List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Vallon also?"

"He is lodging next to me, and is at this moment dressing."

And Fouquet, bowing, with a smile, passed on like a commander-in-chief
who pays the different outposts a visit after the enemy has been signaled
in sight. (2)

Chapter XII:
The Wine of Melun.

The king had, in point of fact, entered Melun with the intention of
merely passing through the city.  The youthful monarch was most eagerly
anxious for amusements; only twice during the journey had he been able to
catch a glimpse of La Valliere, and, suspecting that his only opportunity
of speaking to her would be after nightfall, in the gardens, and after
the ceremonial of reception had been gone through, he had been very
desirous to arrive at Vaux as early as possible.  But he reckoned without
his captain of the musketeers, and without M. Colbert.  Like Calypso, who
could not be consoled at the departure of Ulysses, our Gascon could not
console himself for not having guessed why Aramis had asked Percerin to
show him the king's new costumes.  "There is not a doubt," he said to
himself, "that my friend the bishop of Vannes had some motive in that;"
and then he began to rack his brains most uselessly.  D'Artagnan, so
intimately acquainted with all the court intrigues, who knew the position
of Fouquet better than even Fouquet himself did, had conceived the
strangest fancies and suspicions at the announcement of the _fete_, which
would have ruined a wealthy man, and which became impossible, utter
madness even, for a man so poor as he was.  And then, the presence of
Aramis, who had returned from Belle-Isle, and been nominated by Monsieur
Fouquet inspector-general of all the arrangements; his perseverance in
mixing himself up with all the surintendant's affairs; his visits to
Baisemeaux; all this suspicious singularity of conduct had excessively
troubled and tormented D'Artagnan during the last two weeks.

"With men of Aramis's stamp," he said, "one is never the stronger except
sword in hand.  So long as Aramis continued a soldier, there was hope of
getting the better of him; but since he has covered his cuirass with a
stole, we are lost.  But what can Aramis's object possibly be?"  And
D'Artagnan plunged again into deep thought.  "What does it matter to me,
after all," he continued, "if his only object is to overthrow M.
Colbert?  And what else can he be after?"  And D'Artagnan rubbed his
forehead - that fertile land, whence the plowshare of his nails had
turned up so many and such admirable ideas in his time.  He, at first,
thought of talking the matter over with Colbert, but his friendship for
Aramis, the oath of earlier days, bound him too strictly.  He revolted at
the bare idea of such a thing, and, besides, he hated the financier too
cordially.  Then, again, he wished to unburden his mind to the king; but
yet the king would not be able to understand the suspicions which had not
even a shadow of reality at their base.  He resolved to address himself
to Aramis, direct, the first time he met him.  "I will get him," said the
musketeer, "between a couple of candles, suddenly, and when he least
expects it, I will place my hand upon his heart, and he will tell me -
What will he tell me?  Yes, he will tell me something, for _mordioux!_
there is something in it, I know."

Somewhat calmer, D'Artagnan made every preparation for the journey, and
took the greatest care that the military household of the king, as yet
very inconsiderable in numbers, should be well officered and well
disciplined in its meager and limited proportions.  The result was that,
through the captain's arrangements, the king, on arriving at Melun, saw
himself at the head of both the musketeers and Swiss guards, as well as a
picket of the French guards.  It might almost have been called a small
army.  M. Colbert looked at the troops with great delight: he even wished
they had been a third more in number.

"But why?" said the king.

"In order to show greater honor to M. Fouquet," replied Colbert.

"In order to ruin him the sooner," thought D'Artagnan.

When this little army appeared before Melun, the chief magistrates came
out to meet the king, and to present him with the keys of the city, and
invited him to enter the Hotel de Ville, in order to partake of the wine
of honor.  The king, who expected to pass through the city and to proceed
to Vaux without delay, became quite red in the face from vexation.

"Who was fool enough to occasion this delay?" muttered the king, between
his teeth, as the chief magistrate was in the middle of a long address.

"Not I, certainly," replied D'Artagnan, "but I believe it was M. Colbert."

Colbert, having heard his name pronounced, said, "What was M. d'Artagnan
good enough to say?"

"I was good enough to remark that it was you who stopped the king's
progress, so that he might taste the _vin de Brie_.  Was I right?"

"Quite so, monsieur."

"In that case, then, it was you whom the king called some name or other."

"What name?"

"I hardly know; but wait a moment - idiot, I think it was - no, no, it
was fool or dolt.  Yes; his majesty said that the man who had thought of
the _vin de Melun_ was something of the sort."

D'Artagnan, after this broadside, quietly caressed his mustache; M.
Colbert's large head seemed to become larger and larger than ever.
D'Artagnan, seeing how ugly anger made him, did not stop half-way.  The
orator still went on with his speech, while the king's color was visibly

"_Mordioux!_" said the musketeer, coolly, "the king is going to have an
attack of determination of blood to the head.  Where the deuce did you
get hold of that idea, Monsieur Colbert?  You have no luck."

"Monsieur," said the financier, drawing himself up, "my zeal for the
king's service inspired me with the idea."


"Monsieur, Melun is a city, an excellent city, which pays well, and which
it would be imprudent to displease."

"There, now!  I, who do not pretend to be a financier, saw only one idea
in your idea."

"What was that, monsieur?"

"That of causing a little annoyance to M. Fouquet, who is making himself
quite giddy on his donjons yonder, in waiting for us."

This was a home-stroke, hard enough in all conscience.  Colbert was
completely thrown out of the saddle by it, and retired, thoroughly
discomfited.  Fortunately, the speech was now at an end; the king drank
the wine which was presented to him, and then every one resumed the
progress through the city.  The king bit his lips in anger, for the
evening was closing in, and all hope of a walk with La Valliere was at an
end.  In order that the whole of the king's household should enter Vaux,
four hours at least were necessary, owing to the different arrangements.
The king, therefore, who was boiling with impatience, hurried forward as
much as possible, in order to reach it before nightfall.  But, at the
moment he was setting off again, other and fresh difficulties arose.

"Is not the king going to sleep at Melun?" said Colbert, in a low tone of
voice, to D'Artagnan.

M. Colbert must have been badly inspired that day, to address himself in
that manner to the chief of the musketeers; for the latter guessed that
the king's intention was very far from that of remaining where he was.
D'Artagnan would not allow him to enter Vaux except he were well and
strongly accompanied; and desired that his majesty would not enter except
with all the escort.  On the other hand, he felt that these delays would
irritate that impatient monarch beyond measure.  In what way could he
possibly reconcile these difficulties?  D'Artagnan took up Colbert's
remark, and determined to repeated it to the king.

"Sire," he said, "M. Colbert has been asking me if your majesty does not
intend to sleep at Melun."

"Sleep at Melun!  What for?" exclaimed Louis XIV.  "Sleep at Melun!  Who,
in Heaven's name, can have thought of such a thing, when M. Fouquet is
expecting us this evening?"

"It was simply," replied Colbert, quickly, "the fear of causing your
majesty the least delay; for, according to established etiquette, you
cannot enter any place, with the exception of your own royal residences,
until the soldiers' quarters have been marked out by the quartermaster,
and the garrison properly distributed."

D'Artagnan listened with the greatest attention, biting his mustache to
conceal his vexation; and the queens were not less interested.  They were
fatigued, and would have preferred to go to rest without proceeding any
farther; more especially, in order to prevent the king walking about in
the evening with M. de Saint-Aignan and the ladies of the court, for, if
etiquette required the princesses to remain within their own rooms, the
ladies of honor, as soon as they had performed the services required of
them, had no restrictions placed upon them, but were at liberty to walk
about as they pleased.  It will easily be conjectured that all these
rival interests, gathering together in vapors, necessarily produced
clouds, and that the clouds were likely to be followed by a tempest.  The
king had no mustache to gnaw, and therefore kept biting the handle of his
whip instead, with ill-concealed impatience.  How could he get out of
it?  D'Artagnan looked as agreeable as possible, and Colbert as sulky as
he could.  Who was there he could get in a passion with?

"We will consult the queen," said Louis XIV., bowing to the royal
ladies.  And this kindness of consideration softened Maria Theresa's
heart, who, being of a kind and generous disposition, when left to her
own free-will, replied:

"I shall be delighted to do whatever your majesty wishes."

"How long will it take us to get to Vaux?" inquired Anne of Austria, in
slow and measured accents, placing her hand upon her bosom, where the
seat of her pain lay.

"An hour for your majesty's carriages," said D'Artagnan; "the roads are
tolerably good."

The king looked at him.  "And a quarter of an hour for the king," he
hastened to add.

"We should arrive by daylight?" said Louis XIV.

"But the billeting of the king's military escort," objected Colbert,

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: