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Ten Years Later

Part 15 out of 21

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"Who?"

"Me, for instance."

"And what would you do at Belle-Isle?"

"Inform myself whether, after the example of the ancient
feudal lords, M. Fouquet was battlementing his walls."

"And with what purpose could he do that?"

"With the purpose of defending himself some day against his
king."

"But, if it be thus, M. Colbert," said Louis, "we must
immediately do as you say; M. Fouquet must be arrested."

"That is impossible."

"I thought I had already told you, monsieur, that I
suppressed that word in my service."

"The service of your majesty cannot prevent M. Fouquet from
being surintendant-general."

"Well?"

"That, in consequence of holding that post, he has for him
all the parliament, as he has all the army by his largesses,
literature by his favors, and the noblesse by his presents."

"That is to say, then, that I can do nothing against M.
Fouquet?"

"Absolutely nothing, -- at least at present, sire."

"You are a sterile counselor, M. Colbert."

"Oh, no, sire; for I will not confine myself to pointing out
the peril to your majesty."

"Come, then, where shall we begin to undermine this
Colossus; let us see;" and his majesty began to laugh
bitterly.

"He has grown great by money; kill him by money, sire."

"If I were to deprive him of his charge?"

"A bad means, sire."

"The good -- the good, then?"

"Ruin him, sire, that is the way.

"But how?"

"Occasions will not be wanting, take advantage of all
occasions."

"Point them out to me."

"Here is one at once. His royal highness Monsieur is about
to be married; his nuptials must be magnificent. That is a
good occasion for your majesty to demand a million of M.
Fouquet. M. Fouquet, who pays twenty thousand livres down
when he need not pay more than five thousand, will easily
find that million when your majesty demands it."

"That is all very well; I will demand it," said Louis.

"If your majesty will sign the ordonnance I will have the
money got together myself." And Colbert pushed a paper
before the king, and presented a pen to him.

At that moment the usher opened the door and announced
monsieur le surintendant. Louis turned pale. Colbert let the
pen fall, and drew back from the king, over whom he extended
his black wings like an evil spirit. The superintendent made
his entrance like a man of the court, to whom a single
glance was sufficient to make him appreciate the situation.
That situation was not very encouraging for Fouquet,
whatever might be his consciousness of strength. The small
black eye of Colbert, dilated by envy, and the limpid eye of
Louis XIV., inflamed by anger, signalled some pressing
danger. Courtiers are, with regard to court rumors, like old
soldiers, who distinguish through the blasts of wind and
bluster of leaves the sound of the distant steps of an armed
troop. They can, after having listened, tell pretty nearly
how many men are marching, how many arms resound, how many
cannons roll. Fouquet had then only to interrogate the
silence which his arrival had produced; he found it big with
menacing revelations. The king allowed him time enough to
advance as far as the middle of the chamber. His adolescent
modesty commanded this forbearance of the moment. Fouquet
boldly seized the opportunity.

"Sire," said he, "I was impatient to see your majesty."

"What for?" asked Louis.

"To announce some good news to you."

Colbert, minus grandeur of person, less largeness of heart,
resembled Fouquet in many points. He had the same
penetration, the same knowledge of men; moreover, that great
power of self-compression which gives to hypocrites time to
reflect, and gather themselves up to take a spring. He
guessed that Fouquet was going to meet the blow he was about
to deal him. His eyes glittered ominously.

"What news?" asked the king. Fouquet placed a roll of papers
on the table.

"Let your majesty have the goodness to cast your eyes over
this work," said he. The king slowly unfolded the paper.

"Plans?" said he.

"Yes, sire."

"And what are these plans?"

"A new fortification, sire."

"Ah, ah!" said the king, "you amuse yourself with tactics
and strategies, then, M. Fouquet?"

"I occupy myself with everything that may be useful to the
reign of your majesty," replied Fouquet.

"Beautiful descriptions!" said the king, looking at the
design.

"Your majesty comprehends, without doubt," said Fouquet,
bending over the paper; "here is the circle of the walls,
here are the forts, there the advanced works."

"And what do I see here, monsieur?"

"The sea."

"The sea all round?"

"Yes, sire."

"And what is, then, the name of this place of which you show
me the plan?"

"Sire, it is Belle-Isle-en-Mer," replied Fouquet with
simplicity.

At this word, at this name, Colbert made so marked a
movement, that the king turned round to enforce the
necessity for reserve. Fouquet did not appear to be the
least in the world concerned by the movement of Colbert, or
the king's signal.

"Monsieur," continued Louis, "you have then fortified
Belle-Isle?"

"Yes, sire; and I have brought the plan and the accounts to
your majesty," replied Fouquet, "I have expended sixteen
hundred thousand livres in this operation."

"What to do?" replied Louis, coldly, having taken the
initiative from a malicious look of the intendant.

"For an aim very easy to seize," replied, Fouquet. "Your
majesty was on cool terms with Great Britain."

"Yes; but since the restoration of King Charles II. I have
formed an alliance with him."

"A month since, sire, your majesty has truly said; but it is
more than six months since the fortifications of Belle-Isle
were begun."

"Then they have become useless."

"Sire, fortifications are never useless. I fortified
Belle-Isle against MM. Monk and Lambert and all those London
citizens who were playing at soldiers. Belle-Isle will be
ready fortified against the Dutch, against whom either
England or your majesty cannot fail to make war."

The king was again silent, and looked askant at Colbert.
"Belle-Isle, I believe," added Louis, "is yours, M.
Fouquet?"

"No, sire."

"Whose then?"

"Your majesty's."

Colbert was seized with as much terror as if a gulf had
opened beneath his feet. Louis started with admiration,
either at the genius or the devotion of Fouquet.

"Explain yourself, monsieur," said he.

"Nothing more easy, sire; Belle-Isle is one of my estates; I
have fortified it at my own expense. But as nothing in the
world can oppose a subject making an humble present to his
king, I offer your majesty the proprietorship of the estate,
of which you will leave me the usufruct. Belle-Isle, as a
place of war, ought to be occupied by the king. Your majesty
will be able, henceforth, to keep a safe garrison there."

Colbert felt almost sinking down upon the floor. To keep
himself from falling, he was obliged to hold by the columns
of the wainscoting.

"This is a piece of great skill in the art of war that you
have exhibited here, monsieur," said Louis.

"Sire, the initiative did not come from me," replied
Fouquet: "many others have inspired me with it. The plans
themselves have been made by one of the most distinguished
engineers."

"His name?"

"M. du Vallon."

"M. du Vallon?" resumed Louis, "I do not know him. It is
much to be lamented, M. Colbert," continued he, "that I do
not know the names of the men of talent who do honor to my
reign." And while saying these words he turned towards
Colbert. The latter felt himself crushed, the sweat flowed
from his brow, no word presented itself to his lips, he
suffered an inexpressible martyrdom. "You will recollect
that name," added Louis XIV.

Colbert bowed, but was paler than his ruffles of Flemish
lace. Fouquet continued:

"The masonries are of Roman concrete; the architects
amalgamated it for me after the best accounts of antiquity."

"And the cannon?" asked Louis.

"Oh! sire, that concerns your majesty; it did not become me
to place cannon in my own house, unless your majesty had
told me it was yours."

Louis began to float, undetermined between the hatred which
this so powerful man inspired him with, and the pity he felt
for the other, so cast down, who seemed to him the
counterfeit of the former. But the consciousness of his
kingly duty prevailed over the feelings of the man, and he
stretched out his finger to the paper.

"It must have cost you a great deal of money to carry these
plans into execution," said he.

"I believe I had the honor of telling your majesty the
amount."

"Repeat it if you please, I have forgotten it."

"Sixteen hundred thousand livres."

"Sixteen hundred thousand livres! you are enormously rich,
monsieur."

"It is your majesty who is rich, since Belle-Isle is yours."

"Yes, thank you; but however rich I may be, M. Fouquet ----
" The king stopped.

"Well, sire?" asked the superintendent.

"I foresee the moment when I shall want money."

"You, sire? And at what moment, then?"

"To-morrow, for example."

"Will your majesty do me the honor to explain yourself?"

"My brother is going to marry the English Princess."

"Well, sire?"

"Well, I ought to give the bride a reception worthy of the
granddaughter of Henry IV."

"That is but just, sire."

"Then I shall want money."

"No doubt."

"I shall want ---- " Louis hesitated. The sum he was going
to demand was the same that he had been obliged to refuse
Charles II. He turned towards Colbert, that he might give
the blow.

"I shall want, to-morrow ---- " repeated he, looking at
Colbert.

"A million," said the latter, bluntly; delighted to take his
revenge.

Fouquet turned his back upon the intendant to listen to the
king. He did not turn round, but waited till the king
repeated, or rather murmured, "A million."

"Oh! sire," replied Fouquet disdainfully, "a million! What
will your majesty do with a million?"

"It appears to me, nevertheless ---- " said Louis XIV.

"That is not more than is spent at the nuptials of one of
the most petty princes of Germany."

"Monsieur!"

"Your majesty must have two millions at least. The horses
alone would run away with five hundred thousand livres. I
shall have the honor of sending your majesty sixteen hundred
thousand livres this evening."

"How," said the king, "sixteen hundred thousand livres?"

"Look, sire," replied Fouquet, without even turning towards
Colbert, "I know that wants four hundred thousand livres of
the two millions. But this monsieur of l'intendance"
(pointing over his shoulder to Colbert who, if possible,
became paler, behind him) "has in his coffers nine hundred
thousand livres of mine."

The king turned round to look at Colbert.

"But ---- " said the latter.

"Monsieur," continued Fouquet, still speaking indirectly to
Colbert, "monsieur has received a week ago sixteen hundred
thousand livres; he has paid a hundred thousand livres to
the guards, sixty-four thousand livres to the hospitals,
twenty-five thousand to the Swiss, a hundred and thirty
thousand for provisions, a thousand for arms, ten thousand
for accidental expenses; I do not err, then, in reckoning
upon nine hundred thousand livres that are left." Then
turning towards Colbert, like a disdainful head of office
towards his inferior, "Take care, monsieur," said he, "that
those nine hundred thousand livres be remitted to his
majesty this evening, in gold."

"But," said the king, "that will make two millions five
hundred thousand livres."

"Sire, the five hundred thousand livres over will serve as
pocket money for his Royal Highness. You understand,
Monsieur Colbert, this evening before eight o'clock."

And with these words, bowing respectfully to the king, the
superintendent made his exit backwards, without honoring
with a single look the envious man, whose head he had just
half shaved.

Colbert tore his ruffles to pieces in his rage, and bit his
lips till they bled.

Fouquet had not passed the door of the cabinet, when an
usher pushing by him, exclaimed: "A courier from Bretagne
for his majesty."

"M. d'Herblay was right," murmured Fouquet, pulling out his
watch; "an hour and fifty-five minutes. It was quite true."

CHAPTER 76

In which D'Artagnan finishes by at length
placing his Hand upon his Captain's Commission

The reader guesses beforehand whom the usher preceded in
announcing the courier from Bretagne. This messenger was
easily recognized. It was D'Artagnan, his clothes dusty, his
face inflamed, his hair dripping with sweat, his legs stiff;
he lifted his feet painfully at every step, on which
resounded the clink of his blood-stained spurs. He perceived
in the doorway he was passing through, the superintendent
coming out. Fouquet bowed with a smile to him who, an hour
before, was bringing him ruin and death. D'Artagnan found in
his goodness of heart, and in his inexhaustible vigor of
body, enough presence of mind to remember the kind reception
of this man; he bowed then, also, much more from benevolence
and compassion, than from respect. He felt upon his lips the
word which had so many times been repeated to the Duc de
Guise: "Fly." But to pronounce that word would have been to
betray his cause; to speak that word in the cabinet of the
king, and before an usher, would have been to ruin himself
gratuitously, and could save nobody. D'Artagnan then
contented himself with bowing to Fouquet and entered. At
this moment the king floated between the joy the last words
of Fouquet had given him, and his pleasure at the return of
D'Artagnan. Without being a courtier, D'Artagnan had a
glance as sure and as rapid as if he had been one. He read,
on his entrance, devouring humiliation on the countenance of
Colbert. He even heard the king say these words to him; --

"Ah! Monsieur Colbert, you have then nine hundred thousand
livres at the intendance?" Colbert, suffocated, bowed, but
made no reply. All this scene entered into the mind of
D'Artagnan, by the eyes and ears, at once.

The first word of Louis to his musketeer, as if he wished it
to contrast with what he was saying at the moment, was a
kind "good day." His second was to send away Colbert. The
latter left the king's cabinet, pallid and tottering, whilst
D'Artagnan twisted up the ends of his mustache.

"I love to see one of my servants in this disorder," said
the king, admiring the martial stains upon the clothes of
his envoy.

"I thought, sire, my presence at the Louvre was sufficiently
urgent to excuse my presenting myself thus before you."

"You bring me great news, then, monsieur?"

"Sire, the thing is this, in two words: Belle-Isle is
fortified, admirably fortified; Belle-Isle has a double
enciete, a citadel, two detached forts; its ports contain
three corsairs; and the side batteries only await their
cannon."

"I know all that, monsieur," replied the king.

"What! your majesty knows all that?" replied the musketeer,
stupefied.

"I have the plan of the fortifications of Belle-Isle," said
the king.

"Your majesty has the plan?"

"Here it is."

"It is really correct, sire: I saw a similar one on the
spot."

D'Artagnan's brow became clouded.

"Ah! I understand all. Your majesty did not trust to me
alone, but sent some other person," said he in a reproachful
tone.

"Of what importance is the manner, monsieur, in which I have
learnt what I know, so that I know it?"

"Sire, sire," said the musketeer, without seeking even to
conceal his dissatisfaction; "but I must be permitted to say
to your majesty, that it is not worth while to make me use
such speed, to risk twenty times the breaking of my neck, to
salute me on my arrival with such intelligence. Sire, when
people are not trusted, or are deemed insufficient, they
should scarcely be employed." And D'Artagnan, with a
movement perfectly military, stamped with his foot, and left
upon the floor dust stained with blood. The king looked at
him, inwardly enjoying his first triumph.

"Monsieur," said he, at the expiration of a minute, "not
only is Belle-Isle known to me, but, still further,
Belle-Isle is mine."

"That is well! that is well, sire, I ask but one thing
more," replied D'Artagnan. -- "My discharge."

"What! your discharge?"

"Without doubt I am too proud to eat the bread of the king
without earning it, or rather by gaining it badly. -- My
discharge, sire!"

"Oh, oh!"

"I ask for my discharge, or I will take it."

"You are angry, monsieur?"

"I have reason, mordioux! Thirty-two hours in the saddle, I
ride night and day, I perform prodigies of speed, I arrive
stiff as the corpse of a man who has been hung -- and
another arrives before me! Come, sire, I am a fool! -- My
discharge, sire!"

"Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Louis, leaning his white hand
upon the dusty arm of the musketeer, "what I tell you will
not at all affect that which I promised you. A king's word
given must be kept." And the king going straight to his
table, opened a drawer, and took out a folded paper. "Here
is your commission of captain of musketeers; you have won
it, Monsieur d'Artagnan."

D'Artagnan opened the paper eagerly, and scanned it twice.
He could scarcely believe his eyes.

"And this commission is given you," continued the king, "not
only on account of your journey to Belle-Isle, but,
moreover, for your brave intervention at the Place de Greve.
There, likewise, you served me valiantly."

"Ah, ah!" said D'Artagnan, without his self-command being
able to prevent a blush from mounting to his eyes -- "you
know that also, sire?"

"Yes, I know it."

The king possessed a piercing glance and an infallible
judgment, when it was his object to read men's minds. "You
have something to say," said he to the musketeer, "something
to say which you do not say. Come, speak freely, monsieur;
you know that I told you, once for all, that you are to be
always quite frank with me."

"Well, sire! what I have to say is this, that I would prefer
being made captain of musketeers for having charged a
battery at the head of my company, or taken a city, than for
causing two wretches to be hung."

"Is this quite true you tell me?"

"And why should your majesty suspect me of dissimulation, I
ask?"

"Because I know you well, monsieur; you cannot repent of
having drawn your sword for me."

"Well, in that your majesty is deceived, and greatly; yes, I
do repent of having drawn my sword on account of the results
that action produced; the poor men who were hung, sire, were
neither your enemies nor mine; and they could not defend
themselves."

The king preserved silence for a moment. "And your
companion, M. d'Artagnan, does he partake of your
repentance?"

"My companion?"

"Yes, you were not alone, I have been told."

"Alone, where?"

"At the Place de Greve."

"No, sire, no," said D'Artagnan, blushing at the idea that
the king might have a suspicion that he, D'Artagnan, had
wished to engross to himself all the glory that belonged to
Raoul; "no, mordioux! and as your majesty says, I had a
companion, and a good companion, too."

"A young man?"

"Yes, sire; a young man. Oh! your majesty must accept my
compliments, you are as well informed of things out of doors
as things within. It is M. Colbert who makes all these fine
reports to the king."

"M. Colbert has said nothing but good of you, M. d'Artagnan,
and he would have met with a bad reception if he had come to
tell me anything else."

"That is fortunate!"

"But he also said much good of that young man."

"And with justice," said the musketeer.

"In short, it appears that this young man is a fire-eater,"
said Louis, in order to sharpen the sentiment which he
mistook for envy.

"A fire-eater! Yes, sire," repeated D'Artagnan, delighted on
his part to direct the king's attention to Raoul.

"Do you not know his name?"

"Well, I think ---- "

"You know him then?"

"I have known him nearly five-and-twenty years, sire."

"Why, he is scarcely twenty-five years old!" cried the king.

"Well, sire! I have known him ever since he was born, that
is all."

"Do you affirm that?"

"Sire," said D'Artagnan, "your majesty questions me with a
mistrust in which I recognize another character than your
own. M. Colbert, who has so well informed you, has he not
forgotten to tell you that this young man is the son of my
most intimate friend?"

"The Vicomte de Bragelonne?"

"Certainly, sire. The father of the Vicomte de Bragelonne is
M. le Comte de la Fere, who so powerfully assisted in the
restoration of king Charles II. Bragelonne comes of a
valiant race, sire."

"Then he is the son of that nobleman who came to me, or
rather to M. Mazarin, on the part of King Charles II., to
offer me his alliance?"

"Exactly, sire."

"And the Comte de la Fere is a great soldier, say you?"

"Sire, he is a man who has drawn his sword more times for
the king, your father, than there are, at present, months in
the happy life of your majesty."

It was Louis XIV. who now bit his lip.

"That is well, M. d'Artagnan, very well! And M. le Comte de
la Fere is your friend, say you?"

"For about forty years; yes, sire. Your majesty may see that
I do not speak to you of yesterday."

"Should you be glad to see this young man, M. d'Artagnan?"

"Delighted, sire."

The king touched his bell, and an usher appeared. "Call M.
de Bragelonne," said the king.

"Ah! ah! he is here?" said D'Artagnan.

"He is on guard to-day, at the Louvre, with the company of
the gentlemen of monsieur le prince."

The king had scarcely ceased speaking, when Raoul presented
himself, and, on seeing D'Artagnan, smiled on him with that
charming smile which is only found upon the lips of youth.

"Come, come," said D'Artagnan, familiarly, to Raoul, "the
king will allow you to embrace me; only tell his majesty you
thank him."

Raoul bowed so gracefully, that Louis, to whom all superior
qualities were pleasing when they did not overshadow his
own, admired his beauty, strength and modesty.

"Monsieur," said the king, addressing Raoul, "I have asked
monsieur le prince to be kind enough to give you up to me; I
have received his reply, and you belong to me from this
morning. Monsieur le prince was a good master, but I hope
you will not lose by the exchange."

"Yes, yes, Raoul, be satisfied; the king has some good in
him," said D'Artagnan, who had fathomed the character of
Louis, and who played with his self-love, within certain
limits; always observing, be it understood, the proprieties
and flattering, even when he appeared to be bantering.

"Sire," said Bragelonne, with a voice soft and musical, and
with the natural and easy elocution he inherited from his
father, "sire, it is not from to-day that I belong to your
majesty."

"Oh! no, I know," said the king, "you mean your enterprise
of the Greve. That day, you were truly mine, monsieur."

"Sire, it is not of that day I would speak; it would not
become me to refer to so paltry a service in the presence of
such a man as M. d'Artagnan. I would speak of a circumstance
which created an epoch in my life, and which consecrated me,
from the age of sixteen, to the devoted service of your
majesty."

"Ah! ah!" said the king, "what was that circumstance? Tell
me, monsieur."

"This is it, sire. -- When I was setting out on my first
campaign, that is to say, to join the army of monsieur le
prince, M. le Comte de la Fere came to conduct me as far as
Saint-Denis, where the remains of King Louis XIII. wait,
upon the lowest steps of the funeral basilique, a successor,
whom God will not send him, I hope, for many years. Then he
made me swear upon the ashes of our masters, to serve
royalty, represented by you -- incarnate in you, sire -- to
serve it in word, in thought, and in action. I swore, and
God and the dead were witnesses to my oath. During ten
years, sire, I have not so often as I desired had occasion
to keep it. I am a soldier of your majesty, and nothing
else; and, on calling me nearer to you, I do not change my
master, I only change my garrison."

Raoul was silent, and bowed. Louis still listened after he
had done speaking.

"Mordioux!" cried D'Artagnan, "that was well spoken! was it
not, your majesty? A good race! a noble race!"

"Yes," murmured the agitated king, without, however, daring
to manifest his emotion, for it had no other cause than
contact with a nature intrinsically noble. "Yes, monsieur,
you say truly: -- wherever you were, you were the king's.
But in changing your garrison, believe me you will find an
advancement of which you are worthy."

Raoul saw that this ended what the king had to say to him.
And with the perfect tact which characterized his refined
nature, he bowed and retired.

"Is there anything else, monsieur, of which you have to
inform me?" said the king, when he found himself again alone
with D'Artagnan.

"Yes, sire, and I kept that news for the last, for it is
sad, and will clothe European royalty in mourning."

"What do you tell me?"

"Sire, in passing through Blois, a word, a sad word, echoed
from the palace, struck my ear."

"In truth, you terrify me, M. d'Artagnan."

"Sire, this word was pronounced to me by a piqueur, who wore
crape on his arm."

"My uncle, Gaston of Orleans, perhaps."

"Sire, he has rendered his last sigh."

"And I was not warned of it!" cried the king, whose royal
susceptibility saw an insult in the absence of this
intelligence.

"Oh! do not be angry, sire," said D'Artagnan; "neither the
couriers of Paris, nor the couriers of the whole world, can
travel with your servant; the courier from Blois will not be
here these two hours, and he rides well, I assure you,
seeing that I only passed him on the thither side of
Orleans."

"My uncle Gaston," murmured Louis, pressing his hand to his
brow, and comprising in those three words all that his
memory recalled of that symbol of opposing sentiments.

"Eh! yes, sire, it is thus," said D'Artagnan,
philosophically replying to the royal thought, "it is thus
the past flies away."

"That is true, monsieur, that is true; but there remains for
us, thank God! the future; and we will try to make it not
too dark."

"I feel confidence in your majesty on that head," said
D'Artagnan, bowing, "and now ---- "

"You are right, monsieur; I had forgotten the hundred
leagues you have just ridden. Go, monsieur, take care of one
of the best of soldiers, and when you have reposed a little,
come and place yourself at my disposal."

"Sire, absent or present, I am always yours."

D'Artagnan bowed and retired. Then, as if he had only come
from Fontainebleau, he quickly traversed the Louvre to
rejoin Bragelonne.

CHAPTER 77

A Lover and his Mistress

Whilst the wax-lights were burning in the castle of Blois,
around the inanimate body of Gaston of Orleans, that last
representative of the past; whilst the bourgeois of the city
were thinking out his epitaph, which was far from being a
panegyric; whilst madame the dowager, no longer remembering
that in her young days she had loved that senseless corpse
to such a degree as to fly the paternal palace for his sake,
was making, within twenty paces of the funeral apartment,
her little calculations of interest and her little
sacrifices of pride; other interests and other prides were
in agitation in all the parts of the castle into which a
living soul could penetrate. Neither the lugubrious sounds
of the bells, nor the voices of the chanters, nor the
splendor of the waxlights through the windows, nor the
preparations for the funeral, had power to divert the
attention of two persons, placed at a window of the interior
court ---a window that we are acquainted with, and which
lighted a chamber forming part of what were called the
little apartments. For the rest, a joyous beam of the sun,
for the sun appeared to care little for the loss France had
just suffered; a sunbeam, we say, descended upon them,
drawing perfumes from the neighboring flowers, and animating
the walls themselves. These two persons, so occupied, not by
the death of the duke, but by the conversation which was the
consequence of that death, were a young woman and a young
man. The latter personage, a man of from twenty-five to
twenty-six years of age, with a mien sometimes lively and
sometimes dull, making good use of two large eyes, shaded
with long eye-lashes, was short of stature and swart of
skin; he smiled with an enormous, but well-furnished mouth,
and his pointed chin, which appeared to enjoy a mobility
nature does not ordinarily grant to that portion of the
countenance, leant from time to time very lovingly towards
his interlocutrix, who, we must say did not always draw back
so rapidly as strict propriety had a right to require. The
young girl -- we know her, for we have already seen her, at
that very same window by the light of that same sun -- the
young girl presented a singular mixture of shyness and
reflection; she was charming when she laughed, beautiful
when she became serious; but, let us hasten to say, she was
more frequently charming than beautiful. These two appeared
to have attained the culminating point of a discussion --
half-bantering, half-serious.

"Now, Monsieur Malicorne," said the young girl, "does it, at
length, please you that we should talk reasonably?"

"You believe that that is very easy, Mademoiselle Aure,"
replied the young man. "To do what we like, when we can only
do what we are able ---- "

"Good! there he is bewildered in his phrases."

"Who, I?"

"Yes, you quit that lawyer's logic, my dear."

"Another impossibility. Clerk I am, Mademoiselle de
Montalais."

"Demoiselle I am, Monsieur Malicorne."

"Alas, I know it well, and you overwhelm me by your rank; so
I will say no more to you."

"Well, no, I don't overwhelm you; say what you have to tell
me -- say- it, I insist upon it."

Well, I obey you."

"That is truly fortunate."

"Monsieur is dead."

"Ah, peste! there's news! And where do you come from, to be
able to tell us that?"

"I come from Orleans, mademoiselle."

"And is that all the news you bring?"

"Ah, no; I am come to tell you that Madame Henrietta of
England is coming to marry the king's brother."

"Indeed, Malicorne, you are insupportable with your news of
the last century. Now, mind, if you persist in this bad
habit of laughing at people, I will have you turned out."

"Oh!"

"Yes; for really you exasperate me."

"There, there. Patience, mademoiselle."

"You want to make yourself of consequence; I know well
enough why. Go!"

"Tell me, and I will answer you frankly, yes, if the thing
be true."

"You know that I am anxious to have that commission of lady
of honor, which I have been foolish enough to ask of you,
and you do not use your credit."

"Who, I?" Malicorne cast down his eyes, joined his hands,
and assumed his sullen air. "And what credit can the poor
clerk of a procurer have, pray?"

"Your father has not twenty thousand livres a year for
nothing, M. Malicorne."

"A provincial fortune, Mademoiselle de Montalais."

"Your father is not in the secrets of monsieur le prince for
nothing."

"An advantage which is confined to lending monseigneur
money."

"In a word, you are not the most cunning young fellow in the
province for nothing."

"You flatter me "

"Who, I?"

"Yes, you."

"How so?"

"Since I maintain that I have no credit, and you maintain I
have."

"Well, then, -- my commission?"

"Well, -- your commission?"

"Shall I have it, or shall I not?"

"You shall have it."

"Ay, but when?"

"When you like."

"Where is it, then?"

"In my pocket."

"How -- in your pocket?"

"Yes."

And, with a smile, Malicorne drew from his pocket a letter,
upon which mademoiselle seized as a prey, and which she read
eagerly. As she read, her face brightened.

"Malicorne," cried she, after having read it, "in truth, you
are a good lad."

"What for, mademoiselle?"

"Because you might have been paid for this commission, and
you have not." And she burst into a loud laugh, thinking to
put the clerk out of countenance; but Malicorne sustained
the attack bravely.

"I do not understand you," said he. It was now Montalais who
was disconcerted in her turn. "I have declared my sentiments
to you," continued Malicorne. "You have told me three times,
laughing all the while, that you did not love me; you have
embraced me once without laughing, and that is all I want."

"All?" said the proud and coquettish Montalais, in a tone
through which wounded pride was visible.

"Absolutely all, mademoiselle," replied Malicorne.

"Ah!" -- And this monosyllable indicated as much anger as
the young man might have expected gratitude. He shook his
head quietly.

"Listen, Montalais," said he, without heeding whether that
familiarity pleased his mistress or not; "let us not dispute
about it."

"And why not?"

"Because during the year which I have known you, you might
have had me turned out of doors twenty times if I did not
please you."

"Indeed; and on what account should I have had you turned
out?"

"Because I had been sufficiently impertinent for that."

"Oh, that, -- yes, that's true."

"You see plainly that you are forced to avow it," said
Malicorne.

"Monsieur Malicorne!"

"Don't let us be angry; if you have retained me, then it has
not been without cause."

"It is not, at least, because I love you," cried Montalais.

"Granted. I will even say that, at this moment, I am certain
that you hate me."

"Oh, you have never spoken so truly."

"Well, on my part I detest you."

"Ah! I take the act."

"Take it. You find me brutal and foolish; on my part I find
you have a harsh voice, and your face is too often distorted
with anger. At this moment you would allow yourself to be
thrown out of that window rather than allow me to kiss the
tip of your finger; I would precipitate myself from the top
of the balcony rather than touch the hem of your robe. But,
in five minutes, you will love me, and I shall adore you.
Oh, it is just so."

"I doubt it."

"And I swear it."

"Coxcomb!"

"And then, that is not the true reason. You stand in need of
me, Aure, and I of you. When it pleases you to be gay, I
make you laugh; when it suits me to be loving, I look at
you. I have given you a commission of lady of honor which
you wished for; you will give me, presently, something I
wish for."

"I will?"

"Yes, you will; but, at this moment, my dear Aure, I declare
to you that I wish for absolutely nothing, so be at ease."

"You are a frightful man, Malicorne; I was going to rejoice
at getting this commission, and thus you quench my joy."

"Good; there is no time lost, -- you will rejoice when I am
gone."

"Go, then; and after ---- "

"So be it; but in the first place, a piece of advice."

"What is it?"

"Resume your good-humor, -- you are ugly when you pout."

"Coarse!"

"Come, let us tell the truth to each other, while we are
about it."

"Oh, Malicorne! Bad-hearted man!"

"Oh, Montalais! Ungrateful girl!"

The young man leant with his elbow upon the window-frame;
Montalais took a book and opened it. Malicorne stood up,
brushed his hat with his sleeve; smoothed down his black
doublet, -- Montalais, though pretending to read, looked at
him out of the corner of her eye.

"Good!" cried she, furious, "he has assumed his respectful
air -- and he will pout for a week."

"A fortnight, mademoiselle," said Malicorne, bowing.

Montalais lifted up her little doubled fist. "Monster!" said
she; "oh! that I were a man!"

"What would you do to me?"

"I would strangle you."

"Ah! very well, then," said Malicorne; "I believe I begin to
desire something."

"And what do you desire, Monsieur Demon? That I should lose
my soul from anger?"

Malicorne was rolling his hat respectfully between his
fingers; but, all at once, he let fall his hat, seized the
young girl by the shoulders, pulled her towards him and
sealed her mouth with two lips that were very warm, for a
man pretending to so much indifference. Aure would have
cried out, but the cry was stifled in the kiss. Nervous and,
apparently, angry, the young girl pushed Malicorne against
the wall.

"Good!" said Malicorne, philosophically, "that's enough for
six weeks. Adieu, mademoiselle, accept my very humble
salutation." And he made three steps towards the door.

"Well! no, -- you shall not go!" cried, Montalais, stamping
with her little foot. "Stay where you are! I order you!"

"You order me?"

"Yes; am I not mistress?"

"Of my heart and soul, without doubt."

"A pretty property! ma foi! The soul is silly and the heart
dry."

"Beware, Montalais, I know you," said Malicorne; "you are
going to fall in love with your humble servant."

"Well, yes!" said she, hanging round his neck with childish
indolence, rather than with loving abandonment. "Well, yes!
for I must thank you at least."

"And for what?"

"For the commission, is it not my whole future?"

"And mine."

Montalais looked at him.

"It is frightful," said she, "that one can never guess
whether you are speaking seriously or not."

"I cannot speak more seriously. I was going to Paris, -- you
are going there, -- we are going there."

"And so it was for that motive only you have served me,
selfish fellow!"

"What would you have me say, Aure? I cannot live without
you."

"Well! in truth, it is just so with me; you are,
nevertheless, it must be confessed, a very bad-hearted young
man."

"Aure, my dear Aure, take care! if you take to calling names
again, you know the effect they produce upon me, and I shall
adore you." And so saying, Malicorne drew the young girl a
second time towards him. But at that instant a step
resounded on the staircase. The young people were so close,
that they would have been surprised in the arms of each
other, if Montalais had not violently pushed Malicorne, with
his back against the door, just then opening. A loud cry,
followed by angry reproaches, immediately resounded. It was
Madame de Saint-Remy who uttered the cry and the angry
words. The unlucky Malicorne almost crushed her between the
wall and the door she was coming in at.

"It is again that good-for-nothing!" cried the old lady.
"Always here!"

"Ah, madame!" replied Malicorne, in a respectful tone; "it
is eight long days since I was here."

CHAPTER 78

In which we at length see the true Heroine of this History appear

Behind Madame de Saint-Remy stood Mademoiselle de la
Valliere. She heard the explosion of maternal anger, and as
she divined the cause of it, she entered the chamber
trembling, and perceived the unlucky Malicorne, whose woeful
countenance might have softened or set laughing whoever
observed it coolly. He had promptly intrenched himself
behind a large chair, as if to avoid the first attacks of
Madame de Saint-Remy; he had no hopes of prevailing with
words, for she spoke louder than he, and without stopping;
but he reckoned upon the eloquence of his gestures. The old
lady would neither listen to nor see anything; Malicorne had
long been one of her antipathies. But her anger was too
great not to overflow from Malicorne on his accomplice.
Montalais had her turn.

"And you, mademoiselle; you may be certain I shall inform
madame of what is going on in the apartment of one of her
ladies of honor!"

"Oh, dear mother!" cried Mademoiselle de la Valliere, "for
mercy's sake, spare ---- "

"Hold your tongue, mademoiselle, and do not uselessly
trouble yourself to intercede for unworthy people; that a
young maid of honor like you should be subjected to a bad
example is, certes, a misfortune great enough; but that you
should sanction it by your indulgence is what I will not
allow."

"But in truth," said Montalais, rebelling again, "I do not
know under what pretense you treat me thus. I am doing no
harm, I suppose?"

"And that great good-for-nothing, mademoiselle," resumed
Madame de Saint-Remy, pointing to Malicorne, "is he here to
do any good, I ask you?"

"He is neither here for good nor harm, madame; he comes to
see me, that is all."

"It is all very well! all very well!" said the old lady.
"Her royal highness shall be informed of it, and she will
judge."

"At all events, I do not see why," replied Montalais, "it
should be forbidden M. Malicorne to have intentions towards
me, if his intentions are honorable."

"Honorable intentions with such a face!" cried Madame de
Saint-Remy.

"I thank you in the name of my face, madame," said
Malicorne.

"Come, my daughter, come," continued Madame de Saint-Remy;
"we will go and inform madame that at the very moment she is
weeping for her husband, at the moment when we are all
weeping for a master in this old castle of Blois, the abode
of grief, there are people who amuse themselves with
flirtations!"

"Oh!" cried both the accused, with one voice.

"A maid of honor! a maid of honor!" cried the old lady,
lifting her hands towards heaven.

"Well! it is there you are mistaken, madame," said
Montalais, highly exasperated; "I am no longer a maid of
honor, of madame's at least."

"Have you given in your resignation, mademoiselle? That is
well! I cannot but applaud such a determination, and I do
applaud it."

"I do not give in my resignation, madame; I take another
service, -- that is all."

"In the bourgeoisie or in the robe?" asked Madame de
Saint-Remy, disdainfully.

"Please to learn, madame, that I am not a girl to serve
either bourgeoises or robines, and that instead of the
miserable court at which you vegetate, I am going to reside
in a court almost royal."

"Ha, ha! a royal court," said Madame de Saint-Remy, forcing
a laugh; "a royal court! What think you of that, my
daughter?"

And she turned round towards Mademoiselle de la Valliere,
whom she would by main force have dragged away from
Montalais, and who, instead of obeying the impulse of Madame
de Saint-Remy, looked first at her mother and then at
Montalais with her beautiful conciliatory eyes.

"I did not say a royal court, madame," replied Montalais;
"because Madame Henrietta of England, who is about to become
the wife of S. A. R. Monsieur, is not a queen. I said almost
royal, and I spoke correctly, since she will be
sister-in-law to the king."

A thunderbolt falling upon the castle of Blois would not
have astonished Madame de Saint-Remy more than the last
sentence of Montalais.

"What do you say? of Son Altesse Royale Madame Henrietta?"
stammered out the old lady.

"I say I am going to belong to her household, as maid of
honor, that is what I say."

"As maid of honor!" cried, at the same time, Madame de
Saint-Remy with despair, and Mademoiselle de la Valliere
with delight.

"Yes, madame, as maid of honor."

The old lady's head sank down as if the blow had been too
severe for her. But, almost immediately recovering herself,
she launched a last projectile at her adversary.

"Oh! oh!" said she, "I have heard of many of these sorts of
promises beforehand, which often lead people to flatter
themselves with wild hopes, and at the last moment, when the
time comes to keep the promises, and have the hopes
realized, they are surprised to see the great credit upon
which they reckoned vanish like smoke."

"Oh! madame, the credit of my protector is incontestable and
his promises are as good as deeds."

"And would it be indiscreet to ask you the name of this
powerful protector?"

"Oh! mon Dieu! no! it is that gentleman there," said
Montalais, pointing to Malicorne, who, during this scene,
had preserved the most imperturbable coolness, and the most
comic dignity.

"Monsieur!" cried Madame de Saint-Remy, with an explosion of
hilarity, "monsieur is your protector! Is the man whose
credit is so powerful, and whose promises are as good as
deeds, Monsieur Malicorne?"

Malicorne bowed.

As to Montalais, as her sole reply, she drew the brevet from
her pocket, and showed it to the old lady.

"Here is the brevet," said she.

At once all was over. As soon as she had cast a rapid glance
over this fortunate brevet, the good lady clasped her hands,
an unspeakable expression of envy and despair contracted her
countenance, and she was obliged to sit down to avoid
fainting. Montalais was not malicious enough to rejoice
extravagantly at her victory, or to overwhelm the conquered
enemy, particularly when that enemy was the mother of her
friend; she used then, but did not abuse, her triumph.
Malicorne was less generous; he assumed noble poses in his
fauteuil, and stretched himself out with a familiarity
which, two hours earlier, would have drawn upon him threats
of a caning.

"Maid of honor to the young madame!" repeated Madame de
Saint-Remy, still but half convinced.

"Yes, madame, and through the protection of M. Malicorne,
moreover."

"It is incredible!" repeated the old lady: "is it not
incredible, Louise?" But Louise did not reply; she was
sitting, thoughtful, almost sad; passing one hand over her
beautiful brow she sighed heavily.

"Well, but, monsieur," said Madame de Saint-Remy, all at
once, "how did you manage to obtain this post?"

"I asked for it, madame."

"Of whom?"

"One of my friends."

"And have you friends sufficiently powerful at court to give
you such proofs of their credit?"

"It appears so."

"And may one ask the name of these friends?"

"I did not say I had many friends, madame, I said I had one
friend."

And that friend is called?"

"Peste! madame, you go too far! When one has a friend as
powerful as mine, we do not publish his name in that
fashion, in open day, in order that he may be stolen from
us."

"You are right, monsieur, to be silent as to that name; for
I think it would be pretty difficult for you to tell it."

"At all events," said Montalais, "if the friend does not
exist, the brevet does, and that cuts short the question."

"Then, I conceive," said Madame de Saint-Remy, with the
gracious smile of the cat who is going to scratch, "when I
found monsieur here just now ---- "

"Well?"

"He brought you the brevet."

"Exactly, madame, you have guessed rightly."

"Well, then, nothing can be more moral or proper."

"I think so, madame."

"And I have been wrong, as it appears, in reproaching you,
mademoiselle."

"Very wrong, madame; but I am so accustomed to your
reproaches, that I pardon you these."

"In that case, let us begone, Louise; we have nothing to do
but to retire. Well!"

"Madame!" said La Valliere, starting, "did you speak?"

"You do not appear to be listening, my child."

"No, madame, I was thinking."

"About what?"

"A thousand things."

"You bear me no ill-will, at least, Louise?" cried
Montalais, pressing her hand.

"And why should I, my dear Aure?" replied the girl in a
voice soft as a flute.

"Dame!" resumed Madame de Saint-Remy; "if she did bear you a
little ill-will, poor girl, she could not be much blamed."

"And why should she bear me ill-will, good gracious?"

"It appears to me that she is of as good a family, and as
pretty as you."

"Mother! mother!" cried Louise.

"Prettier a hundred times, madame -- not of a better family;
but that does not tell me why Louise should bear me
ill-will"

"Do you think it will be very amusing for her to be buried
alive at Blois, when you are going to shine at Paris?"

"But, madame, it is not I who prevent Louise following me
thither; on the contrary, I should certainly be most happy
if she came there."

"But it appears that M. Malicorne, who is all-powerful at
court ---- "

"Ah! so much the worse, madame," said Malicorne, "every one
for himself in this poor world."

"Malicorne! Malicorne!" said Montalais. Then stooping
towards the young man: --

"Occupy Madame de Saint-Remy, either in disputing with her,
or making it up with her; I must speak to Louise." And, at
the same time, a soft pressure of the hand recompensed
Malicorne for his future obedience. Malicorne went grumbling
towards Madame de Saint-Remy, whilst Montalais said to her
friend, throwing one arm around her neck: --

"What is the matter? Tell me. Is it true that you would not
love me if I were to shine, as your mother says?"

"Oh, no!" said the young girl, with difficulty restraining
her tears; "on the contrary, I rejoice at your good
fortune."

"Rejoice! why, one would say you are ready to cry!"

"Do people never weep except from envy?"

"Oh! yes, I understand; I am going to Paris, and that word
Paris recalls to your mind a certain cavalier ---- "

"Aure!"

"A certain cavalier who formerly lived near Blois, and who
now resides at Paris."

"In truth, I know not what ails me, but I feel stifled."

"Weep, then, weep, as you cannot give me a smile!"

Louise raised her sweet face, which the tears, rolling down
one after the other, illumined like diamonds.

"Come, confess," said Montalais.

"What shall I confess?"

"What makes you weep; people don't weep without cause. I am
your friend; whatever you would wish me to do, I will do.
Malicorne is more powerful than you would think. Do you wish
to go to Paris?"

"Alas!" sighed Louise.

"Do you wish to come to Paris?"

"To remain here alone, in this old castle, I who have
enjoyed the delightful habit of listening to your songs, of
pressing your hand, of running about the park with you. Oh!
how I shall be ennuyee! how quickly I shall die!"

"Do you wish to come to Paris?"

Louise breathed another sigh.

"You do not answer me."

"What would you that I should reply?"

"Yes or no; that is not very difficult I think."

"Oh! you are very fortunate, Montalais!"

"That is to say you would like to be in my place."

Louise was silent.

"Little obstinate thing!" said Montalais; "did ever any one
keep her secrets from her friend thus? But confess that you
would like to come to Paris, confess that you are dying with
the wish to see Raoul again?"

"I cannot confess that."

"Then you are wrong."

"In what way?"

"Because ---- do you see this brevet?"

"To be sure I do."

"Well, I would have got you a similar one."

"By whose means?"

"Malicorne's."

"Aure, are you telling the truth? Is that possible?"

"Malicorne is there; and what he has done for me, he surely
can do for you."

Malicorne had heard his name pronounced twice; he was
delighted at having an opportunity of coming to a conclusion
with Madame de Saint-Remy, and he turned round: --

"What is the question, mademoiselle?"

"Come hither, Malicorne," said Montalais, with an imperious
gesture. Malicorne obeyed.

"A brevet like this," said Montalais.

"How so?"

"A brevet like this; that is plain enough.

"But ---- "

"I want one -- I must have one!"

"Oh! oh! you must have one!"

"Yes."

"It is impossible, is it not, M. Malicorne?" said Louise,
with her sweet, soft voice.

"If it is for you, mademoiselle ---- "

"For me. Yes, Monsieur Malicorne, it would be for me."

"And if Mademoiselle de Montalais asks it at the same time
---- "

"Mademoiselle de Montalais does not ask it, she requires
it."

"Well! we will endeavor to obey you, mademoiselle."

"And you will have her named?"

"We will try."

"No evasive answers. Louise de la Valliere shall be maid of
honor to Madame Henrietta within a week."

"How you talk!"

"Within a week, or else ---- "

"Well! or else?"

"You may take back your brevet, Monsieur Malicorne; I will
not leave my friend."

"Dear Montalais!"

"That is right. Keep your brevet, Mademoiselle de la
Valliere shall be a maid of honor."

"Is that true?"

"Quite true."

"I may then hope to go to Paris?"

"Depend upon it."

"Oh! Monsieur Malicorne, what joy!" cried Louise, clapping
her hands, and bounding with pleasure.

"Little dissembler!" said Montalais, "try again to make me
believe you are not in love with Raoul."

Louise blushed like a rose in June, but instead of replying,
she ran and embraced her mother. "Madame," said she, "do you
know that M. Malicorne is going to have me appointed maid of
honor?"

"M. Malicorne is a prince in disguise," replied the old
lady, "he is all-powerful, seemingly."

"Should you also like to be maid of honor?" asked Malicorne
of Madame de Saint-Remy. "Whilst I am about it, I might as
well get everybody appointed."

And upon that he went away, leaving the poor lady quite
disconcerted.

"Humph!" murmured Malicorne as he descended the stairs, --
"Humph! there goes another note of a thousand livres! but I
must get through as well as I can; my friend Manicamp does
nothing for nothing."

CHAPTER 79

Malicorne and Manicamp

The introduction of these two new personages into this
history and that mysterious affinity of names and
sentiments, merit some attention on the part of both
historian and reader. We will then enter into some details
concerning Messieurs Malicorne and Manicamp. Malicorne we
know, had made the journey to Orleans in search of the
brevet destined for Mademoiselle de Montalais, the arrival
of which had produced such a strong feeling at the castle of
Blois. At that moment, M. de Manicamp was at Orleans. A
singular person was this M. de Manicamp; a very intelligent
young fellow, always poor, always needy, although he dipped
his hand freely into the purse of M. le Comte de Guiche, one
of the best furnished purses of the period. M. le Comte de
Guiche had had, as the companion of his boyhood, this De
Manicamp, a poor gentleman, vassal-born, of the house of
Grammont. M. de Manicamp, with his tact and talent, had
created himself a revenue in the opulent family of the
celebrated marechal. From his infancy he had, with
calculation beyond his age, lent his name and complaisance
to the follies of the Comte de Guiche. If his noble
companion had stolen some fruit destined for Madame la
Marechale, if he had broken a mirror, or put out a dog's
eye, Manicamp declared himself guilty of the crime
committed, and received the punishment, which was not made
the milder for falling on the innocent. But this was the way
this system of abnegation was paid for: instead of wearing
such mean habiliments as his paternal fortunes entitled him
to, he was able to appear brilliant, superb, like a young
noble of fifty thousand livres a year. It was not that he
was mean in character or humble in spirit; no, he was a
philosopher, or rather he had the indifference, the apathy,
the obstinacy which banish from man every sentiment of the
supernatural. His sole ambition was to spend money. But, in
this respect, the worthy M. de Manicamp was a gulf. Three or
four times every year he drained the Comte de Guiche, and
when the Comte de Guiche was thoroughly drained, when he had
turned out his pockets and his purse before him, when he
declared that it would be at least a fortnight before
paternal munificence would refill those pockets and that
purse, Manicamp lost all his energy, he went to bed,
remained there, ate nothing and sold his handsome clothes,
under the pretense that, remaining in bed, he did not want
them. During this prostration of mind and strength, the
purse of the Comte de Guiche was getting full again, and
when once filled, overflowed into that of De Manicamp, who
bought new clothes, dressed himself again, and recommenced
the same life he had followed before. The mania of selling
his new clothes for a quarter of what they were worth had
rendered our hero sufficiently celebrated in Orleans, a city
where, in general, we should be puzzled to say why he came
to pass his days of penitence. Provincial debauches,
petits-maitres of six hundred livres a year, shared the
fragments of his opulence.

Among the admirers of these splendid toilettes, our friend
Malicorne was conspicuous; he was the son of a syndic of the
city, of whom M. de Conde, always needy as a De Conde, often
borrowed money at enormous interest. M. Malicorne kept the
paternal money-chest; that is to say, that in those times of
easy morals, he had made for himself, by following the
example of his father, and lending at high interest for
short terms, a revenue of eighteen hundred livres, without
reckoning six hundred livres furnished by the generosity of
the syndic, so that Malicorne was the king of the gay youth
of Orleans, having two thousand four hundred livres to
scatter, squander, and waste on follies of every kind. But,
quite contrary to Manicamp, Malicorne was terribly
ambitious. He loved from ambition; he spent money out of
ambition; and he would have ruined himself for ambition.
Malicorne had determined to rise, at whatever price it might
cost, and for this, at whatever price it did cost, he had
given himself a mistress and a friend. The mistress,
Mademoiselle de Montalais, was cruel as regarded love; but
she was of a noble family, and that was sufficient for
Malicorne. The friend had little or no friendship, but he
was the favorite of the Comte de Guiche, himself the friend
of Monsieur, the king's brother, and that was sufficient for
Malicorne. Only, in the chapter of charges, Mademoiselle de
Montalais cost per annum: -- ribbons, gloves, and sweets, a
thousand livres. De Manicamp cost -- money lent, never
returned -- from twelve to fifteen hundred livres per annum.
So that there was nothing left for Malicorne. Ah! yes, we
are mistaken; there was left the paternal strong box. He
employed a mode of proceeding, upon which he preserved the
most profound secrecy, and which consisted in advancing to
himself from the coffers of the syndic, half a dozen year's
profits, that is to say, fifteen thousand livres, swearing
to himself -- observe, quite to himself -- to repay this
deficiency as soon as an opportunity should present itself.

The opportunity was expected to be the concession of a good
post in the household of Monsieur, when that household would
be established at the period of his marriage. This juncture
had arrived, and the household was about to be established.
A good post in the family of a prince of the blood, when it
is given by the credit, and on the recommendation of a
friend, like the Comte de Guiche, is worth at least twelve
thousand livres per annum; and by the means which M.
Malicorne had taken to make his revenues fructify, twelve
thousand livres might rise to twenty thousand. Then, when
once an incumbent of this post, he would marry Mademoiselle
de Montalais. Mademoiselle de Montalais, of a half noble
family, not only would be dowered, but would ennoble
Malicorne. But, in order that Mademoiselle de Montalais, who
had not a large patrimonial fortune, although an only
daughter, should be suitably dowered, it was necessary that
she should belong to some great princess, as prodigal as the
dowager Madame was covetous. And in order that the wife
should not be of one party whilst the husband belonged to
the other, a situation which presents serious
inconveniences, particularly with characters like those of
the future consorts -- Malicorne had imagined the idea of
making the central point of union the household of Monsieur,
the king's brother. Mademoiselle de Montalais would be maid
of honor to Madame. M. Malicorne would be officer to
Monsieur.

It is plain the plan was formed by a clear head; it is
plain, also, that it had been bravely executed. Malicorne
had asked Manicamp to ask a brevet of maid of honor of the
Comte de Guiche; and the Comte de Guiche had asked this
brevet of Monsieur, who had signed it without hesitation.
The constructive plan of Malicorne -- for we may well
suppose that the combinations of a mind as active as his
were not confined to the present, but extended to the future
-- the constructive plan of Malicorne, we say, was this: --
To obtain entrance into the household of Madame Henrietta
for a woman devoted to himself, who was intelligent, young,
handsome, and intriguing; to learn, by means of this woman,
all the feminine secrets of the young household, whilst he,
Malicorne, and his friend Manicamp, should, between them,
know all the male secrets of the young community. It was by
these means that a rapid and splendid fortune might be
acquired at one and the same time. Malicorne was a vile
name; he who bore it had too much wit to conceal this truth
from himself; but an estate might be purchased; and
Malicorne of some place, or even De Malicorne itself, for
short, would ring more nobly on the ear.

It was not improbable that a most aristocratic origin might
be hunted up by the heralds for this name of Malicorne;
might it not come from some estate where a bull with mortal
horns had caused some great misfortune, and baptized the
soil with the blood it had spilt? Certes, this plan
presented itself bristling with difficulties: but the
greatest of all was Mademoiselle de Montalais herself.
Capricious, variable, close, giddy, free, prudish, a virgin
armed with claws, Erigone stained with grapes, she sometimes
overturned, with a single dash of her white fingers, or with
a single puff from her laughing lips, the edifice which had
exhausted Malicorne's patience for a month.

Love apart, Malicorne was happy; but this love, which he
could not help feeling, he had the strength to conceal with
care; persuaded that at the lest relaxing of the ties by
which he had bound his Protean female, the demon would
overthrow him and laugh at him. He humbled his mistress by
disdaining her. Burning with desire, when she advanced to
tempt him, he had the art to appear ice, persuaded that if
he opened his arms, she would run away laughing at him. On
her side, Montalais believed she did not love Malicorne;
whilst, on the contrary, in reality she did. Malicorne
repeated to her so often his protestation of indifference,
that she finished sometimes, by believing him; and then she
believed she detested Malicorne. If she tried to bring him
back by coquetry, Malicorne played the coquette better than
she could. But what made Montalais hold to Malicorne in an
indissoluble fashion, was that Malicorne always came cram
full of fresh news from the court and the city; Malicorne
always brought to Blois a fashion, a secret, or a perfume;
that Malicorne never asked for a meeting, but, on the
contrary, required to be supplicated to receive the favors
he burned to obtain. On her side Montalais was no miser with
stories. By her means Malicorne learnt all that passed at
Blois, in the family of the dowager Madame; and he related
to Manicamp tales that made him ready to die with laughing,
which the latter, out of idleness, took ready-made to M. de
Guiche, who carried them to Monsieur.

Such, in two words, was the woof of petty interests and
petty conspiracies which united Blois with Orleans and
Orleans with Paris; and which was about to bring into the
last named city, where she was to produce so great a
revolution, the poor little La Valliere, who was far from
suspecting, as she returned joyfully, leaning on the arm of
her mother, for what a strange future she was reserved. As
to the good man, Malicorne -- we speak of the syndic of
Orleans -- he did not see more clearly into the present than
others did into the future; and had no suspicion as he
walked, every day, between three and five o'clock, after his
dinner, upon the Place Sainte-Catherine, in his gray coat,
cut after the fashion of Louis XIII. and his cloth shoes
with great knots of ribbon, that it was he who was paying
for all those bursts of laughter, all those stolen kisses,
all those whisperings, all those little keepsakes, and all
those bubble projects which formed a chain of forty-five
leagues in length, from the palais of Blois to the
Palais-Royal.

CHAPTER 80

Manicamp and Malicorne

Malicorne, then, left Blois, as we have said, and went to
find his friend Manicamp, then in temporary retreat in the
city of Orleans. It was just at the moment when that young
nobleman was employed in selling the last decent clothing he
had left. He had, a fortnight before extorted from the Comte
de Guiche a hundred pistoles, all he had, to assist in
equipping him properly to go and meet Madame, on her arrival
at Havre. He had drawn from Malicorne, three days before,
fifty pistoles, the price of the brevet obtained for
Montalais. He had then no expectation of anything else,
having exhausted all his resources, with the exception of
selling a handsome suit of cloth and satin, embroidered and
laced with gold, which had been the admiration of the court.
But to be able to sell this suit, the last he had left -- as
we have been forced to confess to the reader -- Manicamp had
been obliged to take to his bed. No more fire, no more
pocket-money, no more walking-money, nothing but sleep to
take the place of repasts, companies and balls. It has been
said -- "he who sleeps, dines;" but it has never been
affirmed -- he who sleeps, plays -- or he who sleeps,
dances. Manicamp, reduced to this extremity of neither
playing nor dancing, for a week at least, was, consequently,
very sad; he was expecting a usurer, and saw Malicorne
enter. A cry of distress escaped him.

"Eh! what!" said he, in a tone which nothing can describe,
"is that you again, dear friend?"

"Humph! you are very polite!" said Malicorne.

"Ay, but look you, I was expecting money, and, instead of
money, I see you."

"And suppose I brought you some money?"

"Oh! that would be quite another thing. You are very
welcome, my dear friend!"

And he held out his hand, not for the hand of Malicorne, but
for the purse. Malicorne pretended to be mistaken, and gave
him his hand.

"And the money?" said Manicamp.

"My dear friend, if you wish to have it, earn it."

"What must be done for it?"

"Earn it, parbleu!"

"And after what fashion?"

"Oh! that is rather trying, I warn you."

"The devil!"

"You must get out of bed, and go immediately to M. le Comte
de Guiche."

"I get out!" said Manicamp, stretching himself in his bed,
complacently, "oh, no, thank you!"

"You have sold all your clothes?"

"No, I have one suit left, the handsomest even, but I expect
a purchaser."

"And the chausses?"

"Well, if you look, you will see them on that chair."

"Very well! since you have some chausses and a pourpoint
left, put your legs into the first and your back into the
other; have a horse saddled, and set off."

"Not I."

"And why not?"

"Mordieu! don't you know, then, that M. de Guiche is at
Etampes?"

"No, I thought he was at Paris. You will then only have
fifteen leagues to go, instead of thirty."

"You are a wonderfully clever fellow! If I were to ride
fifteen leagues in these clothes, they would never be fit to
put on again; and, instead of selling them for thirty
pistoles, I should be obliged to take fifteen."

"Sell them for what you like, but I must have a second
commission of maid of honor."

"Good! for whom? Is Montalais doubled then?"

"Vile fellow! -- It is you who are doubled. You swallow up
two fortunes -- mine, and that of M. le Comte de Guiche."

"You should say, that of M. le Comte de Guiche and yours."

"That is true; honor where it is due; but I return to my
brevet."

"And you are wrong."

"Prove me that."

"My friend, there will only be twelve maids of honor for
madame, I have already obtained for you what twelve hundred
women are trying for, and for that I was forced to employ
all my diplomacy."

"Oh! yes, I know you have been quite heroic, my dear
friend."

"We know what we are about," said Manicamp.

"To whom do you tell that? When I am king, I promise you one
thing."

"What? To call yourself Malicorne the first?"

"No; to make you superintendent of my finances; but that is
not the question now."

"Unfortunately."

"The present affair is to procure for me a second place of
maid of honor."

"My friend, if you were to promise me the price of heaven, I
would decline to disturb myself at this moment." Malicorne
chinked the money in his pocket.

"There are twenty pistoles here," said Malicorne.

"And what would you do with twenty pistoles, mon Dieu!"

"Well!" said Malicorne, a little angrily, "suppose I were to
add them to the five hundred you already owe me?"

"You are right," replied Manicamp, stretching out his hand
again, "and from that point of view I can accept them. Give
them to me."

"An instant, what the devil! it is not only holding out your
hand that will do; if I give you the twenty pistoles, shall
I have my brevet?"

"To be sure you shall."

"Soon?"

"To-day."

"Oh! take care! Monsieur de Manicamp; you undertake much,
and I do not ask that. Thirty leagues in a day is too much,
you would kill yourself."

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