List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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king alone has a right to command my musketeers; but, as to you, I forbid
you to do it, and I tell you so before his majesty; gentlemen who carry
swords do not sling pens behind their ears."

"D'Artagnan!  D'Artagnan!" murmured the king.

"It is humiliating," continued the musketeer; "my soldiers are
disgraced.  I do not command _reitres_, thank you, nor clerks of the
intendant, _mordioux!_"

"Well! but what is all this about?" said the king with authority.

"About this, sire; monsieur - monsieur, who could not guess your
majesty's orders, and consequently could not know I was gone to arrest
M. Fouquet; monsieur, who has caused the iron cage to be constructed for
his patron of yesterday - has sent M. de Roncherolles to the lodgings of
M. Fouquet, and, under the pretense of securing the surintendant's
papers, they have taken away the furniture.  My musketeers have been
posted round the house all the morning; such were my orders.  Why did any
one presume to order them to enter?  Why, by forcing them to assist in
this pillage, have they been made accomplices in it?  _Mordioux!_ we
serve the king, we do; but we do not serve M. Colbert!" (5)

"Monsieur d'Artagnan," said the king, sternly, "take care; it is not in
my presence that such explanations, and made in such a tone, should take

"I have acted for the good of the king," said Colbert, in a faltering
voice.  "It is hard to be so treated by one of your majesty's officers,
and that without redress, on account of the respect I owe the king."

"The respect you owe the king," cried D'Artagnan, his eyes flashing fire,
"consists, in the first place, in making his authority respected, and his
person beloved.  Every agent of a power without control represents that
power, and when people curse the hand which strikes them, it is the royal
hand that God reproaches, do you hear?  Must a soldier, hardened by forty
years of wounds and blood, give you this lesson, monsieur?  Must mercy be
on my side, and ferocity on yours?  You have caused the innocent to be
arrested, bound, and imprisoned!"

"Accomplices, perhaps, of M. Fouquet," said Colbert.

"Who told you M. Fouquet had accomplices, or even that he was guilty?
The king alone knows that; his justice is not blind!  When he says,
'Arrest and imprison' such and such a man, he is obeyed.  Do not talk to
me, then, any more of the respect you owe the king, and be careful of
your words, that they may not chance to convey the slightest menace; for
the king will not allow those to be threatened who do him service by
others who do him disservice; and if in case I should have, which God
forbid! a master so ungrateful, I would make myself respected."

Thus saying, D'Artagnan took his station haughtily in the king's cabinet,
his eyes flashing, his hand on his sword, his lips trembling, affecting
much more anger than he really felt.  Colbert, humiliated and devoured
with rage, bowed to the king as if to ask his permission to leave the
room.  The king, thwarted alike in pride and in curiosity, knew not which
part to take.  D'Artagnan saw him hesitate.  To remain longer would have
been a mistake: it was necessary to score a triumph over Colbert, and the
only method was to touch the king so near the quick, that his majesty
would have no other means of extrication but choosing between the two
antagonists.  D'Artagnan bowed as Colbert had done; but the king, who, in
preference to everything else, was anxious to have all the exact details
of the arrest of the surintendant of the finances from him who had made
him tremble for a moment, - the king, perceiving that the ill-humor of
D'Artagnan would put off for half an hour at least the details he was
burning to be acquainted with, - Louis, we say, forgot Colbert, who had
nothing new to tell him, and recalled his captain of the musketeers.

"In the first place," said he, "let me see the result of your commission,
monsieur; you may rest yourself hereafter."

D'Artagnan, who was just passing through the doorway, stopped at the
voice of the king, retraced his steps, and Colbert was forced to leave
the closet.  His countenance assumed almost a purple hue, his black and
threatening eyes shone with a dark fire beneath their thick brows; he
stepped out, bowed before the king, half drew himself up in passing
D'Artagnan, and went away with death in his heart.  D'Artagnan, on being
left alone with the king, softened immediately, and composing his
countenance: "Sire," said he, "you are a young king.  It is by the dawn
that people judge whether the day will be fine or dull.  How, sire, will
the people, whom the hand of God has placed under your law, argue of your
reign, if between them and you, you allow angry and violent ministers to
interpose their mischief?  But let us speak of myself, sire, let us leave
a discussion that may appear idle, and perhaps inconvenient to you.  Let
us speak of myself.  I have arrested M. Fouquet."

"You took plenty of time about it," said the king, sharply.

D'Artagnan looked at the king.  "I perceive that I have expressed myself
badly.  I announced to your majesty that I had arrested Monsieur Fouquet."

"You did; and what then?"

"Well!  I ought to have told your majesty that M. Fouquet had arrested
me; that would have been more just.  I re-establish the truth, then; I
have been arrested by M. Fouquet."

It was now the turn of Louis XIV. to be surprised.  His majesty was
astonished in his turn.

D'Artagnan, with his quick glance, appreciated what was passing in the
heart of his master.  He did not allow him time to put any questions.  He
related, with that poetry, that picturesqueness, which perhaps he alone
possessed at that period, the escape of Fouquet, the pursuit, the furious
race, and, lastly, the inimitable generosity of the surintendant, who
might have fled ten times over, who might have killed the adversary in
the pursuit, but who had preferred imprisonment, perhaps worse, to the
humiliation of one who wished to rob him of his liberty.  In proportion
as the tale advanced, the king became agitated, devouring the narrator's
words, and drumming with his finger-nails upon the table.

"It results from all this, sire, in my eyes, at least, that the man who
conducts himself thus is a gallant man, and cannot be an enemy to the
king.  That is my opinion, and I repeat it to your majesty.  I know what
the king will say to me, and I bow to it, - reasons of state.  So be it!
To my ears that sounds highly respectable.  But I am a soldier, and I
have received my orders, my orders are executed - very unwillingly on my
part, it is true, but they are executed.  I say no more."

"Where is M. Fouquet at this moment?" asked Louis, after a short silence.

"M. Fouquet, sire," replied D'Artagnan, "is in the iron cage that M.
Colbert had prepared for him, and is galloping as fast as four strong
horses can drag him, towards Angers."

"Why did you leave him on the road?"

"Because your majesty did not tell me to go to Angers.  The proof, the
best proof of what I advance, is that the king desired me to be sought
for but this minute.  And then I had another reason."

"What is that?"

"Whilst I was with him, poor M. Fouquet would never attempt to escape."

"Well!" cried the king, astonished.

"Your majesty ought to understand, and does understand, certainly, that
my warmest wish is to know that M. Fouquet is at liberty.  I have given
him one of my brigadiers, the most stupid I could find among my
musketeers, in order that the prisoner might have a chance of escaping."

"Are you mad, Monsieur d'Artagnan?" cried the king, crossing his arms on
his breast.  "Do people utter such enormities, even when they have the
misfortune to think them?"

"Ah! sire, you cannot expect that I should be an enemy to M. Fouquet,
after what he has just done for you and me.  No, no; if you desire that
he should remain under your lock and bolt, never give him in charge to
me; however closely wired might be the cage, the bird would, in the end,
take wing."

"I am surprised," said the king, in his sternest tone, "you did not
follow the fortunes of the man M. Fouquet wished to place upon my
throne.  You had in him all you want - affection, gratitude.  In my
service, monsieur, you will only find a master."

"If M. Fouquet had not gone to seek you in the Bastile, sire," replied
D'Artagnan, with a deeply impressive manner, "one single man would have
gone there, and I should have been that man - you know that right well,

The king was brought to a pause.  Before that speech of his captain of
the musketeers, so frankly spoken and so true, the king had nothing to
offer.  On hearing D'Artagnan, Louis remembered the D'Artagnan of former
times; him who, at the Palais Royal, held himself concealed behind the
curtains of his bed, when the people of Paris, led by Cardinal de Retz,
came to assure themselves of the presence of the king; the D'Artagnan
whom he saluted with his hand at the door of his carriage, when repairing
to Notre Dame on his return to Paris; the soldier who had quitted his
service at Blois; the lieutenant he had recalled to be beside his person
when the death of Mazarin restored his power; the man he had always found
loyal, courageous, devoted.  Louis advanced towards the door and called
Colbert.  Colbert had not left the corridor where the secretaries were at
work.  He reappeared.

"Colbert, did you make a perquisition on the house of M. Fouquet?"

"Yes, sire."

"What has it produced?"

"M. de Roncherolles, who was sent with your majesty's musketeers, has
remitted me some papers," replied Colbert.

"I will look at them.  Give me your hand."

"My hand, sire!"

"Yes, that I may place it in that of M. d'Artagnan.  In fact, M.
d'Artagnan," added he, with a smile, turning towards the soldier, who, at
sight of the clerk, had resumed his haughty attitude, "you do not know
this man; make his acquaintance."  And he pointed to Colbert.  "He has
been made but a moderately valuable servant in subaltern positions, but
he will be a great man if I raise him to the foremost rank."

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