List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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birth to that is lovely, its fairy scenes, its flowers and nectar, the
wild voluptuousness or profound repose of the senses, had the painter
elaborated on his frescoes.  It was a composition as soft and pleasing in
one part as dark and gloomy and terrible in another.  The poisoned
chalice, the glittering dagger suspended over the head of the sleeper;
wizards and phantoms with terrific masks, those half-dim shadows more
alarming than the approach of fire or the somber face of midnight, these,
and such as these, he had made the companions of his more pleasing
pictures.  No sooner had the king entered his room than a cold shiver
seemed to pass through him, and on Fouquet asking him the cause of it,
the king replied, as pale as death:

"I am sleepy, that is all."

"Does your majesty wish for your attendants at once?"

"No; I have to talk with a few persons first," said the king.  "Will you
have the goodness to tell M. Colbert I wish to see him."

Fouquet bowed and left the room.

Chapter XIV:
A Gascon, and a Gascon and a Half.

D'Artagnan had determined to lose no time, and in fact he never was in
the habit of doing so.  After having inquired for Aramis, he had looked
for him in every direction until he had succeeded in finding him.
Besides, no sooner had the king entered Vaux, than Aramis had retired to
his own room, meditating, doubtless, some new piece of gallant attention
for his majesty's amusement.  D'Artagnan desired the servants to announce
him, and found on the second story (in a beautiful room called the Blue
Chamber, on account of the color of its hangings) the bishop of Vannes
in company with Porthos and several of the modern Epicureans.  Aramis
came forward to embrace his friend, and offered him the best seat.  As it
was after awhile generally remarked among those present that the
musketeer was reserved, and wished for an opportunity for conversing
secretly with Aramis, the Epicureans took their leave.  Porthos, however,
did not stir; for true it is that, having dined exceedingly well, he was
fast asleep in his armchair; and the freedom of conversation therefore
was not interrupted by a third person.  Porthos had a deep, harmonious
snore, and people might talk in the midst of its loud bass without fear
of disturbing him.  D'Artagnan felt that he was called upon to open the

"Well, and so we have come to Vaux," he said.

"Why, yes, D'Artagnan.  And how do you like the place?"

"Very much, and I like M. Fouquet, also."

"Is he not a charming host?"

"No one could be more so."

"I am told that the king began by showing great distance of manner
towards M. Fouquet, but that his majesty grew much more cordial

"You did not notice it, then, since you say you have been told so?"

"No; I was engaged with the gentlemen who have just left the room about
the theatrical performances and the tournaments which are to take place

"Ah, indeed! you are the comptroller-general of the _fetes_ here, then?"

"You know I am a friend of all kinds of amusement where the exercise of
the imagination is called into activity; I have always been a poet in one
way or another."

"Yes, I remember the verses you used to write, they were charming."

"I have forgotten them, but I am delighted to read the verses of others,
when those others are known by the names of Moliere, Pelisson, La
Fontaine, etc."

"Do you know what idea occurred to me this evening, Aramis?"

"No; tell me what it was, for I should never be able to guess it, you
have so many."

"Well, the idea occurred to me, that the true king of France is not Louis

"_What!_" said Aramis, involuntarily, looking the musketeer full in the

"No, it is Monsieur Fouquet."

Aramis breathed again, and smiled.  "Ah! you are like all the rest,
jealous," he said.  "I would wager that it was M. Colbert who turned that
pretty phrase."  D'Artagnan, in order to throw Aramis off his guard,
related Colbert's misadventures with regard to the _vin de Melun_.

"He comes of a mean race, does Colbert," said Aramis.

"Quite true."

"When I think, too," added the bishop, "that that fellow will be your
minister within four months, and that you will serve him as blindly as
you did Richelieu or Mazarin - "

"And as you serve M. Fouquet," said D'Artagnan.

"With this difference, though, that M. Fouquet is not M. Colbert."

"True, true," said D'Artagnan, as he pretended to become sad and full of
reflection; and then, a moment after, he added, "Why do you tell me that
M. Colbert will be minister in four months?"

"Because M. Fouquet will have ceased to be so," replied Aramis.

"He will be ruined, you mean?" said D'Artagnan.

"Completely so."

"Why does he give these _fetes_, then?" said the musketeer, in a tone so
full of thoughtful consideration, and so well assumed, that the bishop
was for the moment deceived by it.  "Why did you not dissuade him from

The latter part of the phrase was just a little too much, and Aramis's
former suspicions were again aroused.  "It is done with the object of
humoring the king."

"By ruining himself?"

"Yes, by ruining himself for the king."

"A most eccentric, one might say, sinister calculation, that."

"Necessity, necessity, my friend."

"I don't see that, dear Aramis."

"Do you not?  Have you not remarked M. Colbert's daily increasing
antagonism, and that he is doing his utmost to drive the king to get rid
of the superintendent?"

"One must be blind not to see it."

"And that a cabal is already armed against M. Fouquet?"

"That is well known."

"What likelihood is there that the king would join a party formed against
a man who will have spent everything he had to please him?"

"True, true," said D'Artagnan, slowly, hardly convinced, yet curious to
broach another phase of the conversation.  "There are follies, and
follies," he resumed, "and I do not like those you are committing."

"What do you allude to?"

"As for the banquet, the ball, the concert, the theatricals, the
tournaments, the cascades, the fireworks, the illuminations, and the
presents - these are well and good, I grant; but why were not these
expenses sufficient?  Why was it necessary to have new liveries and
costumes for your whole household?"

"You are quite right.  I told M. Fouquet that myself; he replied, that if
he were rich enough he would offer the king a newly erected chateau, from
the vanes at the houses to the very sub-cellars; completely new inside
and out; and that, as soon as the king had left, he would burn the whole
building and its contents, in order that it might not be made use of by
any one else."

"How completely Spanish!"

"I told him so, and he then added this: 'Whoever advises me to spare
expense, I shall look upon as my enemy.'"

"It is positive madness; and that portrait, too!"

"What portrait?" said Aramis.

"That of the king, and the surprise as well."

"What surprise?"

"The surprise you seem to have in view, and on account of which you took
some specimens away, when I met you at Percerin's."  D'Artagnan paused.
The shaft was discharged, and all he had to do was to wait and watch its

"That is merely an act of graceful attention," replied Aramis.

D'Artagnan went up to his friend, took hold of both his hands, and
looking him full in the eyes, said, "Aramis, do you still care for me a
very little?"

"What a question to ask!"

"Very good.  One favor, then.  Why did you take some patterns of the
king's costumes at Percerin's?"

"Come with me and ask poor Lebrun, who has been working upon them for the
last two days and nights."

"Aramis, that may be truth for everybody else, but for me - "

"Upon my word, D'Artagnan, you astonish me."

"Be a little considerate.  Tell me the exact truth; you would not like
anything disagreeable to happen to me, would you?"

"My dear friend, you are becoming quite incomprehensible.  What suspicion
can you have possibly got hold of?"

"Do you believe in my instinctive feelings?  Formerly you used to have
faith in them.  Well, then, an instinct tells me that you have some
concealed project on foot."

"I - a project?"

"I am convinced of it."

"What nonsense!"

"I am not only sure of it, but I would even swear it."

"Indeed, D'Artagnan, you cause me the greatest pain.  Is it likely, if I
have any project in hand that I ought to keep secret from you, I should
tell you about it?  If I had one that I could and ought to have revealed,
should I not have long ago divulged it?"

"No, Aramis, no.  There are certain projects which are never revealed
until the favorable opportunity arrives."

"In that case, my dear fellow," returned the bishop, laughing, "the only
thing now is, that the 'opportunity' has not yet arrived."

D'Artagnan shook his head with a sorrowful expression.  "Oh, friendship,
friendship!" he said, "what an idle word you are!  Here is a man who, if
I were but to ask it, would suffer himself to be cut in pieces for my

"You are right," said Aramis, nobly.

"And this man, who would shed every drop of blood in his veins for me,
will not open up before me the least corner in his heart.  Friendship, I
repeat, is nothing but an unsubstantial shadow - a lure, like everything
else in this bright, dazzling world."

"It is not thus you should speak of _our_ friendship," replied the
bishop, in a firm, assured voice; "for ours is not of the same nature as
those of which you have been speaking."

"Look at us, Aramis; three out of the old 'four.'  You are deceiving me;
I suspect you; and Porthos is fast asleep.  An admirable trio of friends,
don't you think so?  What an affecting relic of the former dear old

"I can only tell you one thing, D'Artagnan, and I swear it on the Bible:
I love you just as I used to do.  If I ever suspect you, it is on account
of others, and not on account of either of us.  In everything I may do,
and should happen to succeed in, you will find your fourth.  Will you
promise me the same favor?"

"If I am not mistaken, Aramis, your words - at the moment you pronounce

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