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The Vicomte de Braggelone

PART II



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CHAPTER 31

Monck Reveals Himself
D’Artagnan, although he flattered himself with better success, had, nevertheless, not too well comprehended his situation. It was a strange and grave subject for him to reflect upon⁠—this voyage of Athos into England; this league of the king with Athos, and that extraordinary combination of his design with that of the Comte de la Fère. The best way was to let things follow their own train. An imprudence had been committed, and, whilst having succeeded, as he had promised, d’Artagnan found that he had gained no advantage by his success. Since everything was lost, he could risk no more.

D’Artagnan followed Monck through his camp. The return of the general had produced a marvelous effect, for his people had thought him lost. But Monck, with his austere look and icy demeanor, appeared to ask of his eager lieutenants and delighted soldiers the cause of all this joy. Therefore, to the lieutenants who had come to meet him, and who expressed the uneasiness with which they had learnt his departure⁠—

“Why is all this?” said he; “am I obliged to give you an account of myself?”

“But your honor, the sheep may well tremble without the shepherd.”

“Tremble!” replied Monck, in his calm and powerful voice; “ah, Monsieur, what a word! Curse me, if my sheep have not both teeth and claws; I renounce being their shepherd. Ah, you tremble, gentlemen, do you?”

“Yes, general, for you.”

“Oh! pray meddle with your own concerns. If I have not the wit God gave to Oliver Cromwell, I have that which He has sent to me: I am satisfied with it, however little it may be.”

The officer made no reply; and Monck, having imposed silence on his people, all remained persuaded that he had accomplished some important work or made some important trial. This was forming a very poor conception of his patience and scrupulous genius. Monck, if he had the good faith of the Puritans, his allies, must have returned fervent thanks to the patron saint who had taken him from the box of M. d’Artagnan. Whilst these things were going on, our musketeer could not help constantly repeating⁠—

“God grant that M. Monck may not have as much pride as I have; for I declare that if anyone had put me into a coffer with that grating over my mouth, and carried me packed up, like a calf, across the seas, I should cherish such a memory of my piteous looks in that coffer, and such an ugly animosity against him who had enclosed me in it, I should dread so greatly to see a sarcastic smile blooming upon the face of the malicious wretch, or in his attitude any grotesque imitation of my position in the box, that, Mordioux! I should plunge a good dagger into his throat in compensation for the grating, and would nail him down in a veritable bier, in remembrance of the false coffin in which I had been left in to grow moldy for two days.”

And d’Artagnan spoke honestly when he spoke thus; for the skin of our Gascon was a very thin one. Monck, fortunately, entertained other ideas. He never opened his mouth to his timid conqueror concerning the past; but he admitted him very near to his person in his labors, took him with him to several reconnoiterings, in such a way as to obtain that which he evidently warmly desired⁠—a rehabilitation in the mind of d’Artagnan. The latter conducted himself like a past-master in the art of flattery: he admired all Monck’s tactics, and the ordering of his camp; he joked very pleasantly upon the circumvallations of Lambert’s camp, who had, he said, very uselessly given himself the trouble to enclose a camp for twenty thousand men, whilst an acre of ground would have been quite sufficient for the corporal and fifty guards who would perhaps remain faithful to him.

Monck, immediately after his arrival, had accepted the proposition made by Lambert the evening before, for an interview, and which Monck’s lieutenants had refused under the pretext that the general was indisposed. This interview was neither long nor interesting: Lambert demanded a profession of faith from his rival. The latter declared he had no other opinion than that of the majority. Lambert asked if it would not be more expedient to terminate the quarrel by an alliance than by a battle. Monck hereupon demanded a week for consideration. Now, Lambert could not refuse this: and Lambert, nevertheless, had come saying that he should devour Monck’s army. Therefore, at the end of the interview, which Lambert’s party watched with impatience, nothing was decided⁠—neither treaty nor battle⁠—the rebel army, as M. d’Artagnan had foreseen, began to prefer the good cause to the bad one, and the parliament, rumpish as it was, to the pompous nothings of Lambert’s designs.

They remembered, likewise, the good feasts of London⁠—the profusion of ale and sherry with which the citizens of London paid their friends the soldiers;⁠—they looked with terror at the black war bread, at the troubled waters of the Tweed⁠—too salt for the glass, not enough so for the pot; and they said to themselves, “Are not the roast meats kept warm for Monck in London?” From that time nothing was heard of but desertion in Lambert’s army. The soldiers allowed themselves to be drawn away by the force of principles, which are, like discipline, the obligatory tie in everybody constituted for any purpose. Monck defended the parliament⁠—Lambert attacked it. Monck had no more inclination to support parliament than Lambert, but he had it inscribed on his standards, so that all those of the contrary party were reduced to write upon theirs, “Rebellion,” which sounded ill to puritan ears. They flocked, then, from Lambert to Monck, as sinners flock from Baal to God.

Monck made his calculations; at a thousand desertions a day Lambert had men enough to last twenty days; but there is in sinking things such a growth of weight and swiftness, which combine with each other, that a hundred left the first day, five hundred the second, a thousand the third. Monck thought he had obtained his rate. But from one thousand the deserters increased to two thousand, then to four thousand, and, a week after, Lambert, perceiving that he had no longer the possibility of accepting battle, if it were offered to him, took the wise resolution of decamping during the night, returning to London, and being beforehand with Monck in constructing a power with the wreck of the military party.

But Monck, free and without uneasiness, marched towards London as a conqueror, augmenting his army with all the floating parties on the way. He encamped at Barnet, that is to say, within four leagues of the capital, cherished by the parliament, which thought it beheld in him a protector, and awaited by the people, who were anxious to see him reveal himself, that they might judge him. D’Artagnan himself had not been able to fathom his tactics; he observed⁠—he admired. Monck could not enter London with a settled determination without bringing about civil war. He temporized for a short time.

Suddenly, when least expected, Monck drove the military party out of London, and installed himself in the city amidst the citizens, by order of the parliament; then, at the moment when the citizens were crying out against Monck⁠—at the moment when the soldiers themselves were accusing their leader⁠—Monck, finding himself certain of a majority, declared to the Rump Parliament that it must abdicate⁠—be dissolved⁠—and yield its place to a government which would not be a joke. Monck pronounced this declaration, supported by fifty thousand swords, to which, that same evening, were united, with shouts of delirious joy, the five thousand inhabitants of the good city of London. At length, at the moment when the people, after their triumphs and festive repasts in the open streets, were looking about for a master, it was affirmed that a vessel had left the Hague, bearing King Charles II and his fortunes.

“Gentlemen,” said Monck to his officers, “I am going to meet the legitimate king. He who loves me will follow me.” A burst of acclamations welcomed these words, which d’Artagnan did not hear without the greatest delight.

Mordioux!” said he to Monck, “that is bold, Monsieur.”

“You will accompany me, will you not?” said Monck.

Pardieu! general. But tell me, I beg, what you wrote by Athos, that is to say, the Comte de la Fère⁠—you know⁠—the day of our arrival?”

“I have no secrets from you now,” replied Monck. “I wrote these words: ‘Sire, I expect Your Majesty in six weeks at Dover.’ ”

“Ah!” said d’Artagnan, “I no longer say it is bold; I say it is well played; it is a fine stroke!”

“You are something of a judge in such matters,” replied Monck.

And this was the only time the general had ever made an allusion to his voyage to Holland.

CHAPTER 32

Athos and d’Artagnan Meet Once More at the Hostelry of the Corne du Cerf
The king of England made his entrée into Dover with great pomp, as he afterwards did in London. He had sent for his brothers; he had brought over his mother and sister. England had been for so long a time given up to herself⁠—that is to say, to tyranny, mediocrity and nonsense⁠—that this return of Charles II, whom the English only knew as the son of the man whose head they had cut off, was a festival for three kingdoms. Consequently, all the good wishes, all the acclamations which accompanied his return, struck the young king so forcibly that he stooped and whispered in the ear of James of York, his younger brother, “In truth, James, it seems to have been our own fault that we were so long absent from a country where we are so much beloved!” The pageant was magnificent. Beautiful weather favored the solemnity. Charles had regained all his youth, all his good humor; he appeared to be transfigured; hearts seemed to smile on him like the sun. Amongst this noisy crowd of courtiers and worshipers, who did not appear to remember they had conducted to the scaffold at Whitehall the father of the new king, a man, in the garb of a lieutenant of Musketeers, looked, with a smile upon his thin, intellectual lips, sometimes at the people vociferating their blessings, and sometimes at the prince, who pretended emotion, and who bowed most particularly to the women, whose bouquets fell beneath his horse’s feet.

“What a fine trade is that of king!” said this man, so completely absorbed in contemplation that he stopped in the middle of the road, leaving the cortège to file past. “Now, there is, in good truth, a prince all bespangled over with gold and diamonds, enamelled with flowers like a spring meadow; he is about to plunge his empty hands into the immense coffer in which his now faithful⁠—but so lately unfaithful⁠—subjects have amassed one or two cartloads of ingots of gold. They cast bouquets enough upon him to smother him; and yet, if he had presented himself to them two months ago, they would have sent as many bullets and balls at him as they now throw flowers. Decidedly it is worth something to be born in a certain sphere, with due respect to the lowly, who pretend that it is of very little advantage to them to be born lowly.” The cortège continued to file on, and, with the king, the acclamations began to die away in the direction of the palace, which, however, did not prevent our officer from being pushed about.

Mordioux!” continued the reasoner, “these people tread upon my toes and look upon me as of very little consequence, or rather of none at all, seeing that they are Englishmen and I am a Frenchman. If all these people were asked⁠—‘Who is M. d’Artagnan?’ they would reply, ‘Nescio vos.’ But let anyone say to them, ‘There is the king going by,’ ‘There is M. Monck going by,’ they would run away, shouting⁠—‘Vive le roi!’ ‘Vive M. Monck!’ till their lungs were exhausted. And yet,” continued he, surveying, with that look sometimes so keen and sometimes so proud, the diminishing crowd⁠—“and yet, reflect a little, my good people, on what your king has done, on what M. Monck has done, and then think what has been done by this poor unknown, who is called M. d’Artagnan! It is true you do not know him, since he is here unknown, and that prevents your thinking about the matter! But, bah! what matters it! All that does not prevent Charles II from being a great king, although he has been exiled twelve years, or M. Monck from being a great captain, although he did make a voyage to Holland in a box. Well, then, since it is admitted that one is a great king and the other a great captain⁠—‘Hurrah for King Charles II!⁠—Hurrah for General Monck!’ ” And his voice mingled with the voices of the hundreds of spectators, over which it sounded for a moment. Then, the better to play the devoted man, he took off his hat and waved it in the air. Someone seized his arm in the very height of his expansive loyalism. (In 1660 that was so termed which we now call royalism.)

“Athos!” cried d’Artagnan, “you here!” And the two friends seized each other’s hands.

“You here!⁠—and being here,” continued the musketeer, “you are not in the midst of all these courtiers, my dear comte! What! you, the hero of the fête, you are not prancing on the left hand of the king, as M. Monck is prancing on the right? In truth, I cannot comprehend your character, nor that of the prince who owes you so much!”

“Always scornful, my dear d’Artagnan!” said Athos. “Will you never correct yourself of that vile habit?”

“But you do not form part of the pageant?”

“I do not, because I was not willing to do so.”

“And why were you not willing?”

“Because I am neither envoy nor ambassador, nor representative of the king of France; and it does not become me to exhibit myself thus near the person of another king than the one God has given me for a master.”

Mordioux! you came very near to the person of the king, his father.”

“That was another thing, my friend; he was about to die.”

“And yet that which you did for him⁠—”

“I did it because it was my duty to do it. But you know I hate all ostentation. Let King Charles II, then, who no longer stands in need of me, leave me to my rest, and in the shadow, that is all I claim of him.”

D’Artagnan sighed.

“What is the matter with you?” said Athos. “One would say that this happy return of the king to London saddens you, my friend; you who have done at least as much for His Majesty as I have.”

“Have I not,” replied d’Artagnan, with his Gascon laugh, “have I not done much for His Majesty, without anyone suspecting it?”

“Yes, yes, but the king is well aware of it, my friend,” cried Athos.

“He is aware of it!” said the musketeer bitterly, “by my faith! I did not suspect so, and I was even a moment ago trying to forget it myself.”

“But he, my friend, will not forget it, I will answer for him.”

“You tell me that to console me a little, Athos.”

“For what?”

Mordioux! for all the expense I incurred. I have ruined myself, my friend, ruined myself for the restoration of this young prince who has just passed, cantering on his isabelle colored horse.”

“The king does not know you have ruined yourself, my friend; but he knows he owes you much.”

“And say, Athos, does that advance me in any respect? for to do you justice, you have labored nobly. But I⁠—I who in appearance marred your combinations, it was I who really made them succeed. Follow my calculations closely; you might not have, by persuasions or mildness, convinced General Monck, whilst I so roughly treated this dear general, that I furnished your prince with an opportunity of showing himself generous: this generosity was inspired in him by the fact of my fortunate mistake, and Charles is paid by the restoration which Monck has brought about.”

“All that, my dear friend, is strikingly true,” replied Athos.

“Well, strikingly true as it may be, it is not less true, my friend, that I shall return⁠—greatly beloved by M. Monck, who calls me dear captain all day long, although I am neither dear to him nor a captain;⁠—and much appreciated by the king, who has already forgotten my name;⁠—it is not less true, I say, that I shall return to my beautiful country, cursed by the soldiers I had raised with the hopes of large pay, cursed by the brave Planchet, of who I have borrowed a part of his fortune.”

“How is that? What the devil had Planchet to do in all this?”

“Ah, yes, my friend; but this king, so spruce, so smiling, so adored, M. Monck fancies he has recalled him, you fancy you have supported him, I fancy I have brought him back, the people fancy they have reconquered him, he himself fancies he has negotiated his restoration; and yet nothing of all this is true, for Charles II, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland, has been replaced upon the throne by a French grocer, who lives in the Rue des Lombards, and is named Planchet. And such is grandeur! ‘Vanity!’ says the Scripture: ‘vanity, all is vanity.’ ”

Athos could not help laughing at this whimsical outbreak of his friend.

“My dear d’Artagnan,” said he, pressing his hand affectionately, “should you not exercise a little more philosophy? Is it not some further satisfaction to you to have saved my life as you did by arriving so fortunately with Monck, when those damned parliamentarians wanted to burn me alive?”

“Well, but you, in some degree, deserved a little burning, my friend.”

“How so? What, for having saved King Charles’s million?”

“What million?”

“Ah, that is true! you never knew that, my friend; but you must not be angry, for it was my secret. That word ‘REMEMBER’ which the king pronounced upon the scaffold.”

“And which means ‘souviens-toi!’ ”

“Exactly. That was signified. ‘Remember there is a million buried in the vaults of Newcastle Abbey, and that that million belongs to my son.’ ”

“Ah! very well, I understand. But what I understand likewise, and what is very frightful, is, that every time His Majesty Charles II will think of me, he will say to himself: ‘There is the man who came very near to making me lose my crown. Fortunately I was generous, great, full of presence of mind.’ That will be said by the young gentleman in a shabby black doublet, who came to the château of Blois, hat in hand, to ask me if I would give him access to the king of France.”

“D’Artagnan! D’Artagnan!” said Athos, laying his hand on the shoulder of the musketeer, “you are unjust.”

“I have a right to be so.”

“No⁠—for you are ignorant of the future.”

D’Artagnan looked his friend full in the face, and began to laugh. “In truth, my dear Athos,” said he, “you have some sayings so superb, that they only belong to you and M. le Cardinal Mazarin.”

Athos frowned slightly.

“I beg your pardon,” continued d’Artagnan, laughing, “I beg your pardon if I have offended you. The future! Nein! what pretty words are words that promise, and how well they fill the mouth in default of other things! Mordioux! After having met with so many who promised, when shall I find one who will give? But, let that pass!” continued d’Artagnan. “What are you doing here, my dear Athos? Are you the king’s treasurer?”

“How⁠—why the king’s treasurer?”

“Well, since the king possess a million, he must want a treasurer. The king of France, although he is not worth a sou, has still a superintendent of finance, M. Fouquet. It is true, that, in exchange, M. Fouquet, they say, has a good number of millions of his own.”

“Oh! our million was spent long ago,” said Athos, laughing in his turn.

“I understand; it was frittered away in satin, precious stones, velvet, and feathers of all sorts and colors. All these princes and princesses stood in great need of tailors and dressmakers. Eh! Athos, do you remember what we fellows spent in equipping ourselves for the campaign of La Rochelle, and to make our appearance on horseback? Two or three thousand livres, by my faith! But a king’s robe is the more ample; it would require a million to purchase the stuff. At least, Athos, if you are not treasurer, you are on good footing at court.”

“By the faith of a gentleman, I know nothing about it,” said Athos, simply.

“What! you know nothing about it?”

“No! I have not seen the king since we left Dover.”

“Then he has forgotten you, too! Mordioux! That is shameful!”

“His Majesty has had so much business to transact.”

“Oh!” cried d’Artagnan, with one of those intelligent grimaces which he alone knew how to make, “that is enough to make me recover my love for Monseigneur Giulio Mazarini. What, Athos! the king has not seen you since then?”

“No.”

“And you are not furious?”

“I! why should I be? Do you imagine, my dear d’Artagnan, that it was on the king’s account I acted as I have done? I did not know the young man. I defended the father, who represented a principle⁠—sacred in my eyes, and I allowed myself to be drawn towards the son from sympathy for this same principle. Besides, he was a worthy knight, a noble creature, that father; do you remember him?”

“Yes; that is true; he was a brave, an excellent man, who led a sad life, but made a fine end.”

“Well, my dear d’Artagnan, understand this; to that king, to that man of heart, to that friend of my thoughts, if I durst venture to say so, I swore at the last hour to preserve faithfully the secret of a deposit which was to be transmitted to his son, to assist him in his hour of need. This young man came to me; he described his destitution; he was ignorant that he was anything to me save a living memory of his father. I have accomplished towards Charles II what I promised Charles I; that is all! Of what consequence is it to me, then, whether he be grateful or not? It is to myself I have rendered a service, by relieving myself of this responsibility, and not to him.”

“Well, I have always said,” replied d’Artagnan, with a sigh, “that disinterestedness was the finest thing in the world.”

“Well, and you, my friend,” resumed Athos, “are you not in the same situation as myself? If I have properly understood your words, you allowed yourself to be affected by the misfortunes of this young man; that, on your part, was much greater than it was upon mine, for I had a duty to fulfill; whilst you were under no obligation to the son of the martyr. You had not, on your part, to pay him the price of that precious drop of blood which he let fall upon my brow, through the floor of the scaffold. That which made you act was heart alone⁠—the noble and good heart which you possess beneath your apparent skepticism and sarcastic irony; you have engaged the fortune of a servitor, and your own, I suspect, my benevolent miser! and your sacrifice is not acknowledged! Of what consequence is it? You wish to repay Planchet his money. I can comprehend that, my friend: for it is not becoming in a gentleman to borrow from his inferior, without returning to him principal and interest. Well, I will sell La Fère if necessary, and if not, some little farm. You shall pay Planchet, and there will be enough, believe me, of corn left in my granaries for us two and Raoul. In this way, my friend, you will be under obligations to nobody but yourself; and, if I know you well, it will not be a small satisfaction to your mind to be able to say, ‘I have made a king!’ Am I right?”

“Athos! Athos!” murmured d’Artagnan, thoughtfully, “I have told you more than once that the day on which you will preach I shall attend the sermon; the day on which you will tell me there is a hell⁠—mordioux! I shall be afraid of the gridiron and the pitchforks. You are better than I, or rather, better than anybody, and I only acknowledge the possession of one quality, and that is, of not being jealous. Except that defect, damme, as the English say, if I have not all the rest.”

“I know no one equal to d’Artagnan,” replied Athos; “but here we are, having quietly reached the house I inhabit. Will you come in, my friend?”

“Eh! why this is the tavern of the Corne du Cerf, I think,” said d’Artagnan.

“I confess I chose it on purpose. I like old acquaintances; I like to sit down on that place, whereon I sank, overcome by fatigue, overwhelmed by despair, when you returned on the 31st of January.”

“After having discovered the abode of the masked executioner? Yes, that was a terrible day!”

“Come in, then,” said Athos, interrupting him.

They entered the large apartment, formerly the common one. The tavern, in general, and this room in particular, had undergone great changes; the ancient host of the Musketeers, having become tolerably rich for an innkeeper, had closed his shop, and make of this room of which we were speaking, a storeroom for colonial provisions. As for the rest of the house, he let it ready furnished to strangers. It was with unspeakable emotion d’Artagnan recognized all the furniture of the chamber of the first story; the wainscoting, the tapestries, and even that geographical chart which Porthos had so fondly studied in his moments of leisure.

“It is eleven years ago,” cried d’Artagnan. “Mordioux! it appears to me a century!”

“And to me but a day,” said Athos. “Imagine the joy I experience, my friend, in seeing you there, in pressing your hand, in casting from me sword and dagger, and tasting without mistrust this glass of sherry. And, oh! what still further joy it would be, if our two friends were there, at the two corners of the table, and Raoul, my beloved Raoul, on the threshold, looking at us with his large eyes, at once so brilliant and so soft!”

“Yes, yes,” said d’Artagnan, much affected, “that is true. I approve particularly of the first part of your thought; it is very pleasant to smile there where we have so legitimately shuddered in thinking that from one moment to another M. Mordaunt might appear upon the landing.”

At this moment the door opened, and d’Artagnan, brave as he was, could not restrain a slight movement of fright. Athos understood him, and, smiling⁠—

“It is our host,” said he, “bringing me a letter.”

“Yes, my lord,” said the good man; “here is a letter for your honor.”

“Thank you,” said Athos, taking the letter without looking at it. “Tell me, my dear host, if you do not remember this gentleman?”

The old man raised his head, and looked attentively at d’Artagnan.

“No,” said he.

“It is,” said Athos, “one of those friends of whom I have spoken to you, and who lodged here with me eleven years ago.”

“Oh! but,” said the old man, “so many strangers have lodged here!”

“But we lodged here on the 30th of January, 1649,” added Athos, believing he should stimulate the lazy memory of the host by this remark.

“That is very possible,” replied he, smiling; “but it is so long ago!” and he bowed, and went out.

“Thank you,” said d’Artagnan⁠—“perform exploits, accomplish revolutions, endeavor to engrave your name in stone or bronze with strong swords! there is something more rebellious, more hard, more forgetful than iron, bronze, or stone, and that is, the brain of a lodging-house keeper who has grown rich in the trade;⁠—he does not know me! Well, I should have known him, though.”

Athos, smiling at his friend’s philosophy, unsealed his letter.

“Ah!” said he, “a letter from Parry.”

“Oh! oh!” said d’Artagnan; “read it, my friend, read it! No doubt it contains news.”

Athos shook his head, and read:

“Monsieur le Comte⁠—The king has experienced much regret at not seeing you today beside him, at his entrance. His Majesty commands me to say so, and to recall him to your memory. His Majesty will expect you this evening, at the palace of St. James, between nine and ten o’clock.
“I am, respectfully, Monsieur le Comte, your honor’s very humble and very obedient servant.”
“Parry.”

“You see, my dear d’Artagnan,” said Athos, “we must not despair of the hearts of kings.”

“Not despair! you are right to say so!” replied d’Artagnan.

“Oh! my dear, very dear friend,” resumed Athos, whom the almost imperceptible bitterness of d’Artagnan had not escaped. “Pardon me! can I have unintentionally wounded my best comrade?”

“You are mad, Athos, and to prove it, I shall conduct you to the palace; to the very gate, I mean; the walk will do me good.”

“You shall go in with me, my friend; I will speak to His Majesty.”

“No, no!” replied d’Artagnan, with true pride, free from all mixture; “if there is anything worse than begging yourself, it is making others beg for you. Come, let us go, my friend, the walk will be charming; on the way I shall show you the house of M. Monck, who has detained me with him. A beautiful house, by my faith. Being a general in England is better than being a maréchal in France, please to know.”

Athos allowed himself to be led along, quite saddened by d’Artagnan’s forced attempts at gayety. The whole city was in a state of joy; the two friends were jostled at every moment by enthusiasts who required them, in their intoxication, to cry out, “Long live good King Charles!” D’Artagnan replied by a grunt, and Athos by a smile. They arrived thus in front of Monck’s house, before which, as we have said, they had to pass on their way to St. James’s.

Athos and d’Artagnan said but little on the road, for the simple reason that they would have had so many things to talk about if they had spoken. Athos thought that by speaking he should evince satisfaction, and that might wound d’Artagnan. The latter feared that in speaking he should allow some little bitterness to steal into his words which would render his company unpleasant to his friend. It was a singular emulation of silence between contentment and ill-humor. D’Artagnan gave way first to that itching at the tip of his tongue which he so habitually experienced.

“Do you remember, Athos,” said he, “the passage of the Mémoires de d’Aubigny, in which that devoted servant, a Gascon like myself, poor as myself, and, I was going to add, brave as myself, relates instances of the meanness of Henry IV? My father always told me, I remember, that d’Aubigny was a liar. But, nevertheless, examine how all the princes, the issue of the great Henry, keep up the character of the race.”

“Nonsense!” said Athos, “the kings of France misers? You are mad, my friend.”

“Oh! you are so perfect yourself, you never agree to the faults of others. But, in reality, Henry IV was covetous, Louis XIII, his son, was so likewise; we know something of that, don’t we? Gaston carried this vice to exaggeration, and has made himself, in this respect, hated by all who surround him. Henriette, poor woman, might well be avaricious, she who did not eat every day, and could not warm herself every winter; and that is an example she has given to her son Charles II, grandson of the great Henry IV, who is as covetous as his mother and his grandfather. See if I have well traced the genealogy of the misers?”

“D’Artagnan, my friend,” cried Athos, “you are very rude towards that eagle race called the Bourbons.”

“Eh! and I have forgotten the best instance of all⁠—the other grandson of the Bérnais, Louis XIV, my ex-master. Well, I hope he is miserly enough, he who would not lend a million to his brother Charles! Good! I see you are beginning to be angry. Here we are, by good luck, close to my house, or rather that of my friend, M. Monck.”

“My dear d’Artagnan, you do not make me angry, you make me sad; it is cruel, in fact, to see a man of your deserts out of the position his services ought to have acquired; it appears to me, my dear friend, that your name is as radiant as the greatest names in war and diplomacy. Tell me if the Luynes, the Ballegardes, and the Bassompierres have merited, as we have, fortunes and honors? You are right, my friend, a hundred times right.”

D’Artagnan sighed, and preceded his friend under the porch of he mansion Monck inhabited, at the extremity of the city. “Permit me,” said he, “to leave my purse at home; for if in the crowd those clever pickpockets of London, who are much boasted of, even in Paris, were to steal from me the remainder of my poor crowns, I should not be able to return to France. Now, content I left France, and wild with joy I should return to it, seeing that all my prejudices of former days against England have returned, accompanied by many others.”

Athos made no reply.

“So, then, my dear friend, one second, and I will follow you,” said d’Artagnan. “I know you are in a hurry to go yonder to receive your reward, but, believe me, I am not less eager to partake of your joy, although from a distance. Wait for me.” And d’Artagnan was already passing through the vestibule, when a man, half servant, half soldier, who filled in Monck’s establishment the double function of porter and guard, stopped our musketeer, saying to him in English:

“I beg your pardon, my Lord d’Artagnan!”

“Well,” replied the latter: “what is it? Is the general going to dismiss me? I only needed to be expelled by him.”

These words, spoken in French, made no impression upon the person to whom they were addressed, and who himself only spoke an English mixed with the rudest Scots. But Athos was grieved at them, for he began to think d’Artagnan was not wrong.

The Englishman showed d’Artagnan a letter: “From the general,” said he.

“Aye! that’s it, my dismissal!” replied the Gascon. “Must I read it, Athos?”

“You must be deceived,” said Athos, “or I know no more honest people in the world but you and myself.”

D’Artagnan shrugged his shoulders and unsealed the letter, while the impassible Englishman held for him a large lantern, by the light of which he was enabled to read it.

“Well, what is the matter?” said Athos, seeing the countenance of the reader change.

“Read it yourself,” said the musketeer.

Athos took the paper and read:

“Monsieur d’Artagnan⁠—The king regrets very much you did not come to St. Paul’s with his cortège. He missed you, as I also have missed you, my dear captain. There is but one means of repairing all this. His Majesty expects me at nine o’clock at the palace of St. James’s: will you be there at the same time with me? His gracious majesty appoints that hour for an audience he grants you.”

This letter was from Monck.

CHAPTER 33

The Audience
“Well?” cried Athos with a mild look of reproach, when d’Artagnan had read the letter addressed to him by Monck.

“Well!” said d’Artagnan, red with pleasure, and a little with shame, at having so hastily accused the king and Monck. “This is a politeness⁠—which leads to nothing, it is true, but yet it is a politeness.”

“I had great difficulty in believing the young prince ungrateful,” said Athos.

“The fact is, that his present is still too near his past,” replied d’Artagnan; “after all, everything to the present moment proved me right.”

“I acknowledge it, my dear friend, I acknowledge it. Ah! there is your cheerful look returned. You cannot think how delighted I am.”

“Thus you see,” said d’Artagnan, “Charles II receives M. Monck at nine o’clock; he will receive me at ten; it is a grand audience, of the sort which at the Louvre are called ‘distributions of court holy water.’ Come, let us go and place ourselves under the spout, my dear friend! Come along.”

Athos replied nothing; and both directed their steps, at a quick pace, towards the palace of St. James’s, which the crowd still surrounded, to catch, through the windows, the shadows of the courtiers, and the reflection of the royal person. Eight o’clock was striking when the two friends took their places in the gallery filled with courtiers and politicians. Everyone looked at these simply-dressed men in foreign costumes, at these two noble heads so full of character and meaning. On their side, Athos and d’Artagnan, having with two glances taken the measure of the whole assembly, resumed their chat.

A great noise was suddenly heard at the extremity of the gallery⁠—it was General Monck, who entered, followed by more than twenty officers, all eager for a smile, as only the evening before he was master of all England, and a glorious tomorrow was looked to, for the restorer of the Stuart family.

“Gentlemen,” said Monck, turning round, “henceforward I beg you to remember that I am no longer anything. Lately I commanded the principal army of the republic; now that army is the king’s, into whose hands I am about to surrender, at his command, my power of yesterday.”

Great surprise was painted on all the countenances, and the circle of adulators and suppliants which surrounded Monck an instant before, was enlarged by degrees, and ended by being lost in the large undulations of the crowd. Monck was going into the antechamber as others did. D’Artagnan could not help remarking this to the Comte de la Fère, who frowned on beholding it. Suddenly the door of the royal apartment opened, and the young king appeared, preceded by two officers of his household.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” said he. “Is General Monck here?”

“I am here, sire,” replied the old general.

Charles stepped hastily towards him, and seized his hand with the warmest demonstration of friendship. “General,” said the king, aloud, “I have just signed your patent⁠—you are Duke of Albemarle; and my intention is that no one shall equal you in power and fortune in this kingdom, where⁠—the noble Montrose excepted⁠—no one has equaled you in loyalty, courage, and talent. Gentlemen, the duke is commander of our armies of land and sea; pay him your respects, if you please, in that character.”

Whilst everyone was pressing round the general, who received all this homage without losing his impassibility for an instant, d’Artagnan said to Athos: “When one thinks that this duchy, this commander of the land and sea forces, all these grandeurs, in a word, have been shut up in a box six feet long and three feet wide⁠—”

“My friend,” replied Athos, “much more imposing grandeurs are confined in boxes still smaller⁠—and remain there forever.”

All at once Monck perceived the two gentlemen, who held themselves aside until the crowd had diminished; he made himself a passage towards them, so that he surprised them in the midst of their philosophical reflections. “Were you speaking of me?” sad he, with a smile.

“My lord,” replied Athos, “we were speaking likewise of God.”

Monck reflected for a moment, and then replied gayly: “Gentlemen, let us speak a little of the king likewise, if you please; for you have, I believe, an audience of His Majesty.”

“At nine o’clock,” said Athos.

“At ten o’clock,” said d’Artagnan.

“Let us go into this closet at once,” replied Monck, making a sign to his two companions to precede him; but to that neither would consent.

The king, during this discussion so characteristic of the French, had returned to the center of the gallery.

“Oh! my Frenchmen!” said he, in that tone of careless gayety which, in spite of so much grief and so many crosses, he had never lost. “My Frenchmen! my consolation!” Athos and d’Artagnan bowed.

“Duke, conduct these gentlemen into my study. I am at your service, messieurs,” added he in French. And he promptly expedited his court, to return to his Frenchmen, as he called them. “Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said he, as he entered his closet, “I am glad to see you again.”

“Sire, my joy is at its height, at having the honor to salute Your Majesty in your own palace of St. James’s.”

“Monsieur, you have been willing to render me a great service, and I owe you my gratitude for it. If I did not fear to intrude upon the rights of our command general, I would offer you some post worthy of you near our person.”

“Sire,” replied d’Artagnan, “I have quitted the service of the king of France, making a promise to my prince not to serve any other king.”

“Humph!” said Charles, “I am sorry to hear that; I should like to do much for you; I like you very much.”

“Sire⁠—”

“But, let us see,” said Charles with a smile, “if we cannot make you break your word. Duke, assist me. If you were offered, that is to say, if I offered you the chief command of my musketeers?” D’Artagnan bowed lower than before.

“I should have the regret to refuse what your gracious majesty would offer me,” said he; “a gentleman has but his word, and that word, as I have had the honor to tell Your Majesty, is engaged to the king of France.”

“We shall say no more about it, then,” said the king, turning towards Athos, and leaving d’Artagnan plunged in the deepest pangs of disappointment.

“Ah! I said so!” muttered the musketeer. “Words! words! Court holy water! Kings have always a marvelous talent for offering us that which they know we will not accept, and in appearing generous without risk. So be it!⁠—triple fool that I was to have hoped for a moment!”

During this time, Charles took the hand of Athos. “Comte,” said he, “you have been to me a second father; the services you have rendered to me are above all price. I have, nevertheless, thought of a recompense. You were created by my father a Knight of the Garter⁠—that is an order which all the kings of Europe cannot bear; by the queen regent, Knight of the Holy Ghost⁠—which is an order not less illustrious; I join to it that of the Golden Fleece sent me by the king of France, to whom the king of Spain, his father-in-law, gave two on the occasion of his marriage; but in return, I have a service to ask of you.”

“Sire,” said Athos, with confusion, “the Golden Fleece for me! when the king of France is the only person in my country who enjoys that distinction?”

“I wish you to be in your country and all others the equal of all those whom sovereigns have honored with their favor,” said Charles, drawing the chain from his neck; “and I am sure, count, my father smiles on me from his grave.”

It is unaccountably strange, said d’Artagnan to himself, whilst his friend, on his knees, received the eminent order which the king conferred on him⁠—it is almost incredible that I have always seen showers of prosperity fall upon all who surrounded me, and that not a drop ever reached me! If I were a jealous man, it would be enough to make one tear one’s hair, parole d’honneur!

Athos rose from his knees, and Charles embraced him tenderly. “General!” said he to Monck⁠—then stopping, with a smile, “pardon me, duke, I mean. No wonder if I make a mistake; the word duke is too short for me, I always seek some title to lengthen it. I should wish to see you so near my throne, that I might say to you, as to Louis XIV, my brother! Oh! I have it; and you will almost be my brother, for I make you viceroy of Ireland and Scotland, my dear duke. So, after that fashion, henceforward I shall not make a mistake.”

The duke seized the hand of the king, but without enthusiasm, without joy, as he did everything. His heart, however, had been moved by this last favor. Charles, by skillfully husbanding his generosity, had given the duke time to wish, although he might not have wished for so much as was given him.

Mordioux!” grumbled d’Artagnan, “there is the shower beginning again! Oh! it is enough to turn one’s brain!” and he turned away with an air so sorrowful and so comically piteous, that the king, who caught it, could not restrain a smile. Monck was preparing to leave the room, to take leave of Charles.

“What! my trusty and well-beloved!” said the king to the duke, “are you going?”

“With Your Majesty’s permission, for in truth I am weary. The emotions of the day have worn me out; I stand in need of rest.”

“But,” said the king, “you are not going without M. d’Artagnan, I hope.”

“Why not, sire?” said the old warrior.

“Well! you know very well why,” said the king.

Monck looked at Charles with astonishment.

“Oh! it may be possible; but if you forget, you, M. d’Artagnan, do not.”

Astonishment was painted on the face of the musketeer.

“Well, then, duke,” said the king, “do you not lodge with M. d’Artagnan?”

“I had the honor of offering M. d’Artagnan a lodging; yes, sire.”

“That idea is your own, and yours solely?”

“Mine and mine only; yes, sire.”

“Well! but it could not be otherwise⁠—the prisoner always lodges with his conqueror.”

Monck colored in his turn. “Ah! that is true,” said he; “I am M. d’Artagnan’s prisoner.”

“Without doubt, duke, since you are not yet ransomed; but have no care of that; it was I who took you out of M. d’Artagnan’s hands, and it is I who will pay your ransom.”

The eyes of d’Artagnan regained their gayety and their brilliancy. The Gascon began to understand. Charles advanced towards him.

“The general,” said he, “is not rich, and cannot pay you what he is worth. I am richer, certainly; but now that he is a duke, and if not a king, almost a king, he is worth a sum I could not perhaps pay. Come, M. d’Artagnan, be moderate with me; how much do I owe you?”

D’Artagnan, delighted at the turn things were taking, but not for a moment losing his self-possession, replied⁠—“Sire, Your Majesty has no occasion to be alarmed. When I had the good fortune to take his grace, M. Monck was only a general; it is therefore only a general’s ransom that is due to me. But if the general will have the kindness to deliver me his sword, I shall consider myself paid; for there is nothing in the world but the general’s sword which is worth as much as himself.”

“Odds fish! as my father said,” cried Charles. “That is a gallant proposal, and a gallant man, is he not, duke?”

“Upon my honor, yes, sire,” and he drew his sword. “Monsieur,” said he to d’Artagnan, “here is what you demand. Many have handled a better blade; but however modest mine may be, I have never surrendered it to anyone.”

D’Artagnan received with pride the sword which had just made a king.

“Oh! oh!” cried Charles II; “what a sword that has restored me to my throne⁠—to go out of the kingdom⁠—and not, one day, to figure among the crown jewels! No, on my soul! that shall not be! Captain d’Artagnan, I will give you two hundred thousand livres for your sword! If that is too little, say so.”

“It is too little, sire,” replied d’Artagnan, with inimitable seriousness. “In the first place, I do not at all wish to sell it; but Your Majesty desires me to do so, and that is an order. I obey, then, but the respect I owe to the illustrious warrior who hears me, commands me to estimate a third more the reward of my victory. I ask then three hundred thousand livres for the sword, or I shall give it to Your Majesty for nothing.” And taking it by the point he presented it to the king. Charles broke into hilarious laughter.

“A gallant man, and a merry companion! Odds fish! is he not, duke? is he not, count? He pleases me! I like him! Here, Chevalier d’Artagnan, take this.” And going to the table, he took a pen and wrote an order upon his treasurer for three hundred thousand livres.

D’Artagnan took it, and turning gravely towards Monck: “I have still asked too little, I know,” said he, “but believe me, Your Grace, I would rather have died than allow myself to be governed by avarice.”

The king began to laugh again, like the happiest cockney of his kingdom.

“You will come and see me again before you go, chevalier?” said he; “I shall want to lay in a stock of gayety now my Frenchmen are leaving me.”

“Ah! sire, it will not be with the gayety as with the duke’s sword; I will give it to Your Majesty gratis,” replied d’Artagnan, whose feet scarcely seemed to touch the ground.

“And you, comte,” added Charles, turning towards Athos, “come again, also; I have an important message to confide to you. Your hand, duke.” Monck pressed the hand of the king.

“Adieu! gentlemen,” said Charles, holding out each of his hands to the two Frenchmen, who carried them to their lips.

“Well,” said Athos, when they were out of the palace, “are you satisfied?”

“Hush!” said d’Artagnan, wild with joy, “I have not yet returned from the treasurer’s⁠—a shutter may fall upon my head.”

CHAPTER 34

Of the Embarrassment of Riches
D’Artagnan lost no time, and as soon as the thing was suitable and opportune, he paid a visit to the lord treasurer of His Majesty. He had then the satisfaction to exchange a piece of paper, covered with very ugly writing, for a prodigious number of crowns, recently stamped with the effigies of his very gracious majesty Charles II.

D’Artagnan easily controlled himself: and yet, on this occasion, he could not help evincing a joy which the reader will perhaps comprehend, if he deigns to have some indulgence for a man who, since his birth, had never seen so many pieces and rolls of pieces juxta-placed in an order truly agreeable to the eye. The treasurer placed all the rolls in bags, and closed each bag with a stamp sealed with the arms of England, a favor which treasurers do not grant to everybody. Then, impassible, and just as polite as he ought to be towards a man honored with the friendship of the king, he said to d’Artagnan:

“Take away your money, sir.” Your money! These words made a thousand chords vibrate in the heart of d’Artagnan, which he had never felt before. He had the bags packed in a small cart, and returned home meditating deeply. A man who possesses three hundred thousand livres can no longer expect to wear a smooth brow; a wrinkle for every hundred thousand livres is not too much.

D’Artagnan shut himself up, ate no dinner, closed his door to everybody, and, with a lighted lamp, and a loaded pistol on the table, he watched all night, ruminating upon the means of preventing these lovely crowns, which from the coffers of the king had passed into his coffers, from passing from his coffers into the pockets of any thief whatever. The best means discovered by the Gascon was to enclose his treasure, for the present, under locks so solid that no wrist could break them, and so complicated that no master-key could open them. D’Artagnan remembered that the English are masters in mechanics and conservative industry; and he determined to go in the morning in search of a mechanic who would sell him a strong box. He did not go far; Master Will Jobson, dwelling in Piccadilly, listened to his propositions, comprehended his wishes, and promised to make him a safety lock that should relieve him from all future fear.

“I will give you,” said he, “a piece of mechanism entirely new. At the first serious attempt upon your lock, an invisible plate will open of itself and vomit forth a pretty copper bullet the weight of a mark⁠—which will knock down the intruder, and not with a loud report. What do you think of it?”

“I think it very ingenuous,” cried d’Artagnan; “the little copper bullet pleases me mightily. So now, sir mechanic, the terms?”

“A fortnight for the execution, and fifteen hundred livres payable on delivery,” replied the artisan.

D’Artagnan’s brow darkened. A fortnight was delay enough to allow the thieves of London time to remove all occasion for the strong box. As to the fifteen hundred livres⁠—that would be paying too dear for what a little vigilance would procure him for nothing.

“I will think of it,” said he; “thank you, sir.” And he returned home at full speed; nobody had yet touched his treasure. That same day Athos paid a visit to his friend and found him so thoughtful that he could not help expressing his surprise.

“How is this?” said he, “you are rich and not gay⁠—you, who were so anxious for wealth!”

“My friend, the pleasures to which we are not accustomed oppress us more than the griefs with which we are familiar. Give me your opinion, if you please. I can ask you, who have always had money: when we have money, what do we do with it?”

“That depends.”

“What have you done with yours, seeing that it has not made you a miser or a prodigal? For avarice dries up the heart, and prodigality drowns it⁠—is that not so?”

“Fabricius could not have spoken more justly. But in truth, my money has never been a burden to me.”

“How so? Do you place it out at interest?”

“No; you know I have a tolerably handsome house; and that house composes the better part of my property.”

“I know it does.”

“So that you can be as rich as I am, and, indeed, more rich, whenever you like, by the same means.”

“But your rents⁠—do you lay them by?”

“No.”

“What do you think of a chest concealed in a wall?”

“I never made use of such a thing.”

“Then you must have some confidant, some safe man of business who pays you interest at a fair rate.”

“Not at all.”

“Good heavens! what do you do with it, then?”

“I spend all I have, and I only have what I spend, my dear d’Artagnan.”

“Ah! that may be. But you are something of a prince; fifteen or sixteen thousand livres melt away between your fingers; and then you have expenses and appearances⁠—”

“Well, I don’t see why you should be less of a noble than I am, my friend; your money would be quite sufficient.”

“Three hundred thousand livres! Two-thirds too much!”

“I beg your pardon⁠—did you not tell me?⁠—I thought I heard you say⁠—I fancied you had a partner⁠—”

“Ah! Mordioux! that’s true,” cried d’Artagnan, coloring; “there is Planchet. I had forgotten Planchet, upon my life! Well! there are my three hundred thousand livres broken into. That’s a pity! it was a round sum, and sounded well. That is true, Athos; I am no longer rich. What a memory you have!”

“Tolerably good; yes, thank God!”

“The worthy Planchet!” grumbled d’Artagnan; “his was not a bad dream! What a speculation! Peste! Well! what is said is said.”

“How much are you to give him?”

“Oh!” said d’Artagnan, “he is not a bad fellow; I shall arrange matters with him. I have had a great deal of trouble, you see, and expenses; all that must be taken into account.”

“My dear friend, I can depend on you, and have no fear for the worthy Planchet; his interests are better in your hands than in his own. But now that you have nothing more to do here, we shall depart, if you please. You can go and thank His Majesty, ask if he has any commands, and in six days we may be able to get sight of the towers of Notre Dame.”

“My friend, I am most anxious to be off, and will go at once and pay my respects to the king.”

“I,” said Athos, “am going to call upon some friends in the city, and shall then be at your service.”

“Will you lend me Grimaud?”

“With all my heart. What do you want to do with him?”

“Something very simple, and which will not fatigue him; I shall only beg him to take charge of my pistols, which lie there on the table near that coffer.”

“Very well!” replied Athos, imperturbably.

“And he will not stir, will he?”

“Not more than the pistols themselves.”

“Then I shall go and take leave of His Majesty. Au revoir!”

D’Artagnan arrived at St. James’s, where Charles II, who was busy writing, kept him in the antechamber a full hour. Whilst walking about in the gallery, from the door to the window, from the window to the door, he thought he saw a cloak like Athos’s cross the vestibule; but at the moment he was going to ascertain if it were he, the usher summoned him to His Majesty’s presence. Charles II rubbed his hands while receiving the thanks of our friend.

“Chevalier,” said he, “you are wrong to express gratitude to me; I have not paid you a quarter of the value of the history of the box into which you put the brave general⁠—the excellent Duke of Albemarle, I mean.” And the king laughed heartily.

D’Artagnan did not think it proper to interrupt His Majesty, and he bowed with much modesty.

“Apropos,” continued Charles, “do you think my dear Monck has really pardoned you?”

“Pardoned me! yes, I hope so, sire!”

“Eh!⁠—but it was a cruel trick! Odds fish! to pack up the first personage of the English revolution like a herring. In your place I would not trust him, chevalier.”

“But, sire⁠—”

“Yes, I know very well Monck calls you his friend, but he has too penetrating an eye not to have a memory, and too lofty a brow not to be very proud, you know, grande supercilium.”

I shall certainly learn Latin, said d’Artagnan to himself.

“But stop,” cried the merry monarch, “I must manage your reconciliation; I know how to set about it; so⁠—”

D’Artagnan bit his mustache. “Will Your Majesty permit me to tell you the truth?”

“Speak, chevalier, speak.”

“Well, sire, you alarm me greatly. If Your Majesty undertakes the affair, as you seem inclined to do, I am a lost man; the duke will have me assassinated.”

The king burst into a fresh roar of laughter, which changed d’Artagnan’s alarm into downright terror.

“Sire, I beg you to allow me to settle this matter myself, and if Your Majesty has no further need of my services⁠—”

“No, chevalier. What, do you want to leave us?” replied Charles, with a hilarity that grew more and more alarming.

“If Your Majesty has no more commands for me.”

Charles became more serious.

“One single thing. See my sister, the Lady Henrietta. Do you know her?”

“No, sire, but⁠—an old soldier like me is not an agreeable spectacle for a young and gay princess.”

“Ah! but my sister must know you; she must in case of need have you to depend upon.”

“Sire, everyone that is dear to Your Majesty will be sacred to me.”

“Very well!⁠—Parry! Come here, Parry!”

The side door opened and Parry entered, his face beaming with pleasure as soon as he saw d’Artagnan.

“What is Rochester doing?” said the king.

“He is on the canal with the ladies,” replied Parry.

“And Buckingham?”

“He is there also.”

“That is well. You will conduct the chevalier to Villiers; that is the Duke of Buckingham, chevalier; and beg the duke to introduce M. d’Artagnan to the Princess Henrietta.”

Parry bowed and smiled to d’Artagnan.

“Chevalier,” continued the king, “this is your parting audience; you can afterwards set out as soon as you please.”

“Sire, I thank you.”

“But be sure you make your peace with Monck!”

“Oh, sire⁠—”

“You know there is one of my vessels at your disposal?”

“Sire, you overpower me; I cannot think of putting Your Majesty’s officers to inconvenience on my account.”

The king slapped d’Artagnan upon the shoulder.

“Nobody will be inconvenienced on your account, chevalier, but for that of an ambassador I am about sending to France, and to whom you will willingly serve as a companion, I fancy, for you know him.”

D’Artagnan appeared astonished.

“He is a certain Comte de la Fère⁠—whom you call Athos,” added the king; terminating the conversation, as he had begun it, by a joyous burst of laughter. “Adieu, chevalier, adieu. Love me as I love you.” And thereupon, making a sign to Parry to ask if there were anyone waiting for him in the adjoining closet, the king disappeared into that closet, leaving the chevalier perfectly astonished by this singular audience. The old man took his arm in a friendly way, and led him towards the garden.

CHAPTER 35

On the Canal
Upon the green waters of the canal bordered with marble, upon which time had already scattered black spots and tufts of mossy grass, there glided majestically a long flat bark adorned with the arms of England, surmounted by a dais, and carpeted with long damasked stuffs, which trailed their fringes in the water. Eight rowers, leaning lazily to their oars, made it move upon the canal with the graceful slowness of the swans, which, disturbed in their ancient possessions by the approach of the bark, looked from a distance at this splendid and noisy pageant. We say noisy⁠—for the bark contained four guitar and lute players, two singers, and several courtiers, all sparkling with gold and precious stones, and showing their white teeth in emulation of each other, to please the Lady Henrietta Stuart, granddaughter of Henry IV, daughter of Charles I, and sister of Charles II, who occupied the seat of honor under the dais of the bark. We know this young princess, we have seen her at the Louvre with her mother, wanting wood, wanting bread, and fed by the coadjuteur and the parliament. She had, therefore, like her brothers, passed through an uneasy youth; then, all at once, she had just awakened from a long and horrible dream, seated on the steps of a throne, surrounded by courtiers and flatterers. Like Mary Stuart on leaving prison, she aspired not only to life and liberty, but to power and wealth.

The Lady Henrietta, in growing, had attained remarkable beauty, which the recent restoration had rendered celebrated. Misfortune had taken from her the luster of pride, but prosperity had restored it to her. She was resplendent, then, in her joy and her happiness⁠—like those hothouse flowers which, forgotten during a frosty autumn night, have hung their heads, but which on the morrow, warmed once more by the atmosphere in which they were born, rise again with greater splendor than ever. Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, son of him who played so conspicuous a part in the early chapters of this history⁠—Villiers of Buckingham, a handsome cavalier, melancholy with women, a jester with men⁠—and Wilmot, Lord Rochester, a jester with both sexes, were standing at this moment before the Lady Henrietta, disputing the privilege of making her smile. As to that young and beautiful princess, reclining upon a cushion of velvet bordered with gold, her hands hanging listlessly so as to dip in the water, she listened carelessly to the musicians without hearing them, and heard the two courtiers without appearing to listen to them.

This Lady Henrietta⁠—this charming creature⁠—this woman who joined the graces of France to the beauties of England, not having yet loved, was cruel in her coquetry. The smile, then⁠—that innocent favor of young girls⁠—did not even lighten her countenance; and if, at times, she did raise her eyes, it was to fasten them upon one or other of the cavaliers with such a fixity, that their gallantry, bold as it generally was, took the alarm, and became timid.

In the meanwhile the boat continued its course, the musicians made a great noise, and the courtiers began, like them, to be out of breath. Besides, the excursion became doubtless monotonous to the princess, for all at once, shaking her head with an air of impatience⁠—“Come gentlemen⁠—enough of this;⁠—let us land.”

“Ah, madam,” said Buckingham, “we are very unfortunate! We have not succeeded in making the excursion agreeable to Your Royal Highness.”

“My mother expects me,” replied the princess; “and I must frankly admit, gentlemen, I am bored.” And whilst uttering this cruel word, Henrietta endeavored to console by a look each of the two young men, who appeared terrified at such frankness. The look produced its effect⁠—the two faces brightened; but immediately, as if the royal coquette thought she had done too much for simple mortals, she made a movement, turned her back on both her adorers, and appeared plunged in a reverie in which it was evident they had no part.

Buckingham bit his lips with anger, for he was truly in love with the Lady Henrietta, and, in that case, took everything in a serious light. Rochester bit his lips likewise; but his wit always dominated over his heart, it was purely and simply to repress a malicious smile. The princess was then allowing the eyes she turned from the young nobles to wander over the green and flowery turf of the park, when she perceived Parry and d’Artagnan at a distance.

“Who is coming yonder?” said she.

The two young men turned round with the rapidity of lightning.

“Parry,” replied Buckingham; “nobody but Parry.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Rochester, “but I think he has a companion.”

“Yes,” said the princess, at first with languor, but then⁠—“What mean those words, ‘Nobody but Parry’; say, my lord?”

“Because, madam,” replied Buckingham, piqued, “because the faithful Parry, the wandering Parry, the eternal Parry, is not, I believe, of much consequence.”

“You are mistaken, duke. Parry⁠—the wandering Parry, as you call him⁠—has always wandered in the service of my family, and the sight of that old man always gives me satisfaction.”

The Lady Henrietta followed the usual progress of pretty women, particularly coquettish women; she passed from caprice to contradiction;⁠—the gallant had undergone the caprice, the courtier must bend beneath the contradictory humor. Buckingham bowed, but made no reply.

“It is true, madam,” said Rochester, bowing in his turn, “that Parry is the model of servants; but, madam, he is no longer young, and we laugh only when we see cheerful objects. Is an old man a gay object?”

“Enough, my lord,” said the princess, coolly; “the subject of conversation is unpleasant to me.”

Then, as if speaking to herself, “It is really unaccountable,” said she, “how little regard my brother’s friends have for his servants.”

“Ah, madam,” cried Buckingham, “Your Royal Highness pierces my heart with a dagger forged by your own hands.”

“What is the meaning of that speech, which is turned so like a French madrigal, duke? I do not understand it.”

“It means, madam, that you yourself, so good, so charming, so sensible, you have laughed sometimes⁠—smiled, I should say⁠—at the idle prattle of that good Parry, for whom Your Royal Highness today entertains such a marvelous susceptibility.”

“Well, my lord, if I have forgotten myself so far,” said Henrietta, “you do wrong to remind me of it.” And she made a sign of impatience. “The good Parry wants to speak to me, I believe: please order them to row to the shore, my Lord Rochester.”

Rochester hastened to repeat the princess’s command; and a moment later the boat touched the bank.

“Let us land, gentlemen,” said Henrietta, taking the arm which Rochester offered her, although Buckingham was nearer to her, and had presented his. Then Rochester, with an ill-dissembled pride, which pierced the heart of the unhappy Buckingham through and through, led the princess across the little bridge which the rowers had cast from the royal boat to the shore.

“Which way will Your Highness go?” asked Rochester.

“You see, my lord, towards that good Parry, who is wandering, as my lord of Buckingham says, and seeking me with eyes weakened by the tears he has shed over our misfortunes.”

“Good heavens!” said Rochester, “how sad Your Royal Highness is today; in truth we seem ridiculous fools to you, madam.”

“Speak for yourself, my lord,” interrupted Buckingham with vexation; “for my part, I displease Her Royal Highness to such a degree, that I appear absolutely nothing to her.”

Neither Rochester nor the princess made any reply; Henrietta only urged her companion more quickly on. Buckingham remained behind, and took advantage of this isolation to give himself up to his anger; he bit his handkerchief so furiously that it was soon in shreds.

“Parry, my good Parry,” said the princess, with her gentle voice, “come hither. I see you are seeking me, and I am waiting for you.”

“Ah, madam,” said Rochester, coming charitably to the help of his companion, who had remained, as we have said, behind, “if Parry cannot see Your Royal Highness, the man who follows him is a sufficient guide, even for a blind man; for he has eyes of flame. That man is a double-lamped lantern.”

“Lighting a very handsome martial countenance,” said the princess, determined to be as ill-natured as possible. Rochester bowed. “One of those vigorous soldiers’ heads seen nowhere but in France,” added the princess, with the perseverance of a woman sure of impunity.

Rochester and Buckingham looked at each other, as much as to say⁠—“What can be the matter with her?”

“See, my lord of Buckingham, what Parry wants,” said Henrietta. “Go!”

The young man, who considered this order as a favor, resumed his courage, and hastened to meet Parry, who, followed by d’Artagnan, advanced slowly on account of his age. D’Artagnan walked slowly but nobly, as d’Artagnan, doubled by the third of a million, ought to walk, that is to say, without conceit or swagger, but without timidity. When Buckingham, very eager to comply with the desire of the princess, who had seated herself on a marble bench, as if fatigued with the few steps she had gone⁠—when Buckingham, we say, was at a distance of only a few paces from Parry, the latter recognized him.

“Ah! my lord!” cried he, quite out of breath, “will Your Grace obey the king?”

“In what, Mr. Parry?” said the young man, with a kind of coolness tempered by a desire to make himself agreeable to the princess.

“Well, His Majesty begs Your Grace to present this gentleman to Her Royal Highness the Princess Henrietta.”

“In the first place, what is the gentleman’s name?” said the duke, haughtily.

D’Artagnan, as we know, was easily affronted, and the Duke of Buckingham’s tone displeased him. He surveyed the courtier from head to foot, and two flashes beamed from beneath his bent brows. But, after a struggle⁠—“Monsieur le Chevalier d’Artagnan, my lord,” replied he, quietly.

“Pardon me, sir, that teaches me your name, but nothing more.”

“You mean⁠—”

“I mean I do not know you.”

“I am more fortunate than you, sir,” replied d’Artagnan, “for I have had the honor of knowing your family, and particularly my lord Duke of Buckingham, your illustrious father.”

“My father?” said Buckingham. “Well, I think I now remember. Monsieur le Chevalier d’Artagnan, do you say?”

D’Artagnan bowed. “In person,” said he.

“Pardon me, but are you one of those Frenchmen who had secret relations with my father?”

“Exactly, my lord duke, I am one of those Frenchmen.”

“Then, sir, permit me to say that it was strange my father never heard of you during his lifetime.”

“No, Monsieur, but he heard of me at the moment of his death: it was I who sent to him, through the hands of the valet de chambre of Anne of Austria, notice of the dangers which threatened him; unfortunately, it came too late.”

“Never mind, Monsieur,” said Buckingham. “I understand now, that, having had the intention of rendering a service to the father, you have come to claim the protection of the son.”

“In the first place, my lord,” replied d’Artagnan, phlegmatically, “I claim the protection of no man. His Majesty, Charles II, to whom I have had the honor of rendering some services⁠—I may tell you, my lord, my life has been passed in such occupations⁠—King Charles II, then, who wishes to honor me with some kindness, desires me to be presented to Her Royal Highness the Princess Henrietta, his sister, to whom I shall, perhaps, have the good fortune to be of service hereafter. Now, the king knew that you at this moment were with Her Royal Highness, and sent me to you. There is no other mystery, I ask absolutely nothing of you; and if you will not present me to Her Royal Highness, I shall be compelled to do without you, and present myself.”

“At least, sir,” said Buckingham, determined to have the last word, “you will not refuse me an explanation provoked by yourself.”

“I never refuse, my lord,” said d’Artagnan.

“As you have had relations with my father, you must be acquainted with some private details?”

“These relations are already far removed from us, my lord⁠—for you were not then born⁠—and for some unfortunate diamond studs, which I received from his hands and carried back to France, it is really not worth while awakening so many remembrances.”

“Ah! sir,” said Buckingham, warmly, going up to d’Artagnan, and holding out his hand to him, “it is you, then⁠—you whom my father sought everywhere and who had a right to expect so much from us.”

“To expect, my lord, in truth, that is my forte; all my life I have expected.”

At this moment, the princess, who was tired of not seeing the stranger approach her, arose and came towards them.

“At least, sir,” said Buckingham, “you shall not wait for the presentation you claim of me.”

Then turning towards the princess and bowing: “Madam,” said the young man, “the king your brother desires me to have the honor of presenting to Your Royal Highness, Monsieur le Chevalier d’Artagnan.”

“In order that Your Royal Highness may have, in case of need, a firm support and a sure friend,” added Parry. D’Artagnan bowed.

“You have still something to say, Parry,” replied Henrietta, smiling upon d’Artagnan, while addressing the old servant.

“Yes, madam, the king desires you to preserve religiously in your memory the name and merit of M. d’Artagnan, to whom His Majesty owes, he says, the recovery of his kingdom.” Buckingham, the princess, and Rochester looked at each other.

“That,” said d’Artagnan, “is another little secret, of which, in all probability, I shall not boast to His Majesty’s son, as I have done to you with respect to the diamond studs.”

“Madam,” said Buckingham, “Monsieur has just, for the second time, recalled to my memory an event which excites my curiosity to such a degree, that I shall venture to ask your permission to take him to one side for a moment, to converse in private.”

“Do, my lord,” said the princess; “but restore to the sister, as quickly as possible, this friend so devoted to the brother.” And she took the arm of Rochester, whilst Buckingham took that of d’Artagnan.

“Oh! tell me, chevalier,” said Buckingham, “all that affair of the diamonds, which nobody knows in England, not even the son of him who was the hero of it.”

“My lord, one person alone had a right to relate all that affair, as you call it, and that was your father; he thought it proper to be silent, I must beg you to allow me to be so likewise.” And d’Artagnan bowed like a man upon whom it was evident no entreaties could prevail.

“Since it is so, sir,” said Buckingham, “pardon my indiscretion, I beg you; and if, at any time, I should go into France⁠—” and he turned round to take a last look at the princess, who took but little notice of him, totally occupied as she was, or appeared to be, with Rochester. Buckingham sighed.

“Well?” said d’Artagnan.

“I was saying that if, any day, I were to go to France⁠—”

“You will go, my lord,” said d’Artagnan, “I shall answer for that.”

“And how so?”

“Oh, I have strange powers of prediction; if I do predict anything I am seldom mistaken. If, then, you do come to France?”

“Well, then, Monsieur, you, of whom kings ask that valuable friendship which restores crowns to them, I will venture to beg of you a little of that great interest you took in my father.”

“My lord,” replied d’Artagnan, “believe me, I shall deem myself highly honored if, in France, you remember having seen me here. And now permit⁠—”

Then, turning towards the princess: “Madam,” said he, “Your Royal Highness is a daughter of France; and in that quality I hope to see you again in Paris. One of my happy days will be on that on which Your Royal Highness shall give me any command whatever, thus proving to me that you have not forgotten the recommendations of your august brother.” And he bowed respectfully to the young princess, who gave him her hand to kiss with a right royal grace.

“Ah! madam,” said Buckingham, in a subdued voice, “what can a man do to obtain a similar favor from Your Royal Highness?”

Dame! my lord,” replied Henrietta, “ask Monsieur d’Artagnan; he will tell you.”

CHAPTER 36

How d’Artagnan Drew, as a Fairy Would Have Done, a Country-Seat from a Deal Box
The king’s words regarding the wounded pride of Monck had inspired d’Artagnan with no small portion of apprehension. The lieutenant had had, all his life, the great art of choosing his enemies; and when he had found them implacable and invincible, it was when he had not been able, under any pretense, to make them otherwise. But points of view change greatly in the course of a life. It is a magic lantern, of which the eye of man every year changes the aspects. It results that from the last day of a year on which we saw white, to the first day of the year on which we shall see black, there is the interval of but a single night.

Now, d’Artagnan, when he left Calais with his ten scamps, would have hesitated as little in attacking a Goliath, a Nebuchadnezzar, or a Holofernes, as he would in crossing swords with a recruit or caviling with a landlady. Then he resembled the sparrow-hawk, which, when fasting, will attack a ram. Hunger is blind. But d’Artagnan satisfied⁠—d’Artagnan rich⁠—d’Artagnan a conqueror⁠—d’Artagnan proud of so difficult a triumph⁠—d’Artagnan had too much to lose not to reckon, figure by figure, with probable misfortune.

His thoughts were employed, therefore, all the way on the road from his presentation, with one thing, and that was, how he should conciliate a man like Monck, a man whom Charles himself, king as he was, conciliated with difficulty; for, scarcely established, the protected might again stand in need of the protector, and would, consequently, not refuse him, such being the case, the petty satisfaction of transporting M. d’Artagnan, or of confining him in one of the Middlesex prisons, or drowning him a little on his passage from Dover to Boulogne. Such sorts of satisfaction kings are accustomed to render to viceroys without disagreeable consequences.

It would not be at all necessary for the king to be active in that contrepartie of the play in which Monck should take his revenge. The part of the king would be confined to simply pardoning the viceroy of Ireland all he should undertake against d’Artagnan. Nothing more was necessary to place the conscience of the Duke of Albemarle at rest than a te absolvo said with a laugh, or the scrawl of “Charles the King,” traced at the foot of a parchment; and with these two words pronounced, and these two words written, poor d’Artagnan was forever crushed beneath the ruins of his imagination.

And then, a thing sufficiently disquieting for a man with such foresight as our musketeer, he found himself alone; and even the friendship of Athos could not restore his confidence. Certainly if the affair had only concerned a free distribution of sword-thrusts, the musketeer would have counted upon his companion; but in delicate dealings with a king, when the perhaps of an unlucky chance should arise in justification of Monck or of Charles of England, d’Artagnan knew Athos well enough to be sure he would give the best possible coloring to the loyalty of the survivor, and would content himself with shedding floods of tears on the tomb of the dead, supposing the dead to be his friend, and afterwards composing his epitaph in the most pompous superlatives.

Decidedly, thought the Gascon; and this thought was the result of the reflections which he had just whispered to himself and which we have repeated aloud⁠—decidedly, I must be reconciled with M. Monck, and acquire proof of his perfect indifference for the past. If, and God forbid it should be so! he is still sulky and reserved in the expression of this sentiment, I shall give my money to Athos to take away with him, and remain in England just long enough to unmask him, then, as I have a quick eye and a light foot, I shall notice the first hostile sign; to decamp or conceal myself at the residence of my lord of Buckingham, who seems a good sort of devil at the bottom, and to whom, in return for his hospitality, I shall relate all that history of the diamonds, which can now compromise nobody but an old queen, who need not be ashamed, after being the wife of a miserly creature like Mazarin, of having formerly been the mistress of a handsome nobleman like Buckingham. Mordioux! that is the thing, and this Monck shall not get the better of me. Eh? and besides, I have an idea!

We know that, in general, d’Artagnan was not wanting in ideas; and during this soliloquy, d’Artagnan buttoned his vest up to the chin, and nothing excited his imagination like this preparation for a combat of any kind, called accinction by the Romans. He was quite heated when he reached the mansion of the Duke of Albemarle. He was introduced to the viceroy with a promptitude which proved that he was considered as one of the household. Monck was in his business-closet.

“My lord,” said d’Artagnan, with that expression of frankness which the Gascon knew so well how to assume, “my lord, I have come to ask Your Grace’s advice!”

Monck, as closely buttoned up morally as his antagonist was physically, replied: “Ask, my friend”; and his countenance presented an expression not less open than that of d’Artagnan.

“My lord, in the first place, promise me secrecy and indulgence.”

“I promise you all you wish. What is the matter? Speak!”

“It is, my lord, that I am not quite pleased with the king.”

“Indeed! And on what account, my dear lieutenant?”

“Because His Majesty gives way sometimes to jests very compromising for his servants; and jesting, my lord, is a weapon that seriously wounds men of the sword, as we are.”

Monck did all in his power not to betray his thought, but d’Artagnan watched him with too close attention not to detect an almost imperceptible flush upon his face. “Well, now, for my part,” said he, with the most natural air possible, “I am not an enemy of jesting, my dear Monsieur d’Artagnan; my soldiers will tell you that even many times in camp, I listened very indifferently, and with a certain pleasure, to the satirical songs which the army of Lambert passed into mine, and which, certainly, would have caused the ears of a general more susceptible than I am to tingle.”

“Oh, my lord,” said d’Artagnan, “I know you are a complete man; I know you have been, for a long time, placed above human miseries; but there are jests and jests of a certain kind, which have the power of irritating me beyond expression.”

“May I inquire what kind, my friend?”

“Such as are directed against my friends or against people I respect, my lord!”

Monck made a slight movement, which d’Artagnan perceived. “Eh! and in what,” asked Monck, “in what can the stroke of a pin which scratches another tickle your skin? Answer me that.”

“My lord, I can explain it to you in a single sentence; it concerns you.”

Monck advanced a single step towards d’Artagnan. “Concerns me?” said he.

“Yes, and this is what I cannot explain; but that arises, perhaps, from my want of knowledge of his character. How can the king have the heart to jest about a man who has rendered him so many and such great services? How can one understand that he should amuse himself in setting by the ears a lion like you with a gnat like me?”

“I cannot conceive that in any way,” said Monck.

“But so it is. The king, who owed me a reward, might have rewarded me as a soldier, without contriving that history of the ransom, which affects you, my lord.”

“No,” said Monck, laughing: “it does not affect me in any way, I can assure you.”

“Not as regards me, I can understand; you know me, my lord, I am so discreet that the grave would appear a babbler compared to me; but⁠—do you understand, my lord?”

“No,” replied Monck, with persistent obstinacy.

“If another knew the secret which I know⁠—”

“What secret?”

“Eh! my lord, why, that unfortunate secret of Newcastle.”

“Oh! the million of the Comte de la Fère?”

“No, my lord, no; the enterprise made upon Your Grace’s person.”

“It was well played, chevalier, that is all, and no more is to be said about it: you are a soldier, both brave and cunning, which proves that you unite the qualities of Fabius and Hannibal. You employed your means, force and cunning: there is nothing to be said against that: I ought to have been on guard.”

“Ah! yes; I know, my lord, and I expected nothing less from your partiality; so that if it were only the abduction in itself, mordioux! that would be nothing; but there are⁠—”

“What?”

“The circumstances of that abduction.”

“What circumstances?”

“Oh! you know very well what I mean, my lord.”

“No, curse me if I do.”

“There is⁠—in truth, it is difficult to speak it.”

“There is?”

“Well, there is that devil of a box!”

Monck colored visibly. “Well, I have forgotten it.”

“Deal box,” continued d’Artagnan, “with holes for the nose and mouth. In truth, my lord, all the rest was well; but the box, the box! that was really a coarse joke.” Monck fidgeted about in his chair. “And, notwithstanding my having done that,” resumed d’Artagnan, “I, a soldier of fortune, it was quite simple, because by the side of that action, a little inconsiderate I admit, which I committed, but which the gravity of the case may excuse, I am circumspect and reserved.”

“Oh!” said Monck, “believe me, I know you well, Monsieur d’Artagnan, and I appreciate you.”

D’Artagnan never took his eyes off Monck; studying all which passed in the mind of the general, as he prosecuted his idea. “But it does not concern me,” resumed he.

“Well, then, who does it concern?” said Monck, who began to grow a little impatient.

“It relates to the king, who will never restrain his tongue.”

“Well! and suppose he should say all he knows?” said Monck, with a degree of hesitation.

“My lord,” replied d’Artagnan, “do not dissemble, I implore you, with a man who speaks so frankly as I do. You have a right to feel your susceptibility excited, however benignant it may be. What, the devil! it is not the place for a man like you, a man who plays with crowns and scepters as a Bohemian plays with his balls; it is not the place of a serious man, I said, to be shut up in a box like some freak of natural history; for you must understand it would make all your enemies ready to burst with laughter, and you are so great, so noble, so generous, that you must have many enemies. This secret is enough to set half the human race laughing, if you were represented in that box. It is not decent to have the second personage in the kingdom laughed at.”

Monck was quite out of countenance at the idea of seeing himself represented in this box. Ridicule, as d’Artagnan had judiciously foreseen, acted upon him in a manner which neither the chances of war, the aspirations of ambition, nor the fear of death had been able to do.

Good, thought the Gascon, he is frightened: I am safe.

“Oh! as to the king,” said Monck, “fear nothing, my dear Monsieur d’Artagnan; the king will not jest with Monck, I assure you!”

The momentary flash of his eye was noticed by d’Artagnan. Monck lowered his tone immediately: “The king,” continued he, “is of too noble a nature, the king’s heart is too high to allow him to wish ill to those who do him good.”

“Oh! certainly,” cried d’Artagnan. “I am entirely of Your Grace’s opinion with regard to his heart, but not as to his head⁠—it is good, but it is trifling.”

“The king will not trifle with Monck, be assured.”

“Then you are quite at ease, my lord?”

“On that side, at least! yes, perfectly!”

“Oh! I understand you; you are at ease as far as the king is concerned?”

“I have told you I was.”

“But you are not so much so on my account?”

“I thought I had told you that I had faith in your loyalty and discretion.”

“No doubt, no doubt, but you must remember one thing⁠—”

“What is that?”

“That I was not alone, that I had companions; and what companions!”

“Oh! yes, I know them.”

“And, unfortunately, my lord, they know you, too!”

“Well?”

“Well; they are yonder, at Boulogne, waiting for me.”

“And you fear⁠—”

“Yes, I fear that in my absence⁠—Parbleu! If I were near them, I could answer for their silence.”

“Was I not right in saying that the danger, if there was any danger, would not come from His Majesty, however disposed he may be to jest, but from your companions, as you say? To be laughed at by a king may be tolerable, but by the horse-boys and scamps of the army! Damn it!”

“Yes, I understand, that would be unbearable; that is why, my lord, I came to say⁠—do you not think it would be better for me to set out for France as soon as possible?”

“Certainly, if you think your presence⁠—”

“Would impose silence upon those scoundrels? Oh! I am sure of that, my lord.”

“Your presence will not prevent the report from spreading, if the tale has already transpired.”

“Oh! it has not transpired, my lord, I will wager. At all events, be assured that I am determined upon one thing.”

“What is that?”

“To blow out the brains of the first who shall have propagated that report, and of the first who has heard it. After which I shall return to England to seek an asylum, and perhaps employment with Your Grace.”

“Oh, come back! come back!”

“Unfortunately, my lord, I am acquainted with nobody here but Your Grace, and if I should no longer find you, or if you should have forgotten me in Your Greatness?”

“Listen to me, Monsieur d’Artagnan,” replied Monck; “you are a superior man, full of intelligence and courage; you deserve all the good fortune this world can bring you; come with me into Scotland, and, I swear to you, I shall arrange for you a fate which all may envy.”

“Oh! my lord, that is impossible. At present I have a sacred duty to perform; I have to watch over your glory, I have to prevent a low jester from tarnishing in the eyes of our contemporaries⁠—who knows? in the eyes of posterity⁠—the splendor of your name.”

“Of posterity, Monsieur d’Artagnan?”

“Doubtless. It is necessary, as regards posterity, that all the details of that history should remain a mystery; for, admit that this unfortunate history of the deal box should spread, and it should be asserted that you had not reestablished the king loyally, and of your own free will, but in consequence of a compromise entered into at Scheveningen between you two. It would be vain for me to declare how the thing came about, for though I know I should not be believed, it would be said that I had received my part of the cake, and was eating it.”

Monck knitted his brow.⁠—“Glory, honor, probity!” said he, “you are but empty words.”

“Mist!” replied d’Artagnan; “nothing but mist, through which nobody can see clearly.”

“Well, then, go to France, my dear Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said Monck; “go, and to render England more attractive and agreeable to you, accept a remembrance of me.”

What now? thought d’Artagnan.

“I have on the banks of the Clyde,” continued Monck, “a little house in a grove, cottage as it is called here. To this house are attached a hundred acres of land. Accept it as a souvenir.”

“Oh, my lord!⁠—”

“Faith! you will be there in your own home, and that will be the place of refuge you spoke of just now.”

“For me to be obliged to your lordship to such an extent! Really, Your Grace, I am ashamed.”

“Not at all, not at all, Monsieur,” replied Monck, with an arch smile; “it is I who shall be obliged to you. And,” pressing the hand of the musketeer, “I shall go and draw up the deed of gift,”⁠—and he left the room.

D’Artagnan looked at him as he went out with something of a pensive and even an agitated air.

“After all,” said he, “he is a brave man. It is only a sad reflection that it is from fear of me, and not affection that he acts thus. Well, I shall endeavor that affection may follow.” Then, after an instant’s deeper reflection⁠—“Bah!” said he, “to what purpose? He is an Englishman.” And he in turn went out, a little confused after the combat.

“So,” said he, “I am a landowner! But how the devil am I to share the cottage with Planchet? Unless I give him the land, and I take the château, or that he takes the house and I⁠—nonsense! M. Monck will never allow me to share a house he has inhabited with a grocer. He is too proud for that. Besides, why should I say anything about it to him? It was not with the money of the company I have acquired that property, it was with my mother-wit alone; it is all mine, then. So, now I will go and find Athos.” And he directed his steps towards the dwelling of the Comte de la Fère.

CHAPTER 37

How d’Artagnan Regulated the “Assets” of the Company Before He Established Its “Liabilities”
Decidedly, said d’Artagnan to himself, I have struck a good vein. That star which shines once in the life of every man, which shone for Job and Iris, the most unfortunate of the Jews and the poorest of the Greeks, is come at last to shine on me. I will commit no folly, I will take advantage of it; it comes quite late enough to find me reasonable.

He supped that evening, in very good humor, with his friend Athos; he said nothing to him about the expected donation, but he could not forbear questioning his friend, while eating, about country produce, sowing, and planting. Athos replied complacently, as he always did. His idea was that d’Artagnan wished to become a landowner, only he could not help regretting, more than once, the absence of the lively humor and amusing sallies of the cheerful companion of former days. In fact, d’Artagnan was so absorbed, that, with his knife, he took advantage of the grease left at the bottom of his plate, to trace ciphers and make additions of surprising rotundity.

The order, or rather license, for their embarkation, arrived at Athos’s lodgings that evening. While this paper was remitted to the comte, another messenger brought to d’Artagnan a little bundle of parchments, adorned with all the seals employed in setting off property deeds in England. Athos surprised him turning over the leaves of these different acts which establish the transmission of property. The prudent Monck⁠—others would say the generous Monck⁠—had commuted the donation into a sale, and acknowledged the receipt of the sum of fifteen thousand crowns as the price of the property ceded. The messenger was gone. D’Artagnan still continued reading, Athos watched him with a smile. D’Artagnan, surprising one of those smiles over his shoulder, put the bundle in its wrapper.

“I beg your pardon,” said Athos.

“Oh! not at all, my friend,” replied the lieutenant, “I shall tell you⁠—”

“No, don’t tell me anything, I beg you; orders are things so sacred, that to one’s brother, one’s father, the person charged with such orders should never open his mouth. Thus I, who speak to you, and love you more tenderly than brother, father, or all the world⁠—”

“Except your Raoul?”

“I shall love Raoul still better when he shall be a man, and I shall have seen him develop himself in all the phases of his character and his actions⁠—as I have seen you, my friend.”

“You said, then, that you had an order likewise, and that you would not communicate it to me.”

“Yes, my dear d’Artagnan.”

The Gascon sighed. “There was a time,” said he, “when you would have placed that order open upon the table, saying, ‘D’Artagnan, read this scrawl to Porthos, Aramis, and to me.’ ”

“That is true. Oh! that was the time of youth, confidence, the generous season when the blood commands, when it is warmed by feeling!”

“Well! Athos, will you allow me to tell you?”

“Speak, my friend!”

“That delightful time, that generous season, that ruling by warm blood, were all very fine things, no doubt: but I do not regret them at all. It is absolutely like the period of studies. I have constantly met with fools who would boast of the days of pensums, ferules, and crusts of dry bread. It is singular, but I never loved all that; for my part, however active and sober I might be (you know if I was so, Athos), however simple I might appear in my clothes, I would not the less have preferred the braveries and embroideries of Porthos to my little perforated cassock, which gave passage to the wind in winter and the sun in summer. I should always, my friend, mistrust him who would pretend to prefer evil to good. Now, in times past all went wrong with me, and every month found a fresh hole in my cassock and in my skin, a gold crown less in my poor purse; of that execrable time of small beer and seesaw, I regret absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing save our friendship; for within me I have a heart, and it is a miracle that heart has not been dried up by the wind of poverty which passed through the holes of my cloak, or pierced by the swords of all shapes which passed through the holes in my poor flesh.”

“Do not regret our friendship,” said Athos, “that will only die with ourselves. Friendship is composed, above all things, of memories and habits, and if you have just now made a little satire upon mine, because I hesitate to tell you the nature of my mission into France⁠—”

“Who! I?⁠—Oh! heavens! if you knew, my dear friend, how indifferent all the missions of the world will henceforth become to me!” And he laid his hand upon the parchment in his vest pocket.

Athos rose from the table and called the host in order to pay the reckoning.

“Since I have known you, my friend,” said d’Artagnan, “I have never discharged the reckoning. Porthos often did, Aramis sometimes, and you, you almost always drew out your purse with the dessert. I am now rich, and should like to try if it is heroic to pay.”

“Do so,” said Athos, returning his purse to his pocket.

The two friends then directed their steps towards the port, not, however, without d’Artagnan’s frequently turning round to watch the transportation of his dear crowns. Night had just spread her thick veil over the yellow waters of the Thames; they heard those noises of casks and pulleys, the preliminaries of preparing to sail which had so many times made the hearts of the musketeers beat when the dangers of the sea were the least of those they were going to face. This time they were to embark on board a large vessel which awaited them at Gravesend, and Charles II, always delicate in small affairs, had sent one of his yachts, with twelve men of his Scots guard, to do honor to the ambassador he was sending to France. At midnight the yacht had deposited its passengers on board the vessel, and at eight o’clock in the morning, the vessel landed the ambassador and his friend on the wharf at Boulogne. Whilst the comte, with Grimaud, was busy procuring horses to go straight to Paris, d’Artagnan hastened to the hostelry where, according to his orders, his little army was to wait for him. These gentlemen were at breakfast upon oysters, fish, and spiced brandy, when d’Artagnan appeared. They were all very gay, but not one of them had yet exceeded the bounds of reason. A hurrah of joy welcomed the general. “Here I am,” said d’Artagnan, “the campaign is ended. I am come to bring each his supplement of pay, as agreed upon.” Their eyes sparkled. “I will lay a wager there are not, at this moment, a hundred crowns remaining in the purse of the richest among you.”

“That is true!” cried they in chorus.

“Gentlemen,” said d’Artagnan, “then, this is the last order. The treaty of commerce has been concluded, thanks to our coup-de-main which made us masters of the most skillful financier of England, for now I am at liberty to confess to you that the man we had to carry off was the treasurer of General Monck.”

This word treasurer produced a certain effect on his army. D’Artagnan observed that the eyes of Menneville alone did not evince perfect faith. “This treasurer,” he continued, “I conveyed to a neutral territory, Holland; I forced him to sign the treaty; I have even reconducted him to Newcastle, and he was obliged to be satisfied with our proceedings towards him⁠—the deal coffer being always carried without jolting, and being lined softly, I asked a gratification for you. Here it is.” He threw a respectable-looking purse upon the cloth; and all involuntarily stretched out their hands. “One moment, my lambs,” said d’Artagnan; “if there are profits, there are also charges.”

“Oh! oh!” murmured they.

“We are about to find ourselves, my friends, in a position which would not be tenable for people without brains. I speak plainly; we are between the gallows and the Bastille.”

“Oh! Oh!” said the chorus.

“That is easily understood. It was necessary to explain to General Monck the disappearance of his treasurer. I waited, for that purpose, till the unhoped-for moment of the restoration of King Charles II, who is one of my friends.”

This army exchanged a glance of satisfaction in reply to the sufficiently proud look of d’Artagnan. “The king being restored, I restored to Monck his man of business, a little plucked, it is true, but, in short, I restored him. Now, General Monck, when he pardoned me, for he has pardoned me, could not help repeating these words to me, which I charge every one of you to engrave deeply there, between the eyes, under the vault of the cranium:⁠—‘Monsieur, the joke has been a good one, but I don’t naturally like jokes; if ever a word of what you have done’ (you understand me, Menneville) ‘escapes from your lips, or the lips of your companions, I have, in my government of Scotland and Ireland, seven hundred and forty-one wooden gibbets, of strong oak, clamped with iron, and freshly greased every week. I will make a present of one of these gibbets to each of you, and observe well, M. d’Artagnan,’ added he (observe it also, M. Menneville), ‘I shall still have seven hundred and thirty left for my private pleasure. And still further⁠—’ ”

“Ah! ah!” said the auxiliaries, “is there still more?”

“A mere trifle. ‘Monsieur d’Artagnan, I send to the king of France the treaty in question, with a request that he will cast into the Bastille provisionally, and then send to me, all who have taken part in this expedition; and that is a prayer with which the king will certainly comply.’ ”

A cry of terror broke from all corners of the table.

“There! there! there!” said d’Artagnan, “this brave M. Monck has forgotten one thing, and that is he does not know the name of any one of you; I alone know you, and it is not I, you well may believe, who will betray you. Why should I? As for you⁠—I cannot suppose you will be silly enough to denounce yourselves, for then the king, to spare himself the expense of feeding and lodging you, will send you off to Scotland, where the seven hundred and forty-one gibbets are to be found. That is all, messieurs; I have not another word to add to what I have had the honor to tell you. I am sure you have understood me perfectly well, have you not, M. Menneville?”

“Perfectly,” replied the latter.

“Now the crowns!” said d’Artagnan. “Shut the doors,” he cried, and opened the bag upon the table, from which rolled several fine gold crowns. Everyone made a movement towards the floor.

“Gently!” cried d’Artagnan. “Let no one stoop, and then I shall not be out in my reckoning.” He found it all right, gave fifty of those splendid crowns to each man, and received as many benedictions as he bestowed pieces. “Now,” said he, “if it were possible for you to reform a little, if you could become good and honest citizens⁠—”

“That is rather difficult,” said one of the troop.

“What then, captain?” said another.

“Because I might be able to find you again, and, who knows what other good fortune?” He made a sign to Menneville, who listened to all he said with a composed air. “Menneville,” said he, “come with me. Adieu, my brave fellows! I need not warn you to be discreet.”

Menneville followed him, whilst the salutations of the auxiliaries were mingled with the sweet sound of the money clinking in their pockets.

“Menneville,” said d’Artagnan, when they were once in the street, “you were not my dupe; beware of being so. You did not appear to have any fear of the gibbets of Monck, or the Bastille of His Majesty, King Louis XIV, but you will do me the favor of being afraid of me. Then listen; at the smallest word that shall escape you, I will kill you as I would a fowl. I have absolution from our holy father, the pope, in my pocket.”

“I assure you I know absolutely nothing, my dear M. d’Artagnan, and that your words have all been to me so many articles of faith.”

“I was quite sure you were an intelligent fellow,” said the musketeer; “I have tried you for a length of time. These fifty crowns which I give you above the rest will prove the esteem I have for you. Take them.”

“Thanks, Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said Menneville.

“With that sum you can really become an honest man,” replied d’Artagnan, in the most serious tone possible. “It would be disgraceful for a mind like yours, and a name you no longer dare to bear, to sink forever under the rust of an evil life. Become a gallant man, Menneville, and live for a year upon those hundred gold crowns: it is a good provision; twice the pay of a high officer. In a year come to me, and, mordioux! I will make something of you.”

Menneville swore, as his comrades had sworn, that he would be as silent as the grave. And yet someone must have spoken; and as, certainly, it was not one of the nine companions, and quite as certainly, it was not Menneville, it must have been d’Artagnan, who, in his quality of a Gascon, had his tongue very near to his lips. For, in short, if it were not he, who could it be? And how can it be explained that the secret of the deal coffer pierced with holes should come to our knowledge, and in so complete a fashion that we have, as has been seen, related the history of it in all its most minute details; details which, besides, throw a light as new as unexpected upon all that portion of the history of England which has been left, up to the present day, completely in darkness by the historian of our neighbors?

CHAPTER 38

In Which It Is Seen That the French Grocer Had Already Been Established in the Seventeenth Century
His accounts once settled, and his recommendations made, d’Artagnan thought of nothing but returning to Paris as soon as possible. Athos, on his part, was anxious to reach home and to rest a little. However whole the character and the man may remain after the fatigues of a voyage, the traveler perceives with pleasure, at the close of the day⁠—even though the day has been a fine one⁠—that night is approaching, and will bring a little sleep with it. So, from Boulogne to Paris, jogging on, side by side, the two friends, in some degree absorbed each in his individual thoughts, conversed of nothing sufficiently interesting for us to repeat to our readers. Each of them given up to his personal reflections, and constructing his future after his own fashion, was, above all, anxious to abridge the distance by speed. Athos and d’Artagnan arrived at the gates of Paris on the evening of the fourth day after leaving Boulogne.

“Where are you going, my friend?” asked Athos. “I shall direct my course straight to my hotel.”

“And I straight to my partner’s.”

“To Planchet’s?”

“Yes; at the Pilon d’Or.”

“Well, but shall we not meet again?”

“If you remain in Paris, yes; for I shall stay here.”

“No: after having embraced Raoul, with whom I have appointed a meeting at my hotel, I shall set out immediately for La Fère.”

“Well, adieu, then, dear and true friend.”

“Au revoir! I should rather say, for why can you not come and live with me at Blois? You are free, you are rich, I shall purchase for you, if you like, a handsome estate in the vicinity of Cheverny or of Bracieux. On the one side you will have the finest woods in the world, which join those of Chambord; on the other, admirable marshes. You who love sporting, and who, whether you admit it or not, are a poet, my dear friend, you will find pheasants, rail and teal, without counting sunsets and excursions on the water, to make you fancy yourself Nimrod and Apollo themselves. While awaiting the purchase, you can live at La Fère, and we shall go together to fly our hawks among the vines, as Louis XIII used to do. That is a quiet amusement for old fellows like us.”

D’Artagnan took the hands of Athos in his own. “Dear count,” said he, “I shall say neither ‘Yes’ nor ‘No.’ Let me pass in Paris the time necessary for the regulation of my affairs, and accustom myself, by degrees, to the heavy and glittering idea which is beating in my brain and dazzles me. I am rich, you see, and from this moment until the time when I shall have acquired the habit of being rich, I know myself, and I shall be an insupportable animal. Now, I am not enough of a fool to wish to appear to have lost my wits before a friend like you, Athos. The cloak is handsome, the cloak is richly gilded, but it is new, and does not seem to fit me.”

Athos smiled. “So be it,” said he. “But apropos of this cloak, dear d’Artagnan, will you allow me to offer you a little advice?”

“Yes, willingly.”

“You will not be angry?”

“Proceed.”

“When wealth comes to a man late in life or all at once, that man, in order not to change, must most likely become a miser⁠—that is to say, not spend much more money than he had done before; or else become a prodigal, and contract so many debts as to become poor again.”

“Oh! but what you say looks very much like a sophism, my dear philosophic friend.”

“I do not think so. Will you become a miser?”

“No, pardieu! I was one already, having nothing. Let us change.”

“Then be prodigal.”

“Still less, mordioux! Debts terrify me. Creditors appear to me, by anticipation, like those devils who turn the damned upon the gridirons, and as patience is not my dominant virtue, I am always tempted to thrash those devils.”

“You are the wisest man I know, and stand in no need of advice from anyone. Great fools must they be who think they have anything to teach you. But are we not at the Rue Saint Honoré?”

“Yes, dear Athos.”

“Look yonder, on the left, that small, long white house is the hotel where I lodge. You may observe that it has but two stories, I occupy the first; the other is let to an officer whose duties oblige him to be absent eight or nine months in the year⁠—so I am in that house as in my own home, without the expense.”

“Oh! how well you manage, Athos! What order and what liberality! They are what I wish to unite! But, of what use trying! that comes from birth, and cannot be acquired.”

“You are a flatterer! Well! adieu, dear friend. Apropos, remember me to Master Planchet; he always was a bright fellow.”

“And a man of heart, too, Athos. Adieu.”

And they separated. During all this conversation, d’Artagnan had not for a moment lost sight of a certain packhorse, in whose panniers, under some hay, were spread the sacoches (messenger’s bags) with the portmanteau. Nine o’clock was striking at Saint-Merri. Planchet’s helps were shutting up his shop. D’Artagnan stopped the postilion who rode the packhorse, at the corner of the Rue des Lombards, under a penthouse, and calling one of Planchet’s boys, he desired him not only to take care of the two horses, but to watch the postilion; after which he entered the shop of the grocer, who had just finished supper, and who, in his little private room, was, with a degree of anxiety, consulting the calendar, on which, every evening, he scratched out the day that was past. At the moment when Planchet, according to his daily custom, with the back of his pen, erased another day, d’Artagnan kicked the door with his foot, and the blow made his steel spur jingle. “Oh! good Lord!” cried Planchet. The worthy grocer could say no more; he had just perceived his partner. D’Artagnan entered with a bent back and a dull eye: the Gascon had an idea with regard to Planchet.

Good God! thought the grocer, looking earnestly at the traveler, he looks sad! The musketeer sat down.

“My dear Monsieur d’Artagnan!” said Planchet, with a horrible palpitation of the heart. “Here you are! and your health?”

“Tolerably good, Planchet, tolerably good!” said d’Artagnan, with a profound sigh.

“You have not been wounded, I hope?”

“Phew!”

“Ah, I see,” continued Planchet, more and more alarmed, “the expedition has been a trying one?”

“Yes,” said d’Artagnan. A shudder ran down Planchet’s back. “I should like to have something to drink,” said the musketeer, raising his head piteously.

Planchet ran to the cupboard, and poured out to d’Artagnan some wine in a large glass. D’Artagnan examined the bottle.

“What wine is that?” asked he.

“Alas! that which you prefer, Monsieur,” said Planchet; “that good old Anjou wine, which was one day nearly costing us all so dear.”

“Ah!” replied d’Artagnan, with a melancholy smile, “Ah! my poor Planchet, ought I still to drink good wine?”

“Come! my dear master,” said Planchet, making a superhuman effort, whilst all his contracted muscles, his pallor and his trembling betrayed the most acute anguish. “Come! I have been a soldier and consequently have some courage; do not make me linger, dear Monsieur d’Artagnan; our money is lost, is it not?”

Before he answered, d’Artagnan took his time, and that appeared an age to the poor grocer. Nevertheless he did nothing but turn about on his chair.

“And if that were the case,” said he, slowly, moving his head up and down, “if that were the case, what would you say, my dear friend?”

Planchet, from being pale, turned yellow. It might have been thought he was going to swallow his tongue, so full became his throat, so red were his eyes!

“Twenty thousand livres!” murmured he. “Twenty thousand livres, and yet⁠—”

D’Artagnan, with his neck elongated, his legs stretched out, and his hands hanging listlessly, looked like a statue of discouragement. Planchet drew up a sigh from the deepest cavities of his breast.

“Well,” said he, “I see how it is. Let us be men! It is all over, is it not? The principal thing is, Monsieur, that your life is safe.”

“Doubtless! doubtless!⁠—life is something⁠—but I am ruined!”

Cordieu! Monsieur!” said Planchet, “If it is so, we must not despair for that; you shall become a grocer with me; I shall take you for my partner, we will share the profits, and if there should be no more profits, well, why then we shall share the almonds, raisins and prunes, and we will nibble together the last quarter of Dutch cheese.”

D’Artagnan could hold out no longer. “Mordioux!” cried he, with great emotion, “thou art a brave fellow, on my honor, Planchet. You have not been playing a part, have you? You have not seen the packhorse with the bags under the shed yonder?”

“What horse? What bags?” said Planchet, whose trembling heart began to suggest that d’Artagnan was mad.

“Why, the English bags, mordioux!” said d’Artagnan, all radiant, quite transfigured.

“Ah! good God!” articulated Planchet, drawing back before the dazzling fire of his looks.

“Imbecile!” cried d’Artagnan, “you think me mad! mordioux! On the contrary, never was my head more clear, or my heart more joyous. To the bags, Planchet, to the bags!”

“But to what bags, good heavens!”

D’Artagnan pushed Planchet towards the window.

“Under that shed yonder, don’t you see a horse?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t you see how his back is laden?”

“Yes, yes!”

“Don’t you see your lad talking with the postilion?”

“Yes, yes, yes!”

“Well, you know the name of that lad, because he is your own. Call him.”

“Abdon! Abdon!” vociferated Planchet, from the window.

“Bring the horse!” shouted d’Artagnan.

“Bring the horse!” screamed Planchet.

“Now give ten livres to the postilion,” said d’Artagnan, in the tone he would have employed in commanding a maneuver; “two lads to bring up the first two bags, two to bring up the two last⁠—and move, mordioux! be lively!”

Planchet rushed down the stairs, as if the devil had been at his heels. A moment later the lads ascended the stairs, bending beneath their burden. D’Artagnan sent them off to their garrets, carefully closed the door, and addressing Planchet, who, in his turn, looked a little wild⁠—

“Now, we are by ourselves,” said he; and he spread upon the floor a large cover, and emptied the first bag into it. Planchet did the same with the second; then d’Artagnan, all in a tremble, let out the precious bowels of the third with a knife. When Planchet heard the provoking sound of the silver and gold⁠—when he saw bubbling out of the bags the shining crowns, which glittered like fish from the sweep-net⁠—when he felt himself plunging his hands up to the elbows in that still rising tide of yellow and white coins, a giddiness seized him, and like a man struck by lightning, he sank heavily down upon the enormous heap, which his weight caused to roll away in all directions. Planchet, suffocated with joy, had lost his senses. D’Artagnan threw a glass of white wine in his face, which incontinently recalled him to life.

“Ah! good heavens! good heavens! good heavens!” said Planchet, wiping his mustache and beard.

At that time, as they do now, grocers wore the cavalier mustache and the lansquenet beard, only the money baths, already rare in those days, have become almost unknown now.

Mordioux!” said d’Artagnan, “there are a hundred thousand livres for you, partner. Draw your share, if you please, and I will draw mine.”

“Oh! the lovely sum! Monsieur d’Artagnan, the lovely sum!”

“I confess that half an hour ago I regretted that I had to give you so much; but now I no longer regret it; thou art a brave grocer, Planchet. There, let us close our accounts, for, as they say, short reckonings make long friends.”

“Oh! rather, in the first place, tell me the whole history,” said Planchet; “that must be better than the money.”

Ma foi!” said d’Artagnan, stroking his mustache, “I can’t say no; and if ever the historian turns to me for information, he will be able to say he has not dipped his bucket into a dry spring. Listen, then, Planchet, I will tell you all about it.”

“And I shall build piles of crowns,” said Planchet. “Begin, my dear master.”

“Well, this is it,” said d’Artagnan, drawing his breath.

“And that is it,” said Planchet, picking up his first handful of crowns.

CHAPTER 39

Mazarin’s Gaming Party
In a large chamber of the Palais Royal, hung with a dark colored velvet, which threw into strong relief the gilded frames of a great number of magnificent pictures, on the evening of the arrival of the two Frenchmen, the whole court was assembled before the alcove of M. le Cardinal de Mazarin, who gave a card party to the king and queen.

A small screen separated three prepared tables. At one of these tables the king and the two queens were seated. Louis XIV, placed opposite to the young queen, his wife, smiled upon her with an expression of real happiness. Anne of Austria held the cards against the cardinal, and her daughter-in-law assisted her in the game, when she was not engaged in smiling at her husband. As for the cardinal, who was lying on his bed with a weary and careworn face, his cards were held by the Comtesse de Soissons, and he watched them with an incessant look of interest and cupidity.

The cardinal’s face had been painted by Bernouin; but the rouge, which glowed only on his cheeks, threw into stronger contrast the sickly pallor of his countenance and the shining yellow of his brow. His eyes alone acquired a more brilliant luster from this auxiliary, and upon those sick man’s eyes were, from time to time, turned the uneasy looks of the king, the queen, and the courtiers. The fact is, that the two eyes of the Signor Mazarin were the stars more or less brilliant in which the France of the seventeenth century read its destiny every evening and every morning.

Monseigneur neither won nor lost; he was, therefore, neither gay nor sad. It was a stagnation in which, full of pity for him, Anne of Austria would not have willingly left him; but in order to attract the attention of the sick man by some brilliant stroke, she must have either won or lost. To win would have been dangerous, because Mazarin would have changed his indifference into an ugly grimace; to lose would likewise have been dangerous, because she must have cheated, and the infanta, who watched her game, would, doubtless, have exclaimed against her partiality for Mazarin. Profiting by this calm, the courtiers were chatting. When not in a bad humor, M. de Mazarin was a very débonnaire prince, and he, who prevented nobody from singing, provided they paid, was not tyrant enough to prevent people from talking, provided they made up their minds to lose.

They were therefore chatting. At the first table, the king’s younger brother, Philip, Duc d’Anjou, was admiring his handsome face in the glass of a box. His favorite, the Chevalier de Lorraine, leaning over the back of the prince’s chair, was listening, with secret envy, to the Comte de Guiche, another of Philip’s favorites, who was relating in choice terms the various vicissitudes of fortune of the royal adventurer Charles II. He told, as so many fabulous events, all the history of his perigrinations in Scotland, and his terrors when the enemy’s party was so closely on his track; of nights spent in trees, and days spent in hunger and combats. By degrees, the fate of the unfortunate king interested his auditors so greatly, that the play languished even at the royal table, and the young king, with a pensive look and downcast eye, followed, without appearing to give any attention to it, the smallest details of this Odyssey, very picturesquely related by the Comte de Guiche.

The Comtesse de Soissons interrupted the narrator: “Confess, count, you are inventing.”

“Madame, I am repeating like a parrot all the stories related to me by different Englishmen. To my shame I am compelled to say, I am as exact as a copy.”

“Charles II would have died before he could have endured all that.”

Louis XIV raised his intelligent and proud head. “Madame,” said he, in a grave tone, still partaking something of the timid child, “Monsieur le Cardinal will tell you that during my minority the affairs of France were in jeopardy⁠—and that if I had been older, and obliged to take sword in hand, it would sometimes have been for the purpose of procuring the evening meal.”

“Thanks to God,” said the cardinal, who spoke for the first time, “Your Majesty exaggerates, and your supper has always been ready with that of your servants.”

The king colored.

“Oh!” cried Philip, inconsiderately, from his place, and without ceasing to admire himself⁠—“I recollect once, at Melun, the supper was laid for nobody, and that the king ate two-thirds of a slice of bread, and abandoned to me the other third.”

The whole assembly, seeing Mazarin smile, began to laugh. Courtiers flatter kings with the remembrance of past distresses, as with the hopes of future good fortune.

“It is not to be denied that the crown of France has always remained firm upon the heads of its kings,” Anne of Austria hastened to say, “and that it has fallen off of that of the king of England; and when by chance that crown oscillated a little⁠—for there are throne-quakes as well as earthquakes⁠—every time, I say, that rebellion threatened it, a good victory restored tranquillity.”

“With a few gems added to the crown,” said Mazarin.

The Comte de Guiche was silent: the king composed his countenance, and Mazarin exchanged looks with Anne of Austria, as if to thank her for her intervention.

“It is of no consequence,” said Philip, smoothing his hair; “my cousin Charles is not handsome, but he is very brave, and fought like a landsknecht; and if he continues to fight thus, no doubt he will finish by gaining a battle, like Rocroi⁠—”

“He has no soldiers,” interrupted the Chevalier de Lorraine.

“The king of Holland, his ally, will give him some. I would willingly have given him some if I had been king of France.”

Louis XIV blushed excessively. Mazarin affected to be more attentive to his game than ever.

“By this time,” resumed the Comte de Guiche, “the fortune of this unhappy prince is decided. If he has been deceived by Monck, he is ruined. Imprisonment, perhaps death, will finish what exiles, battles, and privations have commenced.”

Mazarin’s brow became clouded.

“It is certain,” said Louis XIV, “that His Majesty Charles II, has quitted the Hague?”

“Quite certain, Your Majesty,” replied the young man; “my father has received a letter containing all the details; it is even known that the king has landed at Dover; some fishermen saw him entering the port; the rest is still a mystery.”

“I should like to know the rest,” said Philip, impetuously. “You know⁠—you, my brother.”

Louis XIV colored again. That was the third time within an hour. “Ask my Lord Cardinal,” replied he, in a tone which made Mazarin, Anne of Austria, and everybody else open their eyes.

“That means, my son,” said Anne of Austria, laughing, “that the king does not like affairs of state to be talked of out of the council.”

Philip received the reprimand with good grace, and bowed, first smiling at his brother, and then at his mother. But Mazarin saw from the corner of his eye that a group was about to be formed in the corner of the room, and that the Duc d’Anjou, with the Comte de Guiche, and the Chevalier de Lorraine, prevented from talking aloud, might say, in a whisper, what it was not convenient should be said. He was beginning then to dart at them glances full of mistrust and uneasiness, inviting Anne of Austria to throw perturbation in the midst of the unlawful assembly, when, suddenly, Bernouin, entering from behind the tapestry of the bedroom, whispered in the ear of Mazarin, “Monseigneur, an envoy from His Majesty, the king of England.”

Mazarin could not help exhibiting a slight emotion, which was perceived by the king. To avoid being indiscreet, rather than to appear useless, Louis XIV rose immediately, and approaching His Eminence, wished him good night. All the assembly had risen with a great noise of rolling of chairs and tables being pushed away.

“Let everybody depart by degrees,” said Mazarin in a whisper to Louis XIV, “and be so good as to excuse me a few minutes. I am going to dispatch an affair about which I wish to converse with Your Majesty this very evening.”

“And the queens?” asked Louis XIV.

“And M. le Duc d’Anjou,” said His Eminence.

At the same time he turned round in his ruelle, the curtains of which, in falling, concealed the bed. The cardinal, nevertheless, did not lose sight of the conspirators.

“M. le Comte de Guiche,” said he, in a fretful voice, whilst putting on, behind the curtain, his dressing-gown, with the assistance of Bernouin.

“I am here, my lord,” said the young man, as he approached.

“Take my cards, you are lucky. Win a little money for me of these gentlemen.”

“Yes, my lord.”

The young man sat down at the table from which the king withdrew to talk with the two queens. A serious game was commenced between the comte and several rich courtiers. In the meantime Philip was discussing the questions of dress with the Chevalier de Lorraine, and they had ceased to hear the rustling of the cardinal’s silk robe from behind the curtain. His Eminence had followed Bernouin into the closet adjoining the bedroom.

CHAPTER 40

An Affair of State
The cardinal, on passing into his cabinet, found the Comte de la Fère, who was waiting for him, engaged in admiring a very fine Raphael placed over a sideboard covered with a plate. His Eminence came in softly, lightly, and as silently as a shadow, and surprised the countenance of the comte, as he was accustomed to do, pretending to divine by the simple expression of the face of his interlocutor what would be the result of the conversation.

But this time Mazarin was foiled in his expectation: he read nothing upon the face of Athos, not even the respect he was accustomed to see on all faces. Athos was dressed in black, with a simple lacing of silver. He wore the Holy Ghost, the Garter, and the Golden Fleece, three orders of such importance, that a king alone, or else a player, could wear them at once.

Mazarin rummaged a long time in his somewhat troubled memory to recall the name he ought to give to this icy figure, but he did not succeed. “I am told,” said he, at length, “you have a message from England for me.”

And he sat down, dismissing Bernouin, who, in his quality of secretary, was getting his pen ready.

“On the part of His Majesty, the King of England, yes, Your Eminence.”

“You speak very good French for an Englishman, Monsieur,” said Mazarin, graciously, looking through his fingers at the Holy Ghost, Garter, and Golden Fleece, but more particularly at the face of the messenger.

“I am not an Englishman, but a Frenchman, Monsieur le Cardinal,” replied Athos.

“It is remarkable that the king of England should choose a Frenchman for his ambassador; it is an excellent augury. Your name, Monsieur, if you please.”

“Comte de la Fère,” replied Athos, bowing more slightly than the ceremonial and pride of the all-powerful minister required.

Mazarin bent his shoulders, as if to say:⁠—

“I do not know that name.”

Athos did not alter his carriage.

“And you come, Monsieur,” continued Mazarin, “to tell me⁠—”

“I come on the part of His Majesty the King of Great Britain to announce to the King of France”⁠—Mazarin frowned⁠—“to announce to the King of France,” continued Athos, imperturbably, “the happy restoration of His Majesty Charles II to the throne of his ancestors.”

This shade did not escape his cunning eminence. Mazarin was too much accustomed to mankind, not to see in the cold and almost haughty politeness of Athos, an index of hostility, which was not of the temperature of that hothouse called a court.

“You have powers, I suppose?” asked Mazarin, in a short, querulous tone.

“Yes, Monseigneur.” And the word “Monseigneur” came so painfully from the lips of Athos that it might be said it skinned them.

Athos took from an embroidered velvet bag which he carried under his doublet a dispatch. The cardinal held out his hand for it. “Your pardon, Monseigneur,” said Athos. “My dispatch is for the king.”

“Since you are a Frenchman, Monsieur, you ought to know the position of a prime minister at the court of France.”

“There was a time,” replied Athos, “when I occupied myself with the importance of prime ministers; but I have formed, long ago, a resolution to treat no longer with any but the king.”

“Then, Monsieur,” said Mazarin, who began to be irritated, “you will neither see the minister nor the king.”

Mazarin rose. Athos replaced his dispatch in its bag, bowed gravely, and made several steps towards the door. This coolness exasperated Mazarin. “What strange diplomatic proceedings are these!” cried he. “Have we returned to the times when Cromwell sent us bullies in the guise of charges d’affaires? You want nothing, Monsieur, but the steel cap on your head, and a Bible at your girdle.”

“Monsieur,” said Athos, dryly, “I have never had, as you have, the advantage of treating with Cromwell; and I have only seen his charges d’affaires sword in hand; I am therefore ignorant of how he treated with prime ministers. As for the king of England, Charles II, I know that when he writes to His Majesty King Louis XIV, he does not write to His Eminence the Cardinal Mazarin. I see no diplomacy in that distinction.”

“Ah!” cried Mazarin, raising his attenuated hand, and striking his head, “I remember now!” Athos looked at him in astonishment. “Yes, that is it!” said the cardinal, continuing to look at his interlocutor; “yes, that is certainly it. I know you now, Monsieur. Ah! diavolo! I am no longer astonished.”

“In fact, I was astonished that, with Your Eminence’s excellent memory,” replied Athos, smiling, “you had not recognized me before.”

“Always refractory and grumbling⁠—Monsieur⁠—Monsieur⁠—What do they call you? Stop⁠—a name of a river⁠—Potamos; no⁠—the name of an island⁠—Naxos; no, per Giove!⁠—the name of a mountain⁠—Athos! now I have it. Delighted to see you again, and to be no longer at Rueil, where you and your damned companions made me pay ransom. Fronde! still Fronde! accursed Fronde! Oh, what grudges! Why, Monsieur, have your antipathies survived mine? If anyone has cause to complain, I think it could not be you, who got out of the affair not only in a sound skin, but with the cordon of the Holy Ghost around your neck.”

“My Lord Cardinal,” replied Athos, “permit me not to enter into considerations of that kind. I have a mission to fulfill. Will you facilitate the means of my fulfilling that mission, or will you not?”

“I am astonished,” said Mazarin⁠—quite delighted at having recovered his memory, and bristling with malice⁠—“I am astonished, Monsieur⁠—Athos⁠—that a Frondeur like you should have accepted a mission for the Perfidious Mazarin, as used to be said in the good old times⁠—” And Mazarin began to laugh, in spite of a painful cough, which cut short his sentences, converting them into sobs.

“I have only accepted the mission near the King of France, Monsieur le Cardinal,” retorted the comte, though with less asperity, for he thought he had sufficiently the advantage to show himself moderate.

“And yet, Monsieur le Frondeur,” said Mazarin, gayly, “the affair which you have taken in charge must, from the king⁠—”

“With which I have been given in charge, Monseigneur. I do not run after affairs.”

“Be it so. I say that this negotiation must pass through my hands. Let us lose no precious time, then. Tell me the conditions.”

“I have had the honor of assuring Your Eminence that only the letter of His Majesty King Charles II contains the revelation of his wishes.”

“Pooh! you are ridiculous with your obstinacy, Monsieur Athos. It is plain you have kept company with the Puritans yonder. As to your secret, I know it better than you do; and you have done wrongly, perhaps, in not having shown some respect for a very old and suffering man, who has labored much during his life, and kept the field for his ideas as bravely as you have for yours. You will not communicate your letter to me? You will say nothing to me? Very well! Come with me into my chamber; you shall speak to the king⁠—and before the king.⁠—Now, then, one last word: who gave you the Fleece? I remember you passed for having the Garter; but as to the Fleece, I do not know⁠—”

“Recently, my lord, Spain, on the occasion of the marriage of His Majesty Louis XIV, sent King Charles II a brevet of the Fleece in blank; Charles II immediately transmitted it to me, filling up the blank with my name.”

Mazarin arose, and leaning on the arm of Bernouin, he returned to his ruelle at the moment the name of M. le Prince was being announced. The Prince de Condé, the first prince of the blood, the conqueror of Rocroi, Lens, and Nordlingen, was, in fact, entering the apartment of Monseigneur de Mazarin, followed by his gentlemen, and had already saluted the king, when the prime minister raised his curtain. Athos had time to see Raoul pressing the hand of the Comte de Guiche, and send him a smile in return for his respectful bow. He had time, likewise, to see the radiant countenance of the cardinal, when he perceived before him, upon the table, an enormous heap of gold, which the Comte de Guiche had won in a run of luck, after His Eminence had confided his cards to him. So forgetting ambassador, embassy and prince, his first thought was of the gold. “What!” cried the old man⁠—“all that⁠—won?”

“Some fifty thousand crowns; yes, Monseigneur,” replied the Comte de Guiche, rising. “Must I give up my place to Your Eminence, or shall I continue?”

“Give up! give up! you are mad. You would lose all you have won. Peste!

“My lord!” said the Prince de Condé, bowing.

“Good evening, Monsieur le Prince,” said the minister, in a careless tone; “it is very kind of you to visit an old sick friend.”

“A friend!” murmured the Comte de la Fère, at witnessing with stupor this monstrous alliance of words;⁠—“friends! when the parties are Condé and Mazarin!”

Mazarin seemed to divine the thoughts of the Frondeur, for he smiled upon him with triumph, and immediately⁠—“Sire,” said he to the king, “I have the honor of presenting to Your Majesty, Monsieur le Comte de la Fère, ambassador from his Britannic majesty. An affair of state, gentlemen,” added he, waving his hand to all who filled the chamber, and who, the Prince de Condé at their head, all disappeared at the simple gesture. Raoul, after a last look cast at the comte, followed M. de Condé. Philip of Anjou and the queen appeared to be consulting about departing.

“A family affair,” said Mazarin, suddenly, detaining them in their seats. “This gentleman is the bearer of a letter in which King Charles II, completely restored to his throne, demands an alliance between Monsieur, the brother of the king, and Mademoiselle Henrietta, granddaughter of Henry IV. Will you remit your letter of credit to the king, Monsieur le Comte?”

Athos remained for a minute stupefied. How could the minister possibly know the contents of the letter, which had never been out of his keeping for a single instant? Nevertheless, always master of himself, he held out the dispatch to the young king, Louis XIV, who took it with a blush. A solemn silence reigned in the cardinal’s chamber. It was only troubled by the dull sound of the gold, which Mazarin, with his yellow, dry hand, piled up in a casket, whilst the king was reading.

CHAPTER 41

The Recital
The maliciousness of the cardinal did not leave much for the ambassador to say; nevertheless, the word “restoration” had struck the king, who, addressing the comte, upon whom his eyes had been fixed since his entrance⁠—“Monsieur,” said he, “will you have the kindness to give us some details concerning the affairs of England. You come from that country, you are a Frenchman, and the orders which I see glittering upon your person announce you to be a man of merit as well as a man of quality.”

“Monsieur,” said the cardinal, turning towards the queen-mother, “is an ancient servant of Your Majesty’s, Monsieur le Comte de la Fère.”

Anne of Austria was as oblivious as a queen whose life had been mingled with fine and stormy days. She looked at Mazarin, whose evil smile promised her something disagreeable; then she solicited from Athos, by another look, an explanation.

“Monsieur,” continued the cardinal, “was a Tréville musketeer, in the service of the late king. Monsieur is well acquainted with England, whither he has made several voyages at various periods; he is a subject of the highest merit.”

These words made allusion to all the memories which Anne of Austria trembled to evoke. England, that was her hatred of Richelieu and her love for Buckingham; a Tréville musketeer, that was the whole Odyssey of the triumphs which had made the heart of the young woman throb, and of the dangers which had been so near overturning the throne of the young queen. These words had much power, for they rendered mute and attentive all the royal personages, who, with very various sentiments, set about recomposing at the same time the mysteries which the young had not seen, and which the old had believed to be forever effaced.

“Speak, Monsieur,” said Louis XIV, the first to escape from troubles, suspicions, and remembrances.

“Yes, speak,” added Mazarin, to whom the little malicious thrust directed against Anne of Austria had restored energy and gayety.

“Sire,” said the comte, “a sort of miracle has changed the whole destiny of Charles II. That which men, till that time, had been unable to do, God resolved to accomplish.”

Mazarin coughed while tossing about in his bed.

“King Charles II,” continued Athos, “left the Hague neither as a fugitive nor a conqueror, but as an absolute king, who, after a distant voyage from his kingdom, returns amidst universal benedictions.”

“A great miracle, indeed,” said Mazarin; “for, if the news was true, King Charles II, who has just returned amidst benedictions, went away amidst musket-shots.”

The king remained impassible. Philip, younger and more frivolous, could not repress a smile, which flattered Mazarin as an applause of his pleasantry.

“It is plain,” said the king, “there is a miracle; but God, who does so much for kings, Monsieur le Comte, nevertheless employs the hand of man to bring about the triumph of His designs. To what men does Charles II principally owe his reestablishment?”

“Why,” interrupted Mazarin, without any regard for the king’s pride⁠—“does not Your Majesty know that it is to M. Monck?”

“I ought to know it,” replied Louis XIV, resolutely; “and yet I ask my lord ambassador, the causes of the change in this General Monck?”

“And Your Majesty touches precisely the question,” replied Athos; “for without the miracle of which I have had the honor to speak, General Monck would probably have remained an implacable enemy of Charles II. God willed that a strange, bold, and ingenious idea should enter into the mind of a certain man, whilst a devoted and courageous idea took possession of the mind of another man. The combinations of these two ideas brought about such a change in the position of M. Monck, that, from an inveterate enemy, he became a friend to the deposed king.”

“These are exactly the details I asked for,” said the king. “Who and what are the two men of whom you speak?”

“Two Frenchmen, sire.”

“Indeed! I am glad of that.”

“And the two ideas,” said Mazarin;⁠—“I am more curious about ideas than about men, for my part.”

“Yes,” murmured the king.

“The second idea, the devoted, reasonable idea⁠—the least important, sir⁠—was to go and dig up a million in gold, buried by King Charles I at Newcastle, and to purchase with that gold the adherence of Monck.”

“Oh, oh!” said Mazarin, reanimated by the word million. “But Newcastle was at the time occupied by Monck.”

“Yes, Monsieur le Cardinal, and that is why I venture to call the idea courageous as well as devoted. It was necessary, if Monck refused the offers of the negotiator, to reinstate King Charles II in possession of this million, which was to be torn, as it were, from the loyalty and not the loyalism of General Monck. This was effected in spite of many difficulties: the general proved to be loyal, and allowed the money to be taken away.”

“It seems to me,” said the timid, thoughtful king, “that Charles II could not have known of this million whilst he was in Paris.”

“It seems to me,” rejoined the cardinal, maliciously, “that His Majesty the king of Great Britain knew perfectly well of this million, but that he preferred having two millions to having one.”

“Sire,” said Athos, firmly, “the king of England, whilst in France, was so poor that he had not even money to take the post; so destitute of hope that he frequently thought of dying. He was so entirely ignorant of the existence of the million at Newcastle, that but for a gentleman⁠—one of Your Majesty’s subjects⁠—the moral depositary of the million, who revealed the secret to King Charles II, that prince would still be vegetating in the most cruel forgetfulness.”

“Let us pass on to the strange, bold, and ingenious idea,” interrupted Mazarin, whose sagacity foresaw a check. “What was that idea?”

“This⁠—M. Monck formed the only obstacle to the reestablishment of the fallen king. A Frenchman imagined the idea of suppressing this obstacle.”

“Oh! oh! but he is a scoundrel, that Frenchman,” said Mazarin; “and the idea is not so ingenious as to prevent its author being tied up by the neck at the Place de Grève, by decree of the parliament.”

“Your eminence is mistaken,” replied Athos, dryly; “I did not say that the Frenchman in question had resolved to assassinate M. Monck, but only to suppress him. The words of the French language have a value which the gentlemen of France know perfectly. Besides, this is an affair of war; and when men serve kings against their enemies they are not to be condemned by a parliament⁠—God is their judge. This French gentleman, then, formed the idea of gaining possession of the person of Monck, and he executed his plan.”

The king became animated at the recital of great actions. The king’s younger brother struck the table with his hand, exclaiming, “Ah! that is fine!”

“He carried off Monck?” said the king. “Why, Monck was in his camp.”

“And the gentleman was alone, sire.”

“That is marvelous!” said Philip.

“Marvelous, indeed!” cried the king.

“Good! There are the two little lions unchained,” murmured the cardinal. And with an air of spite, which he did not dissemble: “I am unacquainted with these details, will you guarantee their authenticity, Monsieur?”

“All the more easily, my Lord Cardinal, from having seen the events.”

“You have?”

“Yes, Monseigneur.”

The king had involuntarily drawn close to the count, the Duc d’Anjou had turned sharply round, and pressed Athos on the other side.

“What next? Monsieur, what next?” cried they both at the same time.

“Sire, M. Monck, being taken by the Frenchman, was brought to King Charles II, at the Hague. The king gave back his freedom to Monck, and the grateful general, in return, gave Charles II the throne of Great Britain, for which so many valiant men had fought in vain.”

Philip clapped his hands with enthusiasm, Louis XIV, more reflective, turned towards the Comte de la Fère.

“Is this true,” said he, “in all its details?”

“Absolutely true, sire.”

“That one of my gentlemen knew the secret of the million, and kept it?”

“Yes, sire.”

“The name of that gentleman?”

“It was your humble servant,” said Athos, simply, and bowing.

A murmur of admiration made the heart of Athos swell with pleasure. He had reason to be proud, at least. Mazarin, himself, had raised his arms towards heaven.

“Monsieur,” said the king, “I shall seek and find means to reward you.” Athos made a movement. “Oh, not for your honesty, to be paid for that would humiliate you; but I owe you a reward for having participated in the restoration of my brother, King Charles II.”

“Certainly,” said Mazarin.

“It is the triumph of a good cause which fills the whole house of France with joy,” said Anne of Austria.

“I continue,” said Louis XIV: “Is it also true that a single man penetrated to Monck, in his camp, and carried him off?”

“That man had ten auxiliaries, taken from a very inferior rank.”

“And nothing but them?”

“Nothing more.”

“And he is named?”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan, formerly lieutenant of the Musketeers of Your Majesty.”

Anne of Austria colored; Mazarin became yellow with shame; Louis XIV was deeply thoughtful, and a drop of moisture fell from his pale brow. “What men!” murmured he. And, involuntarily, he darted a glance at the minister which would have terrified him, if Mazarin, at the moment, had not concealed his head under his pillow.

“Monsieur,” said the young Duc d’Anjou, placing his hand, delicate and white as that of a woman, upon the arm of Athos, “tell that brave man, I beg you, that Monsieur, brother of the king, will tomorrow drink his health before five hundred of the best gentlemen of France.” And, on finishing those words, the young man, perceiving that his enthusiasm had deranged one of his ruffles, set to work to put it to rights with the greatest care imaginable.

“Let us resume business, sire,” interrupted Mazarin, who never was enthusiastic, and who wore no ruffles.

“Yes, Monsieur,” replied Louis XIV. “Pursue your communication, Monsieur le Comte,” added he, turning towards Athos.

Athos immediately began and offered in due form the hand of the Princess Henrietta Stuart to the young prince, the king’s brother. The conference lasted an hour; after which the doors of the chamber were thrown open to the courtiers, who resumed their places as if nothing had been kept from them in the occupations of that evening. Athos then found himself again with Raoul, and the father and son were able to clasp each other’s hands.

CHAPTER 42

In Which Mazarin Becomes Prodigal
Whilst Mazarin was endeavoring to recover from the serious alarm he had just experienced, Athos and Raoul were exchanging a few words in a corner of the apartment. “Well, here you are at Paris, then, Raoul?” said the comte.

“Yes, Monsieur, since the return of M. le Prince.”

“I cannot converse freely with you here, because we are observed; but I shall return home presently, and shall expect you as soon as your duty permits.”

Raoul bowed, and, at that moment, M. le Prince came up to them. The prince had that clear and keen look which distinguishes birds of prey of the noble species; his physiognomy itself presented several distinct traits of this resemblance. It is known that in the Prince de Condé, the aquiline nose rose out sharply and incisively from a brow slightly retreating, rather low than high, and according to the railers of the court⁠—a pitiless race without mercy even for genius⁠—constituted rather an eagle’s beak than a human nose, in the heir of the illustrious princes of the house of Condé. This penetrating look, this imperious expression of the whole countenance, generally disturbed those to whom the prince spoke, more than either majesty or regular beauty could have done in the conqueror of Rocroi. Besides this, the fire mounted so suddenly to his projecting eyes, that with the prince every sort of animation resembled passion. Now, on account of his rank, everybody at the court respected M. le Prince, and many even, seeing only the man, carried their respect as far as terror.

Louis de Condé then advanced towards the Comte de la Fère and Raoul, with the marked intention of being saluted by the one, and of speaking with the other. No man bowed with more reserved grace than the Comte de la Fère. He disdained to put into a salutation all the shades which a courtier ordinarily borrows from the same color⁠—the desire to please. Athos knew his own personal value, and bowed to the prince like a man, correcting by something sympathetic and undefinable that which might have appeared offensive to the pride of the highest rank in the inflexibility of his attitude. The prince was about to speak to Raoul. Athos forestalled him. “If M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne,” said he, “were not one of the humble servants of Your Royal Highness, I would beg him to pronounce my name before you⁠—mon prince.”

“I have the honor to address Monsieur le Comte de la Fère,” said Condé, instantly.

“My protector,” added Raoul, blushing.

“One of the most honorable men in the kingdom,” continued the prince; “one of the first gentlemen of France, and of whom I have heard so much that I have frequently desired to number him among my friends.”

“An honor of which I should be unworthy,” replied Athos, “but for the respect and admiration I entertain for Your Royal Highness.”

“Monsieur de Bragelonne,” said the prince, “is a good officer, and it is plainly seen that he has been to a good school. Ah, Monsieur le Comte, in your time, generals had soldiers!”

“That is true, my lord, but nowadays soldiers have generals.”

This compliment, which savored so little of flattery, gave a thrill of joy to the man whom already Europe considered a hero; and who might be thought to be satiated with praise.

“I regret very much,” continued the prince, “that you should have retired from the service, Monsieur le Comte; for it is more than probable that the king will soon have a war with Holland or England, and opportunities for distinguishing himself would not be wanting for a man who, like you, knows Great Britain as well as you do France.”

“I believe I may say, Monseigneur, that I have acted wisely in retiring from the service,” said Athos, smiling. “France and Great Britain will henceforward live like two sisters, if I can trust my presentiments.”

“Your presentiments?”

“Stop, Monseigneur, listen to what is being said yonder, at the table of my lord the cardinal.”

“Where they are playing?”

“Yes, my lord.”

The cardinal had just raised himself on one elbow, and made a sign to the king’s brother, who went to him.

“My lord,” said the cardinal, “pick up, if you please, all those gold crowns.” And he pointed to the enormous pile of yellow and glittering pieces which the Comte de Guiche had raised by degrees before him by a surprising run of luck at play.

“For me?” cried the Duc d’Anjou.

“Those fifty thousand crowns; yes, Monseigneur, they are yours.”

“Do you give them to me?”

“I have been playing on your account, Monseigneur,” replied the cardinal, getting weaker and weaker, as if this effort of giving money had exhausted all his physical and moral faculties.

“Oh, good heavens!” exclaimed Philip, wild with joy, “what a fortunate day!” And he himself, making a rake of his fingers, drew a part of the sum into his pockets, which he filled, and still full a third remained on the table.

“Chevalier,” said Philip to his favorite, the Chevalier de Lorraine, “come hither, chevalier.” The favorite quickly obeyed. “Pocket the rest,” said the young prince.

This singular scene was considered by the persons present only as a touching kind of family fête. The cardinal assumed the airs of a father with the sons of France, and the two princes had grown up under his wing. No one then imputed to pride, or even impertinence, as would be done nowadays, this liberality on the part of the first minister. The courtiers were satisfied with envying the prince.⁠—The king turned away his head.

“I never had so much money before,” said the young prince, joyously, as he crossed the chamber with his favorite to go to his carriage. “No, never! What a weight these crowns are!”

“But why has Monsieur le Cardinal given away all this money at once?” asked M. le Prince of the Comte de la Fère. “He must be very ill, the dear cardinal!”

“Yes, my lord, very ill, without doubt; he looks very ill, as Your Royal Highness may perceive.”

“But surely he will die of it. A hundred and fifty thousand livres! Oh, it is incredible! But, comte, tell me a reason for it?”

“Patience, Monseigneur, I beg of you. Here comes M. le Duc d’Anjou, talking with the Chevalier de Lorraine; I should not be surprised if they spared us the trouble of being indiscreet. Listen to them.”

In fact the chevalier said to the prince in a low voice, “My lord, it is not natural for M. Mazarin to give you so much money. Take care! you will let some of the pieces fall, my lord. What design has the cardinal upon you to make him so generous?”

“As I said,” whispered Athos in the prince’s ear; “that, perhaps, is the best reply to your question.”

“Tell me, my lord,” repeated the chevalier impatiently, as he was calculating, by weighing them in his pocket, the quota of the sum which had fallen to his share by rebound.

“My dear chevalier, a wedding present.”

“How a wedding present?”

“Eh! yes, I am going to be married,” replied the Duc d’Anjou, without perceiving, at the moment, he was passing the prince and Athos, who both bowed respectfully.

The chevalier darted at the young duke a glance so strange, and so malicious, that the Comte de la Fère quite started on beholding it.

“You! you to be married!” repeated he; “oh! that’s impossible. You would not commit such a folly!”

“Bah! I don’t do it myself; I am made to do it,” replied the Duc d’Anjou. “But come, quick! let us get rid of our money.” Thereupon he disappeared with his companion, laughing and talking, whilst all heads were bowed on his passage.

“Then,” whispered the prince to Athos, “that is the secret.”

“It was not I who told you so, my lord.”

“He is to marry the sister of Charles II?”

“I believe so.”

The prince reflected for a moment, and his eye shot forth one of its not infrequent flashes. “Humph!” said he, slowly, as if speaking to himself; “our swords are once more to be hung on the wall⁠—for a long time!” and he sighed.

All that sigh contained of ambition silently stifled, of extinguished illusions and disappointed hopes, Athos alone divined, for he alone heard that sigh. Immediately after, the prince took leave and the king left the apartment. Athos, by a sign made to Bragelonne, renewed the desire he had expressed at the beginning of the scene. By degrees the chamber was deserted, and Mazarin was left alone, a prey to suffering which he could no longer dissemble. “Bernouin! Bernouin!” cried he in a broken voice.

“What does Monseigneur want?”

“Guénaud⁠—let Guénaud be sent for,” said His Eminence. “I think I’m dying.”

Bernouin, in great terror, rushed into the cabinet to give the order, and the piqueur, who hastened to fetch the physician, passed the king’s carriage in the Rue Saint Honoré.

CHAPTER 43

Guénaud
The cardinal’s order was pressing; Guénaud quickly obeyed it. He found his patient stretched on his bed, his legs swelled, his face livid, and his stomach collapsed. Mazarin had a severe attack of gout. He suffered tortures with the impatience of a man who has not been accustomed to resistances. On seeing Guénaud: “Ah!” said he; “now I am saved!”

Guénaud was a very learned and circumspect man, who stood in no need of the critiques of Boileau to obtain a reputation. When facing a disease, if it were personified in a king, he treated the patient as a Turk treats a Moor. He did not therefore reply to Mazarin as the minister expected: “Here is the doctor; goodbye disease!” On the contrary, on examining his patient, with a very serious air:

“Oh! oh!” said he.

“Eh! what! Guénaud! How you look at me!”

“I look as I should on seeing your complaint, my lord; it is a very dangerous one.”

“The gout⁠—oh! yes, the gout.”

“With complications, my lord.”

Mazarin raised himself upon his elbow, and, questioning by look and gesture: “What do you mean by that? Am I worse than I believe myself to be?”

“My lord,” said Guénaud, seating himself beside the bed; “Your Eminence has worked very hard during your life; Your Eminence has suffered much.”

“But I am not old, I fancy. The late M. de Richelieu was but seventeen months younger than I am when he died, and died of a mortal disease. I am young, Guénaud: remember, I am scarcely fifty-two.”

“Oh! my lord, you are much more than that. How long did the Fronde last?”

“For what purpose do you put such a question to me?”

“For a medical calculation, Monseigneur.”

“Well, some ten years⁠—off and on.”

“Very well; be kind enough to reckon every year of the Fronde as three years⁠—that makes thirty; now twenty and fifty-two makes seventy-two years. You are seventy-two, my lord; and that is a great age.”

Whilst saying this, he felt the pulse of his patient. This pulse was full of such fatal indications, that the physician continued, notwithstanding the interruptions of the patient: “Put down the years of the Fronde at four each, and you have lived eighty-two years.”

“Are you speaking seriously, Guénaud?”

“Alas! yes, Monseigneur.”

“You take a roundabout way, then, to inform me that I am very ill?”

Ma foi! yes, my lord, and with a man of the mind and courage of Your Eminence, it ought not to be necessary to do so.”

The cardinal breathed with such difficulty that he inspired pity even in a pitiless physician. “There are diseases and diseases,” resumed Mazarin. “From some of them people escape.”

“That is true, my lord.”

“Is it not?” cried Mazarin, almost joyously; “for, in short, what else would be the use of power, of strength of will? What would the use of genius be⁠—your genius, Guénaud? What would be the use of science and art, if the patient, who disposes of all that, cannot be saved from peril?”

Guénaud was about to open his mouth, but Mazarin continued:

“Remember,” said he, “I am the most confiding of your patients; remember I obey you blindly, and that consequently⁠—”

“I know all that,” said Guénaud.

“I shall be cured, then?”

“Monseigneur, there is neither strength of will, nor power, nor genius, nor science that can resist a disease which God doubtless sends, or which He cast upon the earth at the creation, with full power to destroy and kill mankind. When the disease is mortal, and nothing can⁠—”

“Is⁠—my⁠—disease⁠—mortal?” asked Mazarin.

“Yes, my lord.”

His Eminence sank down for a moment, like an unfortunate wretch who is crushed by a falling column. But the spirit of Mazarin was a strong one, or rather his mind was a firm one. “Guénaud,” said he, recovering from his first shock, “you will permit me to appeal from your judgment. I will call together the most learned men of Europe: I will consult them. I will live, in short, by the virtue of I care not what remedy.”

“My lord must not suppose,” said Guénaud, “that I have the presumption to pronounce alone upon an existence so valuable as yours. I have already assembled all the good physicians and practitioners of France and Europe. There were twelve of them.”

“And they said⁠—”

“They said that Your Eminence was suffering from a mortal disease; I have the consultation signed in my portfolio. If Your Eminence will please to see it, you will find the names of all the incurable diseases we have met with. There is first⁠—”

“No, no!” cried Mazarin, pushing away the paper. “No, no, Guénaud, I yield! I yield!” And a profound silence, during which the cardinal resumed his senses and recovered his strength, succeeded to the agitation of this scene. “There is another thing,” murmured Mazarin; “there are empirics and charlatans. In my country, those whom physicians abandon run the chance of a quack, who kills them ten times but saves them a hundred times.”

“Has not Your Eminence observed, that during the last month I have changed my remedies ten times?”

“Yes. Well?”

“Well, I have spent fifty thousand crowns in purchasing the secrets of all these fellows: the list is exhausted, and so is my purse. You are not cured: and, but for my art, you would be dead.”

“That ends it!” murmured the cardinal; “that ends it.” And he threw a melancholy look upon the riches which surrounded him. “And must I quit all that?” sighed he. “I am dying, Guénaud! I am dying!”

“Oh! not yet, my lord,” said the physician.

Mazarin seized his hand. “In what time?” asked he, fixing his two large eyes upon the impassible countenance of the physician.

“My lord, we never tell that.”

“To ordinary men, perhaps not;⁠—but to me⁠—to me, whose every minute is worth a treasure. Tell me, Guénaud, tell me!”

“No, no, my lord.”

“I insist upon it, I tell you. Oh! give me a month, and for every one of those thirty days I will pay you a hundred thousand crowns.”

“My lord,” replied Guénaud, in a firm voice, “it is God who can give you days of grace, and not I. God only allows you a fortnight.”

The cardinal breathed a painful sigh, and sank back down upon his pillow, murmuring, “Thank you, Guénaud, thank you!”

The physician was about to depart; the dying man, raising himself up: “Silence!” said he, with flaming eyes, “silence!”

“My lord, I have known this secret two months; you see that I have kept it faithfully.”

“Go, Guénaud; I will take care of your fortunes; go, and tell Brienne to send me a clerk called M. Colbert. Go!”

CHAPTER 44

Colbert
Colbert was not far off. During the whole evening he had remained in one of the corridors, chatting with Bernouin and Brienne, and commenting, with the ordinary skill of people of court, upon the news which developed like air-bubbles upon the water, on the surface of each event. It is doubtless time to trace, in a few words, one of the most interesting portraits of the age, and to trace it with as much truth, perhaps, as contemporary painters have been able to do. Colbert was a man in whom the historian and the moralist have an equal right.

He was thirteen years older than Louis XIV, his future master. Of middle height, rather lean than otherwise, he had deep-set eyes, a mean appearance, his hair was coarse, black and thin, which, say the biographers of his time, made him take early to the skullcap. A look of severity, of harshness even, a sort of stiffness, which, with inferiors, was pride, with superiors an affectation of superior virtue; a surly cast of countenance upon all occasions, even when looking at himself in a glass alone⁠—such is the exterior of his personage. As to the moral part of his character, the depth of his talent for accounts, and his ingenuity in making sterility itself productive, were much boasted of. Colbert had formed the idea of forcing governors of frontier places to feed the garrisons without pay, with what they drew from contributions. Such a valuable quality made Mazarin think of replacing Joubert, his intendant, who had recently died, by M. Colbert, who had such skill in nibbling down allowances. Colbert by degrees crept into court, notwithstanding his lowly birth, for he was the son of a man who sold wine as his father had done, but who afterwards sold cloth, and then silk stuffs. Colbert, destined for trade, had been clerk in Lyons to a merchant, whom he had quitted to come to Paris in the office of a Châtelet procureur named Biterne. It was here he learned the art of drawing up an account, and the much more valuable one of complicating it.

This stiffness of manner in Colbert had been of great service to him; it is so true that Fortune, when she has a caprice, resembles those women of antiquity, who, when they had a fancy, were disgusted by no physical or moral defects in either men or things. Colbert, placed with Michel Letellier, secretary of state in 1648, by his cousin Colbert, Seigneur de Saint-Penange, who protected him, received one day from the minister a commission for Cardinal Mazarin. His Eminence was then in the enjoyment of flourishing health, and the bad years of the Fronde had not yet counted triple and quadruple for him. He was at Sedan, very much annoyed at a court intrigue in which Anne of Austria seemed inclined to desert his cause.

Of this intrigue Letellier held the thread. He had just received a letter from Anne of Austria, a letter very valuable to him, and strongly compromising Mazarin; but, as he already played the double part which served him so well, and by which he always managed two enemies so as to draw advantage from both, either by embroiling them more and more or by reconciling them, Michel Letellier wished to send Anne of Austria’s letter to Mazarin, in order that he might be acquainted with it, and consequently pleased with his having so willingly rendered him a service. To send the letter was an easy matter; to recover it again, after having communicated it, that was the difficulty. Letellier cast his eyes around him, and seeing the black and meager clerk with the scowling brow, scribbling away in his office, he preferred him to the best gendarme for the execution of this design.

Colbert was commanded to set out for Sedan, with positive orders to carry the letter to Mazarin, and bring it back to Letellier. He listened to his orders with scrupulous attention, required the instructions to be repeated twice, and was particular in learning whether the bringing back was as necessary as the communicating, and Letellier replied sternly, “More necessary.” Then he set out, traveled like a courier, without any care for his body, and placed in the hands of Mazarin, first a letter from Letellier, which announced to the cardinal the sending of the precious letter, and then that letter itself. Mazarin colored greatly whilst reading Anne of Austria’s letter, gave Colbert a gracious smile and dismissed him.

“When shall I have the answer, Monseigneur?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow morning?”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

The clerk turned upon his heel, after making his very best bow. The next day he was at his post at seven o’clock. Mazarin made him wait till ten. He remained patiently in the antechamber; his turn having come, he entered; Mazarin gave him a sealed packet. On the envelope of this packet were these words:⁠—Monsieur Michel Letellier, etc. Colbert looked at the packet with much attention; the cardinal put on a pleasant countenance and pushed him towards the door.

“And the letter of the queen-mother, my lord?” asked Colbert.

“It is in with the rest, in the packet,” said Mazarin.

“Oh! very well,” replied Colbert; and placing his hat between his knees, he began to unseal the packet.

Mazarin uttered a cry. “What are you doing?” said he, angrily.

“I am unsealing the packet, my lord.”

“You mistrust me, then, master pedant, do you? Did anyone ever see such impertinence?”

“Oh! my lord, do not be angry with me! It is certainly not Your Eminence’s word I place in doubt, God forbid!”

“What then?”

“It is the carefulness of your chancery, my lord. What is a letter? A rag. May not a rag be forgotten? And look, my lord, look if I was not right. Your clerks have forgotten the rag; the letter is not in the packet.”

“You are an insolent fellow, and you have not looked,” cried Mazarin, very angrily; “begone and wait my pleasure.” Whilst saying these words, with perfectly Italian subtlety he snatched the packet from the hands of Colbert, and re-entered his apartments.

But this anger could not last so long as not to be replaced in time by reason. Mazarin, every morning, on opening his closet door, found the figure of Colbert like a sentinel behind the bench, and this disagreeable figure never failed to ask him humbly, but with tenacity, for the queen-mother’s letter. Mazarin could hold out no longer, and was obliged to give it up. He accompanied this restitution with a most severe reprimand, during which Colbert contented himself with examining, feeling, even smelling, as it were, the paper, the characters, and the signature, neither more nor less than if he had to deal with the greatest forger in the kingdom. Mazarin behaved still more rudely to him, but Colbert, still impassible, having obtained a certainty that the letter was the true one, went off as if he had been deaf. This conduct obtained for him afterwards the post of Joubert; for Mazarin, instead of bearing malice, admired him, and was desirous of attaching so much fidelity to himself.

It may be judged by this single anecdote, what the character of Colbert was. Events, developing themselves, by degrees allowed all the powers of his mind to act freely. Colbert was not long in insinuating himself to the good graces of the cardinal: he became even indispensable to him. The clerk was acquainted with all his accounts without the cardinal’s ever having spoken to him about them. This secret between them was a powerful tie, and this was why, when about to appear before the Master of another world, Mazarin was desirous of taking good counsel in disposing the wealth he was so unwillingly obliged to leave in this world. After the visit of Guénaud, he therefore sent for Colbert, desired him to sit down, and said to him: “Let us converse, Monsieur Colbert, and seriously, for I am very ill, and I may chance to die.”

“Man is mortal,” replied Colbert.

“I have always remembered that, M. Colbert, and I have worked with that end in view. You know that I have amassed a little wealth.”

“I know you have, Monseigneur.”

“At how much do you estimate, as near as you can, the amount of this wealth, M. Colbert?”

“At forty millions, five hundred and sixty thousand, two hundred livres, nine cents, eight farthings,” replied Colbert.

The cardinal heaved a deep sigh, and looked at Colbert with wonder, but he allowed a smile to steal across his lips.

“Known money,” added Colbert, in reply to that smile.

The cardinal gave quite a start in bed. “What do you mean by that?” said he.

“I mean,” said Colbert, “that besides those forty millions, five hundred and sixty thousand, two hundred livres, nine cents, eight farthings, there are thirteen millions that are not known.”

Ouf!” sighed Mazarin, “what a man!”

At this moment, the head of Bernouin appeared through the embrasure of the door.

“What is it?” asked Mazarin, “and why do you disturb me?”

“The Théatin father, Your Eminence’s director, was sent for this evening; and he cannot come again to my lord till after tomorrow.”

Mazarin looked a Colbert, who rose and took his hat, saying: “I shall come again, my lord.”

Mazarin hesitated. “No, no,” said he; “I have as much business to transact with you as with him. Besides, you are my other confessor⁠—and what I have to say to one the other may hear. Remain where you are, Colbert.”

“But my lord, if there be no secret of penitence, will the director consent to my being here?”

“Do not trouble yourself about that; come into the ruelle.”

“I can wait outside, Monseigneur.”

“No, no, it will do you good to hear the confession of a rich man.”

Colbert bowed and went into the ruelle.

“Introduce the Théatin father,” said Mazarin, closing the curtains.

CHAPTER 45

Confession of a Man of Wealth
The Théatin entered deliberately, without being too much astonished at the noise and agitation which anxiety for the cardinal’s health had raised in his household. “Come in, my Reverend Father,” said Mazarin, after a last look at the ruelle, “come in and console me.”

“That is my duty, my lord,” replied the Théatin.

“Begin by sitting down, and making yourself comfortable, for I am going to begin with a general confession; you will afterwards give me a good absolution, and I shall believe myself more tranquil.”

“My lord,” said the father, “you are not so ill as to make a general confession urgent⁠—and it will be very fatiguing⁠—take care.”

“You suspect, then, that it may be long, Father?”

“How can I think it otherwise, when a man has lived so completely as Your Eminence has done?”

“Ah! that is true!⁠—yes⁠—the recital may be long.”

“The mercy of God is great,” snuffled the Théatin.

“Stop,” said Mazarin; “there I begin to terrify myself with having allowed so many things to pass which the Lord might reprove.”

“Is that not always so?” said the Théatin naively, removing further from the lamp his thin pointed face, like that of a mole. “Sinners are so forgetful beforehand, and scrupulous when it is too late.”

“Sinners?” replied Mazarin. “Do you use that word ironically, and to reproach me with all the genealogies I have allowed to be made on my account⁠—I⁠—the son of a fisherman, in fact?”[1]

“Hum!” said the Théatin.

“That is a first sin, Father; for I have allowed myself made to descend from two old Roman consuls, S. Geganius Macerinus 1st, Macerinus 2nd, and Proculus Macerinus 3rd, of whom the Chronicle of Haolander speaks. From Macerinus to Mazarin the proximity was tempting. Macerinus, a diminutive, means leanish, poorish, out of case. Oh! Reverend Father! Mazarini may now be carried to the augmentative Maigre, thin as Lazarus. Look!”⁠—and he showed his fleshless arms.

“In your having been born of a family of fishermen I see nothing injurious to you; for⁠—St. Peter was a fisherman; and if you are a prince of the church, my lord, he was the supreme head of it. Pass on, if you please.”

“So much the more for my having threatened with the Bastille a certain Bounet, a priest of Avignon, who wanted to publish a genealogy of the Casa Mazarini much too marvelous.”

“To be probable?” replied the Théatin.

“Oh! if I had acted up to his idea, Father, that would have been the vice of pride⁠—another sin.”

“It was an excess of wit, and a person is not to be reproached with such sorts of abuses. Pass on, pass on!”

“I was all pride. Look you, Father, I will endeavor to divide that into capital sins.”

“I like divisions, when well made.”

“I am glad of that. You must know that in 1630⁠—alas! that is thirty-one years ago⁠—”

“You were then twenty-nine years old, Monseigneur.”

“A hotheaded age. I was then something of a soldier, and I threw myself at Casal into the arquebusades, to show that I rode on horseback as well as an officer. It is true, I restored peace between the French and the Spaniards. That redeems my sin a little.”

“I see no sin in being able to ride well on horseback,” said the Théatin; “that is in perfect good taste, and does honor to our gown. As a Christian, I approve of your having prevented the effusion of blood; as a monk, I am proud of the bravery a monk has exhibited.”

Mazarin bowed his head humbly. “Yes,” said he, “but the consequences?”

“What consequences?”

“Eh! that damned sin of pride has roots without end. From the time that I threw myself in that manner between two armies, that I had smelt powder and faced lines of soldiers, I have held generals a little in contempt.”

“Ah!” said the father.

“There is the evil; so that I have not found one endurable since that time.”

“The fact is,” said the Théatin, “that the generals we have had have not been remarkable.”

“Oh!” cried Mazarin, “there was Monsieur le Prince. I have tormented him thoroughly!”

“He is not much to be pitied: he has acquired sufficient glory, and sufficient wealth.”

“That may be, for Monsieur le Prince; but M. Beaufort, for example⁠—whom I held suffering so long in the dungeon of Vincennes?”

“Ah! but he was a rebel, and the safety of the state required that you should make a sacrifice. Pass on!”

“I believe I have exhausted pride. There is another sin which I am afraid to qualify.”

“I can qualify it myself. Tell it.”

“A great sin, Reverend Father!”

“We shall judge, Monseigneur.”

“You cannot fail to have heard of certain relations which I have had⁠—with Her Majesty the queen-mother⁠—the malevolent⁠—”

“The malevolent, my lord, are fools. Was it not necessary for the good of the state and the interests of the young king, that you should live in good intelligence with the queen? Pass on, pass on!”

“I assure you,” said Mazarin, “you remove a terrible weight from my breast.”

“These are all trifles!⁠—look for something serious.”

“I have had much ambition, Father.”

“That is the march of great minds and things, my lord.”

“Even the longing for the tiara?”

“To be pope is to be the first of Christians. Why should you not desire that?”

“It has been printed that, to gain that object, I had sold Cambria to the Spaniards.”

“You have, perhaps, yourself written pamphlets without severely persecuting pamphleteers.”

“Then, Reverend Father, I have truly a clean breast. I feel nothing remaining but slight peccadilloes.”

“What are they?”

“Play.”

“That is rather worldly: but you were obliged by the duties of greatness to keep a good house.”

“I like to win.”

“No player plays to lose.”

“I cheated a little.”

“You took your advantage. Pass on.”

“Well! Reverend Father, I feel nothing else upon my conscience. Give me absolution, and my soul will be able, when God shall please to call it, to mount without obstacle to the throne⁠—”

The Théatin moved neither his arms nor his lips. “What are you waiting for, Father?” said Mazarin.

“I am waiting for the end.”

“The end of what?”

“Of the confession, Monsieur.”

“But I have ended.”

“Oh, no; Your Eminence is mistaken.”

“Not that I know of.”

“Search diligently.”

“I have searched as well as possible.”

“Then I shall assist your memory.”

“Do.”

The Théatin coughed several times. “You have said nothing of avarice, another capital sin, nor of those millions,” said he.

“What millions, Father?”

“Why, those you possess, my lord.”

“Father, that money is mine, why should I speak to you about that?”

“Because, you see, our opinions differ. You say that money is yours, whilst I⁠—I believe it is rather the property of others.”

Mazarin lifted his cold hand to his brow, which was beaded with perspiration. “How so?” stammered he.

“This way. Your excellency had gained much wealth⁠—in the service of the king.”

“Hum! much⁠—that is, not too much.”

“Whatever it may be, whence came that wealth?”

“From the state.”

“The state; that is the king.”

“But what do you conclude from that, Father?” said Mazarin, who began to tremble.

“I cannot conclude without seeing a list of the riches you possess. Let us reckon a little, if you please. You have the bishopric of Metz?”

“Yes.”

“The abbeys of St. Clement, St. Arnould, and St. Vincent, all at Metz?”

“Yes.”

“You have the abbey of St. Denis, in France, magnificent property?”

“Yes, Father.”

“You have the abbey of Cluny, which is rich?”

“I have.”

“That of St. Médard at Soissons, with a revenue of one hundred thousand livres?”

“I cannot deny it.”

“That of St. Victor, at Marseilles⁠—one of the best in the south?”

“Yes, Father.”

“A good million a year. With the emoluments of the cardinalship and the ministry, I say too little when I say two millions a year.”

“Eh!”

“In ten years that is twenty millions⁠—and twenty millions put out at fifty percent give, by progression, twenty-three millions in ten years.”

“How well you reckon for a Théatin!”

“Since Your Eminence placed our order in the convent we occupy, near St. Germain des Prés, in 1644, I have kept the accounts of the society.”

“And mine likewise, apparently, Father.”

“One ought to know a little of everything, my lord.”

“Very well. Conclude, at present.”

“I conclude that your baggage is too heavy to allow you to pass through the gates of Paradise.”

“Shall I be damned?”

“If you do not make restitution, yes.”

Mazarin uttered a piteous cry. “Restitution!⁠—but to whom, good God?”

“To the owner of that money⁠—to the king.”

“But the king did not give it all to me.”

“One moment⁠—does not the king sign the ordonances?”

Mazarin passed from sighs to groans. “Absolution! absolution!” cried he.

“Impossible, my lord. Restitution! restitution!” replied the Théatin.

“But you absolve me from all other sins, why not from that?”

“Because,” replied the father, “to absolve you for that motive would be a sin for which the king would never absolve me, my lord.”

Thereupon the confessor quitted his penitent with an air full of compunction. He then went out in the same manner he had entered.

“Oh, good God!” groaned the cardinal. “Come here, Colbert, I am very, very ill indeed, my friend.”

CHAPTER 46

The Donation
Colbert reappeared beneath the curtains.

“Have you heard?” said Mazarin.

“Alas! yes, my lord.”

“Can he be right? Can all this money be badly acquired?”

“A Théatin, Monseigneur, is a bad judge in matters of finance,” replied Colbert, coolly. “And yet it is very possible that, according to his theological views, Your Eminence has been, in a certain degree, in the wrong. People generally find they have been so⁠—when they die.”

“In the first place, they commit the wrong of dying, Colbert.”

“That is true, my lord. Against whom, however, did the Théatin make out that you had committed these wrongs? Against the king?”

Mazarin shrugged his shoulders. “As if I had not saved both his state and his finances.”

“That admits of no contradiction, my lord.”

“Does it? Then I have received a merely legitimate salary, in spite of the opinion of my confessor?”

“That is beyond doubt.”

“And I might fairly keep for my own family, which is so needy, a good fortune⁠—the whole, even, of which I have earned?”

“I see no impediment to that, Monseigneur.”

“I felt assured that in consulting you, Colbert, I should have good advice,” replied Mazarin, greatly delighted.

Colbert resumed his pedantic look. “My lord,” interrupted he, “I think it would be quite as well to examine whether what the Théatin said is not a snare.”

“Oh! no; a snare? What for? The Théatin is an honest man.”

“He believed Your Eminence to be at death’s door, because Your Eminence consulted him. Did I not hear him say⁠—‘Distinguish that which the king has given you from that which you have given yourself.’ Recollect, my lord, if he did not say something a little like that to you?⁠—that is quite a theatrical speech.”

“That is possible.”

“In which case, my lord, I should consider you as required by the Théatin to⁠—”

“To make restitution!” cried Mazarin, with great warmth.

“Eh! I do not say no.”

“What, of all! You do not dream of such a thing! You speak just as the confessor did.”

“To make restitution of a part⁠—that is to say, His Majesty’s part; and that, Monseigneur, may have its dangers. Your eminence is too skillful a politician not to know that, at this moment, the king does not possess a hundred and fifty thousand livres clear in his coffers.”

“That is not my affair,” said Mazarin, triumphantly; “that belongs to M. le Surintendant Fouquet, whose accounts I gave you to verify some months ago.”

Colbert bit his lips at the name of Fouquet. “His Majesty,” said he, between his teeth, “has no money but that which M. Fouquet collects: your money, Monseigneur, would afford him a delicious banquet.”

“Well, but I am not the superintendent of His Majesty’s finances⁠—I have my purse⁠—surely I would do much for His Majesty’s welfare⁠—some legacy⁠—but I cannot disappoint my family.”

“The legacy of a part would dishonor you and offend the king. Leaving a part to His Majesty, is to avow that that part has inspired you with doubts as to the lawfulness of the means of acquisition.”

“Monsieur Colbert!”

“I thought Your Eminence did me the honor to ask my advice?”

“Yes, but you are ignorant of the principal details of the question.”

“I am ignorant of nothing, my lord; during ten years, all the columns of figures which are found in France, have passed into review before me; and if I have painfully nailed them into my brain, they are there now so well riveted, that, from the office of M. Letellier, who is sober, to the little secret largesses of M. Fouquet, who is prodigal, I could recite, figure by figure, all the money that is spent in France from Marseilles to Cherbourg.”

“Then, you would have me throw all my money into the coffers of the king!” cried Mazarin, ironically; and from whom, at the same time the gout forced painful moans. “Surely the king would reproach me with nothing, but he would laugh at me, while squandering my millions, and with good reason.”

“Your eminence has misunderstood me. I did not, the least in the world, pretend that His Majesty ought to spend your money.”

“You said so, clearly, it seems to me, when you advised me to give it to him.”

“Ah,” replied Colbert, “that is because Your Eminence, absorbed as you are by your disease, entirely loses sight of the character of Louis XIV.”

“How so?”

“That character, if I may venture to express myself thus, resembles that which my lord confessed just now to the Théatin.”

“Go on⁠—that is?”

“Pride! Pardon me, my lord, haughtiness, nobleness; kings have no pride, that is a human passion.”

“Pride⁠—yes, you are right. Next?”

“Well, my lord, if I have divined rightly, Your Eminence has but to give all your money to the king, and that immediately.”

“But for what?” said Mazarin, quite bewildered.

“Because the king will not accept of the whole.”

“What, and he a young man, and devoured by ambition?”

“Just so.”

“A young man who is anxious for my death⁠—”

“My lord!”

“To inherit, yes, Colbert, yes; he is anxious for my death, in order to inherit. Triple fool that I am! I would prevent him!”

“Exactly: if the donation were made in a certain form he would refuse it.”

“Well; but how?”

“That is plain enough. A young man who has yet done nothing⁠—who burns to distinguish himself⁠—who burns to reign alone, will never take anything ready built, he will construct for himself. This prince, Monseigneur, will never be content with the Palais Royal, which M. de Richelieu left him, nor with the Palais Mazarin, which you have had so superbly constructed, nor with the Louvre, which his ancestors inhabited; nor with St. Germain, where he was born. All that does not proceed from himself, I predict, he will disdain.”

“And you will guarantee, that if I give my forty millions to the king⁠—”

“Saying certain things to him at the same time, I guarantee he will refuse them.”

“But those things⁠—what are they?”

“I will write them, if my lord will have the goodness to dictate them.”

“Well, but, after all, what advantage will that be to me?”

“An enormous one. Nobody will afterwards be able to accuse Your Eminence of that unjust avarice with which pamphleteers have reproached the most brilliant mind of the present age.”

“You are right, Colbert, you are right; go, and seek the king, on my part, and take him my will.”

“Your donation, my lord.”

“But, if he should accept it; if he should even think of accepting it!”

“Then there would remain thirteen millions for your family, and that is a good round sum.”

“But then you would be either a fool or a traitor.”

“And I am neither the one nor the other, my lord. You appear to be much afraid that the king will accept; you have a deal more reason to fear that he will not accept.”

“But, see you, if he does not accept, I should like to guarantee my thirteen reserved millions to him⁠—yes, I will do so⁠—yes. But my pains are returning, I shall faint. I am very, very ill, Colbert; I am near my end!”

Colbert started. The cardinal was indeed very ill; large drops of sweat flowed down upon his bed of agony, and the frightful pallor of a face streaming with water was a spectacle which the most hardened practitioner could not have beheld without much compassion. Colbert was, without doubt, very much affected, for he quitted the chamber, calling Bernouin to attend to the dying man, and went into the corridor. There, walking about with a meditative expression, which almost gave nobility to his vulgar head, his shoulders thrown up, his neck stretched out, his lips half open, to give vent to unconnected fragments of incoherent thoughts, he lashed up his courage to the pitch of the undertaking contemplated, whilst within ten paces of him, separated only by a wall, his master was being stifled by anguish which drew from him lamentable cries, thinking no more of the treasures of the earth, or of the joys of Paradise, but much of all the horrors of hell. Whilst burning-hot napkins, physic, revulsives, and Guénaud, who was recalled, were performing their functions with increased activity, Colbert, holding his great head in both his hands, to compress within it the fever of the projects engendered by the brain, was meditating the tenor of the donation he would make Mazarin write, at the first hour of respite his disease should afford him. It would appear as if all the cries of the cardinal, and all the attacks of death upon this representative of the past, were stimulants for the genius of this thinker with the bushy eyebrows, who was turning already towards the rising sun of a regenerated society. Colbert resumed his place at Mazarin’s pillow at the first interval of pain, and persuaded him to dictate a donation thus conceived.

“About to appear before God, the Master of mankind, I beg the king, who was my master on earth, to resume the wealth which his bounty has bestowed upon me, and which my family would be happy to see pass into such illustrious hands. The particulars of my property will be found⁠—they are drawn up⁠—at the first requisition of His Majesty, or at the last sigh of his most devoted servant,
“Jules, Cardinal de Mazarin.”

The cardinal sighed heavily as he signed this; Colbert sealed the packet, and carried it immediately to the Louvre, whither the king had returned.

He then went back to his own home, rubbing his hands with the confidence of workman who has done a good day’s work.

CHAPTER 47

How Anne of Austria Gave One Piece of Advice to Louis XIV, and How M. Foquet Gave Him Another
The news of the extreme illness of the cardinal had already spread, and attracted at least as much attention among the people of the Louvre as the news of the marriage of Monsieur, the king’s brother, which had already been announced as an official fact. Scarcely had Louis XIV returned home, with his thoughts fully occupied with the various things he had seen and heard in the course of the evening, when an usher announced that the same crowd of courtiers who, in the morning, had thronged his lever, presented themselves again at his coucher, a remarkable piece of respect which, during the reign of the cardinal, the court, not very discreet in its performance, had accorded to the minister, without caring about displeasing the king.

But the minister had had, as we have said, an alarming attack of gout, and the tide of flattery was mounting towards the throne. Courtiers have a marvelous instinct in scenting the turn of events; courtiers possess a supreme kind of science; they are diplomatists in throwing light upon the unraveling of complicated intrigues, captains in divining the issue of battles, and physicians in curing the sick. Louis XIV, to whom his mother had taught this axiom, together with many others, understood at once that the cardinal must be very ill.

Scarcely had Anne of Austria conducted the young queen to her apartments and taken from her brow the headdress of ceremony, when she went to see her son in his cabinet, where, alone, melancholy, and depressed, he was indulging, as if to exercise his will, in one of those terrible inward passions⁠—king’s passions⁠—which create events when they break out, and with Louis XIV, thanks to his astonishing command over himself, became such benign tempests, that his most violent, his only passion, that which Saint Simon mentions with astonishment, was that famous fit of anger which he exhibited fifty years later, on the occasion of a little concealment of the Duc de Maine’s, and which had for result a shower of blows inflicted with a cane upon the back of a poor valet who had stolen a biscuit. The young king then was, as we have seen, a prey to a double excitement; and he said to himself as he looked in a glass, O king!⁠—king by name, and not in fact;⁠—phantom, vain phantom art thou!⁠—inert statue, which has no other power than that of provoking salutations from courtiers, when wilt thou be able to raise thy velvet arm, or clench thy silken hand? when wilt thou be able to open for any purpose but to sigh or smile, lips condemned to the motionless stupidity of the marbles in thy gallery?

Then, passing his hand over his brow, and feeling the want of air, he approached a window, and looking down saw below some horsemen talking together, and groups of timid observers. These horsemen were a fraction of the watch: the groups were busy portions of the people, to whom a king is always a curious thing, the same as a rhinoceros, a crocodile, or a serpent. He struck his brow with his open hand, crying⁠—“King of France! what a title! People of France! what a heap of creatures! I have just returned to my Louvre; my horses, just unharnessed, are still smoking, and I have created interest enough to induce scarcely twenty persons to look at me as I passed. Twenty! what do I say? no; there were not twenty anxious to see the king of France. There are not even ten archers to guard my palace of residence: archers, people, guards, all are at the Palais Royal! Why, my good God! have not I, the king, the right to ask of you all that?”

“Because,” said a voice, replying to his, and which sounded from the other side of the door of the cabinet, “because at the Palais Royal lies all the gold⁠—that is to say, all the power of him who desires to reign.”

Louis turned round sharply. The voice which had pronounced these words was that of Anne of Austria. The king started, and advanced towards her. “I hope,” said he, “Your Majesty has paid no attention to the vain declamations which the solitude and disgust familiar to kings suggest to the happiest dispositions?”

“I only paid attention to one thing, my son, and that was, that you were complaining.”

“Who! I? Not at all,” said Louis XIV; “no, in truth, you err, Madame.”

“What were you doing, then?”

“I thought I was under the ferule of my professor, and developing a subject of amplification.”

“My son,” replied Anne of Austria, shaking her head, “you are wrong not to trust my word; you are wrong not to grant me your confidence. A day will come, and perhaps quickly, wherein you will have occasion to remember that axiom:⁠—‘Gold is universal power; and they alone are kings who are all-powerful.’ ”

“Your intention,” continued the king, “was not, however, to cast blame upon the rich men of this age, was it?”

“No,” said the queen, warmly; “no, sire; they who are rich in this age, under your reign, are rich because you have been willing they should be so, and I entertain against them neither malice nor envy; they have, without doubt, served Your Majesty sufficiently well for Your Majesty to have permitted them to reward themselves. That is what I mean to say by the words for which you reproach me.”

“God forbid, Madame, that I should ever reproach my mother with anything!”

“Besides,” continued Anne of Austria, “the Lord never gives the goods of this world but for a season; the Lord⁠—as correctives to honor and riches⁠—the Lord has placed sufferings, sickness, and death; and no one,” added she, with a melancholy smile, which proved she made the application of the funeral precept to herself, “no man can take his wealth or greatness with him to the grave. It results, therefore, that the young gather the abundant harvest prepared for them by the old.”

Louis listened with increased attention to the words which Anne of Austria, no doubt, pronounced with a view to console him. “Madame,” said he, looking earnestly at his mother, “one would almost say in truth that you had something else to announce to me.”

“I have absolutely nothing, my son; only you cannot have failed to remark that His Eminence the cardinal is very ill.”

Louis looked at his mother, expecting some emotion in her voice, some sorrow in her countenance. The face of Anne of Austria appeared a little changed, but that was from sufferings of quite a personal character. Perhaps the alteration was caused by the cancer which had begun to consume her breast. “Yes, Madame,” said the king; “yes, M. de Mazarin is very ill.”

“And it would be a great loss to the kingdom if God were to summon His Eminence away. Is not that your opinion as well as mine, my son?” said the queen.

“Yes, Madame; yes, certainly, it would be a great loss for the kingdom,” said Louis, coloring; “but the peril does not seem to me to be so great; besides, the cardinal is still young.” The king had scarcely ceased speaking when an usher lifted the tapestry, and stood with a paper in his hand, waiting for the king to speak to him.

“What have you there?” asked the king.

“A message from M. de Mazarin,” replied the usher.

“Give it to me,” said the king; and he took the paper. But at the moment he was about to open it, there was a great noise in the gallery, the antechamber, and the court.

“Ah, ah,” said Louis XIV, who doubtless knew the meaning of that triple noise. “How could I say there was but one king in France! I was mistaken, there are two.”

As he spoke or thought thus, the door opened, and the superintendent of finances, Fouquet, appeared before his nominal master. It was he who made the noise in the antechamber, it was his horse that made the noise in the courtyard. In addition to all this, a loud murmur was heard along his passage, which did not die away till some time after he had passed. It was this murmur which Louis XIV regretted so deeply not hearing as he passed, and dying away behind him.

“He is not precisely a king, as you fancy,” said Anne of Austria to her son; “he is only a man who is much too rich⁠—that is all.”

Whilst saying these words, a bitter feeling gave to these words of the queen a most hateful expression; whereas the brow of the king, calm and self-possessed, on the contrary, was without the slightest wrinkle. He nodded, therefore, familiarly to Fouquet, whilst he continued to unfold the paper given to him by the usher. Fouquet perceived this movement, and with a politeness at once easy and respectful, advanced towards the queen, so as not to disturb the king. Louis had opened the paper, and yet he did not read it. He listened to Fouquet paying the most charming compliments to the queen upon her hand and arm. Anne of Austria’s frown relaxed a little, she even almost smiled. Fouquet perceived that the king, instead of reading, was looking at him; he turned half round, therefore, and while continuing his conversation with the queen, faced the king.

“You know, Monsieur Fouquet,” said Louis, “how ill M. Mazarin is?”

“Yes, sire, I know that,” said Fouquet; “in fact, he is very ill. I was at my country-house of Vaux when the news reached me; and the affair seemed so pressing that I left at once.”

“You left Vaux this evening, Monsieur?”

“An hour and a half ago, yes, Your Majesty,” said Fouquet, consulting a watch, richly ornamented with diamonds.

“An hour and a half!” said the king, still able to restrain his anger, but not to conceal his astonishment.

“I understand you, sire. Your Majesty doubts my word, and you have reason to do so; but I have really come in that time, though it is wonderful! I received from England three pairs of very fast horses, as I had been assured. They were placed at distances of four leagues apart, and I tried them this evening. They really brought me from Vaux to the Louvre in an hour and a half, so Your Majesty sees I have not been cheated.” The queen-mother smiled with something like secret envy. But Fouquet caught her thought. “Thus, Madame,” he promptly said, “such horses are made for kings, not for subjects; for kings ought never to yield to anyone in anything.”

The king looked up.

“And yet,” interrupted Anne of Austria, “you are not a king, that I know of, M. Fouquet.”

“Truly not, Madame; therefore the horses only await the orders of His Majesty to enter the royal stables; and if I allowed myself to try them, it was only for fear of offering to the king anything that was not positively wonderful.”

The king became quite red.

“You know, Monsieur Fouquet,” said the queen, “that at the court of France it is not the custom for a subject to offer anything to his king.”

Louis started.

“I hoped, Madame,” said Fouquet, much agitated, “that my love for His Majesty, my incessant desire to please him, would serve to compensate the want of etiquette. It was not so much a present that I permitted myself to offer, as the tribute I paid.”

“Thank you, Monsieur Fouquet,” said the king politely, “and I am gratified by your intention, for I love good horses; but you know I am not very rich; you, who are my superintendent of finances, know it better than anyone else. I am not able, then, however willing I may be, to purchase such a valuable set of horses.”

Fouquet darted a haughty glance at the queen-mother, who appeared to triumph at the false position in which the minister had placed himself, and replied:⁠—

“Luxury is the virtue of kings, sire: it is luxury which makes them resemble God; it is by luxury they are more than other men. With luxury a king nourishes his subjects, and honors them. Under the mild heat of this luxury of kings springs the luxury of individuals, a source of riches for the people. His Majesty, by accepting the gift of these six incomparable horses, would stimulate the pride of his own breeders, of Limousin, Perche, and Normandy; and this emulation would have been beneficial to all. But the king is silent, and consequently I am condemned.”

During this speech, Louis was, unconsciously, folding and unfolding Mazarin’s paper, upon which he had not cast his eyes. At length he glanced upon it, and uttered a faint cry at reading the first line.

“What is the matter, my son?” asked the queen, anxiously, and going towards the king.

“From the cardinal,” replied the king, continuing to read; “yes, yes, it is really from him.”

“Is he worse, then?”

“Read!” said the king, passing the parchment to his mother, as if he thought that nothing less than reading would convince Anne of Austria of a thing so astonishing as was conveyed in that paper.

Anne of Austria read in turn, and as she read, her eyes sparkled with joy all the greater from her useless endeavor to hide it, which attracted the attention of Fouquet.

“Oh! a regularly drawn up deed of gift,” said she.

“A gift?” repeated Fouquet.

“Yes,” said the king, replying pointedly to the superintendent of finances, “yes, at the point of death, Monsieur le Cardinal makes me a donation of all his wealth.”

“Forty millions,” cried the queen. “Oh, my son! this is very noble on the part of His Eminence, and will silence all malicious rumors; forty millions scraped together slowly, coming back all in one heap to the treasury! It is the act of a faithful subject and a good Christian.” And having once more cast her eyes over the act, she restored it to Louis XIV, whom the announcement of the sum greatly agitated. Fouquet had taken some steps backwards and remained silent. The king looked at him, and held the paper out to him, in turn. The superintendent only bestowed a haughty look of a second upon it; then bowing⁠—“Yes, sire,” said he, “a donation, I see.”

“You must reply to it, my son,” said Anne of Austria; “you must reply to it, and immediately.”

“But how, Madame?”

“By a visit to the cardinal.”

“Why, it is but an hour since I left His Eminence,” said the king.

“Write, then, sire.”

“Write!” said the young king, with evident repugnance.

“Well!” replied Anne of Austria, “it seems to me, my son, that a man who has just made such a present, has a good right to expect to be thanked for it with some degree of promptitude.” Then turning towards Fouquet: “Is not that likewise your opinion, Monsieur?”

“That the present is worth the trouble? Yes, Madame,” said Fouquet, with a lofty air that did not escape the king.

“Accept, then, and thank him,” insisted Anne of Austria.

“What says M. Fouquet?” asked Louis XIV.

“Does Your Majesty wish to know my opinion?”

“Yes.”

“Thank him, sire⁠—”

“Ah!” said the queen.

“But do not accept,” continued Fouquet.

“And why not?” asked the queen.

“You have yourself said why, Madame,” replied Fouquet; “because kings cannot and ought not to receive presents from their subjects.”

The king remained silent between these two contrary opinions.

“But forty millions!” said Anne of Austria, in the same tone as that in which, at a later period, poor Marie Antoinette replied, “You will tell me as much!”

“I know,” said Fouquet, laughing, “forty millions makes a good round sum⁠—such a sum as could almost tempt a royal conscience.”

“But, Monsieur,” said Anne of Austria, “instead of persuading the king not to receive this present, recall to His Majesty’s mind, you, whose duty it is, that these forty millions are a fortune to him.”

“It is precisely, Madame, because these forty millions would be a fortune that I will say to the king, ‘Sire, if it be not decent for a king to accept from a subject six horses, worth twenty thousand livres, it would be disgraceful for him to owe a fortune to another subject, more or less scrupulous in the choice of the materials which contributed to the building up of that fortune.’ ”

“It ill becomes you, Monsieur, to give your king a lesson,” said Anne of Austria; “better procure for him forty millions to replace those you make him lose.”

“The king shall have them whenever he wishes,” said the superintendent of finances, bowing.

“Yes, by oppressing the people,” said the queen.

“And were they not oppressed, Madame,” replied Fouquet, “when they were made to sweat the forty millions given by this deed? Furthermore, His Majesty has asked my opinion, I have given it; if His Majesty ask my concurrence, it will be the same.”

“Nonsense! accept, my son, accept,” said Anne of Austria. “You are above reports and interpretations.”

“Refuse, sire,” said Fouquet. “As long as a king lives, he has no other measure but his conscience⁠—no other judge than his own desires; but when dead, he has posterity, which applauds or accuses.”

“Thank you, mother,” replied Louis, bowing respectfully to the queen. “Thank you Monsieur Fouquet,” said he, dismissing the superintendent civilly.

“Do you accept?” asked Anne of Austria, once more.

“I shall consider of it,” replied he, looking at Fouquet.

CHAPTER 48

Agony
The day that the deed of gift had been sent to the king, the cardinal caused himself to be transported to Vincennes. The king and the court followed him thither. The last flashes of this torch still cast splendor enough around to absorb all other lights in its rays. Besides, as it has been seen, the faithful satellite of his minister, young Louis XIV, marched to the last minute in accordance with his gravitation. The disease, as Guénaud had predicted, had become worse; it was no longer an attack of gout, it was an attack of death; then there was another thing which made that agony more agonizing still⁠—and that was the agitation brought into his mind by the donation he had sent to the king, and which, according to Colbert, the king ought to send back unaccepted to the cardinal. The cardinal had, as we have said, great faith in the predictions of his secretary; but the sum was a large one, and whatever might be the genius of Colbert, from time to time the cardinal thought to himself that the Théatin also might possibly have been mistaken, and there was at least as much chance of his not being damned, as there was of Louis XIV sending back his millions.

Besides, the longer the donation was in coming back, the more Mazarin thought that forty millions were worth a little risk, particularly of so hypothetic a thing as the soul. Mazarin, in his character of cardinal and prime minister, was almost an atheist, and quite a materialist. Every time that the door opened, he turned sharply round towards that door, expecting to see the return of his unfortunate donation; then, deceived in his hope, he fell back again with a sigh, and found his pains so much the greater for having forgotten them for an instant.

Anne of Austria had also followed the cardinal; her heart, though age had made it selfish, could not help evincing towards the dying man a sorrow which she owed him as a wife, according to some; and as a sovereign, according to others. She had, in some sort, put on a mourning countenance beforehand, and all the court wore it as she did.

Louis, in order not to show on his face what was passing at the bottom of his heart, persisted in remaining in his own apartments, where his nurse alone kept him company; the more he saw the approach of the time when all constraint would be at an end, the more humble and patient he was, falling back upon himself, as all strong men do when they form great designs, in order to gain more spring at the decisive moment. Extreme unction had been administered to the cardinal, who, faithful to his habits of dissimulation, struggled against appearances, and even against reality, receiving company in his bed, as if he only suffered from a temporary complaint.

Guénaud, on his part, preserved profound secrecy; wearied with visits and questions, he answered nothing but “His Eminence is still full of youth and strength, but God wills that which He wills, and when He has decided that man is to be laid low, he will be laid low.” These words, which he scattered with a sort of discretion, reserve, and preference, were commented upon earnestly by two persons⁠—the king and the cardinal. Mazarin, notwithstanding the prophecy of Guénaud, still lured himself with a hope, or rather played his part so well, that the most cunning, when saying that he lured himself, proved that they were his dupes.

Louis, absent from the cardinal for two days; Louis, with his eyes fixed upon that same donation which so constantly preoccupied the cardinal; Louis did not exactly know how to make out Mazarin’s conduct. The son of Louis XIII, following the paternal traditions, had, up to that time, been so little of a king that, whilst ardently desiring royalty, he desired it with that terror which always accompanies the unknown. Thus, having formed his resolution, which, besides, he communicated to nobody, he determined to have an interview with Mazarin. It was Anne of Austria, who, constant in her attendance upon the cardinal, first heard this proposition of the king’s, and transmitted it to the dying man, whom it greatly agitated. For what purpose could Louis wish for an interview? Was it to return the deed, as Colbert had said he would? Was it to keep it, after thanking him, as Mazarin thought he would? Nevertheless, as the dying man felt that the uncertainty increased his torments, he did not hesitate an instant.

“His Majesty will be welcome⁠—yes, very welcome,” cried he, making a sign to Colbert, who was seated at the foot of the bed, and which the latter understood perfectly. “Madame,” continued Mazarin, “will Your Majesty be good enough to assure the king yourself of the truth of what I have just said?”

Anne of Austria rose; she herself was anxious to have the question of the forty millions settled⁠—the question which seemed to lie heavy on the mind of everyone. Anne of Austria went out; Mazarin made a great effort, and, raising himself up towards Colbert: “Well, Colbert,” said he, “two days have passed away⁠—two mortal days⁠—and, you see, nothing has been returned from yonder.”

“Patience, my lord,” said Colbert.

“Are you mad, you wretch? You advise me to have patience! Oh, in sad truth, Colbert, you are laughing at me. I am dying and you call out to me to wait!”

“My lord,” said Colbert, with his habitual coolness, “it is impossible that things should not come out as I have said. His Majesty is coming to see you, and no doubt he brings back the deed himself.”

“Do you think so? Well, I, on the contrary, am sure that His Majesty is coming to thank me.”

At this moment Anne of Austria returned. On her way to the apartments of her son she had met with a new empiric. This was a powder which was said to have power to save the cardinal; and she brought a portion of this powder with her. But this was not what Mazarin expected; therefore he would not even look at it, declaring that life was not worth the pains that were taken to preserve it. But, whilst professing this philosophical axiom, his long-confined secret escaped him at last.

“That, Madame,” said he, “that is not the interesting part of my situation. I made, two days ago, a little donation to the king; up to this time, from delicacy, no doubt, His Majesty has not condescended to say anything about it; but the time for explanation is come, and I implore Your Majesty to tell me if the king has made up his mind on that matter.”

Anne of Austria was about to reply, when Mazarin stopped her.

“The truth, Madame,” said he⁠—“in the name of Heaven, the truth! Do not flatter a dying man with a hope that may prove vain.” There he stopped, a look from Colbert telling him he was on the wrong track.

“I know,” said Anne of Austria, taking the cardinal’s hand, “I know that you have generously made, not a little donation, as you modestly call it, but a magnificent gift. I know how painful it would be to you if the king⁠—”

Mazarin listened, dying as he was, as ten living men could not have listened.

“If the king⁠—” replied he.

“If the king,” continued Anne of Austria, “should not freely accept what you offer so nobly.”

Mazarin allowed himself to sink back upon his pillow like Pantaloon; that is to say, with all the despair of a man who bows before the tempest; but he still preserved sufficient strength and presence of mind to cast upon Colbert one of those looks which are well worth ten sonnets, which is to say, ten long poems.

“Should you not,” added the queen, “have considered the refusal of the king as a sort of insult?” Mazarin rolled his head about upon his pillow, without articulating a syllable. The queen was deceived, or feigned to be deceived, by this demonstration.

“Therefore,” resumed she, “I have circumvented him with good counsels; and as certain minds, jealous, no doubt, of the glory you are about to acquire by this generosity, have endeavored to prove to the king that he ought not to accept this donation, I have struggled in your favor, and so well I have struggled, that you will not have, I hope, that distress to undergo.”

“Ah!” murmured Mazarin, with languishing eyes, “ah! that is a service I shall never forget for a single minute of the few hours I still have to live.”

“I must admit,” continued the queen, “that it was not without trouble I rendered it to Your Eminence.”

“Ah, peste! I believe that. Oh! oh!”

“Good God! what is the matter?”

“I am burning!”

“Do you suffer much?”

“As much as one of the damned.”

Colbert would have liked to sink through the floor.

“So, then,” resumed Mazarin, “Your Majesty thinks that the king⁠—” he stopped several seconds⁠—“that the king is coming here to offer me some small thanks?”

“I think so,” said queen. Mazarin annihilated Colbert with his last look.

At that moment the ushers announced that the king was in the antechambers, which were filled with people. This announcement produced a stir of which Colbert took advantage to escape by the door of the ruelle. Anne of Austria arose, and awaited her son, standing. Louis XIV appeared at the threshold of the door, with his eyes fixed upon the dying man, who did not even think it worth while to notice that majesty from whom he thought he had nothing more to expect. An usher placed an armchair close to the bed. Louis bowed to his mother, then to the cardinal, and sat down. The queen took a seat in her turn.

Then, as the king looked behind him, the usher understood that look, and made a sign to the courtiers who filled up the doorway to go out, which they instantly did. Silence fell upon the chamber with the velvet curtains. The king, still very young, and very timid in the presence of him who had been his master from his birth, still respected him much, particularly now, in the supreme majesty of death. He did not dare, therefore, to begin the conversation, feeling that every word must have its weight not only upon things of this world, but of the next. As to the cardinal, at that moment he had but one thought⁠—his donation. It was not physical pain which gave him that air of despondency, and that lugubrious look; it was the expectation of the thanks that were about to issue from the king’s mouth, and cut off all hope of restitution. Mazarin was the first to break the silence. “Is Your Majesty come to make any stay at Vincennes?” said he.

Louis made an affirmative sign with his head.

“That is a gracious favor,” continued Mazarin, “granted to a dying man, and which will render death less painful to him.”

“I hope,” replied the king, “I am come to visit, not a dying man, but a sick man, susceptible of cure.”

Mazarin replied by a movement of the head.

“Your Majesty is very kind; but I know more than you on that subject. The last visit, sire,” said he, “the last visit.”

“If it were so, Monsieur le Cardinal,” said Louis, “I would come a last time to ask the counsels of a guide to whom I owe everything.”

Anne of Austria was a woman; she could not restrain her tears. Louis showed himself much affected, and Mazarin still more than his two guests, but from very different motives. Here the silence returned. The queen wiped her eyes, and the king resumed his firmness.

“I was saying,” continued the king, “that I owed much to Your Eminence.” The eyes of the cardinal had devoured the king, for he felt the great moment had come. “And,” continued Louis, “the principal object of my visit was to offer you very sincere thanks for the last evidence of friendship you have kindly sent me.”

The cheeks of the cardinal became sunken, his lips partially opened, and the most lamentable sigh he had ever uttered was about to issue from his chest.

“Sire,” said he, “I shall have despoiled my poor family; I shall have ruined all who belong to me, which may be imputed to me as an error; but, at least, it shall not be said of me that I have refused to sacrifice everything to my king.”

Anne of Austria’s tears flowed afresh.

“My dear Monsieur Mazarin,” said the king, in a more serious tone than might have been expected from his youth, “you have misunderstood me, apparently.”

Mazarin raised himself upon his elbow.

“I have no purpose to despoil your dear family, nor to ruin your servants. Oh, no, that must never be!”

Humph! thought Mazarin, he is going to restore me some scraps; let us get the largest piece we can.

The king is going to be foolishly affected and play generous, thought the queen; he must not be allowed to impoverish himself; such an opportunity for getting a fortune will never occur again.

“Sire,” said the cardinal, aloud, “my family is very numerous, and my nieces will be destitute when I am gone.”

“Oh,” interrupted the queen, eagerly, “have no uneasiness with respect to your family, dear Monsieur Mazarin; we have no friends dearer than your friends; your nieces shall be my children, the sisters of His Majesty; and if a favor be distributed in France, it shall be to those you love.”

Smoke! thought Mazarin, who knew better than anyone the faith that can be put in the promises of kings. Louis read the dying man’s thought in his face.

“Be comforted, my dear Monsieur Mazarin,” said he, with a half-smile, sad beneath its irony; “the Mesdemoiselles de Mancini will lose, in losing you, their most precious good; but they shall none the less be the richest heiresses of France; and since you have been kind enough to give me their dowry”⁠—the cardinal was panting⁠—“I restore it to them,” continued Louis, drawing from his breast and holding towards the cardinal’s bed the parchment which contained the donation that, during two days, had kept alive such tempests in the mind of Mazarin.

“What did I tell you, my lord?” murmured in the alcove a voice which passed away like a breath.

“Your Majesty returns my donation!” cried Mazarin, so disturbed by joy as to forget his character of a benefactor.

“Your Majesty rejects the forty millions!” cried Anne of Austria, so stupefied as to forget her character of an afflicted wife, or queen.

“Yes, my Lord Cardinal; yes, Madame,” replied Louis XIV, tearing the parchment which Mazarin had not yet ventured to clutch; “yes, I annihilate this deed, which despoiled a whole family. The wealth acquired by His Eminence in my service is his own wealth and not mine.”

“But, sire, does Your Majesty reflect,” said Anne of Austria, “that you have not ten thousand crowns in your coffers?”

“Madame, I have just performed my first royal action, and I hope it will worthily inaugurate my reign.”

“Ah! sire, you are right!” cried Mazarin; “that is truly great⁠—that is truly generous which you have just done.” And he looked, one after the other, at the pieces of the act spread over his bed, to assure himself that it was the original and not a copy that had been torn. At length his eyes fell upon the fragment which bore his signature, and recognizing it, he sunk back on his bolster in a swoon. Anne of Austria, without strength to conceal her regret, raised her hands and eyes towards heaven.

“Oh! sire,” cried Mazarin, “may you be blessed! My God! May you be beloved by all my family. Per Baccho! If ever any of those belonging to me should cause your displeasure, sire, only frown, and I will rise from my tomb!”

This pantalonnade did not produce all the effect Mazarin had counted upon. Louis had already passed to considerations of a higher nature, and as to Anne of Austria, unable to bear, without abandoning herself to the anger she felt burning within her, the magnanimity of her son and the hypocrisy of the cardinal, she arose and left the chamber, heedless of thus betraying the extent of her grief. Mazarin saw all this, and fearing that Louis XIV might repent his decision, in order to draw attention another way he began to cry out, as, at a later period, Scapin was to cry out, in that sublime piece of pleasantry with which the morose and grumbling Boileau dared to reproach Molière. His cries, however, by degrees, became fainter; and when Anne of Austria left the apartment, they ceased altogether.

“Monsieur le Cardinal,” said the king, “have you any recommendations to make me?”

“Sire,” replied Mazarin, “you are already wisdom itself, prudence personified; of your generosity I shall not venture to speak; that which you have just done exceeds all that the most generous men of antiquity or of modern times have ever done.”

The king received this praise coldly.

“So you confine yourself,” said he, “to your thanks⁠—and your experience, much more extensive than my wisdom, my prudence, or my generosity, does not furnish you with a single piece of friendly advice to guide my future.” Mazarin reflected for a moment. “You have just done much for me, sire,” said he, “that is, for my family.”

“Say no more about that,” said the king.

“Well!” continued Mazarin, “I shall give you something in exchange for these forty millions you have refused so royally.”

Louis XIV indicated by a movement that these flatteries were displeasing to him. “I shall give you a piece of advice,” continued Mazarin; “yes, a piece of advice⁠—advice more precious than the forty millions.”

“My Lord Cardinal!” interrupted Louis.

“Sire, listen to this advice.”

“I am listening.”

“Come nearer, sire, for I am weak!⁠—nearer, sire, nearer!”

The king bent over the dying man. “Sire,” said Mazarin, in so low a tone that the breath of his words arrived only like a recommendation from the tomb in the attentive ears of the king⁠—“Sire, never have a prime minister.”

Louis drew back astonished. The advice was a confession⁠—a treasure, in fact, was that sincere confession of Mazarin. The legacy of the cardinal to the young king was composed of six words only, but those six words, as Mazarin had said, were worth forty millions. Louis remained for an instant bewildered. As for Mazarin, he appeared only to have said something quite natural. A little scratching was heard along the curtains of the alcove. Mazarin understood: “Yes, yes!” cried he, warmly, “yes, sire, I recommend to you a wise man, an honest man, and a clever man.”

“Tell me his name, my lord.”

“His name is yet almost unknown, sire; it is M. Colbert, my attendant. Oh! try him,” added Mazarin, in an earnest voice; “all that he has predicted has come to pass; he has a safe glance, he is never mistaken either in things or in men⁠—which is more surprising still. Sire, I owe you much, but I think I acquit myself of all towards you in giving you M. Colbert.”

“So be it,” said Louis, faintly, for, as Mazarin had said, the name of Colbert was quite unknown to him, and he thought the enthusiasm of the cardinal partook of the delirium of a dying man. The cardinal sank back on his pillows.

“For the present, adieu, sire! adieu,” murmured Mazarin. “I am tired, and I have yet a rough journey to take before I present myself to my new Master. Adieu, sire!”

The young king felt the tears rise to his eyes; he bent over the dying man, already half a corpse, and then hastily retired.

CHAPTER 49

The First Appearance of Colbert
The whole night was passed in anguish, common to the dying man and to the king: the dying man expected his deliverance, the king awaited his liberty. Louis did not go to bed. An hour after leaving the chamber of the cardinal, he learned that the dying man, recovering a little strength, had insisted upon being dressed, adorned and painted, and seeing the ambassadors. Like Augustus, he no doubt considered the world a great stage, and was desirous of playing out the last act of the comedy. Anne of Austria reappeared no more in the cardinal’s apartments; she had nothing more to do there. Propriety was the pretext for her absence. On his part, the cardinal did not ask for her: the advice the queen had given her son rankled in his heart.

Towards midnight, while still painted, Mazarin’s mortal agony came on. He had revised his will, and as this will was the exact expression of his wishes, and as he feared that some interested influence might take advantage of his weakness to make him change something in it, he had given orders to Colbert, who walked up and down the corridor which led to the cardinal’s bedchamber, like the most vigilant of sentinels. The king, shut up in his own apartment, dispatched his nurse every hour to Mazarin’s chamber, with orders to bring him back an exact bulletin of the cardinal’s state. After having heard that Mazarin was dressed, painted, and had seen the ambassadors, Louis herd that the prayers for the dying were being read for the cardinal. At one o’clock in the morning, Guénaud had administered the last remedy. This was a relic of the old customs of that fencing time, which was about to disappear to give place to another time, to believe that death could be kept off by some good secret thrust. Mazarin, after having taken the remedy, respired freely for nearly ten minutes. He immediately gave orders that the news should be spread everywhere of a fortunate crisis. The king, on learning this, felt as if a cold sweat were passing over his brow;⁠—he had had a glimpse of the light of liberty; slavery appeared to him more dark and less acceptable than ever. But the bulletin which followed entirely changed the face of things. Mazarin could no longer breathe at all, and could scarcely follow the prayers which the curé of Saint-Nicholas-des-Champs recited near him. The king resumed his agitated walk about his chamber, and consulted, as he walked, several papers drawn from a casket of which he alone had the key. A third time the nurse returned. M. de Mazarin had just uttered a joke, and had ordered his “Flora,” by Titian, to be revarnished. At length, towards two o’clock in the morning, the king could no longer resist his weariness: he had not slept for twenty-four hours. Sleep, so powerful at his age, overcame him for about an hour. But he did not go to bed for that hour; he slept in a fauteuil. About four o’clock his nurse awoke him by entering the room.

“Well?” asked the king.

“Well, my dear sire,” said the nurse, clasping her hands with an air of commiseration. “Well; he is dead!”

The king arose at a bound, as if a steel spring had been applied to his legs. “Dead!” cried he.

“Alas! yes.”

“Is it quite certain?”

“Yes.”

“Official?”

“Yes.”

“Has the news been made public?”

“Not yet.”

“Who told you, then, that the cardinal was dead?”

“M. Colbert.”

“M. Colbert?”

“Yes.”

“And he was sure of what he said?”

“He came out of the chamber, and had held a glass for some minutes before the cardinal’s lips.”

“Ah!” said the king. “And what is become of M. Colbert?”

“He has just left His Eminence’s chamber.”

“Where is he?”

“He followed me.”

“So that he is⁠—”

“Sire, waiting at your door, till it shall be your good pleasure to receive him.”

Louis ran to the door, opened it himself, and perceived Colbert standing waiting in the passage. The king started at sight of this statue, all clothed in black. Colbert, bowing with profound respect, advanced two steps towards His Majesty. Louis re-entered his chamber, making Colbert a sign to follow. Colbert entered; Louis dismissed the nurse, who closed the door as she went out. Colbert remained modestly standing near that door.

“What do you come to announce to me, Monsieur?” said Louis, very much troubled at being thus surprised in his private thoughts, which he could not completely conceal.

“That Monsieur le Cardinal has just expired, sire; and that I bring Your Majesty his last adieu.”

The king remained pensive for a minute; and during that minute he looked attentively at Colbert;⁠—it was evident that the cardinal’s last words were in his mind. “Are you, then, M. Colbert?” asked he.

“Yes, sire.”

“His faithful servant, as His Eminence himself told me?”

“Yes, sire.”

“The depositary of many of his secrets?”

“Of all of them.”

“The friends and servants of His Eminence will be dear to me, Monsieur, and I shall take care that you are well placed in my employment.”

Colbert bowed.

“You are a financier, Monsieur, I believe?”

“Yes, sire.”

“And did Monsieur le Cardinal employ you in his stewardship?”

“I had that honor, sire.”

“You never did anything personally for my household, I believe?”

“Pardon me, sire, it was I who had the honor of giving Monsieur le Cardinal the idea of an economy which puts three hundred thousand francs a year into Your Majesty’s coffers.”

“What economy was that, Monsieur?” asked Louis XIV.

“Your Majesty knows that the hundred Swiss have silver lace on each side of their ribbons?”

“Doubtless.”

“Well, sire, it was I who proposed that imitation silver lace should be placed upon these ribbons; it could not be detected, and a hundred thousand crowns serve to feed a regiment during six months; and is the price of ten thousand good muskets or the value of a vessel of ten guns, ready for sea.”

“That is true,” said Louis XIV, considering more attentively, “and, ma foi! that was a well placed economy; besides, it was ridiculous for soldiers to wear the same lace as noblemen.”

“I am happy to be approved of by Your Majesty.”

“Is that the only appointment you held about the cardinal?” asked the king.

“It was I who was appointed to examine the accounts of the superintendent, sire.”

“Ah!” said Louis, who was about to dismiss Colbert, but whom that word stopped; “ah! it was you whom His Eminence had charged to control M. Fouquet, was it? And the result of that examination?”

“Is that there is a deficit, sire; but if Your Majesty will permit me⁠—”

“Speak, M. Colbert.”

“I ought to give Your Majesty some explanations.”

“Not at all, Monsieur, it is you who have controlled these accounts; give me the result.”

“That is very easily done, sire: emptiness everywhere, money nowhere.”

“Beware, Monsieur; you are roughly attacking the administration of M. Fouquet, who, nevertheless, I have heard say, is an able man.”

Colbert colored, and then became pale, for he felt that from that minute he entered upon a struggle with a man whose power almost equaled the sway of him who had just died. “Yes, sire, a very able man,” repeated Colbert, bowing.

“But if M. Fouquet is an able man, and, in spite of that ability, if money be wanting, whose fault is it?”

“I do not accuse, sire, I verify.”

“That is well; make out your accounts, and present them to me. There is a deficit, you say? A deficit may be temporary; credit returns and funds are restored.”

“No, sire.”

“Upon this year, perhaps, I understand that; but upon next year?”

“Next year is eaten as bare as the current year.”

“But the year after, then?”

“Will be just like next year.”

“What do you tell me, Monsieur Colbert?”

“I say there are four years engaged beforehand.”

“They must have a loan, then.”

“They must have three, sire.”

“I will create offices to make them resign, and the salary of the posts shall be paid into the treasury.”

“Impossible, sire, for there have already been creations upon creations of offices, the provisions of which are given in blank, so that the purchasers enjoy them without filling them. That is why Your Majesty cannot make them resign. Further, upon each agreement M. Fouquet has made an abatement of a third, so that the people have been plundered, without Your Majesty profiting by it.”

The king started. “Explain me that, M. Colbert,” he said.

“Let Your Majesty set down clearly your thought, and tell me what you wish me to explain.”

“You are right, clearness is what you wish, is it not?”

“Yes, sire, clearness. God is God above all things, because He made light.”

“Well, for example,” resumed Louis XIV, “if today, the cardinal being dead, and I being king, suppose I wanted money?”

“Your Majesty would not have any.”

“Oh! that is strange, Monsieur! How! my superintendent would not find me any money?”

Colbert shook his large head.

“How is that?” said the king; “is the income of the state so much in debt that there is no longer any revenue?”

“Yes, sire.”

The king started. “Explain me that, M. Colbert,” added he with a frown. “If it be so, I will get together the ordonnances to obtain a discharge from the holders, a liquidation at a cheap rate.”

“Impossible, for the ordonnances have been converted into bills, which bills, for the convenience of return and facility of transaction, are divided into so many parts that the originals can no longer be recognized.”

Louis, very much agitated, walked about, still frowning. “But, if this is as you say, Monsieur Colbert,” said he, stopping all at once, “I shall be ruined before I begin to reign.”

“You are, in fact, sire,” said the impassible caster-up of figures.

“Well, but yet, Monsieur, the money is somewhere?”

“Yes, sire, and even as a beginning, I bring Your Majesty a note of funds which M. le Cardinal Mazarin was not willing to set down in his testament, neither in any act whatever, but which he confided to me.”

“To you?”

“Yes, sire, with an injunction to remit it to Your Majesty.”

“What! besides the forty millions of the testament?”

“Yes, sire.”

“M. de Mazarin had still other funds?”

Colbert bowed.

“Why, that man was a gulf!” murmured the king. “M. de Mazarin on one side, M. Fouquet on the other⁠—more than a hundred millions perhaps between them! No wonder my coffers should be empty!” Colbert waited without stirring.

“And is the sum you bring me worth the trouble?” asked the king.

“Yes, sire, it is a round sum.”

“Amounting to how much?”

“To thirteen millions of livres, sire.”

“Thirteen millions!” cried Louis, trembling with joy; “do you say thirteen millions, Monsieur Colbert?”

“I said thirteen millions, yes, Your Majesty.”

“Of which everybody is ignorant?”

“Of which everybody is ignorant.”

“Which are in your hands?”

“In my hands, yes, sire.”

“And which I can have?”

“Within two hours, sire.”

“But where are they, then?”

“In the cellar of a house which the cardinal possessed in the city, and which he was so kind as to leave me by a particular clause of his will.”

“You are acquainted with the cardinal’s will, then?”

“I have a duplicate of it, signed by his hand.”

“A duplicate?”

“Yes, sire, and here it is.” Colbert drew the deed quietly from his pocket, and showed it to the king. The king read the article relative to the donation of the house.

“But,” said he, “there is no question here but of the house; there is nothing said of the money.”

“Your pardon, sire, it is in my conscience.”

“And Monsieur Mazarin has entrusted it to you?”

“Why not, sire?”

“He! a man mistrustful of everybody?”

“He was not so of me, sire, as Your Majesty may perceive.”

Louis fixed his eyes with admiration upon that vulgar but expressive face. “You are an honest man, M. Colbert,” said the king.

“That is not a virtue, it is a duty,” replied Colbert, coolly.

“But,” added Louis, “does not the money belong to the family?”

“If this money belonged to the family it would be disposed of in the testament, as the rest of his fortune is. If this money belonged to the family, I, who drew up the deed of donation in favor of Your Majesty, should have added the sum of thirteen millions to that of forty millions which was offered to you.”

“How!” exclaimed Louis XIV, “was it you who drew up the deed of donation?”

“Yes, sire.”

“And yet the cardinal was attached to you?” added the king, ingenuously.

“I had assured His Eminence you would by no means accept the gift,” said Colbert, in that same quiet manner we have described, and which, even in the common habits of life, had something solemn in it.

Louis passed his hand over his brow: “Oh! how young I am,” murmured he, “to have command of men.”

Colbert waited the end of this monologue. He saw Louis raise his head. “At what hour shall I send the money to Your Majesty?” asked he.

“Tonight, at eleven o’clock; I desire that no one may know that I possess this money.”

Colbert made no more reply than if the thing had not been said to him.

“Is the amount in ingots, or coined gold?”

“In coined gold, sire.”

“That is well.”

“Where shall I send it?”

“To the Louvre. Thank you, M. Colbert.”

Colbert bowed and retired. “Thirteen millions!” exclaimed Louis, as soon as he was alone. “This must be a dream!” Then he allowed his head to sink between his hands, as if he were really asleep. But, at the end of a moment, he arose, and opening the window violently, he bathed his burning brow in the keen morning air, which brought to his senses the scent of the trees, and the perfume of the flowers. A splendid dawn was gilding the horizon, and the first rays of the sun bathed in flame the young king’s brow. “This is the dawn of my reign,” murmured Louis XIV. “It’s a presage sent by the Almighty.”

CHAPTER 50

The First Day of the Royalty of Louis XIV
In the morning, the news of the death of the cardinal was spread through the castle, and thence speedily reached the city. The ministers Fouquet, Lyonne, and Letellier entered la salle des séances, to hold a council. The king sent for them immediately. “Messieurs,” said he, “as long as Monsieur le Cardinal lived, I allowed him to govern my affairs; but now I mean to govern them myself. You will give me your advice when I ask it. You may go.”

The ministers looked at each other with surprise. If they concealed a smile it was with a great effort, for they knew that the prince, brought up in absolute ignorance of business, by this took upon himself a burden much too heavy for his strength. Fouquet took leave of his colleagues upon the stairs, saying:⁠—“Messieurs! there will be so much the less labor for us.”

And he gayly climbed into his carriage. The others, a little uneasy at the turn things had taken, went back to Paris together. Towards ten o’clock the king repaired to the apartment of his mother, with whom he had a long and private conversation. After dinner, he got into his carriage, and went straight to the Louvre. There he received much company, and took a degree of pleasure in remarking the hesitation of each, and the curiosity of all. Towards evening he ordered the doors of the Louvre to be closed, with the exception of only one, which opened on the quay. He placed on duty at this point two hundred Swiss, who did not speak a word of French, with orders to admit all who carried packages, but no others; and by no means to allow anyone to go out. At eleven o’clock precisely, he heard the rolling of a heavy carriage under the arch, then of another, then of a third; after which the gate grated upon its hinges to be closed. Soon after, somebody scratched with his nail at the door of the cabinet. The king opened it himself, and beheld Colbert, whose first word was this:⁠—“The money is in Your Majesty’s cellar.”

The king then descended and went himself to see the barrels of specie, in gold and silver, which, under the direction of Colbert, four men had just rolled into a cellar of which the king had given Colbert the key in the morning. This review completed, Louis returned to his apartments, followed by Colbert, who had not apparently warmed with one ray of personal satisfaction.

“Monsieur,” said the king, “what do you wish that I should give you, as a recompense for this devotedness and probity?”

“Absolutely nothing, sire.”

“How! nothing? Not even an opportunity of serving me?”

“If Your Majesty were not to furnish me with that opportunity, I should not the less serve you. It is impossible for me not to be the best servant of the king.”

“You shallmj be intendant of the finances, M. Colbert.”

“But there is already a superintendent, sire.”

“I know that.”

“Sire, the superintendent of the finances is the most powerful man in the kingdom.”

“Ah!” cried Louis, coloring, “do you think so?”

“He will crush me in a week, sire. Your Majesty gives me a contrôle for which strength is indispensable. An intendant under a superintendent⁠—that is inferiority.”

“You want support⁠—you do not reckon upon me?”

“I had the honor of telling Your Majesty, that during the lifetime of M. de Mazarin, M. Fouquet was the second man in the kingdom; now M. de Mazarin is dead, M. Fouquet is become the first.”

“Monsieur, I agree to what you told me of all things up to today; but tomorrow, please to remember, I shall no longer suffer it.”

“Then I shall be of no use to Your Majesty?”

“You are already, since you fear to compromise yourself in serving me.”

“I only fear to be placed so that I cannot serve Your Majesty.”

“What do you wish, then?”

“I wish Your Majesty to allow me assistance in the labors of the office of intendant.”

“That post would lose its value.”

“It would gain in security.”

“Choose your colleagues.”

“Messieurs Breteuil, Marin, Hervart.”

“Tomorrow the ordonnance shall appear.”

“Sire, I thank you.”

“Is that all you ask?”

“No, sire, one thing more.”

“What is that?”

“Allow me to compose a chamber of justice.”

“What would this chamber of justice do?”

“Try the farmers-general and contractors, who, during ten years, have been robbing the state.”

“Well, but what would you do with them?”

“Hang two or three, and that would make the rest disgorge.”

“I cannot commence my reign with executions, Monsieur Colbert.”

“On the contrary, sire, you had better, in order not to have to end with them.”

The king made no reply. “Does Your Majesty consent?” said Colbert.

“I will reflect upon it, Monsieur.”

“It will be too late when reflection may be made.”

“Why?”

“Because you have to deal with people stronger than ourselves, if they are warned.”

“Compose that chamber of justice, Monsieur.”

“I will, sire.”

“Is that all?”

“No, sire; there is still another important affair. What rights does Your Majesty attach to this office of intendant?”

“Well⁠—I do not know⁠—the customary ones.”

“Sire, I desire that this office be invested with the right of reading the correspondence with England.”

“Impossible, Monsieur, for that correspondence is kept from the council; Monsieur le Cardinal himself carried it on.”

“I thought Your Majesty had this morning declared that there should no longer be a council?”

“Yes, I said so.”

“Let Your Majesty then have the goodness to read all the letters yourself, particularly those from England; I hold strongly to this article.”

“Monsieur, you shall have that correspondence, and render me an account of it.”

“Now, sire, what shall I do with respect to the finances?”

“Everything M. Fouquet has not done.”

“That is all I ask of Your Majesty. Thanks, sire, I depart in peace”; and at these words he took his leave. Louis watched his departure. Colbert was not yet a hundred paces from the Louvre when the king received a courier from England. After having looked at and examined the envelope, the king broke the seal precipitately, and found a letter from Charles II. The following is what the English prince wrote to his royal brother:⁠—

“Your Majesty must be rendered very uneasy by the illness of M. le Cardinal Mazarin; but the excess of danger can only prove of service to you. The cardinal is given over by his physician. I thank you for the gracious reply you have made to my communication touching the Princess Henrietta, my sister, and, in a week, the princess and her court will set out for Paris. It is gratifying to me to acknowledge the fraternal friendship you have evinced towards me, and to call you, more justly than ever, my brother. It is gratifying to me, above everything, to prove to Your Majesty how much I am interested in all that may please you. You are wrong in having Belle-Île-en-Mer secretly fortified. That is wrong. We shall never be at war against each other. That measure does not make me uneasy, it makes me sad. You are spending useless millions; tell your ministers so; and rest assured that I am well-informed; render me the same service, my brother, if occasion offers.”

The king rang his bell violently, and his valet de chambre appeared. “Monsieur Colbert is just gone; he cannot be far off. Let him be called back!” exclaimed he.

The valet was about to execute the order, when the king stopped him.

“No,” said he, “no; I see the whole scheme of that man. Belle-Isle belongs to M. Fouquet; Belle-Isle is being fortified: that is a conspiracy on the part of M. Fouquet. The discovery of that conspiracy is the ruin of the superintendent, and that discovery is the result of the correspondence with England: this is why Colbert wished to have that correspondence. Oh! but I cannot place all my dependence upon that man; he has a good head, but I must have an arm!” Louis, all at once, uttered a joyful cry. “I had,” said he, “a lieutenant of Musketeers!”

“Yes, sire⁠—Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“He quitted the service for a time.”

“Yes, sire.”

“Let him be found, and be here tomorrow the first thing in the morning.”

The valet de chambre bowed and went out.

“Thirteen millions in my cellar,” said the king; “Colbert carrying my purse and d’Artagnan my sword⁠—I am king.”

CHAPTER 51

A Passion
The day of his arrival, on returning from the Palais Royal, Athos, as we have seen, went straight to his hotel in the Rue Saint-Honoré. He there found the Vicomte de Bragelonne waiting for him in his chamber, chatting with Grimaud. It was not an easy thing to talk with this old servant. Two men only possessed the secret, Athos and d’Artagnan. The first succeeded, because Grimaud sought to make him speak himself; d’Artagnan, on the contrary, because he knew how to make Grimaud talk. Raoul was occupied in making him describe the voyage to England, and Grimaud had related it in all its details, with a limited number of gestures and eight words, neither more nor less. He had, at first, indicated by an undulating movement of his hand, that his master and he had crossed the sea. “Upon some expedition?” Raoul had asked.

Grimaud by bending down his head had answered, “Yes.”

“When Monsieur le Comte incurred much danger?” asked Raoul.

“Neither too much nor too little,” was replied by a shrug of the shoulders.

“But still, what sort of danger?” insisted Raoul.

Grimaud pointed to the sword; he pointed to the fire and to a musket that was hanging on the wall.

“Monsieur le Comte had an enemy there, then?” cried Raoul.

“Monck,” replied Grimaud.

“It is strange,” continued Raoul, “that Monsieur le Comte persists in considering me a novice, and not allowing me to partake the honor and danger of his adventure.”

Grimaud smiled. It was at this moment Athos came in. The host was lighting him up the stairs, and Grimaud, recognizing the step of his master, hastened to meet him, which cut short the conversation. But Raoul was launched on the sea of interrogatories, and did not stop. Taking both hands of the comte, with warm, but respectful tenderness⁠—“How is it, Monsieur,” said he, “that you have set out upon a dangerous voyage without bidding me adieu, without commanding the aid of my sword, of myself, who ought to be your support, now I have the strength; whom you have brought up like a man? Ah! Monsieur, can you expose me to the cruel trial of never seeing you again?”

“Who told you, Raoul,” said the comte, placing his cloak and hat in the hands of Grimaud, who had unbuckled his sword, “who told you that my voyage was a dangerous one?”

“I,” said Grimaud.

“And why did you do so?” said Athos, sternly.

Grimaud was embarrassed; Raoul came to his assistance, by answering for him. “It is natural, Monsieur, that our good Grimaud should tell me the truth in what concerns you. By whom should you be loved an supported, if not by me?”

Athos did not reply. He made a friendly motion to Grimaud, which sent him out of the room; he then seated himself in a fauteuil, whilst Raoul remained standing before him.

“But it is true,” continued Raoul, “that your voyage was an expedition, and that steel and fire threatened you?”

“Say no more about that, vicomte,” said Athos, mildly. “I set out hastily, it is true: but the service of King Charles II required a prompt departure. As to your anxiety, I thank you for it, and I know that I can depend on you. You have not wanted for anything, vicomte, in my absence, have you?”

“No, Monsieur, thank you.”

“I left orders with Blaisois to pay you a hundred pistoles, if you should stand in need of money.”

“Monsieur, I have not seen Blaisois.”

“You have been without money, then?”

“Monsieur, I had thirty pistoles left from the sale of the horses I took in my last campaign, and M. le Prince had the kindness to allow me to win two hundred pistoles at his play-table three months ago.”

“Do you play? I don’t like that, Raoul.”

“I never play, Monsieur; it was M. le Prince who ordered me to hold his cards at Chantilly⁠—one night when a courier came to him from the king. I won, and M. le Prince commanded me to take the stakes.”

“Is that a practice in the household, Raoul?” asked Athos with a frown.

“Yes, Monsieur; every week M. le Prince affords, upon one occasion or another, a similar advantage to one of his gentlemen. There are fifty gentlemen in His Highness’s household; it was my turn.”

“Very well! You went into Spain, then?”

“Yes, Monsieur, I made a very delightful and interesting journey.”

“You have been back a month, have you not?”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

“And in the course of that month?”

“In that month⁠—”

“What have you done?”

“My duty, Monsieur.”

“Have you not been home, to La Fère?”

Raoul colored. Athos looked at him with a fixed but tranquil expression.

“You would be wrong not to believe me,” said Raoul. “I feel that I colored, and in spite of myself. The question you did me the honor to ask me is of a nature to raise in me much emotion. I color, then, because I am agitated, not because I meditate a falsehood.”

“I know, Raoul, you never lie.”

“No, Monsieur.”

“Besides, my young friend, you would be wrong; what I wanted to say⁠—”

“I know quite well, Monsieur. You would ask me if I have not been to Blois?”

“Exactly so.”

“I have not been there; I have not even seen the person to whom you allude.”

Raoul’s voice trembled as he pronounced these words. Athos, a sovereign judge in all matters of delicacy, immediately added, “Raoul, you answer me with a painful feeling; you are unhappy.”

“Very, Monsieur; you have forbidden me to go to Blois, or to see Mademoiselle de La Vallière again.” Here the young man stopped. That dear name, so delightful to pronounce, made his heart bleed, although so sweet upon his lips.

“And I have acted rightly, Raoul.” Athos hastened to reply. “I am neither an unjust nor a barbarous father; I respect true love; but I look forward for you to a future⁠—an immense future. A new reign is about to break upon us like a fresh dawn. War calls upon a young king full of chivalric spirit. What is wanting to assist this heroic ardor is a battalion of young and free lieutenants who would rush to the fight with enthusiasm, and fall, crying: ‘Vive le Roi!’ instead of ‘Adieu, my dear wife.’ You understand that, Raoul. However brutal my reasoning may appear, I conjure you, then, to believe me, and to turn away your thoughts from those early days of youth in which you took up this habit of love⁠—days of effeminate carelessness, which soften the heart and render it incapable of consuming those strong bitter draughts called glory and adversity. Therefore, Raoul, I repeat to you, you should see in my counsel only the desire of being useful to you, only the ambition of seeing you prosper. I believe you capable of becoming a remarkable man. March alone, and you will march better, and more quickly.”

“You have commanded, Monsieur,” replied Raoul, “and I obey.”

“Commanded!” cried Athos. “Is it thus you reply to me? I have commanded you! Oh! you distort my words as you misconceive my intentions. I do not command you; I request you.”

“No, Monsieur, you have commanded,” said Raoul, persistently; “had you requested me, your request is even more effective than your order. I have not seen Mademoiselle de La Vallière again.”

“But you are unhappy! you are unhappy!” insisted Athos.

Raoul made no reply.

“I find you pale; I find you dull. The sentiment is strong, then?”

“It is a passion,” replied Raoul.

“No⁠—a habit.”

“Monsieur, you know I have traveled much, that I have passed two years far away from her. A habit would yield to an absence of two years, I believe; whereas, on my return, I loved not more, that was impossible, but as much. Mademoiselle de La Vallière is for me the one lady above all others; but you are for me a god upon earth⁠—to you I sacrifice everything.”

“You are wrong,” said Athos; “I have no longer any right over you. Age has emancipated you; you no longer even stand in need of my consent. Besides, I will not refuse my consent after what you have told me. Marry Mademoiselle de La Vallière, if you like.”

Raoul was startled, but suddenly: “You are very kind, Monsieur,” said he; “and your concession excites my warmest gratitude, but I will not accept it.”

“Then you now refuse?”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

“I will not oppose you in anything, Raoul.”

“But you have at the bottom of your heart an idea against this marriage: it is not your choice.”

“That is true.”

“That is sufficient to make me resist: I will wait.”

“Beware, Raoul! What you are now saying is serious.”

“I know it is, Monsieur; as I said, I will wait.”

“Until I die?” said Athos, much agitated.

“Oh! Monsieur,” cried Raoul, with tears in his eyes, “is it possible that you should wound my heart thus? I have never given you cause of complaint!”

“Dear boy, that is true,” murmured Athos, pressing his lips violently together to conceal the emotion of which he was no longer master. “No, I will no longer afflict you; only I do not comprehend what you mean by waiting. Will you wait till you love no longer?”

“Ah! for that!⁠—no, Monsieur. I will wait till you change your opinion.”

“I should wish to put the matter to a test, Raoul; I should like to see if Mademoiselle de La Vallière will wait as you do.”

“I hope so, Monsieur.”

“But, take care, Raoul! suppose she did not wait? Ah, you are young, so confiding, so loyal! Women are changeable.”

“You have never spoken ill to me of women, Monsieur; you have never had to complain of them; why should you doubt of Mademoiselle de La Vallière?”

“That is true,” said Athos, casting down his eyes; “I have never spoken ill to you of women; I have never had to complain of them; Mademoiselle de La Vallière never gave birth to a suspicion; but when we are looking forward, we must go even to exceptions, even to improbabilities! If, I say, Mademoiselle de La Vallière should not wait for you?”

“How, Monsieur?”

“If she turned her eyes another way.”

“If she looked favorably upon another, do you mean, Monsieur?” said Raoul, pale with agony.

“Exactly.”

“Well, Monsieur, I would kill him,” said Raoul, simply, “and all the men whom Mademoiselle de La Vallière should choose, until one of them had killed me, or Mademoiselle de La Vallière had restored me her heart.”

Athos started. “I thought,” resumed he, in an agitated voice, “that you called my just now your god, your law in this world.”

“Oh!” said Raoul, trembling, “you would forbid me the duel?”

“Suppose I did forbid it, Raoul?”

“You would not forbid me to hope, Monsieur; consequently you would not forbid me to die.”

Athos raised his eyes toward the vicomte. He had pronounced these words with the most melancholy inflection, accompanied by the most melancholy look. “Enough,” said Athos, after a long silence, “enough of this subject, upon which we both go too far. Live as well as you are able, Raoul, perform your duties, love Mademoiselle de La Vallière; in a word, act like a man, since you have attained the age of a man; only do not forget that I love you tenderly, and that you profess to love me.”

“Ah! Monsieur le Comte!” cried Raoul, pressing the hand of Athos to his heart.

“Enough, dear boy, leave me; I want rest. Apropos, M. d’Artagnan has returned from England with me; you owe him a visit.”

“I will pay it, Monsieur, with great pleasure. I love Monsieur d’Artagnan exceedingly.”

“You are right in doing so; he is a worthy man and a brave cavalier.”

“Who loves you dearly.”

“I am sure of that. Do you know his address?”

“At the Louvre, I suppose, or wherever the king is. Does he not command the Musketeers?”

“No; at present M. d’Artagnan is absent on leave; he is resting for awhile. Do not, therefore, seek him at the posts of his service. You will hear of him at the house of a certain Planchet.”

“His former lackey?”

“Exactly; turned grocer.”

“I know; Rue des Lombards?”

“Somewhere thereabouts, or Rue des Arcis.”

“I will find it, Monsieur⁠—I will find it.”

“You will say a thousand kind things to him, on my part, and ask him to come and dine with me before I set out for La Fère.”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

“Good-might, Raoul!”

“Monsieur, I see you wear an order I never saw you wear before; accept my compliments.”

“The Fleece!⁠—that is true. A bauble, my boy, which no longer amuses an old child like myself. Good night, Raoul!”

CHAPTER 52

D’Artagnan’s Lesson
Raoul did not meet with d’Artagnan the next day, as he had hoped. He only met with Planchet, whose joy was great at seeing the young man again, and who contrived to pay him two or three little soldierly compliments, savoring very little of the grocer’s shop. But as Raoul was returning the next day from Vincennes at the head of fifty dragoons confided to him by Monsieur le Prince, he perceived, in La Place Baudoyer, a man with his nose in the air, examining a house as we examine a horse we have a fancy to buy. This man, dressed in citizen costume buttoned up like a military pourpoint, a very small hat on his head, but a long shagreen-mounted sword by his side, turned his head as soon as he heard the steps of the horses, and left off looking at the house to look at the dragoons. It was simply M. d’Artagnan; d’Artagnan on foot; d’Artagnan with his hands behind him, passing a little review upon the dragoons, after having reviewed the buildings. Not a man, not a tag, not a horse’s hoof escaped his inspection. Raoul rode at the side of his troop; d’Artagnan perceived him the last. “Eh!” said he, “Eh! mordioux!

“I was not mistaken!” cried Raoul, turning his horse towards him.

“Mistaken⁠—no! Good day to you,” replied the ex-musketeer; whilst Raoul eagerly pressed the hand of his old friend. “Take care, Raoul,” said d’Artagnan, “the second horse of the fifth rank will lose a shoe before he gets to the Pont Marie; he has only two nails left in his off forefoot.”

“Wait a minute, I will come back,” said Raoul.

“Can you quit your detachment?”

“The cornet is there to take my place.”

“Then you will come and dine with me?”

“Most willingly, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“Be quick, then; leave your horse, or make them give me one.”

“I prefer coming back on foot with you.”

Raoul hastened to give notice to the cornet, who took his post; he then dismounted, gave his horse to one of the dragoons, and with great delight seized the arm of M. d’Artagnan, who had watched him during all these little evolutions with the satisfaction of a connoisseur.

“What, do you come from Vincennes?” said he.

“Yes, Monsieur le Chevalier.”

“And the cardinal?”

“Is very ill; it is even reported he is dead.”

“Are you on good terms with M. Fouquet?” asked d’Artagnan, with a disdainful movement of the shoulders, proving that the death of Mazarin did not affect him beyond measure.

“With M. Fouquet?” said Raoul; “I do not know him.”

“So much the worse! so much the worse! for a new king always seeks to get good men in his employment.”

“Oh! the king means no harm,” replied the young man.

“I say nothing about the crown,” cried d’Artagnan; “I am speaking of the king⁠—the king, that is M. Fouquet, if the cardinal is dead. You must contrive to stand well with M. Fouquet, if you do not wish to molder away all your life as I have moldered. It is true you have, fortunately, other protectors.”

“M. le Prince, for instance.”

“Worn out! worn out!”

“M. le Comte de la Fère?”

“Athos! Oh! that’s different; yes, Athos⁠—and if you have any wish to make your way in England, you cannot apply to a better person; I can even say, without too much vanity, that I myself have some credit at the court of Charles II. There is a king⁠—God speed him!”

“Ah!” cried Raoul, with the natural curiosity of wellborn young people, while listening to experience and courage.

“Yes, a king who amuses himself, it is true, but who has had a sword in his hand, and can appreciate useful men. Athos is on good terms with Charles II. Take service there, and leave these scoundrels of contractors and farmers-general, who steal as well with French hands as others have done with Italian hands; leave the little snivelling king, who is going to give us another reign of Francis II. Do you know anything of history, Raoul?”

“Yes, Monsieur le Chevalier.”

“Do you know, then, that Francis II had always the earache?”

“No, I did not know that.”

“That Charles IV had always the headache?”

“Indeed!”

“And Henry III had always the stomachache?”

Raoul began to laugh.

“Well, my dear friend, Louis XIV always has the heartache; it is deplorable to see a king sighing from morning till night without saying once in the course of the day, ventre-saint-griscorboef! or anything to rouse one.”

“Was that the reason why you quitted the service, Monsieur le Chevalier?”

“Yes.”

“But you yourself, M. d’Artagnan, are throwing the handle after the axe; you will not make a fortune.”

“Who? I?” replied d’Artagnan, in a careless tone; “I am settled⁠—I had some family property.”

Raoul looked at him. The poverty of d’Artagnan was proverbial. A Gascon, he exceeded in ill-luck all the gasconnades of France and Navarre; Raoul had a hundred times heard Job and d’Artagnan named together, as the twins Romulus and Remus. D’Artagnan caught Raoul’s look of astonishment.

“And has not your father told you I have been in England?”

“Yes, Monsieur le Chevalier.”

“And that I there met with a very lucky chance?”

“No, Monsieur, I did not know that.”

“Yes, a very worthy friend of mine, a great nobleman, the viceroy of Scotland and Ireland, has endowed me with an inheritance.”

“An inheritance?”

“And a good one, too.”

“Then you are rich?”

“Bah!”

“Receive my sincere congratulation.”

“Thank you! Look, that is my house.”

“Place de Grève?”

“Yes; don’t you like this quarter?”

“On the contrary, the lookout over the water is pleasant. Oh! what a pretty old house!”

“The sign Notre Dame; it is an old cabaret, which I have transformed into a private house in two days.”

“But the cabaret is still open?”

Pardieu!

“And where do you lodge, then?”

“I? I lodge with Planchet.”

“You said, just now, ‘This is my house.’ ”

“I said so, because, in fact, it is my house. I have bought it.”

“Ah!” said Raoul.

“At ten years’ purchase, my dear Raoul; a superb affair; I bought the house for thirty thousand livres; it has a garden which opens to the Rue de la Mortillerie; the cabaret lets for a thousand livres, with the first story; the garret, or second floor, for five hundred livres.”

“Indeed!”

“Yes, indeed.”

“Five hundred livres for a garret? Why, it is not habitable.”

“Therefore no one inhabits it; only, you see, this garret has two windows which look out upon the Place.”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

“Well, then, every time anybody is broken on the wheel or hung, quartered, or burnt, these two windows let for twenty pistoles.”

“Oh!” said Raoul, with horror.

“It is disgusting, is it not?” said d’Artagnan.

“Oh!” repeated Raoul.

“It is disgusting, but so it is. These Parisian cockneys are sometimes real anthropophagi. I cannot conceive how men, Christians, can make such speculation.

“That is true.”

“As for myself,” continued d’Artagnan, “if I inhabited that house, on days of execution I would shut it up to the very keyholes; but I do not inhabit it.”

“And you let the garret for five hundred livres?”

“To the ferocious cabaretier, who sublets it. I said, then, fifteen hundred livres.”

“The natural interest of money,” said Raoul⁠—“five percent.”

“Exactly so. I then have left the side of the house at the back, storerooms, and cellars, inundated every winter, two hundred livres; and the garden, which is very fine, well planted, well shaded under the walls and the portal of Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais, thirteen hundred livres.”

“Thirteen hundred livres! why, that is royal!”

“This is the whole history. I strongly suspect some canon of the parish (these canons are all rich as Croesus)⁠—I suspect some canon of having hired the garden to take his pleasure in. The tenant has given the name of M. Godard. That is either a false name or a real name; if true, he is a canon; if false, he is some unknown; but of what consequence is it to me? he always pays in advance. I had also an idea just now, when I met you, of buying a house in the Place Baudoyer, the back premises of which join my garden, and would make a magnificent property. Your dragoons interrupted my calculations. But come, let us take the Rue de la Vannerie, that will lead us straight to M. Planchet’s.” D’Artagnan mended his pace, and conducted Raoul to Planchet’s dwelling, a chamber of which the grocer had given up to his old master. Planchet was out, but the dinner was ready. There was a remains of military regularity and punctuality preserved in the grocer’s household. D’Artagnan returned to the subject of Raoul’s future.

“Your father brings you up rather strictly?” said he.

“Justly, Monsieur le Chevalier.”

“Oh, yes, I know Athos is just; but close, perhaps?”

“A royal hand, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“Well, never want, my boy! If ever you stand in need of a few pistoles, the old musketeer is at hand.”

“My dear Monsieur d’Artagnan!”

“Do you play a little?”

“Never.”

“Successful with the ladies, then?⁠—Oh! my little Aramis! That, my dear friend, costs even more than play. It is true we fight when we lose; that is a compensation. Bah! that little sniveller, the king, makes winners give him his revenge. What a reign! my poor Raoul, what a reign! When we think that, in my time, the musketeers were besieged in their houses like Hector and Priam in the city of Troy; and the women wept, and then the walls laughed, and then five hundred beggarly fellows clapped their hands and cried, ‘Kill! kill!’ when not one musketeer was hurt. Mordioux! you will never see anything like that.”

“You are very hard upon the king, my dear Monsieur d’Artagnan and yet you scarcely know him.”

“I! Listen, Raoul. Day by day, hour by hour⁠—take note of my words⁠—I will predict what he will do. The cardinal being dead, he will fret; very well, that is the least silly thing he will do, particularly if he does not shed a tear.”

“And then?”

“Why, then he will get M. Fouquet to allow him a pension, and will go and compose verses at Fontainebleau, upon some Mancini or other, whose eyes the queen will scratch out. She is a Spaniard, you see⁠—this queen of ours; and she has, for mother-in-law, Madame Anne of Austria. I know something of the Spaniards of the house of Austria.”

“And next?”

“Well, after having torn the silver lace from the uniforms of his Swiss, because lace is too expensive, he will dismount the musketeers, because oats and hay of a horse cost five sols a day.”

“Oh! do not say that.”

“Of what consequence is it to me; I am no longer a musketeer, am I? Let them be on horseback, let them be on foot, let them carry a larding-pin, a spit, a sword, or nothing⁠—what is it to me?”

“My dear Monsieur d’Artagnan, I beseech you speak no more ill of the king. I am almost in his service, and my father would be very angry with me for having heard, even from your mouth, words injurious to His Majesty.”

“Your father, eh! He is a knight in every bad cause. Pardieu! yes, your father is a brave man, a Caesar, it is true⁠—but a man without perception.”

“Now, my dear chevalier,” exclaimed Raoul, laughing, “are you going to speak ill of my father, of him you call the great Athos? Truly you are in a bad vein today; riches render you as sour as poverty renders other people.”

Pardieu! you are right. I am a rascal and in my dotage; I am an unhappy wretch grown old; a tent-cord untwisted, a pierced cuirass, a boot without a sole, a spur without a rowel;⁠—but do me the pleasure to add one thing.”

“What is that, my dear Monsieur d’Artagnan?”

“Simply say: ‘Mazarin was a pitiful wretch.’ ”

“Perhaps he is dead.”

“More the reason⁠—I say was; if I did not hope that he was dead, I would entreat you to say: ‘Mazarin is a pitiful wretch.’ Come, say so, say so, for love of me.”

“Well, I will.”

“Say it!”

“Mazarin was a pitiful wretch,” said Raoul, smiling at the musketeer, who roared with laughter, as in his best days.

“A moment,” said the latter; “you have spoken my first proposition, here is the conclusion of it⁠—repeat, Raoul, repeat: ‘But I regret Mazarin.’ ”

“Chevalier!”

“You will not say it? Well, then, I will say it twice for you.”

“But you would regret Mazarin?”

And they were still laughing and discussing this profession of principles, when one of the shop-boys entered. “A letter, Monsieur,” said he, “for M. d’Artagnan.”

“Thank you; give it me,” cried the musketeer.

“The handwriting of Monsieur le Comte,” said Raoul.

“Yes, yes.” And d’Artagnan broke the seal.

“Dear friend,” said Athos, “a person has just been here to beg me to seek for you, on the part of the king.”

“Seek me!” said d’Artagnan, letting the paper fall upon the table. Raoul picked it up, and continued to read aloud:⁠—

“Make haste. His Majesty is very anxious to speak to you, and expects you at the Louvre.”

“Expects me?” again repeated the musketeer.

Hé, hé, hé!” laughed Raoul.

“Oh, oh!” replied d’Artagnan. “What the devil can this mean?”

CHAPTER 53

The King
The first moment of surprise over, d’Artagnan reperused Athos’s note. “It is strange,” said he, “that the king should send for me.”

“Why so?” said Raoul; “do you not think, Monsieur, that the king must regret such a servant as you?”

“Oh, oh!” cried the officer, laughing with all his might; “you are poking fun at me, Master Raoul. If the king had regretted me, he would not have let me leave him. No, no; I see in it something better, or worse, if you like.”

“Worse! What can that be, Monsieur le Chevalier?”

“You are young, you are a boy, you are admirable. Oh, how I should like to be as you are! To be but twenty-four, with an unfortunate brow, under which the brain is void of everything but women, love, and good intentions. Oh, Raoul, as long as you have not received the smiles of kings, the confidence of queens; as long as you have not had two cardinals killed under you, the one a tiger, the other a fox; as long as you have not⁠—But what is the good of all this trifling? We must part, Raoul.”

“How you say the word! What a serious face!”

“Eh! but the occasion is worthy of it. Listen to me. I have a very good recommendation to tender you.”

“I am all attention, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“You will go and inform your father of my departure.”

“Your departure?”

Pardieu! You will tell him I am gone into England; and that I am living in my little country-house.”

“In England, you!⁠—And the king’s orders?”

“You get more and more silly: do you imagine that I am going to the Louvre, to place myself at the disposal of that little crowned wolf-cub?”

“The king a wolf-cub? Why, Monsieur le Chevalier, you are mad!”

“On the contrary, I never was so sane. You do not know what he wants to do with me, this worthy son of Louis le Juste!⁠—But, mordioux! that is policy. He wishes to ensconce me snugly in the Bastille⁠—purely and simply, look you!”

“What for?” cried Raoul, terrified at what he heard.

“On account of what I told him one day at Blois. I was warm; he remembers it.”

“You told him what?”

“That he was mean, cowardly, and silly.”

“Good God!” cried Raoul, “is it possible that such words should have issued from your mouth?”

“Perhaps I don’t give the letter of my speech, but I give the sense of it.”

“But did not the king have you arrested immediately?”

“By whom? It was I who commanded the musketeers; he must have commanded me to convey myself to prison; I would never have consented: I would have resisted myself. And then I went into England⁠—no more d’Artagnan. Now, the cardinal is dead, or nearly so, they learn that I am in Paris, and they lay their hands on me.”

“The cardinal was your protector?”

“The cardinal knew me; he knew certain particularities of me; I also knew some of his; we appreciated each other mutually. And then, on rendering his soul to the devil, he would recommend Anne of Austria to make me the inhabitant of a safe place. Go, then, and find your father, relate the fact to him⁠—and adieu!”

“My dear Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said Raoul, very much agitated, after having looked out the window, “you cannot even fly!”

“Why not?”

“Because there is below an officer of the Swiss guards waiting for you.”

“Well?”

“Well, he will arrest you.”

D’Artagnan broke into a Homeric laugh.

“Oh! I know very well that you will resist, that you will fight, even; I know very well that you will prove the conqueror; but that amounts to rebellion, and you are an officer yourself, knowing what discipline is.”

“Devil of a boy, how logical that is!” grumbled d’Artagnan.

“You approve of it, do you not?”

“Yes, instead of passing into the street, where that idiot is waiting for me, I will slip quietly out at the back. I have a horse in the stable, and a good one. I will ride him to death; my means permit me to do so, and by killing one horse after another, I shall arrive at Boulogne in eleven hours; I know the road. Only tell your father one thing.”

“What is that?”

“That is⁠—that the thing he knows about is placed at Planchet’s house, except a fifth, and that⁠—”

“But, my dear d’Artagnan, rest assured that if you fly, two things will be said of you.”

“What are they, my dear friend?”

“The first, that you have been afraid.”

“Ah! and who will dare to say that?”

“The king first.”

“Well! but he will tell the truth⁠—I am afraid.”

“The second, that you knew yourself guilty.”

“Guilty of what?”

“Why, of the crimes they wish to impute to you.”

“That is true again. So, then, you advise me to go and get myself made a prisoner in the Bastille?”

“M. le Comte de la Fère would advise you just as I do.”

Pardieu! I know he would,” said d’Artagnan thoughtfully. “You are right, I shall not escape. But if they cast me into the Bastille?”

“We will get you out again,” said Raoul, with a quiet, calm air.

Mordioux! You said that after a brave fashion, Raoul,” said d’Artagnan, seizing his hand; “that savors of Athos, distinctly. Well, I will go, then. Do not forget my last word.”

“Except a fifth,” said Raoul.

“Yes, you are a fine boy! and I wish you to add one thing to that last word.”

“Speak, chevalier!”

“It is that if you cannot get me out of the Bastille, and I remain there⁠—Oh! that will be so, and I shall be a detestable prisoner; I, who have been a passable man⁠—in that case, I give three-fifths to you, and the fourth to your father.”

“Chevalier!”

Mordioux! If you will have some masses said for me, you are welcome.”

That being said, d’Artagnan took his belt from the hook, girded on his sword, took a hat the feather of which was fresh, and held his hand out to Raoul, who threw himself into his arms. When in the shop, he cast a quick glance at the shop-lads, who looked upon the scene with a pride mingled with some inquietude; then plunging his hands into a chest of currants, he went straight to the officer who was waiting for him at the door.

“Those features! Can it be you, Monsieur de Friedisch?” cried d’Artagnan, gayly. “Eh! eh! what, do we arrest our friends?”

“Arrest!” whispered the lads among themselves.

“Yes, it is I, Monsieur d’Artagnan! Good day to you!” said the Swiss, in his mountain patois.

“Must I give you up my sword? I warn you that it is long and heavy; you had better let me wear if to the Louvre: I feel quite lost in the streets without a sword, and you would be more at a loss that I should, with two.”

“The king has given me no orders about it,” replied the Swiss, “so keep your sword.”

“Well, that is very polite on the part of the king. Let us go, at once.”

Monsieur Friedisch was not a talker, and d’Artagnan had too many things to think about to say much. From Planchet’s shop to the Louvre was not far⁠—they arrived in ten minutes. It was a dark night. M. de Friedisch wanted to enter by the wicket. “No,” said d’Artagnan, “you would lose time by that; take the little staircase.”

The Swiss did as d’Artagnan advised, and conducted him to the vestibule of the king’s cabinet. When arrived there, he bowed to his prisoner, and, without saying anything, returned to his post. D’Artagnan had not had time to ask why his sword was not taken from him, when the door of the cabinet opened, and a valet de chambre called, “M. d’Artagnan!” The musketeer assumed his parade carriage, and entered, with his large eyes wide open, his brow calm, his moustache stiff. The king was seated at a table writing. He did not disturb himself when the step of the musketeer resounded on the floor; he did not even turn his head. D’Artagnan advanced as far as the middle of the room, and seeing that the king paid no attention to him, and suspecting, besides, that this was nothing but affectation, a sort of tormenting preamble to the explanation that was preparing, he turned his back on the prince, and began to examine the frescoes on the cornices, and the cracks in the ceiling. This maneuver was accompanied by a little tacit monologue. “Ah! you want to humble me, do you?⁠—you, whom I have seen so young⁠—you, whom I have saved as I would my own child⁠—you, whom I have served as I would a God⁠—that is to say, for nothing. Wait awhile! wait awhile! you shall see what a man can do who has suffered the air of the fire of the Huguenots, under the beard of Monsieur le Cardinal⁠—the true cardinal.” At this moment Louis turned round.

“Ah! are you there, Monsieur d’Artagnan?” said he.

D’Artagnan saw the movement and imitated it. “Yes, sire,” said he.

“Very well; have the goodness to wait till I have cast this up.”

D’Artagnan made no reply; he only bowed. That is polite enough, thought he; I have nothing to say.

Louis made a violent dash with his pen, and threw it angrily away.

Ah! go on, work yourself up! thought the musketeer; you will put me at my ease. You shall find I did not empty the bag, the other day, at Blois.

Louis rose from his seat, passed his hand over his brow, then, stopping opposite to d’Artagnan, he looked at him with an air at once imperious and kind, What the devil does he want with me? I wish he would begin! thought the musketeer.

“Monsieur,” said the king, “you know, without doubt, that Monsieur le Cardinal is dead?”

“I suspected so, sire.”

“You know that, consequently, I am master in my own kingdom?”

“That is not a thing that dates from the death of Monsieur le Cardinal, sire; a man is always master in his own house, when he wishes to be so.”

“Yes; but do you not remember all you said to me at Blois?”

Now we come to it, thought d’Artagnan; I was not deceived. Well, so much the better, it is a sign that my scent is tolerably keen yet.

“You do not answer me,” said Louis.

“Sire, I think I recollect.”

“You only think?”

“It is so long ago.”

“If you do not remember, I do. You said to me⁠—listen with attention.”

“Ah! I shall listen with all my ears, sire; for it is very likely the conversation will turn in a fashion very interesting to me.”

Louis once more looked at the musketeer. The latter smoothed the feather of his hat, then his mustache, and waited bravely. Louis XIV continued: “You quitted my service, Monsieur, after having told me the whole truth?”

“Yes, sire.”

“That is, after having declared to me all you thought to be true, with regard to my mode of thinking and acting. That is always a merit. You began by telling me that you had served my family thirty years, and were fatigued.”

“I said so; yes, sire.”

“And you afterwards admitted that that fatigue was a pretext, and that discontent was the real cause.”

“I was discontented, in fact; but that discontent has never betrayed itself, that I know of, and if, like a man of heart, I have spoken out before Your Majesty, I have not even thought of the matter before anybody else.”

“Do not excuse yourself, d’Artagnan, but continue to listen to me. When making me the reproach that you were discontented, you received in reply a promise:⁠—‘Wait.’⁠—Is that not true?”

“Yes, sire, as true as what I told you.”

“You answered me, ‘Hereafter! No, now, immediately.’ Do not excuse yourself, I tell you. It was natural, but you had no charity for your poor prince, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“Sire!⁠—charity for a king, on the part of a poor soldier!”

“You understand me very well; you knew that I stood in need of it; you knew very well that I was not master; you knew very well that my hope was in the future. Now, you answered me when I spoke of the future, ‘My discharge⁠—and that directly.’ ”

“That is true,” murmured d’Artagnan, biting his mustache.

“You did not flatter me when I was in distress,” added Louis.

“But,” said d’Artagnan, raising his head nobly, “if I did not flatter Your Majesty when poor, neither did I betray you. I have shed my blood for nothing; I have watched like a dog at a door, knowing full well that neither bread nor bone would be thrown to me. I, although poor likewise, asked nothing of Your Majesty but the discharge you speak of.”

“I know you are a brave man, but I was a young man, and you ought to have had some indulgence for me. What had you to reproach the king with?⁠—that he left King Charles II without assistance?⁠—let us say further⁠—that he did not marry Mademoiselle de Mancini?” When saying these words, the king fixed upon the musketeer a searching look.

Ah! ah! thought the latter, he is doing far more than remembering, he divines. The devil!

“Your sentence,” continued Louis, “fell upon the king and fell upon the man. But, Monsieur d’Artagnan, that weakness, for you considered it a weakness?”⁠—d’Artagnan made no reply⁠—“you reproached me also with regard to Monsieur, the defunct cardinal. Now, Monsieur le Cardinal, did he not bring me up, did he not support me?⁠—elevating himself and supporting himself at the same time, I admit; but the benefit was discharged. As an ingrate or an egotist, would you, then, have better loved or served me?”

“Sire!”

“We will say no more about it, Monsieur; it would only create in you too many regrets, and me too much pain.”

D’Artagnan was not convinced. The young king, in adopting a tone of hauteur with him, did not forward his purpose.

“You have since reflected?” resumed Louis.

“Upon what, sire?” asked d’Artagnan, politely.

“Why, upon all that I have said to you, Monsieur.”

“Yes, sire, no doubt⁠—”

“And you have only waited for an opportunity of retracting your words?”

“Sire!”

“You hesitate, it seems.”

“I do not understand what Your Majesty did me the honor to say to me.”

Louis’s brow became cloudy.

“Have the goodness to excuse me, sire; my understanding is particularly thick; things do not penetrate it without difficulty; but it is true, once they get in, they remain there.”

“Yes, yes; you appear to have a memory.”

“Almost as good a one as Your Majesty’s.”

“Then give me quickly one solution. My time is valuable. What have you been doing since your discharge?”

“Making my fortune, sire.”

“The expression is crude, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“Your Majesty takes it in bad part, certainly. I entertain nothing but the profoundest respect for the king; and if I have been impolite, which might be excused by my long sojourn in camps and barracks, Your Majesty is too much above me to be offended at a word that innocently escapes from a soldier.”

“In fact, I know you performed a brilliant action in England, Monsieur. I only regret that you have broken your promise.”

“I!” cried d’Artagnan.

“Doubtless. You engaged your word not to serve any other prince on quitting my service. Now it was for King Charles II that you undertook the marvelous carrying off of M. Monck.”

“Pardon me, sire; it was for myself.”

“And did you succeed?”

“Like the captains of the fifteenth century, coups de main and adventures.”

“What do you call succeeding?⁠—a fortune?”

“A hundred thousand crowns, sire, which I now possess⁠—that is, in one week three times as much money as I ever had in fifty years.”

“It is a handsome sum. But you are ambitious, I perceive.”

“I, sire? The quarter of that would be a treasure; and I swear to you I have no thought of augmenting it.”

“What! you contemplate remaining idle?”

“Yes, sire.”

“You mean to drop the sword?”

“That I have already done.”

“Impossible, Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said Louis, firmly.

“But, sire⁠—”

“Well?”

“And why, sire?”

“Because it is my wish you should not!” said the young prince, in a voice so stern and imperious that d’Artagnan evinced surprise and even uneasiness.

“Will Your Majesty allow me one word of reply?” said he.

“Speak.”

“I formed that resolution when I was poor and destitute.”

“So be it. Go on.”

“Now, when by my energy I have acquired a comfortable means of subsistence, would Your Majesty despoil me of my liberty? Your Majesty would condemn me to the lowest, when I have gained the highest?”

“Who gave you permission, Monsieur, to fathom my designs, or to reckon with me?” replied Louis, in a voice almost angry; “who told you what I shall do or what you will yourself do?”

“Sire,” said the musketeer, quietly, “as far as I see, freedom is not the order of the conversation, as it was on the day we came to an explanation at Blois.”

“No, Monsieur; everything is changed.”

“I tender Your Majesty my sincere compliments upon that, but⁠—”

“But you don’t believe it?”

“I am not a great statesman, and yet I have my eye upon affairs; it seldom fails; now, I do not see exactly as Your Majesty does, sire. The reign of Mazarin is over, but that of the financiers is begun. They have the money; Your Majesty will not often see much of it. To live under the paw of these hungry wolves is hard for a man who reckoned upon independence.”

At this moment someone scratched at the door of the cabinet; the king raised his head proudly. “Your pardon, Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said he; “it is M. Colbert, who comes to make me a report. Come in, M. Colbert.”

D’Artagnan drew back. Colbert entered with papers in his hand, and went up to the king. There can be little doubt that the Gascon did not lose the opportunity of applying his keen, quick glance to the new figure which presented itself.

“Is the inquiry made?”

“Yes, sire.”

“And the opinion of the inquisitors?”

“Is that the accused merit confiscation and death.”

“Ah! ah!” said the king, without changing countenance, and casting an oblique look at d’Artagnan. “And your own opinion, M. Colbert?” said he.

Colbert looked at d’Artagnan in his turn. That imposing countenance checked the words upon his lips. Louis perceived this. “Do not disturb yourself,” said he; “it is M. d’Artagnan⁠—do you not know M. d’Artagnan again?”

These two men looked at each other⁠—D’Artagnan, with eyes open and bright as the day⁠—Colbert, with his half-closed, and dim. The frank intrepidity of the financier annoyed the other; the circumspection of the financier disgusted the soldier. “Ah! ah! this is the gentleman who made that brilliant stroke in England,” said Colbert. And he bowed slightly to d’Artagnan.

“Ah! ah!” said the Gascon, “this is the gentleman who clipped off the lace from the uniform of the Swiss! A praiseworthy piece of economy.”

The financier thought to pierce the musketeer; but the musketeer ran the financier through.

“Monsieur d’Artagnan,” resumed the king, who had not remarked all the shades of which Mazarin would have missed not one, “this concerns the farmers of the revenue who have robbed me, whom I am hanging, and whose death-warrants I am about to sign.”

“Oh! oh!” said d’Artagnan, starting.

“What did you say?”

“Oh! nothing, sire. This is no business of mine.”

The king had already taken up the pen, and was applying it to the paper. “Sire,” said Colbert in a subdued voice, “I beg to warn Your Majesty, that if an example be necessary, there will be difficulty in the execution of your orders.”

“What do you say?” said Louis.

“You must not conceal from yourself,” continued Colbert quietly, “that attacking the farmers-general is attacking the superintendence. The two unfortunate guilty men in question are the particular friends of a powerful personage, and the punishment, which otherwise might be comfortably confined to the Châtelet, will doubtless be a signal for disturbances!”

Louis colored and turned towards d’Artagnan, who took a slight bite at his mustache, not without a smile of pity for the financier, and for the king who had to listen to him so long. But Louis seized the pen, and with a movement so rapid that his hand shook, he affixed his signature at the bottom of the two papers presented by Colbert⁠—then looking the latter in the face⁠—“Monsieur Colbert,” said he, “when you speak to me on business, exclude more frequently the word difficulty from your reasonings and opinions; as to the word impossibility, never pronounce it.”

Colbert bowed, much humiliated at having to undergo such a lesson before the musketeer; he was about to go out, but, jealous to repair his check: “I forgot to announce to Your Majesty,” said he, “that the confiscations amount to the sum of five millions of livres.”

That’s pretty well! thought d’Artagnan.

“Which makes in my coffers?” said the king.

“Eighteen millions of livres, sire,” replied Colbert, bowing.

Mordioux!” growled d’Artagnan, “that’s glorious!”

“Monsieur Colbert,” added the king, “you will, if you please, go through the gallery where M. Lyonne is waiting, and will tell him to bring hither what he has drawn up⁠—by my order.”

“Directly, sire; if Your Majesty wants me no more this evening?”

“No, Monsieur: good night!” And Colbert went out.

“Now, let us return to our affair, M. d’Artagnan,” said the king, as if nothing had happened. “You see that, with respect to money, there is already a notable change.”

“Something to the tune of from zero to eighteen millions,” replied the musketeer gayly. “Ah! that was what Your Majesty wanted the day King Charles II came to Blois. The two states would not have been embroiled today; for I must say, that there also I see another stumbling-block.”

“Well, in the first place,” replied Louis, “you are unjust, Monsieur; for, if Providence had made me able to give my brother the million that day, you would not have quitted my service, and, consequently, you would not have made your fortune, as you told me just now you have done. But, in addition to this, I have had another piece of good fortune; and my difference with Great Britain need not alarm you.”

A valet de chambre interrupted the king by announcing M. Lyonne. “Come in, Monsieur,” said the king; “you are punctual; that is like a good servant. Let us see your letter to my brother Charles II.”

D’Artagnan pricked up his ears. “A moment, Monsieur,” said Louis carelessly to the Gascon; “I must expedite to London my consent to the marriage of my brother, M. le Duc d’Anjou, with the Princess Henrietta Stuart.”

“He is knocking me about, it seems,” murmured d’Artagnan, whilst the king signed the letter, and dismissed M. de Lyonne; “but ma foi! the more he knocks me about in this manner, the better I like it.”

The king followed M. de Lyonne with his eyes, till the door was closed behind him; he even made three steps, as if he would follow the minister; but, after these three steps, stopping, passing, and coming back to the musketeer⁠—“Now, Monsieur,” said he, “let us hasten to terminate our affair. You told me the other day, at Blois, that you were not rich?”

“But I am now, sire.”

“Yes, but that does not concern me; you have your own money, not mine; that does not enter into my account.”

“I do not well understand what Your Majesty means.”

“Then, instead of leaving you to draw out words, speak spontaneously. Should you be satisfied with twenty thousand livres a year as a fixed income?”

“But, sire,” said d’Artagnan, opening his eyes to the utmost.

“Would you be satisfied with four horses furnished and kept, and with a supplement of funds such as you might require, according to occasions and needs, or would you prefer a fixed sum which would be, for example, forty thousand livres? Answer.”

“Sire, Your Majesty⁠—”

“Yes, you are surprised; that is natural, and I expected it. Answer me, come! or I shall think you have no longer that rapidity of judgment I have so much admired in you.”

“It is certain, sire, that twenty thousand livres a year make a handsome sum; but⁠—”

“No buts! Yes or no, is it an honorable indemnity?”

“Oh! very certainly.”

“You will be satisfied with it? That is well. It will be better to reckon the extra expenses separately; you can arrange that with Colbert. Now let us pass to something more important.”

“But, sire, I told Your Majesty⁠—”

“That you wanted rest, I know you did: only I replied that I would not allow it⁠—I am master, I suppose?”

“Yes, sire.”

“That is well. You were formerly in the way of becoming captain of the Musketeers?”

“Yes, sire.”

“Well, here is your commission signed. I place it in this drawer. The day on which you return from a certain expedition which I have to confide to you, on that day you may yourself take the commission from the drawer.” D’Artagnan still hesitated, and hung down his head. “Come, Monsieur,” said the king, “one would believe, to look at you, that you did not know that at the court of the most Christian king, the captain-general of the Musketeers takes precedence of the maréchals of France.”

“Sire, I know he does.”

“Then, am I to think you do put no faith in my word?”

“Oh! sire, never⁠—never dream of such a thing.”

“I have wished to prove to you, that you, so good a servant, had lost a good master; am I anything like the master that will suit you?”

“I begin to think you are, sire.”

“Then, Monsieur, you will resume your functions. Your company is quite disorganized since your departure, and the men go about drinking and rioting in the cabarets, where they fight, in spite of my edicts, and those of my father. You will reorganize the service as soon as possible.”

“Yes, sire.”

“You will not again quit my person.”

“Very well, sire.”

“You will march with me to the army, you will encamp round my tent.”

“Then, sire,” said d’Artagnan, “if it is only to impose upon me a service like that, Your Majesty need not give me twenty thousand livres a year. I shall not earn them.”

“I desire that you shall keep open house; I desire that you should keep a liberal table; I desire that my captain of Musketeers should be a personage.”

“And I,” said d’Artagnan, bluntly; “I do not like easily found money; I like money won! Your Majesty gives me an idle trade, which the first comer would perform for four thousand livres.”

Louis XIV began to laugh. “You are a true Gascon, Monsieur d’Artagnan; you will draw my heart’s secret from me.”

“Bah! has Your Majesty a secret, then?”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

“Well! then I accept the twenty thousand livres, for I will keep that secret, and discretion is above all price, in these times. Will Your Majesty speak now?”

“Boot yourself, Monsieur d’Artagnan, and to horse!”

“Directly, sire.”

“Within two days.”

“That is well, sire: for I have my affairs to settle before I set out; particularly if it is likely there should be any blows stirring.”

“That may happen.”

“We can receive them! But, sire, you have addressed yourself to avarice, to ambition; you have addressed yourself to the heart of M. d’Artagnan, but you have forgotten one thing.”

“What is that?”

“You have said nothing to his vanity; when shall I be a knight of the king’s orders?”

“Does that interest you?”

“Why, yes, sire. My friend Athos is quite covered with orders, and that dazzles me.”

“You shall be a knight of my order a month after you have taken your commission of captain.”

“Ah! ah!” said the officer, thoughtfully, “after the expedition.”

“Precisely.”

“Where is Your Majesty going to send me?”

“Are you acquainted with Bretagne?”

“No, sire.”

“Have you any friends there?”

“In Bretagne? No, ma foi!”

“So much the better. Do you know anything about fortifications?”

“I believe I do, sire,” said d’Artagnan, smiling.

“That is to say you can readily distinguish a fortress from a simple fortification, such as is allowed to chatelains or vassals?”

“I distinguish a fort from a rampart as I distinguish a cuirass from a raised pie-crust, sire. Is that sufficient?”

“Yes, Monsieur. You will set out, then.”

“For Bretagne?”

“Yes.”

“Alone?”

“Absolutely alone. That is to say, you must not even take a lackey with you.”

“May I ask Your Majesty for what reason?”

“Because, Monsieur, it will be necessary to disguise yourself sometimes, as the servant of a good family. Your face is very well known in France, M. d’Artagnan.”

“And then, sire?”

“And then you will travel slowly through Bretagne, and will examine the fortifications of that country.”

“The coasts?”

“Yes, and the isles; commencing by Belle-Île-en-Mer.”

“Ah! which belongs to M. Fouquet!” said d’Artagnan, in a serious tone, raising his intelligent eye to Louis XIV.

“I fancy you are right, Monsieur, and that Belle-Isle does belong to M. Fouquet, in fact.”

“Then Your Majesty wishes me to ascertain if Belle-Isle is a strong place?”

“Yes.”

“If the fortifications of it are new or old?”

“Precisely.”

“And if the vassals of M. Fouquet are sufficiently numerous to form a garrison?”

“That is what I want to know; you have placed your finger on the question.”

“And if they are not fortifying, sire?”

“You will travel about Bretagne, listening and judging.”

“Then I am a king’s spy?” said d’Artagnan, bluntly, twisting his mustache.

“No, Monsieur.”

“Your pardon sire; I spy on Your Majesty’s account.”

“You start on a voyage of discovery, Monsieur. Would you march at the head of your musketeers, with your sword in your hand, to observe any spot whatever, or an enemy’s position?”

At this word d’Artagnan started.

“Do you,” continued the king, “imagine yourself to be a spy?”

“No, no,” said d’Artagnan, but pensively; “the thing changes its face when one observes an enemy: one is but a soldier. And if they are fortifying Belle-Isle?” added he, quickly.

“You will take an exact plan of the fortifications.”

“Will they permit me to enter?”

“That does not concern me; that is your affair. Did you not understand that I reserved for you a supplement of twenty thousand livres per annum, if you wished it?”

“Yes, sire; but if they are not fortifying?”

“You will return quietly, without fatiguing your horse.”

“Sire, I am ready.”

“You will begin tomorrow by going to Monsieur le Surintendant’s to take the first quarter of the pension I give you. Do you know M. Fouquet?”

“Very little, sire; but I beg Your Majesty to observe that I don’t think it immediately necessary that I should know him.”

“Your pardon, Monsieur; for he will refuse you the money I wish you to take; and it is that refusal I look for.”

“Ah!” said d’Artagnan. “Then, sire?”

“The money being refused, you will go and seek it at M. Colbert’s. Apropos, have you a good horse?”

“An excellent one, sire.”

“How much did it cost you?”

“A hundred and fifty pistoles.”

“I will buy it of you. Here is a note for two hundred pistoles.”

“But I want a horse for my journey, sire.”

“Well!”

“Well, and you take mine from me.”

“Not at all. On the contrary, I give it you. Only as it is now mine and not yours, I am sure you will not spare it.”

“Your Majesty is in a hurry, then?”

“A great hurry.”

“Then what compels me to wait two days?”

“Reasons known to myself.”

“That’s a different affair. The horse may make up the two days, in the eight he has to travel; and then there is the post.”

“No, no, the post compromises, Monsieur d’Artagnan. Begone and do not forget you are my servant.”

“Sire, it is not my duty to forget it! At what hour tomorrow shall I take my leave of Your Majesty?”

“Whence do you lodge?”

“I must henceforward lodge at the Louvre.”

“That must not be now⁠—keep your lodgings in the city: I will pay for them. As to your departure, it must take place at night; you must set out without being seen by anyone, or, if you are seen, it must not be known that you belong to me. Keep your mouth shut, Monsieur.”

“Your Majesty spoils all you have said by that single word.”

“I asked where you lodged, for I cannot always send to M. le Comte de la Fère to seek you.”

“I lodge with M. Planchet, a grocer, Rue des Lombards, at the sign of the Pilon d’Or.”

“Go out but little, show yourself less, and await my orders.”

“And yet, sire, I must go for the money.”

“That is true, but when going to the superintendence, where so many people are constantly going, you must mingle with the crowd.”

“I want the notes, sire, for the money.”

“Here they are.” The king signed them, and d’Artagnan looked on, to assure himself of their regularity.

“Adieu! Monsieur d’Artagnan,” added the king; “I think you have perfectly understood me.”

“I? I understand that Your Majesty sends me to Belle-Île-en-Mer, that is all.”

“To learn?”

“To learn how M. Fouquet’s works are going on; that is all.”

“Very well: I admit you may be taken.”

“And I do not admit it,” replied the Gascon, boldly.

“I admit you may be killed,” continued the king.

“That is not probable, sire.”

“In the first case, you must not speak; in the second there must be no papers found upon you.”

D’Artagnan shrugged his shoulders without ceremony, and took leave of the king, saying to himself:⁠—The English shower continues⁠—let us remain under the spout!

CHAPTER 54

The Houses of M. Fouquet
Whilst d’Artagnan was returning to Planchet’s house, his head aching and bewildered with all that had happened to him, there was passing a scene of quite a different character, and which, nevertheless, is not foreign to the conversation our musketeer had just had with the king; only this scene took place out of Paris, in a house possessed by the superintendent Fouquet in the village of Saint-Mandé. The minister had just arrived at this country-house, followed by his principal clerk, who carried an enormous portfolio full of papers to be examined, and others waiting for signature. As it might be about five o’clock in the afternoon, the masters had dined: supper was being prepared for twenty subaltern guests. The superintendent did not stop: on alighting from his carriage, he, at the same bound, sprang through the doorway, traversed the apartments and gained his cabinet, where he declared he would shut himself up to work, commanding that he should not be disturbed for anything but an order from the king. As soon as this order was given, Fouquet shut himself up, and two footmen were placed as sentinels at his door. Then Fouquet pushed a bolt which displaced a panel that walled up the entrance, and prevented everything that passed in this apartment from being either seen or heard. But, against all probability, it was only for the sake of shutting himself up that Fouquet shut himself up thus, for he went straight to a bureau, seated himself at it, opened the portfolio, and began to make a choice amongst the enormous mass of papers it contained. It was not more than ten minutes after he had entered, and taken all the precautions we have described, when the repeated noise of several slight equal knocks struck his ear, and appeared to fix his utmost attention. Fouquet raised his head, turned his ear, and listened.

The strokes continued. Then the worker arose with a slight movement of impatience and walked straight up to a glass behind which the blows were struck by a hand, or by some invisible mechanism. It was a large glass let into a panel. Three other glasses, exactly similar to it, completed the symmetry of the apartment. Nothing distinguished that one from the others. Without doubt, these reiterated knocks were a signal; for, at the moment Fouquet approached the glass listening, the same noise was renewed, and in the same measure. “Oh! oh!” murmured the intendant, with surprise, “who is yonder? I did not expect anybody today.” And without doubt, to respond to the signal, he pulled out a gilded nail near the glass, and shook it thrice. Then returning to his place, and seating himself again, “Ma foi! let them wait,” said he. And plunging again into the ocean of papers unrolled before him, he appeared to think of nothing now but work. In fact, with incredible rapidity and marvelous lucidity, Fouquet deciphered the largest papers and most complicated writings, correcting them, annotating them with a pen moved as if by a fever, and the work melting under his hands, signatures, figures, references, became multiplied as if ten clerks⁠—that is to say, a hundred fingers and ten brains had performed the duties, instead of the five fingers and single brain of this man. From time to time, only, Fouquet, absorbed by his work, raised his head to cast a furtive glance upon a clock placed before him. The reason of this was, Fouquet set himself a task, and when this task was once set, in one hour’s work he, by himself, did what another would not have accomplished in a day; always certain, consequently, provided he was not disturbed, of arriving at the close in the time his devouring activity had fixed. But in the midst of his ardent labor, the soft strokes upon the little bell placed behind the glass sounded again, hasty, and, consequently, more urgent.

“The lady appears to be impatient,” said Fouquet. “Humph! a calm! That must be the comtesse; but, no, the comtesse is gone to Rambouillet for three days. The présidente, then? Oh! no, the présidente would not assume such grand airs; she would ring very humbly, then she would wait my good pleasure. The greatest certainty is, that I do not know who it can be, but that I know who it cannot be. And since it is not you, marquise, since it cannot be you, deuce take the rest!” And he went on with his work in spite of the reiterated appeals of the bell. At the end of a quarter of an hour, however, impatience prevailed over Fouquet in his turn: he might be said to consume, rather than to complete the rest of his work; he thrust his papers into his portfolio, and giving a glance at the mirror, whilst the taps continued faster than ever: “Oh! oh!” said he, “whence comes all this racket? What has happened, and who can the Ariadne be who expects me so impatiently. Let us see!”

He then applied the tip of his finger to the nail parallel to the one he had drawn. Immediately the glass moved like a folding-door and discovered a secret closet, rather deep, into which the superintendent disappeared as if going into a vast box. When there, he touched another spring, which opened, not a board, but a block of the wall, and he went out by that opening, leaving the door to shut of itself. Then Fouquet descended about a score of steps which sank, winding, underground, and came to a long, subterranean passage, lighted by imperceptible loopholes. The walls of this vault were covered with slabs or tiles, and the floor with carpeting. This passage was under the street itself, which separated Fouquet’s house from the Park of Vincennes. At the end of the passage ascended a winding staircase parallel with that by which Fouquet had entered. He mounted these other stairs, entered by means of a spring placed in a closet similar to that in his cabinet, and from this closet an untenanted chamber furnished with the utmost elegance. As soon as he entered, he examined carefully whether the glass closed without leaving any trace, and, doubtless satisfied with his observation, he opened by means of a small gold key the triple fastenings of a door in front of him. This time the door opened upon a handsome cabinet, sumptuously furnished, in which was seated upon cushions a lady of surpassing beauty, who at the sound of the lock sprang towards Fouquet. “Ah! good heavens!” cried the latter, starting back with astonishment. “Madame la Marquise de Bellière, you here?”

“Yes,” murmured la marquise. “Yes; it is I, Monsieur.”

“Marquise! dear marquise!” added Fouquet, ready to prostrate himself. “Ah! my God! how did you come here? And I, to keep you waiting!”

“A long time, Monsieur; yes, a very long time!”

“I am happy in thinking this waiting has appeared long to you, marquise!”

“Oh! an eternity, Monsieur; oh! I rang more than twenty times. Did you not hear me?”

“Marquise, you are pale, you tremble.”

“Did you not hear, then, that you were summoned?”

“Oh, yes; I heard plainly enough, Madame; but I could not come. After your rigors and your refusals, how could I dream it was you? If I could have had any suspicion of the happiness that awaited me, believe me, Madame, I would have quitted everything to fall at your feet, as I do at this moment.”

“Are we quite alone, Monsieur?” asked the marquise, looking round the room.

“Oh, yes, Madame, I can assure you of that.”

“Really?” said the marquise, in a melancholy tone.

“You sigh!” said Fouquet.

“What mysteries! what precautions!” said the marquise, with a slight bitterness of expression; “and how evident it is that you fear the least suspicion of your amours to escape.”

“Would you prefer their being made public?”

“Oh, no; you act like a delicate man,” said the marquise, smiling.

“Come, dear marquise, punish me not with reproaches, I implore you.”

“Reproaches! Have I a right to make you any?”

“No, unfortunately, no; but tell me, you, who during a year I have loved without return or hope⁠—”

“You are mistaken⁠—without hope it is true, but not without return.”

“What! for me, of my love! there is but one proof, and that proof I still want.”

“I am here to bring it, Monsieur.”

Fouquet wished to clasp her in his arms, but she disengaged herself with a gesture.

“You persist in deceiving yourself, Monsieur, and will never accept of me the only thing I am willing to give you⁠—devotion.”

“Ah, then, you do not love me? Devotion is but a virtue, love is a passion.”

“Listen to me, I implore you: I should not have come hither without a serious motive: you are well assured of that, are you not?”

“The motive is of very little consequence, so that you are but here⁠—so that I see you⁠—so that I speak to you!”

“You are right; the principal thing is that I am here without anyone having seen me, and that I can speak to you.”⁠—Fouquet sank on his knees before her. “Speak! speak, Madame!” said he, “I listen to you.”

The marquise looked at Fouquet, on his knees at her feet, and there was in the looks of the woman a strange mixture of love and melancholy. “Oh!” at length murmured she, “would that I were she who has the right of seeing you every minute, of speaking to you every instant! would that I were she who might watch over you, she who would have no need of mysterious springs to summon and cause to appear, like a sylph, the man she loves, to look at him for an hour, and then see him disappear in the darkness of a mystery, still more strange at his going out than at his coming in. Oh! that would be to live like a happy woman!”

“Do you happen, marquise,” said Fouquet, smiling, “to be speaking of my wife?”

“Yes, certainly, of her I spoke.”

“Well, you need not envy her lot, marquise; of all the women with whom I have had any relations, Madame Fouquet is the one I see the least of, and who has the least intercourse with me.”

“At least, Monsieur, she is not reduced to place, as I have done, her hand upon the ornament of a glass to call you to her; at least you do not reply to her by the mysterious, alarming sound of a bell, the spring of which comes from I don’t know where; at least you have not forbidden her to endeavor to discover the secret of these communications under pain of breaking off forever your connections with her, as you have forbidden all who come here before me, and who will come after me.”

“Dear marquise, how unjust you are, and how little do you know what you are doing in thus exclaiming against mystery; it is with mystery alone we can love without trouble; it is with love without trouble alone that we can be happy. But let us return to ourselves, to that devotion of which you were speaking, or rather let me labor under a pleasing delusion, and believe this devotion is love.”

“Just now,” repeated the marquise, passing over her eyes a hand that might have been a model for the graceful contours of antiquity; “just now I was prepared to speak, my ideas were clear and bold; now I am quite confused, quite troubled; I fear I bring you bad news.”

“If it is to that bad news I owe your presence, marquise, welcome be even that bad news! or rather, marquise, since you allow that I am not quite indifferent to you, let me hear nothing of the bad news, but speak of yourself.”

“No, no, on the contrary, demand it of me; require me to tell it to you instantly, and not to allow myself to be turned aside by any feeling whatever. Fouquet, my friend! it is of immense importance.”

“You astonish me, marquise; I will even say you almost frighten me. You, so serious, so collected; you who know the world we live in so well. Is it, then, important?”

“Oh! very important.”

“In the first place, how did you come here?”

“You shall know that presently; but first to something of more consequence.”

“Speak, marquise, speak! I implore you, have pity on my impatience.”

“Do you know that Colbert is made intendant of the finances?”

“Bah! Colbert, little Colbert.”

“Yes, Colbert, little Colbert.”

“Mazarin’s factotum?”

“The same.”

“Well! what do you see so terrific in that, dear marquise? little Colbert is intendant; that is astonishing I confess, but is not terrible.”

“Do you think the king has given, without pressing motive, such a place to one you call a little cuistre?”

“In the first place, is it positively true that the king has given it to him?”

“It is so said.”

“Ay, but who says so?”

“Everybody.”

“Everybody, that’s nobody; mention someone likely to be well-informed who says so.”

“Madame Vanel.”

“Ah! now you begin to frighten me in earnest,” said Fouquet, laughing; “if anyone is well-informed, or ought to be well-informed, it is the person you name.”

“Do not speak ill of poor Marguerite, Monsieur Fouquet, for she still loves you.”

“Bah! indeed? That is scarcely credible. I thought little Colbert, as you said just now, had passed over that love, and left the impression upon it of a spot of ink or a stain of grease.”

“Fouquet! Fouquet! Is this the way you always treat the poor creatures you desert?”

“Why, you surely are not going to undertake the defense of Madame Vanel?”

“Yes, I will undertake it; for, I repeat, she loves you still, and the proof is she saves you.”

“But your interposition, marquise; that is very cunning on her part. No angel could be more agreeable to me, or could lead me more certainly to salvation. But, let me ask you, do you know Marguerite?”

“She was my convent friend.”

“And you say that she has informed you that Monsieur Colbert was named intendant?”

“Yes, she did.”

“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.

“Upon what?”

“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 Madame Vanel.”

“And obtained his end; look at that.”

“Do you mean to say he has the presumption to pass from intendant to superintendent?”

“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 maître 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 offered millions.”

“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—your friends?”

“Exactly so.”

“And is M. d’Eymeris one of your creatures?”

“Yes, he is.”

“Is M. Lyodot one of your friends?”

“Certainly.”

“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?”

“Attentively, marquise.”

“Without interrupting me?”

“Speak.”

“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 deceives herself.”

“ ‘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 appointed intendant.’ ”

“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?”

“Exactly.”

“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 those notes.”

“How could she get that?”

“Listen; I told you that Colbert found paper on the table.”

“Yes.”

“That he took a pencil from his pocket.”

“Yes.”

“And wrote upon that paper.”

“Yes.”

“Well, this pencil was a lead-pencil, consequently hard; so, it marked in black upon the first sheet, and in white upon the second.”

“Go on.”

“Colbert, when tearing off the first sheet, took no notice of the second.”

“Well?”

“Well, on the second was to be read what had been written on the first; Madame Vanel read it, and sent for me.”

“Yes, yes.”

“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.

Fouquet read:

“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, indif.”

“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 of Justice’?”

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 that.”

“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!”

“So?”

“I have done what was right, my friend, at the risk of my reputation. Adieu!”

“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 correspondents.

CHAPTER 55

The Abbé 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 someone 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!”

“In what?”

“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 today, 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 Gourville.

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 Hôtel 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.

“How?”

“If the king has signed, the gibbets will be sent this evening to the Hôtel de Ville, in order to be got up and ready by tomorrow 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 arrested.”

“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 Hôtel de Ville. We shall see if the sentence is signed.”

“Incredulity! thou art the pest of all great minds,” said Gourville, shrugging his shoulders.

“Gourville!”

“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 Abbé 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 Abbé 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, today⁠—the advocate of the Abbé Fouquet!”

“Eh! but everything and every man has a good side⁠—their useful side, Monseigneur.”

“The bandits whom the abbé 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 abbé?” said Fouquet, ironically.

“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’Abbé Fouquet be introduced,” said he to the footman. “You are right, Gourville.”

Two minutes after, the Abbé 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 abbé; 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’Abbé?” said he.

“Oh! oh! how coldly you speak to me, brother!”

“I speak like a man who is in a hurry, Monsieur.”

The abbé 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 Abbé Fouquet would not have disturbed him for such a want.

“A thousand to my butcher, who will supply no more meat.”

“Next?”

“Twelve hundred to my tailor,” continued the abbé; “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 abbé, 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 assure you.”

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 abbé, proudly; “that is a charge, I believe.”

“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?⁠—speak.”

“And do you ask me that?” cried the Abbé 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 abbé, more and more affected.

“Explain yourself.”

“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 Abbé.”

“You doubt it!” cried the abbé. “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, abbé?”

“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.”

“Go on.”

“The joke caused a deal of laughter,” continued the abbé; “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 abbé, 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 abbé.

“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’Abbé, leave us.”

“Then we are friends?” said the abbé, 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, abbé.” Then aside to Gourville⁠—“Let them put to my English horses,” said he, “and direct the coachman to stop at the Hôtel de Ville de Paris.”

CHAPTER 56

M. de La Fontaine’s Wine
Carriages were already bringing the guests of Fouquet to Saint-Mandé; 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 Hôtel 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 Grève, 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 get into a hired carriage, and told the coachman 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 maître d’hôtel!” 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 maître d’hôtel, who was arranging his bottles in the carriage with the most minute care.

Holà! 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! Monseigneur!”

“Yes, it is I. What the devil are you doing here, Vatel? Wine! You are buying wine at a cabaret in the Place de Grève!”

“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 L’Image-de-Notre-Dame.”

“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 that?”

“I mean that your butler had not wine for all tastes, Monsieur; and that M. de La Fontaine, M. Pélisson, 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 with pleasure.”

“Vatel,” cried Fouquet, pressing the hand of his maître d’hôtel, “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 crossbeam, 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 Hôtel de Ville. Fouquet started. “It is decided, you see,” said Gourville.

“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?”

“No.”

“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?”

“Gourville!”

“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.”

“Never!”

“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-Mandé, Monseigneur.”

“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-Mandé, I say.”

“To consult with Pélisson?⁠—we will.”

“No, Monseigneur, to count your money.”

“So be it,” said Fouquet, with angry eyes;⁠—“yes, yes, to Saint-Mandé!” 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 maître d’hôtel, who, putting his head out at the window, cried, in a fright, “Take care of my bottles!”

CHAPTER 57

The Gallery of Saint-Mandé
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 Abbé 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 Pélisson, 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 Pélisson. The Abbé 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. Pélisson 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.

Pélisson 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 today is with the faisans truffés 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 abbé, 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. Pélisson then approached the superintendent, and said: “Something troubles Monseigneur?”

“Greatly,” replied the minister; “ask Gourville to tell you what it is.” Pélisson, 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 someone to pour it out upon advantageously. He thought he had caught Pélisson, 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’Abbé Fouquet perceived that the poet, absentminded as usual, was about to follow the two talkers; and he interposed. La Fontaine seized upon him, and recited his verses. The abbé, 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 Pélisson 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. Pélisson 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 Abbé 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, abbé, 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 anyone returns towards the gallery, give us notice by coughing.”

The abbé obeyed.

“I have not observed their absence,” said Pélisson, 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 abbé, 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, abbé, will never be paid you eleven hundred livres by M. d’Eymeris; for both are doomed to die.”

“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 Pélisson; “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 last day.”

“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 chorus.

“They do better still; they 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 everyone stopped; the abbé quitted his window; the first fusées 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 abbé, the first one to speak, “run M. Colbert through the body.”

“Monseigneur,” said Pélisson, “you must speak to His Majesty.”

“The king, my dear Pélisson, 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 abbé, “will carry the money.”

“And I,” said Pélisson, “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 abbé; “why, for less than half, I would have half Paris sacked.”

“There must be no disorder,” said Pélisson. “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, Pélisson,” said Fouquet, “and bring hither the two victims; tomorrow we shall see.”

Gourville gave Pélisson the five hundred thousand livres. “Take care the wind does not carry you away,” said the abbé; “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. Pélisson and Gourville went out together by the door of the gallery; Fouquet descended to the garden with the five last plotters.

CHAPTER 58

Epicureans
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 fête 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 wrong.”

“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-Mandé, 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.”

“Next?”

“Well, I do not think we ought to consider ourselves unfortunate, for my part, at least. A good repast⁠—vin de Foigny, 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 Foigny, 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.”

“What reports?”

“That we are bad Frenchmen, lukewarm with regard to the king, deaf to the law.”

“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, alcé, 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 indifferent citizens.”

“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 aphorisms.”

“I⁠—will.”

“Pray for good leaders.”

“Well?”

“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: Cacôs 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 mask.

“Well!” said he, eagerly, “where is Pélisson! What is he doing?”

“Pélisson 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 anyone 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 Pélisson, 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, Pélisson. Entertain my friends, Gourville.”

“One last word of advice, Monseigneur,” replied the latter.

“Speak, Gourville.”

“Do not go to the concierge save at the last minute; it is brave, but it is not wise. Excuse me, Monsieur Pélisson, 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 before us.”

“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 Pélisson; “it is never a fault to arrive too soon.”

“Adieu!” said the superintendent; “come with me, Pélisson. 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.

CHAPTER 59

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 Pélisson, who was meditating in the corner of the carriage some good arguments against the violent proceedings of Colbert.

“My dear Pélisson,” said Fouquet, “it is a great pity you are not a woman.”

“I think, on the contrary, it is very fortunate,” replied Pélisson, “for, Monseigneur, I am excessively ugly.”

“Pélisson! Pélisson!” 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 smallpox 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 important service.”

“What?”

“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,” replied Fouquet.

“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 conciergerie.”

“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, Pélisson; 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 Pélisson; “you would make a famous present to Monsieur the governor of the ConciergeriePeste! 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, Pélisson.”

The superintendent reached forth his hand towards the golden and silken cord placed in the interior of his carriage, but Pélisson 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 tonight.”

“But, my dear Pélisson, here we are before her door.”

“What! before the angel’s door?”

“Why, yes.”

“This is the hotel of Madame de Bellière!”

“Hush!”

“Ah! Good Lord!” exclaimed Pélisson.

“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-Bellière; 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, Pélisson,” replied Fouquet, sincerely courteous.

“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 someone with her.” Fouquet leaned towards the steps of the carriage. “One word more,” cried Pélisson; “do not go to this lady till you have been to the concierge, for Heaven’s sake!”

“Eh! five minutes, Pélisson,” replied Fouquet, alighting at the steps of the hotel, leaving Pélisson 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 going on?”

“I am going this evening to get my friends out of the prisons of the Palais.”

“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 Pélisson 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 Pélisson, “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 Pélisson, in a hoarse voice.

Bon Dieu!⁠—begone, begone, Monseigneur!” replied the marquise, pushing Fouquet out of the salon, whilst Pélisson dragged him by the hand.

“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 the heel.”

Pélisson continued to drag Fouquet to the carriage. “To the Palais at full speed!” cried Pélisson 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 Grève, 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 Pélisson 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 Pélisson, 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.”

“Speak, Monseigneur.”

“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 it.”

“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?”

“What?”

“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 Pélisson, with great anxiety.

“Our friends are lost. Colbert is conveying them to the donjon. They crossed our path under the arcade Saint-Jean.”

Pélisson, 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, Pélisson, return to Saint-Mandé, and bring the Abbé Fouquet to me within an hour. Begone!”

CHAPTER 60

Plan of Battle
The night was already far advanced when the Abbé 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: “Abbé,” said he, “you were speaking to me only today of certain people you maintain.”

“Yes, Monsieur,” replied the abbé.

“Tell me precisely who are these people.” The abbé 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?”

“Entirely.”

“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 turn.”

“The thing I ask of you, abbé,” 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, Monseigneur.”

“That is well: but would these bandits attack an armed force?”

“They are used to that.”

“Then get your hundred and twenty men together, abbé.”

“Directly. But where?”

“On the road to Vincennes, tomorrow, 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 with me.”

“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, abbé, 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, tomorrow, 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 twelve archers.”

“There will be a hundred tomorrow.”

“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 cutpurses⁠—only they dare not take the initiative.”

“Well?”

“There will then be, tomorrow, on the Place de Grève, which I choose as my battlefield, 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 Grève?”

“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 Grève.”

“That is the place for us,” said the abbé. “What house?”

“A cabaret, pretty well frequented, whose sign represents the image of Notre Dame.”

“I know it,” said the abbé.

“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 communication.”

“Good!” said the abbé.

“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?”

“Perfectly well.”

“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 tomorrow 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 abbé.”

“Good! and spare nothing, did you not say?”

“Nothing.”

“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, abbé, is everything arranged?”

“Everything.”

“At two o’clock tomorrow.”

“At twelve, because it will be necessary to prepare our auxiliaries in a secret manner.”

“That is true; do not spare the wine of the cabaretier.”

“I will spare neither his wine nor his house,” replied the abbé, 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?”

“Everywhere; nowhere.”

“And how shall I receive information?”

“By a courier whose horse shall be kept in the very same garden of your friend. Apropos, the name of your friend?”

Fouquet looked again at Gourville. The latter came to the succor of his master, saying, “Accompany Monsieur l’Abbé, for several reasons, only the house is easily to be known, the ‘Image-de-Notre-Dame’ in the front, a garden, the only one in the quarter, behind.”

“Good, good! I will go and give notice to my soldiers.”

“Accompany him, Gourville,” said Fouquet, “and count him down the money. One moment, abbé⁠—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 abbé.

“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’Abbé, what an imagination you have!”

“Monsieur, we are worthy of our family,” replied the abbé, proudly.

“Strange fellow,” murmured Fouquet. Then he added, “That is ingenious. Carry it out, but shed no blood.”

Gourville and the abbé 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.