List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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father died.  This same Percerin III., old, famous and wealthy, yet
further dressed Louis XIV.; and having no son, which was a great cause of
sorrow to him, seeing that with himself his dynasty would end, he had
brought up several hopeful pupils.  He possessed a carriage, a country
house, men-servants the tallest in Paris; and by special authority from
Louis XIV., a pack of hounds.  He worked for MM. de Lyonne and Letellier,
under a sort of patronage; but politic man as he was, and versed in state
secrets, he never succeeded in fitting M. Colbert.  This is beyond
explanation; it is a matter for guessing or for intuition.  Great
geniuses of every kind live on unseen, intangible ideas; they act without
themselves knowing why.  The great Percerin (for, contrary to the rule of
dynasties, it was, above all, the last of the Percerins who deserved the
name of Great), the great Percerin was inspired when he cut a robe for
the queen, or a coat for the king; he could mount a mantle for Monsieur,
the clock of a stocking for Madame; but, in spite of his supreme talent,
he could never hit off anything approaching a creditable fit for M.
Colbert.  "That man," he used often to say, "is beyond my art; my needle
can never dot him down."  We need scarcely say that Percerin was M.
Fouquet's tailor, and that the superintendent highly esteemed him.  M.
Percerin was nearly eighty years old, nevertheless still fresh, and at
the same time so dry, the courtiers used to say, that he was positively
brittle.  His renown and his fortune were great enough for M. le Prince,
that king of fops, to take his arm when talking over the fashions; and
for those least eager to pay never to dare to leave their accounts in
arrear with him; for Master Percerin would for the first time make
clothes upon credit, but the second never, unless paid for the former

It is easy to see at once that a tailor of such renown, instead of
running after customers, made difficulties about obliging any fresh
ones.  And so Percerin declined to fit _bourgeois_, or those who had but
recently obtained patents of nobility.  A story used to circulate that
even M. de Mazarin, in exchange for Percerin supplying him with a full
suit of ceremonial vestments as cardinal, one fine day slipped letters of
nobility into his pocket.

It was to the house of this grand llama of tailors that D'Artagnan took
the despairing Porthos; who, as they were going along, said to his
friend, "Take care, my good D'Artagnan, not to compromise the dignity of
a man such as I am with the arrogance of this Percerin, who will, I
expect, be very impertinent; for I give you notice, my friend, that if he
is wanting in respect I will infallibly chastise him."

"Presented by me," replied D'Artagnan, "you have nothing to fear, even
though you were what you are not."

"Ah! 'tis because - "

"What?  Have you anything against Percerin, Porthos?"

"I think that I once sent Mouston to a fellow of that name."

"And then?"

"The fellow refused to supply me."

"Oh, a misunderstanding, no doubt, which it will be now exceedingly easy
to set right.  Mouston must have made a mistake."


"He has confused the names."

"Possibly.  That rascal Mouston never can remember names."

"I will take it all upon myself."

"Very good."

"Stop the carriage, Porthos; here we are."

"Here! how here?  We are at the Halles; and you told me the house was at
the corner of the Rue de l'Arbre Sec."

"'Tis true, but look."

"Well, I do look, and I see - "


"_Pardieu!_ that we are at the Halles!"

"You do not, I suppose, want our horses to clamber up on the roof of the
carriage in front of us?"


"Nor the carriage in front of us to mount on top of the one in front of
it.  Nor that the second should be driven over the roofs of the thirty or
forty others which have arrived before us."

"No, you are right, indeed.  What a number of people!  And what are they
all about?"

"'Tis very simple.  They are waiting their turn."

"Bah!  Have the comedians of the Hotel de Bourgogne shifted their

"No; their turn to obtain an entrance to M. Percerin's house."

"And we are going to wait too?"

"Oh, we shall show ourselves prompter and not so proud."

"What are we to do, then?"

"Get down, pass through the footmen and lackeys, and enter the tailor's
house, which I will answer for our doing, if you go first."

"Come along, then," said Porthos.

They accordingly alighted and made their way on foot towards the
establishment.  The cause of the confusion was that M. Percerin's doors
were closed, while a servant, standing before them, was explaining to
the illustrious customers of the illustrious tailor that just then M.
Percerin could not receive anybody.  It was bruited about outside still,
on the authority of what the great lackey had told some great noble whom
he favored, in confidence, that M. Percerin was engaged on five costumes
for the king, and that, owing to the urgency of the case, he was
meditating in his office on the ornaments, colors, and cut of these five
suits.  Some, contented with this reason, went away again, contented to
repeat the tale to others, but others, more tenacious, insisted on having
the doors opened, and among these last three Blue Ribbons, intended to
take parts in a ballet, which would inevitably fail unless the said three
had their costumes shaped by the very hand of the great Percerin
himself.  D'Artagnan, pushing on Porthos, who scattered the groups of
people right and left, succeeded in gaining the counter, behind which
the journeyman tailors were doing their best to answer queries.  (We
forgot to mention that at the door they wanted to put off Porthos like
the rest, but D'Artagnan, showing himself, pronounced merely these words,
"The king's order," and was let in with his friend.)  The poor fellows
had enough to do, and did their best, to reply to the demands of the
customers in the absence of their master, leaving off drawing a stitch to
knit a sentence; and when wounded pride, or disappointed expectation,
brought down upon them too cutting a rebuke, he who was attacked made a
dive and disappeared under the counter.  The line of discontented lords
formed a truly remarkable picture.  Our captain of musketeers, a man of
sure and rapid observation, took it all in at a glance; and having run
over the groups, his eye rested on a man in front of him.  This man,
seated upon a stool, scarcely showed his head above the counter that
sheltered him.  He was about forty years of age, with a melancholy
aspect, pale face, and soft luminous eyes.  He was looking at D'Artagnan
and the rest, with his chin resting upon his hand, like a calm and
inquiring amateur.  Only on perceiving, and doubtless recognizing, our
captain, he pulled his hat down over his eyes.  It was this action,
perhaps, that attracted D'Artagnan's attention.  If so, the gentleman
who had pulled down his hat produced an effect entirely different from
what he had desired.  In other respects his costume was plain, and his
hair evenly cut enough for customers, who were not close observers, to
take him for a mere tailor's apprentice, perched behind the board, and
carefully stitching cloth or velvet.  Nevertheless, this man held up his
head too often to be very productively employed with his fingers.
D'Artagnan was not deceived, - not he; and he saw at once that if this
man was working at anything, it certainly was not at velvet.

"Eh!" said he, addressing this man, "and so you have become a tailor's
boy, Monsieur Moliere!"

"Hush, M. d'Artagnan!" replied the man, softly, "you will make them
recognize me."

"Well, and what harm?"

"The fact is, there is no harm, but - "

"You were going to say there is no good in doing it either, is it not so?"

"Alas! no; for I was occupied in examining some excellent figures."

"Go on - go on, Monsieur Moliere.  I quite understand the interest you
take in the plates - I will not disturb your studies."

"Thank you."

"But on one condition; that you tell me where M. Percerin really is."

"Oh! willingly; in his own room.  Only - "

"Only that one can't enter it?"


"For everybody?"

"Everybody.  He brought me here so that I might be at my ease to make my
observations, and then he went away."

"Well, my dear Monsieur Moliere, but you will go and tell him I am here."

"I!" exclaimed Moliere, in the tone of a courageous dog, from which you
snatch the bone it has legitimately gained; "I disturb myself!  Ah!
Monsieur d'Artagnan, how hard you are upon me!"

"If you don't go directly and tell M. Percerin that I am here, my dear
Moliere," said D'Artagnan, in a low tone, "I warn you of one thing: that
I won't exhibit to you the friend I have brought with me."

Moliere indicated Porthos by an imperceptible gesture, "This gentleman,
is it not?"


Moliere fixed upon Porthos one of those looks which penetrate the minds
and hearts of men.  The subject doubtless appeared a very promising one,
for he immediately rose and led the way into the adjoining chamber.

Chapter IV:
The Patterns.

During all this time the noble mob was slowly heaving away, leaving at
every angle of the counter either a murmur or a menace, as the waves
leave foam or scattered seaweed on the sands, when they retire with the
ebbing tide.  In about ten minutes Moliere reappeared, making another
sign to D'Artagnan from under the hangings.  The latter hurried after
him, with Porthos in the rear, and after threading a labyrinth of
corridors, introduced him to M. Percerin's room.  The old man, with his
sleeves turned up, was gathering up in folds a piece of gold-flowered
brocade, so as the better to exhibit its luster.  Perceiving D'Artagnan,
he put the silk aside, and came to meet him, by no means radiant with
joy, and by no means courteous, but, take it altogether, in a tolerably
civil manner.

"The captain of the king's musketeers will excuse me, I am sure, for I am

"Eh! yes, on the king's costumes; I know that, my dear Monsieur
Percerin.  You are making three, they tell me."

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