"Mordioux!” cried D’Artagnan. “I am tricked. Ah! blockhead, brute, triple fool that I am! But those laugh best who laugh last. Oh, duped, duped like a monkey, cheated with an empty nutshell!” And with a hearty blow bestowed upon the nose of the smirking valet de chambre, he made all haste out of the episcopal palace. Furet, however good a trotter, was not equal to present circumstances. D’Artagnan therefore took the post, and chose a horse which he soon caused to demonstrate, with good spurs and a light hand, that deer are not the swiftest animals in nature.
From thirty to thirty-five hours after the events we have just related, as M. Fouquet, according to his custom, having interdicted his door, was working in the cabinet of his house at Saint-Mande, with which we are already acquainted, a carriage, drawn by four horses steaming with sweat, entered the court at full gallop. This carriage was, probably, expected; for three or four lackeys hastened to the door, which they opened. Whilst M. Fouquet rose from his bureau and ran to the window, a man got painfully out of the carriage, descending with difficulty the three steps of the door, leaning upon the shoulders of the lackeys. He had scarcely uttered his name, when the valet upon whom he was not leaning, sprang up to the perron, and disappeared in the vestibule. This man went to inform his master; but he had no occasion to knock at the door: Fouquet was standing on the threshold.
“Monseigneur, the Bishop of Vannes,” said he.
“Very well!” replied his master.
Then, leaning over the banister of the staircase, of which Aramis was beginning to ascend the first steps, —
“Ah, dear friend!” said he, “you, so soon!”
“Yes; I, myself, monsieur! but bruised, battered, as you see.”
“Oh! my poor friend,” said Fouquet, presenting him his arm, on which Aramis leant, whilst the servants drew back respectfully.
“Bah!” replied Aramis, “it is nothing, since I am here; the principal thing was that I should get here, and here I am.”
“Speak quickly,” said Fouquet, closing the door of the cabinet behind Aramis and himself.
“Are we alone?”
“No one observes us? — no one can hear us?”
“Be satisfied; nobody.”
“Is M. du Vallon arrived?”
“And you have received my letter?”
“Yes. The affair is serious, apparently, since it necessitates your attendance in Paris, at a moment when your presence was so urgent elsewhere.”
“You are right, it could not be more serious.”
“Thank you! thank you! What is it about? But, for God’s sake! before anything else, take time to breathe, dear friend. You are so pale, you frighten me.”