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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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spirit.  The superintendent made his entrance like a man of the court, to
whom a single glance was sufficient to make him appreciate the
situation.  That situation was not very encouraging for Fouquet, whatever
might be his consciousness of strength.  The small black eye of Colbert,
dilated by envy, and the limpid eye of Louis XIV. inflamed by anger,
signalled some pressing danger.  Courtiers are, with regard to court
rumors, like old soldiers, who distinguish through the blasts of wind and
bluster of leaves the sound of the distant steps of an armed troop.  They
can, after having listened, tell pretty nearly how many men are marching,
how many arms resound, how many cannons roll.  Fouquet had then only to
interrogate the silence which his arrival had produced; he found it big
with menacing revelations.  The king allowed him time enough to advance
as far as the middle of the chamber.  His adolescent modesty commanded
this forbearance of the moment.  Fouquet boldly seized the opportunity.

"Sire," said he, "I was impatient to see your majesty."

"What for?" asked Louis.

"To announce some good news to you."

Colbert, minus grandeur of person, less largeness of heart, resembled
Fouquet in many points.  He had the same penetration, the same knowledge
of men; moreover, that great power of self-compression which gives to
hypocrites time to reflect, and gather themselves up to take a spring.
He guessed that Fouquet was going to meet the blow he was about to deal
him.  His eyes glittered ominously.

"What news?" asked the king.  Fouquet placed a roll of papers on the
table.

"Let your majesty have the goodness to cast your eyes over this work,"
said he.  The king slowly unfolded the paper.

"Plans?" said he.

"Yes, sire."

"And what are these plans?"

"A new fortification, sire."

"Ah, ah!" said the king, "you amuse yourself with tactics and strategies
then, M. Fouquet?"

"I occupy myself with everything that may be useful to the reign of your
majesty," replied Fouquet.

"Beautiful descriptions!" said the king, looking at the design.

"Your majesty comprehends, without doubt," said Fouquet, bending over the
paper; "here is the circle of the walls, here are the forts, there the
advanced works."

"And what do I see here, monsieur?"

"The sea."

"The sea all round?"

"Yes, sire."

"And what is, then, the name of this place of which you show me the plan?"

"Sire, it is Belle-Ile-en-Mer," replied Fouquet with simplicity.

At this word, at this name, Colbert made so marked a movement, that the
king turned round to enforce the necessity for reserve.  Fouquet did not
appear to be the least in the world concerned by the movement of Colbert,
or the king's signal.

"Monsieur," continued Louis, "you have then fortified Belle-Isle?"

"Yes, sire; and I have brought the plan and the accounts to your
majesty," replied Fouquet; "I have expended sixteen hundred livres in
this operation."

"What to do?" replied Louis, coldly, having taken the initiative from a
malicious look of the intendant.

"For an aim very easy to seize," replied Fouquet.  "Your majesty was on
cool terms with Great Britain."

"Yes; but since the restoration of King Charles II. I have formed an
alliance with him."

"A month since, sire, your majesty has truly said; but it is more than
six months since the fortifications of Belle-Isle were begun."

"Then they have become useless."

"Sire, fortifications are never useless.  I fortified Belle-Isle against
MM. Monk and Lambert and all those London citizens who were playing at
soldiers.  Belle-Isle will be ready fortified against the Dutch, against
whom either England or your majesty cannot fail to make war."

The king was again silent, and looked askant at Colbert.  "Belle-Isle, I
believe," added Louis, "is yours, M. Fouquet?"

"No, sire."

"Whose then?"

"Your majesty's."

Colbert was seized with as much terror as if a gulf had opened beneath
his feet.  Louis started with admiration, either at the genius or the
devotion of Fouquet.

"Explain yourself, monsieur," said he.

"Nothing more easy, sire; Belle-Isle is one of my estates; I have
fortified it at my own expense.  But as nothing in the world can oppose a
subject making an humble present to his king, I offer your majesty the
proprietorship of the estate, of which you will leave me the usufruct.
Belle-Isle, as a place of war, ought to be occupied by the king.  Your
majesty will be able, henceforth, to keep a safe garrison there."

Colbert felt almost sinking down upon the floor.  To keep himself from
falling, he was obliged to hold by the columns of the wainscoting.

"This is a piece of great skill in the art of war that you have exhibited
here, monsieur," said Louis.

"Sire, the initiative did not come from me," replied Fouquet; "many
officers have inspired me with it.  The plans themselves have been made
by one of the most distinguished engineers."

"His name?"

"M. du Vallon."

"M. du Vallon?" resumed Louis; "I do not know him.  It is much to be
lamented, M. Colbert," continued he, "that I do not know the names of the
men of talent who do honor to my reign."  And while saying these words he
turned towards Colbert.  The latter felt himself crushed, the sweat
flowed from his brow, no word presented itself to his lips, he suffered
an inexpressible martyrdom.  "You will recollect that name," added Louis
XIV.

Colbert bowed, but was paler than his ruffles of Flemish lace.  Fouquet
continued:

"The masonries are of Roman concrete; the architects amalgamated it for
me after the best accounts of antiquity."

"And the cannon?" asked Louis.

"Oh! sire, that concerns your majesty; it did not become me to place
cannon in my own house, unless your majesty had told me it was yours."

Louis began to float, undetermined between the hatred which this so
powerful man inspired him with, and the pity he felt for the other, so
cast down, who seemed to him the counterfeit of the former.  But the
consciousness of his kingly duty prevailed over the feelings of the man,
and he stretched out his finger to the paper.

"It must have cost you a great deal of money to carry these plans into
execution," said he.

"I believe I had the honor of telling your majesty the amount."

"Repeat it if you please, I have forgotten it."

"Sixteen hundred thousand livres."

"Sixteen hundred thousand livres! you are enormously rich, monsieur."

"It is your majesty who is rich, since Belle-Isle is yours."

"Yes, thank you; but however rich I may be, M. Fouquet - "  The king
stopped.

"Well, sire?" asked the superintendent.

"I foresee the moment when I shall want money."

"You, sire?  And at what moment then?"

"To-morrow, for example."

"Will your majesty do me the honor to explain yourself?"

"My brother is going to marry the English Princess."

"Well, sire?"

"Well, I ought to give the bride a reception worthy of the granddaughter
of Henry IV."

"That is but just, sire."

"Then I shall want money."

"No doubt."

"I shall want - "  Louis hesitated.  The sum he was going to demand was
the same that he had been obliged to refuse Charles II.  He turned
towards Colbert, that he might give the blow.

"I shall want, to-morrow - " repeated he, looking at Colbert.

"A million," said the latter, bluntly; delighted to take his revenge.

Fouquet turned his back upon the intendant to listen to the king.  He did
not turn round, but waited till the king repeated, or rather murmured, "A
million."

"Oh! sire," replied Fouquet disdainfully, "a million! what will your
majesty do with a million?"

"It appears to me, nevertheless - " said Louis XIV.

"That is not more than is spent at the nuptials of one of the most petty
princes of Germany."

"Monsieur!"

"Your majesty must have two millions at least.  The horses alone would
run away with five hundred thousand livres.  I shall have the honor of
sending your majesty sixteen hundred thousand livres this evening."

"How," said the king, "sixteen hundred thousand livres?"

"Look, sire," replied Fouquet, without even turning towards Colbert, "I
know that wants four hundred thousand livres of the two millions.  But
this monsieur of l'intendance" (pointing over his shoulder to Colbert,
who if possible, became paler, behind him) "has in his coffers nine
hundred thousand livres of mine."

The king turned round to look at Colbert.

"But - " said the latter.

"Monsieur," continued Fouquet, still speaking indirectly to Colbert,
"monsieur has received, a week ago, sixteen hundred thousand livres; he
has paid a hundred thousand livres to the guards, sixty-four thousand
livres to the hospitals, twenty-five thousand to the Swiss, an hundred
and thirty thousand for provisions, a thousand for arms, ten thousand for
accidental expenses; I do not err, then, in reckoning upon nine hundred
thousand livres that are left."  Then turning towards Colbert, like a
disdainful head of office towards his inferior, "Take care, monsieur,"
said he, "that those nine hundred thousand livres be remitted to his
majesty this evening, in gold."

"But," said the king, "that will make two millions five hundred thousand
livres."

"Sire, the five hundred thousand livres over will serve as pocket money
for his royal highness.  You understand, Monsieur Colbert, this evening
before eight o'clock."

And with these words, bowing respectfully to the king, the superintendent
made his exit backwards, without honoring with a single look the envious
man, whose head he had just half shaved.

Colbert tore his ruffles to pieces in his rage, and bit his lips till
they bled.

Fouquet had not passed the door of the cabinet, when an usher pushing by
him, exclaimed: "A courier from Bretagne for his majesty."

"M. d'Herblay was right," murmured Fouquet, pulling out his watch; "an
hour and fifty-five minutes.  It was quite true."


End of The Vicomte de Bragelonne.  The next text in the series is Ten
Years Later.


Footnotes

1. The correct name of the city is Brighthelmstone.  The mistake is
Dumas's.
2. In the five-volume edition, Volume 1 ends here.







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