"Your majesty has not acquired the utilitarian habit of checking the public accounts." "I see that it refers to money that had been given to M. Fouquet." "Thirteen millions. A tolerably good sum." "Yes. Well, these thirteen millions are wanting to balance the total of the account. That is what I do not very well understand. How was this deficit possible?" "Possible I do not say; but there is no doubt about fact that it is really so." "You say that these thirteen millions are found to be wanting in the accounts?" "I do not say so, but the registry does." "And this letter of M. Mazarin indicates the employment of that sum and the name of the person with whom it was deposited?" "As your majesty can judge for yourself." "Yes; and the result is, then, that M. Fouquet has not yet restored the thirteen millions." "That results from the accounts, certainly, sire." "Well, and, consequently - " "Well, sire, in that case, inasmuch as M. Fouquet has not yet given back the thirteen millions, he must have appropriated them to his own purpose; and with those thirteen millions one could incur four times and a little more as much expense, and make four times as great a display, as your majesty was able to do at Fontainebleau, where we only spent three millions altogether, if you remember." For a blunderer, the _souvenir_ he had evoked was a rather skillfully contrived piece of baseness; for by the remembrance of his own _fete_ he, for the first time, perceived its inferiority compared with that of Fouquet. Colbert received back again at Vaux what Fouquet had given him at Fontainebleau, and, as a good financier, returned it with the best possible interest. Having once disposed the king's mind in this artful way, Colbert had nothing of much importance to detain him. He felt that such was the case, for the king, too, had again sunk into a dull and gloomy state. Colbert awaited the first words from the king's lips with as much impatience as Philippe and Aramis did from their place of observation. "Are you aware what is the usual and natural consequence of all this, Monsieur Colbert?" said the king, after a few moments' reflection. "No, sire, I do not know." "Well, then, the fact of the appropriation of the thirteen millions, if it can be proved - " "But it is so already." "I mean if it were to be declared and certified, M. Colbert." "I think it will be to-morrow, if your majesty - " "Were we not under M. Fouquet's roof, you were going to say, perhaps," replied the king, with something of nobility in his demeanor. "The king is in his own palace wherever he may be - especially in houses which the royal money has constructed." "I think," said Philippe in a low tone to Aramis, "that the architect who planned this dome ought, anticipating the use it could be put to at a future opportunity, so to have contrived that it might be made to fall upon the heads of scoundrels such as M. Colbert." "I think so too," replied Aramis; "but M. Colbert is so very _near the king_ at this moment." "That is true, and that would open the succession." "Of which your younger brother would reap all the advantage, monseigneur. But stay, let us keep quiet, and go on listening." "We shall not have long to listen," said the young prince. "Why not, monseigneur?" "Because, if I were king, I should make no further reply." "And what would you do?" "I should wait until to-morrow morning to give myself time for reflection." Louis XIV. at last raised his eyes, and finding Colbert attentively waiting for his next remarks, said, hastily, changing the conversation, "M. Colbert, I perceive it is getting very late, and I shall now retire to bed. By to-morrow morning I shall have made up my mind." "Very good, sire," returned Colbert, greatly incensed, although he restrained himself in the presence of the king. The king made a gesture of adieu, and Colbert withdrew with a respectful bow. "My attendants!" cried the king; and, as they entered the apartment, Philippe was about to quit his post of observation. "A moment longer," said Aramis to him, with his accustomed gentleness of manner; "what has just now taken place is only a detail, and to-morrow we shall have no occasion to think anything more about it; but the ceremony of the king's retiring to rest, the etiquette observed in addressing the king, that indeed is of the greatest importance. Learn, sire, and study well how you ought to go to bed of a night. Look! look!" Chapter XV: Colbert. History will tell us, or rather history has told us, of the various events of the following day, of the splendid _fetes_ given by the surintendant to his sovereign. Nothing but amusement and delight was allowed to prevail throughout the whole of the following day; there was a promenade, a banquet, a comedy to be acted, and a comedy, too, in which, to his great amazement, Porthos recognized "M. Coquelin de Voliere" as one of the actors, in the piece called "Les Facheux." Full of preoccupation, however, from the scene of the previous evening, and hardly recovered from the effects of the poison which Colbert had then administered to him, the king, during the whole of the day, so brilliant in its effects, so full of unexpected and startling novelties, in which all the wonders of the "Arabian Night's Entertainments" seemed to be reproduced for his especial amusement - the king, we say, showed himself cold, reserved, and taciturn. Nothing could smooth the frowns upon his face; every one who observed him noticed that a deep feeling of resentment, of remote origin, increased by slow degrees, as the source becomes a river, thanks to the thousand threads of water that increase its body, was keenly alive in the depths of the king's heart. Towards the middle of the day only did he begin to resume a little serenity of manner, and by that time he had, in all probability, made up his mind. Aramis, who followed him step by step in his thoughts, as in his walk, concluded that the event he was expecting would not be long before it was announced. This time Colbert seemed to walk in concert with the bishop of Vannes, and had he received for every annoyance which he inflicted on the king a word of direction from Aramis, he could not have done better. During the whole of the day the king, who, in all probability, wished to free himself from some of the thoughts which disturbed his mind, seemed to seek La Valliere's society as actively as he seemed to show his anxiety to flee that of M. Colbert or M. Fouquet. The evening came. The king had expressed a wish not to walk in the park until after cards in the evening. In the interval between supper and the promenade, cards and dice were introduced. The king won a thousand pistoles, and, having won them, put them in his pocket, and then rose, saying, "And now, gentlemen, to the park." He found the ladies of the court were already there. The king, we have before observed, had won a thousand pistoles, and had put them in his pocket; but M. Fouquet had somehow contrived to lose ten thousand, so that among the courtiers there was still left a hundred and ninety thousand francs' profit to divide, a circumstance which made the countenances of the courtiers and the officers of the king's household the most joyous countenances in the world. It was not the same, however, with the king's face; for, notwithstanding his success at play, to which he was by no means insensible, there still remained a slight shade of dissatisfaction. Colbert was waiting for or upon him at the corner of one of the avenues; he was most probably waiting there in consequence of a rendezvous which had been given him by the king, as Louis XIV., who had avoided him, or who had seemed to avoid him, suddenly made him a sign, and they then struck into the depths of the park together. But La Valliere, too, had observed the king's gloomy aspect and kindling glances; she had remarked this - and as nothing which lay hidden or smoldering in his heart was hidden from the gaze of her affection, she understood that this repressed wrath menaced some one; she prepared to withstand the current of his vengeance, and intercede like an angel of mercy. Overcome by sadness, nervously agitated, deeply distressed at having been so long separated from her lover, disturbed at the sight of the emotion she had divined, she accordingly presented herself to the king with an embarrassed aspect, which in his then disposition of mind the king interpreted unfavorably. Then, as they were alone - nearly alone, inasmuch as Colbert, as soon as he perceived the young girl approaching, had stopped and drawn back a dozen paces - the king advanced towards La Valliere and took her by the hand. "Mademoiselle," he said to her, "should I be guilty of an indiscretion if I were to inquire if you were indisposed? for you seem to breathe as if you were oppressed by some secret cause of uneasiness, and your eyes are filled with tears." "Oh! sire, if I be indeed so, and if my eyes are indeed full of tears, I am sorrowful only at the sadness which seems to oppress your majesty." "My sadness? You are mistaken, mademoiselle; no, it is not sadness I experience." "What is it, then, sire?" "Humiliation." "Humiliation? oh! sire, what a word for you to use!" "I mean, mademoiselle, that wherever I may happen to be, no one else ought to be the master. Well, then, look round you on every side, and judge whether I am not eclipsed - I, the king of France - before the monarch of these wide domains. Oh!" he continued, clenching his hands and teeth, "when I think that this king - " "Well, sire?" said Louise, terrified. " - That this king is a faithless, unworthy servant, who grows proud and self-sufficient upon the strength of property that belongs to me, and which he has stolen. And therefore I am about to change this impudent minister's _fete_ into sorrow and mourning, of which the nymph of Vaux, as the poets say, shall not soon lose the remembrance." "Oh! your majesty - "
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