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Ten Years Later

Part 11 out of 21

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"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 to-morrow 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. A propos, 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 my 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
to-morrow shall I take my leave of your majesty?"

"Where 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 any one,
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 you where you lodged, for I cannot always send to
M. le Comte de la Fere 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-Isle-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-Mande.
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 intendent, with surprise,
"who is yonder? I did not expect anybody to-day." And,
without doubt, to respond to that 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 presidente, then?
Oh! no, the presidente 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, in
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
Belliere, 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 never will
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 any one 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 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 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 have come here before me,
and all 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 that 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 terrific."

"Do you think the king has given, without a 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 some one likely to be
well informed who says so."

"Madame Vanel."

"Ah! now you begin to frighten me in earnest," said Fouquet,
laughing; "if any one 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 hope 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 maitre des
comptes."

"Eh! monsieur, everything is to be bought; if not by gold,
by intrigue."

"Nobody knows to the contrary better than you, madame, you
to whom I have 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 those 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 as 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 Abbe Fouquet

Fouquet hastened back to his apartment by the subterranean
passage, and immediately closed the mirror with the spring.
He was scarcely in his closet, when he heard some one
knocking violently at the door, and a well-known voice
crying: -- "Open the door, monseigneur, I entreat you, open
the door!" Fouquet quickly restored a little order to
everything that might have revealed either his absence or
his agitation: he spread his papers over the desk, took up a
pen, and, to gain time, said, through the closed door, --
"Who is there?"

"What, monseigneur, do you not know me?" replied the voice.

"Yes, yes," said Fouquet to himself, "yes, my friend I know
you well enough." And then, aloud: "Is it not Gourville?"

"Why, yes, monseigneur."

Fouquet arose, cast a last 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 for all, you know that I will not be disturbed when I
am busy. Now, although I might make you an exception,
Gourville, I insist upon my orders being respected by
others."

"Monseigneur, at this moment, orders, doors, bolts, locks,
and walls, I could have broken, forced and overthrown!"

"Ah! ah! it relates to some great event, then?" asked
Fouquet.

"Oh! I assure you it does, monseigneur," replied Gourville.

"And what is this event?" said Fouquet, a little troubled by
the evident agitation of his most intimate confidant.

"There is a secret chamber of justice instituted,
monseigneur."

"I know there is, but do the members meet, Gourville?"

"They not only meet, but they have passed a sentence,
monseigneur."

"A sentence?" said the superintendent, with a shudder and
pallor he could not conceal. "A sentence! -- and on whom?"

"Two of your best friends."

"Lyodot and D'Eymeris, do you mean? But what sort of a
sentence?"

"Sentence of death."

"Passed? Oh! you must be mistaken, Gourville; that is
impossible."

"Here is a copy of the sentence which the king is to sign
to-day, if he has not already signed it."

Fouquet seized the paper eagerly, read it, and returned it
to Gourville. "The king will never sign that," said he.

Gourville shook his head.

"Monseigneur, M. Colbert is a bold councilor: do not be too
confident!"

"Monsieur Colbert again!" cried Fouquet. "How is it that
that name rises upon all occasions to torment my ears,
during the last two or three days? Thou 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 Hotel de Ville, who was one of Fouquet's
creatures.

"Yes, that is true," murmured the minister; "the scaffold
may be prepared, but the king has not signed; Gourville, the
king will not sign."

"I shall soon know," said Gourville.

"How?"

"If the king has signed, the gibbets will be sent this
evening to the Hotel de Ville, in order to be got up and
ready by to-morrow morning."

"Oh! no, no!" cried the superintendent once again; "you are
all deceived, and deceive me in my turn; Lyodot came to see
me only the day before yesterday; only three days ago I
received a present of some Syracuse wine from poor
D'Eymeris."

"What does that prove?" replied Gourville, "except that the
chamber of justice has been secretly assembled, has
deliberated in the absence of the accused, and that the
whole proceeding was complete when they were 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 disappearance 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 his chamber with an uneasiness
that became more and more serious.

"What do you decide upon, monseigneur?" said Gourville.

"If it really were as you say, I would go to the king,"
cried Fouquet. "But as I go to the Louvre, I will pass by
the Hotel de Ville. We shall see if the sentence is signed."

"Incredulity! thou art the pest of all great minds," said
Gourville, shrugging his shoulders.

"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 Abbe Fouquet is there."

"Ah! my brother," replied Fouquet, in a tone of annoyance,
"he is there, is he? he knows all the ill news, then, and is
rejoiced to bring it to me, as usual. The devil! if my
brother is there, my affairs are bad, Gourville; why did you
not tell me that sooner: I should have been the more readily
convinced."

"'Monseigneur calumniates him," said Gourville, laughing,
"if he is come, it is not with a bad intention."

"What, do you excuse him?" cried Fouquet; "a fellow without
a heart, without ideas; a devourer of wealth."

"He knows you are rich."

"And would ruin me."

"No, but he would like to have your purse. That is all."

"Enough! enough! A hundred thousand crowns per month, during
two years. Corbleu! it is I that pay, Gourville, and I know
my figures." Gourville laughed in a silent, sly manner.
"Yes, yes, you mean to say it is the king pays," said the
superintendent. "Ah, Gourville, that is a vile joke; this is
not the place."

"Monseigneur, do not be angry."

"Well, then, send away the Abbe Fouquet; I have not a sou."
Gourville made a step towards the door. "He has been a month
without seeing me," continued Fouquet, "why could he not be
two months?"

"Because he repents of living in bad company," said
Gourville, "and prefers you to all his bandits."

"Thanks for the preference! You make a strange advocate,
Gourville, to-day -- the advocate of the Abbe Fouquet!"

"Eh! but everything and every man has a good side -- their
useful side, monseigneur."

"The bandits whom the abbe keeps in pay and drink have their
useful side, have they? Prove that, if you please."

"Let the circumstance arise, monseigneur, and you will be
very glad to have these bandits under your hand."

"You advise me, then, to be reconciled to the abbe?" said
Fouquet, 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'Abbe Fouquet
be introduced," said he to the footman. "You are right,
Gourville."

Two minutes after, the Abbe Fouquet appeared in the doorway,
with profound reverences. He was a man of from forty to
forty-five years of age, half churchman half soldier, -- a
spadassin, grafted upon an abbe; upon seeing that he had not
a sword by his side, you might be sure he had pistols.
Fouquet saluted him more as an elder brother than as a
minister.

"What can I do to serve you, monsieur l'abbe?" said he.

"Oh! oh! how coldly you speak to me, brother!"

"I speak like a man who is in a hurry, monsieur."

The abbe looked maliciously at Gourville, and anxiously at
Fouquet, and said, "I have three hundred pistoles to pay to
M. de Bregi this evening. A play debt, a sacred debt."

"What next?" said Fouquet bravely, for he comprehended that
the Abbe Fouquet would not have disturbed him for such a
want.

"A thousand to my butcher, who will supply no more meat."

"Next?"

"Twelve hundred to my tailor," continued the abbe; "the
fellow has made me take back seven suits of my people's,
which compromises my liveries, and my mistress talks of
replacing me by a farmer of the revenue, which would be a
humiliation for the church."

"What else?" said Fouquet.

"You will please to remark," said the abbe, humbly, "that I
have asked nothing for myself."

"That is delicate, monsieur," replied Fouquet; "so, as you
see, I wait."

"And I ask nothing, oh! no, -- it is not for want of need,
though, I assure you."

The minister reflected a minute. "Twelve hundred pistoles to
the tailor; that seems a great deal for clothes," said he.

"I maintain a hundred men," said the abbe, proudly; "that is
a charge, I 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 Abbe Fouquet; "ah! how
can you put such a question, -- why I maintain a hundred
men? Ah!"

"Why, yes, I do put that question to you. What have you to
do with a hundred men? -- answer."

"Ingrate!" continued the abbe, more and more affected.

"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 l'abbe."

"You doubt it!" cried the abbe. "Listen, then, to what
happened, no longer ago than yesterday, in the Rue de la
Hochette. A man was cheapening a fowl."

"Well, how could that injure me, abbe?"

"This way. The fowl was not fat. The purchaser refused to
give eighteen sous for it, saying that he could not afford
eighteen sous for the skin of a fowl from which M. Fouquet
had sucked all the fat."

"Go on."

"The joke caused a deal of laughter," continued the abbe;
"laughter at your expense, death to the devils! and the
canaille were delighted. The joker added, `Give me a fowl
fed by M. Colbert, if you like! and I will pay all you ask.'
And immediately there was a clapping of hands. A frightful
scandal! you understand; a scandal which forces a brother to
hide his face."

Fouquet colored. "And you veiled it?" said the
superintendent.

"No, for it so 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, it is fatter than your
fowl.' That is the way, monsieur," ended the abbe,
triumphantly, "in which I spend my revenues; I maintain the
honor of the family, monsieur." Fouquet hung his head. "And
I have a hundred as good as he," continued the abbe.

"Very well," said Fouquet, "give the account to Gourville,
and remain here this evening."

"Shall we have supper?"

"Yes, there will be supper."

"But the chest is closed."

"Gourville will open it for you. Leave us, monsieur l'abbe,
leave us."

"Then we are friends?" said the abbe, with a bow.

Oh yes. friends. Come Gourville."

"Are you going out? You will not stay to supper, then?"

"I shall be back in an hour; rest easy, abbe." Then aside to
Gourville -- "Let them put to my English horses," said he,
"and direct the coachman to stop at the Hotel de Ville de
Paris."

CHAPTER 56

M. de la Fontaine's Wine

Carriages were already bringing the guests of Fouquet to
Saint-Mande; already the whole house was getting warm with
the preparations for supper, when the superintendent
launched his fleet horses upon the road to Paris, and going
by the quays, in order to meet fewer people on the way, soon
reached the Hotel de Ville. It wanted a quarter to eight.
Fouquet alighted at the corner of the Rue de Long-pont, and,
on foot, directed his course towards the Place de Greve,
accompanied by Gourville. At the turning of the Place they
saw a man dressed in black and violet, of dignified mien,
who was preparing to 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 maitre d'hotel!" said Fouquet to
Gourville.

"Yes, monseigneur," replied the latter.

"What can he have been doing at the sign of
L'Image-de-Notre-Dame?"

"Buying wine, no doubt."

"What! buy wine for me, at a cabaret?" said Fouquet. "My
cellar, then, must be in a miserable condition!" and he
advanced towards the maitre d'hotel who was arranging his
bottles in the carriage with the most minute care.

"Hola! Vatel," said he, in the voice of a master.

"Take care, monseigneur!" said Gourville, "you will be
recognized."

"Very well! Of what consequence? -- Vatel!

The man dressed in black and violet turned round. He had a
good and mild countenance, without expression -- a
mathematician minus the pride. A certain fire sparkled in
the eyes of this personage, a rather sly smile played round
his lips; but the observer might soon have remarked that
this fire and this smile applied to nothing, enlightened
nothing. Vatel laughed like an absent man, and amused
himself like a child. At the sound of his master's voice he
turned round, exclaiming: "Oh! 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
Greve!"

"But, monseigneur," said Vatel, quietly, after having darted
a hostile glance at Gourville, "why am I interfered with
here? Is my cellar kept in bad order?"

"No, certes, Vatel, no, but ---- "

"But what?" replied Vatel. Gourville touched Fouquet's
elbow.

"Don't be angry, Vatel, I thought my cellar -- your cellar
-- sufficiently well stocked for us to be able to dispense
with recourse to the cellar of 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. Pellisson, 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 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 maitre
d'hotel, "you are a man! I thank you, Vatel, for having
understood that at my house M. de la Fontaine, M. Conrart,
and M. Loret, are as great as dukes and peers, as great as
princes, greater than myself. Vatel, you are a good servant,
and I double your salary."

Vatel did not even thank his master, he merely shrugged his
shoulders a little, murmuring this superb sentiment: "To be
thanked for having done one's duty is humiliating."

"He is right," said Gourville, as he drew Fouquet's
attention, by a gesture, to another point. He showed him a
low-built tumbrel, drawn by two horses, upon which rocked
two strong gibbets, bound together, back to back, by chains,
whilst an archer, seated upon the cross-beam, suffered, as
well as he could, with his head cast down, the comments of a
hundred vagabonds, who guessed the destination of the
gibbets, and were escorting them to the Hotel de Ville.
Fouquet started. "It is decided, you see," 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-Mande, 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-Mande, I say."

"To consult with Pellisson? -- we will."

"So be it," said Fouquet, with angry eyes; -- "yes, to
Saint-Mande!" He got into his carriage again and Gourville
with him. Upon their road, at the end of the Faubourg
Saint-Antoine, they overtook the humble equipage of Vatel,
who was quietly conveying home his vin de Joigny. The black
horses, going at a swift pace, alarmed as they passed, the
timid hack of the maitre d'hotel, who, putting his head out
at the window, cried, in a fright, "Take care of my
bottles!"

CHAPTER 57

The Gallery of Saint-Mande

Fifty persons were waiting for the superintendent. He did
not even take the time to place himself in the hands of his
valet de chambre for a minute, but from the perron went
straight into the premier salon. There his friends were
assembled in full chat. The intendant was about to order
supper to be served, but, above all, the Abbe Fouquet
watched for the return of his brother, and was endeavoring
to do the honors of the house in his absence. Upon the
arrival of the superintendent, a murmur of joy and affection
was heard; Fouquet, full of affability, good humor, and
munificence, was beloved by his poets, his artists, and his
men of business. His brow, upon which his little court read,
as upon that of a god, all the movements of his soul, and
thence drew rules of conduct, -- his brow, upon which
affairs of state never impressed a wrinkle, was this evening
paler than usual, and more than one friendly eye remarked
that pallor. Fouquet placed himself at the head of the
table, and presided gayly during supper. He recounted
Vatel's expedition to La Fontaine, related the history of
Menneville and the skinny fowl to Pellisson, 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 Pellisson. The Abbe Fouquet, not being
able to comprehend why his brother should have led the
conversation in that direction, listened with all his ears,
and sought in the countenance of Gourville, or in that of
his brother, an explanation which nothing afforded him.
Pellisson 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.

Pellisson exchanged a meaning look with Fouquet.
"Messieurs," said he, "in truth we are abusing a man whom no
one knows: it is neither charitable nor reasonable; and here
is monsieur le surintendant, who, I am sure, agrees with
me."

"Entirely," replied Fouquet. "Let the fat fowls of M.
Colbert alone; our business to-day is with the faisans
truffes of M. Vatel." This speech stopped the dark cloud
which was beginning to throw its shade over the guests.
Gourville succeeded so well in animating the poets with the
vin de Joigny; the abbe, intelligent as a man who stands in
need of his host's money, so enlivened the financiers and
the men of the sword, that, amidst the vapors of this joy
and the noise of conversation, inquietudes disappeared
completely. The will of Cardinal Mazarin was the text of the
conversation at the second course and dessert; then Fouquet
ordered bowls of sweetmeats and fountains of liquors 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. Pellisson
then approached the superintendent, and said: "Something
troubles monseigneur?"

"Greatly," replied the minister, "ask Gourville to tell you
what it is." Pellisson, on turning round, found La Fontaine
treading upon his heels. He was obliged to listen to a Latin
verse, which the poet had composed upon Vatel. La Fontaine
had, for an hour, been scanning this verse in all corners,
seeking some one to pour it out upon advantageously. He
thought he had caught Pellisson, 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 Chanost whose arm
Fouquet had just taken. L'Abbe Fouquet perceived that the
poet, absent-minded, as usual, was about to follow the two
talkers, and he interposed. La Fontaine seized upon him, and
recited his verses. The abbe, who was quite innocent of
Latin, nodded his head, in cadence, at every roll which La
Fontaine impressed upon his body, according to the
undulations of the dactyls and spondees. While this was
going on, behind the confiture-basins, Fouquet related the
event of the day to his son-in-law, M. de Chanost. "We will
send the idle and useless to look at the fireworks," said
Pellisson 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. Pellisson and Gourville walked arm in arm, as
if conversing upon vague and frivolous subjects. Sorel and
two officers imitated them, in an opposite direction. The
Abbe Fouquet walked alone. Fouquet, with M. de Chanost,
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 to only one
amongst them, who, himself, seemed to be speaking only to
his companion. "Messieurs," said Fouquet, "you have, without
doubt, remarked the absence of two of my friends this
evening, who were with us on Wednesday. For God's sake,
abbe, do not stop, -- it is not necessary to enable you to
listen; walk on, carrying your head in a natural way, and as
you have an excellent sight, place yourself at the window,
and if any one returns towards the gallery, give us notice
by coughing."

The abbe obeyed.

"I have not observed their absence," said Pellisson, who, at
this moment, was turning his back to Fouquet and walking the
other way.

"I do not see M. Lyodot," said Sorel, "who pays me my
pension."

"And I," said the abbe, at the window, "do not see M.
d'Eymeris, who owes me eleven hundred livres from our last
game at Brelan."

"Sorel," continued Fouquet, walking bent, and gloomily, "you
will never receive your pension any more from M. Lyodot; and
you, abbe, will never be paid your 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 Pellisson; "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 every one stopped; the abbe
quitted his window; the first fusees of the fireworks began
to mount above the trees. A prolonged cry from the gardens
attracted the superintendent to enjoy the spectacle. He drew
near to a window, and his friends placed themselves behind
him, attentive to his least wish. "Messieurs," said he, "M.
Colbert has caused to be arrested, tried and will execute my
two friends; what does it become me to do?"

"Mordieu!" exclaimed the abbe, the first one to speak, "run
M. Colbert through the body."

"Monseigneur," said Pellisson, "you must speak to his
majesty."

"The king, my dear Pellisson, himself signed the order for
the execution."

"Well!" said the Comte de Chanost, "the execution must not
take place, then; that is all."

"Impossible," said Gourville, "unless we could corrupt the
jailers."

"Or the governor," said Fouquet.

"This night the prisoners might be allowed to escape."

"Which of you will take charge of the transaction?"

"I," said the abbe, "will carry the money."

"And I," said Pellisson, "will be the bearer of the words."

"Words and money," said Fouquet, "five hundred thousand
livres to the governor of the conciergerie, that is
sufficient, nevertheless, it shall be a million, if
necessary."

"A million!" cried the abbe; "why, for less than half, I
would have half Paris sacked."

"There must be no disorder," said Pellisson. "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, Pellisson," said Fouquet, "and bring
hither the two victims; to-morrow we shall see."

Gourville gave Pellisson the five hundred thousand livres."
Take care the wind does not carry you away," said the abbe;
"what a responsibility. Peste! Let me help you a little."

"Silence!" said Fouquet, "somebody is coming. Ah! the
fireworks are producing a magical effect." At this moment a
shower of sparks fell rustling among the branches of the
neighboring trees. Pellisson 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
fete was every whit as gay as usual; and Vatel, whose
restless, even jealous look, earnestly consulted the aspect
of Fouquet, did not appear dissatisfied with the welcome
given to the ordering of the evening's entertainment. The
fireworks over, the company dispersed about the gardens and
beneath the marble porticoes with the delightful liberty
which reveals in the master of the house so much
forgetfulness of greatness, so much courteous hospitality,
so much magnificent carelessness. The poets wandered about,
arm in arm, through the groves; some reclined upon beds of
moss, to the great damage of velvet clothes and curled
heads, into which little dried leaves and blades of grass
insinuated themselves. The ladies, in small numbers,
listened to the songs of the singers and the verses of the
poets; others listened to the prose, spoken with much art,
by men who were neither actors nor poets, but to whom youth
and solitude gave an unaccustomed eloquence, which appeared
to them better than everything else in the world. "Why,"
said La Fontaine, "does not our master Epicurus descend into
the garden? Epicurus never abandoned his pupils, the master
is 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-Mande, and do we not live here very tranquilly with
him and his friends?"

"Yes, without doubt; unfortunately it is neither the garden
nor the friends which constitute the resemblance. Now, what
likeness is there between the doctrine of Epicurus and that
of M. Fouquet?"

"This -- pleasure gives happiness."

"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 circulated 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,
alce, vigor. Well, Epicurus, that is mild watchfulness, that
is protection; now who watches better over the state, or who
protects individuals better than M. Fouquet does?"

"You talk etymology and not morality; I say that we modern
Epicureans are 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: Cacos politeuousi. You grant me the text?"

"Pardieu! I think so. Do you know, you speak Greek as well
as AEsop did, my dear La Fontaine."

"Is there any wickedness in that, my dear Conrart?"

"God forbid I should say so."

"Then let us return to M. Fouquet. What did he repeat to us
all the day? Was it not this? `What a cuistre is that
Mazarin! what an ass! what a leech! We must, however, submit
to the 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 Hieropolis, 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. Nicolle."

"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 Pellisson! What is he
doing?"

"Pellisson has returned from Paris."

"Has he brought back the prisoners?"

"He has not even seen the concierge of the prison."

"What! did he not tell him he came from me?"

"He told him so, but the concierge sent him this reply: `If
any one came to me from M. Fouquet, he would have a letter
from M. Fouquet.'"

"Oh!" cried the latter, "if a letter is all he wants ---- "

"It is useless, monsieur!" said Pellisson, 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, Pellisson. 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 Pellisson, 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 Pellisson; "it is never a fault to arrive too soon."

"Adieu!" said the superintendent; "come with me, Pellisson.
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 Pellisson, who was
meditating in the corner of the carriage some good arguments
against the violent proceedings of Colbert.

"My dear Pellisson," said Fouquet, "it is a great pity you
are not a woman."

"I think, on the contrary, it is very fortunate," replied
Pellisson, "for, monseigneur, I am excessively ugly."

"Pellisson! Pellisson!" 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, Pellisson, 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 Pellisson, "you would make a famous
present to monsieur the governor of the conciergerie! Peste!
monseigneur, he might have his head cut off; but he would,
before dying, have had such happiness as no man had enjoyed
before him."

"And I add," said Fouquet, "that the concierge of the Palais
would not have his head cut off, for he would receive of me
my horses to effect his escape, and five hundred thousand
livres wherewith to live comfortably in England: I add, that
this lady, my friend, would give him nothing but the horses
and the money. Let us go and seek her, Pellisson."

The superintendent reached forth his hand towards the gold
and silken cord placed in the interior of his carriage, but
Pellisson stopped him. "Monseigneur," said he, "you are
going to lose as much time in seeking this lady as Columbus
took to discover the new world. Now, we have but two hours
in which we can possibly succeed; the concierge once gone to
bed, how shall we get at him without making a disturbance?
When daylight dawns, how can we conceal our proceedings? Go,
go yourself, monseigneur, and do not seek either woman or
angel to-night."

"But, my dear Pellisson, here we are before her door."

"What! before the angel's door?"

"Why, yes!"

"This is the hotel of Madame de Belliere!"

"Hush!"

"Ah! Good Lord!" exclaimed Pellisson.

"What have you to say against her?"

"Nothing, alas! and it is that which causes my despair.
Nothing, absolutely nothing. Why can I not, on the contrary,
say ill enough of her to prevent your going to her?"

But Fouquet had already given orders to stop, and the
carriage was motionless. "Prevent me!" cried Fouquet; "why,
no power on earth should prevent my going to pay my
compliments to Madame de Plessis-Belliere, besides, who
knows that we shall not stand in need of her!"

"No, monseigneur no!"

"But I do not wish you to wait for me, Pellisson," 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 some one with her." Fouquet leant towards the steps of
the carriage. "One word more," cried Pellisson; "do not go
to this lady till you have been to the concierge, for
Heaven's sake!"

"Eh! five minutes, Pellisson," replied Fouquet, alighting at
the steps of the hotel, leaving Pellisson 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."

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