippe, starting as at the sight of an enemy; "I see the king!" "What is he doing?" "He seems to wish some man to sit down close to him." "M. Fouquet?" "No, no; wait a moment - " "Look at the notes and the portraits, my prince." "The man whom the king wishes to sit down in his presence is M. Colbert." "Colbert sit down in the king's presence!" exclaimed Aramis. "It is impossible." "Look." Aramis looked through the opening in the flooring. "Yes," he said. "Colbert himself. Oh, monseigneur! what can we be going to hear - and what can result from this intimacy?" "Nothing good for M. Fouquet, at all events." The prince did not deceive himself. We have seen that Louis XIV. had sent for Colbert, and Colbert had arrived. The conversation began between them by the king according to him one of the highest favors that he had ever done; it was true the king was alone with his subject. "Colbert," said he, "sit down." The intendant, overcome with delight, for he feared he was about to be dismissed, refused this unprecedented honor. "Does he accept?" said Aramis. "No, he remains standing." "Let us listen, then." And the future king and the future pope listened eagerly to the simple mortals they held under their feet, ready to crush them when they liked. "Colbert," said the king, "you have annoyed me exceedingly to-day." "I know it, sire." "Very good; I like that answer. Yes, you knew it, and there was courage in the doing of it." "I ran the risk of displeasing your majesty, but I risked, also, the concealment of your best interests." "What! you were afraid of something on _my_ account?" "I was, sire, even if it were nothing more than an indigestion," said Colbert; "for people do not give their sovereigns such banquets as the one of to-day, unless it be to stifle them beneath the burden of good living." Colbert awaited the effect this coarse jest would produce upon the king; and Louis XIV., who was the vainest and the most fastidiously delicate man in his kingdom, forgave Colbert the joke. "The truth is," he said, "that M. Fouquet has given me too good a meal. Tell me, Colbert, where does he get all the money required for this enormous expenditure, - can you tell?" "Yes, I do know, sire." "Will you be able to prove it with tolerable certainty?" "Easily; and to the utmost farthing." "I know you are very exact." "Exactitude is the principal qualification required in an intendant of finances." "But all are not so." "I thank you majesty for so flattering a compliment from your own lips." "M. Fouquet, therefore, is rich - very rich, and I suppose every man knows he is so." "Every one, sire; the living as well as the dead." "What does that mean, Monsieur Colbert?" "The living are witnesses of M. Fouquet's wealth, - they admire and applaud the result produced; but the dead, wiser and better informed than we are, know how that wealth was obtained - and they rise up in accusation." "So that M. Fouquet owes his wealth to some cause or other." "The occupation of an intendant very often favors those who practice it." "You have something to say to me more confidentially, I perceive; do not be afraid, we are quite alone." "I am never afraid of anything under the shelter of my own conscience, and under the protection of your majesty," said Colbert, bowing. "If the dead, therefore, were to speak - " "They do speak sometimes, sire, - read." "Ah!" murmured Aramis, in the prince's ear, who, close beside him, listened without losing a syllable, "since you are placed here, monseigneur, in order to learn your vocation of a king, listen to a piece of infamy - of a nature truly royal. You are about to be a witness of one of those scenes which the foul fiend alone conceives and executes. Listen attentively, - you will find your advantage in it." The prince redoubled his attention, and saw Louis XIV. take from Colbert's hands a letter the latter held out to him. "The late cardinal's handwriting," said the king. "Your majesty has an excellent memory," replied Colbert, bowing; "it is an immense advantage for a king who is destined for hard work to recognize handwritings at the first glance." The king read Mazarin's letter, and, as its contents are already known to the reader, in consequence of the misunderstanding between Madame de Chevreuse and Aramis, nothing further would be learned if we stated them here again. "I do not quite understand," said the king, greatly interested.
db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com