List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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"Quick!" cried Pelisson.  "Since you explain yourself with such
frankness, it is our duty to be frank, likewise.  Yes, you are ruined 
yes, you are hastening to your ruin - stop.  And, in the first place,
what money have we left?"

"Seven hundred thousand livres," said the intendant.

"Bread," murmured Madame Fouquet.

"Relays," said Pelisson, "relays, and fly!"

"Whither?"

"To Switzerland - to Savoy - but fly!"

"If monseigneur flies," said Madame Belliere, "it will be said that he
was guilty - was afraid."

"More than that, it will be said that I have carried away twenty millions
with me."

"We will draw up memoirs to justify you," said La Fontaine.  "Fly!"

"I will remain," said Fouquet.  "And, besides, does not everything serve
me?"

"You have Belle-Isle," cried the Abbe Fouquet.

"And I am naturally going there, when going to Nantes," replied the
superintendent.  "Patience, then, patience!"

"Before arriving at Nantes, what a distance!" said Madame Fouquet.

"Yes, I know that well," replied Fouquet.  "But what is to be done
there?  The king summons me to the States.  I know well it is for the
purpose of ruining me; but to refuse to go would be to evince uneasiness."

"Well, I have discovered the means of reconciling everything," cried
Pelisson.  "You are going to set out for Nantes."

Fouquet looked at him with an air of surprise.

"But with friends; but in your own carriage as far as Orleans; in your
own barge as far as Nantes; always ready to defend yourself, if you are
attacked; to escape, if you are threatened.  In fact, you will carry
your money against all chances; and, whilst flying, you will only have
obeyed the king; then, reaching the sea, when you like, you will embark
for Belle-Isle, and from Belle-Isle you will shoot out wherever it may
please you, like the eagle that leaps into space when it has been driven
from its eyrie."

A general assent followed Pelisson's words.  "Yes, do so," said Madame
Fouquet to her husband.

"Do so," said Madame de Belliere.

"Do it! do it!" cried all his friends.

"I will do so," replied Fouquet.

"This very evening?"

"In an hour?"

"Instantly."

"With seven hundred thousand livres you can lay the foundation of another
fortune," said the Abbe Fouquet.

"What is there to prevent our arming corsairs at Belle-Isle?"

"And, if necessary, we will go and discover a new world," added La
Fontaine, intoxicated with fresh projects and enthusiasm.

A knock at the door interrupted this concert of joy and hope.  "A courier
from the king," said the master of the ceremonies.

A profound silence immediately ensued, as if the message brought by this
courier was nothing but a reply to all the projects given birth to a
moment before.  Every one waited to see what the master would do.  His
brow was streaming with perspiration, and he was really suffering from
his fever at that instant.  He passed into his cabinet, to receive the
king's message.  There prevailed, as we have said, such a silence in the
chambers, and throughout the attendance, that from the dining-room could
be heard the voice of Fouquet, saying, "That is well, monsieur."  This
voice was, however, broken by fatigue, and trembled with emotion.  An
instant after, Fouquet called Gourville, who crossed the gallery amidst
the universal expectation.  At length, he himself re-appeared among his
guests; but it was no longer the same pale, spiritless countenance they
had beheld when he left them; from pale he had become livid; and from
spiritless, annihilated.  A breathing, living specter, he advanced with
his arms stretched out, his mouth parched, like a shade that comes to
salute the friends of former days.  On seeing him thus, every one cried
out, and every one rushed towards Fouquet.  The latter, looking at
Pelisson, leaned upon his wife, and pressed the icy hand of the Marquise
de Belliere.

"Well," said he, in a voice which had nothing human in it.

"What has happened, my God!" said some one to him.

Fouquet opened his right hand, which was clenched, but glistening with
perspiration, and displayed a paper, upon which Pelisson cast a terrified
glance.  He read the following lines, written by the king's hand:

"'DEAR AND WELL-BELOVED MONSIEUR FOUQUET, - Give us, upon that which you
have left of ours, the sum of seven hundred thousand livres, of which we
stand in need to prepare for our departure.

"'And, as we know your health is not good, we pray God to restore you,
and to have you in His holy keeping.
"'LOUIS.

"'The present letter is to serve as a receipt.'"

A murmur of terror circulated through the apartment.

"Well," cried Pelisson, in his turn, "you have received that letter?"

"Received it, yes!"

"What will you do, then?"

"Nothing, since I have received it."

"But - "

"If I have received it, Pelisson, I have paid it," said the surintendant,
with a simplicity that went to the heart of all present.

"You have paid it!" cried Madame Fouquet.  "Then we are ruined!"

"Come, no useless words," interrupted Pelisson.  "Next to money, life.
Monseigneur, to horse! to horse!"

"What, leave us!" at once cried both the women, wild with grief.

"Eh! monseigneur, in saving yourself, you save us all.  To horse!"

"But he cannot hold himself on.  Look at him."

"Oh! if he takes time to reflect - " said the intrepid Pelisson.

"He is right," murmured Fouquet.

"Monseigneur!  Monseigneur!" cried Gourville, rushing up the stairs, four
steps at once.  "Monseigneur!"

"Well! what?"

"I escorted, as you desired, the king's courier with the money."

"Yes."

"Well! when I arrived at the Palais Royal, I saw - "

"Take breath, my poor friend, take breath; you are suffocating."

"What did you see?" cried the impatient friends.

"I saw the musketeers mounting on horseback," said Gourville.

"There, then!" cried every voice at once; "there, then! is there an
instant to be lost?"

Madame Fouquet rushed downstairs, calling for her horses; Madame de
Belliere flew after her, catching her in her arms, and saying: "Madame,
in the name of his safety, do not betray anything, do not manifest alarm."

Pelisson ran to have the horses put to the carriages.  And, in the
meantime, Gourville gathered in his hat all that the weeping friends were
able to throw into it of gold and silver - the last offering, the pious
alms made to misery by poverty.  The surintendant, dragged along by some,
carried by others, was shut up in his carriage.  Gourville took the
reins, and mounted the box.  Pelisson supported Madame Fouquet, who had
fainted.  Madame de Belliere had more strength, and was well paid for it;
she received Fouquet's last kiss.  Pelisson easily explained this
precipitate departure by saying that an order from the king had summoned
the minister to Nantes.


Chapter XXXVI:
In M. Colbert's Carriage.

As Gourville had seen, the king's musketeers were mounting and following
their captain.  The latter, who did not like to be confined in his
proceedings, left his brigade under the orders of a lieutenant, and set
off on post horses, recommending his men to use all diligence.  However
rapidly they might travel, they could not arrive before him.  He had
time, in passing along the Rue des Petits-Champs, to see something which
afforded him plenty of food for thought and conjecture.  He saw M.
Colbert coming out from his house to get into his carriage, which was
stationed before the door.  In this carriage D'Artagnan perceived the
hoods of two women, and being rather curious, he wished to know the names
of the ladies hid beneath these hoods.  To get a glimpse at them, for
they kept themselves closely covered up, he urged his horse so near the
carriage, that he drove him against the step with such force as to shake
everything containing and contained.  The terrified women uttered, the
one a faint cry, by which D'Artagnan recognized a young woman, the other
an imprecation, in which he recognized the vigor and _aplomb_ that half a
century bestows.  The hoods were thrown back: one of the women was Madame
Vanel, the other the Duchesse de Chevreuse.  D'Artagnan's eyes were
quicker than those of the ladies; he had seen and known them, whilst they
did not recognize him; and as they laughed at their fright, pressing each
other's hands, -

"Humph!" said D'Artagnan, "the old duchesse is no more inaccessible to
friendship than formerly.  _She_ paying her court to the mistress of M.
Colbert!  Poor M. Fouquet! that presages you nothing good!"

He rode on.  M. Colbert got into his carriage and the distinguished trio
commenced a sufficiently slow pilgrimage toward the wood of Vincennes.
Madame de Chevreuse set down Madame Vanel at her husband's house, and,
left alone with M. Colbert, chatted upon affairs whilst continuing her
ride.  She had an inexhaustible fund of conversation, that dear duchesse,
and as she always talked for the ill of others, though ever with a view
to her own good, her conversation amused her interlocutor, and did not
fail to leave a favorable impression.

She taught Colbert, who, poor man! was ignorant of the fact, how great a
minister he was, and how Fouquet would soon become a cipher.  She
promised to rally around him, when he should become surintendant, all the
old nobility of the kingdom, and questioned him as to the preponderance
it would be proper to allow La Valliere.  She praised him, she blamed
him, she bewildered him.  She showed him the secret of so many secrets
that, for a moment, Colbert thought he was doing business with the
devil.  She proved to him that she held in her hand the Colbert of to-
day, as she had held the Fouquet of yesterday; and as he asked her very
simply the reason of her hatred for the surintendant: "Why do you
yourself hate him?" said she.

"Madame, in politics," replied he, "the differences of system oft bring
about dissentions between men.  M. Fouquet always appeared to me to
practice a system opposed to the true interests of the king."

She interrupted him. - "I will say no more to you about M. Fouquet.  The
journey the king is about to take to Nantes will give a good account of

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