The Man in the Iron Mask
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 5 out of 12
heard throughout the whole vast palace. Outside, however, the guards of
honor on duty, and the patrol of musketeers, paced up and down; and the
sound of their feet could be heard on the gravel walks. It seemed to act
as an additional soporific for the sleepers, while the murmuring of the
wind through the trees, and the unceasing music of the fountains whose
waters tumbled in the basin, still went on uninterruptedly, without being
disturbed at the slight noises and items of little moment that constitute
the life and death of human nature.
In vivid contrast to the sad and terrible destiny of the king imprisoned
in the Bastile, and tearing, in sheer despair, the bolts and bars of his
dungeon, the rhetoric of the chroniclers of old would not fail to
present, as a complete antithesis, the picture of Philippe lying asleep
beneath the royal canopy. We do not pretend to say that such rhetoric is
always bad, and always scatters, in places where they have no right to
grow, the flowers with which it embellishes and enlivens history. But we
shall, on the present occasion, carefully avoid polishing the antithesis
in question, but shall proceed to draw another picture as minutely as
possible, to serve as foil and counterfoil to the one in the preceding
chapter. The young prince alighted from Aramis's room, in the same way
the king had descended from the apartment dedicated to Morpheus. The
dome gradually and slowly sank down under Aramis's pressure, and Philippe
stood beside the royal bed, which had ascended again after having
deposited its prisoner in the secret depths of the subterranean passage.
Alone, in the presence of all the luxury which surrounded him; alone, in
the presence of his power; alone, with the part he was about to be forced
to act, Philippe for the first time felt his heart, and mind, and soul
expand beneath the influence of a thousand mutable emotions, which are
the vital throbs of a king's heart. He could not help changing color
when he looked upon the empty bed, still tumbled by his brother's body.
This mute accomplice had returned, after having completed the work it had
been destined to perform; it returned with the traces of the crime; it
spoke to the guilty author of that crime, with the frank and unreserved
language which an accomplice never fears to use in the company of his
companion in guilt; for it spoke the truth. Philippe bent over the bed,
and perceived a pocket-handkerchief lying on it, which was still damp
from the cold sweat which had poured from Louis XIV.'s face. This sweat-
bestained handkerchief terrified Philippe, as the gore of Abel frightened
"I am face to face with my destiny," said Philippe, his eyes on fire, and
his face a livid white. "Is it likely to be more terrifying than my
captivity has been sad and gloomy? Though I am compelled to follow out,
at every moment, the sovereign power and authority I have usurped, shall
I cease to listen to the scruples of my heart? Yes! the king has lain on
this bed; it is indeed his head that has left its impression on this
pillow; his bitter tears that have stained this handkerchief: and yet, I
hesitate to throw myself on the bed, or to press in my hand the
handkerchief which is embroidered with my brother's arms. Away with such
weakness; let me imitate M. d'Herblay, who asserts that a man's action
should be always one degree above his thoughts; let me imitate M.
d'Herblay, whose thoughts are of and for himself alone, who regards
himself as a man of honor, so long as he injures or betrays his enemies
only. I, I alone, should have occupied this bed, if Louis XIV. had not,
owing to my mother's criminal abandonment, stood in my way; and this
handkerchief, embroidered with the arms of France, would in right and
justice belong to me alone, if, as M. d'Herblay observes, I had been left
my royal cradle. Philippe, son of France, take your place on that bed;
Philippe, sole king of France, resume the blazonry that is yours!
Philippe, sole heir presumptive to Louis XIII., your father, show
yourself without pity or mercy for the usurper who, at this moment, has
not even to suffer the agony of the remorse of all that you have had to
With these words, Philippe, notwithstanding an instinctive repugnance of
feeling, and in spite of the shudder of terror which mastered his will,
threw himself on the royal bed, and forced his muscles to press the still
warm place where Louis XIV. had lain, while he buried his burning face in
the handkerchief still moistened by his brother's tears. With his head
thrown back and buried in the soft down of his pillow, Philippe perceived
above him the crown of France, suspended, as we have stated, by angels
with outspread golden wings.
A man may be ambitious of lying in a lion's den, but can hardly hope to
sleep there quietly. Philippe listened attentively to every sound; his
heart panted and throbbed at the very suspicion of approaching terror and
misfortune; but confident in his own strength, which was confirmed by the
force of an overpoweringly resolute determination, he waited until some
decisive circumstance should permit him to judge for himself. He hoped
that imminent danger might be revealed to him, like those phosphoric
lights of the tempest which show the sailors the altitude of the waves
against which they have to struggle. But nothing approached. Silence,
that mortal enemy of restless hearts, and of ambitious minds, shrouded
in the thickness of its gloom during the remainder of the night the
future king of France, who lay there sheltered beneath his stolen crown.
Towards the morning a shadow, rather than a body, glided into the royal
chamber; Philippe expected his approach and neither expressed nor
exhibited any surprise.
"Well, M. d'Herblay?"
"Well, sire, all is accomplished."
"Exactly as we expected."
"Did he resist?"
"Terribly! tears and entreaties."
"A perfect stupor."
"But at last?"
"Oh! at last, a complete victory, and absolute silence."
"Did the governor of the Bastile suspect anything?"
"The resemblance, however - "
"Was the cause of the success."
"But the prisoner cannot fail to explain himself. Think well of that. I
have myself been able to do as much as that, on former occasion."
"I have already provided for every chance. In a few days, sooner if
necessary, we will take the captive out of his prison, and will send him
out of the country, to a place of exile so remote - "
"People can return from their exile, Monsieur d'Herblay."
"To a place of exile so distant, I was going to say, that human strength
and the duration of human life would not be enough for his return."
Once more a cold look of intelligence passed between Aramis and the young
"And M. du Vallon?" asked Philippe in order to change the conversation.
"He will be presented to you to-day, and confidentially will congratulate
you on the danger which that conspirator has made you run."
"What is to be done with him?"
"With M. du Vallon?"
"Yes; confer a dukedom on him, I suppose."
"A dukedom," replied Aramis, smiling in a significant manner.
"Why do you laugh, Monsieur d'Herblay?"
"I laugh at the extreme caution of your idea."
"Cautious, why so?"
"Your majesty is doubtless afraid that poor Porthos may possible become a
troublesome witness, and you wish to get rid of him."
"What! in making him a duke?"
"Certainly; you would assuredly kill him, for he would die from joy, and
the secret would die with him."
"Yes," said Aramis, phlegmatically; "I should lose a very good friend."
At this moment, and in the middle of this idle conversation, under the
light tone of which the two conspirators concealed their joy and pride at
their mutual success, Aramis heard something which made him prick up his
"What is that?" said Philippe.
"The dawn, sire."
"Well, before you retired to bed last night, you probably decided to do
something this morning at break of day."
"Yes, I told my captain of the musketeers," replied the young man
hurriedly, "that I should expect him."
"If you told him that, he will certainly be here, for he is a most
"I hear a step in the vestibule."
"It must be he."
"Come, let us begin the attack," said the young king resolutely.
"Be cautious for Heaven's sake. To begin the attack, and with
D'Artagnan, would be madness. D'Artagnan knows nothing, he has seen
nothing; he is a hundred miles from suspecting our mystery in the
slightest degree, but if he comes into this room the first this morning,
he will be sure to detect something of what has taken place, and which he
would imagine it his business to occupy himself about. Before we allow
D'Artagnan to penetrate into this room, we must air the room thoroughly,
or introduce so many people into it, that the keenest scent in the whole
kingdom may be deceived by the traces of twenty different persons."
"But how can I send him away, since I have given him a rendezvous?"
observed the prince, impatient to measure swords with so redoubtable an
"I will take care of that," replied the bishop, "and in order to begin, I
am going to strike a blow which will completely stupefy our man."
"He, too, is striking a blow, for I hear him at the door," added the
And, in fact, a knock at the door was heard at that moment. Aramis was
not mistaken; for it was indeed D'Artagnan who adopted that mode of
We have seen how he passed the night in philosophizing with M. Fouquet,
but the musketeer was very weary even of feigning to fall asleep, and as
soon as earliest dawn illumined with its gloomy gleams of light the
sumptuous cornices of the superintendent's room, D'Artagnan rose from his
armchair, arranged his sword, brushed his coat and hat with his sleeve,
like a private soldier getting ready for inspection.
"Are you going out?" said Fouquet.
"Yes, monseigneur. And you?"
"I shall remain."
"You pledge your word?"
"Very good. Besides, my only reason for going out is to try and get that
reply, - you know what I mean?"
"That sentence, you mean - "
"Stay, I have something of the old Roman in me. This morning, when I got
up, I remarked that my sword had got caught in one of the _aiguillettes_,
and that my shoulder-belt had slipped quite off. That is an infallible
"Yes, be sure of it; for every time that that confounded belt of mine
stuck fast to my back, it always signified a punishment from M. de
Treville, or a refusal of money by M. de Mazarin. Every time my sword
hung fast to my shoulder-belt, it always predicted some disagreeable
commission or another for me to execute, and I have had showers of them
all my life through. Every time, too, my sword danced about in its
sheath, a duel, fortunate in its result, was sure to follow: whenever it
dangled about the calves of my legs, it signified a slight wound; every
time it fell completely out of the scabbard, I was booked, and made up my
mind that I should have to remain on the field of battle, with two or
three months under surgical bandages into the bargain."
"I did not know your sword kept you so well informed," said Fouquet, with
a faint smile, which showed how he was struggling against his own
weakness. "Is your sword bewitched, or under the influence of some
"Why, you must know that my sword may almost be regarded as part of my
own body. I have heard that certain men seem to have warnings given them
by feeling something the matter with their legs, or a throbbing of their
temples. With me, it is my sword that warns me. Well, it told me of
nothing this morning. But, stay a moment - look here, it has just fallen
of its own accord into the last hole of the belt. Do you know what that
is a warning of?"
"Well, that tells me of an arrest that will have to be made this very
"Well," said the surintendant, more astonished than annoyed by this
frankness, "if there is nothing disagreeable predicted to you by your
sword, I am to conclude that it is not disagreeable for you to arrest me."
"You! arrest _you!_"
"Of course. The warning - "
"Does not concern you, since you have been arrested ever since
yesterday. It is not you I shall have to arrest, be assured of that.
That is the reason why I am delighted, and also the reason why I said
that my day will be a happy one."
And with these words, pronounced with the most affectionate graciousness
of manner, the captain took leave of Fouquet in order to wait upon the
king. He was on the point of leaving the room, when Fouquet said to him,
"One last mark of kindness."
"What is it, monseigneur?"
"M. d'Herblay; let me see Monsieur d'Herblay."
"I am going to try and get him to come to you."
D'Artagnan did not think himself so good a prophet. It was written that
the day would pass away and realize all the predictions that had been
made in the morning. He had accordingly knocked, as we have seen, at the
king's door. The door opened. The captain thought that it was the king
who had just opened it himself; and this supposition was not altogether
inadmissible, considering the state of agitation in which he had left
Louis XIV. the previous evening; but instead of his royal master, whom he
was on the point of saluting with the greatest respect, he perceived the
long, calm features of Aramis. So extreme was his surprise that he could
hardly refrain from uttering a loud exclamation. "Aramis!" he said.
"Good morning, dear D'Artagnan," replied the prelate, coldly.
"You here!" stammered out the musketeer.
"His majesty desires you to report that he is still sleeping, after
having been greatly fatigued during the whole night."
"Ah!" said D'Artagnan, who could not understand how the bishop of Vannes,
who had been so indifferent a favorite the previous evening, had become
in half a dozen hours the most magnificent mushroom of fortune that had
ever sprung up in a sovereign's bedroom. In fact, to transmit the orders
of the king even to the mere threshold of that monarch's room, to serve
as an intermediary of Louis XIV. so as to be able to give a single order
in his name at a couple paces from him, he must have become more than
Richelieu had ever been to Louis XIII. D'Artagnan's expressive eye, half-
opened lips, his curling mustache, said as much indeed in the plainest
language to the chief favorite, who remained calm and perfectly unmoved.
"Moreover," continued the bishop, "you will be good enough, monsieur le
capitaine des mousquetaires, to allow those only to pass into the king's
room this morning who have special permission. His majesty does not wish
to be disturbed just yet."
"But," objected D'Artagnan, almost on the point of refusing to obey this
order, and particularly of giving unrestrained passage to the suspicions
which the king's silence had aroused - "but, monsieur l'eveque, his
majesty gave me a rendezvous for this morning."
"Later, later," said the king's voice, from the bottom of the alcove; a
voice which made a cold shudder pass through the musketeer's veins. He
bowed, amazed, confused, and stupefied by the smile with which Aramis
seemed to overwhelm him, as soon as these words had been pronounced.
"And then," continued the bishop, "as an answer to what you were coming
to ask the king, my dear D'Artagnan, here is an order of his majesty,
which you will be good enough to attend to forthwith, for it concerns M.
D'Artagnan took the order which was held out to him. "To be set at
liberty!" he murmured. "Ah!" and he uttered a second "ah!" still more
full of intelligence than the former; for this order explained Aramis's
presence with the king, and that Aramis, in order to have obtained
Fouquet's pardon, must have made considerable progress in the royal
favor, and that this favor explained, in its tenor, the hardly
conceivable assurance with which M. d'Herblay issued the order in the
king's name. For D'Artagnan it was quite sufficient to have understood
something of the matter in hand to order to understand the rest. He
bowed and withdrew a couple of paces, as though he were about to leave.
"I am going with you," said the bishop.
"To M. Fouquet; I wish to be a witness of his delight."
"Ah! Aramis, how you puzzled me just now!" said D'Artagnan again.
"But you understand _now_, I suppose?"
"Of course I understand," he said aloud; but added in a low tone to
himself, almost hissing the words between his teeth, "No, no, I do not
understand yet. But it is all the same, for here is the order for it."
And then he added, "I will lead the way, monseigneur," and he conducted
Aramis to Fouquet's apartments.
The King's Friend.
Fouquet was waiting with anxiety; he had already sent away many of his
servants and friends, who, anticipating the usual hour of his ordinary
receptions, had called at his door to inquire after him. Preserving the
utmost silence respecting the danger which hung suspended by a hair above
his head, he only asked them, as he did every one, indeed, who came to
the door, where Aramis was. When he saw D'Artagnan return, and when he
perceived the bishop of Vannes behind him, he could hardly restrain his
delight; it was fully equal to his previous uneasiness. The mere sight
of Aramis was a complete compensation to the surintendant for the
unhappiness he had undergone in his arrest. The prelate was silent and
grave; D'Artagnan completely bewildered by such an accumulation of events.
"Well, captain, so you have brought M. d'Herblay to me."
"And something better still, monseigneur."
"What is that?"
"I am free!"
"Yes; by the king's order."
Fouquet resumed his usual serenity, that he might interrogate Aramis with
"Oh! yes, you can thank M. l'eveque de Vannes," pursued D'Artagnan, "for
it is indeed to him that you owe the change that has taken place in the
"Oh!" said Fouquet, more humiliated at the service than grateful at its
"But you," continued D'Artagnan, addressing Aramis - "you, who have
become M. Fouquet's protector and patron, can you not do something for
"Anything in the wide world you like, my friend," replied the bishop, in
his calmest tones.
"One thing only, then, and I shall be perfectly satisfied. How on earth
did you manage to become the favorite of the king, you who have never
spoken to him more than twice in your life?"
"From a friend such as you are," said Aramis, "I cannot conceal anything."
"Ah! very good, tell me, then."
"Very well. You think that I have seen the king only twice, whilst the
fact is I have seen him more than a hundred times; only we have kept it
very secret, that is all." And without trying to remove the color which
at this revelation made D'Artagnan's face flush scarlet, Aramis turned
towards M. Fouquet, who was as much surprised as the musketeer.
"Monseigneur," he resumed, "the king desires me to inform you that he is
more than ever your friend, and that your beautiful _fete_, so generously
offered by you on his behalf, has touched him to the very heart."
And thereupon he saluted M. Fouquet with so much reverence of manner,
that the latter, incapable of understanding a man whose diplomacy was of
so prodigious a character, remained incapable of uttering a single
syllable, and equally incapable of thought or movement. D'Artagnan
fancied he perceived that these two men had something to say to each
other, and he was about to yield to that feeling of instinctive
politeness which in such a case hurries a man towards the door, when he
feels his presence is an inconvenience for others; but his eager
curiosity, spurred on by so many mysteries, counseled him to remain.
Aramis thereupon turned towards him, and said, in a quiet tone, "You will
not forget, my friend, the king's order respecting those whom he intends
to receive this morning on rising." These words were clear enough, and
the musketeer understood them; he therefore bowed to Fouquet, and then to
Aramis, - to the latter with a slight admixture of ironical respect, -
No sooner had he left, than Fouquet, whose impatience had hardly been
able to wait for that moment, darted towards the door to close it, and
then returning to the bishop, he said, "My dear D'Herblay, I think it now
high time you should explain all that has passed, for, in plain and
honest truth, I do not understand anything."
"We will explain all that to you," said Aramis, sitting down, and making
Fouquet sit down also. "Where shall I begin?"
"With this first of all. Why does the king set me at liberty?"
"You ought rather to ask me what his reason was for having you arrested."
"Since my arrest, I have had time to think over it, and my idea is that
it arises out of some slight feeling of jealousy. My _fete_ put M.
Colbert out of temper, and M. Colbert discovered some cause of complaint
against me; Belle-Isle, for instance."
"No; there is no question at all just now of Belle-Isle."
"What is it, then?"
"Do you remember those receipts for thirteen millions which M. de Mazarin
contrived to steal from you?"
"Yes, of course!"
"Well, you are pronounced a public robber."
"Oh! that is not all. Do you also remember that letter you wrote to La
"And that proclaims you a traitor and a suborner."
"Why should he have pardoned me, then?"
"We have not yet arrived at that part of our argument. I wish you to be
quite convinced of the fact itself. Observe this well: the king knows
you to be guilty of an appropriation of public funds. Oh! of course _I_
know that you have done nothing of the kind; but, at all events, the king
has seen the receipts, and he can do no other than believe you are
"I beg your pardon, I do not see - "
"You will see presently, though. The king, moreover, having read your
love-letter to La Valliere, and the offers you there made her, cannot
retain any doubt of your intentions with regard to that young lady; you
will admit that, I suppose?"
"Certainly. Pray conclude."
"In the fewest words. The king, we may henceforth assume, is your
powerful, implacable, and eternal enemy."
"Agreed. But am I, then, so powerful, that he has not dared to sacrifice
me, notwithstanding his hatred, with all the means which my weakness, or
my misfortunes, may have given him as a hold upon me?"
"It is clear, beyond all doubt," pursued Aramis, coldly, "that the king
has quarreled with you - irreconcilably."
"But, since he has absolved me - "
"Do you believe it likely?" asked the bishop, with a searching look.
"Without believing in his sincerity, I believe it in the accomplished
Aramis slightly shrugged his shoulders.
"But why, then, should Louis XIV. have commissioned you to tell me what
you have just stated?"
"The king charged me with no message for you."
"With nothing!" said the superintendent, stupefied. "But, that order - "
"Oh! yes. You are quite right. There _is_ an order, certainly;" and
these words were pronounced by Aramis in so strange a tone, that Fouquet
could not resist starting.
"You are concealing something from me, I see. What is it?"
Aramis softly rubbed his white fingers over his chin, but said nothing.
"Does the king exile me?"
"Do not act as if you were playing at the game children play at when they
have to try and guess where a thing has been hidden, and are informed, by
a bell being rung, when they are approaching near to it, or going away
"You alarm me."
"Bah! that is because you have not guessed, then."
"What did the king say to you? In the name of our friendship, do not
"The king has not said one word to me."
"You are killing me with impatience, D'Herblay. Am I still
"As long as you like."
"But what extraordinary empire have you so suddenly acquired over his
"Ah! that's the point."
"He does your bidding?"
"I believe so."
"It is hardly credible."
"So any one would say."
"D'Herblay, by our alliance, by our friendship, by everything you hold
dearest in the world, speak openly, I implore you. By what means have
you succeeded in overcoming Louis XIV.'s prejudices, for he did not like
you, I am certain."
"The king will like me _now_," said Aramis, laying stress upon the last
"You have something particular, then, between you?"
"A secret, perhaps?"
"A secret of such a nature as to change his majesty's interests?"
"You are, indeed, a man of superior intelligence, monseigneur, and have
made a particularly accurate guess. I have, in fact, discovered a
secret, of a nature to change the interests of the king of France."
"Ah!" said Fouquet, with the reserve of a man who does not wish to ask
any more questions.
"And you shall judge of it yourself," pursued Aramis; "and you shall tell
me if I am mistaken with regard to the importance of this secret."
"I am listening, since you are good enough to unbosom yourself to me;
only do not forget that I have asked you about nothing which it may be
indiscreet in you to communicate."
Aramis seemed, for a moment, as if he were collecting himself.
"Do not speak!" said Fouquet: "there is still time enough."
"Do you remember," said the bishop, casting down his eyes, "the birth of
"As if it were yesterday."
"Have you ever heard anything particular respecting his birth?"
"Nothing; except that the king was not really the son of Louis XIII."
"That does not matter to us, or the kingdom either; he is the son of his
father, says the French law, whose father is recognized by law."
"True; but it is a grave matter, when the quality of races is called into
"A merely secondary question, after all. So that, in fact, you have
never learned or heard anything in particular?"
"That is where my secret begins. The queen, you must know, instead of
being delivered of a son, was delivered of twins."
Fouquet looked up suddenly as he replied:
"And the second is dead?"
"You will see. These twins seemed likely to be regarded as the pride of
their mother, and the hope of France; but the weak nature of the king,
his superstitious feelings, made him apprehend a series of conflicts
between two children whose rights were equal; so he put out of the way -
he suppressed - one of the twins."
"Suppressed, do you say?"
"Have patience. Both the children grew up; the one on the throne, whose
minister you are - the other, who is my friend, in gloom and isolation."
"Good heavens! What are you saying, Monsieur d'Herblay? And what is
this poor prince doing?"
"Ask me, rather, what has he done."
"He was brought up in the country, and then thrown into a fortress which
goes by the name of the Bastile."
"Is it possible?" cried the surintendant, clasping his hands.
"The one was the most fortunate of men: the other the most unhappy and
miserable of all living beings."
"Does his mother not know this?"
"Anne of Austria knows it all."
"And the king?"
"Knows absolutely nothing."
"So much the better," said Fouquet.
This remark seemed to make a great impression on Aramis; he looked at
Fouquet with the most anxious expression of countenance.
"I beg your pardon; I interrupted you," said Fouquet.
"I was saying," resumed Aramis, "that this poor prince was the unhappiest
of human beings, when Heaven, whose thoughts are over all His creatures,
undertook to come to his assistance."
"Oh! in what way? Tell me."
"You will see. The reigning king - I say the reigning king - you can
guess very well why?"
"Because _both_ of them, being legitimate princes, ought to have been
kings. Is not that your opinion?"
"It is, certainly."
"Most unreservedly; twins are one person in two bodies."
"I am pleased that a legist of your learning and authority should have
pronounced such an opinion. It is agreed, then, that each of them
possessed equal rights, is it not?"
"Incontestably! but, gracious heavens, what an extraordinary
"We are not at the end of it yet. - Patience."
"Oh! I shall find 'patience' enough."
"Heaven wished to raise up for that oppressed child an avenger, or a
supporter, or vindicator, if you prefer it. It happened that the
reigning king, the usurper - you are quite of my opinion, I believe, that
it is an act of usurpation quietly to enjoy, and selfishly to assume the
right over, an inheritance to which a man has only half a right?"
"Yes, usurpation is the word."
"In that case, I continue. It was Heaven's will that the usurper should
possess, in the person of his first minister, a man of great talent, of
large and generous nature."
"Well, well," said Fouquet, "I understand you; you have relied upon me to
repair the wrong which has been done to this unhappy brother of Louis
XIV. You have thought well; I will help you. I thank you, D'Herblay, I
"Oh, no, it is not that at all; you have not allowed me to finish," said
Aramis, perfectly unmoved.
"I will not say another word, then."
"M. Fouquet, I was observing, the minister of the reigning sovereign, was
suddenly taken into the greatest aversion, and menaced with the ruin of
his fortune, loss of liberty, loss of life even, by intrigue and personal
hatred, to which the king gave too readily an attentive ear. But Heaven
permits (still, however, out of consideration for the unhappy prince who
had been sacrificed) that M. Fouquet should in his turn have a devoted
friend who knew this state secret, and felt that he possessed strength
and courage enough to divulge this secret, after having had the strength
to carry it locked up in his own heart for twenty years.
"Go no farther," said Fouquet, full of generous feelings. "I understand
you, and can guess everything now. You went to see the king when the
intelligence of my arrest reached you; you implored him, he refused to
listen to you; then you threatened him with that secret, threatened to
reveal it, and Louis XIV., alarmed at the risk of its betrayal, granted
to the terror of your indiscretion what he refused to your generous
intercession. I understand, I understand; you have the king in your
power; I understand."
"You understand _nothing_ - as yet," replied Aramis, "and again you
interrupt me. Then, too, allow me to observe that you pay no attention
to logical reasoning, and seem to forget what you ought most to remember."
"What do you mean?"
"You know upon what I laid the greatest stress at the beginning of our
"Yes, his majesty's hate, invincible hate for me; yes, but what feeling
of hate could resist the threat of such a revelation?"
"Such a revelation, do you say? that is the very point where your logic
fails you. What! do you suppose that if I had made such a revelation to
the king, I should have been alive now?"
"It is not ten minutes ago that you were with the king."
"That may be. He might not have had the time to get me killed outright,
but he would have had the time to get me gagged and thrown in a dungeon.
Come, come, show a little consistency in your reasoning, _mordieu!_"
And by the mere use of this word, which was so thoroughly his old
musketeer's expression, forgotten by one who never seemed to forget
anything, Fouquet could not but understand to what a pitch of exaltation
the calm, impenetrable bishop of Vannes had wrought himself. He
"And then," replied the latter, after having mastered his feelings,
"should I be the man I really am, should I be the true friend you believe
me, if I were to expose you, whom the king already hates so bitterly, to
a feeling more than ever to be dreaded in that young man? To have robbed
him, is nothing; to have addressed the woman he loves, is not much; but
to hold in your keeping both his crown and his honor, why, he would pluck
out your heart with his own hands."
"You have not allowed him to penetrate your secret, then?"
"I would sooner, far sooner, have swallowed at one draught all the
poisons that Mithridates drank in twenty years, in order to try and avoid
death, than have betrayed my secret to the king."
"What have you done, then?"
"Ah! now we are coming to the point, monseigneur. I think I shall not
fail to excite in you a little interest. You are listening, I hope."
"How can you ask me if I am listening? Go on."
Aramis walked softly all round the room, satisfied himself that they were
alone, and that all was silent, and then returned and placed himself
close to the armchair in which Fouquet was seated, awaiting with the
deepest anxiety the revelation he had to make.
"I forgot to tell you," resumed Aramis, addressing himself to Fouquet,
who listened to him with the most absorbed attention - "I forgot to
mention a most remarkable circumstance respecting these twins, namely,
that God had formed them so startlingly, so miraculously, like each
other, that it would be utterly impossible to distinguish the one from
the other. Their own mother would not be able to distinguish them."
"Is it possible?" exclaimed Fouquet.
"The same noble character in their features, the same carriage, the same
stature, the same voice."
"But their thoughts? degree of intelligence? their knowledge of human
"There is inequality there, I admit, monseigneur. Yes; for the prisoner
of the Bastile is, most incontestably, superior in every way to his
brother; and if, from his prison, this unhappy victim were to pass to the
throne, France would not, from the earliest period of its history,
perhaps, have had a master more powerful in genius and nobility of
Fouquet buried his face in his hands, as if he were overwhelmed by the
weight of this immense secret. Aramis approached him.
"There is a further inequality," he said, continuing his work of
temptation, "an inequality which concerns yourself, monseigneur, between
the twins, both sons of Louis XIII., namely, the last comer does not know
Fouquet raised his head immediately - his features were pale and
distorted. The bolt had hit its mark - not his heart, but his mind and
"I understand you," he said to Aramis; "you are proposing a conspiracy to
"Something like it."
"One of those attempts which, as you said at the beginning of this
conversation, alters the fate of empires?"
"And of superintendents, too; yes, monseigneur."
"In a word, you propose that I should agree to the substitution of the
son of Louis XIII., who is now a prisoner in the Bastile, for the son of
Louis XIII., who is at this moment asleep in the Chamber of Morpheus?"
Aramis smiled with the sinister expression of the sinister thought which
was passing through his brain. "Exactly," he said.
"Have you thought," continued Fouquet, becoming animated with that
strength of talent which in a few seconds originates, and matures the
conception of a plan, and with that largeness of view which foresees all
consequences, and embraces every result at a glance - "have you thought
that we must assemble the nobility, the clergy, and the third estate of
the realm; that we shall have to depose the reigning sovereign, to
disturb by so frightful a scandal the tomb of their dead father, to
sacrifice the life, the honor of a woman, Anne of Austria, the life and
peace of mind and heart of another woman, Maria Theresa; and suppose that
it were all done, if we were to succeed in doing it - "
"I do not understand you," continued Aramis, coldly. "There is not a
single syllable of sense in all you have just said."
"What!" said the superintendent, surprised, "a man like you refuse to
view the practical bearing of the case! Do you confine yourself to the
childish delight of a political illusion, and neglect the chances of its
being carried into execution; in other words, the reality itself, is it
"My friend," said Aramis, emphasizing the word with a kind of disdainful
familiarity, "what does Heaven do in order to substitute one king for
"Heaven!" exclaimed Fouquet - "Heaven gives directions to its agent, who
seizes upon the doomed victim, hurries him away, and seats the triumphant
rival on the empty throne. But you forget that this agent is called
death. Oh! Monsieur d'Herblay, in Heaven's name, tell me if you have
had the idea - "
"There is no question of that, monseigneur; you are going beyond the
object in view. Who spoke of Louis XIV.'s death? who spoke of adopting
the example which Heaven sets in following out the strict execution of
its decrees? No, I wish you to understand that Heaven effects its
purposes without confusion or disturbance, without exciting comment or
remark, without difficulty or exertion; and that men, inspired by Heaven,
succeed like Heaven itself, in all their undertakings, in all they
attempt, in all they do."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, my _friend_," returned Aramis, with the same intonation on the
word friend that he had applied to it the first time - "I mean that if
there has been any confusion, scandal, and even effort in the
substitution of the prisoner for the king, I defy you to prove it."
"What!" cried Fouquet, whiter than the handkerchief with which he wiped
his temples, "what do you say?"
"Go to the king's apartment," continued Aramis, tranquilly, "and you who
know the mystery, I defy even you to perceive that the prisoner of the
Bastile is lying in his brother's bed."
"But the king," stammered Fouquet, seized with horror at the intelligence.
"What king?" said Aramis, in his gentlest tone; "the one who hates you,
or the one who likes you?"
"The king - of - _yesterday_."
"The king of yesterday! be quite easy on that score; he has gone to take
the place in the Bastile which his victim occupied for so many years."
"Great God! And who took him there?"
"Yes, and in the simplest way. I carried him away last night. While he
was descending into midnight, the other was ascending into day. I do not
think there has been any disturbance whatever. A flash of lightning
without thunder awakens nobody."
Fouquet uttered a thick, smothered cry, as if he had been struck by some
invisible blow, and clasping his head between his clenched hands, he
murmured: "You did that?"
"Cleverly enough, too; what do you think of it?"
"You dethroned the king? imprisoned him, too?"
"Yes, that has been done."
"And such an action was committed _here_, at Vaux?"
"Yes, here, at Vaux, in the Chamber of Morpheus. It would almost seem
that it had been built in anticipation of such an act."
"And at what time did it occur?"
"Last night, between twelve and one o'clock."
Fouquet made a movement as if he were on the point of springing upon
Aramis; he restrained himself. "At Vaux; under my roof!" he said, in a
"I believe so! for it is still your house, and it is likely to continue
so, since M. Colbert cannot rob you of it now."
"It was under my roof, then, monsieur, that you committed this crime?"
"This crime?" said Aramis, stupefied.
"This abominable crime!" pursued Fouquet, becoming more and more excited;
"this crime more execrable than an assassination! this crime which
dishonors my name forever, and entails upon me the horror of posterity."
"You are not in your senses, monsieur," replied Aramis, in an irresolute
tone of voice; "you are speaking too loudly; take care!"
"I will call out so loudly, that the whole world shall hear me."
"Monsieur Fouquet, take care!"
Fouquet turned round towards the prelate, whom he looked at full in the
face. "You have dishonored me," he said, "in committing so foul an act
of treason, so heinous a crime upon my guest, upon one who was peacefully
reposing beneath my roof. Oh! woe, woe is me!"
"Woe to the man, rather, who beneath your roof meditated the ruin of your
fortune, your life. Do you forget that?"
"He was my guest, my sovereign."
Aramis rose, his eyes literally bloodshot, his mouth trembling
convulsively. "Have I a man out of his senses to deal with?" he said.
"You have an honorable man to deal with."
"You are mad."
"A man who will prevent you consummating your crime."
"You are mad, I say."
"A man who would sooner, oh! far sooner, die; who would kill you even,
rather than allow you to complete his dishonor."
And Fouquet snatched up his sword, which D'Artagnan had placed at the
head of his bed, and clenched it resolutely in his hand. Aramis frowned,
and thrust his hand into his breast as if in search of a weapon. This
movement did not escape Fouquet, who, full of nobleness and pride in his
magnanimity, threw his sword to a distance from him, and approached
Aramis so close as to touch his shoulder with his disarmed hand.
"Monsieur," he said, "I would sooner die here on the spot than survive
this terrible disgrace; and if you have any pity left for me, I entreat
you to take my life."
Aramis remained silent and motionless.
"You do not reply?" said Fouquet.
Aramis raised his head gently, and a glimmer of hope might be seen once
more to animate his eyes. "Reflect, monseigneur," he said, "upon
everything we have to expect. As the matter now stands, the king is
still alive, and his imprisonment saves your life."
"Yes," replied Fouquet, "you may have been acting on my behalf, but I
will not, do not, accept your services. But, first of all, I do not wish
your ruin. You will leave this house."
Aramis stifled the exclamation which almost escaped his broken heart.
"I am hospitable towards all who are dwellers beneath my roof," continued
Fouquet, with an air of inexpressible majesty; "you will not be more
fatally lost than he whose ruin you have consummated."
"You will be so," said Aramis, in a hoarse, prophetic voice, "you will be
so, believe me."
"I accept the augury, Monsieur d'Herblay; but nothing shall prevent me,
nothing shall stop me. You will leave Vaux - you must leave France; I
give you four hours to place yourself out of the king's reach."
"Four hours?" said Aramis, scornfully and incredulously.
"Upon the word of Fouquet, no one shall follow you before the expiration
of that time. You will therefore have four hours' advance of those whom
the king may wish to dispatch after you."
Four hours!" repeated Aramis, in a thick, smothered voice.
"It is more than you will need to get on board a vessel and flee to Belle-
Isle, which I give you as a place of refuge."
"Ah!" murmured Aramis.
"Belle-Isle is as much mine for you, as Vaux is mine for the king. Go,
D'Herblay, go! as long as I live, not a hair of your head shall be
"Thank you," said Aramis, with a cold irony of manner.
"Go at once, then, and give me your hand, before we both hasten away; you
to save your life, I to save my honor."
Aramis withdrew from his breast the hand he had concealed there; it was
stained with his blood. He had dug his nails into his flesh, as if in
punishment for having nursed so many projects, more vain, insensate, and
fleeting than the life of the man himself. Fouquet was horror-stricken,
and then his heart smote him with pity. He threw open his arms as if to
"I had no arms," murmured Aramis, as wild and terrible in his wrath as
the shade of Dido. And then, without touching Fouquet's hand, he turned
his head aside, and stepped back a pace or two. His last word was an
imprecation, his last gesture a curse, which his blood-stained hand
seemed to invoke, as it sprinkled on Fouquet's face a few drops of blood
which flowed from his breast. And both of them darted out of the room by
the secret staircase which led down to the inner courtyard. Fouquet
ordered his best horses, while Aramis paused at the foot of the staircase
which led to Porthos's apartment. He reflected profoundly and for some
time, while Fouquet's carriage left the courtyard at full gallop.
"Shall I go alone?" said Aramis to himself, "or warn the prince? Oh!
fury! Warn the prince, and then - do what? Take him with me? To carry
this accusing witness about with me everywhere? War, too, would follow -
civil war, implacable in its nature! And without any resource save
myself - it is impossible! What could he do without me? Oh! without me
he will be utterly destroyed. Yet who knows - let destiny be fulfilled -
condemned he was, let him remain so then! Good or evil Spirit - gloomy
and scornful Power, whom men call the genius of humanity, thou art a
power more restlessly uncertain, more baselessly useless, than wild
mountain wind! Chance, thou term'st thyself, but thou art nothing; thou
inflamest everything with thy breath, crumblest mountains at thy
approach, and suddenly art thyself destroyed at the presence of the Cross
of dead wood behind which stand another Power invisible like thyself -
whom thou deniest, perhaps, but whose avenging hand is on thee, and hurls
thee in the dust dishonored and unnamed! Lost! - I am lost! What can be
done? Flee to Belle-Isle? Yes, and leave Porthos behind me, to talk and
relate the whole affair to every one! Porthos, too, who will have to
suffer for what he has done. I will not let poor Porthos suffer. He
seems like one of the members of my own frame; and his grief or
misfortune would be mine as well. Porthos shall leave with me, and shall
follow my destiny. It must be so."
And Aramis, apprehensive of meeting any one to whom his hurried movements
might appear suspicious, ascended the staircase without being perceived.
Porthos, so recently returned from Paris, was already in a profound
sleep; his huge body forgot its fatigue, as his mind forgot its
thoughts. Aramis entered, light as a shadow, and placed his nervous
grasp on the giant's shoulder. "Come, Porthos," he cried, "come."
Porthos obeyed, rose from his bed, opened his eyes, even before his
intelligence seemed to be aroused.
"We leave immediately," said Aramis.
"Ah!" returned Porthos.
"We shall go mounted, and faster than we have ever gone in our lives."
"Ah!" repeated Porthos.
"Dress yourself, my friend."
And he helped the giant to dress himself, and thrust his gold and
diamonds into his pocket. Whilst he was thus engaged, a slight noise
attracted his attention, and on looking up, he saw D'Artagnan watching
them through the half-opened door. Aramis started.
"What the devil are you doing there in such an agitated manner?" said the
"Hush!" said Porthos.
"We are going off on a mission of great importance," added the bishop.
"You are very fortunate," said the musketeer.
"Oh, dear me!" said Porthos, "I feel so wearied; I would far sooner have
been fast asleep. But the service of the king...."
"Have you seen M. Fouquet?" said Aramis to D'Artagnan.
"Yes, this very minute, in a carriage."
"What did he say to you?"
"'Adieu;' nothing more."
"Was that all?"
"What else do you think he could say? Am I worth anything now, since you
have got into such high favor?"
"Listen," said Aramis, embracing the musketeer; "your good times are
returning again. You will have no occasion to be jealous of any one."
"I predict that something will happen to you to-day which will increase
your importance more than ever."
"You know that I know all the news?"
"Come, Porthos, are you ready? Let us go."
"I am quite ready, Aramis."
"Let us embrace D'Artagnan first."
"But the horses?"
"Oh! there is no want of them here. Will you have mine?"
"No; Porthos has his own stud. So adieu! adieu!"
The fugitives mounted their horses beneath the very eyes of the captain
of the musketeers, who held Porthos's stirrup for him, and gazed after
them until they were out of sight.
"On any other occasion," thought the Gascon, "I should say that those
gentlemen were making their escape; but in these days politics seem so
changed that such an exit is termed going on a mission. I have no
objection; let me attend to my own affairs, that is more than enough for
_me_," - and he philosophically entered his apartments.
Showing How the Countersign Was Respected at the Bastile.
Fouquet tore along as fast as his horses could drag him. On his way he
trembled with horror at the idea of what had just been revealed to him.
"What must have been," he thought, "the youth of those extraordinary men,
who, even as age is stealing fast upon them, are still able to conceive
such gigantic plans, and carry them through without a tremor?"
At one moment he could not resist the idea that all Aramis had just been
recounting to him was nothing more than a dream, and whether the fable
itself was not the snare; so that when Fouquet arrived at the Bastile, he
might possibly find an order of arrest, which would send him to join the
dethroned king. Strongly impressed with this idea, he gave certain
sealed orders on his route, while fresh horses were being harnessed to
his carriage. These orders were addressed to M. d'Artagnan and to
certain others whose fidelity to the king was far above suspicion.
"In this way," said Fouquet to himself, "prisoner or not, I shall have
performed the duty that I owe my honor. The orders will not reach them
until after my return, if I should return free, and consequently they
will not have been unsealed. I shall take them back again. If I am
delayed; it will be because some misfortune will have befallen me; and in
that case assistance will be sent for me as well as for the king."
Prepared in this manner, the superintendent arrived at the Bastile; he
had traveled at the rate of five leagues and a half the hour. Every
circumstance of delay which Aramis had escaped in his visit to the
Bastile befell Fouquet. It was useless giving his name, equally useless
his being recognized; he could not succeed in obtaining an entrance. By
dint of entreaties, threats, commands, he succeeded in inducing a
sentinel to speak to one of the subalterns, who went and told the major.
As for the governor they did not even dare disturb him. Fouquet sat in
his carriage, at the outer gate of the fortress, chafing with rage and
impatience, awaiting the return of the officers, who at last re-appeared
with a sufficiently sulky air.
"Well," said Fouquet, impatiently, "what did the major say?"
"Well, monsieur," replied the soldier, "the major laughed in my face. He
told me that M. Fouquet was at Vaux, and that even were he at Paris, M.
Fouquet would not get up at so early an hour as the present."
"_Mordieu!_ you are an absolute set of fools," cried the minister,
darting out of the carriage; and before the subaltern had time to shut
the gate, Fouquet sprang through it, and ran forward in spite of the
soldier, who cried out for assistance. Fouquet gained ground, regardless
of the cries of the man, who, however, having at last come up with
Fouquet, called out to the sentinel of the second gate, "Look out, look
out, sentinel!" The man crossed his pike before the minister; but the
latter, robust and active, and hurried away, too, by his passion, wrested
the pike from the soldier and struck him a violent blow on the shoulder
with it. The subaltern, who approached too closely, received a share of
the blows as well. Both of them uttered loud and furious cries, at the
sound of which the whole of the first body of the advanced guard poured
out of the guardhouse. Among them there was one, however, who recognized
the superintendent, and who called, "Monseigneur, ah! monseigneur. Stop,
stop, you fellows!" And he effectually checked the soldiers, who were on
the point of revenging their companions. Fouquet desired them to open
the gate, but they refused to do so without the countersign; he desired
them to inform the governor of his presence; but the latter had already
heard the disturbance at the gate. He ran forward, followed by his
major, and accompanied by a picket of twenty men, persuaded that an
attack was being made on the Bastile. Baisemeaux also recognized Fouquet
immediately, and dropped the sword he bravely had been brandishing.
"Ah! monseigneur," he stammered, "how can I excuse - "
"Monsieur," said the superintendent, flushed with anger, and heated by
his exertions, "I congratulate you. Your watch and ward are admirably
Baisemeaux turned pale, thinking that this remark was made ironically,
and portended a furious burst of anger. But Fouquet had recovered his
breath, and, beckoning the sentinel and the subaltern, who were rubbing
their shoulders, towards him, he said, "There are twenty pistoles for the
sentinel, and fifty for the officer. Pray receive my compliments,
gentlemen. I will not fail to speak to his majesty about you. And now,
M. Baisemeaux, a word with you."
And he followed the governor to his official residence, accompanied by a
murmur of general satisfaction. Baisemeaux was already trembling with
shame and uneasiness. Aramis's early visit, from that moment, seemed to
possess consequences, which a functionary such as he (Baisemeaux) was,
was perfectly justified in apprehending. It was quite another thing,
however, when Fouquet in a sharp tone of voice, and with an imperious
look, said, "You have seen M. d'Herblay this morning?"
"And are you not horrified at the crime of which you have made yourself
"Well," thought Baisemeaux, "good so far;" and then he added, aloud, "But
what crime, monseigneur, do you allude to?"
"That for which you can be quartered alive, monsieur - do not forget
that! But this is not a time to show anger. Conduct me immediately to
"To what prisoner?" said Baisemeaux, trembling.
"You pretend to be ignorant? Very good - it is the best plan for you,
perhaps; for if, in fact, you were to admit your participation in such a
crime, it would be all over with you. I wish, therefore, to seem to
believe in your assumption of ignorance."
"I entreat you, monseigneur - "
"That will do. Lead me to the prisoner."
"Who is Marchiali?"
"The prisoner who was brought back this morning by M. d'Herblay."
"He is called Marchiali?" said the superintendent, his conviction
somewhat shaken by Baisemeaux's cool manner.
"Yes, monseigneur; that is the name under which he was inscribed here."
Fouquet looked steadily at Baisemeaux, as if he would read his very
heart; and perceived, with that clear-sightedness most men possess who
are accustomed to the exercise of power, that the man was speaking with
perfect sincerity. Besides, in observing his face for a few moments, he
could not believe that Aramis would have chosen such a confidant.
"It is the prisoner," said the superintendent to him, "whom M. d'Herblay
carried away the day before yesterday?"
"And whom he brought back this morning?" added Fouquet, quickly: for he
understood immediately the mechanism of Aramis's plan.
"And his name is Marchiali, you say?"
"Yes, Marchiali. If monseigneur has come here to remove him, so much the
better, for I was going to write about him."
"What has he done, then?"
"Ever since this morning he has annoyed me extremely. He has had such
terrible fits of passion, as almost to make me believe that he would
bring the Bastile itself down about our ears."
"I will soon relieve you of his possession," said Fouquet.
"Ah! so much the better."
"Conduct me to his prison."
"Will monseigneur give me the order?"
"An order from the king."
"Wait until I sign you one."
"That will not be sufficient, monseigneur. I must have an order from the
Fouquet assumed an irritated expression. "As you are so scrupulous," he
said, "with regard to allowing prisoners to leave, show me the order by
which this one was set at liberty."
Baisemeaux showed him the order to release Seldon.
"Very good," said Fouquet; "but Seldon is not Marchiali."
"But Marchiali is not at liberty, monseigneur; he is here."
"But you said that M. d'Herblay carried him away and brought him back
"I did not say so."
"So surely did you say it, that I almost seem to hear it now."
"It was a slip of my tongue, then, monseigneur."
"Take care, M. Baisemeaux, take care."
"I have nothing to fear, monseigneur; I am acting according to the very
"Do you dare to say so?"
"I would say so in the presence of one of the apostles. M. d'Herblay
brought me an order to set Seldon at liberty. Seldon is free."
"I tell you that Marchiali has left the Bastile."
"You must prove that, monseigneur."
"Let me see him."
"You, monseigneur, who govern this kingdom, know very well that no one
can see any of the prisoners without an express order from the king."
"M. d'Herblay has entered, however."
"That remains to be proved, monseigneur."
"M. de Baisemeaux, once more I warn you to pay particular attention to
what you are saying."
"All the documents are there, monseigneur."
"M. d'Herblay is overthrown."
"Overthrown? - M. d'Herblay! Impossible!"
"You see that he has undoubtedly influenced you."
"No, monseigneur; what does, in fact, influence me, is the king's
service. I am doing my duty. Give me an order from him, and you shall
"Stay, M. le gouverneur, I give you my word that if you allow me to see
the prisoner, I will give you an order from the king at once."
"Give it to me now, monseigneur."
"And that, if you refuse me, I will have you and all your officers
arrested on the spot."
"Before you commit such an act of violence, monseigneur, you will
reflect," said Baisemeaux, who had turned very pale, "that we will only
obey an order signed by the king; and that it will be just as easy for
you to obtain one to see Marchiali as to obtain one to do me so much
injury; me, too, who am perfectly innocent."
"True. True!" cried Fouquet, furiously; "perfectly true. M. de
Baisemeaux," he added, in a sonorous voice, drawing the unhappy governor
towards him, "do you know why I am so anxious to speak to the prisoner?"
"No, monseigneur; and allow me to observe that you are terrifying me out
of my senses; I am trembling all over - in fact, I feel as though I were
about to faint."
"You will stand a better chance of fainting outright, Monsieur
Baisemeaux, when I return here at the head of ten thousand men and thirty
pieces of cannon."
"Good heavens, monseigneur, you are losing your senses."
"When I have roused the whole population of Paris against you and your
accursed towers, and have battered open the gates of this place, and
hanged you to the topmost tree of yonder pinnacle!"
"Monseigneur! monseigneur! for pity's sake!"
"I give you ten minutes to make up your mind," added Fouquet, in a calm
voice. "I will sit down here, in this armchair, and wait for you; if, in
ten minutes' time, you still persist, I leave this place, and you may
think me as mad as you like. Then - you shall _see!_"
Baisemeaux stamped his foot on the ground like a man in a state of
despair, but he did not reply a single syllable; whereupon Fouquet seized
a pen and ink, and wrote:
"Order for M. le Prevot des Marchands to assemble the municipal guard and
to march upon the Bastile on the king's immediate service."
Baisemeaux shrugged his shoulders. Fouquet wrote:
"Order for the Duc de Bouillon and M. le Prince de Conde to assume the
command of the Swiss guards, of the king's guards, and to march upon the
Bastile on the king's immediate service."
Baisemeaux reflected. Fouquet still wrote:
"Order for every soldier, citizen, or gentleman to seize and apprehend,
wherever he may be found, le Chevalier d'Herblay, Eveque de Vannes, and
his accomplices, who are: first, M. de Baisemeaux, governor of the
Bastile, suspected of the crimes of high treason and rebellion - "
"Stop, monseigneur!" cried Baisemeaux; "I do not understand a single jot
of the whole matter; but so many misfortunes, even were it madness itself
that had set them at their awful work, might happen here in a couple of
hours, that the king, by whom I must be judged, will see whether I have
been wrong in withdrawing the countersign before this flood of imminent
catastrophes. Come with me to the keep, monseigneur, you shall see
Fouquet darted out of the room, followed by Baisemeaux as he wiped the
perspiration from his face. "What a terrible morning!" he said; "what a
disgrace for _me!_"
"Walk faster," replied Fouquet.
Baisemeaux made a sign to the jailer to precede them. He was afraid of
his companion, which the latter could not fail to perceive.
"A truce to this child's play," he said, roughly. "Let the man remain
here; take the keys yourself, and show me the way. Not a single person,
do you understand, must hear what is going to take place here."
"Ah!" said Baisemeaux, undecided.
"Again!" cried M. Fouquet. "Ah! say 'no' at once, and I will leave the
Bastile and will myself carry my own dispatches."
Baisemeaux bowed his head, took the keys, and unaccompanied, except by
the minister, ascended the staircase. The higher they advanced up the
spiral staircase, the more clearly did certain muffled murmurs become
distinct appeals and fearful imprecations.
"What is that?" asked Fouquet.
"That is your Marchiali," said the governor; "this is the way these
And he accompanied that reply with a glance more pregnant with injurious
allusion, as far as Fouquet was concerned, than politeness. The latter
trembled; he had just recognized in one cry more terrible than any that
had preceded it, the king's voice. He paused on the staircase, snatching
the bunch of keys from Baisemeaux, who thought this new madman was going
to dash out his brains with one of them. "Ah!" he cried, "M. d'Herblay
did not say a word about that."
"Give me the keys at once!" cried Fouquet, tearing them from his hand.
"Which is the key of the door I am to open?"
A fearful cry, followed by a violent blow against the door, made the
whole staircase resound with the echo.
"Leave this place," said Fouquet to Baisemeaux, in a threatening tone.
"I ask nothing better," murmured the latter, to himself. "There will be
a couple of madmen face to face, and the one will kill the other, I am
"Go!" repeated Fouquet. "If you place your foot on this staircase before
I call you, remember that you shall take the place of the meanest
prisoner in the Bastile."
"This job will kill me, I am sure it will," muttered Baisemeaux, as he
withdrew with tottering steps.
The prisoner's cries became more and more terrible. When Fouquet had
satisfied himself that Baisemeaux had reached the bottom of the
staircase, he inserted the key in the first lock. It was then that he
heard the hoarse, choking voice of the king, crying out, in a frenzy of
rage, "Help, help! I am the king." The key of the second door was not
the same as the first, and Fouquet was obliged to look for it on the
bunch. The king, however, furious and almost mad with rage and passion,
shouted at the top of his voice, "It was M. Fouquet who brought me here.
Help me against M. Fouquet! I am the king! Help the king against M.
Fouquet!" These cries filled the minister's heart with terrible
emotions. They were followed by a shower of blows leveled against the
door with a part of the broken chair with which the king had armed
himself. Fouquet at last succeeded in finding the key. The king was
almost exhausted; he could hardly articulate distinctly as he shouted,
"Death to Fouquet! death to the traitor Fouquet!" The door flew open.
The King's Gratitude.
The two men were on the point of darting towards each other when they
suddenly and abruptly stopped, as a mutual recognition took place, and
each uttered a cry of horror.
"Have you come to assassinate me, monsieur?" said the king, when he
"The king in this state!" murmured the minister.
Nothing could be more terrible indeed than the appearance of the young
prince at the moment Fouquet had surprised him; his clothes were in
tatters; his shirt, open and torn to rags, was stained with sweat and
with the blood which streamed from his lacerated breast and arms.
Haggard, ghastly pale, his hair in disheveled masses, Louis XIV.
presented the most perfect picture of despair, distress, anger and fear
combined that could possibly be united in one figure. Fouquet was so
touched, so affected and disturbed by it, that he ran towards him with
his arms stretched out and his eyes filled with tears. Louis held up the
massive piece of wood of which he had made such a furious use.
"Sire," said Fouquet, in a voice trembling with emotion, "do you not
recognize the most faithful of your friends?"
"A friend - you!" repeated Louis, gnashing his teeth in a manner which
betrayed his hate and desire for speedy vengeance.
"The most respectful of your servants," added Fouquet, throwing himself
on his knees. The king let the rude weapon fall from his grasp. Fouquet
approached him, kissed his knees, and took him in his arms with
"My king, my child," he said, "how you must have suffered!"
Louis, recalled to himself by the change of situation, looked at himself,
and ashamed of the disordered state of his apparel, ashamed of his
conduct, and ashamed of the air of pity and protection that was shown
towards him, drew back. Fouquet did not understand this movement; he did
not perceive that the king's feeling of pride would never forgive him for
having been a witness of such an exhibition of weakness.
"Come, sire," he said, "you are free."
"Free?" repeated the king. "Oh! you set me at liberty, then, after
having dared to lift up your hand against me."
"You do not believe that!" exclaimed Fouquet, indignantly; "you cannot
believe me to be guilty of such an act."
And rapidly, warmly even, he related the whole particulars of the
intrigue, the details of which are already known to the reader. While
the recital continued, Louis suffered the most horrible anguish of mind;
and when it was finished, the magnitude of the danger he had run struck
him far more than the importance of the secret relative to his twin
"Monsieur," he said, suddenly to Fouquet, "this double birth is a
falsehood; it is impossible - you cannot have been the dupe of it."
"It is impossible, I tell you, that the honor, the virtue of my mother
can be suspected, and my first minister has not yet done justice on the
"Reflect, sire, before you are hurried away by anger," replied Fouquet.
"The birth of your brother - "
"I have only one brother - and that is Monsieur. You know it as well as
myself. There is a plot, I tell you, beginning with the governor of the
"Be careful, sire, for this man has been deceived as every one else has
by the prince's likeness to yourself."
"This Marchiali must be singularly like your majesty, to be able to
deceive every one's eye," Fouquet persisted.
"Do not say so, sire; those who had prepared everything in order to face
and deceive your ministers, your mother, your officers of state, the
members of your family, must be quite confident of the resemblance
"But where are these persons, then?" murmured the king.
"At Vaux! and you suffer them to remain there!"
"My most instant duty appeared to me to be your majesty's release. I
have accomplished that duty; and now, whatever your majesty may command,
shall be done. I await your orders."
Louis reflected for a few moments.
"Muster all the troops in Paris," he said.
"All the necessary orders are given for that purpose," replied Fouquet.
"You have given orders!" exclaimed the king.
"For that purpose, yes, sire; your majesty will be at the head of ten
thousand men in less than an hour."
The only reply the king made was to take hold of Fouquet's hand with such
an expression of feeling, that it was very easy to perceive how strongly
he had, until that remark, maintained his suspicions of the minister,
notwithstanding the latter's intervention.
"And with these troops," he said, "we shall go at once and besiege in
your house the rebels who by this time will have established and
intrenched themselves therein."
"I should be surprised if that were the case," replied Fouquet.
"Because their chief - the very soul of the enterprise - having been
unmasked by me, the whole plan seems to me to have miscarried."
"You have unmasked this false prince also?"
"No, I have not seen him."
"Whom have you seen, then?"
"The leader of the enterprise, not that unhappy young man; the latter is
merely an instrument, destined through his whole life to wretchedness, I
"It is M. l'Abbe d'Herblay, Eveque de Vannes."
"He was my friend, sire," replied Fouquet, nobly.
"An unfortunate circumstance for you," said the king, in a less generous
tone of voice.
"Such friendships, sire, had nothing dishonorable in them so long as I
was ignorant of the crime."
"You should have foreseen it."
"If I am guilty, I place myself in your majesty's hands."
"Ah! Monsieur Fouquet, it was not that I meant," returned the king,
sorry to have shown the bitterness of his thought in such a manner.
"Well! I assure you that, notwithstanding the mask with which the
villain covered his face, I had something like a vague suspicion that he
was the very man. But with this chief of the enterprise there was a man
of prodigious strength, the one who menaced me with a force almost
herculean; what is he?"
"It must be his friend the Baron du Vallon, formerly one of the
"The friend of D'Artagnan? the friend of the Comte de la Fere? Ah!"
exclaimed the king, as he paused at the name of the latter, "we must not
forget the connection that existed between the conspirators and M. de
"Sire, sire, do not go too far. M. de la Fere is the most honorable man
in France. Be satisfied with those whom I deliver up to you."
"With those whom you deliver up to me, you say? Very good, for you will
deliver up those who are guilty to me."
"What does your majesty understand by that?" inquired Fouquet.
"I understand," replied the king, "that we shall soon arrive at Vaux with
a large body of troops, that we will lay violent hands upon that nest of
vipers, and that not a soul shall escape."
"Your majesty will put these men to death!" cried Fouquet.
"To the very meanest of them."
"Let us understand one another, Monsieur Fouquet," said the king,
haughtily. "We no longer live in times when assassination was the only
and the last resource kings held in reservation at extremity. No, Heaven
be praised! I have parliaments who sit and judge in my name, and I have
scaffolds on which supreme authority is carried out."
Fouquet turned pale. "I will take the liberty of observing to your
majesty, that any proceedings instituted respecting these matters would
bring down the greatest scandal upon the dignity of the throne. The
august name of Anne of Austria must never be allowed to pass the lips of
the people accompanied by a smile."
"Justice must be done, however, monsieur."
"Good, sire; but royal blood must not be shed upon a scaffold."
"The royal blood! you believe that!" cried the king with fury in his
voice, stamping his foot on the ground. "This double birth is an
invention; and in that invention, particularly, do I see M. d'Herblay's
crime. It is the crime I wish to punish rather than the violence, or the
"And punish it with death, sire?"
"With death; yes, monsieur, I have said it."
"Sire," said the surintendant, with firmness, as he raised his head
proudly, "your majesty will take the life, if you please, of your brother
Philippe of France; that concerns you alone, and you will doubtless
consult the queen-mother upon the subject. Whatever she may command will
be perfectly correct. I do not wish to mix myself up in it, not even for
the honor of your crown, but I have a favor to ask of you, and I beg to
submit it to you."
"Speak," said the king, in no little degree agitated by his minister's
last words. "What do you require?"
"The pardon of M. d'Herblay and of M. du Vallon."
"Two rebels, sire, that is all."
"Oh! I understand, then, you ask me to forgive your friends."
"My friends!" said Fouquet, deeply wounded.
"Your friends, certainly; but the safety of the state requires that an
exemplary punishment should be inflicted on the guilty."
"I will not permit myself to remind your majesty that I have just
restored you to liberty, and have saved your life."
"I will not allow myself to remind your majesty that had M. d'Herblay
wished to carry out his character of an assassin, he could very easily
have assassinated your majesty this morning in the forest of Senart, and
all would have been over." The king started.
"A pistol-bullet through the head," pursued Fouquet, "and the disfigured
features of Louis XIV., which no one could have recognized, would be M.
d'Herblay's complete and entire justification."
The king turned pale and giddy at the bare idea of the danger he had
"If M. d'Herblay," continued Fouquet, "had been an assassin, he had no
occasion to inform me of his plan in order to succeed. Freed from the
real king, it would have been impossible in all futurity to guess the
false. And if the usurper had been recognized by Anne of Austria, he
would still have been - her son. The usurper, as far as Monsieur
d'Herblay's conscience was concerned, was still a king of the blood of
Louis XIII. Moreover, the conspirator, in that course, would have had
security, secrecy, impunity. A pistol-bullet would have procured him all
that. For the sake of Heaven, sire, grant me his forgiveness."
The king, instead of being touched by the picture, so faithfully drawn in
all details, of Aramis's generosity, felt himself most painfully and
cruelly humiliated. His unconquerable pride revolted at the idea that a
man had held suspended at the end of his finger the thread of his royal
life. Every word that fell from Fouquet's lips, and which he thought
most efficacious in procuring his friend's pardon, seemed to pour another
drop of poison into the already ulcerated heart of Louis XIV. Nothing
could bend or soften him. Addressing himself to Fouquet, he said, "I
really don't know, monsieur, why you should solicit the pardon of these
men. What good is there in asking that which can be obtained without
"I do not understand you, sire."
"It is not difficult, either. Where am I now?"
"In the Bastile, sire."
"Yes; in a dungeon. I am looked upon as a madman, am I not?"
"And no one is known here but Marchiali?"
"Well; change nothing in the position of affairs. Let the poor madman
rot between the slimy walls of the Bastile, and M. d'Herblay and M. du
Vallon will stand in no need of my forgiveness. Their new king will
"Your majesty does me a great injustice, sire; and you are wrong,"
replied Fouquet, dryly; "I am not child enough, nor is M. d'Herblay silly
enough, to have omitted to make all these reflections; and if I had
wished to make a new king, as you say, I had no occasion to have come
here to force open the gates and doors of the Bastile, to free you from
this place. That would show a want of even common sense. Your majesty's
mind is disturbed by anger; otherwise you would be far from offending,
groundlessly, the very one of your servants who has rendered you the most
important service of all."
Louis perceived that he had gone too far; that the gates of the Bastile
were still closed upon him, whilst, by degrees, the floodgates were
gradually being opened, behind which the generous-hearted Fouquet had
restrained his anger. "I did not say that to humiliate you, Heaven
knows, monsieur," he replied. "Only you are addressing yourself to me in
order to obtain a pardon, and I answer according to my conscience. And
so, judging by my conscience, the criminals we speak of are not worthy of
consideration or forgiveness."
Fouquet was silent.
"What I do is as generous," added the king, "as what you have done, for I
am in your power. I will even say it is more generous, inasmuch as you
place before me certain conditions upon which my liberty, my life, may
depend; and to reject which is to make a sacrifice of both."
"I was wrong, certainly," replied Fouquet. "Yes, - I had the appearance
of extorting a favor; I regret it, and entreat your majesty's
"And you are forgiven, my dear Monsieur Fouquet," said the king, with a
smile, which restored the serene expression of his features, which so
many circumstances had altered since the preceding evening.
"I have my own forgiveness," replied the minister, with some degree of
persistence; "but M. d'Herblay, and M. du Vallon?"
"They will never obtain theirs, as long as I live," replied the
inflexible king. "Do me the kindness not to speak of it again."
"Your majesty shall be obeyed."
"And you will bear me no ill-will for it?"
"Oh! no, sire; for I anticipated the event."
"You had 'anticipated' that I should refuse to forgive those gentlemen?"
"Certainly; and all my measures were taken in consequence."
"What do you mean to say?" cried the king, surprised.
"M. d'Herblay came, as may be said, to deliver himself into my hands. M.
d'Herblay left to me the happiness of saving my king and my country. I
could not condemn M. d'Herblay to death; nor could I, on the other hand,
expose him to your majesty's justifiable wrath; it would have been just
the same as if I had killed him myself."
"Well! and what have you done?"
"Sire, I gave M. d'Herblay the best horses in my stables and four hours'
start over all those your majesty might, probably, dispatch after him."
"Be it so!" murmured the king. "But still, the world is wide enough and
large enough for those whom I may send to overtake your horses,
notwithstanding the 'four hours' start' which you have given to M.
"In giving him these four hours, sire, I knew I was giving him his life,
and he will save his life."
"In what way?"
"After having galloped as hard as possible, with the four hours' start,
before your musketeers, he will reach my chateau of Belle-Isle, where I
have given him a safe asylum."
"That may be! But you forget that you have made me a present of Belle-
"But not for you to arrest my friends."
"You take it back again, then?"
"As far as that goes - yes, sire."
"My musketeers shall capture it, and the affair will be at an end."
"Neither your musketeers, nor your whole army could take Belle-Isle,"
said Fouquet, coldly. "Belle-Isle is impregnable."
The king became perfectly livid; a lightning flash seemed to dart from
his eyes. Fouquet felt that he was lost, but he as not one to shrink
when the voice of honor spoke loudly within him. He bore the king's
wrathful gaze; the latter swallowed his rage, and after a few moments'
silence, said, "Are we going to return to Vaux?"
"I am at your majesty's orders," replied Fouquet, with a low bow; "but I
think that your majesty can hardly dispense with changing your clothes
previous to appearing before your court."
"We shall pass by the Louvre," said the king. "Come." And they left the
prison, passing before Baisemeaux, who looked completely bewildered as he
saw Marchiali once more leave; and, in his helplessness, tore out the
major portion of his few remaining hairs. It was perfectly true,
however, that Fouquet wrote and gave him an authority for the prisoner's
release, and that the king wrote beneath it, "Seen and approved, Louis";
a piece of madness that Baisemeaux, incapable of putting two ideas
together, acknowledged by giving himself a terrible blow on the forehead
with his own fist.
The False King.
In the meantime, usurped royalty was playing out its part bravely at
Vaux. Philippe gave orders that for his _petit lever_ the _grandes
entrees_, already prepared to appear before the king, should be
introduced. He determined to give this order notwithstanding the absence
of M. d'Herblay, who did not return - our readers know the reason. But
the prince, not believing that absence could be prolonged, wished, as all
rash spirits do, to try his valor and his fortune far from all protection
and instruction. Another reason urged him to this - Anne of Austria was
about to appear; the guilty mother was about to stand in the presence of
her sacrificed son. Philippe was not willing, if he had a weakness, to
render the man a witness of it before whom he was bound thenceforth to
display so much strength. Philippe opened his folding doors, and several
persons entered silently. Philippe did not stir whilst his _valets de
chambre_ dressed him. He had watched, the evening before, all the habits
of his brother, and played the king in such a manner as to awaken no
suspicion. He was thus completely dressed in hunting costume when he
received his visitors. His own memory and the notes of Aramis announced
everybody to him, first of all Anne of Austria, to whom Monsieur gave his
hand, and then Madame with M. de Saint-Aignan. He smiled at seeing these
countenances, but trembled on recognizing his mother. That still so
noble and imposing figure, ravaged by pain, pleaded in his heart the
cause of the famous queen who had immolated a child to reasons of state.
He found his mother still handsome. He knew that Louis XIV. loved her,
and he promised himself to love her likewise, and not to prove a scourge
to her old age. He contemplated his brother with a tenderness easily to
be understood. The latter had usurped nothing, had cast no shades
athwart his life. A separate tree, he allowed the stem to rise without
heeding its elevation or majestic life. Philippe promised himself to be
a kind brother to this prince, who required nothing but gold to minister
to his pleasures. He bowed with a friendly air to Saint-Aignan, who was
all reverences and smiles, and trembling held out his hand to Henrietta,
his sister-in-law, whose beauty struck him; but he saw in the eyes of
that princess an expression of coldness which would facilitate, as he
thought, their future relations.
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