List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

completed, and the sentence carried out, whilst in your case the same
thing cannot take place."

"Another blow, why not?  A peculator is, under any circumstances, a

"Criminals who know how to find a safe asylum are never in danger."

"What! make my escape?  Fly?"

"No, I do not mean that; you forget that all such proceedings originate
in the parliament, that they are instituted by the procureur-general, and
that you are the procureur-general.  You see that, unless you wish to
condemn yourself - "

"Oh!" cried Fouquet, suddenly, dashing his fist upon the table.

"Well! what? what is the matter?"

"I am procureur-general no longer."

Aramis, at this reply, became as livid as death; he pressed his hands
together convulsively, and with a wild, haggard look, which almost
annihilated Fouquet, he said, laying a stress on every distinct syllable,
"You are procureur-general no longer, do you say?"


"Since when?"

"Since the last four or five hours."

"Take care," interrupted Aramis, coldly; "I do not think you are in the
full possession of your senses, my friend; collect yourself."

"I tell you," returned Fouquet, "that a little while ago, some one came
to me, brought by my friends, to offer me fourteen hundred thousand
francs for the appointment, and that I sold it."

Aramis looked as though he had been struck by lightning; the intelligent
and mocking expression of his countenance assumed an aspect of such
profound gloom and terror, that it had more effect upon the
superintendent than all the exclamations and speeches in the world.  "You
had need of money, then?" he said, at last.

"Yes; to discharge a debt of honor."  And in a few words, he gave Aramis
an account of Madame de Belliere's generosity, and the manner in which he
had thought it but right to discharge that act of generosity.

"Yes," said Aramis, "that is, indeed, a fine trait.  What has it cost?"

"Exactly the fourteen hundred thousand francs - the price of my

"Which you received in that manner, without reflection.  Oh, imprudent

"I have not yet received the amount, but I shall to-morrow."

"It is not yet completed, then?"

"It must be carried out, though; for I have given the goldsmith, for
twelve o'clock to-morrow, an order upon my treasury, into which the
purchaser's money will be paid at six or seven o'clock."

"Heaven be praised!" cried Aramis, clapping his hands together, "nothing
is yet completed, since you have not yet been paid."

"But the goldsmith?"

"You shall receive the fourteen hundred thousand francs from me, at a
quarter before twelve."

"Stay a moment; it is at six o'clock, this very morning, that I am to

"Oh!  I will answer that you do not sign."

"I have given my word, chevalier."

"If you have given it, you will take it back again, that is all."

"Can I believe what I hear?" cried Fouquet, in a most expressive tone.
"Fouquet recall his word, after it has once been pledged!"

Aramis replied to the almost stern look of the minister by a look full of
anger.  "Monsieur," he said, "I believe I have deserved to be called a
man of honor?  As a soldier, I have risked my life five hundred times; as
a priest I have rendered still greater services, both to the state and to
my friends.  The value of a word, once passed, is estimated according to
the worth of the man who gives it.  So long as it is in his own keeping,
it is of the purest, finest gold; when his wish to keep it has passed
away, it is a two-edged sword.  With that word, therefore, he defends
himself as with an honorable weapon, considering that, when he disregards
his word, he endangers his life and incurs an amount of risk far greater
than that which his adversary is likely to derive of profit.  In such a
case, monsieur, he appeals to Heaven and to justice."

Fouquet bent down his head, as he replied, "I am a poor, self-determined
man, a true Breton born; my mind admires and fears yours.  I do not say
that I keep my word from a proper feeling only; I keep it, if you like,
from custom, practice, pride, or what you will; but, at all events, the
ordinary run of men are simple enough to admire this custom of mine; it
is my sole good quality - leave me such honor as it confers."

"And so you are determined to sign the sale of the very appointment which
can alone defend you against all your enemies."

"Yes, I shall sign."

"You will deliver yourself up, then, bound hand and foot, from a false
notion of honor, which the most scrupulous casuists would disdain?"

"I shall sign," repeated Fouquet.

Aramis sighed deeply, and looked all round him with the impatient gesture
of a man who would gladly dash something to pieces, as a relief to his
feelings.  "We have still one means left," he said; "and I trust you will
not refuse me to make use of that."

"Certainly not, if it be loyal and honorable; as everything is, in fact,
which you propose."

"I know nothing more loyal than the renunciation of your purchaser.  Is
he a friend of yours?"

"Certainly: but - "

"'But!' - if you allow me to manage the affair, I do not despair."

"Oh! you shall be absolutely master to do what you please."

"Whom are you in treaty with?  What manner of man is it?"

"I am not aware whether you know the parliament."

"Most of its members.  One of the presidents, perhaps?"

"No; only a counselor, of the name of Vanel."

Aramis became perfectly purple.  "Vanel!" he cried, rising abruptly from
his seat; "Vanel! the husband of Marguerite Vanel?"


"Of your former mistress?"

"Yes, my dear fellow; she is anxious to be the wife of the procureur-
general.  I certainly owed poor Vanel that slight concession, and I am a
gainer by it; since I, at the same time, can confer a pleasure on his

Aramis walked straight up to Fouquet, and took hold of his hand.  "Do you
know," he said, very calmly, "the name of Madame Vanel's new lover?"

"Ah! she has a new lover, then?  I was not aware of it; no, I have no
idea what his name is."

"His name is M. Jean-Baptiste Colbert; he is intendant of the finances:
he lives in the Rue Croix des Petits-Champs, where Madame de Chevreuse
has been this evening to take him Mazarin's letters, which she wishes to

"Gracious Heaven!" murmured Fouquet, passing his hand across his
forehead, from which the perspiration was starting.

"You now begin to understand, do you not?"

"That I am utterly lost! - yes."

"Do you now think it worth while to be so scrupulous with regard to
keeping your word?"

"Yes," said Fouquet.

"These obstinate people always contrive matters in such a way, that one
cannot but admire them all the while," murmured Aramis.

Fouquet held out his hand to him, and, at the very moment, a richly
ornamented tortoise-shell clock, supported by golden figures, which was
standing on a console table opposite to the fireplace, struck six.  The
sound of a door being opened in the vestibule was heard, and Gourville
came to the door of the cabinet to inquire if Fouquet would received M.
Vanel.  Fouquet turned his eyes from the gaze of Aramis, and then desired
that M. Vanel should be shown in.

Chapter XLIX:
Monsieur Colbert's Rough Draft.

Vanel, who entered at this stage of the conversation, was nothing less
for Aramis and Fouquet than the full stop which completes a phrase.  But,
for Vanel, Aramis's presence in Fouquet's cabinet had quite another
signification; and, therefore, at his first step into the room, he paused
as he looked at the delicate yet firm features of the bishop of Vannes,
and his look of astonishment soon became one of scrutinizing attention.
As for Fouquet, a perfect politician, that is to say, complete master of
himself, he had already, by the energy of his own resolute will,
contrived to remove from his face all traces of the emotion which
Aramis's revelation had occasioned.  He was no longer, therefore, a man
overwhelmed by misfortune and reduced to resort to expedients; he held
his head proudly erect, and indicated by a gesture that Vanel could
enter.  He was now the first minister of the state, and in his own
palace.  Aramis knew the superintendent well; the delicacy of the
feelings of his heart and the exalted nature of his mind no longer
surprised him.  He confined himself, then, for the moment - intending to
resume later an active part in the conversation - to the performance of
the difficult part of a man who looks on and listens, in order to learn
and understand.  Vanel was visibly overcome, and advanced into the middle
of the cabinet, bowing to everything and everybody.  "I am here," he said.

"You are punctual, Monsieur Vanel," returned Fouquet.

"In matters of business, monseigneur," replied Vanel, "I look upon
exactitude as a virtue."

"No doubt, monsieur."

"I beg your pardon," interrupted Aramis, indicating Vanel with his
finger, but addressing himself to Fouquet; "this is the gentleman, I
believe, who has come about the purchase of your appointment?"

"Yes, I am," replied Vanel, astonished at the extremely haughty tone in
which Aramis had put the question; "but in what way am I to address you,
who do me the honor - "

"Call me monseigneur," replied Aramis, dryly.  Vanel bowed.

"Come, gentlemen, a truce to these ceremonies; let us proceed to the
matter itself."

"Monseigneur sees," said Vanel, "that I am waiting your pleasure."

"On the contrary, I am waiting," replied Fouquet.

"What for, may I be permitted to ask, monseigneur?"

"I thought that you had perhaps something to say."

"Oh," said Vanel to himself, "he has reflected on the matter and I am
lost."  But resuming his courage, he continued, "No, monseigneur,
nothing, absolutely nothing more than what I said to you yesterday, and
which I am again ready to repeat to you now."

"Come, now, tell me frankly, Monsieur Vanel, is not the affair rather a
burdensome one for you?"

"Certainly, monseigneur; fourteen hundred thousand francs is an important

"So important, indeed," said Fouquet, "that I have reflected - "

"You have been reflecting, do you say, monseigneur?" exclaimed Vanel,

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: