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- Louise de la Valliere - 80/112 -
"Poor woman!" said Fouquet.
"Wait a moment. Conrart is always telling me that I do not know how to conduct matters of business; you will see how I managed this one."
"Well, go on."
"'I suppose you know,' said I to Vanel, 'that the value of a post such as that which M. Fouquet holds is by no means trifling.'
"'How much do you imagine it to be?' he said.
"'M. Fouquet, I know, has refused seventeen hundred thousand francs.'
"'My wife,' replied Vanel, 'had estimated it at about fourteen hundred thousand.'
"'Ready money?' I said.
"'Yes; she has sold some property of hers in Guienne, and has received the purchase money.'"
"That's a pretty sum to touch all at once," said the Abbe Fouquet, who had not hitherto said a word.
"Poor Madame Vanel!" murmured Fouquet.
Pelisson shrugged his shoulders, as he whispered in Fouquet's ear, "That woman is a perfect fiend."
"That may be; and it will be delightful to make use of this fiend's money to repair the injury which an angel has done herself for me."
Pelisson looked with a surprised air at Fouquet, whose thoughts were from that moment fixed upon a fresh object in view.
"Well!" inquired La Fontaine, "what about my negotiation?"
"Admirable, my dear poet."
"Yes," said Gourville; "but there are some people who are anxious to have the steed who have not even money enough to pay for the bridle."
"And Vanel would draw back from his offer if he were to be taken at his word," continued the Abbe Fouquet.
"I do not believe it," said La Fontaine.
"What do you know about it?"
"Why, you have not yet heard the _denouement_ of my story."
"If there is a _denouement_, why do you beat about the bush so much?"
"_Semper ad eventum_. Is that correct?" said Fouquet, with the air of a nobleman who condescends to barbarisms. To which the Latinists present answered with loud applause. (11)
"My _denouement_," cried La Fontaine, "is that Vanel, that determined blackbird, knowing that I was coming to Saint-Mande, implored me to bring him with me, and, if possible, to present him to M. Fouquet."
"So that - "
"So that he is here; I left him in that part of the ground called Bel- Air. Well, M. Fouquet, what is your reply?"
"Well, it is not respectful towards Madame Vanel that her husband should run the risk of catching cold outside my house; send for him, La Fontaine, since you know where he is."
"I will go myself."
"And I will accompany you," said the Abbe Fouquet; "I will carry the money bags."
"No jesting," said Fouquet, seriously; "let the business be a serious one, if it is to be one at all. But first of all, let us show we are hospitable. Make my apologies, La Fontaine, to M. Vanel, and tell him how distressed I am to have kept him waiting, but that I was not was not aware he was there."
La Fontaine set off at once, fortunately accompanied by Gourville, for, absorbed in his own calculations, the poet would have mistaken the route, and was hurrying as fast as he could towards the village of Saint-Mande. Within a quarter of an hour afterwards, M. Vanel was introduced into the superintendent's cabinet, a description of which has already been given at the beginning of this story. When Fouquet saw him enter, he called to Pelisson, and whispered a few words in his ear. "Do not lose a single word of what I am going to say: let all the silver and gold plate, together with my jewels of every description, be packed up in the carriage. You will take the black horses: the jeweler will accompany you; and you will postpone the supper until Madame de Belliere's arrival."
"Will it be necessary to inform Madame de Belliere of it?" said Pelisson.
"No; that will be useless; I will do that. So, away with you, my dear friend."
Pelisson set off, not quite clear as to his friend's meaning or intention, but confident, like every true friend, in the judgment of the man he was blindly obeying. It is that which constitutes the strength of such men; distrust only arises in the minds of inferior natures.
Vanel bowed lowly to the superintendent, and was about to begin a speech.
"Do not trouble yourself, monsieur," said Fouquet, politely; "I am told you wish to purchase a post I hold. How much can you give me for it?"
"It is for you, monseigneur, to fix the amount you require. I know that offers of purchase have already been made to you for it."
"Madame Vanel, I have been told, values it at fourteen hundred thousand livres."
"That is all we have."
"Can you give me the money immediately?"
"I have not the money with me," said Vanel, frightened almost by the unpretending simplicity, amounting to greatness, of the man, for he had expected disputes, difficulties, opposition of every kind.
"When will you be able to bring it?"
"Whenever you please, monseigneur;" for he began to be afraid that Fouquet was trifling with him.
"If it were not for the trouble you would have in returning to Paris, I would say at once; but we will arrange that the payment and the signature shall take place at six o'clock to-morrow morning."
"Very good," said Vanel, as cold as ice, and feeling quite bewildered.
"Adieu, Monsieur Vanel, present my humblest respects to Madame Vanel," said Fouquet, as he rose; upon which Vanel, who felt the blood rushing to his head, for he was quite confounded by his success, said seriously to the superintendent, "Will you give me your word, monseigneur, upon this affair?"
Fouquet turned round his head, saying, "_Pardieu_, and you, monsieur?"
Vanel hesitated, trembled all over, and at last finished by hesitatingly holding out his hand. Fouquet opened and nobly extended his own; this loyal hand lay for a moment in Vanel's most hypocritical palm, and he pressed it in his own, in order the better to convince himself of the compact. The superintendent gently disengaged his hand, as he again said, "Adieu." And then Vanel ran hastily to the door, hurried along the vestibule, and fled as quickly as he could.
Chapter XLVII: Madame de Belliere's Plate and Diamonds.
Fouquet had no sooner dismissed Vanel than he began to reflect for a few moments - "A man never can do too much for the woman he has once loved. Marguerite wishes to be the wife of a procureur-general - and why not confer this pleasure upon her? And, now that the most scrupulous and sensitive conscience will be unable to reproach me with anything, let my thoughts be bestowed on her who has shown so much devotion for me. Madame de Belliere ought to be there by this time," he said, as he turned towards the secret door.
After he had locked himself in, he opened the subterranean passage, and rapidly hastened towards the means of communicating between the house at Vincennes and his own residence. He had neglected to apprise his friend of his approach, by ringing the bell, perfectly assured that she would never fail to be exact at the rendezvous; as, indeed, was the case, for she was already waiting. The noise the superintendent made aroused her; she ran to take from under the door the letter he had thrust there, and which simply said, "Come, marquise; we are waiting supper for you." With her heart filled with happiness Madame de Belliere ran to her carriage in the Avenue de Vincennes, and in a few minutes she was holding out her hand to Gourville, who was standing at the entrance, where, in order the better to please his master, he had stationed himself to watch her arrival. She had not observed that Fouquet's black horse arrived at the same time, all steaming and foam-flaked, having returned to Saint-Mande with Pelisson and the very jeweler to whom Madame de Belliere had sold her plate and her jewels. Pelisson introduced the goldsmith into the cabinet, which Fouquet had not yet left. The superintendent thanked him for having been good enough to regard as a simple deposit in his hands, the valuable property which he had every right to sell; and he cast his eyes on the total of the account, which amounted to thirteen hundred thousand francs. Then, going for a few moments to his desk, he wrote an order for fourteen hundred thousand francs, payable at sight, at his treasury, before twelve o'clock the next day.
"A hundred thousand francs profit!" cried the goldsmith. "Oh, monseigneur, what generosity!"
"Nay, nay, not so, monsieur," said Fouquet, touching him on the shoulder; "there are certain kindnesses which can never be repaid. This profit is only what you have earned; but the interest of your money still remains to be arranged." And, saying this, he unfastened from his sleeve a diamond button, which the goldsmith himself had often valued at three thousand pistoles. "Take this," he said to the goldsmith, "in remembrance of me. Farewell; you are an honest man."
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