Chapter 40: Two Old Friends

  1. 39: Malicorne’s Advice
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 41: A Bargain

While every one at court was busy with his own affairs, a man mysteriously took up his post behind the Place de Grève, in the house which we once saw besieged by d’Artagnan on the occasion of an emeute. The principal entrance of this house was in the Place Baudoyer. The house was tolerably large, surrounded by gardens, enclosed in the Rue St. Jean by the shops of tool-makers, which protected it from prying looks; and was walled in by a triple rampart of stone, noise, and verdure, like an embalmed mummy in its triple coffin.

The man to whom we have just alluded walked along with a firm step, although he was no longer in his early prime. His dark cloak and long sword outlined beneath the cloak plainly revealed a man seeking adventures; and judging from his curling mustaches, his fine and smooth skin, as seen under his sombrero, the gallantry of his adventures was unquestionable. In fact, hardly had the cavalier entered the house, when the clock of St. Gervais struck eight; and ten minutes afterwards a lady, followed by an armed servant, approached and knocked at the same door, which an old woman immediately opened for her. The lady raised her veil as she entered; though no longer a beauty, she was still a woman; she was no longer young, yet she was sprightly and of an imposing carriage. She concealed, beneath a rich toilet of exquisite taste, an age which Ninon de l’Enclos alone could have smiled at with impunity. Hardly had she reached the vestibule, when the cavalier, whose features we have only roughly sketched, advanced towards her, holding out his hand.

“Good-day, my dear Duchess,” he said.

“How do you do, my dear Aramis?” replied the duchess.

He led her to an elegantly furnished apartment, on whose high windows were reflected the expiring rays of the setting sun, which filtered through the dark crests of some adjoining firs. They sat down side by side. Neither of them thought of asking for additional light in the room, and they buried themselves thus in the shadow, as if they had wished to bury themselves in forgetfulness.

“Chevalier,” said the duchess, “you have never given me a single sign of life since our interview at Fontainebleau; and I confess that your presence there on the day of the Franciscan’s death, and your initiation in certain secrets, caused me the liveliest astonishment I ever experienced in my whole life.”

“I can explain my presence there to you, as well as my initiation,” said Aramis.

“But let us, first of all,” replied the duchess, quickly, “talk a little of ourselves, for our friendship is by no means of recent date.”

“Yes, Madame; and if Heaven wills it, we shall continue to be friends,- I will not say for a long time, but forever.”

“That is quite certain, Chevalier, and my visit is a proof of it.”

“Our interests, Madame the Duchess, are no longer the same that they used to be,” said Aramis, smiling without reserve in the dim light, which could not show that his smile was less agreeable and less bright than formerly.

“No, Chevalier, at the present day we have other interests. Every period of life brings its own; and as we now understand each other in conversing as perfectly as we formerly did without saying a word, let us talk, if you like.”

“I am at your orders, Duchess. Ah! I beg your pardon; how did you obtain my address, and what was your object?”

“You ask me why? I have told you. Curiosity, in the first place. I wished to know what you could have to do with the Franciscan with whom I had certain business, and who died so singularly. You know that on the occasion of our interview at Fontainebleau, in the cemetery, at the foot of the grave so recently closed, we were both so much overcome by our emotions that we omitted to confide anything to each other.”

“Yes, Madame.”

“Well, then, I had no sooner left you than I repented, and have ever since been most anxious to ascertain the truth. You know that Madame de Longueville and myself are almost one, I suppose?”

“I was not aware of it,” said Aramis, discreetly.

“I remembered, then,” continued the duchess, “that neither of us said anything to the other in the cemetery; that you did not speak of the relationship in which you stood to the Franciscan, whose burial you had superintended, and that I did not refer to the position in which I stood to him,- all which seemed to me very unworthy of two such old friends as ourselves; and I have sought an opportunity of an interview with you in order to give you proof that I am devoted to you, and that Marie Michon, now no more, has left behind her a ghost with a good memory.”

Aramis bowed over the duchess’s hand, and pressed his lips upon it. “You must have had some trouble to find me again,” he said.

“Yes,” answered the duchess, annoyed to find the subject taking a turn which Aramis wished to give it; “but I knew that you were a friend of M. Fouquet, and so I inquired in that direction.”

“A friend! Oh,” exclaimed the chevalier, “you exaggerate, Madame! A poor priest who has been favored by so generous a protector, and whose heart is full of gratitude and devotion to him, is all that I am to M. Fouquet.”

“He made you a bishop?”

“Yes, Duchess.”

“So, my fine musketeer, that is your retirement!”

“In the same way that political intrigue is for yourself,” thought Aramis. “And so,” he said, “you inquired after me at M. Fouquet’s?”

“Easily enough. You had been to Fontainebleau with him, and had undertaken a voyage to your diocese,- which is Belle-Isle-en-Mer, I believe.”

“No, Madame,” said Aramis; “my diocese is Vannes.”

“I meant that. I only thought that Belle-Isle-en-Mer-”

“Is a property belonging to M. Fouquet,- nothing more.”

“Ah! I had been told that Belle-Isle was fortified; besides, I know that you are a military man, my friend.”

“I have forgotten everything of the kind since I entered the church,” said Aramis, annoyed.

“Very well. I then learned that you had returned from Vannes, and I sent to one of our friends, M. le Comte de la Fere, who is discretion itself; but he answered that he was not aware of your address.”

“So like Athos,” thought the bishop; “that which is actually good never alters.”

“Well, then, you know that I cannot venture to show myself here, and that the Queen-Mother has always some grievance or other against me.”

“Yes, indeed; and I am surprised at it.”

“Oh, there are various reasons for it! But, to continue, being obliged to conceal myself, I was fortunate enough to meet with M. d’Artagnan,- one of your old friends, I believe.”

“A friend of mine still, Duchess.”

“He gave me some information, and sent me to M. de Baisemeaux, the governor of the Bastille.”

Aramis started; and a light flashed from his eyes in the darkness of the room which he could not conceal from his keen-sighted friend. “M. de Baisemeaux!” he said; “why did d’Artagnan send you to M. de Baisemeaux?”

“I cannot tell you.”

“What can this possibly mean?” said the bishop, summoning all the resources of his mind to his aid, in order to carry on the combat in a befitting manner.

“M. de Baisemeaux is greatly indebted to you, d’Artagnan told me.”

“True, he is so.”

“And the address of a creditor is as easily ascertained as that of a debtor.”

“Also very true; and so Baisemeaux indicated to you-”

“St. Mandé, where I forwarded a letter to you-”

“Which I have in my hand, and which is most precious to me,” said Aramis, “because I am indebted to it for the pleasure of seeing you.”

The duchess, satisfied at having so successfully passed over the various difficulties of so delicate an explanation, began to breathe freely again; which Aramis, however, could not succeed in doing. “We had got as far as your visit to Baisemeaux, I believe?” said he.

“Nay,” said the duchess, laughing, “further than that.”

“In that case we must have been speaking about your grudge against the Queen-Mother.”

“Further still,” returned the duchess, “further still; we were talking of the connection-”

“Which existed between you and the Franciscan,” said Aramis, interrupting her eagerly; “well, I am listening to you very attentively.”

“It is easily explained,” returned the duchess, making up her mind. “You know that I am living at Brussels with M. de Laicques?”

“I have heard so, Madame.”

“You know that my children have ruined and stripped me of everything?”

“How terrible, dear Duchess!”

“Terrible, indeed! This obliged me to resort to some means of obtaining a livelihood, and particularly to avoid vegetating. I had old hatreds to turn to account, old friendships to serve; I no longer had either credit or protectors.”

“You, too, who had extended protection towards so many persons,” said Aramis, blandly.

“It is always the case, Chevalier. Well, at that time I saw the King of Spain.”


“Who had just nominated a general of the Jesuits, according to the usual custom.”

“Is it usual, indeed?”

“Were you not aware of it?”

“I beg your pardon; I was inattentive.”

“You must be aware of that,- you who were on such good terms with the Franciscan.”

“With the general of the Jesuits, you mean?”

“Exactly. Well, then, I saw the King of Spain, who wished to do me a service, but was unable. He gave me recommendations, however, to Flanders, both for myself and for Laicques, and conferred a pension on me out of the funds of the order.”

“Of Jesuits?”

“Yes. The general- I mean the Franciscan- was sent to me; and in order to give regularity to the transaction, in accordance with the statutes of the order, I was reputed to be in a position to render certain services. You are aware that that is the rule?”

“I was not aware of it.”

Madame de Chevreuse paused to look at Aramis, but it was quite dark. “Well, such is the rule,” she resumed. “I ought, therefore, to seem to possess a power of usefulness of some kind or other. I proposed to travel for the order, and I was placed on the list of affiliated travellers. You understand that it was a formality, by means of which I received my pension, which was very convenient for me.”

“Good Heavens! Duchess, what you tell me is like a dagger-thrust to me. You obliged to receive a pension from the Jesuits?”

“No, Chevalier; from Spain.”

“Ah! except as a conscientious scruple, Duchess, you will admit that it is pretty nearly the same thing.”

“No, not at all.”

“But, surely, of your magnificent fortune there must remain-”

“Dampierre is all that remains.”

“And that is handsome enough.”

“Yes; but Dampierre is burdened, mortgaged, and somewhat in ruins, like its owner.”

“And can the Queen-Mother see all that without shedding a tear?” said Aramis, with a penetrating look, which encountered nothing but the darkness.

“Yes, she has forgotten everything.”

“You have, I believe, Duchess, attempted to get restored to favor?”

“Yes; but, most singularly, the young King inherits the antipathy that his dear father had for me. Ah, you too will tell me that I am indeed a woman to be hated, and that I am no longer one who can be loved.”

“Dear Duchess, pray arrive soon at the circumstance which brought you here; for I think we can be of service to each other.”

“Such has been my own thought. I came to Fontainebleau, then, with a double object in view. In the first place, I was summoned there by the Franciscan whom you knew. By the by, how did you know him?- for I have told you my story, and have not yet heard yours.”

“I knew him in a very natural way, Duchess. I studied theology with him at Parma; we became fast friends, but it happened, from time to time, that business or travels or war separated us from each other.”

“You were, of course, aware that he was the general of the Jesuits?”

“I suspected it.”

“But by what extraordinary chance did you come to the hotel where the affiliated travellers had met together?”

“Oh,” said Aramis, in a calm voice, “it was the merest chance in the world! I was going to Fontainebleau to see M. Fouquet, for the purpose of obtaining an audience of the King. I was passing by, unknown; I saw the poor dying monk in the road, and recognized him. You know the rest,- he died in my arms.”

“Yes, but bequeathing to you so vast a power in Heaven and on earth that you issue sovereign orders in his name.”

“He did leave me a few commissions to settle.”

“And for me?”

“I have told you,- a sum of twelve thousand livres was to be paid to you. I thought I had given you the necessary signature to enable you to receive it. Did you not get the money?”

“Oh, yes, yes! My dear prelate, you give your orders, I am informed, with so much mystery and such august majesty that it is generally believed you are the successor of the beloved dead.”

Aramis colored impatiently, and the duchess continued. “I have obtained information,” she said, “from the King of Spain himself; and he dispelled my doubts on the point. Every general of the Jesuits is nominated by him, and must be a Spaniard, according to the statutes of the order. You are not a Spaniard, nor have you been nominated by the King of Spain.”

Aramis did not reply to this remark, except to say, “You see, Duchess, how greatly you were mistaken, since the King of Spain told you that.”

“Yes, my dear Aramis; but there was something else of which I have been thinking.”

“What is that?”

“You know that I do a great deal of desultory thinking, and it occurred to me that you know the Spanish language.”

“Every Frenchman who has been actively engaged in the Fronde knows Spanish.”

“You have lived in Flanders?”

“Three years.”

“And have stayed at Madrid?”

“Fifteen months.”

“You are in a position, then, to become a naturalized Spaniard when you like.”

“Really?” said Aramis, with a frankness which deceived the duchess.

“Undoubtedly. Two years’ residence and an acquaintance with the language are indispensable. You have had three years and a half,- fifteen months more than is necessary.”

“What are you driving at, my dear lady?”

“At this,- I am on good terms with the King of Spain.”

“And I am not on bad terms,” thought Aramis to himself.

“Do you wish me to ask the King,” continued the duchess, “to confer the succession to the Franciscan’s office upon you?”

“Oh, Duchess!”

“You have it already, perhaps?” she said.

“No, upon my honor.”

“Very well, then, I can render you that service.”

“Why did you not render the same service to M. de Laicques, Duchess? He is a very talented man, and one whom you love.”

“Yes, no doubt; but that is not to be considered. At all events, putting Laicques aside, answer me, will you have it?”

“No, I thank you, Duchess.”

She paused. “He is nominated,” she thought; and then resumed aloud, “If you refuse me in this manner, it is not very encouraging for me to ask anything of you.”

“Oh, ask, pray ask!”

“Ask! I cannot do so if you have not the power to grant what I want.”

“However limited my power and ability, ask all the same.”

“I need a sum of money to restore Dampierre.”

“Ah!” replied Aramis, coldly, “money? Well, Duchess, how much would you require?”

“Oh, a tolerably round sum!”

“So much the worse,- you know I am not rich.”

“No, you are not; but the order is. And if you had been the general-”

“You know I am not the general.”

“In that case you have a friend who must be very wealthy,- M. Fouquet.”

“M. Fouquet! He is more than half ruined, Madame.”

“So it is said, but I would not believe it.”

“Why, Duchess?”

“Because I have, or rather Laicques has, certain letters in his possession from Cardinal Mazarin, which establish the existence of very strange accounts.”

“What accounts?”

“Relative to various sums of money borrowed and disposed of. I do not fully remember; but the point is that the superintendent, according to these letters, which are signed by Mazarin, had taken thirty millions from the coffers of the State. The case is a very serious one.”

Aramis clinched his hands in anxiety and apprehension. “Is it possible,” he said, “that you have such letters, and have not communicated them to M. Fouquet?”

“Ah!” replied the duchess, “I keep such little matters as these in reserve. When the day of need comes, we will take them from the closet.”

“And that day has arrived?” said Aramis.


“And you are going to show those letters to M. Fouquet?”

“I prefer instead to talk about them with you.”

“You must be in sad want of money, my poor friend, to think of such things as these,- you, too, who held M. de Mazarin’s prose effusions in such indifferent esteem.”

“The fact is, I am in want of money.”

“And then,” continued Aramis, in cold accents, “it must have been very distressing to you to be obliged to have recourse to such a means. It is cruel.”

“Oh, if I had wished to do harm instead of good,” said Madame de Chevreuse, “instead of asking the general of the order or M. Fouquet for the five hundred thousand livres I require-”

“Five hundred thousand livres!”

“Yes; no more. Do you think it much? I require at least as much as that to restore Dampierre.”

“Yes, Madame.”

“I say, therefore, that instead of asking for this amount I should have gone to see my old friend the Queen-Mother; the letters from her husband, the Signor Mazarini, would have served me as an introduction, and I should have begged this mere trifle of her, saying to her, ‘I wish, Madame, to have the honor of receiving your Majesty at Dampierre. Permit me to put Dampierre in a fit state for that purpose.’”

Aramis did not say a single word in reply. “Well,” she said, “what are you thinking about?”

“I am making certain additions,” said Aramis.

“And M. Fouquet makes subtractions. I, on the other hand, am trying the art of multiplication. What excellent calculators we are! How well we could understand one another!”

“Will you allow me to reflect?” said Aramis.

“No; to such an overture between persons like ourselves, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ should be the reply, and that immediately.”

“It is a snare,” thought the bishop; “it is impossible that Anne of Austria would listen to such a woman as this.”

“Well!” said the duchess.

“Well, Madame, I should be very much astonished if M. Fouquet had five hundred thousand livres at his disposal at the present moment.”

“It is of no use speaking of it further, then,” said the duchess, “and Dampierre must get restored how it can.”

“Oh, you are not embarrassed to such an extent as that, I suppose?”

“No; I am never embarrassed.”

“And the Queen,” continued the bishop, “will certainly do for you what the superintendent is unable to do.”

“Oh, certainly! But tell me, do you not think it would be better that I should speak myself to M. Fouquet about these letters?”

“You will do whatever you please in that respect, Duchess. M. Fouquet either feels or does not feel himself to be guilty. If he really be so, I know that he is proud enough not to confess it; if he be not so, he will be exceedingly offended at your menace.”

“As usual, you reason like an angel,” said the duchess, rising.

“And so you are going to denounce M. Fouquet to the Queen,” said Aramis.

“Denounce? Oh, what a disagreeable word! I shall not denounce, my dear friend. You now know matters of policy too well to be ignorant how easily these affairs are arranged. I shall merely side against M. Fouquet, and nothing more; and in a war of party against party a weapon is a weapon.”

“No doubt.”

“And once on friendly terms again with the Queen-Mother, I may be dangerous towards some persons.”

“You are at perfect liberty to be so, Duchess.”

“A liberty of which I shall avail myself, my dear friend.”

“You are not ignorant, I suppose, Duchess, that M. Fouquet is on the best terms with the King of Spain?”

“Oh, I suppose so!”

“If, therefore, you begin a party warfare against M. Fouquet, he will reply in the same way; for he too is at perfect liberty to do so, is he not?”

“Oh, certainly!”

“And as he is on good terms with Spain, he will make use of that friendship as a weapon.”

“You mean that he will be on good terms with the general of the order of the Jesuits, my dear Aramis.”

“That may be the case, Duchess.”

“And that, consequently, the pension I have been receiving from the order will be stopped.”

“I am greatly afraid it might be.”

“Well, I must contrive to console myself; for after Richelieu, after the Frondes, after exile, what is there left for Madame de Chevreuse to fear?”

“The pension, you are aware, is forty-eight thousand livres.”

“Alas! I am quite aware of it.”

“Moreover, in party contests, you know, the friends of the enemy do not escape.”

“Ah! you mean that poor Laicques will have to suffer.”

“I am afraid it is almost inevitable, Duchess.”

“Oh, he receives only twelve thousand livres’ pension.”

“Yes, but the King of Spain has some influence left; advised by M. Fouquet, he might get M. Laicques shut up in some fortress.”

“I have no great fear of that, my good friend; because, thanks to a reconciliation with Anne of Austria, I will undertake that France shall insist upon Laicques’s liberation.”

“True. In that case you will have something else to apprehend.”

“What can that be?” said the duchess, pretending to be surprised and terrified.

“You will learn- indeed, you must know it already- that having once been an affiliated member of the order, it is not easy to leave it; for the secrets that any particular member may have acquired are unwholesome, and carry with them the germs of misfortune for whoever may reveal them.”

The duchess considered for a moment, and then said, “That is more serious; I will think it over.”

Notwithstanding the profound obscurity in which he sat, Aramis seemed to feel a burning glance, like a hot iron, escape from his friend’s eyes and plunge into his heart.

“Let us recapitulate,” said Aramis, determined to keep himself on his guard, and gliding his hand into his breast, where he had a dagger concealed.

“Exactly, let us recapitulate; good accounts make good friends.”

“The suppression of your pension-”

“Forty-eight thousand livres and that of Laicques’s twelve make together sixty thousand livres; that is what you mean, I suppose?”

“Precisely; and I was trying to find out what would be your equivalent for that.”

“Five hundred thousand livres, which I shall get from the Queen.”

“Or which you will not get.”

“I know a means of procuring them,” said the duchess, thoughtlessly.

This remark made the chevalier prick up his ears; and from the moment when his adversary had committed this error, his mind was so thoroughly on its guard that he seemed every moment to gain the advantage more and more, and she, consequently, to lose it. “I will admit, for argument’s sake, that you obtain the money,” he resumed; “you will lose twice as much, having a hundred thousand livres’ pension to receive instead of sixty thousand, and that for a period of ten years.”

“Not so, for I shall only be subjected to this diminution of my income during the period of M. Fouquet’s remaining in power,- a period which I estimate at two months.”

“Ah!” said Aramis.

“I am frank, you see.”

“I thank you for it, Duchess; but you would be wrong to suppose that after M. Fouquet’s disgrace the order would resume the payment of your pension.”

“I know a means of making the order come down with its money, as I know a means of forcing the Queen-Mother to concede what I require.”

“In that case, Duchess, we are all obliged to strike our flags to you. The victory is yours, and the triumph also is yours. Be clement, I entreat you!”

“But is it possible,” resumed the duchess, without taking notice of the irony, “that you really draw back from a miserable sum of five hundred thousand livres when it is a question of sparing you- I mean your friend- I beg your pardon, I ought rather to say your protector- the disagreeable consequences which a party contest produces?”

“Duchess, I will tell you why. Supposing the five hundred thousand livres were to be given to you, M. de Laicques will require his share, which will be another five hundred thousand livres, I presume; and then, after M. de Laicques’s and your own portions, will come the portions for your children, your poor pensioners, and various other persons; and these letters, however compromising they may be, are not worth from three to four millions. Good heavens! Duchess, the Queen of France’s diamonds were surely worth more than these bits of waste paper signed by Mazarin; and yet their recovery did not cost a fourth part of what you ask for yourself.”

“Yes, that is true; but the merchant values his goods at his own price, and it is for the purchaser to buy or to refuse.”

“Stay a moment, Duchess; would you like me to tell you why I will not buy your letters?”

“Pray tell me.”

“Because the letters which you say are Mazarin’s are false.”


“I have no doubt of it; for it would, to say the least, be very singular that after you had quarrelled with the Queen through M. Mazarin’s means, you should have kept up any intimate acquaintance with the latter; it would savor of passion, of treachery, of- Upon my word, I do not like to make use of the term.”

“Oh pray say it!”

“Of compliance.”

“That is quite true; but what is not less so is that which the letter contains.”

“I pledge you my word, Duchess, that you will not be able to make use of it with the Queen.”

“Oh, yes, indeed; I can make use of everything with the Queen.”

“Very good,” thought Aramis. “Croak on, old owl! hiss, viper that you are!”

But the duchess had said enough, and advanced a few steps towards the door. Aramis, however, had reserved a humiliation which she did not expect,- the imprecation of the vanquished behind the car of the conqueror. He rang the bell. Candles immediately appeared in the room; and the bishop found himself completely encircled by lights, which shone upon the worn, haggard face of the duchess. Aramis fixed a long and ironical look upon her pale and withered cheeks, upon her dim, dull eyes, and upon her lips, which she kept carefully closed over her blackened and scanty teeth. He, however, had thrown himself into a graceful attitude, with his haughty and intelligent head thrown back; he smiled so as to reveal his teeth, which were still brilliant and dazzling in the candle-light.

The old coquette understood the trick that had been played upon her. She was standing immediately before a large mirror, in which all her decrepitude, so carefully concealed, was only made more manifest by the contrast. Thereupon, without even saluting Aramis, who bowed with the ease and grace of the musketeer of early days, she hurried away with tottering steps, which her very haste only the more impeded. Aramis sprang across the room like a zephyr to lead her to the door. Madame de Chevreuse made a sign to her huge lackey, who resumed his musket; and she left the house where such tender friends had not been able to understand each other only because they had understood each other too well.

  1. 39: Malicorne’s Advice
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 41: A Bargain