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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"Simply to this: the king ordered me to come to you."

"Ah!" said Colbert, recovering himself when he saw D'Artagnan draw a
paper from his pocket; "it is to demand some money of me?"

"Precisely, monsieur."

"Have the goodness to wait, if you please, monsieur, till I have
dispatched the report of the watch."

D'Artagnan turned upon his heel, insolently enough, and finding himself
face to face with Colbert, after his first turn, he bowed to him as a
harlequin would have done; then, after a second evolution, he directed
his steps towards the door in quick time.  Colbert was struck with this
pointed rudeness, to which he was not accustomed.  In general, men of the
sword, when they came to his office, had such a want of money, that
though their feet seemed to take root in the marble, they hardly lost
their patience.  Was D'Artagnan going straight to the king?  Would he go
and describe his rough reception, or recount his exploit?  This was a
matter for grave consideration.  At all events, the moment was badly
chosen to send D'Artagnan away, whether he came from the king, or on his
own account.  The musketeer had rendered too great a service, and that
too recently, for it to be already forgotten.  Therefore Colbert thought
it would be better to shake off his arrogance and call D'Artagnan back.
"Ho!  Monsieur d'Artagnan," cried Colbert, "what! are you leaving me

D'Artagnan turned round: "Why not?" said he, quietly, "we have no more to
say to each other, have we?"

"You have, at least, money to receive, as you have an order?"

"Who, I?  Oh! not at all, my dear Monsieur Colbert."

"But, monsieur, you have an order.  And, in the same manner as you give a
sword-thrust, when you are required, I, on my part, pay when an order is
presented to me.  Present yours."

"It is useless, my dear Monsieur Colbert," said D'Artagnan, who inwardly
enjoyed this confusion in the ideas of Colbert; "my order is paid."

"Paid, by whom?"

"By monsieur le surintendant."

Colbert grew pale.

"Explain yourself," said he, in a stifled voice - "if you are paid why do
you show me that paper?"

"In consequence of the word of order of which you spoke to me so
ingeniously just now, dear M. Colbert; the king told me to take a quarter
of the pension he is pleased to make me."

"Of me?" said Colbert.

"Not exactly.  The king said to me: 'Go to M. Fouquet; the superintendent
will, perhaps, have no money, then you will go and draw it of M.

The countenance of M. Colbert brightened for a moment; but it was with
his unfortunate physiognomy as with a stormy sky, sometimes radiant,
sometimes dark as night, according as the lightening gleams or the cloud
passes.  "Eh! and was there any money in the superintendent's coffers?"
asked he.

"Why, yes, he could not be badly off for money," replied D'Artagnan - "it
may be believed, since M. Fouquet, instead of paying me a quarter or five
thousand livres - "

"A quarter or five thousand livres!" cried Colbert, struck, as Fouquet
had been, with the generosity of the sum for a soldier's pension, "why,
that would be a pension of twenty thousand livres?"

"Exactly, M. Colbert.  _Peste!_ you reckon like old Pythagoras; yes,
twenty thousand livres."

"Ten times the appointment of an intendant of the finances.  I beg to
offer you my compliments," said Colbert, with a vicious smile.

"Oh!" said D'Artagnan, "the king apologized for giving me so little; but
he promised to make it more hereafter, when he should be rich; but I must
be gone, having much to do - "

"So, then, notwithstanding the expectation of the king, the
superintendent paid you, did he?"

"In the same manner, as, in opposition to the king's expectation, you
refused to pay me."

"I did not refuse, monsieur, I only begged you to wait.  And you say that
M. Fouquet paid you your five thousand livres?"

"Yes, as _you_ might have done; but he did even better than that, M.

"And what did he do?"

"He politely counted me down the sum-total, saying, that for the king,
his coffers were always full."

"The sum-total!  M. Fouquet has given you twenty thousand livres instead
of five thousand?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"And what for?"

"In order to spare me three visits to the money-chest of the
superintendent, so that I have the twenty thousand livres in my pocket in
good new coin.  You see, then, that I am able to go away without standing
in need of you, having come here only for form's sake."  And D'Artagnan
slapped his hand upon his pocket, with a laugh which disclosed to Colbert
thirty-two magnificent teeth, as white as teeth of twenty-five years old,
and which seemed to say in their language: "Serve up to us thirty-two
little Colberts, and we will chew them willingly."  The serpent is as
brave as the lion, the hawk as courageous as the eagle, that cannot be
contested.  It can only be said of animals that are decidedly cowardly,
and are so called, that they will be brave only when they have to defend
themselves.  Colbert was not frightened at the thirty-two teeth of
D'Artagnan.  He recovered, and suddenly, - "Monsieur," said he, "monsieur
le surintendant has done what he had no right to do."

"What do you mean by that?" replied D'Artagnan.

"I mean that your note - will you let me see your note, if you please?"

"Very willingly; here it is."

Colbert seized the paper with an eagerness which the musketeer did not
remark without uneasiness, and particularly without a certain degree of
regret at having trusted him with it.  "Well, monsieur, the royal order
says thus: - 'At sight, I command that there be paid to M. d'Artagnan the
sum of five thousand livres, forming a quarter of the pension I have made

"So, in fact, it is written," said D'Artagnan, affecting calmness.

"Very well; the king only owed you five thousand livres; why has more
been given to you?"

"Because there was more; and M. Fouquet was willing to give me more; that
does not concern anybody."

"It is natural," said Colbert with a proud ease, "that you should be
ignorant of the usages of state-finance; but, monsieur, when you have a
thousand livres to pay, what do you do?"

"I never have a thousand livres to pay," replied D'Artagnan.

"Once more," said Colbert, irritated - "once more, if you had any sum to
pay, would you not pay what you ought?"

"That only proves one thing," said D'Artagnan; "and that is, that you
have your own particular customs in finance, and M. Fouquet has his own."

"Mine, monsieur, are the correct ones."

"I do not say that they are not."

"And you have accepted what was not due to you."

D'Artagnan's eyes flashed.  "What is not due to me yet, you meant to say,
M. Colbert; for if I have received what was not due to me at all, I
should have committed a theft."

Colbert made no reply to this subtlety.  "You then owe fifteen thousand
livres to the public chest," said he, carried away by his jealous ardor.

"Then you must give me credit for them," replied D'Artagnan, with his
imperceptible irony.

"Not at all, monsieur."

"Well! what will you do, then?  You will not take my _rouleaux_ from me,
will you?"

"You must return them to my chest."

"I!  Oh!  Monsieur Colbert, don't reckon upon that."

"The king wants his money, monsieur."

"And I, monsieur, I want the king's money."

"That may be so; but you must return this."

"Not a _sou_.  I have always understood that in matters of
_comptabilite_, as you call it, a good cashier never gives back or takes

"Then, monsieur, we shall see what the king will say about it.  I will
show him this note, which proves that M. Fouquet not only pays what he
does not owe, but that he does not even take care of vouchers for the
sums that he has paid."

"Ah! now I understand why you have taken that paper, M. Colbert!"

Colbert did not perceive all that there was of a threatening character in
his name pronounced in a certain manner.  "You shall see hereafter what
use I will make of it," said he, holding up the paper in his fingers.

"Oh!" said D'Artagnan, snatching the paper from him with a rapid
movement; "I understand perfectly well, M. Colbert; I have no occasion to
wait for that."  And he crumpled up the paper he had so cleverly seized.

"Monsieur, monsieur!" cried Colbert, "this is violence!"

"Nonsense!  You must not be particular about a soldier's manners!"
replied D'Artagnan.  "I kiss your hands, my dear M. Colbert."  And he
went out, laughing in the face of the future minister.

"That man, now," muttered he, "was about to grow quite friendly; it is a
great pity I was obliged to cut his company so soon."

Chapter LXV:
Philosophy of the Heart and Mind.

For a man who had seen so many much more dangerous ones, the position of
D'Artagnan with respect to M. Colbert was only comic.  D'Artagnan,
therefore, did not deny himself the satisfaction of laughing at the
expense of monsieur l'intendant, from the Rue des Petits-Champs to the
Rue des Lombards.  It was a great while since D'Artagnan had laughed so
long together.  He was still laughing when Planchet appeared, laughing
likewise, at the door of his house; for Planchet, since the return of his
patron, since the entrance of the English guineas, passed the greater
part of his life in doing what D'Artagnan had only done from the Rue
Neuve des Petits-Champs to the Rue des Lombards.

"You are home, then, my dear master?" said Planchet.

"No, my friend," replied the musketeer; "I am off, and that quickly.  I
will sup with you, go to bed, sleep five hours, and at break of day leap
into my saddle.  Has my horse had an extra feed?"

"Eh! my dear master," replied Planchet, "you know very well that your
horse is the jewel of the family; that my lads are caressing it all day,
and cramming it with sugar, nuts, and biscuits.  You ask me if he has had
an extra feed of oats; you should ask if he has not had enough to burst

"Very well, Planchet, that is all right.  Now, then, I pass to what
concerns me - my supper?"

"Ready.  A smoking roast joint, white wine, crayfish, and fresh-gathered

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