List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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"I am afraid your majesty is suffering?"

"I am suffering, and have already told you so, monsieur; but it is

And the king, without waiting for the termination of the fireworks,
turned towards the chateau.  Fouquet accompanied him, and the whole court
followed, leaving the remains of the fireworks consuming for their own
amusement.  The superintendent endeavored again to question Louis XIV.,
but did not succeed in obtaining a reply.  He imagined there had been
some misunderstanding between Louis and La Valliere in the park, which
had resulted in a slight quarrel; and that the king, who was not
ordinarily sulky by disposition, but completely absorbed by his passion
for La Valliere, had taken a dislike to every one because his mistress
had shown herself offended with him.  This idea was sufficient to console
him; he had even a friendly and kindly smile for the young king, when the
latter wished him good night.  This, however, was not all the king had to
submit to; he was obliged to undergo the usual ceremony, which on that
evening was marked by close adherence to the strictest etiquette.  The
next day was the one fixed for the departure; it was but proper that the
guests should thank their host, and show him a little attention in return
for the expenditure of his twelve millions.  The only remark, approaching
to amiability, which the king could find to say to M. Fouquet, as he took
leave of him, were in these words, "M. Fouquet, you shall hear from me.
Be good enough to desire M. d'Artagnan to come here."

But the blood of Louis XIV., who had so profoundly dissimulated his
feelings, boiled in his veins; and he was perfectly willing to order M.
Fouquet to be put an end to with the same readiness, indeed, as his
predecessor had caused the assassination of le Marechal d'Ancre; and so
he disguised the terrible resolution he had formed beneath one of those
royal smiles which, like lightning-flashes, indicated _coups d'etat_.
Fouquet took the king's hand and kissed it; Louis shuddered throughout
his whole frame, but allowed M. Fouquet to touch his hand with his lips.
Five minutes afterwards, D'Artagnan, to whom the royal order had been
communicated, entered Louis XIV.'s apartment.  Aramis and Philippe were
in theirs, still eagerly attentive, and still listening with all their
ears.  The king did not even give the captain of the musketeers time to
approach his armchair, but ran forward to meet him.  "Take care," he
exclaimed, "that no one enters here."

"Very good, sire," replied the captain, whose glance had for a long time
past analyzed the stormy indications on the royal countenance.  He gave
the necessary order at the door; but, returning to the king, he said, "Is
there something fresh the matter, your majesty?"

"How many men have you here?" inquired the king, without making any other
reply to the question addressed to him.

"What for, sire?"

"How many men have you, I say?" repeated the king, stamping upon the
ground with his foot.

"I have the musketeers."

"Well; and what others?"

"Twenty guards and thirteen Swiss."

"How many men will be required to - "

"To do what, sire?" replied the musketeer, opening his large, calm eyes.

"To arrest M. Fouquet."

D'Artagnan fell back a step.

"To arrest M. Fouquet!" he burst forth.

"Are you going to tell me that it is impossible?" exclaimed the king, in
tones of cold, vindictive passion.

"I never say that anything is impossible," replied D'Artagnan, wounded to
the quick.

"Very well; do it, then."

D'Artagnan turned on his heel, and made his way towards the door; it was
but a short distance, and he cleared it in half a dozen paces; when he
reached it he suddenly paused, and said, "Your majesty will forgive me,
but, in order to effect this arrest, I should like written directions."

"For what purpose - and since when has the king's word been insufficient
for you?"

"Because the word of a king, when it springs from a feeling of anger, may
possibly change when the feeling changes."

"A truce to set phrases, monsieur; you have another thought besides that?"

"Oh, I, at least, have certain thoughts and ideas, which, unfortunately,
others have not," D'Artagnan replied, impertinently.

The king, in the tempest of his wrath, hesitated, and drew back in the
face of D'Artagnan's frank courage, just as a horse crouches on his
haunches under the strong hand of a bold and experienced rider.  "What is
your thought?" he exclaimed.

"This, sire," replied D'Artagnan: "you cause a man to be arrested when
you are still under his roof; and passion is alone the cause of that.
When your anger shall have passed, you will regret what you have done;
and then I wish to be in a position to show you your signature.  If that,
however, should fail to be a reparation, it will at least show us that
the king was wrong to lose his temper."

"Wrong to lose his temper!" cried the king, in a loud, passionate voice.
"Did not my father, my grandfathers, too, before me, lose their temper at
times, in Heaven's name?"

"The king your father and the king your grandfather never lost their
temper except when under the protection of their own palace."

"The king is master wherever he may be."

"That is a flattering, complimentary phrase which cannot proceed from any
one but M. Colbert; but it happens not to be the truth.  The king is at
home in every man's house when he has driven its owner out of it."

The king bit his lips, but said nothing.

"Can it be possible?" said D'Artagnan; "here is a man who is positively
ruining himself in order to please you, and you wish to have him
arrested!  _Mordioux!_  Sire, if my name was Fouquet, and people treated
me in that manner, I would swallow at a single gulp all sorts of
fireworks and other things, and I would set fire to them, and send myself
and everybody else in blown-up atoms to the sky.  But it is all the same;
it is your wish, and it shall be done."

"Go," said the king; "but have you men enough?"

"Do you suppose I am going to take a whole host to help me?  Arrest M.
Fouquet! why, that is so easy that a very child might do it!  It is like
drinking a glass of wormwood; one makes an ugly face, and that is all."

"If he defends himself?"

"He! it is not at all likely.  Defend himself when such extreme harshness
as you are going to practice makes the man a very martyr!  Nay, I am sure
that if he has a million of francs left, which I very much doubt, he
would be willing enough to give it in order to have such a termination as
this.  But what does that matter? it shall be done at once."

"Stay," said the king; "do not make his arrest a public affair."

"That will be more difficult."

"Why so?"

"Because nothing is easier than to go up to M. Fouquet in the midst of a
thousand enthusiastic guests who surround him, and say, 'In the king's
name, I arrest you.'  But to go up to him, to turn him first one way and
then another, to drive him up into one of the corners of the chess-board,
in such a way that he cannot escape; to take him away from his guests,
and keep him a prisoner for you, without one of them, alas! having heard
anything about it; that, indeed, is a genuine difficulty, the greatest of
all, in truth; and I hardly see how it is to be done."

"You had better say it is impossible, and you will have finished much
sooner.  Heaven help me, but I seem to be surrounded by people who
prevent me doing what I wish."

"I do not prevent your doing anything.  Have you indeed decided?"

"Take care of M. Fouquet, until I shall have made up my mind by to-morrow

"That shall be done, sire."

"And return, when I rise in the morning, for further orders; and now
leave me to myself."

"You do not even want M. Colbert, then?" said the musketeer, firing his
last shot as he was leaving the room.  The king started.  With his whole
mind fixed on the thought of revenge, he had forgotten the cause and
substance of the offense.

"No, no one," he said; "no one here!  Leave me."

D'Artagnan quitted the room.  The king closed the door with his own
hands, and began to walk up and down his apartment at a furious pace,
like a wounded bull in an arena, trailing from his horn the colored
streamers and the iron darts.  At last he began to take comfort in the
expression of his violent feelings.

"Miserable wretch that he is! not only does he squander my finances, but
with his ill-gotten plunder he corrupts secretaries, friends, generals,
artists, and all, and tries to rob me of the one to whom I am most
attached.  This is the reason that perfidious girl so boldly took his
part!  Gratitude! and who can tell whether it was not a stronger feeling
- love itself?"  He gave himself up for a moment to the bitterest
reflections.  "A satyr!" he thought, with that abhorrent hate with which
young men regard those more advanced in life, who still think of love.
"A man who has never found opposition or resistance in any one, who
lavishes his gold and jewels in every direction, and who retains his
staff of painters in order to take the portraits of his mistresses in the
costume of goddesses."  The king trembled with passion as he continued,
"He pollutes and profanes everything that belongs to me!  He destroys
everything that is mine.  He will be my death at last, I know.  That man
is too much for me; he is my mortal enemy, but he shall forthwith fall!
I hate him - I hate him - I hate him!" and as he pronounced these words,
he struck the arm of the chair in which he was sitting violently, over
and over again, and then rose like one in an epileptic fit.  "To-morrow!
to-morrow! oh, happy day!" he murmured, "when the sun rises, no other
rival shall that brilliant king of space possess but me.  That man shall
fall so low that when people look at the abject ruin my anger shall have
wrought, they will be forced to confess at last and at least that I am
indeed greater than he."  The king, who was incapable of mastering his
emotions any longer, knocked over with a blow of his fist a small table
placed close to his bedside, and in the very bitterness of anger, almost

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