These kisses, however, which she had not the strength at first to resist, began to intimidate the young girl. "Oh! sire," she exclaimed, "do not make me repeat my loyalty, for this would show me that your majesty despises me still." "Mademoiselle de la Valliere," said the king, suddenly, drawing back with an air full of respect, "there is nothing in the world that I love and honor more than yourself, and nothing in my court, I call Heaven to witness, shall be so highly regarded as you shall be henceforward. I entreat your forgiveness for my transport; it arose from an excess of affection, but I can prove to you that I love you more than ever by respecting you as much as you can possibly desire or deserve." Then, bending before her, and taking her by the hand, he said to her, "Will you honor me by accepting the kiss I press upon your hand?" And the king's lips were pressed respectfully and lightly upon the young girl's trembling hand. "Henceforth," added Louis, rising and bending his glance upon La Valliere, "henceforth you are under my safeguard. Do not speak to any one of the injury I have done you, forgive others that which they may have attempted. For the future, you shall be so far above all those, that, far from inspiring you with fear, they shall be even beneath your pity." And he bowed as reverently as though he were leaving a place of worship. Then calling to Saint-Aignan, who approached with great humility, he said, "I hope, comte, that Mademoiselle de la Valliere will kindly confer a little of her friendship upon you, in return for that which I have vowed to her eternally." Saint-Aignan bent his knee before La Valliere, saying, "How happy, indeed, would such an honor make me!" "I will send your companion back to you," said the king. "Farewell! or, rather, adieu till we meet again; do not forget me in your prayers, I entreat." "Oh!" cried La Valliere, "be assured that you and Heaven are in my heart together." These words of Louise elated the king, who, full of happiness, hurried Saint-Aignan down the stairs. Madame had not anticipated this _denouement_; and neither the Naiad nor the Dryad had breathed a word about it. Chapter LX: The New General of the Jesuits. While La Valliere and the king were mingling, in their first confession of love, all the bitterness of the past, the happiness of the present, and hopes of the future, Fouquet had retired to the apartments which had been assigned to him in the chateau, and was conversing with Aramis precisely upon the very subjects which the king at that moment was forgetting. "Now tell me," said Fouquet, after having installed his guest in an armchair and seated himself by his side, "tell me, Monsieur d'Herblay, what is our position with regard to the Belle-Isle affair, and whether you have received any news about it." "Everything is going on in that direction as we wish," replied Aramis; "the expenses have been paid, and nothing has transpired of our designs." "But what about the soldiers the king wished to send there?" "I have received news this morning they arrived there fifteen days ago." "And how have they been treated?" "In the best manner possible." "What has become of the former garrison?" "The soldiers were landed at Sarzeau, and then transferred immediately to Quimper." "And the new garrison?" "Belongs to us from this very moment." "Are you sure of what you say, my dear Monsieur de Vannes?" "Quite sure, and, moreover, you will see by and by how matters have turned out." "Still you are very well aware, that, of all the garrison towns, Belle- Isle is precisely the very worst." "I know it, and have acted accordingly; no space to move about, no gayety, no cheerful society, no gambling permitted: well, it is a great pity," added Aramis, with one of those smiles so peculiar to him, "to see how much young people at the present day seek amusement, and how much, consequently, they incline to the man who procures and pays for their favorite pastimes." "But if they amuse themselves at Bell-Isle?" "If they amuse themselves through the king's means, they will attach themselves to the king; but if they get bored to death through the king's means, and amuse themselves through M. Fouquet, they will attach themselves to M. Fouquet." "And you informed my intendant, of course? - so that immediately on their arrival - " "By no means; they were left alone a whole week, to weary themselves at their ease; but, at the end of the week, they cried out, saying that former officers amused themselves much better. Whereupon they were told that the old officers had been able to make a friend of M. Fouquet, and that M. Fouquet, knowing them to be friends of his, had from that moment done all he possibly could to prevent their getting wearied or bored upon his estates. Upon this they began to reflect. Immediately afterwards, however, the intendant added, that without anticipating M. Fouquet's orders, he knew his master sufficiently well to be aware that he took an interest in every gentleman in the king's service, and that, although he did not know the new-comers, he would do as much for them as he had done for the others." "Excellent! and I trust that the promises were followed up; I desire, as you know, that no promise should ever be made in my name without being kept." "Without a moment's loss of time, our two privateers, and your own horses, were placed at the disposal of the officers; the keys of the principal mansion were handed over to them, so that they made up hunting- parties, and walking excursions with such ladies as are to be found in Belle-Isle; and such other as they are enabled to enlist from the neighborhood, who have no fear of sea-sickness." "And there is a fair sprinkling to be met with at Sarzeau and Vannes, I believe, your eminence?" "Yes; in fact all along the coast," said Aramis, quietly. "And now, how about the soldiers?" "Everything precisely the same, in a relative degree, you understand; the soldiers have plenty of wine, excellent provisions, and good pay." "Very good; so that - " "So that this garrison can be depended upon, and it is a better one than the last." "Good." "The result is, if Fortune favors us, so that the garrisons are changed in this manner, only every two months, that, at the end of every three years, the whole army will, in its turn, have been there; and, therefore, instead of having one regiment in our favor, we shall have fifty thousand men." "Yes, yes; I knew perfectly well," said Fouquet, "that no friend could be more incomparable and invaluable than yourself, my dear Monsieur d'Herblay; but," he added, laughing, "all this time we are forgetting our friend, Du Vallon; what has become of him? During the three days I spent at Saint-Mande, I confess I have forgotten him completely." "I do not forget him, however," returned Aramis. "Porthos is at Saint- Mande; his joints are kept well greased, the greatest care is being taken care of him with regard to the food he eats, and the wines he drinks; I advise him to take daily airings in the small park, which you have kept for your own use, and he makes us of it accordingly. He begins to walk again, he exercises his muscular powers by bending down young elm-trees, or making the old oaks fly into splinters, as Milo of Crotona used to do; and, as there are no lions in the park, it is not unlikely we shall find him alive. Porthos is a brave fellow." "Yes, but in the mean time he will get bored to death." "Oh, no; he never does that." "He will be asking questions?" "He sees no one." "At all events, he is looking or hoping for something or another." "I have inspired in him a hope which we will realize some fine morning, and on that he subsists." "What is it?" "That of being presented to the king." "Oh! in what character?" "As the engineer of Belle-Isle, of course." "Is it possible?" "Quite true." "Shall we not be obliged, then, to send him back to Belle-Isle?" "Most certainly; I am even thinking of sending him as soon as possible. Porthos is very fond of display; he is man whose weakness D'Artagnan, Athos, and myself are alone acquainted with; he never commits himself in any way; he is dignity himself; to the officers there, he would seem like a Paladin of the time of the Crusades. He would make the whole staff drunk, without getting tipsy in the least himself, and every one will regard him with admiration and sympathy; if, therefore, it should happen that we have any orders requiring to be carried out, Porthos is an incarnation of the order itself, and whatever he chose to do others would find themselves obliged to submit to." "Send him back, then." "That is what I intend to do; but only in a few days; for I must not omit to tell you one thing." "What is it?" "I begin to mistrust D'Artagnan. He is not at Fontainebleau, as you may have noticed, and D'Artagnan is never absent, or apparently idle, without some object in view. And now that my own affairs are settled, I am going to try and ascertain what the affairs are in which D'Artagnan is engaged." "Your own affairs are settled, you say?" "Yes." "You are very fortunate in that case, then, and I should like to be able to say the same." "I hope you do not make yourself uneasy." "Hum!" "Nothing could be better than the king's reception of you." "True." "And Colbert leaves you in peace." "Nearly so." "In that case," said Aramis, with that connection of ideas which marked him, "in that case, then, we can bestow a thought upon the young girl I was speaking to you about yesterday." "Whom do you mean?" "What, have you forgotten already? I mean La Valliere." "Ah! of course, of course." "Do you object, then, to try and make a conquest of her?" "In one respect only; my heart is engaged in another direction, and I positively do not care about the girl in the least." "Oh, oh!" said Aramis, "your heart is engaged, you say. The deuce! we must take care of that."
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