Four years later, the King has organized a bird hunt in Blois (Athos's land, remember).
D'Artagnan has aged a lot in the last four years. He chats briefly with the man in charge of falconry and the man in charge of the greyhounds.
They address him respectfully with the title of Count. D'Artagnan is not used to it although he has been a count for the last four years.
The falconer mentions that D'Artagnan must be tired after the long journey from Pignerol (another prison). D'Artagnan was there visiting Fouquet, who does not quite grasp that he is lucky to be alive.
The captain of the greyhounds says that Fouquet deserves to be in jail.
D'Artagnan promptly disagrees, saying that Fouquet is an honest man.
The falconer says privately to D'Artagnan that greyhounds are in fashion these days, otherwise the captain of the greyhounds would never have dared be so impertinent.
D'Artagnan smiles to hear this reasoning.
The three proceed onwards to meet up with the King.
The falconer reassures D'Artagnan that the King will not take long..
D'Artagnan is struck by the phrase "the ladies." He tells the falconer that he has been away for a month since the death of Anne of Austria; he's not up on all the latest gossip.
We learn that La Valliere has been replaced by another mistress.
The King and his entourage approach.
La Valliere sits, bored, in a carriage with two other ladies.
The King is with a beautiful woman, hanging on her every word. D'Artagnan recognizes the woman but can't put a name to the face.
The King greets D'Artagnan and invites him to dinner. The entourage is duly impressed; not many people are invited to eat with the King.
Colbert greets D'Artagnan. He says D'Artagnan will meet an old friend at dinner, the Duc d'Alméda, better known as Aramis.
The two men embrace. D'Artagnan joins Aramis in his carriage so the two can chat.
Aramis points out the King's new mistress. We've met her before – Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente. She's married now, so her correct name is Madame de Montespan.
As they chat, the carriage draws near an isolated chapel where Raoul and Athos are buried. D'Artagnan and Aramis go down and pay their respects.
As the two men are concealed in the shade, they see the king and Madame de Montespan flirting.
As soon as D'Artagnan points out that they are around Raoul's tomb, the men hear a moan behind them. La Valliere has witnessed and heard everything. D'Artagnan helps carry her back to her carriage, feeling pity for her.
Dinner is very pleasant. There are no mistresses present, only the Queen, Monsieur,(the King's brother), Madame, Colbert, Aramis, and D'Artagnan.
After dinner, the King talks with Madame as Colbert chats with Aramis and D'Artagnan. D'Artagnan, Aramis, and Colbert have a pleasant conversation.
Meanwhile, the King asks Madame why she has been crying. Basically, she is upset that her lover de Guiche has been exiled from court since her husband, Monsieur, requested it.
Madame mentions, delicately, that she thought about complaining to her brother Charles (that would be King Charles II of England).
Madame tells the King that the Chevalier de Lorraine, despite being her husband's best friend, is her mortal enemy. The King and his sister-in-law come to an agreement. He will exile Lorraine, and in return she will help Louis form a political alliance with England.
It is decided that Madame will visit England with Mademoiselle Kéroualle to cement the alliance.
Basically, Louis hates the Dutch and wants to make sure no one will interfere if he wages war with them.
Madame agrees to do it providing her husband consents.
The King then goes over to Monsieur, tells him that Lorraine has to travel for a while, and Madame must make a trip to England.
Meanwhile, Colbert has started talking business with Aramis, who comes as an ambassador from the French court. He wants assurance that Spain will remain neutral if France wages war with Holland.
Colbert asks for D'Artagnan's take on the situation.
D'Artagnan says that to wage war with Holland, France will need a large land army. Without English support, the King will be beaten at sea.
Colbert admires D'Artagnan's mind. Colbert confesses that the navy actually has thirty-five vessels, and will be increasing soon.
In the past year and a half, Colbert has been busy instituting foundries and military docks. He confesses that he has also been buying supplies from the Dutch. The plan is to use Dutch iron for the very cannonballs they will use to attack the country.
Colbert and Aramis are astonished at the amount Colbert has accomplished in a very short amount of time.
It is clear that D'Artagnan will be leading troops in a ground attack in Holland. Still, he holds out on committing until he is assured of receiving a marshal's baton for his deeds.