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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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brilliant illuminations, the languishing music of the violins and
hautboys, the sparkling sheaves of the artificial fires, which, inflaming
the heavens with glowing reflections, marked behind the trees the dark
profile of the donjon of Vincennes; as, we say, the superintendent was
smiling on the ladies and the poets, the _fete_ was every whit as gay as
usual; and Vatel, whose restless, even jealous look, earnestly consulted
the aspect of Fouquet, did not appear dissatisfied with the welcome given
to the ordering of the evening's entertainment.  The fireworks over, the
company dispersed about the gardens and beneath the marble porticoes with
the delightful liberty which reveals in the master of the house so much
forgetfulness of greatness, so much courteous hospitality, so much
magnificent carelessness.  The poets wandered about, arm in arm, through
the groves; some reclined upon beds of moss, to the great damage of
velvet clothes and curled heads, into which little dried leaves and
blades of grass insinuated themselves.  The ladies, in small numbers,
listened to the songs of the singers and the verses of the poets; others
listened to the prose, spoken with much art, by men who were neither
actors nor poets, but to whom youth and solitude gave an unaccustomed
eloquence, which appeared to them better than everything else in the
world.  "Why," said La Fontaine, "does not our master Epicurus descend
into the garden?  Epicurus never abandoned his pupils; the master is
wrong."

"Monsieur," said Conrart, "you yourself are in the wrong persisting in
decorating yourself with the name of an Epicurean; indeed, nothing here
reminds me of the doctrine of the philosopher of Gargetta."

"Bah!" said La Fontaine, "is it not written that Epicurus purchased a
large garden and lived in it tranquilly with his friends?"

"That is true."

"Well, has not M. Fouquet purchased a large garden at Saint-Mande, and do
we not live here very tranquilly with him and his friends?"

"Yes, without doubt; unfortunately it is neither the garden nor the
friends which constitute the resemblance.  Now, what likeness is there
between the doctrine of Epicurus and that of M. Fouquet?"

"This - pleasure gives happiness."

"Next?"

"Well, I do not think we ought to consider ourselves unfortunate, for my
part, at least.  A good repast - _vin de Joigny_, which they have the
delicacy to go and fetch for me from my favorite _cabaret_ - not one
impertinence heard during a supper an hour long, in spite of the presence
of ten millionaires and twenty poets."

"I stop you there.  You mentioned _vin de Joigny_, and a good repast; do
you persist in that?"

"I persist, - _anteco_, as they say at Port Royal."

"Then please to recollect that the great Epicurus lived, and made his
pupils live, upon bread, vegetables, and water."

"That is not certain," said La Fontaine; "and you appear to me to be
confounding Epicurus with Pythagoras, my dear Conrart."

"Remember, likewise, that the ancient philosopher was rather a bad friend
of the gods and the magistrates."

"Oh! that is what I will not admit," replied La Fontaine.  "Epicurus was
like M. Fouquet."

"Do not compare him to monsieur le surintendant," said Conrart, in an
agitated voice, "or you would accredit the reports which are circulating
concerning him and us."

"What reports?"

"That we are bad Frenchmen, lukewarm with regard to the king, deaf to the
law."

"I return, then, to my text," said La Fontaine.  "Listen, Conrart, this
is the morality of Epicurus, whom, besides, I consider, if I must tell
you so, as a myth.  Antiquity is mostly mythical.  Jupiter, if we give a
little attention to it, is life.  Alcides is strength.  The words are
there to bear me out; Zeus, that is, _zen_, to live.  Alcides, that is,
_alce_, vigor.  Well, Epicurus, that is mild watchfulness, that is
protection; now who watches better over the state, or who protects
individuals better than M. Fouquet does?"

"You talk etymology and not morality; I say that we modern Epicureans are
indifferent citizens."

"Oh!" cried La Fontaine," if we become bad citizens, it is not through
following the maxims of our master.  Listen to one of his principal
aphorisms."

"I - will."

"Pray for good leaders."

"Well?"

"Well! what does M. Fouquet say to us every day?  'When shall we be
governed?'  Does he say so?  Come, Conrart, be frank."

"He says so, that is true."

"Well, that is a doctrine of Epicurus."

"Yes; but that is a little seditious, observe."

"What! seditious to wish to be governed by good heads or leaders?"

"Certainly, when those who govern are bad."

"Patience, I have a reply for all."

"Even for what I have just said to you?"

"Listen! would you submit to those who govern ill?  Oh! it is written:
_Cacos politeuousi_.  You grant me the text?"

"_Pardieu!_  I think so.  Do you know, you speak Greek as well as Aesop
did, my dear La Fontaine."

"Is there any wickedness in that, my dear Conrart?"

"God forbid I should say so."

"Then let us return to M. Fouquet.  What did he repeat to us all the
day?  Was it not this?  'What a _cuistre_ is that Mazarin! what an ass!
what a leech!  We must, however, submit to that fellow.'  Now, Conrart,
did he say so, or did he not?"

"I confess that he said it, and even perhaps too often."

"Like Epicurus, my friend, still like Epicurus; I repeat, we are
Epicureans, and that is very amusing."

"Yes; but I am afraid there will rise up, by the side of us, a sect like
that of Epictetus; you know him well; the philosopher of Hierapolis, he
who called bread luxury, vegetables prodigality, and clear water
drunkenness; he who, being beaten by his master, said to him, grumbling a
little it is true, but without being angry, 'I will lay a wager you have
broken my leg!' - and who won his wager."

"He was a goose, that fellow Epictetus."

"Granted, but he might easily become the fashion by only changing his
name into that of Colbert."

"Bah!" replied La Fontaine, "that is impossible.  Never will you find
Colbert in Epictetus."

"You are right, I shall find - _Coluber_ there, at the most."

"Ah! you are beaten, Conrart; you are reduced to a play upon words.  M.
Arnaud pretends that I have no logic; I have more than M. Nicole."

"Yes," replied Conrart, "you have logic, but you are a Jansenist."

This peroration was hailed with a boisterous shout of laughter; by
degrees the promenaders had been attracted by the exclamations of the two
disputants around the arbor under which they were arguing.  The
discussion had been religiously listened to, and Fouquet himself,
scarcely able to suppress his laughter, had given an example of
moderation.  But with the _denouement_ of the scene he threw off all
restraint, and laughed aloud.  Everybody laughed as he did, and the two
philosophers were saluted with unanimous felicitations.  La Fontaine,
however, was declared conqueror, on account of his profound erudition and
his irrefragable logic.  Conrart obtained the compensation due to an
unsuccessful combatant; he was praised for the loyalty of his intentions,
and the purity of his conscience.

At the moment when this jollity was manifesting itself by the most lively
demonstrations, when the ladies were reproaching the two adversaries with
not having admitted women into the system of Epicurean happiness,
Gourville was seen hastening from the other end of the garden,
approaching Fouquet, and detaching him, by his presence alone, from the
group.  The superintendent preserved on his face the smile and character
of carelessness; but scarcely was he out of sight than he threw off the
mask.

"Well!" said he, eagerly, "where is Pelisson!  What is he doing?"

"Pelisson has returned from Paris."

"Has he brought back the prisoners?"

"He has not even seen the _concierge_ of the prison."

"What! did he not tell him he came from me?"

"He told him so, but the _concierge_ sent him this reply: 'If any one
came to me from M. Fouquet, he would have a letter from M. Fouquet.'"

"Oh!" cried the latter, "if a letter is all he wants - "

"It is useless, monsieur!" said Pelisson, showing himself at the corner
of the little wood, "useless!  Go yourself, and speak in your own name."

"You are right.  I will go in, as if to work; let the horses remain
harnessed, Pelisson.  Entertain my friends, Gourville."

"One last word of advice, monseigneur," replied the latter.

"Speak, Gourville."

"Do not go to the _concierge_ save at the last minute; it is brave, but
it is not wise.  Excuse me, Monsieur Pelisson, if I am not of the same
opinion as you; but take my advice, monseigneur, send again a message to
this _concierge_, - he is a worthy man, but do not carry it yourself."

"I will think of it," said Fouquet; "besides, we have all the night
before us."

"Do not reckon too much on time; were the hours we have twice as many as
they are, they would not be too much," replied Pelisson; "it is never a
fault to arrive too soon."

"Adieu!" said the superintendent; "come with me, Pelisson.  Gourville, I
commend my guests to your care."  And he set off.  The Epicureans did not
perceive that the head of the school had left them; the violins continued
playing all night long.


Chapter LIX:
A Quarter of an Hour's Delay.

Fouquet, on leaving his house for the second time that day, felt himself
less heavy and less disturbed than might have been expected.  He turned
towards Pelisson, who was meditating in the corner of the carriage some
good arguments against the violent proceedings of Colbert.

"My dear Pelisson," said Fouquet, "it is a great pity you are not a
woman."

"I think, on the contrary, it is very fortunate," replied Pelisson, "for,
monseigneur, I am excessively ugly."

"Pelisson!  Pelisson!" said the superintendent, laughing: "You repeat
too often, you are 'ugly', not to leave people to believe that it gives
you much pain."

"In fact it does, monseigneur, much pain; there is no man more
unfortunate than I: I was handsome, the small-pox rendered me hideous; I
am deprived of a great means of attraction; now, I am your principal

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