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Ten Years Later

Part 14 out of 21

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all this mistrust. Porthos thought of no evil. Perhaps, on
first seeing him, D'Artagnan had inspired him with a little
suspicion, but almost immediately D'Artagnan had reconquered
in that good and brave heart the place he had always
occupied, and not the least cloud darkened the large eye of
Porthos, fixed from time to time with tenderness on his
friend.

On landing, Porthos inquired if his horses were waiting, and
soon perceived them at the crossing of the road that winds
round Sarzeau, and which, without passing through that
little city, leads towards Vannes. These horses were two in
number, one for M. de Vallon, and one for his equerry; for
Porthos had an equerry since Mouston was only able to use a
carriage as a means of locomotion. D'Artagnan expected that
Porthos would propose to send forward his equerry upon one
horse to bring back another, and he -- D'Artagnan -- had
made up his mind to oppose this proposition. But nothing
D'Artagnan had expected happened. Porthos simply told the
equerry to dismount and await his return at Sarzeau, whilst
D'Artagnan would ride his horse; which was arranged.

"Eh! but you are quite a man of precaution, my dear
Porthos," said D'Artagnan to his friend, when he found
himself in the saddle, upon the equerry's horse.

"Yes, but this is a kindness on the part of Aramis. I have
not my stud here, and Aramis has placed his stables at my
disposal."

"Good horses for bishop's horses, mordioux!" said
D'Artagnan. "It is true, Aramis is a bishop of a peculiar
kind."

"He is a holy man!" replied Porthos, in a tone almost nasal,
and with his eyes raised towards heaven.

"Then he is much changed," said D'Artagnan; "you and I have
known him passably profane."

"Grace has touched him," said Porthos.

"Bravo," said D'Artagnan, "that redoubles my desire to see
my dear old friend." And he spurred his horse, which sprang
off into a more rapid pace.

"Peste!" said Porthos, "if we go on at this rate, we shall
only take one hour instead of two."

"To go how far, do you say, Porthos?"

"Four leagues and a half."

"That will be a good pace."

"I could have embarked you on the canal, but the devil take
rowers and boat-horses! The first are like tortoises; the
second like snails; and when a man is able to put a good
horse between his knees, that horse is better than rowers or
any other means."

"You are right; you above all, Porthos, who always look
magnificent on horseback."

"Rather heavy, my friend; I was weighed the other day."

"And what do you weigh?"

"Three hundred-weight!" said Porthos, proudly.

"Bravo!"

"So that you must perceive, I am forced to choose horses
whose loins are straight and wide, otherwise I break them
down in two hours."

"Yes, giant's horses you must have, must you not?"

"You are very polite, my friend," replied the engineer, with
affectionate majesty.

"As a case in point," replied D'Artagnan, "your horse seems
to sweat already."

"Dame! It is hot! Ah, ah! do you see Vannes now?"

"Yes, perfectly. It is a handsome city, apparently."

"Charming, according to Aramis, at least, but I think it
black; but black seems to be considered handsome by artists:
I am sorry for it."

"Why so, Porthos?"

"Because I have lately had my chateau of Pierrefonds which
was gray with age, plastered white."

"Humph!" said D'Artagnan, "and white is more cheerful."

"Yes, but it is less august, as Aramis tells me. Fortunately
there are dealers in black as well as white. I will have
Pierrefonds replastered in black; that's all there is about
it. If gray is handsome, you understand, my friend, black
must be superb."

"Dame!" said D'Artagnan, "that appears logical."

"Were you never at Vannes, D'Artagnan?"

"Never."

"Then you know nothing of the city?"

"Nothing."

"Well, look!" said Porthos, raising himself in his stirrups,
which made the fore-quarters of his horse bend sadly -- "do
you see that corner, in the sun, yonder?"

"Yes, I see it plainly."

"Well, that is the cathedral."

"Which is called?"

"Saint-Pierre. Now look again -- in the faubourg on the
left, do you see another cross?"

"Perfectly well."

"That is Saint-Paterne, the parish preferred by Aramis."

"Indeed!"

"Without doubt. Saint-Paterne, you see, passes for having
been the first bishop of Vannes. It is true that Aramis
pretends he was not. But he is so learned that that may be
only a paro -- a para ---"

"A paradox," said D'Artagnan.

"Precisely; thank you! my tongue trips, I am so hot."

"My friend," said D'Artagnan, "continue your interesting
description, I beg. What is that large white building with
many windows?"

"Oh! that is the college of the Jesuits. Pardieu! you have
an apt hand. Do you see, close to the college, a large house
with steeples, turrets, built in a handsome Gothic style, as
that fool, M. Getard, says?"

"Yes, that is plainly to be seen. Well?"

"Well, that is where Aramis resides."

"What! does he not reside at the episcopal palace?"

"No, that is in ruins. The palace likewise is in the city,
and Aramis prefers the faubourgs. That is why, as I told
you, he is partial to Saint-Paterne; Saint-Paterne is in the
faubourg. Besides, there are in this faubourg a mall, a
tennis-court, and a house of Dominicans. Look, that where
the handsome steeple rises to the heavens."

"Well?"

"Next, you see the faubourg is like a separate city, it has
its walls, its towers, its ditches; the quay is upon it
likewise, and the boats land at the quay. If our little
corsair did not draw eight feet of water, we could have come
full sail up to Aramis's windows."

"Porthos, Porthos," cried D'Artagnan, "you are a well of
knowledge, a spring of ingenious and profound reflections.
Porthos, you no longer surprise me, you confound me."

"Here we are," said Porthos, turning the conversation with
his usual modesty.

"And high time we were," thought D'Artagnan, "for Aramis's
horse is melting away like a steed of ice."

They entered almost at the same instant the faubourg; but
scarcely had they gone a hundred paces when they were
surprised to find the streets strewed with leaves and
flowers. Against the old walls of Vannes hung the oldest and
the strangest tapestries of France. From over balconies fell
long white sheets stuck all over with bouquets. The streets
were deserted; it was plain the entire population was
assembled on one point. The blinds were closed, and the
breeze penetrated into the houses under the hangings, which
cast long, black shades between their places of issue and
the walls. Suddenly, at the turning of a street, chants
struck the ears of the newly arrived travelers. A crowd in
holiday garb appeared through the vapors of incense which
mounted to the heavens in blue fleeces, and clouds of
rose-leaves fluttered as high as the first stories. Above
all heads were to be seen the cross and banners, the sacred
symbols of religion. Then, beneath these crosses and
banners, as if protected by them, walked a whole world of
young girls clothed in white, crowned with corn-flowers. At
the two sides of the street, inclosing the cortege, marched
the guards of the garrison, carrying bouquets in the barrels
of their muskets and on the points of their lances. This was
the procession.

Whilst D'Artagnan and Porthos were looking on with critical
glances, which disguised an extreme impatience to get
forward, a magnificent dais approached preceded by a hundred
Jesuits and a hundred Dominicans, and escorted by two
archdeacons, a treasurer, a penitent and twelve canons. A
singer with a thundering voice -- a man certainly picked out
from all the voices of France, as was the drum-major of the
imperial guard from all the giants of the empire -- escorted
by four other chanters, who appeared to be there only to
serve him as an accompaniment, made the air resound, and the
windows of the houses vibrate. Under the dais appeared a
pale and noble countenance with black eyes, black hair
streaked with threads of white, a delicate, compressed
mouth, a prominent and angular chin. His head, full of
graceful majesty, was covered with the episcopal mitre, a
headdress which gave it, in addition to the character of
sovereignty, that of asceticism and evangelic meditation.

"Aramis!" cried the musketeer, involuntarily, as this lofty
countenance passed before him. The prelate started at the
sound of the voice. He raised his large black eyes, with
their long lashes, and turned them without hesitation
towards the spot whence the exclamation proceeded. At a
glance, he saw Porthos and D'Artagnan close to him. On his
part, D'Artagnan, thanks to the keenness of his sight, had
seen all, seized all. The full portrait of the prelate had
entered his memory, never to leave it. One thing had
particularly struck D'Artagnan. On perceiving him, Aramis
had colored, then he had concentrated under his eyelids the
fire of the look of the master, and the indefinable
affection of the friend. It was evident that Aramis had
asked himself this question: -- "Why is D'Artagnan with
Porthos, and what does he want at Vannes?" Aramis
comprehended all that was passing in the mind of D'Artagnan,
on turning his look upon him again, and seeing that he had
not lowered his eyes. He knew the acuteness and intelligence
of his friend, he feared to let him divine the secret of his
blush and his astonishment. He was still the same Aramis,
always having a secret to conceal. Therefore, to put an end
to his look of an inquisitor which it was necessary to get
rid of at all events, as, at any price, a general
extinguishes a battery which annoys him, Aramis stretched
forth his beautiful white hand, upon which sparkled the
amethyst of the pastoral ring; he cut the air with sign of
the cross, and poured out his benediction upon his two
friends. Perhaps thoughtful and absent, D'Artagnan, impious
in spite of himself, might not have bent beneath this holy
benediction; but Porthos saw his distraction, and laying his
friendly hand upon the back of his companion, he crushed him
down towards the earth. D'Artagnan was forced to give way;
indeed, he was little short of being flat on the ground. In
the meantime Aramis had passed. D'Artagnan, like Antaeus,
had only touched the ground, and he turned towards Porthos,
almost angry. But there was no mistaking the intention of
the brave Hercules; it was a feeling of religious propriety
that had influenced him. Besides, speech with Porthos,
instead of disguising his thought, always completed it.

"It is very polite of him," said he, "to have given his
benediction to us alone. Decidedly, he is a holy man, and a
brave man." Less convinced than Porthos, D'Artagnan made no
reply.

"Observe, my friend," continued Porthos, "he has seen us;
and, instead of continuing to walk on at the simple pace of
the procession, as he did just now, -- see, what a hurry he
is in; do you see how the cortege is increasing its speed?
He is eager to join us and embrace us, is that dear Aramis."

"That is true," replied D'Artagnan, aloud. -- Then to
himself: -- "It is equally true he has seen me, the fox, and
will have time to prepare himself to receive me."

But the procession had passed; the road was free. D'Artagnan
and Porthos walked straight up to the episcopal palace,
which was surrounded by a numerous crowd anxious to see the
prelate return. D'Artagnan remarked that this crowd was
composed principally of citizens and military men. He
recognized in the nature of these partisans the address of
his friend. Aramis was not the man to seek for a useless
popularity. He cared very little for being beloved by people
who could be of no service to him. Women, children, and old
men, that is to say, the cortege of ordinary pastors, was
not the cortege for him.

Ten minutes after the two friends had passed the threshold
of the palace, Aramis returned like a triumphant conqueror;
the soldiers presented arms to him as to a superior; the
citizens bowed to him as to a friend and a patron, rather
than as a head of the Church. There was something in Aramis
resembling those Roman senators who had their doors always
surrounded by clients. At the foot of the prison, he had a
conference of half a minute with a Jesuit, who, in order to
speak to him more secretly, passed his head under the dais.
He then re-entered his palace; the doors closed slowly, and
the crowd melted away, whilst chants and prayers were still
resounding abroad. It was a magnificent day. Earthly
perfumes were mingled with the perfumes of the air and the
sea. The city breathed happiness, joy, and strength.
D'Artagnan felt something like the presence of an invisible
hand which had, all-powerfully, created this strength, this
joy, this happiness, and spread everywhere these perfumes.

"Oh! oh!" said he, "Porthos has got fat; but Aramis is grown
taller."

CHAPTER 72

The Grandeur of the Bishop of Vannes

Porthos and D'Artagnan had entered the bishop's residence by
a private door, as his personal friends. Of course, Porthos
served D'Artagnan as guide. The worthy baron comported
himself everywhere rather as if he were at home.
Nevertheless, whether it was a tacit acknowledgment of the
sanctity of the personage of Aramis and his character, or
the habit of respecting him who imposed upon him morally, a
worthy habit which had always made Porthos a model soldier
and an excellent companion; for all these reasons, say we,
Porthos preserved in the palace of His Greatness the Bishop
of Vannes a sort of reserve which D'Artagnan remarked at
once, in the attitude he took with respect to the valets and
officers. And yet this reserve did not go so far as to
prevent his asking questions. Porthos questioned. They
learned that His Greatness had just returned to his
apartment and was preparing to appear in familiar intimacy,
less majestic than he had appeared with his flock. After a
quarter of an hour, which D'Artagnan and Porthos passed in
looking mutually at each other with the white of their eyes,
and turning their thumbs in all the different evolutions
which go from north to south, a door of the chamber opened
and His Greatness appeared, dressed in the undress,
complete, of a prelate. Aramis carried his head high, like a
man accustomed to command: his violet robe was tucked up on
one side, and his white hand was on his hip. He had retained
the fine mustache, and the lengthened royale of the time of
Louis XIII. He exhaled, on entering, that delicate perfume
which, among elegant men and women of high fashion, never
changes, and appears to be incorporated in the person, of
whom it has become the natural emanation. In this case only,
the perfume had retained something of the religious
sublimity of incense. It no longer intoxicated, it
penetrated; it no longer inspired desire, it inspired
respect. Aramis, on entering the chamber did not hesitate an
instant; and without pronouncing one word, which, whatever
it might be, would have been cold on such an occasion, he
went straight up to the musketeer, so well disguised under
the costume of M. Agnan, and pressed him in his arms with a
tenderness which the most distrustful could not have
suspected of coldness or affectation.

D'Artagnan, on his part, embraced him with equal ardor.
Porthos pressed the delicate hand of Aramis in his immense
hands, and D'Artagnan remarked that His Greatness gave him
his left hand, probably from habit, seeing that Porthos
already ten times had been near injuring his fingers covered
with rings, by pounding his flesh in the vise of his fist.
Warned by the pain, Aramis was cautious, and only presented
flesh to be bruised, and not fingers to be crushed, against
gold or the angles of diamonds.

Between two embraces, Aramis looked D'Artagnan in the face,
offered him a chair, sitting down himself in the shade,
observing that the light fell full upon the face of his
interlocutor. This maneuver, familiar to diplomatists and
women, resembles much the advantage of the guard which,
according to their skill or habit, combatants endeavor to
take on the ground at a duel. D'Artagnan was not the dupe of
this maneuver, but he did not appear to perceive it. He felt
himself caught; but, precisely, because he was caught he
felt himself on the road to discovery, and it little
imported to him, old condottiere as he was, to be beaten in
appearance, provided he drew from his pretended defeat the
advantages of victory. Aramis began the conversation.

"Ah! dear friend! my good D'Artagnan," said he, "what an
excellent chance!"

"It is a chance, my reverend companion," said D'Artagnan,
"that I will call friendship. I seek you, as I always have
sought you, when I had any grand enterprise to propose to
you, or some hours of liberty to give you."

"Ah! indeed," said Aramis, without explosion, "you have been
seeking me?"

"Eh! yes, he has been seeking you, Aramis," said Porthos,
"and the proof is that he has unharbored me at Belle-Isle.
That is amiable, is it not?"

"Ah! yes," said Aramis, "at Belle-Isle! certainly!"

"Good!" said D'Artagnan; "there is my booby Porthos, without
thinking of it, has fired the first cannon of attack."

"At Belle-Isle!" said Aramis, "in that hole, in that desert!
That is kind, indeed!"

"And it was I who told him you were at Vannes," continued
Porthos, in the same tone.

D'Artagnan armed his mouth with a finesse almost ironical.

"Yes, I knew, but I was willing to see," replied he.

"To see what?"

"If our old friendship still held out, if, on seeing each
other, our hearts, hardened as they are by age, would still
let the old cry of joy escape, which salutes the coming of a
friend."

"Well, and you must have been satisfied," said Aramis.

"So, so."

"How is that?"

"Yes, Porthos said hush! and you ---- "

"Well! and I?"

"And you gave me your benediction."

"What would you have, my friend?" said Aramis, smiling;
"that is the most precious thing that a poor prelate, like
me, has to give."

"Indeed, my dear friend!"

"Doubtless."

"And yet they say at Paris that the bishopric of Vannes is
one of the best in France."

"Ah! you are now speaking of temporal wealth," said Aramis,
with a careless air.

"To be sure, I wish to speak of that; I hold by it, on my
part."

"In that case, let me speak of it," said Aramis, with a
smile.

"You own yourself to be one of the richest prelates in
France?"

"My friend, since you ask me to give you an account, I will
tell you that the bishopric of Vannes is worth about twenty
thousand livres a year, neither more nor less. It is a
diocese which contains a hundred and sixty parishes."

"That is very pretty," said D'Artagnan.

"It is superb!" said Porthos.

"And yet," resumed D'Artagnan, throwing his eyes over
Aramis, "you don't mean to bury yourself here forever?"

"Pardon me. Only I do not admit the word bury."

"But it seems to me, that at this distance from Paris a man
is buried, or nearly so."

"My friend, I am getting old," said Aramis; "the noise and
bustle of a city no longer suit me. At fifty-seven we ought
to seek calm and meditation. I have found them here. What is
there more beautiful, and stern at the same time, than this
old Armorica. I find here, dear D'Artagnan, all that is
opposite to what I formerly loved, and that is what must
happen at the end of life, which is opposite to the
beginning. A little of my odd pleasure of former times still
comes to salute me here, now and then, without diverting me
from the road of salvation. I am still of this world, and
yet every step that I take brings me nearer to God."

"Eloquent, wise and discreet; you are an accomplished
prelate, Aramis, and I offer you my congratulations."

"But," said Aramis, smiling, "you did not come here only for
the purpose of paying me compliments. Speak; what brings you
hither! May it be that, in some fashion or other, you want
me?"

"Thank God, no, my friend," said D'Artagnan, "it is nothing
of that kind. -- I am rich and free."

"Rich!" exclaimed Aramis.

"Yes, rich for me; not for you or Porthos, understand. I
have an income of about fifteen thousand livres.

Aramis looked at him suspiciously. He could not believe --
particularly on seeing his friend in such humble guise --
that he had made so fine a fortune. Then D'Artagnan, seeing
that the hour of explanations was come, related the history
of his English adventures. During the recital he saw, ten
times, the eyes of the prelate sparkle, and his slender
fingers work convulsively. As to Porthos, it was not
admiration he manifested for D'Artagnan; it was enthusiasm,
it was delirium. When D'Artagnan had finished, "Well!" said
Aramis.

"Well!" said D'Artagnan, "you see, then, I have in England
friends and property, in France a treasure. If your heart
tells you so, I offer them to you. That is what I came here
for."

However firm was his look, he could not this time support
the look of Aramis. He allowed, therefore, his eye to stray
upon Porthos -- like the sword which yields to too powerful
a pressure, and seeks another road.

"At all events," said the bishop, "you have assumed a
singular traveling costume, old friend."

"Frightful! I know it is. You may understand why I would not
travel as a cavalier or a noble; since I became rich, I am
miserly."

"And you say, then, you came to Belle-Isle?" said Aramis,
without transition.

"Yes," replied D'Artagnan; "I knew I should find you and
Porthos there."

"Find me!" cried Aramis. "Me! for the last year past I have
not once crossed the sea."

"Oh," said D'Artagnan, "I should never have supposed you
such a housekeeper."

"Ah, dear friend, I must tell you that I am no longer the
Aramis of former times. Riding on horseback is unpleasant to
me; the sea fatigues me. I am a poor, ailing priest, always
complaining, always grumbling, and inclined to the
austerities which appear to accord with old age, --
preliminary parlayings with death. I linger, my dear
D'Artagnan, I linger."

"Well, that is all the better, my friend, for we shall
probably be neighbors soon."

"Bah!" said Aramis with a degree of surprise he did not even
seek to dissemble. "You my neighbor!"

"Mordioux! yes."

"How so?"

"I am about to purchase some very profitable salt-mines,
which are situated between Pirial and Croisic. Imagine, my
friend, a clear 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 these 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 not 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 two farmers of
the revenues, 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
those 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 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 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.

CHAPTER 73

In which Porthos begins to be sorry
for having come with D'Artagnan

Scarcely had D'Artagnan extinguished his taper, when Aramis,
who had watched through his curtains the last glimmer of
light in his friend's apartment, traversed the corridor on
tiptoe, and went to Porthos's room. The giant, who had been
in bed nearly an hour and a half, lay grandly stretched out
on the down bed. He was in that happy calm of the first
sleep, which, with Porthos, resisted the noise of bells or
the report of cannon; his head swam in that soft oscillation
which reminds us of the soothing movement of a ship. In a
moment Porthos would have begun to dream. The door of the
chamber opened softly under the delicate pressure of the
hand of Aramis. The bishop approached the sleeper. A thick
carpet deadened the sound of his steps, besides which
Porthos snored in a manner to drown all noise. He laid one
hand on his shoulder -- "Rouse," said he, "wake up, my dear
Porthos." The voice of Aramis was soft and kind, but it
conveyed more than a notice, -- it conveyed an order. His
hand was light, but it indicated a danger. Porthos heard the
voice and felt the hand of Aramis, even in the depth of his
sleep. He started up. "Who goes there?" cried he, in his
giant's voice.

"Hush! hush! It is I," said Aramis.

"You, my friend? And what the devil do you wake me for?"

"To tell you that you must set off directly."

"Set off?"

"Yes."

"Where for?"

"For Paris."

Porthos bounded up in his bed, and then sank back again,
fixing his great eyes in agitation upon Aramis.

"For Paris?"

"Yes."

"A hundred leagues?" said he.

"A hundred and four," replied the bishop.

"Oh! mon Dieu!" sighed Porthos, lying down again, like
children who contend with their bonne to gain an hour or two
more sleep.

"Thirty hours' riding," said Aramis, firmly. "You know there
are good relays."

Porthos pushed out one leg, allowing a groan to escape him.

"Come, come! my friend," insisted the prelate with a sort of
impatience.

Porthos drew the other leg out of the bed. "And is it
absolutely necessary that I should go, at once?"

"Urgently necessary."

Porthos got upon his feet, and began to shake both walls and
floors with his steps of a marble statue.

"Hush! hush! for the love of Heaven, my dear Porthos!" said
Aramis, "you will wake somebody."

"Ah! that's true," replied Porthos, in a voice of thunder,
"I forgot that; but be satisfied, I am on guard." And so
saying, he let fall a belt loaded with his sword and
pistols, and a purse, from which the crowns escaped with a
vibrating and prolonged noise. This noise made the blood of
Aramis boil, whilst it drew from Porthos a formidable burst
of laughter. "How droll that is!" said he, in the same
voice.

"Not so loud, Porthos, not so loud."

"True, true!" and he lowered his voice a half-note.

"I was going to say," continued Porthos, "that it is droll
that we are never so slow as when we are in a hurry, and
never make so much noise as when we wish to be silent."

"Yes, that is true, but let us give the proverb the lie,
Porthos; let us make haste, and hold our tongue."

"You see I am doing my best," said Porthos, putting on his
haut de chausses.

"Very well."

"This is something in haste?"

"It is more than that, it is serious, Porthos."

"Oh, oh!"

"D'Artagnan has questioned you, has he not?"

"Questioned me?"

"Yes, at Belle-Isle?"

"Not the least in the world."

"Are you sure of that, Porthos?"

"Parbleu!"

"It is impossible. Recollect yourself."

"He asked me what I was doing, and I told him studying
topography. I would have made use of another word which you
employed one day."

"`Castrametation'?"

"Yes, that's it, but I never could recollect it."

"All the better. What more did he ask you?"

"Who M. Getard was."

"Next?"

"Who M. Jupenet was."

"He did not happen to see our plan of fortifications, did
he?"

"Yes."

"The devil he did!"

"But don't be alarmed, I had rubbed out your writing with
India-rubber. It was impossible for him to suppose you had
given me any advice in those works."

"Ay, but our friend has phenomenally keen eyes."

"What are you afraid of?"

"I fear that everything is discovered, Porthos; the matter
is, then, to prevent a great misfortune. I have given orders
to my people to close all the gates and doors. D'Artagnan
will not be able to get out before daybreak. Your horse is
ready saddled; you will gain the first relay; by five
o'clock in the morning you will have traversed fifteen
leagues. Come!"

Aramis then assisted Porthos to dress, piece by piece, with
as much celerity as the most skillful valet de chambre could
have done. Porthos, half stupefied, let him do as he liked,
and confounded himself in excuses. When he was ready, Aramis
took him by the hand, and led him, making him place his foot
with precaution on every step of the stairs, preventing him
running against doorframes, turning him this way and that,
as if Aramis had been the giant, and Porthos the dwarf. Soul
set fire to and animated matter. A horse was waiting, ready
saddled, in the courtyard. Porthos mounted. Then Aramis
himself took the horse by the bridle, and led him over some
dung spread in the yard, with the evident intention of
suppressing noise. He, at the same time, held tight the
horse's nose, to prevent him neighing. When arrived at the
outward gate, drawing Porthos towards him, who was going off
without even asking him what for: "Now friend Porthos, now;
without drawing bridle, till you get to Paris," whispered he
in his ears; "eat on horseback, drink on horseback, sleep on
horseback, but lose not a minute."

"That's enough, I will not stop."

"This letter to M. Fouquet; cost what it may, he must have
it to-morrow before mid-day."

"He shall."

"And do not forget one thing, my friend."

"What is that?"

"That you are riding out on a hunt for your brevet of duc
and peer."

"Oh! oh!" said Porthos, with his eyes sparkling; "I will do
it in twenty-four hours, in that case."

"Try."

"Then let go the bridle -- and forward, Goliath!"

Aramis did let go, not the bridle, but the horse's nose.
Porthos released his hand, clapped spurs to his horse, which
set off at a gallop. As long as he could distinguish Porthos
through the darkness, Aramis followed him with his eyes:
when he was completely out of sight, he re-entered the yard.
Nothing had stirred in D'Artagnan's apartment. The valet
placed on watch at the door had neither seen any light, nor
heard any noise. Aramis closed his door carefully, sent the
lackey to bed, and quickly sought his own. D'Artagnan really
suspected nothing, therefore thought he had gained
everything, when he awoke in the morning, about halfpast
four. He ran to the window in his shirt. The window looked
out upon the court. Day was dawning. The court was deserted;
the fowls, even, had not left their roosts. Not a servant
appeared. Every door was closed.

"Good! all is still," said D'Artagnan to himself. "Never
mind: I am up first in the house. Let us dress; that will be
so much done." And D'Artagnan dressed himself. But, this
time, he endeavored not to give to the costume of M. Agnan
that bourgeoise and almost ecclesiastical rigidity he had
affected before; he managed, by drawing his belt tighter, by
buttoning his clothes in a different fashion, and by putting
on his hat a little on one side, to restore to his person a
little of that military character, the absence of which had
surprised Aramis. This being done, he made free, or affected
to make free with his host, and entered his chamber without
ceremony. Aramis was asleep or feigned to be so. A large
book lay open upon his night-desk, a wax-light was still
burning in its silver sconce. This was more than enough to
prove to D'Artagnan the quiescence of the prelate's night,
and the good intentions of his waking. The musketeer did to
the bishop precisely as the bishop had done to Porthos -- he
tapped him on the shoulder. Evidently Aramis pretended to
sleep; for, instead of waking suddenly, he who slept so
lightly required a repetition of the summons.

"Ah! ah! is that you?" said he, stretching his arms. "What
an agreeable surprise! Ma foi! Sleep had made me forget I
had the happiness to possess you. What o'clock is it?"

"I do not know," said D'Artagnan, a little embarrassed.
"Early, I believe. But, you know, that devil of a habit of
waking with the day sticks to me still."

"Do you wish that we should go out so soon?" asked Aramis.
"It appears to me to be very early."

"Just as you like."

"I thought we had agreed not to get on horseback before
eight."

"Possibly; but I had so great a wish to see you, that I said
to myself, the sooner the better."

"And my seven hours, sleep!" said Aramis: "Take care; I had
reckoned upon them, and what I lose of them I must make up."

"But it seems to me that, formerly, you were less of a
sleeper than that, dear friend; your blood was alive, and
you were never to be found in bed."

"And it is exactly on account of what you tell me that I am
so fond of being there now."

"Then you confess that it is not for the sake of sleeping
that you have put me off till eight o'clock."

"I have been afraid you would laugh at me, if I told you the
truth."

"Tell me, notwithstanding."

"Well, from six to eight, I am accustomed to perform my
devotions."

"Your devotions?"

"Yes."

"I did not believe a bishop's exercises were so severe."

"A bishop, my friend, must sacrifice more to appearance than
a simple cleric."

"Mordioux! Aramis, that is a word which reconciles me with
your greatness. To appearances! That is a musketeer's word,
in good truth! Vivent les apparences, Aramis!"

"Instead of felicitating me upon it, pardon me, D'Artagnan.
It is a very mundane word which I had allowed to escape me."

"Must I leave you, then?"

"I want time to collect my thoughts, my friend, and for my
usual prayers."

"Well, I leave you to them; but on account of that poor
pagan, D'Artagnan, abridge them for once, I beg; I thirst
for speech with you."

"Well, D'Artagnan, I promise you that within an hour and a
half ---- "

"An hour and a half of devotions! Eh! my friend, be as
reasonable with me as you can. Let me have the best bargain
possible."

Aramis began to laugh.

"Still agreeable, still young, still gay," said he. "You
have come into my diocese to set me quarrelling with grace."

"Bah!"

"And you know well that I was never able to resist your
seductions; you will cost me my salvation, D'Artagnan."

D'Artagnan bit his lips.

"Well," said he, "I will take the sin on my own head, favor
me with one simple Christian sign of the cross, favor me
with one pater, and we will part."

"Hush!" said Aramis, "we are already no longer alone, I hear
strangers coming up."

"Well, dismiss them."

"Impossible, I made an appointment with them yesterday; it
is the principal of the college of the Jesuits, and the
superior of the Dominicans."

"Your staff? Well, so be it."

"What are you going to do?"

"I will go and wake Porthos, and remain in his company till
you have finished the conference."

Aramis did not stir, his brow remained unbent, he betrayed
himself by no gesture or word; "Go," said he, as D'Artagnan
advanced to the door. "A propos, do you know where Porthos
sleeps?"

"No, but I will inquire."

"Take the corridor, and open the second door on the left."

"Thank you! au revoir." And D'Artagnan departed in the
direction pointed out by Aramis.

Ten minutes had not passed away when he came back. He found
Aramis seated between the superior of the Dominicans and the
principal of the college of the Jesuits, exactly in the same
situation as he had found him formerly in the auberge at
Crevecoeur. This company did not at all terrify the
musketeer.

"What is it?" said Aramis, quietly. "You have apparently
something to say to me, my friend."

"It is," replied D'Artagnan, fixing his eyes upon Aramis,
"it is that Porthos is not in his apartment."

"Indeed," said Aramis, calmly; "are you sure?"

"Pardieu! I came from his chamber."

"Where can he be, then?"

"That is what I am asking you."

"And have not you inquired?"

"Yes, I have."

"And what answer did you get?"

"That Porthos, often walking out in a morning, without
saying anything, had probably gone out."

"What did you do, then?"

"I went to the stables," replied D'Artagnan, carelessly.

"What to do?"

"To see if Porthos had departed on horseback."

"And?" interrogated the bishop.

"Well, there is a horse missing, stall No. 3, Goliath."

All this dialogue, it may be easily understood, was not
exempt from a certain affectation on the part of the
musketeer, and a perfect complaisance on the part of Aramis.

"Oh! I guess how it is," said Aramis, after having
considered for a moment, "Porthos is gone out to give us a
surprise."

"A surprise?"

"Yes, the canal which goes from Vannes to the sea abounds in
teal and snipes; that is Porthos's favorite sport, and he
will bring us back a dozen for breakfast."

"Do you think so?" said D'Artagnan.

"I am sure of it. Where else can he be? I would lay a wager
he took a gun with him."

"Well, that is possible," said D'Artagnan.

"Do one thing, my friend. Get on horseback, and join him."

"You are right," said D'Artagnan, "I will."

"Shall I go with you?"

"No, thank you; Porthos is a rather remarkable man: I will
inquire as I go along."

"Will you take an arquebuse?"

"Thank you."

"Order what horse you like to be saddled."

"The one I rode yesterday, on coming from Belle-Isle."

"So be it: use the horse as your own."

Aramis rang, and gave orders to have the horse M. d'Artagnan
had chosen, saddled.

D'Artagnan followed the servant charged with the execution
of this order. When arrived at the door, the servant drew on
one side to allow M. d'Artagnan to pass; and at that moment
he caught the eye of his master. A knitting of the brow gave
the intelligent spy to understand that all should be given
to D'Artagnan he wished. D'Artagnan got into the saddle, and
Aramis heard the steps of his horse on the pavement. An
instant after, the servant returned.

"Well?" asked the bishop.

"Monseigneur, he has followed the course of the canal, and
is going towards the sea," said the servant.

"Very well!" said Aramis.

In fact, D'Artagnan, dismissing all suspicion, hastened
towards the ocean, constantly hoping to see in the Landes,
or on the beach, the colossal profile of Porthos. He
persisted in fancying he could trace a horse's steps in
every puddle. Sometimes he imagined he heard the report of a
gun. This illusion lasted three hours; during two of which
he went forward in search of his friend -- in the last he
returned to the house.

"We must have crossed," said he, "and I shall find them
waiting for me at table."

D'Artagnan was mistaken. He no more found Porthos at the
palace than he had found him on the sea-shore. Aramis was
waiting for him at the top of the stairs, looking very much
concerned.

"Did my people not find you, my dear D'Artagnan?" cried he,
as soon as he caught sight of the musketeer.

"No; did you send any one after me?"

"I am deeply concerned, my friend, deeply, to have induced
you to make such a useless search, but, about seven o'clock,
the almoner of Saint-Paterne came here. He had met Du
Vallon, who was going away, and who being unwilling to
disturb anybody at the palace, had charged him to tell me
that, fearing M. Getard would play him some ill turn in his
absence, he was going to take advantage of the morning tide
to make a tour to Belle-Isle."

"But tell me, Goliath has not crossed the four leagues of
sea, I should think."

"There are full six," said Aramis.

"That makes it less probable still."

"Therefore, my friend," said Aramis, with one of his
blandest smiles, "Goliath is in the stable, well pleased, I
will answer for it, that Porthos is no longer on his back."
In fact, the horse had been brought back from the relay by
the direction of the prelate, from whom no detail escaped.
D'Artagnan appeared as well satisfied as possible with the
explanation. He entered upon a part of dissimulation which
agreed perfectly with the suspicions that arose more and
more strongly in his mind. He breakfasted between the Jesuit
and Aramis, having the Dominican in front of him, and
smiling particularly at the Dominican, whose jolly, fat face
pleased him much. The repast was long and sumptuous;
excellent Spanish wine, fine Morbihan oysters, exquisite
fish from the mouth of the Loire, enormous prawns from
Paimboeuf, and delicious game from the moors, constituted
the principal part of it. D'Artagnan ate much, and drank but
little. Aramis drank nothing, unless it was water. After the
repast, --

"You offered me an arquebuse," said D'Artagnan.

"I did."

"Lend it me, then."

"Are you going shooting?"

"Whilst waiting for Porthos, it is the best thing I can do,
I think."

"Take which you like from the trophy."

"Will you not come with me?"

"I would with great pleasure; but, alas! my friend, sporting
is forbidden to bishops."

"Ah!" said D'Artagnan, "I did not know that."

"Besides," continued Aramis, "I shall be busy till mid-day."

"I shall go alone, then?" said D'Artagnan.

"I am sorry to say you must; but come back to dinner."

"Pardieu! the eating at your house is too good to make me
think of not coming back." And thereupon D'Artagnan quitted
his host, bowed to the guests, and took his arquebuse; but
instead of shooting, went straight to the little port of
Vannes. He looked in vain to observe if anybody saw him; he
could discern neither thing nor person. He engaged a little
fishing boat for twenty-five livres, and set off at
half-past eleven, convinced that he had not been followed;
and that was true, he had not been followed; only a Jesuit
brother, placed in the top of the steeple of his church, had
not, since the morning, by the help of an excellent glass,
lost sight of one of his steps. At three-quarters past
eleven, Aramis was informed that D'Artagnan was sailing
towards Belle-Isle. The voyage was rapid; a good north
north-east wind drove him towards the isle. As he
approached, his eyes were constantly fixed upon the coast.
He looked to see if, upon the shore or upon the
fortifications the brilliant dress and vast stature of
Porthos should stand out against a slightly clouded sky; but
his search was vain. He landed without having seen anything;
and learnt from the first soldier interrogated by him, that
M. du Vallon had not yet returned from Vannes. Then, without
losing an instant, D'Artagnan ordered his little bark to put
its head towards Sarzeau. We know that the wind changes with
the different hours of the day. The breeze had veered from
the north north-east to the south-east: the wind, then, was
almost as good for the return to Sarzeau, as it had been for
the voyage to Belle-Isle. In three hours D'Artagnan had
touched the continent, two hours more sufficed for his ride
to Vannes. In spite of the rapidity of his passage, what
D'Artagnan endured of impatience and anger during that short
passage, the deck alone of the vessel, upon which he stamped
backwards and forwards for three hours, could testify. He
made but one bound from the quay whereon he landed to the
episcopal palace. He thought to terrify Aramis by the
promptitude of his return; he wished to reproach him with
his duplicity, and yet with reserve; but with sufficient
spirit, nevertheless, to make him feel all the consequences
of it, and force from him a part of his secret He hoped, in
short -- thanks to that heat of expression which is to
secrets what the charge with the bayonet is to redoubts --
to bring the mysterious Aramis to some manifestation or
other. But he found, in the vestibule of the palace, the
valet de chambre, who closed the passage, while smiling upon
him with a stupid air.

"Monseigneur?" cried D'Artagnan, endeavoring to put him
aside with his hand. Moved for an instant the valet resumed
his station.

"Monseigneur?" said he.

"Yes, to be sure; do you not know me, imbecile?"

"Yes, you are the Chevalier d'Artagnan."

"Then let me pass."

"It is of no use."

"Why of no use?"

"Because His Greatness is not at home."

"What! His Greatness is not at home? where is he then?"

"Gone."

"Gone?"

"Yes."

"Whither?"

"I don't know; but perhaps he tells monsieur le chevalier."

"And how? where? in what fashion?"

"In this letter, which he gave me for monsieur le
chevalier." And the valet de chambre drew a letter from his
pocket.

"Give it me, then, you rascal," said D'Artagnan, snatching
it from his hand. "Oh, yes," continued he, at the first
line, "yes, I understand; "and he read: --

"Dear Friend, -- An affair of the most urgent nature calls
me to a distant parish of my diocese. I hoped to see you
again before I set out; but I lose that hope in thinking
that you are going, no doubt, to remain two or three days at
Belle-Isle, with our dear Porthos. Amuse yourself as well as
you can; but do not attempt to hold out against him at
table. This is a counsel I might have given even to Athos,
in his most brilliant and best days. Adieu, dear friend;
believe that I regret greatly not having better, and for a
longer time, profited by your excellent company."

"Mordioux!" cried D'Artagnan. "I am tricked. Ah! blockhead,
brute, triple fool that I am! But those laugh best who laugh
last. Oh, duped, duped like a monkey, cheated with an empty
nutshell!" And with a hearty blow bestowed upon the nose of
the smirking valet de chambre, he made all haste out of the
episcopal palace. Furet, however good a trotter, was not
equal to present circumstances. D'Artagnan therefore took
the post, and chose a horse which he soon caused to
demonstrate, with good spurs and a light hand, that deer are
not the swiftest animals in nature.

CHAPTER 74

In which D'Artagnan makes all Speed,
Porthos snores, and Aramis counsels

From thirty to thirty-five hours after the events we have
just related, as M. Fouquet, according to his custom, having
interdicted his door, was working in the cabinet of his
house at Saint-Mande, with which we are already acquainted,
a carriage, drawn by four horses steaming with sweat,
entered the court at full gallop. This carriage was,
probably, expected, for three or four lackeys hastened to
the door, which they opened. Whilst M. Fouquet rose from his
bureau and ran to the window, a man got painfully out of the
carriage descending with difficulty the three steps of the
door, leaning upon the shoulders of the lackeys. He had
scarcely uttered his name, when the valet upon whom he was
not leaning sprang up the perron, and disappeared in the
vestibule. This man went to inform his master; but he had no
occasion to knock at the door: Fouquet was standing on the
threshold.

"Monseigneur, the Bishop of Vannes," said he.

"Very well!" replied his master.

Then, leaning over the banister of the staircase, of which
Aramis was beginning to ascend the first steps, --

"Ah, dear friend!" said he, "you, so soon!"

"Yes; I, myself, monsieur! but bruised, battered, as you
see."

"Oh! my poor friend," said Fouquet, presenting him his arm,
on which Aramis leant, whilst the servants drew back
respectfully.

"Bah!" replied Aramis, "it is nothing, since I am here; the
principal thing was that I should get here, and here I am."

"Speak quickly," said Fouquet, closing the door of the
cabinet behind Aramis and himself.

"Are we alone?"

"Yes, perfectly."

"No one observes us? -- no one can hear us?"

"Be satisfied; nobody."

"Is M. du Vallon arrived?"

"Yes."

"And you have received my letter?"

"Yes. The affair is serious, apparently, since it
necessitates your attendance in Paris, at a moment when your
presence was so urgent elsewhere."

"You are right, it could not be more serious."

"Thank you! thank you! What is it about? But, for God's
sake! before anything else, take time to breathe, dear
friend. You are so pale, you frighten me."

"I am really in great pain. But, for Heaven's sake, think
nothing about me. Did M. du Vallon tell you nothing, when he
delivered the letter to you?"

"No; I heard a great noise; I went to the window; I saw at
the foot of the perron, a sort of horseman of marble; I went
down, he held the letter out to me, and his horse fell down
dead."

"But he?"

"He fell with the horse; he was lifted, and carried to an
apartment. Having read the letter, I went up to him, in
hopes of obtaining more ample information; but he was
asleep, and, after such a fashion, that it was impossible to
wake him. I took pity on him; I gave orders that his boots
should be cut from off his legs, and that he should be left
quite undisturbed."

"So far well; now, this is the question in hand,
monseigneur. You have seen M. d'Artagnan in Paris, have you
not?"

"Certes, and think him a man of intelligence, and even a man
of heart; although he did bring about the death of our dear
friends, Lyodot and D'Eymeris."

"Alas! yes, I heard of that. At Tours I met the courier who
was bringing me the letter from Gourville, and the
dispatches from Pellisson. Have you seriously reflected on
that event, monsieur?"

"Yes."

"And in it you perceived a direct attack upon your
sovereignty?"

"And do you believe it to be so?"

"Oh, yes, I think so."

"Well, I must confess, that sad idea occurred to me
likewise."

"Do not blind yourself, monsieur, in the name of Heaven!
Listen attentively to me, -- I return to D'Artagnan."

"I am all attention."

"Under what circumstances did you see him?"

"He came here for money."

"With what kind of order?"

"With an order from the king."

"Direct?"

"Signed by his majesty."

"There, then! Well, D'Artagnan has been to Belle-Isle; he
was disguised; he came in the character of some sort of an
intendant, charged by his master to purchase salt-mines.
Now, D'Artagnan has no other master but the king: he came,
then, sent by the king. He saw Porthos."

"Who is Porthos?"

"I beg your pardon, I made a mistake. He saw M. du Vallon at
Belle-Isle; and he knows, as well as you and I do, that
Belle-Isle is fortified."

"And you think that the king sent him there?" said Fouquet,
pensively.

"I certainly do."

"And D'Artagnan, in the hands of the king, is a dangerous
instrument?"

"The most dangerous imaginable."

"Then I formed a correct opinion of him at the first
glance."

"How so?"

"I wished to attach him to myself."

"If you judged him to be the bravest, the most acute, and
the most adroit man in France, you judged correctly."

"He must be had then, at any price."

"D'Artagnan?"

"Is not that your opinion?"

"It may be my opinion, but you will never get him."

"Why?"

"Because we have allowed the time to go by. He was
dissatisfied with the court, we should have profited by
that; since that, he has passed into England; there he
powerfully assisted in the restoration, there he gained a
fortune, and, after all, he returned to the service of the
king. Well, if he has returned to the service of the king,
it is because he is well paid in that service."

"We will pay him even better, that is all."

"Oh! monsieur, excuse me; D'Artagnan has a high respect for
his word, and where that is once engaged he keeps it."

"What do you conclude, then?" said Fouquet, with great
inquietude.

"At present, the principal thing is to parry a dangerous
blow."

"And how is it to be parried?"

"Listen."

"But D'Artagnan will come and render an account to the king
of his mission."

"Oh, we have time enough to think about that."

"How so? You are much in advance of him, I presume?"

"Nearly ten hours."

"Well, in ten hours ---- "

Aramis shook his pale head. "Look at these clouds which flit
across the heavens; at these swallows which cut the air.
D'Artagnan moves more quickly than the clouds or the birds;
D'Artagnan is the wind which carries them."

"A strange man!"

"I tell you, he is superhuman, monsieur. He is of my own
age, and I have known him these five-and-thirty years."

"Well?"

"Well, listen to my calculation, monsieur. I sent M. du
Vallon off to you two hours after midnight. M. du Vallon was
eight hours in advance of me, when did M. du Vallon arrive?"

"About four hours ago."

"You see, then, that I gained four upon him; and yet Porthos
is a staunch horseman, and he has left on the road eight
dead horses, whose bodies I came to successively. I rode
post fifty leagues; but I have the gout, the gravel, and
what else I know not; so that fatigue kills me. I was
obliged to dismount at Tours; since that, rolling along in a
carriage, half dead, sometimes overturned, drawn upon the
sides, and sometimes on the back of the carriage, always
with four spirited horses at full gallop, I have arrived --
arrived, gaining four hours upon Porthos; but, see you,
D'Artagnan does not weigh three hundred-weight, as Porthos
does; D'Artagnan has not the gout and gravel, as I have; he
is not a horseman, he is a centaur. D'Artagnan, look you,
set out for Belle-Isle when I set out for Paris; and
D'Artagnan, notwithstanding my ten hours, advance,
D'Artagnan will arrive within two hours after me."

"But, then, accidents?"

"He never meets with accidents."

"Horses may fail him."

"He will run as fast as a horse."

"Good God! what a man!"

"Yes, he is a man whom I love and admire. I love him because
he is good, great, and loyal; I admire him because he
represents in my eyes the culminating point of human power;
but, whilst loving and admiring him, I fear him, and am on
my guard against him. Now then, I resume, monsieur; in two
hours D'Artagnan will be here; be beforehand with him. Go to
the Louvre, and see the king, before he sees D'Artagnan."

"What shall I say to the king?"

"Nothing; give him Belle-Isle."

"Oh! Monsieur d'Herblay! Monsieur d'Herblay," cried Fouquet,
"what projects crushed all at once!"

"After one project that has failed, there is always another
project that may lead to fortune; we should never despair.
Go, monsieur, and go at once."

"But that garrison, so carefully chosen, the king will
change it directly."

"That garrison, monsieur, was the king's when it entered
Belle-Isle; it is yours now; it is the same with all
garrisons after a fortnight's occupation. Let things go on,
monsieur. Do you see any inconvenience in having an army at
the end of a year, instead of two regiments? Do you not see
that your garrison of today will make you partisans at La
Rochelle, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse -- in short, wherever
they may be sent to? Go to the king, monsieur; go; time
flies, and D'Artagnan, while we are losing time, is flying,
like an arrow, along the high-road."

"Monsieur d'Herblay, you know that each word from you is a
germ which fructifies in my thoughts. I will go to the
Louvre."

"Instantly, will you not?"

"I only ask time to change my dress."

"Remember that D'Artagnan has no need to pass through
Saint-Mande; but will go straight to the Louvre; that is
cutting off an hour from the advantage that yet remains to
us."

"D'Artagnan may have everything except my English horses. I
shall be at the Louvre in twenty-five minutes." And, without
losing a second, Fouquet gave orders for his departure.

Aramis had only time to say to him, "Return as quickly as
you go; for I shall await you impatiently."

Five minutes after, the superintendent was flying along the
road to Paris. During this time Aramis desired to be shown
the chamber in which Porthos was sleeping. At the door of
Fouquet's cabinet he was folded in the arms of Pellisson,
who had just heard of his arrival, and had left his office
to see him. Aramis received, with that friendly dignity
which he knew so well how to assume, these caresses,
respectful as earnest; but all at once stopping on the
landing-place, "What is that I hear up yonder?"

There was, in fact, a hoarse, growling kind of noise, like
the roar of a hungry tiger, or an impatient lion. "Oh, that
is nothing," said Pellisson, smiling.

"Well; but ---- "

"It is M. du Vallon snoring."

"Ah! true," said Aramis. "I had forgotten. No one but he is
capable of making such a noise. Allow me, Pellisson, to
inquire if he wants anything."

"And you will permit me to accompany you?"

"Oh, certainly;" and both entered the chamber. Porthos was
stretched upon the bed; his face was violet rather than red;
his eyes were swelled; his mouth was wide open. The roaring
which escaped from the deep cavities of his chest made the
glass of the windows vibrate. To those developed and clearly
defined muscles starting from his face, to his hair matted
with sweat, to the energetic heaving of his chin and
shoulders, it was impossible to refuse a certain degree of
admiration. Strength carried to this point is semi-divine.
The Herculean legs and feet of Porthos had, by swelling,
burst his stockings; all the strength of his huge body was
converted into the rigidity of stone. Porthos moved no more
than does the giant of granite which reclines upon the
plains of Agrigentum. According to Pellisson's orders, his
boots had been cut off, for no human power could have pulled
them off. Four lackeys had tried in vain, pulling at them as
they would have pulled capstans; and yet all this did not
awaken him. They had hacked off his boots in fragments, and
his legs had fallen back upon the bed. They then cut off the
rest of his clothes, carried him to a bath, in which they
let him soak a considerable time. They then put on him clean
linen, and placed him in a well-warmed bed -- the whole with
efforts and pains which might have roused a dead man, but
which did not make Porthos open an eye, or interrupt for a
second the formidable diapason of his snoring. Aramis wished
on his part, with his nervous nature, armed with
extraordinary courage, to outbrave fatigue, and employ
himself with Gourville and Pellisson, but he fainted in the
chair in which he had persisted sitting. He was carried into
the adjoining room, where the repose of bed soon soothed his
failing brain.

CHAPTER 75

In which Monsieur Fouquet acts

In the meantime Fouquet was hastening to the Louvre, at the
best speed of his English horses. The king was at work with
Colbert. All at once the king became thoughtful. The two
sentences of death he had signed on mounting his throne
sometimes recurred to his memory; they were two black spots
which he saw with his eyes open; two spots of blood which he
saw when his eyes were closed. "Monsieur," said he, rather
sharply, to the intendant; "it sometimes seems to me that
those two men you made me condemn were not very great
culprits."

"Sire, they were picked out from the herd of the farmers of
the financiers, which wanted decimating."

"Picked out by whom?"

"By necessity, sire," replied Colbert, coldly.

"Necessity! -- a great word," murmured the young king.

"A great goddess, sire."

"They were devoted friends of the superintendent, were they
not?"

"Yes, sire; friends who would have given up their lives for
Monsieur Fouquet."

"They have given them, monsieur," said the king.

"That is true; -- but uselessly, by good luck, -- which was
not their intention."

"How much money had these men fraudulently obtained?"

"Ten millions, perhaps; of which six have been confiscated."

"And is that money in my coffers?" said the king with a
certain air of repugnance.

"It is there, sire; but this confiscation, whilst
threatening M. Fouquet, has not touched him."

"You conclude, then, M. Colbert ---- "

"That if M. Fouquet has raised against your majesty a troop
of factious rioters to extricate his friends from
punishment, he will raise an army when he has in turn to
extricate himself from punishment."

The king darted at his confidant one of those looks which
resemble the livid fire of a flash of lightning, one of
those looks which illuminate the darkness of the basest
consciences. "I am astonished," said he, "that, thinking
such things of M. Fouquet, you did not come to give me your
counsels thereupon."

"Counsels upon what, sire?"

"Tell me, in the first place, clearly and precisely, what
you think, M. Colbert."

"Upon what subject, sire?"

"Upon the conduct of M. Fouquet."

"I think, sire, that M. Fouquet, not satisfied with
attracting all the money to himself, as M. Mazarin did, and
by that means depriving your majesty of one part of your
power, still wishes to attract to himself all the friends of
easy life and pleasure -- of what idlers call poetry, and
politicians, corruption. I, think that, by holding the
subjects of your majesty in pay, he trespasses upon the
royal prerogative, and cannot, if this continues so, be long
in placing your majesty among the weak and the obscure."

"How would you qualify all these projects, M. Colbert?"

"The projects of M. Fouquet, sire?"

"Yes."

"They are called crimes of lese majeste."

"And what is done to criminals guilty of lese majeste?"

"They are arrested, tried, and punished."

"You are quite sure that M. Fouquet has conceived the idea
of the crime you impute to him?"

"I can say more, sire, there is even a commencement of the
execution of it."

"Well, then, I return to that which I was saying, M.
Colbert."

"And you were saying, sire?"

"Give me counsel."

"Pardon me, sire, but in the first place, I have something
to add."

"Say -- what?"

"An evident, palpable, material proof of treason."

"And what is that?"

"I have just learnt that M. Fouquet is fortifying
Belle-Isle."

"Ah, indeed!"

"Yes, sire."

"Are you sure?"

"Perfectly. Do you know, sire, what soldiers there are in
Belle-Isle?"

"No, ma foi! Do you?"

"I am ignorant, likewise, sire; I should therefore propose
to your majesty to send somebody to Belle-Isle?"

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