The Vicomte de Bragelonne
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 13 out of 13
towards the sea," said the servant.
"Very well!" said Aramis.
In fact, D'Artagnan, dismissing all suspicion, hastened towards the
ocean, constantly hoping to see in the _Landes_, or on the beach, the
colossal profile of Porthos. He persisted in fancying he could trace
a horse's steps in every puddle. Sometimes he imagined he heard the
report of a gun. This illusion lasted three hours; during two of which
he went forward in search of his friend - in the last he returned to the
"We must have crossed," said he, "and I shall find them waiting for me at
D'Artagnan was mistaken. He no more found Porthos at the palace than he
had found him on the sea-shore. Aramis was waiting for him at the top of
the stairs, looking very much concerned.
"Did my people not find you, my dear D'Artagnan?" cried he, as soon as he
caught sight of the musketeer.
"No; did you send any one after me?"
"I am deeply concerned, my friend, deeply, to have induced you to make
such a useless search; but, about seven o'clock, the almoner of Saint-
Patern came here. He had met Du Vallon, who was going away, and who,
being unwilling to disturb anybody at the palace, had charged him to tell
me that, fearing M. Getard would play him some ill turn in his absence,
he was going to take advantage of the morning tide to make a tour of
"But tell me, Goliath has not crossed the four leagues of sea, I should
"There are full six," said Aramis.
"That makes it less probable still."
"Therefore, my friend," said Aramis, with one of his blandest smiles,
"Goliath is in the stable, well pleased, I will answer for it, that
Porthos is no longer on his back." In fact, the horse had been brought
back from the relay by the direction of the prelate, from whom no detail
escaped. D'Artagnan appeared as well satisfied with as possible with the
explanation. He entered upon a part of dissimulation which agreed
perfectly with the suspicions that arose more strongly in his mind. He
breakfasted between the Jesuit and Aramis, having the Dominican in front
of him, and smiling particularly at the Dominican, whose jolly, fat face
pleased him much. The repast was long and sumptuous; excellent Spanish
wine, fine Morbihan oysters, exquisite fish from the mouth of the Loire,
enormous prawns from Paimboeuf, and delicious game from the moors,
constituted the principal part of it. D'Artagnan ate much, and drank but
little. Aramis drank nothing, unless it was water. After the repast, -
"You offered me an arquebus," said D'Artagnan.
"Lend it me, then."
"Are you going shooting?"
"Whilst waiting for Porthos, it is the best thing I can do, I think."
"Take which you like from the trophy."
"Will you not come with me?"
"I would with great pleasure; but, alas! my friend, sporting is forbidden
"Ah!" said D'Artagnan, "I did not know that."
"Besides," continued Aramis, "I shall be busy till mid-day."
"I shall go alone, then?" said D'Artagnan.
"I am sorry to say you must; but come back to dinner."
"_Pardieu!_ the eating at your house is too good to make me think of not
coming back." And thereupon D'Artagnan quitted his host, bowed to the
guests, and took his arquebus; but instead of shooting, went straight to
the little port of Vannes. He looked in vain to observe if anybody saw
him; he could discern neither thing nor person. He engaged a little
fishing boat for twenty-five livres, and set off at half-past eleven,
convinced that he had not been followed; and that was true, he had not
been followed; only a Jesuit brother, placed in the top of the steeple of
his church, had not, since the morning, by the help of an excellent
glass, lost sight of one of his steps. At three quarters past eleven,
Aramis was informed that D'Artagnan was sailing towards Belle-Isle. The
voyage was rapid; a good north north-east wind drove him towards the
isle. As he approached, his eyes were constantly fixed upon the coast.
He looked to see if, upon the shore or upon the fortifications the
brilliant dress and vast stature of Porthos should stand out against a
slightly clouded sky; but his search was in vain. He landed without
having seen anything; and learnt from the first soldier interrogated by
him, that M. du Vallon had not yet returned from Vannes. Then, without
losing an instant, D'Artagnan ordered his little bark to put its head
towards Sarzeau. We know that the wind changes with the different hours
of the day. The breeze had veered from the north north-east to the
south-east; the wind, then, was almost as good for the return to Sarzeau,
as it had been for the voyage to Belle-Isle. In three hours D'Artagnan
had touched the continent; two hours more sufficed for his ride to
Vannes. In spite of the rapidity of his passage, what D'Artagnan endured
of impatience and anger during that short passage, the deck alone of the
vessel, upon which he stamped backwards and forwards for three hours,
could testify. He made but one bound from the quay whereon he landed to
the episcopal palace. He thought to terrify Aramis by the promptitude of
his return; he wished to reproach him with his duplicity, and yet with
reserve; but with sufficient spirit, nevertheless, to make him feel all
the consequences of it, and force from him a part of his secret. He
hoped, in short - thanks to that heat of expression which is to _secrets_
what the charge with the bayonet is to redoubts - to bring the mysterious
Aramis to some manifestation or other. But he found, in the vestibule of
the palace, the _valet de chambre_, who closed his passage, while smiling
upon him with a stupid air.
"Monseigneur?" cried D'Artagnan, endeavoring to put him aside with his
hand. Moved for an instant the valet resumed his station.
"Monseigneur?" said he.
"Yes, to be sure; do you not know me, _imbecile?_"
"Yes; you are the Chevalier d'Artagnan."
"Then let me pass."
"It is of no use."
"Why of no use?"
"Because His Greatness is not at home."
"What! His Greatness is not at home? where is he, then?"
"I don't know; but perhaps he tells monsieur le chevalier."
"And how? where? in what fashion?"
"In this letter, which he gave me for monsieur le chevalier." And the
_valet de chambre_ drew a letter form his pocket."
"Give it me, then, you rascal," said D'Artagnan, snatching it from his
hand. "Oh, yes," continued he, at the first line, "yes, I understand;"
and he read: -
"Dear Friend, - An affair of the most urgent nature calls me to a distant
parish of my diocese. I hoped to see you again before I set out; but I
lose that hope in thinking that you are going, no doubt, to remain two or
three days at Belle-Isle, with our dear Porthos. Amuse yourself as well
as you can; but do not attempt to hold out against him at table. This is
a counsel I might have given even to Athos, in his most brilliant and
best days. Adieu, dear friend; believe that I regret greatly not having
better, and for a longer time, profited by your excellent company."
_"Mordioux!_" cried D'Artagnan. "I am tricked. Ah! blockhead, brute,
triple fool that I am! But those laugh best who laugh last. Oh, duped,
duped like a monkey, cheated with an empty nutshell!" And with a hearty
blow bestowed upon the nose of the smirking _valet de chambre_, he made
all haste out of the episcopal palace. Furet, however good a trotter,
was not equal to present circumstances. D'Artagnan therefore took the
post, and chose a horse which he soon caused to demonstrate, with good
spurs and a light hand, that deer are not the swiftest animals in nature.
In which D'Artagnan makes all Speed, Porthos snores, and Aramis counsels.
From thirty to thirty-five hours after the events we have just related,
as M. Fouquet, according to his custom, having interdicted his door, was
working in the cabinet of his house at Saint-Mande, with which we are
already acquainted, a carriage, drawn by four horses steaming with sweat,
entered the court at full gallop. This carriage was, probably, expected;
for three or four lackeys hastened to the door, which they opened.
Whilst M. Fouquet rose from his bureau and ran to the window, a man got
painfully out of the carriage, descending with difficulty the three steps
of the door, leaning upon the shoulders of the lackeys. He had scarcely
uttered his name, when the _valet_ upon whom he was not leaning, sprang
up to the _perron_, and disappeared in the vestibule. This man went to
inform his master; but he had no occasion to knock at the door: Fouquet
was standing on the threshold.
"Monseigneur, the Bishop of Vannes," said he.
"Very well!" replied his master.
Then, leaning over the banister of the staircase, of which Aramis was
beginning to ascend the first steps, -
"Ah, dear friend!" said he, "you, so soon!"
"Yes; I, myself, monsieur! but bruised, battered, as you see."
"Oh! my poor friend," said Fouquet, presenting him his arm, on which
Aramis leant, whilst the servants drew back respectfully.
"Bah!" replied Aramis, "it is nothing, since I am here; the principal
thing was that I should _get_ here, and here I am."
"Speak quickly," said Fouquet, closing the door of the cabinet behind
Aramis and himself.
"Are we alone?"
"No one observes us? - no one can hear us?"
"Be satisfied; nobody."
"Is M. du Vallon arrived?"
"And you have received my letter?"
"Yes. The affair is serious, apparently, since it necessitates your
attendance in Paris, at a moment when your presence was so urgent
"You are right, it could not be more serious."
"Thank you! thank you! What is it about? But, for God's sake! before
anything else, take time to breathe, dear friend. You are so pale, you
"I am really in great pain. But, for Heaven's sake, think nothing about
me. Did M. du Vallon tell you nothing, when he delivered the letter to
"No; I heard a great noise; I went to the window; I saw at the foot of
the _perron_ a sort of horseman of marble; I went down, he held the
letter out to me, and his horse fell down dead."
"He fell with the horse; he was lifted, and carried to an apartment.
Having read the letter, I went up to him, in hopes of obtaining more
ample information; but he was asleep, and, after such a fashion, that it
was impossible to wake him. I took pity on him; I gave orders that his
boots should be cut from off his legs, and that he should be left quite
"So far well; now, this is the question in hand, monseigneur. You have
seen M. d'Artagnan in Paris, have you not?"
"_Certes_, and think him a man of intelligence, and even a man of heart;
although he did bring about the death of our dear friends, Lyodot and
"Alas! yes, I heard of that. At Tours I met the courier who was bringing
the letter from Gourville, and the dispatches from Pelisson. Have you
seriously reflected on that event, monsieur?"
"And in it you perceived a direct attack upon your sovereignty?"
"And do you believe it to be so?"
"Oh, yes, I think so."
"Well, I must confess, that sad idea occurred to me likewise."
"Do not blind yourself, monsieur, in the name of Heaven! Listen
attentively to me, - I return to D'Artagnan."
"I am all attention."
"Under what circumstances did you see him?"
"He came here for money."
"With what kind of order?"
"With an order from the king."
"Signed by his majesty."
"There, then! Well, D'Artagnan has been to Belle-Isle; he was disguised;
he came in the character of some sort of an _intendant_, charged by his
master to purchase salt-mines. Now, D'Artagnan has no other master but
the king: he came, then, sent by the king. He saw Porthos."
"Who is Porthos?"
"I beg your pardon, I made a mistake. He saw M. du Vallon at Belle-Isle;
and he knows, as well as you and I do, that Belle-Isle is fortified."
"And you think that the king sent him there?" said Fouquet, pensively.
"I certainly do."
"And D'Artagnan, in the hands of the king, is a dangerous instrument?"
"The most dangerous imaginable."
"Then I formed a correct opinion of him at the first glance."
"I wished to attach him to myself."
"If you judged him to be the bravest, the most acute, and the most adroit
man in France, you judged correctly."
"He must be had then, at any price."
"Is that not your opinion?"
"It may be my opinion, but you will never get him."
"Because we have allowed the time to go by. He was dissatisfied with the
court, we should have profited by that; since that, he has passed into
England; there he powerfully assisted in the restoration, there he gained
a fortune, and, after all, he returned to the service of the king. Well,
if he has returned to the service of the king, it is because he is well
paid in that service."
"We will pay him even better, that is all."
"Oh! monsieur, excuse me; D'Artagnan has a high respect for his word, and
where that is once engaged he keeps it."
"What do you conclude, then?" said Fouquet, with great inquietude.
"At present, the principal thing is to parry a dangerous blow."
"And how is it to be parried?"
"But D'Artagnan will come and render an account to the king of his
"Oh, we have time enough to think about that."
"How so? You are much in advance of him, I presume?"
"Nearly ten hours."
"Well, in ten hours - "
Aramis shook his pale head. "Look at these clouds which flit across the
heavens; at these swallows which cut the air. D'Artagnan moves more
quickly than the clouds or the birds; D'Artagnan is the wind which
"A strange man!"
"I tell you, he is superhuman, monsieur. He is of my own age, and I have
known him these five-and-thirty years."
"Well, listen to my calculation, monsieur. I send M. du Vallon off to
you two hours after midnight. M. du Vallon was eight hours in advance of
me; when did M. du Vallon arrive?"
"About four hours ago."
"You see, then, that I gained four upon him; and yet Porthos is a staunch
horseman, and he has left on the road eight dead horses, whose bodies I
came to successively. I rode post fifty leagues; but I have the gout,
the gravel, and what else I know not; so that fatigue kills me. I was
obliged to dismount at Tours; since that, rolling along in a carriage,
half dead, sometimes overturned, drawn upon the sides, and sometimes on
the back of the carriage, always with four spirited horses at full
gallop, I have arrived – arrived, gaining four hours upon Porthos; but,
see you, D'Artagnan does not weigh three hundred-weight, as Porthos does;
D'Artagnan has not the gout and gravel, as I have; he is not a horseman,
he is a centaur. D'Artagnan, look you, set out for Belle-Isle when I set
out for Paris; and D'Artagnan, notwithstanding my ten hours' advance,
D'Artagnan will arrive within two hours after me."
"But, then, accidents?"
"He never meets with accidents."
"Horses may fail him."
"He will run as fast as a horse."
"Good God! what a man!"
"Yes, he is a man whom I love and admire. I love him because he is good,
great, and loyal; I admire him because he represents in my eyes the
culminating point of human power; but, whilst loving and admiring him, I
fear him, and am on my guard against him. Now then, I resume, monsieur;
in two hours D'Artagnan will be here; be beforehand with him. Go to the
Louvre, and see the king, before he sees D'Artagnan."
"What shall I say to the king?"
"Nothing; give him Belle-Isle."
"Oh! Monsieur d'Herblay! Monsieur d'Herblay," cried Fouquet, "what
projects crushed all at once!"
"After one project that has failed, there is always another project that
may lead to fortune; we should never despair. Go, monsieur, and go at
"But that garrison, so carefully chosen, the king will change it
"That garrison, monsieur, was the king's when it entered Belle-Isle; it
is yours now; it is the same with all garrisons after a fortnight's
occupation. Let things go on, monsieur. Do you see any inconvenience in
having an army at the end of a year, instead of two regiments? Do you
not see that your garrison of to-day will make you partisans at La
Rochelle, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse - in short, wherever they may be
sent to? Go to the king, monsieur; go; time flies, and D'Artagnan, while
we are losing time, is flying, like an arrow, along the high-road."
"Monsieur d'Herblay, you know that each word from you is a germ which
fructifies in my thoughts. I will go to the Louvre."
"Instantly, will you not?"
"I only ask time to change my dress."
"Remember that D'Artagnan has no need to pass through Saint-Mande; but
will go straight to the Louvre; that is cutting off an hour from the
advantage that yet remains to us."
"D'Artagnan may have everything except my English horses. I shall be at
the Louvre in twenty-five minutes." And, without losing a second,
Fouquet gave orders for his departure.
Aramis had only time to say to him, "Return as quickly as you go; for I
shall await you impatiently."
Five minutes after, the superintendent was flying along the road to
Paris. During this time, Aramis desired to be shown the chamber in which
Porthos was sleeping. At the door of Fouquet's cabinet he was folded in
the arms of Pelisson, who had just heard of his arrival, and had left his
office to see him. Aramis received, with that friendly dignity which he
knew so well how to assume, these caresses, respectful as earnest; but
all at once stopping on the landing-place, "What is that I hear up
There was, in fact, a hoarse, growling kind of noise, like the roar of a
hungry tiger, or an impatient lion. "Oh, that is nothing," said
"Well; but - "
"It is M. du Vallon snoring."
"Ah! true," said Aramis: "I had forgotten. No one but he is capable of
making such a noise. Allow me, Pelisson, to inquire if he wants
"And you will permit me to accompany you?"
"Oh, certainly;" and both entered the chamber. Porthos was stretched
upon the bed; his face was violet rather than red; his eyes were swelled;
his mouth was wide open. The roaring which escaped from the deep
cavities of his chest made the glass of the windows vibrate. To those
developed and clearly defined muscles starting from his face, to his hair
matted with sweat, to the energetic heaving of his chin and shoulders, it
was impossible to refuse a certain degree of admiration. Strength
carried to this point is semi-divine. The Herculean legs and feet of
Porthos had, by swelling, burst his stockings; all the strength of his
huge body was converted into the rigidity of stone. Porthos moved no
more than does the giant of granite which reclines upon the plains of
Agrigentum. According to Pelisson's orders, his boots had been cut off,
for no human power could have pulled them off. Four lackeys had tried in
vain, pulling at them as they would have pulled capstans; and yet all
this did not awaken him. They had hacked off his boots in fragments, and
his legs had fallen back upon the bed. They then cut off the rest of his
clothes, carried him to a bath, in which they let him soak a considerable
time. They then put on him clean linen, and placed him in a well-warmed
bed - the whole with efforts and pains which might have roused a dead
man, but which did not make Porthos open an eye, or interrupt for a
second the formidable diapason of his snoring. Aramis wished on his
part, with his nervous nature, armed with extraordinary courage, to
outbrave fatigue, and employ himself with Gourville and Pelisson, but he
fainted in the chair in which he had persisted sitting. He was carried
into the adjoining room, where the repose of bed soon soothed his failing
In which Monsieur Fouquet Acts.
In the meantime Fouquet was hastening to the Louvre, at the best speed of
his English horses. The king was at work with Colbert. All at once the
king became thoughtful. The two sentences of death he had signed on
mounting his throne sometimes recurred to his memory; they were two black
spots which he saw with his eyes open; two spots of blood which he saw
when his eyes were closed. "Monsieur," said he rather sharply, to the
intendant; "it sometimes seems to me that those two men you made me
condemn were not very great culprits."
"Sire, they were picked out from the herd of the farmers of the
financiers, which wanted decimating."
"Picked out by whom?"
"By necessity, sire," replied Colbert, coldly.
"Necessity! - a great word," murmured the young king.
"A great goddess, sire."
"They were devoted friends of the superintendent, were they not?"
"Yes, sire; friends who would have given up their lives for Monsieur
"They have given them, monsieur," said the king.
"That is true; - but uselessly, by good luck, - which was not their
"How much money had these men fraudulently obtained?"
"Ten millions, perhaps; of which six have been confiscated."
"And is that money in my coffers?" said the king with a certain air of
"It is there, sire; but this confiscation, whilst threatening M. Fouquet,
has not touched him."
"You conclude, then, M. Colbert - "
"That if M. Fouquet has raised against your majesty a troop of factious
rioters to extricate his friends from punishment, he will raise an army
when he has in turn to extricate _himself_ from punishment."
The king darted at his confidant one of those looks which resemble the
livid fire of a flash of lightning, one of those looks which illuminate
the darkness of the basest consciences. "I am astonished," said he,
"that, thinking such things of M. Fouquet, you did not come to give me
your counsels thereupon."
"Counsels upon what, sire?"
"Tell me, in the first place, clearly and precisely, what you think, M.
"Upon what subject, sire?"
"Upon the conduct of M. Fouquet."
"I think, sire, that M. Fouquet, not satisfied with attracting all the
money to himself, as M. Mazarin did, and by that means depriving your
majesty of one part of your power, still wishes to attract to himself all
the friends of easy life and pleasure - of what idlers call poetry, and
politicians, corruption. I think that, by holding the subjects of your
majesty in pay, he trespasses upon the royal prerogative, and cannot, if
this continues so, be long in placing your majesty among the weak and the
"How would you qualify all these projects, M. Colbert?"
"The projects of M. Fouquet, sire?"
"They are called crimes of _lese majeste_."
"And what is done to criminals guilty of _lese majeste?_"
"They are arrested, tried, and punished."
"You are quite certain that M. Fouquet has conceived the idea of the
crime you impute to him?"
"I can say more, sire; there is even a commencement of the execution of
"Well, then, I return to that which I was saying, M. Colbert."
"And you were saying, sire?"
"Give me counsel."
"Pardon me, sire; but in the first place, I have something to add."
"Say - what?"
"An evident, palpable, material proof of treason."
"And what is that?"
"I have just learnt that M. Fouquet is fortifying Belle-Isle."
"Are you sure?"
"Perfectly. Do you know, sire, what soldiers there are in Belle-Isle?"
"No, _ma foi!_ Do you?"
"I am ignorant, likewise, sire; I should therefore propose to your
majesty to send somebody to Belle-Isle?"
"Me, for instance."
"And what would you do at Belle-Isle?"
"Inform myself whether, after the example of the ancient feudal lords, M.
Fouquet was battlementing his walls."
"And with what purpose could he do that?"
"With the purpose of defending himself someday against his king."
"But, if it be thus, M. Colbert," said Louis, "we must immediately do as
you say; M. Fouquet must be arrested."
"That is impossible."
"I thought I had already told you, monsieur, that I suppressed that word
in my service."
"The service of your majesty cannot prevent M. Fouquet from being
"That, in consequence of holding that post, he has for him all the
parliament, as he has all the army by his largesses, literature by his
favors, and the _noblesse_ by his presents."
"That is to say, then, that I can do nothing against M. Fouquet?"
"Absolutely nothing, - at least at present, sire."
"You are a sterile counselor, M. Colbert."
"Oh, no, sire; for I will not confine myself to pointing out the peril to
"Come, then, where shall we begin to undermine this Colossus; let us
see;" and his majesty began to laugh bitterly.
"He has grown great by money; kill him by money, sire."
"If I were to deprive him of his charge?"
"A bad means, sire."
"The good - the good, then?"
"Ruin him, sire, that is the way."
"Occasions will not be wanting; take advantage of all occasions."
"Point them out to me."
"Here is one at once. His royal highness Monsieur is about to be
married; his nuptials must be magnificent. That is a good occasion for
your majesty to demand a million of M. Fouquet. M. Fouquet, who pays
twenty thousand livres down when he need not pay more than five thousand,
will easily find that million when your majesty demands it."
"That is all very well; I _will_ demand it," said Louis.
"If your majesty will sign the _ordonnance_ I will have the money got
together myself." And Colbert pushed a paper before the king, and
presented a pen to him.
At that moment the usher opened the door and announced monsieur le
surintendant. Louis turned pale. Colbert let the pen fall, and drew
back from the king, over whom he extended his black wings like an evil
spirit. The superintendent made his entrance like a man of the court, to
whom a single glance was sufficient to make him appreciate the
situation. That situation was not very encouraging for Fouquet, whatever
might be his consciousness of strength. The small black eye of Colbert,
dilated by envy, and the limpid eye of Louis XIV. inflamed by anger,
signalled some pressing danger. Courtiers are, with regard to court
rumors, like old soldiers, who distinguish through the blasts of wind and
bluster of leaves the sound of the distant steps of an armed troop. They
can, after having listened, tell pretty nearly how many men are marching,
how many arms resound, how many cannons roll. Fouquet had then only to
interrogate the silence which his arrival had produced; he found it big
with menacing revelations. The king allowed him time enough to advance
as far as the middle of the chamber. His adolescent modesty commanded
this forbearance of the moment. Fouquet boldly seized the opportunity.
"Sire," said he, "I was impatient to see your majesty."
"What for?" asked Louis.
"To announce some good news to you."
Colbert, minus grandeur of person, less largeness of heart, resembled
Fouquet in many points. He had the same penetration, the same knowledge
of men; moreover, that great power of self-compression which gives to
hypocrites time to reflect, and gather themselves up to take a spring.
He guessed that Fouquet was going to meet the blow he was about to deal
him. His eyes glittered ominously.
"What news?" asked the king. Fouquet placed a roll of papers on the
"Let your majesty have the goodness to cast your eyes over this work,"
said he. The king slowly unfolded the paper.
"Plans?" said he.
"And what are these plans?"
"A new fortification, sire."
"Ah, ah!" said the king, "you amuse yourself with tactics and strategies
then, M. Fouquet?"
"I occupy myself with everything that may be useful to the reign of your
majesty," replied Fouquet.
"Beautiful descriptions!" said the king, looking at the design.
"Your majesty comprehends, without doubt," said Fouquet, bending over the
paper; "here is the circle of the walls, here are the forts, there the
"And what do I see here, monsieur?"
"The sea all round?"
"And what is, then, the name of this place of which you show me the plan?"
"Sire, it is Belle-Ile-en-Mer," replied Fouquet with simplicity.
At this word, at this name, Colbert made so marked a movement, that the
king turned round to enforce the necessity for reserve. Fouquet did not
appear to be the least in the world concerned by the movement of Colbert,
or the king's signal.
"Monsieur," continued Louis, "you have then fortified Belle-Isle?"
"Yes, sire; and I have brought the plan and the accounts to your
majesty," replied Fouquet; "I have expended sixteen hundred livres in
"What to do?" replied Louis, coldly, having taken the initiative from a
malicious look of the intendant.
"For an aim very easy to seize," replied Fouquet. "Your majesty was on
cool terms with Great Britain."
"Yes; but since the restoration of King Charles II. I have formed an
alliance with him."
"A month since, sire, your majesty has truly said; but it is more than
six months since the fortifications of Belle-Isle were begun."
"Then they have become useless."
"Sire, fortifications are never useless. I fortified Belle-Isle against
MM. Monk and Lambert and all those London citizens who were playing at
soldiers. Belle-Isle will be ready fortified against the Dutch, against
whom either England or your majesty cannot fail to make war."
The king was again silent, and looked askant at Colbert. "Belle-Isle, I
believe," added Louis, "is yours, M. Fouquet?"
Colbert was seized with as much terror as if a gulf had opened beneath
his feet. Louis started with admiration, either at the genius or the
devotion of Fouquet.
"Explain yourself, monsieur," said he.
"Nothing more easy, sire; Belle-Isle is one of my estates; I have
fortified it at my own expense. But as nothing in the world can oppose a
subject making an humble present to his king, I offer your majesty the
proprietorship of the estate, of which you will leave me the usufruct.
Belle-Isle, as a place of war, ought to be occupied by the king. Your
majesty will be able, henceforth, to keep a safe garrison there."
Colbert felt almost sinking down upon the floor. To keep himself from
falling, he was obliged to hold by the columns of the wainscoting.
"This is a piece of great skill in the art of war that you have exhibited
here, monsieur," said Louis.
"Sire, the initiative did not come from me," replied Fouquet; "many
officers have inspired me with it. The plans themselves have been made
by one of the most distinguished engineers."
"M. du Vallon."
"M. du Vallon?" resumed Louis; "I do not know him. It is much to be
lamented, M. Colbert," continued he, "that I do not know the names of the
men of talent who do honor to my reign." And while saying these words he
turned towards Colbert. The latter felt himself crushed, the sweat
flowed from his brow, no word presented itself to his lips, he suffered
an inexpressible martyrdom. "You will recollect that name," added Louis
Colbert bowed, but was paler than his ruffles of Flemish lace. Fouquet
"The masonries are of Roman concrete; the architects amalgamated it for
me after the best accounts of antiquity."
"And the cannon?" asked Louis.
"Oh! sire, that concerns your majesty; it did not become me to place
cannon in my own house, unless your majesty had told me it was yours."
Louis began to float, undetermined between the hatred which this so
powerful man inspired him with, and the pity he felt for the other, so
cast down, who seemed to him the counterfeit of the former. But the
consciousness of his kingly duty prevailed over the feelings of the man,
and he stretched out his finger to the paper.
"It must have cost you a great deal of money to carry these plans into
execution," said he.
"I believe I had the honor of telling your majesty the amount."
"Repeat it if you please, I have forgotten it."
"Sixteen hundred thousand livres."
"Sixteen hundred thousand livres! you are enormously rich, monsieur."
"It is your majesty who is rich, since Belle-Isle is yours."
"Yes, thank you; but however rich I may be, M. Fouquet - " The king
"Well, sire?" asked the superintendent.
"I foresee the moment when I shall want money."
"You, sire? And at what moment then?"
"To-morrow, for example."
"Will your majesty do me the honor to explain yourself?"
"My brother is going to marry the English Princess."
"Well, I ought to give the bride a reception worthy of the granddaughter
of Henry IV."
"That is but just, sire."
"Then I shall want money."
"I shall want - " Louis hesitated. The sum he was going to demand was
the same that he had been obliged to refuse Charles II. He turned
towards Colbert, that he might give the blow.
"I shall want, to-morrow - " repeated he, looking at Colbert.
"A million," said the latter, bluntly; delighted to take his revenge.
Fouquet turned his back upon the intendant to listen to the king. He did
not turn round, but waited till the king repeated, or rather murmured, "A
"Oh! sire," replied Fouquet disdainfully, "a million! what will your
majesty do with a million?"
"It appears to me, nevertheless - " said Louis XIV.
"That is not more than is spent at the nuptials of one of the most petty
princes of Germany."
"Your majesty must have two millions at least. The horses alone would
run away with five hundred thousand livres. I shall have the honor of
sending your majesty sixteen hundred thousand livres this evening."
"How," said the king, "sixteen hundred thousand livres?"
"Look, sire," replied Fouquet, without even turning towards Colbert, "I
know that wants four hundred thousand livres of the two millions. But
this monsieur of l'intendance" (pointing over his shoulder to Colbert,
who if possible, became paler, behind him) "has in his coffers nine
hundred thousand livres of mine."
The king turned round to look at Colbert.
"But - " said the latter.
"Monsieur," continued Fouquet, still speaking indirectly to Colbert,
"monsieur has received, a week ago, sixteen hundred thousand livres; he
has paid a hundred thousand livres to the guards, sixty-four thousand
livres to the hospitals, twenty-five thousand to the Swiss, an hundred
and thirty thousand for provisions, a thousand for arms, ten thousand for
accidental expenses; I do not err, then, in reckoning upon nine hundred
thousand livres that are left." Then turning towards Colbert, like a
disdainful head of office towards his inferior, "Take care, monsieur,"
said he, "that those nine hundred thousand livres be remitted to his
majesty this evening, in gold."
"But," said the king, "that will make two millions five hundred thousand
"Sire, the five hundred thousand livres over will serve as pocket money
for his royal highness. You understand, Monsieur Colbert, this evening
before eight o'clock."
And with these words, bowing respectfully to the king, the superintendent
made his exit backwards, without honoring with a single look the envious
man, whose head he had just half shaved.
Colbert tore his ruffles to pieces in his rage, and bit his lips till
Fouquet had not passed the door of the cabinet, when an usher pushing by
him, exclaimed: "A courier from Bretagne for his majesty."
"M. d'Herblay was right," murmured Fouquet, pulling out his watch; "an
hour and fifty-five minutes. It was quite true."
End of The Vicomte de Bragelonne. The next text in the series is Ten
1. The correct name of the city is Brighthelmstone. The mistake is
2. In the five-volume edition, Volume 1 ends here.
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