The Man in the Iron Mask
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 4 out of 12
The king read Mazarin's letter, and, as its contents are already known to
the reader, in consequence of the misunderstanding between Madame de
Chevreuse and Aramis, nothing further would be learned if we stated them
"I do not quite understand," said the king, greatly interested.
"Your majesty has not acquired the utilitarian habit of checking the
"I see that it refers to money that had been given to M. Fouquet."
"Thirteen millions. A tolerably good sum."
"Yes. Well, these thirteen millions are wanting to balance the total of
the account. That is what I do not very well understand. How was this
"Possible I do not say; but there is no doubt about fact that it is
"You say that these thirteen millions are found to be wanting in the
"I do not say so, but the registry does."
"And this letter of M. Mazarin indicates the employment of that sum and
the name of the person with whom it was deposited?"
"As your majesty can judge for yourself."
"Yes; and the result is, then, that M. Fouquet has not yet restored the
"That results from the accounts, certainly, sire."
"Well, and, consequently - "
"Well, sire, in that case, inasmuch as M. Fouquet has not yet given back
the thirteen millions, he must have appropriated them to his own purpose;
and with those thirteen millions one could incur four times and a little
more as much expense, and make four times as great a display, as your
majesty was able to do at Fontainebleau, where we only spent three
millions altogether, if you remember."
For a blunderer, the _souvenir_ he had evoked was a rather skillfully
contrived piece of baseness; for by the remembrance of his own _fete_ he,
for the first time, perceived its inferiority compared with that of
Fouquet. Colbert received back again at Vaux what Fouquet had given him
at Fontainebleau, and, as a good financier, returned it with the best
possible interest. Having once disposed the king's mind in this artful
way, Colbert had nothing of much importance to detain him. He felt that
such was the case, for the king, too, had again sunk into a dull and
gloomy state. Colbert awaited the first words from the king's lips with
as much impatience as Philippe and Aramis did from their place of
"Are you aware what is the usual and natural consequence of all this,
Monsieur Colbert?" said the king, after a few moments' reflection.
"No, sire, I do not know."
"Well, then, the fact of the appropriation of the thirteen millions, if
it can be proved - "
"But it is so already."
"I mean if it were to be declared and certified, M. Colbert."
"I think it will be to-morrow, if your majesty - "
"Were we not under M. Fouquet's roof, you were going to say, perhaps,"
replied the king, with something of nobility in his demeanor.
"The king is in his own palace wherever he may be - especially in houses
which the royal money has constructed."
"I think," said Philippe in a low tone to Aramis, "that the architect who
planned this dome ought, anticipating the use it could be put to at a
future opportunity, so to have contrived that it might be made to fall
upon the heads of scoundrels such as M. Colbert."
"I think so too," replied Aramis; "but M. Colbert is so very _near the
king_ at this moment."
"That is true, and that would open the succession."
"Of which your younger brother would reap all the advantage,
monseigneur. But stay, let us keep quiet, and go on listening."
"We shall not have long to listen," said the young prince.
"Why not, monseigneur?"
"Because, if I were king, I should make no further reply."
"And what would you do?"
"I should wait until to-morrow morning to give myself time for
Louis XIV. at last raised his eyes, and finding Colbert attentively
waiting for his next remarks, said, hastily, changing the conversation,
"M. Colbert, I perceive it is getting very late, and I shall now retire
to bed. By to-morrow morning I shall have made up my mind."
"Very good, sire," returned Colbert, greatly incensed, although he
restrained himself in the presence of the king.
The king made a gesture of adieu, and Colbert withdrew with a respectful
bow. "My attendants!" cried the king; and, as they entered the
apartment, Philippe was about to quit his post of observation.
"A moment longer," said Aramis to him, with his accustomed gentleness of
manner; "what has just now taken place is only a detail, and to-morrow we
shall have no occasion to think anything more about it; but the ceremony
of the king's retiring to rest, the etiquette observed in addressing the
king, that indeed is of the greatest importance. Learn, sire, and study
well how you ought to go to bed of a night. Look! look!"
History will tell us, or rather history has told us, of the various
events of the following day, of the splendid _fetes_ given by the
surintendant to his sovereign. Nothing but amusement and delight was
allowed to prevail throughout the whole of the following day; there was
a promenade, a banquet, a comedy to be acted, and a comedy, too, in
which, to his great amazement, Porthos recognized "M. Coquelin de
Voliere" as one of the actors, in the piece called "Les Facheux." Full
of preoccupation, however, from the scene of the previous evening, and
hardly recovered from the effects of the poison which Colbert had then
administered to him, the king, during the whole of the day, so brilliant
in its effects, so full of unexpected and startling novelties, in which
all the wonders of the "Arabian Night's Entertainments" seemed to be
reproduced for his especial amusement - the king, we say, showed himself
cold, reserved, and taciturn. Nothing could smooth the frowns upon his
face; every one who observed him noticed that a deep feeling of
resentment, of remote origin, increased by slow degrees, as the source
becomes a river, thanks to the thousand threads of water that increase
its body, was keenly alive in the depths of the king's heart. Towards
the middle of the day only did he begin to resume a little serenity of
manner, and by that time he had, in all probability, made up his mind.
Aramis, who followed him step by step in his thoughts, as in his walk,
concluded that the event he was expecting would not be long before it was
announced. This time Colbert seemed to walk in concert with the bishop
of Vannes, and had he received for every annoyance which he inflicted on
the king a word of direction from Aramis, he could not have done better.
During the whole of the day the king, who, in all probability, wished to
free himself from some of the thoughts which disturbed his mind, seemed
to seek La Valliere's society as actively as he seemed to show his
anxiety to flee that of M. Colbert or M. Fouquet. The evening came. The
king had expressed a wish not to walk in the park until after cards in
the evening. In the interval between supper and the promenade, cards and
dice were introduced. The king won a thousand pistoles, and, having won
them, put them in his pocket, and then rose, saying, "And now, gentlemen,
to the park." He found the ladies of the court were already there. The
king, we have before observed, had won a thousand pistoles, and had put
them in his pocket; but M. Fouquet had somehow contrived to lose ten
thousand, so that among the courtiers there was still left a hundred and
ninety thousand francs' profit to divide, a circumstance which made the
countenances of the courtiers and the officers of the king's household
the most joyous countenances in the world. It was not the same, however,
with the king's face; for, notwithstanding his success at play, to which
he was by no means insensible, there still remained a slight shade of
dissatisfaction. Colbert was waiting for or upon him at the corner of
one of the avenues; he was most probably waiting there in consequence of
a rendezvous which had been given him by the king, as Louis XIV., who had
avoided him, or who had seemed to avoid him, suddenly made him a sign,
and they then struck into the depths of the park together. But La
Valliere, too, had observed the king's gloomy aspect and kindling
glances; she had remarked this - and as nothing which lay hidden or
smoldering in his heart was hidden from the gaze of her affection, she
understood that this repressed wrath menaced some one; she prepared to
withstand the current of his vengeance, and intercede like an angel of
mercy. Overcome by sadness, nervously agitated, deeply distressed at
having been so long separated from her lover, disturbed at the sight of
the emotion she had divined, she accordingly presented herself to the
king with an embarrassed aspect, which in his then disposition of mind
the king interpreted unfavorably. Then, as they were alone - nearly
alone, inasmuch as Colbert, as soon as he perceived the young girl
approaching, had stopped and drawn back a dozen paces - the king advanced
towards La Valliere and took her by the hand. "Mademoiselle," he said to
her, "should I be guilty of an indiscretion if I were to inquire if you
were indisposed? for you seem to breathe as if you were oppressed by some
secret cause of uneasiness, and your eyes are filled with tears."
"Oh! sire, if I be indeed so, and if my eyes are indeed full of tears, I
am sorrowful only at the sadness which seems to oppress your majesty."
"My sadness? You are mistaken, mademoiselle; no, it is not sadness I
"What is it, then, sire?"
"Humiliation? oh! sire, what a word for you to use!"
"I mean, mademoiselle, that wherever I may happen to be, no one else
ought to be the master. Well, then, look round you on every side, and
judge whether I am not eclipsed - I, the king of France - before the
monarch of these wide domains. Oh!" he continued, clenching his hands
and teeth, "when I think that this king - "
"Well, sire?" said Louise, terrified.
" - That this king is a faithless, unworthy servant, who grows proud and
self-sufficient upon the strength of property that belongs to me, and
which he has stolen. And therefore I am about to change this impudent
minister's _fete_ into sorrow and mourning, of which the nymph of Vaux,
as the poets say, shall not soon lose the remembrance."
"Oh! your majesty - "
"Well, mademoiselle, are you about to take M. Fouquet's part?" said
"No, sire; I will only ask whether you are well informed. Your majesty
has more than once learned the value of accusations made at court."
Louis XIV. made a sign for Colbert to approach. "Speak, Monsieur
Colbert," said the young prince, "for I almost believe that Mademoiselle
de la Valliere has need of your assistance before she can put any faith
in the king's word. Tell mademoiselle what M. Fouquet has done; and you,
mademoiselle, will perhaps have the kindness to listen. It will not be
Why did Louis XIV. insist upon it in such a manner? A very simple reason
- his heart was not at rest, his mind was not thoroughly convinced; he
imagined there lay some dark, hidden, tortuous intrigue behind these
thirteen millions of francs; and he wished that the pure heart of La
Valliere, which had revolted at the idea of theft or robbery, should
approve - even were it only by a single word - the resolution he had
taken, and which, nevertheless, he hesitated before carrying into
"Speak, monsieur," said La Valliere to Colbert, who had advanced; "speak,
since the king wishes me to listen to you. Tell me, what is the crime
with which M. Fouquet is charged?"
"Oh! not very heinous, mademoiselle," he returned, "a mere abuse of
"Speak, speak, Colbert; and when you have related it, leave us, and go
and inform M. d'Artagnan that I have certain orders to give him."
"M. d'Artagnan, sire!" exclaimed La Valliere; "but why send for M.
d'Artagnan? I entreat you to tell me."
"_Pardieu!_ in order to arrest this haughty, arrogant Titan who, true to
his menace, threatens to scale my heaven."
"Arrest M. Fouquet, do you say?"
"Ah! does that surprise you?"
"In his own house!"
"Why not? If he be guilty, he is as guilty in his own house as anywhere
"M. Fouquet, who at this moment is ruining himself for his sovereign."
"In plain truth, mademoiselle, it seems as if you were defending this
Colbert began to chuckle silently. The king turned round at the sound of
this suppressed mirth.
"Sire," said La Valliere, "it is not M. Fouquet I am defending; it is
"Me! you are defending me?"
"Sire, you would dishonor yourself if you were to give such an order."
"Dishonor myself!" murmured the king, turning pale with anger. "In plain
truth, mademoiselle, you show a strange persistence in what you say."
"If I do, sire, my only motive is that of serving your majesty," replied
the noble-hearted girl: "for that I would risk, I would sacrifice my very
life, without the least reserve."
Colbert seemed inclined to grumble and complain. La Valliere, that
timid, gentle lamb, turned round upon him, and with a glance like
lightning imposed silence upon him. "Monsieur," she said, "when the king
acts well, whether, in doing so, he does either myself or those who
belong to me an injury, I have nothing to say; but were the king to
confer a benefit either upon me or mine, and if he acted badly, I should
tell him so."
"But it appears to me, mademoiselle," Colbert ventured to say, "that I
too love the king."
"Yes, monseigneur, we both love him, but each in a different manner,"
replied La Valliere, with such an accent that the heart of the young king
was powerfully affected by it. "I love him so deeply, that the whole
world is aware of it; so purely, that the king himself does not doubt my
affection. He is my king and my master; I am the least of all his
servants. But whoso touches his honor assails my life. Therefore, I
repeat, that they dishonor the king who advise him to arrest M. Fouquet
under his own roof."
Colbert hung down his head, for he felt that the king had abandoned him.
However, as he bent his head, he murmured, "Mademoiselle, I have only one
word to say."
"Do not say it, then, monsieur; for I would not listen to it. Besides,
what could you have to tell me? That M. Fouquet has been guilty of
certain crimes? I believe he has, because the king has said so; and,
from the moment the king said, 'I think so,' I have no occasion for other
lips to say, 'I affirm it.' But, were M. Fouquet the vilest of men, I
should say aloud, 'M. Fouquet's person is sacred to the king because he
is the guest of M. Fouquet. Were his house a den of thieves, were Vaux a
cave of coiners or robbers, his home is sacred, his palace is inviolable,
since his wife is living in it; and that is an asylum which even
executioners would not dare to violate.'"
La Valliere paused, and was silent. In spite of himself the king could
not but admire her; he was overpowered by the passionate energy of her
voice; by the nobleness of the cause she advocated. Colbert yielded,
overcome by the inequality of the struggle. At last the king breathed
again more freely, shook his head, and held out his hand to La Valliere.
"Mademoiselle," he said, gently, "why do you decide against me? Do you
know what this wretched fellow will do, if I give him time to breathe
"Is he not a prey which will always be within your grasp?"
"Should he escape, and take to flight?" exclaimed Colbert.
"Well, monsieur, it will always remain on record, to the king's eternal
honor, that he allowed M. Fouquet to flee; and the more guilty he may
have been, the greater will the king's honor and glory appear, compared
with such unnecessary misery and shame."
Louis kissed La Valliere's hand, as he knelt before her.
"I am lost," thought Colbert; then suddenly his face brightened up
again. "Oh! no, no, aha, old fox! - not yet," he said to himself.
And while the king, protected from observation by the thick covert of an
enormous lime, pressed La Valliere to his breast, with all the ardor of
ineffable affection, Colbert tranquilly fumbled among the papers in his
pocket-book and drew out of it a paper folded in the form of a letter,
somewhat yellow, perhaps, but one that must have been most precious,
since the intendant smiled as he looked at it; he then bent a look, full
of hatred, upon the charming group which the young girl and the king
formed together - a group revealed but for a moment, as the light of the
approaching torches shone upon it. Louis noticed the light reflected
upon La Valliere's white dress. "Leave me, Louise," he said, "for some
one is coming."
"Mademoiselle, mademoiselle, some one is coming," cried Colbert, to
expedite the young girl's departure.
Louise disappeared rapidly among the trees; and then, as the king, who
had been on his knees before the young girl, was rising from his humble
posture, Colbert exclaimed, "Ah! Mademoiselle de la Valliere has let
"What is it?" inquired the king.
"A paper - a letter - something white; look there, sire."
The king stooped down immediately and picked up the letter, crumpling it
in his hand, as he did so; and at the same moment the torches arrived,
inundating the blackness of the scene with a flood of light as bight as
The torches we have just referred to, the eager attention every one
displayed, and the new ovation paid to the king by Fouquet, arrived in
time to suspend the effect of a resolution which La Valliere had already
considerably shaken in Louis XIV.'s heart. He looked at Fouquet with a
feeling almost of gratitude for having given La Valliere an opportunity
of showing herself so generously disposed, so powerful in the influence
she exercised over his heart. The moment of the last and greatest
display had arrived. Hardly had Fouquet conducted the king towards the
chateau, when a mass of fire burst from the dome of Vaux, with a
prodigious uproar, pouring a flood of dazzling cataracts of rays on every
side, and illumining the remotest corners of the gardens. The fireworks
began. Colbert, at twenty paces from the king, who was surrounded and
_feted_ by the owner of Vaux, seemed, by the obstinate persistence of his
gloomy thoughts, to do his utmost to recall Louis's attention, which the
magnificence of the spectacle was already, in his opinion, too easily
diverting. Suddenly, just as Louis was on the point of holding it out to
Fouquet, he perceived in his hand the paper which, as he believed, La
Valliere had dropped at his feet as she hurried away. The still stronger
magnet of love drew the young prince's attention towards the _souvenir_
of his idol; and, by the brilliant light, which increased momentarily in
beauty, and drew from the neighboring villages loud cheers of admiration,
the king read the letter, which he supposed was a loving and tender
epistle La Valliere had destined for him. But as he read it, a death-
like pallor stole over his face, and an expression of deep-seated wrath,
illumined by the many-colored fire which gleamed so brightly, soaringly
around the scene, produced a terrible spectacle, which every one would
have shuddered at, could they only have read into his heart, now torn by
the most stormy and most bitter passions. There was no truce for him
now, influenced as he was by jealousy and mad passion. From the very
moment when the dark truth was revealed to him, every gentler feeling
seemed to disappear; pity, kindness of consideration, the religion of
hospitality, all were forgotten. In the bitter pang which wrung his
heart, he, still too weak to hide his sufferings, was almost on the point
of uttering a cry of alarm, and calling his guards to gather round him.
This letter which Colbert had thrown down at the king's feet, the reader
has doubtlessly guessed, was the same that had disappeared with the
porter Toby at Fontainebleau, after the attempt which Fouquet had made
upon La Valliere's heart. Fouquet saw the king's pallor, and was far
from guessing the evil; Colbert saw the king's anger, and rejoiced
inwardly at the approach of the storm. Fouquet's voice drew the young
prince from his wrathful reverie.
"What is the matter, sire?" inquired the superintendent, with an
expression of graceful interest.
Louis made a violent effort over himself, as he replied, "Nothing."
"I am afraid your majesty is suffering?"
"I am suffering, and have already told you so, monsieur; but it is
And the king, without waiting for the termination of the fireworks,
turned towards the chateau. Fouquet accompanied him, and the whole court
followed, leaving the remains of the fireworks consuming for their own
amusement. The superintendent endeavored again to question Louis XIV.,
but did not succeed in obtaining a reply. He imagined there had been
some misunderstanding between Louis and La Valliere in the park, which
had resulted in a slight quarrel; and that the king, who was not
ordinarily sulky by disposition, but completely absorbed by his passion
for La Valliere, had taken a dislike to every one because his mistress
had shown herself offended with him. This idea was sufficient to console
him; he had even a friendly and kindly smile for the young king, when the
latter wished him good night. This, however, was not all the king had to
submit to; he was obliged to undergo the usual ceremony, which on that
evening was marked by close adherence to the strictest etiquette. The
next day was the one fixed for the departure; it was but proper that the
guests should thank their host, and show him a little attention in return
for the expenditure of his twelve millions. The only remark, approaching
to amiability, which the king could find to say to M. Fouquet, as he took
leave of him, were in these words, "M. Fouquet, you shall hear from me.
Be good enough to desire M. d'Artagnan to come here."
But the blood of Louis XIV., who had so profoundly dissimulated his
feelings, boiled in his veins; and he was perfectly willing to order M.
Fouquet to be put an end to with the same readiness, indeed, as his
predecessor had caused the assassination of le Marechal d'Ancre; and so
he disguised the terrible resolution he had formed beneath one of those
royal smiles which, like lightning-flashes, indicated _coups d'etat_.
Fouquet took the king's hand and kissed it; Louis shuddered throughout
his whole frame, but allowed M. Fouquet to touch his hand with his lips.
Five minutes afterwards, D'Artagnan, to whom the royal order had been
communicated, entered Louis XIV.'s apartment. Aramis and Philippe were
in theirs, still eagerly attentive, and still listening with all their
ears. The king did not even give the captain of the musketeers time to
approach his armchair, but ran forward to meet him. "Take care," he
exclaimed, "that no one enters here."
"Very good, sire," replied the captain, whose glance had for a long time
past analyzed the stormy indications on the royal countenance. He gave
the necessary order at the door; but, returning to the king, he said, "Is
there something fresh the matter, your majesty?"
"How many men have you here?" inquired the king, without making any other
reply to the question addressed to him.
"What for, sire?"
"How many men have you, I say?" repeated the king, stamping upon the
ground with his foot.
"I have the musketeers."
"Well; and what others?"
"Twenty guards and thirteen Swiss."
"How many men will be required to - "
"To do what, sire?" replied the musketeer, opening his large, calm eyes.
"To arrest M. Fouquet."
D'Artagnan fell back a step.
"To arrest M. Fouquet!" he burst forth.
"Are you going to tell me that it is impossible?" exclaimed the king, in
tones of cold, vindictive passion.
"I never say that anything is impossible," replied D'Artagnan, wounded to
"Very well; do it, then."
D'Artagnan turned on his heel, and made his way towards the door; it was
but a short distance, and he cleared it in half a dozen paces; when he
reached it he suddenly paused, and said, "Your majesty will forgive me,
but, in order to effect this arrest, I should like written directions."
"For what purpose - and since when has the king's word been insufficient
"Because the word of a king, when it springs from a feeling of anger, may
possibly change when the feeling changes."
"A truce to set phrases, monsieur; you have another thought besides that?"
"Oh, I, at least, have certain thoughts and ideas, which, unfortunately,
others have not," D'Artagnan replied, impertinently.
The king, in the tempest of his wrath, hesitated, and drew back in the
face of D'Artagnan's frank courage, just as a horse crouches on his
haunches under the strong hand of a bold and experienced rider. "What is
your thought?" he exclaimed.
"This, sire," replied D'Artagnan: "you cause a man to be arrested when
you are still under his roof; and passion is alone the cause of that.
When your anger shall have passed, you will regret what you have done;
and then I wish to be in a position to show you your signature. If that,
however, should fail to be a reparation, it will at least show us that
the king was wrong to lose his temper."
"Wrong to lose his temper!" cried the king, in a loud, passionate voice.
"Did not my father, my grandfathers, too, before me, lose their temper at
times, in Heaven's name?"
"The king your father and the king your grandfather never lost their
temper except when under the protection of their own palace."
"The king is master wherever he may be."
"That is a flattering, complimentary phrase which cannot proceed from any
one but M. Colbert; but it happens not to be the truth. The king is at
home in every man's house when he has driven its owner out of it."
The king bit his lips, but said nothing.
"Can it be possible?" said D'Artagnan; "here is a man who is positively
ruining himself in order to please you, and you wish to have him
arrested! _Mordioux!_ Sire, if my name was Fouquet, and people treated
me in that manner, I would swallow at a single gulp all sorts of
fireworks and other things, and I would set fire to them, and send myself
and everybody else in blown-up atoms to the sky. But it is all the same;
it is your wish, and it shall be done."
"Go," said the king; "but have you men enough?"
"Do you suppose I am going to take a whole host to help me? Arrest M.
Fouquet! why, that is so easy that a very child might do it! It is like
drinking a glass of wormwood; one makes an ugly face, and that is all."
"If he defends himself?"
"He! it is not at all likely. Defend himself when such extreme harshness
as you are going to practice makes the man a very martyr! Nay, I am sure
that if he has a million of francs left, which I very much doubt, he
would be willing enough to give it in order to have such a termination as
this. But what does that matter? it shall be done at once."
"Stay," said the king; "do not make his arrest a public affair."
"That will be more difficult."
"Because nothing is easier than to go up to M. Fouquet in the midst of a
thousand enthusiastic guests who surround him, and say, 'In the king's
name, I arrest you.' But to go up to him, to turn him first one way and
then another, to drive him up into one of the corners of the chess-board,
in such a way that he cannot escape; to take him away from his guests,
and keep him a prisoner for you, without one of them, alas! having heard
anything about it; that, indeed, is a genuine difficulty, the greatest of
all, in truth; and I hardly see how it is to be done."
"You had better say it is impossible, and you will have finished much
sooner. Heaven help me, but I seem to be surrounded by people who
prevent me doing what I wish."
"I do not prevent your doing anything. Have you indeed decided?"
"Take care of M. Fouquet, until I shall have made up my mind by to-morrow
"That shall be done, sire."
"And return, when I rise in the morning, for further orders; and now
leave me to myself."
"You do not even want M. Colbert, then?" said the musketeer, firing his
last shot as he was leaving the room. The king started. With his whole
mind fixed on the thought of revenge, he had forgotten the cause and
substance of the offense.
"No, no one," he said; "no one here! Leave me."
D'Artagnan quitted the room. The king closed the door with his own
hands, and began to walk up and down his apartment at a furious pace,
like a wounded bull in an arena, trailing from his horn the colored
streamers and the iron darts. At last he began to take comfort in the
expression of his violent feelings.
"Miserable wretch that he is! not only does he squander my finances, but
with his ill-gotten plunder he corrupts secretaries, friends, generals,
artists, and all, and tries to rob me of the one to whom I am most
attached. This is the reason that perfidious girl so boldly took his
part! Gratitude! and who can tell whether it was not a stronger feeling
- love itself?" He gave himself up for a moment to the bitterest
reflections. "A satyr!" he thought, with that abhorrent hate with which
young men regard those more advanced in life, who still think of love.
"A man who has never found opposition or resistance in any one, who
lavishes his gold and jewels in every direction, and who retains his
staff of painters in order to take the portraits of his mistresses in the
costume of goddesses." The king trembled with passion as he continued,
"He pollutes and profanes everything that belongs to me! He destroys
everything that is mine. He will be my death at last, I know. That man
is too much for me; he is my mortal enemy, but he shall forthwith fall!
I hate him - I hate him - I hate him!" and as he pronounced these words,
he struck the arm of the chair in which he was sitting violently, over
and over again, and then rose like one in an epileptic fit. "To-morrow!
to-morrow! oh, happy day!" he murmured, "when the sun rises, no other
rival shall that brilliant king of space possess but me. That man shall
fall so low that when people look at the abject ruin my anger shall have
wrought, they will be forced to confess at last and at least that I am
indeed greater than he." The king, who was incapable of mastering his
emotions any longer, knocked over with a blow of his fist a small table
placed close to his bedside, and in the very bitterness of anger, almost
weeping, and half-suffocated, he threw himself on his bed, dressed as he
was, and bit the sheets in his extremity of passion, trying to find
repose of body at least there. The bed creaked beneath his weight, and
with the exception of a few broken sounds, emerging, or, one might say,
exploding, from his overburdened chest, absolute silence soon reigned in
the chamber of Morpheus.
The ungovernable fury which took possession of the king at the sight and
at the perusal of Fouquet's letter to La Valliere by degrees subsided
into a feeling of pain and extreme weariness. Youth, invigorated by
health and lightness of spirits, requiring soon that what it loses should
be immediately restored - youth knows not those endless, sleepless nights
which enable us to realize the fable of the vulture unceasingly feeding
on Prometheus. In cases where the man of middle life, in his acquired
strength of will and purpose, and the old, in their state of natural
exhaustion, find incessant augmentation of their bitter sorrow, a young
man, surprised by the sudden appearance of misfortune, weakens himself in
sighs, and groans, and tears, directly struggling with his grief, and is
thereby far sooner overthrown by the inflexible enemy with whom he is
engaged. Once overthrown, his struggles cease. Louis could not hold out
more than a few minutes, at the end of which he had ceased to clench his
hands, and scorch in fancy with his looks the invisible objects of his
hatred; he soon ceased to attack with his violent imprecations not M.
Fouquet alone, but even La Valliere herself; from fury he subsided into
despair, and from despair to prostration. After he had thrown himself
for a few minutes to and fro convulsively on his bed, his nerveless arms
fell quietly down; his head lay languidly on his pillow; his limbs,
exhausted with excessive emotion, still trembled occasionally, agitated
by muscular contractions; while from his breast faint and infrequent
sighs still issued. Morpheus, the tutelary deity of the apartment,
towards whom Louis raised his eyes, wearied by his anger and reconciled
by his tears, showered down upon him the sleep-inducing poppies with
which his hands are ever filled; so presently the monarch closed his eyes
and fell asleep. Then it seemed to him, as it often happens in that
first sleep, so light and gentle, which raises the body above the couch,
and the soul above the earth - it seemed to him, we say, as if the god
Morpheus, painted on the ceiling, looked at him with eyes resembling
human eyes; that something shone brightly, and moved to and fro in the
dome above the sleeper; that the crowd of terrible dreams which thronged
together in his brain, and which were interrupted for a moment, half
revealed a human face, with a hand resting against the mouth, and in an
attitude of deep and absorbed meditation. And strange enough, too, this
man bore so wonderful a resemblance to the king himself, that Louis
fancied he was looking at his own face reflected in a mirror; with the
exception, however, that the face was saddened by a feeling of the
profoundest pity. Then it seemed to him as if the dome gradually
retired, escaping from his gaze, and that the figures and attributes
painted by Lebrun became darker and darker as the distance became more
and more remote. A gentle, easy movement, as regular as that by which a
vessel plunges beneath the waves, had succeeded to the immovableness of
the bed. Doubtless the king was dreaming, and in this dream the crown of
gold, which fastened the curtains together, seemed to recede from his
vision, just as the dome, to which it remained suspended, had done, so
that the winged genius which, with both its hand, supported the crown,
seemed, though vainly so, to call upon the king, who was fast
disappearing from it. The bed still sunk. Louis, with his eyes open,
could not resist the deception of this cruel hallucination. At last, as
the light of the royal chamber faded away into darkness and gloom,
something cold, gloomy, and inexplicable in its nature seemed to infect
the air. No paintings, nor gold, nor velvet hangings, were visible any
longer, nothing but walls of a dull gray color, which the increasing
gloom made darker every moment. And yet the bed still continued to
descend, and after a minute, which seemed in its duration almost an age
to the king, it reached a stratum of air, black and chill as death, and
then it stopped. The king could no longer see the light in his room,
except as from the bottom of a well we can see the light of day. "I am
under the influence of some atrocious dream," he thought. "It is time to
awaken from it. Come! let me wake."
Every one has experienced the sensation the above remark conveys; there
is hardly a person who, in the midst of a nightmare whose influence is
suffocating, has not said to himself, by the help of that light which
still burns in the brain when every human light is extinguished, "It is
nothing but a dream, after all." This was precisely what Louis XIV. said
to himself; but when he said, "Come, come! wake up," he perceived that
not only was he already awake, but still more, that he had his eyes open
also. And then he looked all round him. On his right hand and on his
left two armed men stood in stolid silence, each wrapped in a huge cloak,
and the face covered with a mask; one of them held a small lamp in his
hand, whose glimmering light revealed the saddest picture a king could
look upon. Louis could not help saying to himself that his dream still
lasted, and that all he had to do to cause it to disappear was to move
his arms or to say something aloud; he darted from his bed, and found
himself upon the damp, moist ground. Then, addressing himself to the man
who held the lamp in his hand, he said:
"What is this, monsieur, and what is the meaning of this jest?"
"It is no jest," replied in a deep voice the masked figure that held the
"Do you belong to M. Fouquet?" inquired the king, greatly astonished at
"It matters very little to whom we belong," said the phantom; "we are
your masters now, that is sufficient."
The king, more impatient than intimidated, turned to the other masked
figure. "If this is a comedy," he said, "you will tell M. Fouquet that I
find it unseemly and improper, and that I command it should cease."
The second masked person to whom the king had addressed himself was a man
of huge stature and vast circumference. He held himself erect and
motionless as any block of marble. "Well!" added the king, stamping his
foot, "you do not answer!"
"We do not answer you, my good monsieur," said the giant, in a stentorian
voice, "because there is nothing to say."
"At least, tell me what you want," exclaimed Louis, folding his arms with
a passionate gesture.
"You will know by and by," replied the man who held the lamp.
"In the meantime tell me where I am."
Louis looked all round him; but by the light of the lamp which the masked
figure raised for the purpose, he could perceive nothing but the damp
walls which glistened here and there with the slimy traces of the snail.
"Oh - oh! - a dungeon," cried the king.
"No, a subterranean passage."
"Which leads - ?"
"Will you be good enough to follow us?"
"I shall not stir from hence!" cried the king.
"If you are obstinate, my dear young friend," replied the taller of the
two, "I will lift you up in my arms, and roll you up in your own cloak,
and if you should happen to be stifled, why - so much the worse for you."
As he said this, he disengaged from beneath his cloak a hand of which
Milo of Crotona would have envied him the possession, on the day when he
had that unhappy idea of rending his last oak. The king dreaded
violence, for he could well believe that the two men into whose power he
had fallen had not gone so far with any idea of drawing back, and that
they would consequently be ready to proceed to extremities, if
necessary. He shook his head and said: "It seems I have fallen into the
hands of a couple of assassins. Move on, then."
Neither of the men answered a word to this remark. The one who carried
the lantern walked first, the king followed him, while the second masked
figure closed the procession. In this manner they passed along a winding
gallery of some length, with as many staircases leading out of it as are
to be found in the mysterious and gloomy palaces of Ann Radcliffe's
creation. All these windings and turnings, during which the king heard
the sound of running water _over his head_, ended at last in a long
corridor closed by an iron door. The figure with the lamp opened the
door with one of the keys he wore suspended at his girdle, where, during
the whole of the brief journey, the king had heard them rattle. As soon
as the door was opened and admitted the air, Louis recognized the balmy
odors that trees exhale in hot summer nights. He paused, hesitatingly,
for a moment or two; but the huge sentinel who followed him thrust him
out of the subterranean passage.
"Another blow," said the king, turning towards the one who had just had
the audacity to touch his sovereign; "what do you intend to do with the
king of France?"
"Try to forget that word," replied the man with the lamp, in a tone which
as little admitted of a reply as one of the famous decrees of Minos.
"You deserve to be broken on the wheel for the words that you have just
made use of," said the giant, as he extinguished the lamp his companion
handed to him; "but the king is too kind-hearted."
Louis, at that threat, made so sudden a movement that it seemed as if he
meditated flight; but the giant's hand was in a moment placed on his
shoulder, and fixed him motionless where he stood. "But tell me, at
least, where we are going," said the king.
"Come," replied the former of the two men, with a kind of respect in his
manner, and leading his prisoner towards a carriage which seemed to be in
The carriage was completely concealed amid the trees. Two horses, with
their feet fettered, were fastened by a halter to the lower branches of a
"Get in," said the same man, opening the carriage-door and letting down
the step. The king obeyed, seated himself at the back of the carriage,
the padded door of which was shut and locked immediately upon him and his
guide. As for the giant, he cut the fastenings by which the horses were
bound, harnessed them himself, and mounted on the box of the carriage,
which was unoccupied. The carriage set off immediately at a quick trot,
turned into the road to Paris, and in the forest of Senart found a relay
of horses fastened to the trees in the same manner the first horses had
been, and without a postilion. The man on the box changed the horses,
and continued to follow the road towards Paris with the same rapidity, so
that they entered the city about three o'clock in the morning. They
carriage proceeded along the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, and, after having
called out to the sentinel, "By the king's order," the driver conducted
the horses into the circular inclosure of the Bastile, looking out upon
the courtyard, called La Cour du Gouvernement. There the horses drew up,
reeking with sweat, at the flight of steps, and a sergeant of the guard
ran forward. "Go and wake the governor," said the coachman in a voice of
With the exception of this voice, which might have been heard at the
entrance of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, everything remained as calm in
the carriage as in the prison. Ten minutes afterwards, M. de Baisemeaux
appeared in his dressing-gown on the threshold of the door. "What is the
matter now?" he asked; "and whom have you brought me there?"
The man with the lantern opened the carriage-door, and said two or three
words to the one who acted as driver, who immediately got down from his
seat, took up a short musket which he kept under his feet, and placed its
muzzle on his prisoner's chest.
"And fire at once if he speaks!" added aloud the man who alighted from
"Very good," replied his companion, without another remark.
With this recommendation, the person who had accompanied the king in the
carriage ascended the flight of steps, at the top of which the governor
was awaiting him. "Monsieur d'Herblay!" said the latter.
"Hush!" said Aramis. "Let us go into your room."
"Good heavens! what brings you here at this hour?"
"A mistake, my dear Monsieur de Baisemeaux," Aramis replied, quietly.
"It appears that you were quite right the other day."
"What about?" inquired the governor.
"About the order of release, my dear friend."
"Tell me what you mean, monsieur - no, monseigneur," said the governor,
almost suffocated by surprise and terror.
"It is a very simple affair: you remember, dear M. de Baisemeaux, that an
order of release was sent to you."
"Yes, for Marchiali."
"Very good! we both thought that it was for Marchiali?"
"Certainly; you will recollect, however, that I would not credit it, but
that you compelled me to believe it."
"Oh! Baisemeaux, my good fellow, what a word to make use of! - strongly
recommended, that was all."
"Strongly recommended, yes; strongly recommended to give him up to you;
and that you carried him off with you in your carriage."
"Well, my dear Monsieur de Baisemeaux, it was a mistake; it was
discovered at the ministry, so that I now bring you an order from the
king to set at liberty Seldon, - that poor Seldon fellow, you know."
"Seldon! are you sure this time?"
"Well, read it yourself," added Aramis, handing him the order.
"Why," said Baisemeaux, "this order is the very same that has already
passed through my hands."
"It is the very one I assured you I saw the other evening. _Parbleu!_ I
recognize it by the blot of ink."
"I do not know whether it is that; but all I know is, that I bring it for
"But then, what about the other?"
"I have got him here with me."
"But that is not enough for me. I require a new order to take him back
"Don't talk such nonsense, my dear Baisemeaux; you talk like a child!
Where is the order you received respecting Marchiali?"
Baisemeaux ran to his iron chest and took it out. Aramis seized hold of
it, coolly tore it in four pieces, held them to the lamp, and burnt
them. "Good heavens! what are you doing?" exclaimed Baisemeaux, in an
extremity of terror.
"Look at your position quietly, my good governor," said Aramis, with
imperturbable self-possession, "and you will see how very simple the
whole affair is. You no longer possess any order justifying Marchiali's
"I am a lost man!"
"Far from it, my good fellow, since I have brought Marchiali back to you,
and all accordingly is just the same as if he had never left."
"Ah!" said the governor, completely overcome by terror.
"Plain enough, you see; and you will go and shut him up immediately."
"I should think so, indeed."
"And you will hand over this Seldon to me, whose liberation is authorized
by this order. Do you understand?"
"I - I - "
"You do understand, I see," said Aramis. "Very good." Baisemeaux
clapped his hands together.
"But why, at all events, after having taken Marchiali away from me, do
you bring him back again?" cried the unhappy governor, in a paroxysm of
terror, and completely dumbfounded.
"For a friend such as you are," said Aramis - "for so devoted a servant,
I have no secrets;" and he put his mouth close to Baisemeaux's ear, as he
said, in a low tone of voice, "you know the resemblance between that
unfortunate fellow, and - "
"And the king? - yes!"
"Very good; the first use that Marchiali made of his liberty was to
persist - Can you guess what?"
"How is it likely I should guess?"
"To persist in saying that he was king of France; to dress himself up in
clothes like those of the king; and then pretend to assume that he was
the king himself."
"That is the reason why I have brought him back again, my dear friend.
He is mad and lets every one see how mad he is."
"What is to be done, then?"
"That is very simple; let no one hold any communication with him. You
understand that when his peculiar style of madness came to the king's
ears, the king, who had pitied his terrible affliction, and saw that all
his kindness had been repaid by black ingratitude, became perfectly
furious; so that, now - and remember this very distinctly, dear Monsieur
de Baisemeaux, for it concerns you most closely - so that there is now, I
repeat, sentence of death pronounced against all those who may allow him
to communicate with any one else but me or the king himself. You
understand, Baisemeaux, sentence of death!"
"You need not ask me whether I understand."
"And now, let us go down, and conduct this poor devil back to his dungeon
again, unless you prefer he should come up here."
"What would be the good of that?"
"It would be better, perhaps, to enter his name in the prison-book at
"Of course, certainly; not a doubt of it."
"In that case, have him up."
Baisemeaux ordered the drums to be beaten and the bell to be rung, as a
warning to every one to retire, in order to avoid meeting a prisoner,
about whom it was desired to observe a certain mystery. Then, when the
passages were free, he went to take the prisoner from the carriage, at
whose breast Porthos, faithful to the directions which had been given
him, still kept his musket leveled. "Ah! is that you, miserable wretch?"
cried the governor, as soon as he perceived the king. "Very good, very
good." And immediately, making the king get out of the carriage, he led
him, still accompanied by Porthos, who had not taken off his mask, and
Aramis, who again resumed his, up the stairs, to the second Bertaudiere,
and opened the door of the room in which Philippe for six long years had
bemoaned his existence. The king entered the cell without pronouncing a
single word: he faltered in as limp and haggard as a rain-struck lily.
Baisemeaux shut the door upon him, turned the key twice in the lock, and
then returned to Aramis. "It is quite true," he said, in a low tone,
"that he bears a striking resemblance to the king; but less so than you
"So that," said Aramis, "you would not have been deceived by the
substitution of the one for the other?"
"What a question!"
"You are a most valuable fellow, Baisemeaux," said Aramis; "and now, set
"Oh, yes. I was going to forget that. I will go and give orders at
"Bah! to-morrow will be time enough."
"To-morrow! - oh, no. This very minute."
"Well; go off to your affairs, I will go away to mine. But it is quite
understood, is it not?"
"What 'is quite understood'?"
"That no one is to enter the prisoner's cell, expect with an order from
the king; an order which I will myself bring."
"Quite so. Adieu, monseigneur."
Aramis returned to his companion. "Now, Porthos, my good fellow, back
again to Vaux, and as fast as possible."
"A man is light and easy enough, when he has faithfully served his king;
and, in serving him, saved his country," said Porthos. "The horses will
be as light as if our tissues were constructed of the wind of heaven. So
let us be off." And the carriage, lightened of a prisoner, who might
well be - as he in fact was - very heavy in the sight of Aramis, passed
across the drawbridge of the Bastile, which was raised again immediately
A Night at the Bastile.
Pain, anguish, and suffering in human life are always in proportion to
the strength with which a man is endowed. We will not pretend to say
that Heaven always apportions to a man's capability of endurance the
anguish with which he afflicts him; for that, indeed, would not be true,
since Heaven permits the existence of death, which is, sometimes, the
only refuge open to those who are too closely pressed - too bitterly
afflicted, as far as the body is concerned. Suffering is in proportion
to the strength which has been accorded; in other words, the weak suffer
more, where the trial is the same, than the strong. And what are the
elementary principles, we may ask, that compose human strength? Is it
not - more than anything else - exercise, habit, experience? We shall
not even take the trouble to demonstrate this, for it is an axiom in
morals, as in physics. When the young king, stupefied and crushed in
every sense and feeling, found himself led to a cell in the Bastile, he
fancied death itself is but a sleep; that it, too, has its dreams as
well; that the bed had broken through the flooring of his room at Vaux;
that death had resulted from the occurrence; and that, still carrying out
his dream, the king, Louis XIV., now no longer living, was dreaming one
of those horrors, impossible to realize in life, which is termed
dethronement, imprisonment, and insult towards a sovereign who formerly
wielded unlimited power. To be present at - an actual witness, too - of
this bitterness of death; to float, indecisively, in an incomprehensible
mystery, between resemblance and reality; to hear everything, to see
everything, without interfering in a single detail of agonizing
suffering, was - so the king thought within himself - a torture far more
terrible, since it might last forever. "Is this what is termed eternity
- hell?" he murmured, at the moment the door was closed upon him, which
we remember Baisemeaux had shut with his own hands. He did not even look
round him; and in the room, leaning with his back against the wall, he
allowed himself to be carried away by the terrible supposition that he
was already dead, as he closed his eyes, in order to avoid looking upon
something even worse still. "How can I have died?" he said to himself,
sick with terror. "The bed might have been let down by some artificial
means? But no! I do not remember to have felt a bruise, nor any shock
either. Would they not rather have poisoned me at my meals, or with the
fumes of wax, as they did my ancestress, Jeanne d'Albret?" Suddenly, the
chill of the dungeons seemed to fall like a wet cloak upon Louis's
shoulders. "I have seen," he said, "my father lying dead upon his
funeral couch, in his regal robes. That pale face, so calm and worn;
those hands, once so skillful, lying nerveless by his side; those limbs
stiffened by the icy grasp of death; nothing there betokened a sleep that
was disturbed by dreams. And yet, how numerous were the dreams which
Heaven might have sent that royal corpse - him whom so many others had
preceded, hurried away by him into eternal death! No, that king was
still the king: he was enthroned still upon that funeral couch, as upon a
velvet armchair; he had not abdicated one title of his majesty. God, who
had not punished him, cannot, will not punish me, who have done
nothing." A strange sound attracted the young man's attention. He
looked round him, and saw on the mantel-shelf, just below an enormous
crucifix, coarsely painted in fresco on the wall, a rat of enormous size
engaged in nibbling a piece of dry bread, but fixing all the time, an
intelligent and inquiring look upon the new occupant of the cell. The
king could not resist a sudden impulse of fear and disgust: he moved back
towards the door, uttering a loud cry; and as if he but needed this cry,
which escaped from his breast almost unconsciously, to recognize himself,
Louis knew that he was alive and in full possession of his natural
senses. "A prisoner!" he cried. "I - I, a prisoner!" He looked round
him for a bell to summon some one to him. "There are no bells in the
Bastile," he said, "and it is in the Bastile I am imprisoned. In what
way can I have been made a prisoner? It must have been owing to a
conspiracy of M. Fouquet. I have been drawn to Vaux, as to a snare. M.
Fouquet cannot be acting alone in this affair. His agent - That voice
that I but just now heard was M. d'Herblay's; I recognized it. Colbert
was right, then. But what is Fouquet's object? To reign in my place and
stead? - Impossible. Yet who knows!" thought the king, relapsing into
gloom again. "Perhaps my brother, the Duc d'Orleans, is doing that which
my uncle wished to do during the whole of his life against my father.
But the queen? - My mother, too? And La Valliere? Oh! La Valliere, she
will have been abandoned to Madame. Dear, dear girl! Yes, it is - it
must be so. They have shut her up as they have me. We are separated
forever!" And at this idea of separation the poor lover burst into a
flood of tears and sobs and groans.
"There is a governor in this place," the king continued, in a fury of
passion; "I will speak to him, I will summon him to me."
He called - no voice replied to his. He seized hold of his chair, and
hurled it against the massive oaken door. The wood resounded against the
door, and awakened many a mournful echo in the profound depths of the
staircase; but from a human creature, none.
This was a fresh proof for the king of the slight regard in which he was
held at the Bastile. Therefore, when his first fit of anger had passed
away, having remarked a barred window through which there passed a stream
of light, lozenge-shaped, which must be, he knew, the bright orb of
approaching day, Louis began to call out, at first gently enough, then
louder and louder still; but no one replied. Twenty other attempts which
he made, one after another, obtained no other or better success. His
blood began to boil within him, and mount to his head. His nature was
such, that, accustomed to command, he trembled at the idea of
disobedience. The prisoner broke the chair, which was too heavy for him
to lift, and made use of it as a battering ram to strike against the
door. He struck so loudly, and so repeatedly, that the perspiration soon
began to pour down his face. The sound became tremendous and continuous;
certain stifled, smothered cries replied in different directions. This
sound produced a strange effect upon the king. He paused to listen; it
was the voice of the prisoners, formerly his victims, now his
companions. The voices ascended like vapors through the thick ceilings
and the massive walls, and rose in accusations against the author of this
noise, as doubtless their sighs and tears accused, in whispered tones,
the author of their captivity. After having deprived so many people of
their liberty, the king came among them to rob them of their rest. This
idea almost drove him mad; it redoubled his strength, or rather his well,
bent upon obtaining some information, or a conclusion to the affair.
With a portion of the broken chair he recommenced the noise. At the end
of an hour, Louis heard something in the corridor, behind the door of his
cell, and a violent blow, which was returned upon the door itself, made
him cease his own.
"Are you mad?" said a rude, brutal voice. "What is the matter with you
"This morning!" thought the king; but he said aloud, politely, "Monsieur,
are you the governor of the Bastile?"
"My good fellow, your head is out of sorts," replied the voice; "but that
is no reason why you should make such a terrible disturbance. Be quiet;
"Are you the governor?" the king inquired again.
He heard a door on the corridor close; the jailer had just left, not
condescending to reply a single word. When the king had assured himself
of his departure, his fury knew no longer any bounds. As agile as a
tiger, he leaped from the table to the window, and struck the iron bars
with all his might. He broke a pane of glass, the pieces of which fell
clanking into the courtyard below. He shouted with increasing
hoarseness, "The governor, the governor!" This excess lasted fully an
hour, during which time he was in a burning fever. With his hair in
disorder and matted on his forehead, his dress torn and covered with dust
and plaster, his linen in shreds, the king never rested until his
strength was utterly exhausted, and it was not until then that he clearly
understood the pitiless thickness of the walls, the impenetrable nature
of the cement, invincible to every influence but that of time, and that
he possessed no other weapon but despair. He leaned his forehead against
the door, and let the feverish throbbings of his heart calm by degrees;
it had seemed as if one single additional pulsation would have made it
"A moment will come when the food which is given to the prisoners will be
brought to me. I shall then see some one, I shall speak to him, and get
And the king tried to remember at what hour the first repast of the
prisoners was served at the Bastile; he was ignorant even of this
detail. The feeling of remorse at this remembrance smote him like the
thrust of a dagger, that he should have lived for five and twenty years a
king, and in the enjoyment of every happiness, without having bestowed a
moment's thought on the misery of those who had been unjustly deprived of
their liberty. The king blushed for very shame. He felt that Heaven, in
permitting this fearful humiliation, did no more than render to the man
the same torture as had been inflicted by that man upon so many others.
Nothing could be more efficacious for reawakening his mind to religious
influences than the prostration of his heart and mind and soul beneath
the feeling of such acute wretchedness. But Louis dared not even kneel
in prayer to God to entreat him to terminate his bitter trial.
"Heaven is right," he said; "Heaven acts wisely. It would be cowardly to
pray to Heaven for that which I have so often refused my own fellow-
He had reached this stage of his reflections, that is, of his agony of
mind, when a similar noise was again heard behind his door, followed this
time by the sound of the key in the lock, and of the bolts being
withdrawn from their staples. The king bounded forward to be nearer to
the person who was about to enter, but, suddenly reflecting that it was a
movement unworthy of a sovereign, he paused, assumed a noble and calm
expression, which for him was easy enough, and waited with his back
turned towards the window, in order, to some extent, to conceal his
agitation from the eyes of the person who was about to enter. It was
only a jailer with a basket of provisions. The king looked at the man
with restless anxiety, and waited until he spoke.
"Ah!" said the latter, "you have broken your chair. I said you had done
so! Why, you have gone quite mad."
"Monsieur," said the king, "be careful what you say; it will be a very
serious affair for you."
The jailer placed the basket on the table, and looked at his prisoner
steadily. "What do you say?" he said.
"Desire the governor to come to me," added the king, in accents full of
calm and dignity.
"Come, my boy," said the turnkey, "you have always been very quiet and
reasonable, but you are getting vicious, it seems, and I wish you to know
it in time. You have broken your chair, and made a great disturbance;
that is an offense punishable by imprisonment in one of the lower
dungeons. Promise me not to begin over again, and I will not say a word
about it to the governor."
"I wish to see the governor," replied the king, still governing his
"He will send you off to one of the dungeons, I tell you; so take care."
"I insist upon it, do you hear?"
"Ah! ah! your eyes are becoming wild again. Very good! I shall take
away your knife."
And the jailer did what he said, quitted the prisoner, and closed the
door, leaving the king more astounded, more wretched, more isolated than
ever. It was useless, though he tried it, to make the same noise again
on his door, and equally useless that he threw the plates and dishes out
of the window; not a single sound was heard in recognition. Two hours
afterwards he could not be recognized as a king, a gentleman, a man, a
human being; he might rather be called a madman, tearing the door with
his nails, trying to tear up the flooring of his cell, and uttering such
wild and fearful cries that the old Bastile seemed to tremble to its very
foundations for having revolted against its master. As for the governor,
the jailer did not even think of disturbing him; the turnkeys and the
sentinels had reported the occurrence to him, but what was the good of
it? Were not these madmen common enough in such a prison? and were not
the walls still stronger? M. de Baisemeaux, thoroughly impressed with
what Aramis had told him, and in perfect conformity with the king's
order, hoped only that one thing might happen; namely, that the madman
Marchiali might be mad enough to hang himself to the canopy of his bed,
or to one of the bars of the window. In fact, the prisoner was anything
but a profitable investment for M. Baisemeaux, and became more annoying
than agreeable to him. These complications of Seldon and Marchiali - the
complications first of setting at liberty and then imprisoning again, the
complications arising from the strong likeness in question - had at last
found a very proper _denouement_. Baisemeaux even thought he had
remarked that D'Herblay himself was not altogether dissatisfied with the
"And then, really," said Baisemeaux to his next in command, "an ordinary
prisoner is already unhappy enough in being a prisoner; he suffers quite
enough, indeed, to induce one to hope, charitably enough, that his death
may not be far distant. With still greater reason, accordingly, when the
prisoner has gone mad, and might bite and make a terrible disturbance in
the Bastile; why, in such a case, it is not simply an act of mere charity
to wish him dead; it would be almost a good and even commendable action,
quietly to have him put out of his misery."
And the good-natured governor thereupon sat down to his late breakfast.
The Shadow of M. Fouquet.
D'Artagnan, still confused and oppressed by the conversation he had just
had with the king, could not resist asking himself if he were really in
possession of his senses, if he were really and truly at Vaux; if he,
D'Artagnan, were really the captain of the musketeers, and M. Fouquet the
owner of the chateau in which Louis XIV. was at that moment partaking of
his hospitality. These reflections were not those of a drunken man,
although everything was in prodigal profusion at Vaux, and the
surintendant's wines had met with a distinguished reception at the
_fete_. The Gascon, however, was a man of calm self-possession; and no
sooner did he touch his bright steel blade, than he knew how to adopt
morally the cold, keen weapon as his guide of action.
"Well," he said, as he quitted the royal apartment, "I seem now to be
mixed up historically with the destinies of the king and of the minister;
it will be written, that M. d'Artagnan, a younger son of a Gascon family,
placed his hand on the shoulder of M. Nicolas Fouquet, the surintendant
of the finances of France. My descendants, if I have any, will flatter
themselves with the distinction which this arrest will confer, just as
the members of the De Luynes family have done with regard to the estates
of the poor Marechal d'Ancre. But the thing is, how best to execute the
king's directions in a proper manner. Any man would know how to say to
M. Fouquet, 'Your sword, monsieur.' But it is not every one who would be
able to take care of M. Fouquet without others knowing anything about
it. How am I to manage, then, so that M. le surintendant pass from the
height of favor to the direst disgrace; that Vaux be turned into a
dungeon for him; that after having been steeped to his lips, as it were,
in all the perfumes and incense of Ahasuerus, he is transferred to the
gallows of Haman; in other words, of Enguerrand de Marigny?" And at this
reflection, D'Artagnan's brow became clouded with perplexity. The
musketeer had certain scruples on the matter, it must be admitted. To
deliver up to death (for not a doubt existed that Louis hated Fouquet
mortally) the man who had just shown himself so delightful and charming a
host in every way, was a real insult to one's conscience. "It almost
seems," said D'Artagnan to himself, "that if I am not a poor, mean,
miserable fellow, I should let M. Fouquet know the opinion the king has
about him. Yet, if I betray my master's secret, I shall be a false-
hearted, treacherous knave, a traitor, too, a crime provided for and
punishable by military laws - so much so, indeed, that twenty times, in
former days when wars were rife, I have seen many a miserable fellow
strung up to a tree for doing, in but a small degree, what my scruples
counsel me to undertake upon a great scale now. No, I think that a man
of true readiness of wit ought to get out of this difficulty with more
skill than that. And now, let us admit that I do possess a little
readiness of invention; it is not at all certain, though, for, after
having for forty years absorbed so large a quantity, I shall be lucky if
there were to be a pistole's-worth left." D'Artagnan buried his head in
his hands, tore at his mustache in sheer vexation, and added, "What can
be the reason of M. Fouquet's disgrace? There seem to be three good
ones: the first, because M. Colbert doesn't like him; the second, because
he wished to fall in love with Mademoiselle de la Valliere; and lastly,
because the king likes M. Colbert and loves Mademoiselle de la Valliere.
Oh! he is lost! But shall I put my foot on his neck, I, of all men, when
he is falling a prey to the intrigues of a pack of women and clerks? For
shame! If he be dangerous, I will lay him low enough; if, however, he be
only persecuted, I will look on. I have come to such a decisive
determination, that neither king nor living man shall change my mind. If
Athos were here, he would do as I have done. Therefore, instead of
going, in cold blood, up to M. Fouquet, and arresting him off-hand and
shutting him up altogether, I will try and conduct myself like a man who
understands what good manners are. People will talk about it, of course;
but they shall talk well of it, I am determined." And D'Artagnan,
drawing by a gesture peculiar to himself his shoulder-belt over his
shoulder, went straight off to M. Fouquet, who, after he had taken leave
of his guests, was preparing to retire for the night and to sleep
tranquilly after the triumphs of the day. The air was still perfumed, or
infected, whichever way it may be considered, with the odors of the
torches and the fireworks. The wax-lights were dying away in their
sockets, the flowers fell unfastened from the garlands, the groups of
dancers and courtiers were separating in the salons. Surrounded by his
friends, who complimented him and received his flattering remarks in
return, the surintendant half-closed his wearied eyes. He longed for
rest and quiet; he sank upon the bed of laurels which had been heaped up
for him for so many days past; it might almost have been said that he
seemed bowed beneath the weight of the new debts which he had incurred
for the purpose of giving the greatest possible honor to this _fete_.
Fouquet had just retired to his room, still smiling, but more than half-
asleep. He could listen to nothing more, he could hardly keep his eyes
open; his bed seemed to possess a fascinating and irresistible attraction
for him. The god Morpheus, the presiding deity of the dome painted by
Lebrun, had extended his influence over the adjoining rooms, and showered
down his most sleep-inducing poppies upon the master of the house.
Fouquet, almost entirely alone, was being assisted by his _valet de
chambre_ to undress, when M. d'Artagnan appeared at the entrance of the
room. D'Artagnan had never been able to succeed in making himself common
at the court; and notwithstanding he was seen everywhere and on all
occasions, he never failed to produce an effect wherever and whenever he
made his appearance. Such is the happy privilege of certain natures,
which in that respect resemble either thunder or lightning; every one
recognizes them; but their appearance never fails to arouse surprise and
astonishment, and whenever they occur, the impression is always left that
the last was the most conspicuous or most important.
"What! M. d'Artagnan?" said Fouquet, who had already taken his right arm
out of the sleeve of his doublet.
"At your service," replied the musketeer.
"Come in, my dear M. d'Artagnan."
"Have you come to criticise the _fete?_ You are ingenious enough in your
criticisms, I know."
"By no means."
"Are not your men looked after properly?"
"In every way."
"You are not comfortably lodged, perhaps?"
"Nothing could be better."
"In that case, I have to thank you for being so amiably disposed, and I
must not fail to express my obligations to you for all your flattering
These words were as much as to say, "My dear D'Artagnan, pray go to bed,
since you have a bed to lie down on, and let me do the same."
D'Artagnan did not seem to understand it.
"Are you going to bed already?" he said to the superintendent.
"Yes; have you anything to say to me?"
"Nothing, monsieur, nothing at all. You sleep in this room, then?"
"Yes; as you see."
"You have given a most charming _fete_ to the king."
"Do you think so?"
"Is the king pleased?"
"Did he desire you to say as much to me?"
"He would not choose so unworthy a messenger, monseigneur."
"You do not do yourself justice, Monsieur d'Artagnan."
"Is that your bed, there?"
"Yes; but why do you ask? Are you not satisfied with your own?"
"My I speak frankly to you?"
"Well, then, I am not."
Fouquet started; and then replied, "Will you take my room, Monsieur
"What! deprive you of it, monseigneur? never!"
"What am I to do, then?"
"Allow me to share yours with you."
Fouquet looked at the musketeer fixedly. "Ah! ah!" he said, "you have
just left the king."
"I have, monseigneur."
"And the king wishes you to pass the night in my room?"
"Monseigneur - "
"Very well, Monsieur d'Artagnan, very well. You are the master here."
"I assure you, monseigneur, that I do not wish to abuse - "
Fouquet turned to his valet, and said, "Leave us." When the man had
left, he said to D'Artagnan, "You have something to say to me?"
"A man of your superior intelligence cannot have come to talk with a man
like myself, at such an hour as the present, without grave motives."
"Do not interrogate me."
"On the contrary. What do you want with me?"
"Nothing more than the pleasure of your society."
"Come into the garden, then," said the superintendent suddenly, "or into
"No," replied the musketeer, hastily, "no."
"The fresh air - "
"Come, admit at once that you arrest me," said the superintendent to the
"Never!" said the latter.
"You intend to look after me, then?"
"Yes, monseigneur, I do, upon my honor."
"Upon your honor - ah! that is quite another thing! So I am to be
arrested in my own house."
"Do not say such a thing."
"On the contrary, I will proclaim it aloud."
"If you do so, I shall be compelled to request you to be silent."
"Very good! Violence towards me, and in my own house, too."
"We do not seem to understand one another at all. Stay a moment; there
is a chess-board there; we will have a game, if you have no objections."
"Monsieur d'Artagnan, I am in disgrace, then?"
"Not at all; but - "
"I am prohibited, I suppose, from withdrawing from your sight."
"I do not understand a word you are saying, monseigneur; and if you wish
me to withdraw, tell me so."
"My dear Monsieur d'Artagnan, your mode of action is enough to drive me
mad; I was almost sinking for want of sleep, but you have completely
"I shall never forgive myself, I am sure; and if you wish to reconcile me
with myself, why, go to sleep in your bed in my presence; and I shall be
"I am under surveillance, I see."
"I will leave the room if you say any such thing."
"You are beyond my comprehension."
"Good night, monseigneur," said D'Artagnan, as he pretended to withdraw.
Fouquet ran after him. "I will not lie down," he said. "Seriously, and
since you refuse to treat me as a man, and since you finesse with me, I
will try and set you at bay, as a hunter does a wild boar."
"Bah!" cried D'Artagnan, pretending to smile.
"I shall order my horses, and set off for Paris," said Fouquet, sounding
the captain of the musketeers.
"If that be the case, monseigneur, it is very difficult."
"You will arrest me, then?"
"No, but I shall go along with you."
"That is quite sufficient, Monsieur d'Artagnan," returned Fouquet,
coldly. "It was not for nothing you acquired your reputation as a man of
intelligence and resource; but with me all this is quite superfluous.
Let us come to the point. Do me a service. Why do you arrest me? What
have I done?"
"Oh! I know nothing about what you may have done; but I do not arrest
you - this evening, at least!"
"This evening!" said Fouquet, turning pale, "but to-morrow?"
"It is not to-morrow just yet, monseigneur. Who can ever answer for the
"Quick, quick, captain! let me speak to M. d'Herblay."
"Alas! that is quite impossible, monseigneur. I have strict orders to
see that you hold no communication with any one."
"With M. d'Herblay, captain - with your friend!"
"Monseigneur, is M. d'Herblay the only person with whom you ought to be
prevented holding any communication?"
Fouquet colored, and then assuming an air of resignation, he said: "You
are right, monsieur; you have taught me a lesson I ought not to have
evoked. A fallen man cannot assert his right to anything, even from
those whose fortunes he may have made; for a still stronger reason, he
cannot claim anything from those to whom he may never have had the
happiness of doing a service."
"It is perfectly true, Monsieur d'Artagnan; you have always acted in the
most admirable manner towards me - in such a manner, indeed, as most
becomes the man who is destined to arrest me. You, at least, have never
asked me anything."
"Monsieur," replied the Gascon, touched by his eloquent and noble tone of
grief, "will you - I ask it as a favor - pledge me your word as a man of
honor that you will not leave this room?"
"What is the use of it, dear Monsieur d'Artagnan, since you keep watch
and ward over me? Do you suppose I should contend against the most
valiant sword in the kingdom?"
"It is not that, at all, monseigneur; but that I am going to look for M.
d'Herblay, and, consequently, to leave you alone."
Fouquet uttered a cry of delight and surprise.
"To look for M. d'Herblay! to leave me alone!" he exclaimed, clasping his
"Which is M. d'Herblay's room? The blue room is it not?"
"Yes, my friend, yes."
"Your friend! thank you for that word, monseigneur; you confer it upon me
to-day, at least, if you have never done so before."
"Ah! you have saved me."
"It will take a good ten minutes to go from hence to the blue room, and
to return?" said D'Artagnan.
"And then to wake Aramis, who sleeps very soundly, when he is asleep, I
put that down at another five minutes; making a total of fifteen minutes'
absence. And now, monseigneur, give me your word that you will not in
any way attempt to make your escape, and that when I return I shall find
you here again."
"I give it, monsieur," replied Fouquet, with an expression of the warmest and
D'Artagnan disappeared. Fouquet looked at him as he quitted the room,
waited with a feverish impatience until the door was closed behind him,
and as soon as it was shut, flew to his keys, opened two or three secret
doors concealed in various articles of furniture in the room, looked
vainly for certain papers, which doubtless he had left at Saint-Mande,
and which he seemed to regret not having found in them; then hurriedly
seizing hold of letters, contracts, papers, writings, he heaped them up
into a pile, which he burnt in the extremest haste upon the marble hearth
of the fireplace, not even taking time to draw from the interior of it
the vases and pots of flowers with which it was filled. As soon as he
had finished, like a man who has just escaped an imminent danger, and
whose strength abandons him as soon as the danger is past, he sank down,
completely overcome, on a couch. When D'Artagnan returned, he found
Fouquet in the same position; the worthy musketeer had not the slightest
doubt that Fouquet, having given his word, would not even think of
failing to keep it, but he had thought it most likely that Fouquet would
turn his (D'Artagnan's) absence to the best advantage in getting rid of
all the papers, memorandums, and contracts, which might possibly render
his position, which was even now serious enough, more dangerous than
ever. And so, lifting up his head like a dog who has regained the scent,
he perceived an odor resembling smoke he had relied on finding in the
atmosphere, and having found it, made a movement of his head in token of
satisfaction. As D'Artagnan entered, Fouquet, on his side, raised his
head, and not one of D'Artagnan's movements escaped him. And then the
looks of the two men met, and they both saw that they had understood each
other without exchanging a syllable.
"Well!" asked Fouquet, the first to speak, "and M. d'Herblay?"
"Upon my word, monseigneur," replied D'Artagnan, "M. d'Herblay must be
desperately fond of walking out at night, and composing verses by
moonlight in the park of Vaux, with some of your poets, in all
probability, for he is not in his own room."
"What! not in his own room?" cried Fouquet, whose last hope thus escaped
him; for unless he could ascertain in what way the bishop of Vannes could
assist him, he perfectly well knew that he could expect assistance from
no other quarter.
"Or, indeed," continued D'Artagnan, "if he is in his own room, he has very
good reasons for not answering."
"But surely you did not call him in such a manner that he could have
"You can hardly suppose, monseigneur, that having already exceeded my
orders, which forbade me leaving you a single moment - you can hardly
suppose, I say, that I should have been mad enough to rouse the whole
house and allow myself to be seen in the corridor of the bishop of
Vannes, in order that M. Colbert might state with positive certainty that
I gave you time to burn your papers."
"Of course; at least that is what I should have done in your place. When
any one opens a door for me I always avail myself of it."
"Yes, yes, and I thank you, for I have availed myself of it."
"And you have done perfectly right. Every man has his own peculiar
secrets with which others have nothing to do. But let us return to
"Well, then, I tell you, you could not have called loud enough, or Aramis
would have heard you."
"However softly any one may call Aramis, monseigneur, Aramis always hears
when he has an interest in hearing. I repeat what I said before - Aramis
was not in his own room, or Aramis had certain reasons for not
recognizing my voice, of which I am ignorant, and of which you may be
even ignorant yourself, notwithstanding your liege-man is His Greatness
the Lord Bishop of Vannes."
Fouquet drew a deep sigh, rose from his seat, took three or four turns in
his room, and finished by seating himself, with an expression of extreme
dejection, upon his magnificent bed with velvet hangings, and costliest
lace. D'Artagnan looked at Fouquet with feelings of the deepest and
"I have seen a good many men arrested in my life," said the musketeer,
sadly; "I have seen both M. de Cinq-Mars and M. de Chalais arrested,
though I was very young then. I have seen M. de Conde arrested with the
princes; I have seen M. de Retz arrested; I have seen M. Broussel
arrested. Stay a moment, monseigneur, it is disagreeable to have to
say, but the very one of all those whom you most resemble at this moment
was that poor fellow Broussel. You were very near doing as he did,
putting your dinner napkin in your portfolio, and wiping your mouth with
your papers. _Mordioux!_ Monseigneur Fouquet, a man like you ought not
to be dejected in this manner. Suppose your friends saw you?"
"Monsieur d'Artagnan," returned the surintendant, with a smile full of
gentleness, "you do not understand me; it is precisely because my friends
are not looking on, that I am as you see me now. I do not live, exist
even, isolated from others; I am nothing when left to myself. Understand
that throughout my whole life I have passed every moment of my time in
making friends, whom I hoped to render my stay and support. In times of
prosperity, all these cheerful, happy voices - rendered so through and by
my means - formed in my honor a concert of praise and kindly actions. In
the least disfavor, these humbler voices accompanied in harmonious
accents the murmur of my own heart. Isolation I have never yet known.
Poverty (a phantom I have sometimes beheld, clad in rags, awaiting me at
the end of my journey through life) - poverty has been the specter with
which many of my own friends have trifled for years past, which they
poetize and caress, and which has attracted me towards them. Poverty! I
accept it, acknowledge it, receive it, as a disinherited sister; for
poverty is neither solitude, nor exile, nor imprisonment. Is it likely I
shall ever be poor, with such friends as Pelisson, as La Fontaine, as
Moliere? with such a mistress as - Oh! if you knew how utterly lonely and
desolate I feel at this moment, and how you, who separate me from all I
love, seem to resemble the image of solitude, of annihilation - death
"But I have already told you, Monsieur Fouquet," replied D'Artagnan,
moved to the depths of his soul, "that you are woefully exaggerating.
The king likes you."
"No, no," said Fouquet, shaking his head.
"M. Colbert hates you."
"M. Colbert! What does that matter to me?"
"He will ruin you."
"Ah! I defy him to do that, for I am ruined already."
At this singular confession of the superintendent, D'Artagnan cast his
glance all round the room; and although he did not open his lips, Fouquet
understood him so thoroughly, that he added: "What can be done with such
wealth of substance as surrounds us, when a man can no longer cultivate
his taste for the magnificent? Do you know what good the greater part of
the wealth and the possessions which we rich enjoy, confer upon us?
merely to disgust us, by their very splendor even, with everything which
does not equal it! Vaux! you will say, and the wonders of Vaux! What of
it? What boot these wonders? If I am ruined, how shall I fill with
water the urns which my Naiads bear in their arms, or force the air into
the lungs of my Tritons? To be rich enough, Monsieur d'Artagnan, a man
must be too rich."
D'Artagnan shook his head.
"Oh! I know very well what you think," replied Fouquet, quickly. "If
Vaux were yours, you would sell it, and would purchase an estate in the
country; an estate which should have woods, orchards, and land attached,
so that the estate should be made to support its master. With forty
millions you might - "
"Ten millions," interrupted D'Artagnan.
"Not a million, my dear captain. No one in France is rich enough to give
two millions for Vaux, and to continue to maintain it as I have done; no
one could do it, no one would know how."
"Well," said D'Artagnan, "in any case, a million is not abject misery."
"It is not far from it, my dear monsieur. But you do not understand me.
No; I will not sell my residence at Vaux; I will give it to you, if you
like;" and Fouquet accompanied these words with a movement of the
shoulders to which it would be impossible to do justice.
"Give it to the king; you will make a better bargain."
"The king does not require me to give it to him," said Fouquet; "he will
take it away from me with the most absolute ease and grace, if it pleases
him to do so; and that is the very reason I should prefer to see it
perish. Do you know, Monsieur d'Artagnan, that if the king did not
happen to be under my roof, I would take this candle, go straight to the
dome, and set fire to a couple of huge chests of fusees and fireworks
which are in reserve there, and would reduce my palace to ashes."
"Bah!" said the musketeer, negligently. "At all events, you would not be
able to burn the gardens, and that is the finest feature of the place."
"And yet," resumed Fouquet, thoughtfully, "what was I saying? Great
heavens! burn Vaux! destroy my palace! But Vaux is not mine; these
wonderful creations are, it is true, the property, as far as sense of
enjoyment goes, of the man who has paid for them; but as far as duration
is concerned, they belong to those who created them. Vaux belongs to
Lebrun, to Lenotre, to Pelisson, to Levau, to La Fontaine, to Moliere;
Vaux belongs to posterity, in fact. You see, Monsieur d'Artagnan, that
my very house has ceased to be my own."
"That is all well and good," said D'Artagnan; "the idea is agreeable
enough, and I recognize M. Fouquet himself in it. That idea, indeed,
makes me forget that poor fellow Broussel altogether; and I now fail to
recognize in you the whining complaints of that old Frondeur. If you
are ruined, monsieur, look at the affair manfully, for you too,
_mordioux!_ belong to posterity, and have no right to lessen yourself in
any way. Stay a moment; look at me, I who seem to exercise in some
degree a kind of superiority over you, because I am arresting you; fate,
which distributes their different parts to the comedians of this world,
accorded me a less agreeable and less advantageous part to fill than
yours has been. I am one of those who think that the parts which kings
and powerful nobles are called upon to act are infinitely of more worth
than the parts of beggars or lackeys. It is far better on the stage - on
the stage, I mean, of another theater than the theater of this world - it
is far better to wear a fine coat and to talk a fine language, than to
walk the boards shod with a pair of old shoes, or to get one's backbone
gently polished by a hearty dressing with a stick. In one word, you have
been a prodigal with money, you have ordered and been obeyed - have been
steeped to the lips in enjoyment; while I have dragged my tether after
me, have been commanded and have obeyed, and have drudged my life away.
Well, although I may seem of such trifling importance beside you,
monseigneur, I do declare to you, that the recollection of what I have
done serves me as a spur, and prevents me from bowing my old head too
soon. I shall remain unto the very end a trooper; and when my turn
comes, I shall fall perfectly straight, all in a heap, still alive, after
having selected my place beforehand. Do as I do, Monsieur Fouquet, you
will not find yourself the worse for it; a fall happens only once in a
lifetime to men like yourself, and the chief thing is, to take it
gracefully when the chance presents itself. There is a Latin proverb -
the words have escaped me, but I remember the sense of it very well, for
I have thought over it more than once - which says, 'The end crowns the
Fouquet rose from his seat, passed his arm round D'Artagnan's neck, and
clasped him in a close embrace, whilst with the other hand he pressed his
hand. "An excellent homily," he said, after a moment's pause.
"A soldier's, monseigneur."
"You have a regard for me, in telling me all that."
Fouquet resumed his pensive attitude once more, and then, a moment after,
he said: "Where can M. d'Herblay be? I dare not ask you to send for him."
"You would not ask me, because I would not do it, Monsieur Fouquet.
People would learn it, and Aramis, who is not mixed up with the affair,
might possibly be compromised and included in your disgrace."
"I will wait here till daylight," said Fouquet.
"Yes; that is best."
"What shall we do when daylight comes?"
"I know nothing at all about it, monseigneur."
"Monsieur d'Artagnan, will you do me a favor?"
"You guard me, I remain; you are acting in the full discharge of your
duty, I suppose?"
"Very good, then; remain as close to me as my shadow if you like; and I
infinitely prefer such a shadow to any one else."
D'Artagnan bowed to the compliment.
"But, forget that you are Monsieur d'Artagnan, captain of the musketeers;
forget that I am Monsieur Fouquet, surintendant of the finances; and let
us talk about my affairs."
"That is rather a delicate subject."
"Yes; but, for your sake, Monsieur Fouquet, I will do what may almost be
regarded as an impossibility."
"Thank you. What did the king say to you?"
"Ah! is that the way you talk?"
"What do you think of my situation?"
"I do not know."
"However, unless you have some ill feeling against me - "
"Your position is a difficult one."
"In what respect?"
"Because you are under your own roof."
"However difficult it may be, I understand it very well."
"Do you suppose that, with any one else but yourself, I should have
shown so much frankness?"
"What! so much frankness, do you say? you, who refuse to tell me the
"At all events, then, so much ceremony and consideration."
"Ah! I have nothing to say in that respect."
"One moment, monseigneur: let me tell you how I should have behaved
towards any one but yourself. It might be that I happened to arrive at
your door just as your guests or your friends had left you - or, if they
had not gone yet, I should wait until they were leaving, and should then
catch them one after the other, like rabbits; I should lock them up
quietly enough, I should steal softly along the carpet of your corridor,
and with one hand upon you, before you suspected the slightest thing
amiss, I should keep you safely until my master's breakfast in the
morning. In this way, I should just the same have avoided all publicity,
all disturbance, all opposition; but there would also have been no
warning for M. Fouquet, no consideration for his feelings, none of those
delicate concessions which are shown by persons who are essentially
courteous in their natures, whenever the decisive moment may arrive.
Are you satisfied with the plan?"
"It makes me shudder."
"I thought you would not like it. It would have been very disagreeable
to have made my appearance to-morrow, without any preparation, and to
have asked you to deliver up your sword."
"Oh! monsieur, I should have died of shame and anger."
"Your gratitude is too eloquently expressed. I have not done enough to
deserve it, I assure you."
"Most certainly, monsieur, you will never get me to believe that."
"Well, then, monseigneur, if you are satisfied with what I have done, and
have somewhat recovered from the shock which I prepared you for as much
as I possibly could, let us allow the few hours that remain to pass away
undisturbed. You are harassed, and should arrange your thoughts; I beg
you, therefore, go to sleep, or pretend to go to sleep, either on your
bed, or in your bed; I will sleep in this armchair; and when I fall
asleep, my rest is so sound that a cannon would not wake me."
Fouquet smiled. "I expect, however," continued the musketeer, "the case
of a door being opened, whether a secret door, or any other; or the case
of any one going out of, or coming into, the room - for anything like
that my ear is as quick and sensitive as the ear of a mouse. Creaking
noises make me start. It arises, I suppose, from a natural antipathy to
anything of the kind. Move about as much as you like; walk up and down
in any part of the room, write, efface, destroy, burn, - nothing like
that will prevent me from going to sleep or even prevent me from snoring,
but do not touch either the key or the handle of the door, for I should
start up in a moment, and that would shake my nerves and make me ill."
"Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Fouquet, "you are certainly the most witty
and the most courteous man I ever met with; and you will leave me only
one regret, that of having made your acquaintance so late."
D'Artagnan drew a deep sigh, which seemed to say, "Alas! you have perhaps
made it too soon." He then settled himself in his armchair, while
Fouquet, half lying on his bed and leaning on his arm, was meditating on
his misadventures. In this way, both of them, leaving the candles
burning, awaited the first dawn of the day; and when Fouquet happened to
sigh too loudly, D'Artagnan only snored the louder. Not a single visit,
not even from Aramis, disturbed their quietude: not a sound even was
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