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List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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"But, forget that you are Monsieur d'Artagnan, captain of the musketeers;
forget that I am Monsieur Fouquet, surintendant of the finances; and let
us talk about my affairs."

"That is rather a delicate subject."

"Indeed?"

"Yes; but, for your sake, Monsieur Fouquet, I will do what may almost be
regarded as an impossibility."

"Thank you.  What did the king say to you?"

"Nothing."

"Ah! is that the way you talk?"

"The deuce!"

"What do you think of my situation?"

"I do not know."

"However, unless you have some ill feeling against me - "

"Your position is a difficult one."

"In what respect?"

"Because you are under your own roof."

"However difficult it may be, I understand it very well."

"Do you suppose that, with any one else but yourself, I should have
shown so much frankness?"

"What! so much frankness, do you say? you, who refuse to tell me the
slightest thing?"

"At all events, then, so much ceremony and consideration."

"Ah!  I have nothing to say in that respect."

"One moment, monseigneur: let me tell you how I should have behaved
towards any one but yourself.  It might be that I happened to arrive at
your door just as your guests or your friends had left you - or, if they
had not gone yet, I should wait until they were leaving, and should then
catch them one after the other, like rabbits; I should lock them up
quietly enough, I should steal softly along the carpet of your corridor,
and with one hand upon you, before you suspected the slightest thing
amiss, I should keep you safely until my master's breakfast in the
morning.  In this way, I should just the same have avoided all publicity,
all disturbance, all opposition; but there would also have been no
warning for M. Fouquet, no consideration for his feelings, none of those
delicate concessions which are shown by persons who are essentially
courteous in their natures, whenever the decisive moment may arrive.
Are you satisfied with the plan?"

"It makes me shudder."

"I thought you would not like it.  It would have been very disagreeable
to have made my appearance to-morrow, without any preparation, and to
have asked you to deliver up your sword."

"Oh! monsieur, I should have died of shame and anger."

"Your gratitude is too eloquently expressed.  I have not done enough to
deserve it, I assure you."

"Most certainly, monsieur, you will never get me to believe that."

"Well, then, monseigneur, if you are satisfied with what I have done, and
have somewhat recovered from the shock which I prepared you for as much
as I possibly could, let us allow the few hours that remain to pass away
undisturbed.  You are harassed, and should arrange your thoughts; I beg
you, therefore, go to sleep, or pretend to go to sleep, either on your
bed, or in your bed; I will sleep in this armchair; and when I fall
asleep, my rest is so sound that a cannon would not wake me."

Fouquet smiled.  "I expect, however," continued the musketeer, "the case
of a door being opened, whether a secret door, or any other; or the case
of any one going out of, or coming into, the room - for anything like
that my ear is as quick and sensitive as the ear of a mouse.  Creaking
noises make me start.  It arises, I suppose, from a natural antipathy to
anything of the kind.  Move about as much as you like; walk up and down
in any part of the room, write, efface, destroy, burn, - nothing like
that will prevent me from going to sleep or even prevent me from snoring,
but do not touch either the key or the handle of the door, for I should
start up in a moment, and that would shake my nerves and make me ill."

"Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Fouquet, "you are certainly the most witty
and the most courteous man I ever met with; and you will leave me only
one regret, that of having made your acquaintance so late."

D'Artagnan drew a deep sigh, which seemed to say, "Alas! you have perhaps
made it too soon."  He then settled himself in his armchair, while
Fouquet, half lying on his bed and leaning on his arm, was meditating on
his misadventures.  In this way, both of them, leaving the candles
burning, awaited the first dawn of the day; and when Fouquet happened to
sigh too loudly, D'Artagnan only snored the louder.  Not a single visit,
not even from Aramis, disturbed their quietude: not a sound even was
heard throughout the whole vast palace.  Outside, however, the guards of
honor on duty, and the patrol of musketeers, paced up and down; and the
sound of their feet could be heard on the gravel walks.  It seemed to act
as an additional soporific for the sleepers, while the murmuring of the
wind through the trees, and the unceasing music of the fountains whose
waters tumbled in the basin, still went on uninterruptedly, without being
disturbed at the slight noises and items of little moment that constitute
the life and death of human nature.


Chapter XX:
The Morning.

In vivid contrast to the sad and terrible destiny of the king imprisoned
in the Bastile, and tearing, in sheer despair, the bolts and bars of his
dungeon, the rhetoric of the chroniclers of old would not fail to
present, as a complete antithesis, the picture of Philippe lying asleep
beneath the royal canopy.  We do not pretend to say that such rhetoric is
always bad, and always scatters, in places where they have no right to
grow, the flowers with which it embellishes and enlivens history.  But we
shall, on the present occasion, carefully avoid polishing the antithesis
in question, but shall proceed to draw another picture as minutely as
possible, to serve as foil and counterfoil to the one in the preceding
chapter.  The young prince alighted from Aramis's room, in the same way
the king had descended from the apartment dedicated to Morpheus.  The
dome gradually and slowly sank down under Aramis's pressure, and Philippe
stood beside the royal bed, which had ascended again after having
deposited its prisoner in the secret depths of the subterranean passage.
Alone, in the presence of all the luxury which surrounded him; alone, in
the presence of his power; alone, with the part he was about to be forced
to act, Philippe for the first time felt his heart, and mind, and soul
expand beneath the influence of a thousand mutable emotions, which are
the vital throbs of a king's heart.  He could not help changing color
when he looked upon the empty bed, still tumbled by his brother's body.
This mute accomplice had returned, after having completed the work it had
been destined to perform; it returned with the traces of the crime; it
spoke to the guilty author of that crime, with the frank and unreserved
language which an accomplice never fears to use in the company of his
companion in guilt; for it spoke the truth.  Philippe bent over the bed,
and perceived a pocket-handkerchief lying on it, which was still damp
from the cold sweat which had poured from Louis XIV.'s face.  This sweat-
bestained handkerchief terrified Philippe, as the gore of Abel frightened
Cain.

"I am face to face with my destiny," said Philippe, his eyes on fire, and
his face a livid white.  "Is it likely to be more terrifying than my
captivity has been sad and gloomy?  Though I am compelled to follow out,
at every moment, the sovereign power and authority I have usurped, shall
I cease to listen to the scruples of my heart?  Yes! the king has lain on
this bed; it is indeed his head that has left its impression on this
pillow; his bitter tears that have stained this handkerchief: and yet, I
hesitate to throw myself on the bed, or to press in my hand the
handkerchief which is embroidered with my brother's arms.  Away with such
weakness; let me imitate M. d'Herblay, who asserts that a man's action
should be always one degree above his thoughts; let me imitate M.
d'Herblay, whose thoughts are of and for himself alone, who regards
himself as a man of honor, so long as he injures or betrays his enemies
only.  I, I alone, should have occupied this bed, if Louis XIV. had not,
owing to my mother's criminal abandonment, stood in my way; and this
handkerchief, embroidered with the arms of France, would in right and
justice belong to me alone, if, as M. d'Herblay observes, I had been left
my royal cradle.  Philippe, son of France, take your place on that bed;
Philippe, sole king of France, resume the blazonry that is yours!
Philippe, sole heir presumptive to Louis XIII., your father, show
yourself without pity or mercy for the usurper who, at this moment, has
not even to suffer the agony of the remorse of all that you have had to
submit to."

With these words, Philippe, notwithstanding an instinctive repugnance of
feeling, and in spite of the shudder of terror which mastered his will,
threw himself on the royal bed, and forced his muscles to press the still
warm place where Louis XIV. had lain, while he buried his burning face in
the handkerchief still moistened by his brother's tears.  With his head
thrown back and buried in the soft down of his pillow, Philippe perceived
above him the crown of France, suspended, as we have stated, by angels
with outspread golden wings.

A man may be ambitious of lying in a lion's den, but can hardly hope to
sleep there quietly.  Philippe listened attentively to every sound; his
heart panted and throbbed at the very suspicion of approaching terror and
misfortune; but confident in his own strength, which was confirmed by the
force of an overpoweringly resolute determination, he waited until some
decisive circumstance should permit him to judge for himself.  He hoped
that imminent danger might be revealed to him, like those phosphoric
lights of the tempest which show the sailors the altitude of the waves
against which they have to struggle.  But nothing approached.  Silence,
that mortal enemy of restless hearts, and of ambitious minds, shrouded
in the thickness of its gloom during the remainder of the night the
future king of France, who lay there sheltered beneath his stolen crown.
Towards the morning a shadow, rather than a body, glided into the royal
chamber; Philippe expected his approach and neither expressed nor

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