At seven o'clock the same evening, the king gave an audience to an
ambassador from the United Provinces, in the grand reception-room. The
audience lasted a quarter of an hour. His majesty afterwards received
those who had been recently presented, together with a few ladies, who
paid their respects first. In one corner of the salon, concealed behind
a column, Porthos and D'Artagnan were conversing together, waiting until
their turn arrived.
"Have you heard the news?" inquired the musketeer of his friend.
"Well, look, then." Porthos raised himself on tiptoe, and saw M. Fouquet
in full court dress, leading Aramis towards the king.
"Aramis!" said Porthos.
"Presented to the king by M. Fouquet."
"Ah!" ejaculated Porthos.
"For having fortified Belle-Isle," continued D'Artagnan.
"You - oh, you! as I have already had the honor of telling you, are the
good-natured, kind-hearted Porthos; and so they begged you to take care
of Saint-Mande a little."
"Ah!" repeated Porthos.
"But, happily, I was there," said D'Artagnan, "and presently it will be
At this moment Fouquet addressed the king.
"Sire," he said, "I have a favor to solicit of your majesty. M.
d'Herblay is not ambitious, but he knows when he can be of service. Your
majesty needs a representative at Rome, who would be able to exercise a
powerful influence there; may I request a cardinal's hat for M.
d'Herblay?" The king started. "I do not often solicit anything of your
majesty," said Fouquet.
"That is a reason, certainly," replied the king, who always expressed any
hesitation he might have in that manner, and to which remark there was
nothing to say in reply.
Fouquet and Aramis looked at each other. The king resumed: "M. d'Herblay
can serve us equally well in France; an archbishopric, for instance."
"Sire," objected Fouquet, with a grace of manner peculiarly his own,
"your majesty overwhelms M. d'Herblay; the archbishopric may, in your
majesty's extreme kindness, be conferred in addition to the hat; the one
does not exclude the other."
The king admired the readiness which he displayed, and smiled, saying:
"D'Artagnan himself could not have answered better." He had no sooner
pronounced the name than D'Artagnan appeared.
"Did your majesty call me?" he said.
Aramis and Fouquet drew back a step, as if they were about to retire.
"Will your majesty allow me," said D'Artagnan quickly, as he led forward
Porthos, "to present to your majesty M. le Baron du Vallon, one of the
bravest gentlemen of France?"
As soon as Aramis saw Porthos, he turned as pale as death, while Fouquet
clenched his hands under his ruffles. D'Artagnan smiled blandly at both
of them, while Porthos bowed, visibly overcome before the royal presence.
"Porthos here?" murmured Fouquet in Aramis's ear.
"Hush! deep treachery at work," hissed the latter.
"Sire," said D'Artagnan, "it is more than six years ago I ought to have
presented M. du Vallon to your majesty; but certain men resemble stars,
they move not one inch unless their satellites accompany them. The
Pleiades are never disunited, and that is the reason I have selected, for
the purpose of presenting him to you, the very moment when you would see
M. d'Herblay by his side."
Aramis almost lost countenance. He looked at D'Artagnan with a proud,
haughty air, as though willing to accept the defiance the latter seemed
to throw down.
"Ah! these gentlemen are good friends, then?" said the king.
"Excellent friends, sire; the one can answer for the other. Ask M. de
Vannes now in what manner Belle-Isle was fortified?" Fouquet moved back
"Belle-Isle," said Aramis, coldly, "was fortified by that gentleman," and
he indicated Porthos with his hand, who bowed a second time. Louis could
not withhold his admiration, though at the same time his suspicions were
"Yes," said D'Artagnan, "but ask monsieur le baron whose assistance he
had in carrying the works out?"
"Aramis's," said Porthos, frankly; and he pointed to the bishop.
"What the deuce does all this mean?" thought the bishop, "and what sort
of a termination are we to expect to this comedy?"
"What!" exclaimed the king, "is the cardinal's, I mean this bishop's,
"His _nom de guerre_," said D'Artagnan.
"My nickname," said Aramis.
"A truce to modesty!" exclaimed D'Artagnan; "beneath the priest's robe,
sire, is concealed the most brilliant officer, a gentleman of the most
unparalleled intrepidity, and the wisest theologian in your kingdom."
Louis raised his head. "And an engineer, also, it appears," he said,
admiring Aramis's calm, imperturbable self-possession.
"An engineer for a particular purpose, sire," said the latter.
"My companion in the musketeers, sire," said D'Artagnan, with great
warmth of manner, "the man who has more than a hundred times aided your
father's ministers by his advice - M. d'Herblay, in a word, who, with M.
du Vallon, myself, and M. le Comte de la Fere, who is known to your
majesty, formed that quartette which was a good deal talked about during
the late king's reign, and during your majesty's minority."
"And who fortified Belle-Isle?" the king repeated, in a significant tone.
Aramis advanced and bowed: "In order to serve the son as I served the
D'Artagnan looked very narrowly at Aramis while he uttered these words,
which displayed so much true respect, so much warm devotion, such entire
frankness and sincerity, that even he, D'Artagnan, the eternal doubter,
he, the almost infallible in judgment, was deceived by it. "A man who
lies cannot speak in such a tone as that," he said.
Louis was overcome by it. "In that case," he said to Fouquet, who
anxiously awaited the result of this proof, "the cardinal's hat is
promised. Monsieur d'Herblay, I pledge you my honor that the first
promotion shall be yours. Thank M. Fouquet for it." Colbert overheard
these words; they stung him to the quick, and he left the salon
abruptly. "And you, Monsieur du Vallon," said the king, "what have you
to ask? I am truly pleased to have it in my power to acknowledge the
services of those who were faithful to my father."
"Sire - " began Porthos, but he was unable to proceed with what he was
going to say.
"Sire," exclaimed D'Artagnan, "this worthy gentleman is utterly
overpowered by your majesty's presence, he who so valiantly sustained the
looks and the fire of a thousand foes. But, knowing what his thoughts
are, I - who am more accustomed to gaze upon the sun - can translate
them: he needs nothing, absolutely nothing; his sole desire is to have
the happiness of gazing upon your majesty for a quarter of an hour."
"You shall sup with me this evening," said the king, saluting Porthos
with a gracious smile.
Porthos became crimson from delight and pride. The king dismissed him,
and D'Artagnan pushed him into the adjoining apartment, after he had
embraced him warmly.
"Sit next to me at table," said Porthos in his ear.
"Yes, my friend."
"Aramis is annoyed with me, I think."
"Aramis has never liked you so much as he does now. Fancy, it was I who
was the means of his getting the cardinal's hat."
"Of course," said Porthos. "By the by, does the king like his guests to
eat much at his table?"
"It is a compliment to himself if you do," said D'Artagnan, "for he
himself possesses a royal appetite."
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