List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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"Your majesty has not acquired the utilitarian habit of checking the
public accounts."

"I see that it refers to money that had been given to M. Fouquet."

"Thirteen millions.  A tolerably good sum."

"Yes.  Well, these thirteen millions are wanting to balance the total of
the account.  That is what I do not very well understand.  How was this
deficit possible?"

"Possible I do not say; but there is no doubt about fact that it is
really so."

"You say that these thirteen millions are found to be wanting in the

"I do not say so, but the registry does."

"And this letter of M. Mazarin indicates the employment of that sum and
the name of the person with whom it was deposited?"

"As your majesty can judge for yourself."

"Yes; and the result is, then, that M. Fouquet has not yet restored the
thirteen millions."

"That results from the accounts, certainly, sire."

"Well, and, consequently - "

"Well, sire, in that case, inasmuch as M. Fouquet has not yet given back
the thirteen millions, he must have appropriated them to his own purpose;
and with those thirteen millions one could incur four times and a little
more as much expense, and make four times as great a display, as your
majesty was able to do at Fontainebleau, where we only spent three
millions altogether, if you remember."

For a blunderer, the _souvenir_ he had evoked was a rather skillfully
contrived piece of baseness; for by the remembrance of his own _fete_ he,
for the first time, perceived its inferiority compared with that of
Fouquet.  Colbert received back again at Vaux what Fouquet had given him
at Fontainebleau, and, as a good financier, returned it with the best
possible interest.  Having once disposed the king's mind in this artful
way, Colbert had nothing of much importance to detain him.  He felt that
such was the case, for the king, too, had again sunk into a dull and
gloomy state.  Colbert awaited the first words from the king's lips with
as much impatience as Philippe and Aramis did from their place of

"Are you aware what is the usual and natural consequence of all this,
Monsieur Colbert?" said the king, after a few moments' reflection.

"No, sire, I do not know."

"Well, then, the fact of the appropriation of the thirteen millions, if
it can be proved - "

"But it is so already."

"I mean if it were to be declared and certified, M. Colbert."

"I think it will be to-morrow, if your majesty - "

"Were we not under M. Fouquet's roof, you were going to say, perhaps,"
replied the king, with something of nobility in his demeanor.

"The king is in his own palace wherever he may be - especially in houses
which the royal money has constructed."

"I think," said Philippe in a low tone to Aramis, "that the architect who
planned this dome ought, anticipating the use it could be put to at a
future opportunity, so to have contrived that it might be made to fall
upon the heads of scoundrels such as M. Colbert."

"I think so too," replied Aramis; "but M. Colbert is so very _near the
king_ at this moment."

"That is true, and that would open the succession."

"Of which your younger brother would reap all the advantage,
monseigneur.  But stay, let us keep quiet, and go on listening."

"We shall not have long to listen," said the young prince.

"Why not, monseigneur?"

"Because, if I were king, I should make no further reply."

"And what would you do?"

"I should wait until to-morrow morning to give myself time for

Louis XIV. at last raised his eyes, and finding Colbert attentively
waiting for his next remarks, said, hastily, changing the conversation,
"M. Colbert, I perceive it is getting very late, and I shall now retire
to bed.  By to-morrow morning I shall have made up my mind."

"Very good, sire," returned Colbert, greatly incensed, although he
restrained himself in the presence of the king.

The king made a gesture of adieu, and Colbert withdrew with a respectful
bow.  "My attendants!" cried the king; and, as they entered the
apartment, Philippe was about to quit his post of observation.

"A moment longer," said Aramis to him, with his accustomed gentleness of
manner; "what has just now taken place is only a detail, and to-morrow we
shall have no occasion to think anything more about it; but the ceremony
of the king's retiring to rest, the etiquette observed in addressing the
king, that indeed is of the greatest importance.  Learn, sire, and study
well how you ought to go to bed of a night.  Look! look!"

Chapter XV:

History will tell us, or rather history has told us, of the various
events of the following day, of the splendid _fetes_ given by the
surintendant to his sovereign.  Nothing but amusement and delight was
allowed to prevail throughout the whole of the following day; there was
a promenade, a banquet, a comedy to be acted, and a comedy, too, in
which, to his great amazement, Porthos recognized "M. Coquelin de
Voliere" as one of the actors, in the piece called "Les Facheux."  Full
of preoccupation, however, from the scene of the previous evening, and
hardly recovered from the effects of the poison which Colbert had then
administered to him, the king, during the whole of the day, so brilliant
in its effects, so full of unexpected and startling novelties, in which
all the wonders of the "Arabian Night's Entertainments" seemed to be
reproduced for his especial amusement - the king, we say, showed himself
cold, reserved, and taciturn.  Nothing could smooth the frowns upon his
face; every one who observed him noticed that a deep feeling of
resentment, of remote origin, increased by slow degrees, as the source
becomes a river, thanks to the thousand threads of water that increase
its body, was keenly alive in the depths of the king's heart.  Towards
the middle of the day only did he begin to resume a little serenity of
manner, and by that time he had, in all probability, made up his mind.
Aramis, who followed him step by step in his thoughts, as in his walk,
concluded that the event he was expecting would not be long before it was
announced.  This time Colbert seemed to walk in concert with the bishop
of Vannes, and had he received for every annoyance which he inflicted on
the king a word of direction from Aramis, he could not have done better.
During the whole of the day the king, who, in all probability, wished to
free himself from some of the thoughts which disturbed his mind, seemed
to seek La Valliere's society as actively as he seemed to show his
anxiety to flee that of M. Colbert or M. Fouquet.  The evening came.  The
king had expressed a wish not to walk in the park until after cards in
the evening.  In the interval between supper and the promenade, cards and
dice were introduced.  The king won a thousand pistoles, and, having won
them, put them in his pocket, and then rose, saying, "And now, gentlemen,
to the park."  He found the ladies of the court were already there.  The
king, we have before observed, had won a thousand pistoles, and had put
them in his pocket; but M. Fouquet had somehow contrived to lose ten
thousand, so that among the courtiers there was still left a hundred and
ninety thousand francs' profit to divide, a circumstance which made the
countenances of the courtiers and the officers of the king's household
the most joyous countenances in the world.  It was not the same, however,
with the king's face; for, notwithstanding his success at play, to which
he was by no means insensible, there still remained a slight shade of
dissatisfaction.  Colbert was waiting for or upon him at the corner of
one of the avenues; he was most probably waiting there in consequence of
a rendezvous which had been given him by the king, as Louis XIV., who had
avoided him, or who had seemed to avoid him, suddenly made him a sign,
and they then struck into the depths of the park together.  But La
Valliere, too, had observed the king's gloomy aspect and kindling
glances; she had remarked this - and as nothing which lay hidden or
smoldering in his heart was hidden from the gaze of her affection, she
understood that this repressed wrath menaced some one; she prepared to
withstand the current of his vengeance, and intercede like an angel of
mercy.  Overcome by sadness, nervously agitated, deeply distressed at
having been so long separated from her lover, disturbed at the sight of
the emotion she had divined, she accordingly presented herself to the
king with an embarrassed aspect, which in his then disposition of mind
the king interpreted unfavorably.  Then, as they were alone - nearly
alone, inasmuch as Colbert, as soon as he perceived the young girl
approaching, had stopped and drawn back a dozen paces - the king advanced
towards La Valliere and took her by the hand.  "Mademoiselle," he said to
her, "should I be guilty of an indiscretion if I were to inquire if you
were indisposed? for you seem to breathe as if you were oppressed by some
secret cause of uneasiness, and your eyes are filled with tears."

"Oh! sire, if I be indeed so, and if my eyes are indeed full of tears, I
am sorrowful only at the sadness which seems to oppress your majesty."

"My sadness?  You are mistaken, mademoiselle; no, it is not sadness I

"What is it, then, sire?"


"Humiliation? oh! sire, what a word for you to use!"

"I mean, mademoiselle, that wherever I may happen to be, no one else
ought to be the master.  Well, then, look round you on every side, and
judge whether I am not eclipsed - I, the king of France - before the
monarch of these wide domains.  Oh!" he continued, clenching his hands
and teeth, "when I think that this king - "

"Well, sire?" said Louise, terrified.

" - That this king is a faithless, unworthy servant, who grows proud and
self-sufficient upon the strength of property that belongs to me, and
which he has stolen.  And therefore I am about to change this impudent
minister's _fete_ into sorrow and mourning, of which the nymph of Vaux,
as the poets say, shall not soon lose the remembrance."

"Oh! your majesty - "

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