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List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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for four or five men, armed with muskets, jumped from the lighter on to
the shore, and marched along the banks, as if to gain ground on the
horseman.  Fouquet, satisfied of having forced the enemy to a
demonstration, considered his intention evident, and put his boat in
motion again.  Colbert's people returned likewise to theirs, and the
course of the two vessels was resumed with fresh perseverance.  Upon
seeing this, Fouquet felt himself threatened closely, and in a prophetic
voice - "Well, Gourville," said he, whisperingly, "what did I say at our
last repast, at my house?  Am I going, or not, to my ruin?"

"Oh! monseigneur!"

"These two boats, which follow each other with so much emulation, as if
we were disputing, M. Colbert and I, a prize for swiftness on the Loire,
do they not aptly represent our fortunes; and do you not believe,
Gourville, that one of the two will be wrecked at Nantes?"

"At least," objected Gourville, "there is still uncertainty; you are
about to appear at the States; you are about to show what sort of man you
are; your eloquence and genius for business are the buckler and sword
that will serve to defend you, if not to conquer with.  The Bretons do
not know you; and when they become acquainted with you your cause is
won!  Oh! let M. Colbert look to it well, for his lighter is as much
exposed as yours to being upset.  Both go quickly, his faster than yours,
it is true; we shall see which will be wrecked first."

Fouquet, taking Gourville's hand - "My friend," said he, "everything
considered, remember the proverb, 'First come, first served!'  Well!  M.
Colbert takes care not to pass me.  He is a prudent man is M. Colbert."

He was right; the two lighters held their course as far as Nantes,
watching each other.  When the surintendant landed, Gourville hoped he
should be able to seek refuge at once, and have the relays prepared.
But, at the landing, the second lighter joined the first, and Colbert,
approaching Fouquet, saluted him on the quay with marks of the
profoundest respect - marks so significant, so public, that their result
was the bringing of the whole population upon La Fosse.  Fouquet was
completely self-possessed; he felt that in his last moments of greatness
he had obligations towards himself.  He wished to fall from such a height
that his fall should crush some of his enemies.  Colbert was there - so
much the worse for Colbert.  The surintendant, therefore, coming up to
him, replied, with that arrogant semi-closure of the eyes peculiar to
him - "What! is that you, M. Colbert?"

"To offer you my respects, monseigneur," said the latter.

"Were you in that lighter?" - pointing to the one with twelve rowers.

"Yes, monseigneur."

"Of twelve rowers?" said Fouquet; "what luxury, M. Colbert.  For a
moment I thought it was the queen-mother."

"Monseigneur!" - and Colbert blushed.

"This is a voyage that will cost those who have to pay for it dear,
Monsieur l'Intendant!" said Fouquet.  "But you have, happily, arrived! 
You see, however," added he, a moment after, "that I, who had but eight
rowers, arrived before you."  And he turned his back towards him, leaving
him uncertain whether the maneuvers of the second lighter had escaped the
notice of the first.  At least he did not give him the satisfaction of
showing that he had been frightened.  Colbert, so annoyingly attacked,
did not give way.

"I have not been quick, monseigneur," he replied, "because I followed
your example whenever you stopped."

"And why did you do that, Monsieur Colbert?" cried Fouquet, irritated by
the base audacity; "as you had a superior crew to mine, why did you not
either join me or pass me?"

"Out of respect," said the intendant, bowing to the ground.

Fouquet got into a carriage which the city had sent to him, we know not
why or how, and he repaired to _la Maison de Nantes_, escorted by a vast
crowd of people, who for several days had been agog with expectation of a
convocation of the States.  Scarcely was he installed when Gourville went
out to order horses on the route to Poitiers and Vannes, and a boat at
Paimboef.  He performed these various operations with so much mystery,
activity, and generosity, that never was Fouquet, then laboring under an
attack of fever, more nearly saved, except for the counteraction of that
immense disturber of human projects, - chance.  A report was spread
during the night, that the king was coming in great haste on post horses,
and would arrive in ten or twelve hours at the latest.  The people, while
waiting for the king, were greatly rejoiced to see the musketeers, newly
arrived, with Monsieur d'Artagnan, their captain, and quartered in the
castle, of which they occupied all the posts, in quality of guard of
honor.  M. d'Artagnan, who was very polite, presented himself, about
ten o'clock, at the lodgings of the surintendant to pay his respectful
compliments; and although the minister suffered from fever, although he
was in such pain as to be bathed in sweat, he would receive M.
d'Artagnan, who was delighted with that honor, as will be seen by the
conversation they had together.


Chapter XXXVIII:
Friendly Advice.

Fouquet had gone to bed, like a man who clings to life, and wishes to
economize, as much as possible, that slender tissue of existence, of
which the shocks and frictions of this world so quickly wear out the
tenuity.  D'Artagnan appeared at the door of this chamber, and was
saluted by the superintendent with a very affable "Good day."

"_Bon jour!_ monseigneur," replied the musketeer; "how did you get
through the journey?"

"Tolerably well, thank you."

"And the fever?"

"But poorly.  I drink, as you perceive.  I am scarcely arrived, and I
have already levied a contribution of _tisane_ upon Nantes."

"You should sleep first, monseigneur."

"Eh! _corbleu!_ my dear Monsieur d'Artagnan, I should be very glad to
sleep."

"Who hinders you?"

"Why, _you_ in the first place."

"I?  Oh, monseigneur!"

"No doubt you do.  Is it at Nantes as at Paris?  Do you not come in the
king's name?"

"For Heaven's sake, monseigneur," replied the captain, "leave the king
alone!  The day on which I shall come on the part of the king, for the
purpose you mean, take my word for it, I will not leave you long in
doubt.  You will see me place my hand on my sword, according to the
_ordonnance_, and you will hear my say at once, in ceremonial voice,
'Monseigneur, in the name of the king, I arrest you!'"

"You promise me that frankness?" said the superintendent.

"Upon my honor!  But we have not come to that, believe me."

"What makes you think that, M. d'Artagnan?  For my part, I think quite
the contrary."

"I have heard speak of nothing of the kind," replied D'Artagnan.

"Eh! eh!" said Fouquet.

"Indeed, no.  You are an agreeable man, in spite of your fever.  The king
should not, cannot help loving you, at the bottom of his heart."

Fouquet's expression implied doubt.  "But M. Colbert?" said he; "does M.
Colbert love me as much as you say?"

"I am not speaking of M. Colbert," replied D'Artagnan.  "He is an
exceptional man.  He does not love you; so much is very possible; but,
_mordioux!_ the squirrel can guard himself against the adder with very
little trouble."

"Do you know that you are speaking to me quite as a friend?" replied
Fouquet; "and that, upon my life!  I have never met with a man of your
intelligence, and heart?"

"You are pleased to say so," replied D'Artagnan.  "Why did you wait till
to-day to pay me such a compliment?"

"Blind that we are!" murmured Fouquet.

"Your voice is getting hoarse," said D'Artagnan; "drink, monseigneur,
drink!"  And he offered him a cup of _tisane_, with the most friendly
cordiality; Fouquet took it, and thanked him by a gentle smile.  "Such
things only happen to me," said the musketeer.  "I have passed ten years
under your very beard, while you were rolling about tons of gold.  You
were clearing an annual pension of four millions; you never observed me;
and you find out there is such a person in the world, just at the moment
you - "

"Just at the moment I am about to fall," interrupted Fouquet.  "That is
true, my dear Monsieur d'Artagnan."

"I did not say so."

"But you thought so; and that is the same thing.  Well! if I fall, take
my word as truth, I shall not pass a single day without saying to myself,
as I strike my brow, 'Fool! fool! - stupid mortal!  You had a Monsieur
d'Artagnan under your eye and hand, and you did not employ him, you did
not enrich him!'"

"You overwhelm me," said the captain.  "I esteem you greatly."

"There exists another man, then, who does not think as M. Colbert
thinks," said the surintendant.

"How this M. Colbert looms up in your imagination!  He is worse than
fever!"

"Oh!  I have good cause," said Fouquet.  "Judge for yourself."  And he
related the details of the course of the lighters, and the hypocritical
persecution of Colbert.  "Is not this a clear sign of my ruin?"

D'Artagnan became very serious.  "That is true," he said.  "Yes; it has
an unsavory odor, as M. de Treville used to say."  And he fixed on M.
Fouquet his intelligent and significant look.

"Am I not clearly designated in that, captain?  Is not the king bringing
me to Nantes to get me away from Paris, where I have so many creatures,
and to possess himself of Belle-Isle?"

"Where M. d'Herblay is," added D'Artagnan.  Fouquet raised his head.  "As
for me, monseigneur," continued D'Artagnan, "I can assure you the king
has said nothing to me against you."

"Indeed!"

"The king commanded me to set out for Nantes, it is true; and to say
nothing about it to M. de Gesvres."

"My friend."

"To M. de Gesvres, yes, monseigneur," continued the musketeer, whose eye
s did not cease to speak a language different from the language of his
lips.  "The king, moreover, commanded me to take a brigade of musketeers,
which is apparently superfluous, as the country is quite quiet."

"A brigade!" said Fouquet, raising himself upon his elbow.

"Ninety-six horsemen, yes, monseigneur.  The same number as were employed

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