The Vicomte de Bragelonne
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 10 out of 13
"Well, enlighten me, marquise; granted Monsieur Colbert is intendant - so
be it. In what can an intendant, that is to say my subordinate, my
clerk, give me umbrage or injure me, even if he is Monsieur Colbert?"
"You do not reflect, monsieur, apparently," replied the marquise.
"This: that Monsieur Colbert hates you."
"Hates me?" cried Fouquet. "Good heavens! marquise, whence do you come?
where can you live? Hates me! why all the world hates me, he, of course,
as others do."
"He more than others."
"More than others - let him."
"He is ambitious."
"Who is not, marquise."
"Yes, but with him ambition has no bounds."
"I am quite aware of that, since he made it a point to succeed me with
"And obtained his end; look at that."
"Do you mean to say he has the presumption to pass from intendant to
"Have you not yourself already had the same fear?"
"Oh! oh!" said Fouquet, "to succeed with Madame Vanel is one thing, to
succeed me with the king is another. France is not to be purchased so
easily as the wife of a _maitre des comptes_."
"Eh! monsieur, everything is to be bought; if not by gold, by intrigue."
"Nobody knows to the contrary better than you, madame, you to whom I have
"Instead of millions, Fouquet, you should have offered me a true, only
and boundless love: I might have accepted that. So you see, still,
everything is to be bought, if not in one way, by another."
"So, Colbert, in your opinion, is in a fair way of bargaining for my
place of superintendent. Make yourself easy on that head, my dear
marquise; he is not yet rich enough to purchase it."
"But if he should rob you of it?"
"Ah! that is another thing. Unfortunately, before he can reach me, that
is to say, the body of the place, he must destroy, must make a breach in
the advanced works, and I am devilishly well fortified, marquise."
"What you call your advanced works are your creatures, are they not –
"And is M. d'Eymeris one of your creatures?"
"Yes, he is."
"Is M. Lyodot one of your friends?"
"M. de Vanin?"
"M. de Vanin! ah! they may do what they like with him, but - "
"But - "
"But they must not touch the others!"
"Well, if you are anxious they should not touch MM. d'Eymeris and Lyodot,
it is time to look about you."
"Who threatens them?"
"Will you listen to me now?"
"Without interrupting me?"
"Well, this morning Marguerite sent for me."
"And what did she want with you?"
"'I dare not see M. Fouquet myself,' said she."
"Bah! why should she think I would reproach her? Poor woman, she vastly
"'See him yourself,' said she, 'and tell him to beware of M. Colbert.'"
"What! she warned me to beware of her lover?"
"I have told you she still loves you."
"Go on, marquise."
"'M. Colbert,' she added, 'came to me two hours ago, to inform me he was
"I have already told you, marquise, that M. Colbert would only be the
more in my power for that."
"Yes, but that is not all: Marguerite is intimate, as you know, with
Madame d'Eymeris and Madame Lyodot."
"I know it."
"Well, M. Colbert put many questions to her, relative to the fortunes of
these two gentlemen, and as to the devotion they had for you."
"Oh, as to those two, I can answer for them; they must be killed before
they will cease to be mine."
"Then, as Madame Vanel was obliged to quit M. Colbert for an instant to
receive a visitor, and as M. Colbert is industrious, scarcely was the new
intendant left alone, before he took a pencil from his pocket, and, there
was paper on the table, began to make notes."
"Notes concerning d'Eymeris and Lyodot?"
"I should like to know what those notes were about."
"And that is just what I have brought you."
"Madame Vanel has taken Colbert's notes and sent them to me?"
"No; but by a chance which resembles a miracle, she has a duplicate of
"How could she get that?"
"Listen; I told you that Colbert found paper on the table."
"That he took a pencil from his pocket."
"And wrote upon that paper."
"Well, this pencil was a lead-pencil, consequently hard; so, it marked in
black upon the first sheet, and in white upon the second."
"Colbert, when tearing off the first sheet, took no notice of the second."
"Well, on the second was to be read what had been written on the first;
Madame Vanel read it, and sent for me."
"Then, when she was assured I was your devoted friend, she gave me the
paper, and told me the secret of this house."
"And this paper?" said Fouquet, in some degree of agitation.
"Here it is, monsieur - read it," said the marquise.
"Names of the farmers of revenue to be condemned by the Chamber of
Justice: D'Eymeris, friend of M. F.; Lyodot, friend of M. F.; De Vanin,
"D'Eymeris and Lyodot!" cried Fouquet, reading the paper eagerly again.
"Friends of M. F.," pointed the marquise with her finger.
"But what is the meaning of these words: 'To be condemned by the Chamber
"_Dame!_" said the marquise, "that is clear enough, I think. Besides,
that is not all. Read on, read on;" and Fouquet continued, - "The two
first to death, the third to be dismissed, with MM. d'Hautemont and de la
Vallette, who will only have their property confiscated."
"Great God!" cried Fouquet, "to death, to death! Lyodot and D'Eymeris.
But even if the Chamber of Justice should condemn them to death, the king
will never ratify their condemnation, and they cannot be executed without
the king's signature."
"The king has made M. Colbert intendant."
"Oh!" cried Fouquet, as if he caught a glimpse of the abyss that yawned
beneath his feet, "impossible! impossible! But who passed a pencil over
the marks made by Colbert?"
"I did. I was afraid the first would be effaced."
"Oh! I will know all."
"You will know nothing, monsieur; you despise your enemy too much for
"Pardon me, my dear marquise; excuse me; yes, M. Colbert is my enemy, I
believe him to be so; yes, M. Colbert is a man to be dreaded, I admit.
But I! I have time, and as you are here, as you have assured me of your
devotion, as you have allowed me to hope for your love, as we are alone
"I came here to save you, Monsieur Fouquet, and not to ruin myself," said
the marquise, rising - "therefore, beware! - "
"Marquise, in truth you terrify yourself too much at least, unless this
terror is but a pretext - "
"He is very deep, very deep; this M. Colbert: beware!"
Fouquet, in his turn, drew himself up. "And I?" asked he.
"And you, you have only a noble heart. Beware! beware!"
"I have done what was right, my friend, at the risk of my reputation.
"Not adieu, _au revoir!_"
"Perhaps," said the marquise, giving her hand to Fouquet to kiss, and
walking towards the door with so firm a step, that he did not dare to bar
her passage. As to Fouquet, he retook, with his head hanging down and a
fixed cloud on his brow, the path of the subterranean passage along which
ran the metal wires that communicated from one house to the other,
transmitting, through two glasses, the wishes and signals of hidden
The Abbe Fouquet.
Fouquet hastened back to his apartment by the subterranean passage, and
immediately closed the mirror with the spring. He was scarcely in his
closet, when he heard some one knocking violently at the door, and a
well-known voice crying: - "Open the door, monseigneur, I entreat you,
open the door!" Fouquet quickly restored a little order to everything
that might have revealed either his absence or his agitation: he spread
his papers over the desk, took up a pen, and, to gain time, said, through
the closed door, - "Who is there?"
"What, monseigneur, do you not know me?" replied the voice.
"Yes, yes," said Fouquet to himself, "yes, my friend, I know you well
enough." And then, aloud: "Is it not Gourville?"
"Why, yes, monseigneur."
Fouquet arose, cast a look at one of his glasses, went to the door,
pushed back the bolt, and Gourville entered. "Ah! monseigneur!
monseigneur!" cried he, "what cruelty!"
"I have been a quarter of an hour imploring you to open the door, and you
would not even answer me."
"Once and for all, you know that I will not be disturbed when I am busy.
Now, although I might make you an exception, Gourville, I insist upon my
orders being respected by others."
"Monseigneur, at this moment, orders, doors, bolts, locks, and walls I
could have broken, forced and overthrown!"
"Ah! ah! it relates to some great event, then?" asked Fouquet.
"Oh! I assure you it does, monseigneur," replied Gourville.
"And what is this event?" said Fouquet, a little troubled by the evident
agitation of his most intimate confidant.
"There is a secret chamber of justice instituted, monseigneur."
"I know there is, but do the members meet, Gourville?"
"They not only meet, but they have passed a sentence, monseigneur."
"A sentence?" said the superintendent, with a shudder and pallor he could
not conceal. "A sentence! - and on whom?"
"Two of your best friends."
"Lyodot and D'Eymeris, do you mean? But what sort of a sentence?"
"Sentence of death."
"Passed? Oh! you must be mistaken, Gourville; that is impossible."
"Here is a copy of the sentence which the king is to sign to-day, if he
has not already signed it."
Fouquet seized the paper eagerly, read it, and returned it to Gourville.
"The king will never sign that," said he.
Gourville shook his head.
"Monseigneur, M. Colbert is a bold councilor: do not be too confident!"
"Monsieur Colbert again!" cried Fouquet. "How is it that that name rises
upon all occasions to torment my ears, during the last two or three
days? You make so trifling a subject of too much importance, Gourville.
Let M. Colbert appear, I will face him; let him raise his head, I will
crush him; but you understand, there must be an outline upon which my
look may fall, there must be a surface upon which my feet may be placed."
Patience, monseigneur; for you do not know what Colbert is - study him
quickly; it is with this dark financier as it is with meteors, which the
eye never sees completely before their disastrous invasion; when we feel
them we are dead."
"Oh! Gourville, this is going too far," replied Fouquet, smiling; "allow
me, my friend, not to be so easily frightened; M. Colbert a meteor!
_Corbleu_, we confront the meteor. Let us see acts, and not words. What
has he done?"
"He has ordered two gibbets of the executioner of Paris," answered
Fouquet raised his head, and a flash gleamed from his eyes. "Are you
sure of what you say?" cried he.
"Here is the proof, monseigneur." And Gourville held out to the
superintendent a note communicated by a certain secretary of the Hotel de
Ville, who was one of Fouquet's creatures.
"Yes, that is true," murmured the minister; "the scaffold may be
prepared, but the king has not signed; Gourville, the king will not sign."
"I shall soon know," said Gourville.
"If the king has signed, the gibbets will be sent this evening to the
Hotel de Ville, in order to be got up and ready by to-morrow morning."
"Oh! no, no!" cried the superintendent, once again; "you are all
deceived, and deceive me in my turn; Lyodot came to see me only the day
before yesterday; only three days ago I received a present of some
Syracuse wine from poor D'Eymeris."
"What does that prove?" replied Gourville, "except that the chamber of
justice has been secretly assembled, has deliberated in the absence of
the accused, and that the whole proceeding was complete when they were
"What! are they, then, arrested?"
"No doubt they are."
"But where, when, and how have they been arrested?"
"Lyodot, yesterday at daybreak; D'Eymeris, the day before yesterday, in
the evening, as he was returning from the house of his mistress; their
disappearances had disturbed nobody; but at length M. Colbert all at once
raised the mask, and caused the affair to be published; it is being cried
by sound of trumpet, at this moment in Paris, and, in truth, monseigneur,
there is scarcely anybody but yourself ignorant of the event."
Fouquet began to walk about in his chamber with an uneasiness that became
more and more serious.
"What do you decide upon, monseigneur?" said Gourville.
"If it were really as easy as you say, I would go to the king," cried
Fouquet. "But as I go to the Louvre, I will pass by the Hotel de Ville.
We shall see if the sentence is signed."
"Incredulity! thou art the pest of all great minds," said Gourville,
shrugging his shoulders.
"Yes," continued he, "and incredulity! thou ruinest, as contagion
destroys the most robust health; that is to say, in an instant."
"Let us go," cried Fouquet; "desire the door to be opened, Gourville."
"Be cautious," said the latter, "the Abbe Fouquet is there."
"Ah! my brother," replied Fouquet, in a tone of annoyance; "he is there,
is he? he knows all the ill news, then, and is rejoiced to bring it to
me, as usual. The devil! if my brother is there, my affairs are bad,
Gourville; why did you not tell me that sooner: I should have been the
more readily convinced."
"Monseigneur calumniates him," said Gourville, laughing; "if he is come,
it is not with a bad intention."
"What, do you excuse him?" cried Fouquet; "a fellow without a heart,
without ideas; a devourer of wealth."
"He knows you are rich."
"And would ruin me."
"No, but he would have your purse. That is all."
"Enough! enough! A hundred thousand crowns per month, during two years.
_Corbleu!_ it is I that pay, Gourville, and I know my figures."
Gourville laughed in a silent, sly manner. "Yes, yes, you mean to say it
is the king pays," said the superintendent. "Ah, Gourville, that is a
vile joke; this is not the place."
"Monseigneur, do not be angry."
"Well, then, send away the Abbe Fouquet; I have not a sou." Gourville
made a step towards the door. "He has been a month without seeing me,"
continued Fouquet, "why could he not be _two_ months?"
"Because he repents of living in bad company," said Gourville, "and
prefers you to all his bandits."
"Thanks for the preference! You make a strange advocate, Gourville, to-
day - the advocate of the Abbe Fouquet!"
"Eh! but everything and every man has a good side - their useful side,
"The bandits whom the abbe keeps in pay and drink have their useful side,
have they? Prove that, if you please."
"Let the circumstance arise, monseigneur, and you will be very glad to
have these bandits under your hand."
"You advise me, then, to be reconciled to the abbe?" said Fouquet,
"I advise you, monseigneur, not to quarrel with a hundred or a hundred
and twenty loose fellows, who, by putting their rapiers end to end, would
form a cordon of steel capable of surrounding three thousand men."
Fouquet darted a searching glance at Gourville, and passing before him, -
"That is all very well; let M. l'Abbe Fouquet be introduced," said he to
the footman. "You are right, Gourville."
Two minutes after, the Abbe Fouquet appeared in the doorway, with
profound reverence. He was a man of from forty to forty-five years of
age, half churchman, half soldier, - a _spadassin_ grafted upon an abbe;
upon seeing that he had not a sword by his side, you might be sure he had
pistols. Fouquet saluted him more as elder brother than as a minister.
"What can I do to serve you, monsieur l'abbe?" said he.
"Oh! oh! how coldly you speak to me, brother!"
"I speak like a man who is in a hurry, monsieur."
The abbe looked maliciously at Gourville, and anxiously at Fouquet, and
said, "I have three hundred pistoles to pay to M. de Bregi this evening.
A play debt, a sacred debt."
"What next?" said Fouquet bravely, for he comprehended that the Abbe
Fouquet would not have disturbed him for such a want.
"A thousand to my butcher, who will supply no more meat."
"Twelve hundred to my tailor," continued the abbe; "the fellow has made
me take back seven suits of my people's, which compromises my liveries,
and my mistress talks of replacing me by a farmer of the revenue, which
would be a humiliation for the church."
"What else?" said Fouquet.
"You will please to remark," said the abbe, humbly, "that I have asked
nothing for myself."
"That is delicate, monsieur," replied Fouquet; "so, as you see, I wait."
"And I ask nothing, oh! no, - it is not for want of need, though, I
The minister reflected for a minute. "Twelve hundred pistoles to the
tailor; that seems a great deal for clothes," said he.
"I maintain a hundred men," said the abbe, proudly; "that is a charge, I
"Why a hundred men?" said Fouquet. "Are you a Richelieu or a Mazarin, to
require a hundred men as a guard? What use do you make of these men? –
"And do you ask me that?" cried the Abbe Fouquet; "ah! how can you put
such a question, - why I maintain a hundred men? Ah!"
"Why, yes, I do put that question to you. What have you to do with a
hundred men? - answer."
"Ingrate!" continued the abbe, more and more affected.
"Why, monsieur the superintendent, I only want one _valet de chambre_,
for _my_ part, and even if I were alone, could help myself very well; but
you, you who have so many enemies - a hundred men are not enough for me
to defend you with. A hundred men! - you ought to have ten thousand. I
maintain, then, these men in order that in public places, in assemblies,
no voice may be raised against you; and without them, monsieur, you would
be loaded with imprecations, you would be torn to pieces, you would not
last a week; no, not a week, do you understand?"
"Ah! I did not know you were my champion to such an extent, monsieur le
"You doubt it!" cried the abbe. "Listen, then, to what happened, no
longer ago than yesterday, in the Rue de la Hochette. A man was
cheapening a fowl."
"Well, how could that injure me, abbe?"
"This way. The fowl was not fat. The purchaser refused to give eighteen
sous for it, saying that he could not afford eighteen sous for the skin
of a fowl from which M. Fouquet had sucked all the fat."
"The joke caused a deal of laughter," continued the abbe; "laughter at
your expense, death to the devils! and the _canaille_ were delighted.
The joker added, 'Give me a fowl fed by M. Colbert, if you like! and I
will pay all you ask.' And immediately there was a clapping of hands. A
frightful scandal! you understand; a scandal which forces a brother to
hide his face."
Fouquet colored. "And you veiled it?" said the superintendent.
"No, for so it happened I had one of my men in the crowd; a new recruit
from the provinces, one M. Menneville, whom I like very much. He made
his way through the press, saying to the joker: '_Mille barbes!_
Monsieur the false joker, here's a thrust for Colbert!' 'And one for
Fouquet,' replied the joker. Upon which they drew in front of the cook's
shop, with a hedge of the curious round them, and five hundred as curious
at the windows."
"Well?" said Fouquet.
"Well, monsieur, my Menneville spitted the joker, to the great
astonishment of the spectators, and said to the cook: - 'Take this goose,
my friend, for it is fatter than your fowl.' That is the way, monsieur,"
ended the abbe , triumphantly, "in which I spend my revenues; I maintain
the honor of the family, monsieur." Fouquet hung his head. "And I have
a hundred as good as he," continued the abbe.
"Very well," said Fouquet, "give the account to Gourville, and remain
here this evening."
"Shall we have supper?"
"Yes, there will be supper."
"But the chest is closed."
"Gourville will open it for you. Leave us, monsieur l'abbe, leave us."
"Then we are friends?" said the abbe, with a bow.
"Oh, yes, friends. Come, Gourville."
"Are you going out? You will not stay to supper, then?"
"I shall be back in an hour; rest easy, abbe." Then aside to Gourville,
- "Let them put to my English horses," said he, "and direct the coachman
to stop at the Hotel de Ville de Paris."
M. de la Fontaine's Wine.
Carriages were already bringing the guests of Fouquet to Saint-Mande;
already the whole house was getting warm with the preparations for
supper, when the superintendent launched his fleet horses upon the roads
to Paris, and going by the quays, in order to meet fewer people on the
way, soon reached the Hotel de Ville. It wanted a quarter to eight.
Fouquet alighted at the corner of the Rue de Long-Pont, and, on foot,
directed his course towards the Place de Greve, accompanied by
Gourville. At the turning of the Place they saw a man dressed in black
and violet, of dignified mien, who was preparing to stop at Vincennes.
He had before him a large hamper filled with bottles, which he had
just purchased at the _cabaret_ with the sign of "L'Image-de-Notre-Dame."
"Eh, but! that is Vatel! my _maitre d'hotel!_" said Fouquet to Gourville.
"Yes, monseigneur," replied the latter.
"What can he have been doing at the sign of L'Image-de-Notre-Dame?"
"Buying wine, no doubt."
"What! buy wine for me, at a _cabaret?_" said Fouquet. "My cellar, then,
must be in a miserable condition!" and he advanced towards the _maitre
d'hotel_, who was arranging his bottles in the carriage with the most
"_Hola!_ Vatel," said he, in the voice of a master.
"Take care, monseigneur!" said Gourville, "you will be recognized."
"Very well! Of what consequence? - Vatel!"
The man dressed in black and violet turned round. He had a good and mild
countenance, without expression - a mathematician minus the pride. A
certain fire sparkled in the eyes of this personage, a rather sly smile
played round his lips; but the observer might soon have remarked that
this fire and this smile applied to nothing, enlightened nothing. Vatel
laughed like an absent man, and amused himself like a child. At the
sound of his master's voice he turned round, exclaiming: "Oh!
"Yes, it is I. What the devil are you doing here, Vatel? Wine! You are
buying wine at a _cabaret_ in the Place de Greve!"
"But, monseigneur," said Vatel, quietly after having darted a hostile
glance at Gourville, "why am I interfered with here? Is my cellar kept
in bad order?"
"No, certes, Vatel, no; but - "
"But what?" replied Vatel. Gourville touched Fouquet's elbow.
"Don't be angry, Vatel; I thought my cellar - your cellar - sufficiently
well stocked for us to be able to dispense with recourse to the cellar of
"Eh, monsieur," said Vatel, shrinking from monseigneur to monsieur with a
degree of disdain: "your cellar is so well stocked that when certain of
your guests dine with you they have nothing to drink."
Fouquet, in great surprise, looked at Gourville. "What do you mean by
"I mean that your butler had not wine for all tastes, monsieur; and that
M. de la Fontaine, M. Pelisson, and M. Conrart, do not drink when they
come to the house - these gentlemen do not like strong wine. What is to
be done, then?"
"Well, and therefore?"
"Well, then, I have found here a _vin de Joigny_, which they like. I
know they come here once a week to drink at the Image-de-Notre-Dame.
That is the reason I am making this provision."
Fouquet had no more to say; he was convinced. Vatel, on his part, had
much more to say, without doubt, and it was plain he was getting warm.
"It is just as if you would reproach me, monseigneur, for going to the
Rue Planche Milbray, to fetch, myself, the cider M. Loret drinks when he
comes to dine at your house."
"Loret drinks cider at my house!" cried Fouquet, laughing.
"Certainly he does, monsieur, and that is the reason why he dines there
"Vatel," cried Fouquet, pressing the hand of his _maitre d'hotel_, "you
are a man! I thank you, Vatel, for having understood that at my house M.
de la Fontaine, M. Conrart, and M. Loret are as great as dukes and peers,
as great as princes, greater than myself. Vatel, you are a good servant,
and I double your salary."
Vatel did not even thank his master, he merely shrugged his shoulders a
little, murmuring this superb sentiment: "To be thanked for having done
one's duty is humiliating."
"He is right," said Gourville, as he drew Fouquet's attention, by a
gesture, to another point. He showed him a low-built tumbrel, drawn by
two horses, upon which rocked two strong gibbets, bound together, back to
back, by chains, whilst an archer, seated upon the cross-beam, suffered,
as well as he could, with his head cast down, the comments of a hundred
vagabonds, who guessed the destination of the gibbets, and were escorting
them to the Hotel de Ville. Fouquet started. "It is decided, you see,"
"But it is not done," replied Fouquet.
"Oh, do not flatter yourself, monseigneur; if they have thus lulled your
friendship and suspicions - if things have gone so far, you will be able
to undo nothing."
"But I have not given my sanction."
"M. de Lyonne has ratified for you."
"I will go to the Louvre."
"Oh, no, you will not."
"Would you advise such baseness?" cried Fouquet, "would you advise me to
abandon my friends? would you advise me, whilst able to fight, to throw
the arms I hold in my hand to the ground?"
"I do not advise you to do anything of the kind, monseigneur. Are you
in a position to quit the post of superintendent at this moment?"
"Well, if the king wishes to displace you - "
"He will displace me absent as well as present."
"Yes, but you will not have insulted him."
"Yes, but I shall have been base; now I am not willing that my friends
should die; and they shall _not_ die!"
"For that it is necessary you should go to the Louvre, is it not?"
"Beware! once at the Louvre, you will be forced to defend your friends
openly, that is to say, to make a profession of faith; or you will be
forced to abandon them irrevocably."
"Pardon me; - the king will propose the alternative to you, rigorously,
or else you will propose it to him yourself."
"That is true."
"That is the reason why conflict must be avoided. Let us return to Saint-
"Gourville, I will not stir from this place, where the crime is to be
carried out, where my disgrace is to be accomplished; I will not stir, I
say, till I have found some means of combating my enemies."
"Monseigneur," replied Gourville, "you would excite my pity, if I did not
know you for one of the great spirits of this world. You possess a
hundred and fifty millions, you are equal to the king in position, and a
hundred and fifty millions his superior in money. M. Colbert has not
even had the wit to have the will of Mazarin accepted. Now, when a man
is the richest person in a kingdom, and will take the trouble to spend
the money, if things are done he does not like, it is because he is a
poor man. Let us return to Saint-Mande, I say."
"To consult with Pelisson? - we will."
"No, monseigneur, to count your money."
"So be it," said Fouquet, with angry eyes; - "yes, yes, to Saint-Mande!"
He got into his carriage again, and Gourville with him. Upon their road,
at the end of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, they overtook the humble
equipage of Vatel, who was quietly conveying home his _vin de Joigny_.
The black horses, going at a swift pace, alarmed, as they passed, the
timid hack of the _maitre d'hotel_, who, putting his head out at the
window, cried, in a fright, "Take care of my bottles!" (2)
The Gallery of Saint-Mande.
Fifty persons were waiting for the superintendent. He did not even take
the time to place himself in the hands of his _valet de chambre_ for a
minute, but from the _perron_ went straight into the _premier salon_.
There his friends were assembled in full chat. The intendant was about
to order supper to be served, but, above all, the Abbe Fouquet watched
for the return of his brother, and was endeavoring to do the honors of
the house in his absence. Upon the arrival of the superintendent, a
murmur of joy and affection was heard; Fouquet, full of affability, good
humor, and munificence, was beloved by his poets, his artists, and his
men of business. His brow, upon which his little court read, as upon
that of a god, all the movements of his soul, and thence drew rules of
conduct, - his brow, upon which affairs of state never impressed a
wrinkle, was this evening paler than usual, and more than one friendly
eye remarked that pallor. Fouquet placed himself at the head of the
table, and presided gayly during supper. He recounted Vatel's expedition
to La Fontaine, he related the history of Menneville and the skinny fowl
to Pelisson, in such a manner that all the table heard it. A tempest of
laughter and jokes ensued, which was only checked by a serious and even
sad gesture from Pelisson. The Abbe Fouquet, not being able to
comprehend why his brother should have led the conversation in that
direction, listened with all his ears, and sought in the countenance of
Gourville, or in that of his brother, an explanation which nothing
afforded him. Pelisson took up the matter: - "Did they mention M.
Colbert, then?" said he.
"Why not?" replied Fouquet; "if true, as it is said to be, that the king
has made him his intendant?" Scarcely had Fouquet uttered these words,
with a marked intention, than an explosion broke forth among the guests.
"The miser!" said one.
"The mean, pitiful fellow!" said another.
"The hypocrite!" said a third.
Pelisson exchanged a meaning look with Fouquet. "Messieurs," said he,
"in truth we are abusing a man whom no one knows: it is neither
charitable nor reasonable; and here is monsieur le surintendant, who, I
am sure, agrees with me."
"Entirely," replied Fouquet. "Let the fat fowls of M. Colbert alone; our
business to-day is with the _faisans truffes_ of M. Vatel." This speech
stopped the dark cloud which was beginning to throw its shade over the
guests. Gourville succeeded so well in animating the poets with the _vin
de Joigny_; the abbe, intelligent as a man who stands in need of his
host's money, so enlivened the financiers and the men of the sword, that,
amidst the vapors of this joy and the noise of conversation, inquietudes
disappeared completely. The will of Cardinal Mazarin was the text of the
conversation at the second course and dessert; then Fouquet ordered bowls
of sweetmeats and fountains of liquor to be carried into the _salon_
adjoining the gallery. He led the way thither, conducting by the hand a
lady, the queen, by his preference, of the evening. The musicians then
supped, and the promenades in the gallery and the gardens commenced,
beneath a spring sky, mild and flower-scented. Pelisson then approached
the superintendent, and said: "Something troubles monseigneur?"
"Greatly," replied the minister; "ask Gourville to tell you what it is."
Pelisson, on turning round, found La Fontaine treading upon his heels.
He was obliged to listen to a Latin verse, which the poet had composed
upon Vatel. La Fontaine had, for an hour, been scanning this verse in
all corners, seeking some one to pour it out upon advantageously. He
thought he had caught Pelisson, but the latter escaped him; he turned
towards Sorel, who had, himself, just composed a _quatrain_ in honor of
the supper, and the _Amphytrion_. La Fontaine in vain endeavored to gain
attention to his verses; Sorel wanted to obtain a hearing for his
_quatrain_. He was obliged to retreat before M. le Comte de Charost,
whose arm Fouquet had just taken. L'Abbe Fouquet perceived that the
poet, absent-minded, as usual, was about to follow the two talkers; and
he interposed. La Fontaine seized upon him, and recited his verses. The
abbe, who was quite innocent of Latin, nodded his head, in cadence, at
every roll which La Fontaine impressed upon his body, according to the
undulations of the dactyls and spondees. While this was going on, behind
the confiture-basins, Fouquet related the event of the day to his son-in-
law, M. de Charost. "We will send the idle and useless to look at the
fireworks," said Pelisson to Gourville, "whilst we converse here."
"So be it," said Gourville, addressing four words to Vatel. The latter
then led towards the gardens the major part of the beaux, the ladies and
the chatterers, whilst the men walked in the gallery, lighted by three
hundred wax-lights, in the sight of all; the admirers of fireworks all
ran away towards the garden. Gourville approached Fouquet, and said:
"Monsieur, we are here."
"All?" said Fouquet.
"Yes, - count." The superintendent counted; there were eight persons.
Pelisson and Gourville walked arm in arm, as if conversing upon vague
and frivolous subjects. Sorel and two officers imitated them, and in an
opposite direction. The Abbe Fouquet walked alone. Fouquet, with M. de
Charost, walked as if entirely absorbed in the conversation of his son-in-
law. "Messieurs," said he, "let no one of you raise his head as he
walks, or appear to pay attention to me; continue walking, we are alone,
listen to me."
A perfect silence ensued, disturbed only by the distant cries of the
joyous guests, from the groves whence they beheld the fireworks. It was a
whimsical spectacle this, of these men walking in groups, as if each one
was occupied about something, whilst lending attention really only to one
amongst them, who, himself, seemed to be speaking only to his companion.
"Messieurs," said Fouquet, "you have, without doubt, remarked the absence
of two of my friends this evening, who were with us on Wednesday. For
God's sake, abbe, do not stop, - it is not necessary to enable you to
listen; walk on, carrying your head in a natural way, and as you have
excellent sight, place yourself at the window, and if any one returns
towards the gallery, give us notice by coughing."
The abbe obeyed.
"I have not observed their absence," said Pelisson, who, at this moment,
was turning his back to Fouquet, and walking the other way.
"I do not see M. Lyodot," said Sorel, "who pays me my pension."
"And I," said the abbe, at the window, "do not see M. d'Eymeris, who owes
me eleven hundred livres from our last game of brelan."
"Sorel," continued Fouquet, walking bent, and gloomily, "you will never
receive your pension any more from M. Lyodot; and you, abbe, will never
be paid you eleven hundred livres by M. d'Eymeris; for both are doomed to
"To die!" exclaimed the whole assembly, arrested, in spite of themselves,
in the comedy they were playing, by that terrible word.
"Recover yourselves, messieurs," said Fouquet, "for perhaps we are
watched - I said: to die!"
"To die!" repeated Pelisson; "what, the men I saw six days ago, full of
health, gayety, and the spirit of the future! What then is man, good
God! that disease should thus bring him down all at once!"
"It is not a disease," said Fouquet.
"Then there is a remedy," said Sorel.
"No remedy. Messieurs de Lyodot and D'Eymeris are on the eve of their
"Of what are these gentlemen dying, then?" asked an officer.
"Ask of him who kills them," replied Fouquet.
"Who kills them? Are they being killed, then?" cried the terrified
"They do better still; the are hanging them," murmured Fouquet, in a
sinister voice, which sounded like a funeral knell in that rich gallery,
splendid with pictures, flowers, velvet, and gold. Involuntarily every
one stopped; the abbe quitted his window; the first fuses of the
fireworks began to mount above the trees. A prolonged cry from the
gardens attracted the superintendent to enjoy the spectacle. He drew
near to a window, and his friends placed themselves behind him, attentive
to his least wish.
"Messieurs," said he, "M. Colbert has caused to be arrested, tried and
will execute my two friends; what does it become me to do?"
"_Mordieu!_" exclaimed the abbe, the first one to speak, "run M. Colbert
through the body."
"Monseigneur," said Pelisson, "you must speak to his majesty."
"The king, my dear Pelisson, himself signed the order for the execution."
"Well!" said the Comte de Charost, "the execution must not take place,
then; that is all."
"Impossible," said Gourville, "unless we could corrupt the jailers."
"Or the governor," said Fouquet.
"This night the prisoners might be allowed to escape."
"Which of you will take charge of the transaction?"
"I," said the abbe, "will carry the money."
"And I," said Pelisson, "will be the bearer of the words."
"Words and money," said Fouquet, "five hundred thousand livres to the
governor of the _conciergerie_ that is sufficient; nevertheless, it shall
be a million, if necessary."
"A million!" cried the abbe; "why, for less than half, I would have half
"There must be no disorder," said Pelisson. "The governor being gained,
the two prisoners escape; once clear of the fangs of the law, they will
call together the enemies of Colbert, and prove to the king that his
young justice, like all other monstrosities, is not infallible."
"Go to Paris, then, Pelisson," said Fouquet, "and bring hither the two
victims; to-morrow we shall see."
Gourville gave Pelisson the five hundred thousand livres. "Take care
the wind does not carry you away," said the abbe; "what a
responsibility. _Peste!_ Let me help you a little."
"Silence!" said Fouquet, "somebody is coming. Ah! the fireworks are
producing a magical effect." At this moment a shower of sparks fell
rustling among the branches of the neighboring trees. Pelisson and
Gourville went out together by the door of the gallery; Fouquet descended
to the garden with the five last plotters.
As Fouquet was giving, or appearing to give, all his attention to the
brilliant illuminations, the languishing music of the violins and
hautboys, the sparkling sheaves of the artificial fires, which, inflaming
the heavens with glowing reflections, marked behind the trees the dark
profile of the donjon of Vincennes; as, we say, the superintendent was
smiling on the ladies and the poets, the _fete_ was every whit as gay as
usual; and Vatel, whose restless, even jealous look, earnestly consulted
the aspect of Fouquet, did not appear dissatisfied with the welcome given
to the ordering of the evening's entertainment. The fireworks over, the
company dispersed about the gardens and beneath the marble porticoes with
the delightful liberty which reveals in the master of the house so much
forgetfulness of greatness, so much courteous hospitality, so much
magnificent carelessness. The poets wandered about, arm in arm, through
the groves; some reclined upon beds of moss, to the great damage of
velvet clothes and curled heads, into which little dried leaves and
blades of grass insinuated themselves. The ladies, in small numbers,
listened to the songs of the singers and the verses of the poets; others
listened to the prose, spoken with much art, by men who were neither
actors nor poets, but to whom youth and solitude gave an unaccustomed
eloquence, which appeared to them better than everything else in the
world. "Why," said La Fontaine, "does not our master Epicurus descend
into the garden? Epicurus never abandoned his pupils; the master is
"Monsieur," said Conrart, "you yourself are in the wrong persisting in
decorating yourself with the name of an Epicurean; indeed, nothing here
reminds me of the doctrine of the philosopher of Gargetta."
"Bah!" said La Fontaine, "is it not written that Epicurus purchased a
large garden and lived in it tranquilly with his friends?"
"That is true."
"Well, has not M. Fouquet purchased a large garden at Saint-Mande, and do
we not live here very tranquilly with him and his friends?"
"Yes, without doubt; unfortunately it is neither the garden nor the
friends which constitute the resemblance. Now, what likeness is there
between the doctrine of Epicurus and that of M. Fouquet?"
"This - pleasure gives happiness."
"Well, I do not think we ought to consider ourselves unfortunate, for my
part, at least. A good repast - _vin de Joigny_, which they have the
delicacy to go and fetch for me from my favorite _cabaret_ - not one
impertinence heard during a supper an hour long, in spite of the presence
of ten millionaires and twenty poets."
"I stop you there. You mentioned _vin de Joigny_, and a good repast; do
you persist in that?"
"I persist, - _anteco_, as they say at Port Royal."
"Then please to recollect that the great Epicurus lived, and made his
pupils live, upon bread, vegetables, and water."
"That is not certain," said La Fontaine; "and you appear to me to be
confounding Epicurus with Pythagoras, my dear Conrart."
"Remember, likewise, that the ancient philosopher was rather a bad friend
of the gods and the magistrates."
"Oh! that is what I will not admit," replied La Fontaine. "Epicurus was
like M. Fouquet."
"Do not compare him to monsieur le surintendant," said Conrart, in an
agitated voice, "or you would accredit the reports which are circulating
concerning him and us."
"That we are bad Frenchmen, lukewarm with regard to the king, deaf to the
"I return, then, to my text," said La Fontaine. "Listen, Conrart, this
is the morality of Epicurus, whom, besides, I consider, if I must tell
you so, as a myth. Antiquity is mostly mythical. Jupiter, if we give a
little attention to it, is life. Alcides is strength. The words are
there to bear me out; Zeus, that is, _zen_, to live. Alcides, that is,
_alce_, vigor. Well, Epicurus, that is mild watchfulness, that is
protection; now who watches better over the state, or who protects
individuals better than M. Fouquet does?"
"You talk etymology and not morality; I say that we modern Epicureans are
"Oh!" cried La Fontaine," if we become bad citizens, it is not through
following the maxims of our master. Listen to one of his principal
"I - will."
"Pray for good leaders."
"Well! what does M. Fouquet say to us every day? 'When shall we be
governed?' Does he say so? Come, Conrart, be frank."
"He says so, that is true."
"Well, that is a doctrine of Epicurus."
"Yes; but that is a little seditious, observe."
"What! seditious to wish to be governed by good heads or leaders?"
"Certainly, when those who govern are bad."
"Patience, I have a reply for all."
"Even for what I have just said to you?"
"Listen! would you submit to those who govern ill? Oh! it is written:
_Cacos politeuousi_. You grant me the text?"
"_Pardieu!_ I think so. Do you know, you speak Greek as well as Aesop
did, my dear La Fontaine."
"Is there any wickedness in that, my dear Conrart?"
"God forbid I should say so."
"Then let us return to M. Fouquet. What did he repeat to us all the
day? Was it not this? 'What a _cuistre_ is that Mazarin! what an ass!
what a leech! We must, however, submit to that fellow.' Now, Conrart,
did he say so, or did he not?"
"I confess that he said it, and even perhaps too often."
"Like Epicurus, my friend, still like Epicurus; I repeat, we are
Epicureans, and that is very amusing."
"Yes; but I am afraid there will rise up, by the side of us, a sect like
that of Epictetus; you know him well; the philosopher of Hierapolis, he
who called bread luxury, vegetables prodigality, and clear water
drunkenness; he who, being beaten by his master, said to him, grumbling a
little it is true, but without being angry, 'I will lay a wager you have
broken my leg!' - and who won his wager."
"He was a goose, that fellow Epictetus."
"Granted, but he might easily become the fashion by only changing his
name into that of Colbert."
"Bah!" replied La Fontaine, "that is impossible. Never will you find
Colbert in Epictetus."
"You are right, I shall find - _Coluber_ there, at the most."
"Ah! you are beaten, Conrart; you are reduced to a play upon words. M.
Arnaud pretends that I have no logic; I have more than M. Nicole."
"Yes," replied Conrart, "you have logic, but you are a Jansenist."
This peroration was hailed with a boisterous shout of laughter; by
degrees the promenaders had been attracted by the exclamations of the two
disputants around the arbor under which they were arguing. The
discussion had been religiously listened to, and Fouquet himself,
scarcely able to suppress his laughter, had given an example of
moderation. But with the _denouement_ of the scene he threw off all
restraint, and laughed aloud. Everybody laughed as he did, and the two
philosophers were saluted with unanimous felicitations. La Fontaine,
however, was declared conqueror, on account of his profound erudition and
his irrefragable logic. Conrart obtained the compensation due to an
unsuccessful combatant; he was praised for the loyalty of his intentions,
and the purity of his conscience.
At the moment when this jollity was manifesting itself by the most lively
demonstrations, when the ladies were reproaching the two adversaries with
not having admitted women into the system of Epicurean happiness,
Gourville was seen hastening from the other end of the garden,
approaching Fouquet, and detaching him, by his presence alone, from the
group. The superintendent preserved on his face the smile and character
of carelessness; but scarcely was he out of sight than he threw off the
"Well!" said he, eagerly, "where is Pelisson! What is he doing?"
"Pelisson has returned from Paris."
"Has he brought back the prisoners?"
"He has not even seen the _concierge_ of the prison."
"What! did he not tell him he came from me?"
"He told him so, but the _concierge_ sent him this reply: 'If any one
came to me from M. Fouquet, he would have a letter from M. Fouquet.'"
"Oh!" cried the latter, "if a letter is all he wants - "
"It is useless, monsieur!" said Pelisson, showing himself at the corner
of the little wood, "useless! Go yourself, and speak in your own name."
"You are right. I will go in, as if to work; let the horses remain
harnessed, Pelisson. Entertain my friends, Gourville."
"One last word of advice, monseigneur," replied the latter.
"Do not go to the _concierge_ save at the last minute; it is brave, but
it is not wise. Excuse me, Monsieur Pelisson, if I am not of the same
opinion as you; but take my advice, monseigneur, send again a message to
this _concierge_, - he is a worthy man, but do not carry it yourself."
"I will think of it," said Fouquet; "besides, we have all the night
"Do not reckon too much on time; were the hours we have twice as many as
they are, they would not be too much," replied Pelisson; "it is never a
fault to arrive too soon."
"Adieu!" said the superintendent; "come with me, Pelisson. Gourville, I
commend my guests to your care." And he set off. The Epicureans did not
perceive that the head of the school had left them; the violins continued
playing all night long.
A Quarter of an Hour's Delay.
Fouquet, on leaving his house for the second time that day, felt himself
less heavy and less disturbed than might have been expected. He turned
towards Pelisson, who was meditating in the corner of the carriage some
good arguments against the violent proceedings of Colbert.
"My dear Pelisson," said Fouquet, "it is a great pity you are not a
"I think, on the contrary, it is very fortunate," replied Pelisson, "for,
monseigneur, I am excessively ugly."
"Pelisson! Pelisson!" said the superintendent, laughing: "You repeat
too often, you are 'ugly', not to leave people to believe that it gives
you much pain."
"In fact it does, monseigneur, much pain; there is no man more
unfortunate than I: I was handsome, the small-pox rendered me hideous; I
am deprived of a great means of attraction; now, I am your principal
clerk, or something of that sort; I take great interest in your affairs,
and if, at this moment, I were a pretty woman, I could render you an
"I would go and find the _concierge_ of the Palais. I would seduce him,
for he is a gallant man, extravagantly partial to women; then I would get
away our two prisoners."
"I hope to be able to do so myself, although I am not a pretty woman,"
"Granted, monseigneur; but you are compromising yourself very much."
"Oh!" cried Fouquet, suddenly, with one of those secret transports which
the generous blood of youth, or the remembrance of some sweet emotion,
infuses into the heart. "Oh! I know a woman who will enact the
personage we stand in need of, with the lieutenant-governor of the
"And, on my part, I know fifty, monseigneur; fifty trumpets, which will
inform the universe of your generosity, of your devotion to your friends,
and, consequently, will ruin you sooner or later in ruining themselves."
"I do not speak of such women, Pelisson; I speak of a noble and beautiful
creature who joins to the intelligence and wit of her sex the valor and
coolness of ours; I speak of a woman, handsome enough to make the walls
of a prison bow down to salute her, discreet enough to let no one suspect
by whom she has been sent."
"A treasure!" said Pelisson; "you would make a famous present to monsieur
the governor of the _concierge! Peste!_ monseigneur, he might have his
head cut off; but he would, before dying, have had such happiness as no
man had enjoyed before him."
"And I add," said Fouquet, "that the _concierge_ of the Palais would not
have his head cut off, for he would receive of me my horses, to effect
his escape, and five hundred thousand livres wherewith to live
comfortably in England: I add, that this lady, my friend, would give him
nothing but the horses and the money. Let us go and seek her, Pelisson."
The superintendent reached forth his hand towards the golden and silken
cord placed in the interior of his carriage, but Pelisson stopped him.
"Monseigneur," said he, "you are going to lose as much time in seeking
this lady as Columbus took to discover the new world. Now, we have but
two hours in which we can possibly succeed; the _concierge_ once gone to
bed, how shall we get at him without making a disturbance? When daylight
dawns, how can we conceal our proceedings? Go, go yourself, monseigneur,
and do not seek either woman or angel to-night."
"But, my dear Pelisson, here we are before her door."
"What! before the angel's door?"
"This is the hotel of Madame de Belliere!"
"Ah! Good Lord!" exclaimed Pelisson.
"What have you to say against her?"
"Nothing, alas! and it is that which causes my despair. Nothing,
absolutely nothing. Why can I not, on the contrary, say ill enough of
her to prevent your going to her?"
But Fouquet had already given orders to stop, and the carriage was
motionless. "Prevent me!" cried Fouquet; "why, no power on earth should
prevent my going to pay my compliments to Madame de Plessis-Belliere;
besides, who knows that we shall not stand in need of her!"
"No, monseigneur, no!"
"But I do not wish you to wait for me, Pelisson," replied Fouquet,
"The more reason I should, monseigneur; knowing that you are keeping me
waiting, you will, perhaps, stay a shorter time. Take care! You see
there is a carriage in the courtyard: she has some one with her."
Fouquet leaned towards the steps of the carriage. "One word more," cried
Pelisson; "do not go to this lady till you have been to the _concierge_,
for Heaven's sake!"
"Eh! five minutes, Pelisson," replied Fouquet, alighting at the steps of
the hotel, leaving Pelisson in the carriage, in a very ill-humor.
Fouquet ran upstairs, told his name to the footman, which excited an
eagerness and a respect that showed the habit the mistress of the house
had of honoring that name in her family. "Monsieur le surintendant,"
cried the marquise, advancing, very pale, to meet him; "what an honor!
what an unexpected pleasure!" said she. Then, in a low voice, "Take
care!" added the marquise, "Marguerite Vanel is here!"
"Madame," replied Fouquet, rather agitated, "I came on business. One
single word, and quickly, if you please!" And he entered the _salon_.
Madame Vanel had risen, paler, more livid, than Envy herself. Fouquet in
vain addressed her, with the most agreeable, most pacific salutation; she
only replied by a terrible glance darted at the marquise and Fouquet.
This keen glance of a jealous woman is a stiletto which pierces every
cuirass; Marguerite Vanel plunged it straight into the hearts of the two
confidants. She made a courtesy to _her friend_, a more profound one to
Fouquet, and took leave, under pretense of having a number of visits to
make, without the marquise trying to prevent her, or Fouquet, a prey to
anxiety, thinking further about her. She was scarcely out of the room,
and Fouquet left alone with the marquise, before he threw himself on his
knees, without saying a word. "I expected you," said the marquise, with
a tender sigh.
"Oh! no," cried he, "or you would have sent away that woman."
"She has been here little more than half an hour, and I had no
expectation she would come this evening."
"You love me just a little, then, marquise?"
"That is not the question now; it is of your danger; how are your affairs
"I am going this evening to get my friends out of the prisons of the
"How will you do that?"
"By buying and bribing the governor."
"He is a friend of mine; can I assist you, without injuring you?"
"Oh! marquise, it would be a signal service; but how can you be employed
without your being compromised? Now, never shall my life, my power, or
even my liberty, be purchased at the expense of a single tear from your
eyes, or of one frown of pain upon your brow."
"Monseigneur, no more such words, they bewilder me; I have been culpable
in trying to serve you, without calculating the extent of what I was
doing. I love you in reality, as a tender friend; and as a friend, I am
grateful for your delicate attentions - but, alas! - alas! you will never
find a mistress in me."
"Marquise!" cried Fouquet, in a tone of despair; "why not?"
"Because you are too much beloved," said the young woman, in a low voice;
"because you are too much beloved by too many people - because the
splendor of glory and fortune wound my eyes, whilst the darkness of
sorrow attracts them; because, in short, I, who have repulsed you in your
proud magnificence; I who scarcely looked at you in your splendor, I
came, like a mad woman, to throw myself, as it were, into your arms, when
I saw a misfortune hovering over your head. You understand me now,
monseigneur? Become happy again, that I may remain chaste in heart and
in thought: your misfortune entails my ruin."
"Oh! madame," said Fouquet, with an emotion he had never before felt;
"were I to fall to the lowest degree of human misery, and hear from your
mouth that word which you now refuse me, that day, madame, you will be
mistaken in your noble egotism; that day you will fancy you are consoling
the most unfortunate of men, and you will have said, _I love you_, to the
most illustrious, the most delighted, the most triumphant of the happy
beings of this world."
He was still at her feet, kissing her hand, when Pelisson entered
precipitately, crying, in very ill-humor, "Monseigneur! madame! for
Heaven's sake! excuse me. Monseigneur, you have been here half an hour.
Oh! do not both look at me so reproachfully. Madame, pray who is that
lady who left your house soon after monseigneur came in?"
"Madame Vanel," said Fouquet.
"Ha!" cried Pelisson, "I was sure of that."
"Well! what then?"
"Why, she got into her carriage, looking deadly pale."
"What consequence is that to me?"
"Yes, but what she said to her coachman is of consequence to you."
"Kind heaven!" cried the marquise, "what was that?"
"To M. Colbert's!" said Pelisson, in a hoarse voice.
"_Bon Dieu!_ - begone, begone, monseigneur!" replied the marquise,
pushing Fouquet out of the salon, whilst Pelisson dragged him by the
"Am I, then, indeed," said the superintendent, "become a child, to be
frightened by a shadow?"
"You are a giant," said the marquise, "whom a viper is trying to bite in
Pelisson continued to drag Fouquet to the carriage. "To the Palais at
full speed!" cried Pelisson to the coachman. The horses set off like
lightening; no obstacle relaxed their pace for an instant. Only, at the
arcade Saint-Jean, as they were coming out upon the Place de Greve, a
long file of horsemen, barring the narrow passage, stopped the carriage
of the superintendent. There was no means of forcing this barrier; it
was necessary to wait till the mounted archers of the watch, for it was
they who stopped the way, had passed with the heavy carriage they were
escorting, and which ascended rapidly towards the Place Baudoyer.
Fouquet and Pelisson took no further account of this circumstance beyond
deploring the minute's delay they had thus to submit to. They entered
the habitation of the _concierge du Palais_ five minutes after. That
officer was still walking about in the front court. At the name of
Fouquet, whispered in his ear by Pelisson, the governor eagerly
approached the carriage, and, hat in hand, was profuse in his
attentions. "What an honor for me, monseigneur," said he.
"One word, monsieur le governeur, will you take the trouble to get into
my carriage?" The officer placed himself opposite Fouquet in the coach.
"Monsieur," said Fouquet, "I have a service to ask of you."
"A service that will be compromising for you, monsieur, but which will
assure to you forever my protection and my friendship."
"Were it to cast myself into the fire for you, monseigneur, I would do
"That is well," said Fouquet; "what I require is much more simple."
"That being so, monseigneur, what is it?"
"To conduct me to the chamber of Messieurs Lyodot and D'Eymeris."
"Will monseigneur have the kindness to say for what purpose?"
"I will tell you that in their presence, monsieur; at the same time that
I will give you ample means of palliating this escape."
"Escape! Why, then, monseigneur does not know?"
"That Messieurs Lyodot and D'Eymeris are no longer here."
"Since when?" cried Fouquet, in great agitation.
"About a quarter of an hour."
"Whither have they gone, then?"
"To Vincennes - to the donjon."
"Who took them from here?"
"An order from the king."
"Oh! woe! woe!" exclaimed Fouquet, striking his forehead. "Woe!" and
without saying a single word more to the governor, he threw himself back
into his carriage, despair in his heart, and death on his countenance.
"Well!" said Pelisson, with great anxiety.
"Our friends are lost. Colbert is conveying them to the donjon. They
crossed our path under the arcade Saint-Jean."
Pelisson, struck as by a thunderbolt, made no reply. With a single
reproach he would have killed his master. "Where is monseigneur going?"
said the footman.
"Home - to Paris. You, Pelisson, return to Saint-Mande, and bring the
Abbe Fouquet to me within an hour. Begone!"
Plan of Battle.
The night was already far advanced when the Abbe Fouquet joined his
brother. Gourville had accompanied him. These three men, pale with
dread of future events, resembled less three powers of the day than three
conspirators, united by one single thought of violence. Fouquet walked
for a long time, with his eyes fixed upon the floor, striking his hands
one against the other. At length, taking courage, in the midst of a deep
sigh: "Abbe," said he, "you were speaking to me only to-day of certain
people you maintain."
"Yes, monsieur," replied the abbe.
"Tell me precisely who are these people." The abbe hesitated.
"Come! no fear, I am not threatening; no romancing, for I am not joking."
"Since you demand the truth, monseigneur, here it is: - I have a hundred
and twenty friends or companions of pleasure, who are sworn to me as the
thief is to the gallows."
"And you think you can depend on them?"
"And you will not compromise yourself?"
"I will not even make my appearance."
"Are they men of resolution?"
"They would burn Paris, if I promised them they should not be burnt in
"The thing I ask of you, abbe," said Fouquet, wiping the sweat which fell
from his brow, "is to throw your hundred and twenty men upon the people I
will point out to you, at a certain moment given - is it possible?"
"It will not be the first time such a thing has happened to them,
"That is well: but would these bandits attack an armed force?"
"They are used to that."
"Then get your hundred and twenty men together, abbe."
"Directly. But where?"
"On the road to Vincennes, to-morrow, at two o'clock precisely."
"To carry off Lyodot and D'Eymeris? There will be blows to be got!"
"A number, no doubt; are you afraid?"
"Not for myself, but for you."
"Your men will know, then, what they have to do?"
"They are too intelligent not to guess it. Now, a minister who gets up a
riot against his king - exposes himself - "
"Of what importance is that to you, I pray? Besides, if I fall, you fall
"It would then be more prudent, monsieur, not to stir in the affair, and
leave the king to take this little satisfaction."
"Think well of this, abbe, Lyodot and D'Eymeris at Vincennes are a
prelude of ruin for my house. I repeat it - I arrested, you will be
imprisoned - I imprisoned, you will be exiled."
"Monsieur, I am at your orders; have you any to give me?"
"What I told you - I wish that, to-morrow, the two financiers of whom
they mean to make victims, whilst there remain so many criminals
unpunished, should be snatched from the fury of my enemies. Take your
measures accordingly. Is it possible?"
"It is possible."
"Describe your plan."
"It is of rich simplicity. The ordinary guard at executions consists of
"There will be a hundred to-morrow."
"I reckon so. I even say more - there will be two hundred."
"Then your hundred and twenty men will not be enough."
"Pardon me. In every crowd composed of a hundred thousand spectators,
there are ten thousand bandits or cut-purses - only they dare not take
"There will then be, to-morrow, on the Place de Greve, which I choose as
my battle-field, ten thousand auxiliaries to my hundred and twenty men.
The attack commenced by the latter, the others will finish it."
"That all appears feasible. But what will be done with regard to the
prisoners upon the Place de Greve?"
"This: they must be thrust into some house - that will make a siege
necessary to get them out again. And stop! here is another idea, more
sublime still: certain houses have two issues - one upon the Place, and
the other into the Rue de la Mortellerie, or la Vannerie, or la
Tixeranderie. The prisoners entering by one door will go out at another."
"Yes; but fix upon something positive."
"I am seeking to do so."
"And I," cried Fouquet, "I have found it. Listen to what has occurred to
me at this moment."
"I am listening."
Fouquet made a sign to Gourville, who appeared to understand. "One of my
friends lends me sometimes the keys of a house which he rents, Rue
Baudoyer, the spacious gardens of which extend behind a certain house on
the Place de Greve."
"That is the place for us," said the abbe. "What house?"
"A _cabaret_, pretty well frequented, whose sign represents the image of
"I know it," said the abbe.
"This _cabaret_ has windows opening upon the Place, a place of exit into
the court, which must abut upon the gardens of my friend by a door of
"Good!" said the abbe.
"Enter by the _cabaret_, take the prisoners in; defend the door while you
enable them to fly by the garden and the Place Baudoyer."
"That is all plain. Monsieur, you would make an excellent general, like
monsieur le prince."
"Have you understood me?"
"How much will it amount to, to make your bandits all drunk with wine,
and to satisfy them with gold?"
"Oh, monsieur, what an expression! Oh! monsieur, if they heard you! some
of them are very susceptible."
"I mean to say they must be brought to the point where they cannot tell
the heavens from the earth; for I shall to-morrow contend with the king;
and when I fight I mean to conquer - please to understand."
"It shall be done, monsieur. Give me your other ideas."
"That is your business."
"Then give me your purse."
"Gourville, count a hundred thousand livres for the abbe."
"Good! and spare nothing, did you not say?"
"That is well."
"Monseigneur," objected Gourville, "if this should be known, we should
lose our heads."
"Eh! Gourville," replied Fouquet, purple with anger, "you excite my
pity. Speak for yourself, if you please. My head does not shake in that
manner upon my shoulders. Now, abbe, is everything arranged?"
"At two o'clock to-morrow."
"At twelve, because it will be necessary to prepare our auxiliaries in a
"That is true; do not spare the wine of the _cabaretier_."
"I will spare neither his wine nor his house," replied the abbe, with a
sneering laugh. "I have my plan, I tell you; leave me to set it in
operation, and you shall see."
"Where shall you be yourself?"
"And how shall I receive information?"
"By a courier whose horse shall be kept in the very same garden of your
friend. _A propos_, the name of your friend?"
Fouquet looked again at Gourville. The latter came to the succor of his
master, saying, ["The name is of no importance."
Fouquet continued, "Accompany] monsieur l'abbe, for several reasons, but
the house is easily to be known - the 'Image-de-Notre-Dame' in the front,
a garden, the only one in the quarter, behind."
[The text is corrupt at this point. The suggested reading, in brackets,
is my own. – JB.]
"Good, good! I will go and give notice to my soldiers."
"Accompany him, Gourville," said Fouquet, "and count him down the money.
One moment, abbe - one moment, Gourville - what name will be given to
this carrying off?"
"A very natural one, monsieur - the Riot."
"The riot on account of what? For, if ever the people of Paris are
disposed to pay their court to the king, it is when he hangs financiers."
"I will manage that," said the abbe.
"Yes; but you may manage it badly, and people will guess."
"Not at all, - not at all. I have another idea."
"What is that?"
"My men shall cry out, '_Colbert, vive Colbert!_' and shall throw
themselves upon the prisoners as if they would tear them in pieces, and
shall force them from the gibbets, as too mild a punishment."
"Ah! that is an idea," said Gourville. "_Peste!_ monsieur l'abbe, what
an imagination you have!"
"Monsieur, we are worthy of our family," replied the abbe, proudly.
"Strange fellow," murmured Fouquet. Then he added, "That is ingenious.
Carry it out, but shed no blood."
Gourville and the abbe set off together, with their heads full of the
meditated riot. The superintendent laid himself down upon some cushions,
half valiant with respect to the sinister projects of the morrow, half
dreaming of love.
The Cabaret of the Image-de-Notre-Dame.
At two o'clock the next day fifty thousand spectators had taken their
position upon the Place, around the two gibbets which had been elevated
between the Quai de la Greve and the Quai Pelletier; one close to the
other, with their backs to the embankment of the river. In the morning
also, all the sworn criers of the good city of Paris had traversed the
quarters of the city, particularly the _halles_ and the _faubourgs_,
announcing with their hoarse and indefatigable voices the great justice
done by the king upon two speculators, two thieves, devourers of the
people. And these people, whose interests were so warmly looked after,
in order not to fail in respect for their king, quitted shops, stalls,
and _atliers_, to go and evince a little gratitude to Louis XIV.,
absolutely like invited guests, who feared to commit an impoliteness in
not repairing to the house of him who had invited them. According to the
tenor of the sentence, which the criers read aloud and incorrectly, two
farmers of the revenues, monopolists of money, dilapidators of the royal
provisions, extortioners, and forgers, were about to undergo capital
punishment on the Place de Greve, with their names blazoned over their
heads, according to their sentence. As to those names, the sentence made
no mention of them. The curiosity of the Parisians was at its height,
and, as we have said, an immense crowd waited with feverish impatience
the hour fixed for the execution. The news had already spread that the
prisoners, transferred to the Chateau of Vincennes, would be conducted
from that prison to the Place de Greve. Consequently, the faubourg and
the Rue Saint Antoine were crowded; for the population of Paris in those
days of great executions was divided into two categories: those who came
to see the condemned pass - these were of timid and mild hearts, but
philosophically curious - and those who wished to see the condemned die -
these had hearts that hungered for sensation. On this day M. d'Artagnan
received his last instructions from the king, and made his adieus to his
friends, the number of whom was, at the moment, reduced to Planchet,
then he traced the plan of his day, as every busy man whose moments are
counted ought to do, because he appreciates their importance.
"My departure is to be," said he, "at break of day, three o'clock in the
morning; I have then fifteen hours before me. Take from them the six
hours of sleep which are indispensable for me - six; one hour for repasts
- seven; one hour for a farewell visit to Athos - eight; two hours for
chance circumstances - total, ten. There are then five hours left. One
hour to get my money, - that is, to have payment refused by M. Fouquet;
another hour to go and receive my money of M. Colbert, together with his
questions and grimaces; one hour to look over my clothes and arms, and
get my boots cleaned. I still have two hours left. _Mordioux!_ how rich
I am." And so saying, D'Artagnan felt a strange joy, a joy of youth, a
perfume of those great and happy years of former times mount into his
brain and intoxicate him. "During these two hours I will go," said the
musketeer, "and take my quarter's rent of the Image-de-Notre-Dame. That
will be pleasant. Three hundred and seventy-five livres! _Mordioux!_
but that is astonishing! If the poor man who has but one livre in his
pocket, found a livre and twelve deniers, that would be justice, that
would be excellent; but never does such a godsend fall to the lot of the
poor man. The rich man, on the contrary, makes himself revenue with his
money, which he does not even touch. Here are three hundred and seventy-
five livres which fall to me from heaven. I will go then to the Image-de-
Notre-Dame, and drink a glass of Spanish wine with my tenant, which he
cannot fail to offer me. But order must be observed, Monsieur
d'Artagnan, order must be observed! Let us organize our time, then, and
distribute the employment of it! Art. 1st, Athos; Art. 2d, the Image-de-
Notre-Dame; Art. 3rd, M. Fouquet; Art. 4th, M. Colbert; Art. 5th, supper;
Art. 6th, clothes, boots, horse, portmanteau; Art. 7th and last, sleep."
In consequence of this arrangement, D'Artagnan went straight to the Comte
de la Fere, to whom, modestly and ingenuously, he related a part of his
fortunate adventures. Athos had not been without uneasiness on the
subject of D'Artagnan's visit to the king; but few words sufficed for an
explanation of that. Athos divined that Louis had charged D'Artagnan
with some important mission, and did not even make an effort to draw the
secret from him. He only recommended him to take care of himself, and
offered discreetly to accompany him if that were desirable.
"But, my dear friend," said D'Artagnan, " I am going nowhere."
"What! you come and bid me adieu, and are going nowhere?"
"Oh! yes, yes," replied D'Artagnan, coloring a little, "I am going to
make an acquisition."
"That is quite another thing. Then I change my formula. Instead of 'Do
not get yourself killed,' I will say, - 'Do not get yourself robbed.'"
"My friend, I will inform you if I set eyes on any property that pleases
me, and shall expect you will favor me with your opinion."
"Yes, yes," said Athos, too delicate to permit himself even the
consolation of a smile. Raoul imitated the paternal reserve. But
D'Artagnan thought it would appear too mysterious to leave his friends
under a pretense, without even telling them the route he was about to
"I have chosen Le Mans," said he to Athos. "It is a good country?"
"Excellent, my friend," replied the count, without making him observe
that Le Mans was in the same directions as La Touraine, and that by
waiting two days, at most, he might travel with a friend. But
D'Artagnan, more embarrassed than the count, dug, at every explanation,
deeper into the mud, into which he sank by degrees. "I shall set out to-
morrow at daybreak," said he at last. "Till that time, will you come
with me, Raoul?"
"Yes, monsieur le chevalier," said the young man, "if monsieur le comte
does not want me."
"No, Raoul; I am to have an audience to-day of Monsieur, the king's
brother; that is all I have to do."
Raoul asked Grimaud for his sword, which the old man brought him
immediately. "Now then," added D'Artagnan, opening his arms to Athos,
"adieu, my dear friend!" Athos held him in a long embrace, and the
musketeer, who knew his discretion so well, murmured in his ear - "An
affair of state," to which Athos only replied by a pressure of the hand,
still more significant. They then separated. Raoul took the arm of his
old friend, who led him along the Rue Saint-Honore. "I an conducting you
to the abode of the god Plutus," said D'Artagnan to the young man;
"prepare yourself. The whole day you will witness the piling up of
crowns. Heavens! how I am changed!"
"Oh! what numbers of people there are in the street!" said Raoul.
"Is there a procession to-day?" asked D'Artagnan of a passer-by.
"Monsieur, it is a hanging," replied the man.
"What! a hanging at the Greve?" said D'Artagnan.
"The devil take the rogue who gets himself hung the day I want to go and
take my rent!" cried D'Artagnan. "Raoul, did you ever see anybody hung?"
"Never, monsieur - thank God!"
"Oh! how young that sounds! If you were on guard in the trenches, as I
was, and a spy! But, pardon me, Raoul, I am doting - you are quite
right, it is a hideous sight to see a person hung! At what hour do they
hang them, monsieur, if you please?"
"Monsieur," replied the stranger respectfully, delighted at joining
conversation with two men of the sword, "it will take place at about
"Aha! it is now only half-past one; let us step out, we shall be there in
time to touch my three hundred and seventy-five livres, and get away
before the arrival of the malefactor."
"Malefactors, monsieur," continued the _bourgeois_; "there are two of
"Monsieur, I return to you many thanks," said D'Artagnan, who as he grew
older, had become polite to a degree. Drawing Raoul along, he directed
his course rapidly in the direction of La Greve. Without that great
experience musketeers have of a crowd, to which were joined an
irresistible strength of wrist, and an uncommon suppleness of shoulders,
our two travelers would not have arrived at their place of destination.
They followed the line of the Quai, which they had gained on quitting the
Rue Saint-Honore, where they left Athos. D'Artagnan went first; his
elbow, his wrist, his shoulder formed three wedges which he knew how to
insinuate with skill into the groups, to make them split and separate
like firewood. He made use sometimes of the hilt of his sword as an
additional help: introducing it between ribs that were too rebellious,
making it take the part of a lever or crowbar, to separate husband from
wife, uncle from nephew, and brother from brother. And all that was done
so naturally, and with such gracious smiles, that people must have had
ribs of bronze not to cry thank you when the wrist made its play, or
hearts of diamond not to be enchanted when such a bland smile enlivened
the lips of the musketeer. Raoul, following his friend, cajoled the
women who admired his beauty, pushed back the men who felt the rigidity
of his muscles, and both opened, thanks to these maneuvers, the compact
and muddy tide of the populace. They arrived in sight of the two
gibbets, from which Raoul turned away his eyes in disgust. As for
D'Artagnan, he did not even see them; his house with its gabled roof, its
windows crowded with the curious, attracted and even absorbed all the
attention he was capable of. He distinguished in the Place and around
the houses a good number of musketeers on leave, who, some with women,
others with friends, awaited the crowning ceremony. What rejoiced him
above all was to see that his tenant, the _cabaretier_, was so busy he
hardly knew which way to turn. Three lads could not supply the
drinkers. They filled the shop, the chambers, and the court, even.
D'Artagnan called Raoul's attention to this concourse, adding: "The
fellow will have no excuse for not paying his rent. Look at those
drinkers, Raoul, one would say they were jolly companions. _Mordioux!_
why, there is no room anywhere!" D'Artagnan, however, contrived to catch
hold of the master by the corner of his apron, and to make himself known
"Ah, monsieur le chevalier," said the _cabaretier_, half distracted, "one
minute if you please. I have here a hundred mad devils turning my cellar
"The cellar, if you like, but not the money-box."
"Oh, monsieur, your thirty-seven and a half pistoles are all counted out
ready for you, upstairs in my chamber; but there are in that chamber
thirty customers, who are sucking the staves of a little barrel of Oporto
which I tapped for them this very morning. Give me a minute, - only a
"So be it; so be it."
"I will go," said Raoul, in a low voice, to D'Artagnan; "this hilarity is
"Monsieur," replied D'Artagnan, sternly, "you will please to remain where
you are. The soldier ought to familiarize himself with all kinds of
spectacles. There are in the eye, when it is young, fibers which we must
learn how to harden; and we are not truly generous and good save from the
moment when the eye has become hardened, and the heart remains tender.
Besides, my little Raoul, would you leave me alone here? That would be
very wrong of you. Look, there is yonder in the lower court a tree, and
under the shade of that tree we shall breathe more freely than in this
hot atmosphere of spilt wine."
From the spot on which they had placed themselves the two new guests of
the Image-de-Notre-Dame heard the ever-increasing hubbub of the tide of
people, and lost neither a cry nor a gesture of the drinkers, at tables
in the _cabaret_, or disseminated in the chambers. If D'Artagnan had
wished to place himself as a _vidette_ for an expedition, he could not
have succeeded better. The tree under which he and Raoul were seated
covered them with its already thick foliage; it was a low, thick chestnut-
tree, with inclined branches, that cast their shade over a table so
dilapidated the drinkers had abandoned it. We said that from this post
D'Artagnan saw everything. He observed the goings and comings of the
waiters; the arrival of fresh drinkers; the welcome, sometimes friendly,
sometimes hostile, given to the newcomers by others already installed.
He observed all this to amuse himself, for the thirty-seven and a half
pistoles were a long time coming. Raoul recalled his attention to it.
"Monsieur," said he, "you do not hurry your tenant, and the condemned
will soon be here. There will then be such a press we shall not be able
to get out."
"You are right," said the musketeer; "_Hola!_ oh! somebody there!
_Mordioux!_" But it was in vain he cried and knocked upon the wreck of
the old table, which fell to pieces beneath his fist; nobody came.
D'Artagnan was preparing to go and seek the _cabaretier_ himself, to
force him to a definite explanation, when the door of the court in which
he was with Raoul, a door which communicated with the garden situated at
the back, opened, and a man dressed as a cavalier, with his sword in the
sheath, but not at his belt, crossed the court without closing the door;
and having cast an oblique glance at D'Artagnan and his companion,
directed his course towards the _cabaret_ itself, looking about in all
directions with his eyes capable of piercing walls of consciences.
"Humph!" said D'Artagnan, "my tenants are communicating. That, no doubt,
now, is some amateur in hanging matters." At the same moment the cries
and disturbance in the upper chambers ceased. Silence, under such
circumstances, surprises more than a twofold increase of noise.
D'Artagnan wished to see what was the cause of this sudden silence. He
then perceived that this man, dressed as a cavalier, had just entered the
principal chamber, and was haranguing the tipplers, who all listened to
him with the greatest attention. D'Artagnan would perhaps have heard his
speech but for the dominant noise of the popular clamors, which made a
formidable accompaniment to the harangue of the orator. But it was soon
finished, and all the people the _cabaret_ contained came out, one after
the other, in little groups, so that there only remained six in the
chamber; one of these six, the man with the sword, took the _cabaretier_
aside, engaging him in discourse more or less serious, whilst the others
lit a great fire in the chimney-place - a circumstance rendered strange
by the fine weather and the heat.
"It is very singular," said D'Artagnan to Raoul, "but I think I know
those faces yonder."
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