profit of twelve per cent. Never any deficiency, never any idle expenses; the ocean, faithful and regular, brings every twelve hours its contingency to my coffers. I am the first Parisian who has dreamt of such a speculation. Do not say anything about it, I beg of you, and in a short time we will communicate on the matter. I am to have three leagues of country for thirty thousand livres." Aramis darted a look at Porthos, as if to ask if all this were true, if some snare were not concealed beneath this outward indifference. But soon, as if ashamed of having consulted this poor auxiliary, he collected all his forces for a fresh assault and new defense. "I heard that you had had some difference with the court, but that you had come out of it as you know how to get through everything, D'Artagnan, with the honors of war." "I!" said the musketeer, with a burst of laughter that did not conceal his embarrassment: for, from those words, Aramis was not unlikely to be acquainted with his last relations with the king. "I! Oh, tell me all about that, pray, Aramis?" "Yes, it was related to me, a poor bishop, lost in the middle of the _Landes_, that the king had taken you as the confidant of his amours." "With whom?" "With Mademoiselle de Mancini." D'Artagnan breathed freely again. "Ah! I don't say no to that," replied he. "It appears that the king took you one morning, over the bridge of Blois to talk with his lady-love." "That's true," said D'Artagnan. "And you know that, do you? Well, then, you must know that the same day I gave in my resignation!" "What, sincerely?" "Nothing more so." "It was after that, then, that you went to the Comte de la Fere's?" "Yes." "Afterwards to me?" "Yes." "And then Porthos?" "Yes." "Was it in order to pay us a simple visit?" "No, I did no know you were engaged, and I wished to take you with me into England." "Yes, I understand; and then you executed alone, wonderful man as you are, what you wanted to propose to us all four. I suspected you had something to do with that famous restoration, when I learned that you had been seen at King Charles's receptions, and that he appeared to treat you like a friend, or rather like a person to whom he was under an obligation." "But how the devil did you learn all that?" asked D'Artagnan, who began to fear that the investigation of Aramis had extended further than he wished. "Dear D'Artagnan," said the prelate, "my friendship resembles, in a degree, the solicitude of that night watch whom we have in the little tower of the mole, at the extremity of the quay. That brave man, every night, lights a lantern to direct the barks that come from sea. He is concealed in his sentry-box, and the fishermen do not see him; but he follows them with interest; he divines them; he calls them; he attracts them into the way to the port. I resemble this watcher; from time to time some news reaches me, and recalls to my remembrance all those I loved. Then I follow the friends of old days over the stormy ocean of the world, I, a poor watcher, to whom God has kindly given the shelter of a sentry-box." "Well, what did I do when I came from England?" "Ah! there," replied Aramis, "you get beyond my depth. I know nothing of you since your return. D'Artagnan, my eyes are dim. I regretted you did not think of me. I wept over your forgetfulness. I was wrong. I see you again, and it is a festival, a great festival, I assure you, solemnly! How is Athos?" "Very well, thank you." "And our young pupil, Raoul?" "He seems to have inherited the skill of his father, Athos, and the strength of his tutor, Porthos." "And on what occasion have you been able to judge of that?" "Eh! _mon Dieu!_ on the eve of my departure from Paris." "Indeed! tell me all about it!" "Yes; there was an execution at the Greve, and in consequence of that execution, a riot. We happened, by accident, to be in the riot; and in this riot we were obliged to have recourse to our swords. And he did wonders." "Bah! what did he do?" "Why, in the first place, he threw a man out of the window, as he would have flung a sack full of flock." "Come, that's pretty well," said Porthos. "Then he drew, and cut and thrust away, as we fellows used to do in the good old times." "And what was the cause of this riot?" said Porthos. D'Artagnan remarked upon the face of Aramis a complete indifference to this question of Porthos. "Why," said he, fixing his eyes upon Aramis, "on account of the two farmers of the revenue, friends of M. Fouquet, whom the king forced to disgorge their plunder, and then hanged them." A scarcely perceptible contraction of the prelate's brow showed that he had heard D'Artagnan's reply. "Oh, oh!" said Porthos; "and what were the names of these friends of M. Fouquet?" "MM. d'Eymeris and Lyodot," said D'Artagnan. "Do you know these names, Aramis?" "No," said the prelate, disdainfully; "they sound like the names of financiers." "Exactly; so they were." "Oh! M. Fouquet allows his friends to be hanged, then," said Porthos. "And why not?" said Aramis. "Why, it seems to me - " "If these culprits were hanged, it was by order of the king. Now M. Fouquet, although superintendent of the finances, has not, I believe, the right of life and death." "That may be," said Porthos; "but in the place of M. Fouquet - " Aramis was afraid Porthos was about to say something awkward, so interrupted him. "Come, D'Artagnan," said he; "this is quite enough about other people, let us talk a little about you." "Of me you know all that I can tell you. On the contrary let me hear a little about you, Aramis." "I have told you, my friend. There is nothing of Aramis left in me." "Nor of the Abbe d'Herblay even?" "No, not even of him. You see a man whom Providence has taken by the hand, whom he has conducted to a position that he could never have dared even to hope for." "Providence?" asked D'Artagnan. "Yes." "Well, that is strange! I was told it was M. Fouquet." "Who told you that?" cried Aramis, without being able, with all the power of his will, to prevent the color rising to his cheeks. "_Ma foi!_ why, Bazin!" "The fool!" "I do not say he is a man of genius, it is true; but he told me so; and after him, I repeat it to you." "I have never even seen M. Fouquet," replied Aramis with a look as pure and calm as that of a virgin who has never told a lie. "Well, but if you had seen him and known him, there is no harm in that," replied D'Artagnan. "M. Fouquet is a very good sort of a man." "Humph!" "A great politician." Aramis made a gesture of indifference. "An all-powerful minister." "I only hold to the king and the pope." "_Dame!_ listen then," said D'Artagnan, in the most natural tone imaginable. "I said that because everybody here swears by M. Fouquet. The plain is M. Fouquet's; the salt-mines I am about to buy are M. Fouquet's; the island in which Porthos studies topography is M. Fouquet's; the garrison is M. Fouquet's; the galleys are M. Fouquet's. I confess, then, that nothing would have surprised me in your enfeoffment, or rather in that of your diocese, to M. Fouquet. He is a different master from the king, that is all; but quite as powerful as Louis." "Thank God! I am not vassal to anybody; I belong to nobody, and am entirely my own master," replied Aramis, who, during this conversation, followed with his eye every gesture of D'Artagnan, every glance of Porthos. But D'Artagnan was impassible and Porthos motionless; the thrusts aimed so skillfully were parried by an able adversary; not one hit the mark. Nevertheless, both began to feel the fatigue of such a contest, and the announcement of supper was well received by everybody. Supper changed the course of conversation. Besides, they felt that, upon their guard as each one had been, they could neither of them boast of having the advantage. Porthos had understood nothing of what had been meant. He had held himself motionless, because Aramis had made him a sign not to stir. Supper, for him, was nothing but supper; but that was quite enough for Porthos. The supper, then, went off very well. D'Artagnan was in high spirits. Aramis exceeded himself in kind affability. Porthos ate like old Pelops. Their talk was of war, finance, the arts, and love. Aramis played astonishment at every word of politics D'Artagnan risked. This long series of surprises increased the mistrust of D'Artagnan, as the eternal indifference of D'Artagnan provoked the suspicions of Aramis. At length D'Artagnan, designedly, uttered the name of Colbert: he had reserved that stroke for the last. "Who is this Colbert?" asked the bishop. "Oh! come," said D'Artagnan to himself, "that is too strong! We must be careful, _mordioux!_ we must be careful." And he then gave Aramis all the information respecting M. Colbert he could desire. The supper, or rather, the conversation, was prolonged till one o'clock in the morning between D'Artagnan and Aramis. At ten o'clock precisely, Porthos had fallen asleep in his chair and snored like an organ. At midnight he woke up and they sent him to bed. "Hum!" said he, "I was near falling asleep; but that was all very interesting you were talking about." At one o'clock Aramis conducted D'Artagnan to the chamber destined for him, which was the best in the episcopal residence. Two servants were placed at his command. "To-morrow, at eight o'clock," said he, taking leave of D'Artagnan, "we will take, if agreeable to you, a ride on horseback with Porthos." "At eight o'clock!" said D'Artagnan; "so late?" "You know that I require seven hours' sleep," said Aramis. "That is true." "Good-night, dear friend!" And he embraced the musketeer cordially. D'Artagnan allowed him to depart; then, as soon as the door closed, "Good!" cried he, "at five o'clock I will be on foot." This determination being made, he went to bed and quietly, "put two and two together," as people say.
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