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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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clerk, or something of that sort; I take great interest in your affairs,
and if, at this moment, I were a pretty woman, I could render you an
important service."

"What?"

"I would go and find the _concierge_ of the Palais.  I would seduce him,
for he is a gallant man, extravagantly partial to women; then I would get
away our two prisoners."

"I hope to be able to do so myself, although I am not a pretty woman,"
replied Fouquet.

"Granted, monseigneur; but you are compromising yourself very much."

"Oh!" cried Fouquet, suddenly, with one of those secret transports which
the generous blood of youth, or the remembrance of some sweet emotion,
infuses into the heart.  "Oh!  I know a woman who will enact the
personage we stand in need of, with the lieutenant-governor of the
_concierge_."

"And, on my part, I know fifty, monseigneur; fifty trumpets, which will
inform the universe of your generosity, of your devotion to your friends,
and, consequently, will ruin you sooner or later in ruining themselves."

"I do not speak of such women, Pelisson; I speak of a noble and beautiful
creature who joins to the intelligence and wit of her sex the valor and
coolness of ours; I speak of a woman, handsome enough to make the walls
of a prison bow down to salute her, discreet enough to let no one suspect
by whom she has been sent."

"A treasure!" said Pelisson; "you would make a famous present to monsieur
the governor of the _concierge!  Peste!_ monseigneur, he might have his
head cut off; but he would, before dying, have had such happiness as no
man had enjoyed before him."

"And I add," said Fouquet, "that the _concierge_ of the Palais would not
have his head cut off, for he would receive of me my horses, to effect
his escape, and five hundred thousand livres wherewith to live
comfortably in England: I add, that this lady, my friend, would give him
nothing but the horses and the money.  Let us go and seek her, Pelisson."

The superintendent reached forth his hand towards the golden and silken
cord placed in the interior of his carriage, but Pelisson stopped him.
"Monseigneur," said he, "you are going to lose as much time in seeking
this lady as Columbus took to discover the new world.  Now, we have but
two hours in which we can possibly succeed; the _concierge_ once gone to
bed, how shall we get at him without making a disturbance?  When daylight
dawns, how can we conceal our proceedings?  Go, go yourself, monseigneur,
and do not seek either woman or angel to-night."

"But, my dear Pelisson, here we are before her door."

"What! before the angel's door?"

"Why, yes."

"This is the hotel of Madame de Belliere!"

"Hush!"

"Ah!  Good Lord!" exclaimed Pelisson.

"What have you to say against her?"

"Nothing, alas! and it is that which causes my despair.  Nothing,
absolutely nothing.  Why can I not, on the contrary, say ill enough of
her to prevent your going to her?"

But Fouquet had already given orders to stop, and the carriage was
motionless.  "Prevent me!" cried Fouquet; "why, no power on earth should
prevent my going to pay my compliments to Madame de Plessis-Belliere;
besides, who knows that we shall not stand in need of her!"

"No, monseigneur, no!"

"But I do not wish you to wait for me, Pelisson," replied Fouquet,
sincerely courteous.

"The more reason I should, monseigneur; knowing that you are keeping me
waiting, you will, perhaps, stay a shorter time.  Take care!  You see
there is a carriage in the courtyard: she has some one with her."
Fouquet leaned towards the steps of the carriage.  "One word more," cried
Pelisson; "do not go to this lady till you have been to the _concierge_,
for Heaven's sake!"

"Eh! five minutes, Pelisson," replied Fouquet, alighting at the steps of
the hotel, leaving Pelisson in the carriage, in a very ill-humor.
Fouquet ran upstairs, told his name to the footman, which excited an
eagerness and a respect that showed the habit the mistress of the house
had of honoring that name in her family.  "Monsieur le surintendant,"
cried the marquise, advancing, very pale, to meet him; "what an honor!
what an unexpected pleasure!" said she.  Then, in a low voice, "Take
care!" added the marquise, "Marguerite Vanel is here!"

"Madame," replied Fouquet, rather agitated, "I came on business.  One
single word, and quickly, if you please!"  And he entered the _salon_.
Madame Vanel had risen, paler, more livid, than Envy herself.  Fouquet in
vain addressed her, with the most agreeable, most pacific salutation; she
only replied by a terrible glance darted at the marquise and Fouquet.
This keen glance of a jealous woman is a stiletto which pierces every
cuirass; Marguerite Vanel plunged it straight into the hearts of the two
confidants.  She made a courtesy to _her friend_, a more profound one to
Fouquet, and took leave, under pretense of having a number of visits to
make, without the marquise trying to prevent her, or Fouquet, a prey to
anxiety, thinking further about her.  She was scarcely out of the room,
and Fouquet left alone with the marquise, before he threw himself on his
knees, without saying a word.  "I expected you," said the marquise, with
a tender sigh.

"Oh! no," cried he, "or you would have sent away that woman."

"She has been here little more than half an hour, and I had no
expectation she would come this evening."

"You love me just a little, then, marquise?"

"That is not the question now; it is of your danger; how are your affairs
going on?"

"I am going this evening to get my friends out of the prisons of the
Palais."

"How will you do that?"

"By buying and bribing the governor."

"He is a friend of mine; can I assist you, without injuring you?"

"Oh! marquise, it would be a signal service; but how can you be employed
without your being compromised?  Now, never shall my life, my power, or
even my liberty, be purchased at the expense of a single tear from your
eyes, or of one frown of pain upon your brow."

"Monseigneur, no more such words, they bewilder me; I have been culpable
in trying to serve you, without calculating the extent of what I was
doing.  I love you in reality, as a tender friend; and as a friend, I am
grateful for your delicate attentions - but, alas! - alas! you will never
find a mistress in me."

"Marquise!" cried Fouquet, in a tone of despair; "why not?"

"Because you are too much beloved," said the young woman, in a low voice;
"because you are too much beloved by too many people - because the
splendor of glory and fortune wound my eyes, whilst the darkness of
sorrow attracts them; because, in short, I, who have repulsed you in your
proud magnificence; I who scarcely looked at you in your splendor, I
came, like a mad woman, to throw myself, as it were, into your arms, when
I saw a misfortune hovering over your head.  You understand me now,
monseigneur?  Become happy again, that I may remain chaste in heart and
in thought: your misfortune entails my ruin."

"Oh! madame," said Fouquet, with an emotion he had never before felt;
"were I to fall to the lowest degree of human misery, and hear from your
mouth that word which you now refuse me, that day, madame, you will be
mistaken in your noble egotism; that day you will fancy you are consoling
the most unfortunate of men, and you will have said, _I love you_, to the
most illustrious, the most delighted, the most triumphant of the happy
beings of this world."

He was still at her feet, kissing her hand, when Pelisson entered
precipitately, crying, in very ill-humor, "Monseigneur! madame! for
Heaven's sake! excuse me.  Monseigneur, you have been here half an hour.
Oh! do not both look at me so reproachfully.  Madame, pray who is that
lady who left your house soon after monseigneur came in?"

"Madame Vanel," said Fouquet.

"Ha!" cried Pelisson, "I was sure of that."

"Well! what then?"

"Why, she got into her carriage, looking deadly pale."

"What consequence is that to me?"

"Yes, but what she said to her coachman is of consequence to you."

"Kind heaven!" cried the marquise, "what was that?"

"To M. Colbert's!" said Pelisson, in a hoarse voice.

"_Bon Dieu!_ - begone, begone, monseigneur!" replied the marquise,
pushing Fouquet out of the salon, whilst Pelisson dragged him by the
hand.

"Am I, then, indeed," said the superintendent, "become a child, to be
frightened by a shadow?"

"You are a giant," said the marquise, "whom a viper is trying to bite in
the heel."

Pelisson continued to drag Fouquet to the carriage.  "To the Palais at
full speed!" cried Pelisson to the coachman.  The horses set off like
lightening; no obstacle relaxed their pace for an instant.  Only, at the
arcade Saint-Jean, as they were coming out upon the Place de Greve, a
long file of horsemen, barring the narrow passage, stopped the carriage
of the superintendent.  There was no means of forcing this barrier; it
was necessary to wait till the mounted archers of the watch, for it was
they who stopped the way, had passed with the heavy carriage they were
escorting, and which ascended rapidly towards the Place Baudoyer.
Fouquet and Pelisson took no further account of this circumstance beyond
deploring the minute's delay they had thus to submit to.  They entered
the habitation of the _concierge du Palais_ five minutes after.  That
officer was still walking about in the front court.  At the name of
Fouquet, whispered in his ear by Pelisson, the governor eagerly
approached the carriage, and, hat in hand, was profuse in his
attentions.  "What an honor for me, monseigneur," said he.

"One word, monsieur le governeur, will you take the trouble to get into
my carriage?"  The officer placed himself opposite Fouquet in the coach.

"Monsieur," said Fouquet, "I have a service to ask of you."

"Speak, monseigneur."

"A service that will be compromising for you, monsieur, but which will
assure to you forever my protection and my friendship."

"Were it to cast myself into the fire for you, monseigneur, I would do
it."

"That is well," said Fouquet; "what I require is much more simple."

"That being so, monseigneur, what is it?"

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