List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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only a jailer with a basket of provisions.  The king looked at the man
with restless anxiety, and waited until he spoke.

"Ah!" said the latter, "you have broken your chair.  I said you had done
so!  Why, you have gone quite mad."

"Monsieur," said the king, "be careful what you say; it will be a very
serious affair for you."

The jailer placed the basket on the table, and looked at his prisoner
steadily.  "What do you say?" he said.

"Desire the governor to come to me," added the king, in accents full of
calm and dignity.

"Come, my boy," said the turnkey, "you have always been very quiet and
reasonable, but you are getting vicious, it seems, and I wish you to know
it in time.  You have broken your chair, and made a great disturbance;
that is an offense punishable by imprisonment in one of the lower
dungeons.  Promise me not to begin over again, and I will not say a word
about it to the governor."

"I wish to see the governor," replied the king, still governing his

"He will send you off to one of the dungeons, I tell you; so take care."

"I insist upon it, do you hear?"

"Ah! ah! your eyes are becoming wild again.  Very good!  I shall take
away your knife."

And the jailer did what he said, quitted the prisoner, and closed the
door, leaving the king more astounded, more wretched, more isolated than
ever.  It was useless, though he tried it, to make the same noise again
on his door, and equally useless that he threw the plates and dishes out
of the window; not a single sound was heard in recognition.  Two hours
afterwards he could not be recognized as a king, a gentleman, a man, a
human being; he might rather be called a madman, tearing the door with
his nails, trying to tear up the flooring of his cell, and uttering such
wild and fearful cries that the old Bastile seemed to tremble to its very
foundations for having revolted against its master.  As for the governor,
the jailer did not even think of disturbing him; the turnkeys and the
sentinels had reported the occurrence to him, but what was the good of
it?  Were not these madmen common enough in such a prison? and were not
the walls still stronger?  M. de Baisemeaux, thoroughly impressed with
what Aramis had told him, and in perfect conformity with the king's
order, hoped only that one thing might happen; namely, that the madman
Marchiali might be mad enough to hang himself to the canopy of his bed,
or to one of the bars of the window.  In fact, the prisoner was anything
but a profitable investment for M. Baisemeaux, and became more annoying
than agreeable to him.  These complications of Seldon and Marchiali - the
complications first of setting at liberty and then imprisoning again, the
complications arising from the strong likeness in question - had at last
found a very proper _denouement_.  Baisemeaux even thought he had
remarked that D'Herblay himself was not altogether dissatisfied with the

"And then, really," said Baisemeaux to his next in command, "an ordinary
prisoner is already unhappy enough in being a prisoner; he suffers quite
enough, indeed, to induce one to hope, charitably enough, that his death
may not be far distant.  With still greater reason, accordingly, when the
prisoner has gone mad, and might bite and make a terrible disturbance in
the Bastile; why, in such a case, it is not simply an act of mere charity
to wish him dead; it would be almost a good and even commendable action,
quietly to have him put out of his misery."

And the good-natured governor thereupon sat down to his late breakfast.

Chapter XIX:
The Shadow of M. Fouquet.

D'Artagnan, still confused and oppressed by the conversation he had just
had with the king, could not resist asking himself if he were really in
possession of his senses, if he were really and truly at Vaux; if he,
D'Artagnan, were really the captain of the musketeers, and M. Fouquet the
owner of the chateau in which Louis XIV. was at that moment partaking of
his hospitality.  These reflections were not those of a drunken man,
although everything was in prodigal profusion at Vaux, and the
surintendant's wines had met with a distinguished reception at the
_fete_.  The Gascon, however, was a man of calm self-possession; and no
sooner did he touch his bright steel blade, than he knew how to adopt
morally the cold, keen weapon as his guide of action.

"Well," he said, as he quitted the royal apartment, "I seem now to be
mixed up historically with the destinies of the king and of the minister;
it will be written, that M. d'Artagnan, a younger son of a Gascon family,
placed his hand on the shoulder of M. Nicolas Fouquet, the surintendant
of the finances of France.  My descendants, if I have any, will flatter
themselves with the distinction which this arrest will confer, just as
the members of the De Luynes family have done with regard to the estates
of the poor Marechal d'Ancre.  But the thing is, how best to execute the
king's directions in a proper manner.  Any man would know how to say to
M. Fouquet, 'Your sword, monsieur.'  But it is not every one who would be
able to take care of M. Fouquet without others knowing anything about
it.  How am I to manage, then, so that M. le surintendant pass from the
height of favor to the direst disgrace; that Vaux be turned into a
dungeon for him; that after having been steeped to his lips, as it were,
in all the perfumes and incense of Ahasuerus, he is transferred to the
gallows of Haman; in other words, of Enguerrand de Marigny?"  And at this
reflection, D'Artagnan's brow became clouded with perplexity.  The
musketeer had certain scruples on the matter, it must be admitted.  To
deliver up to death (for not a doubt existed that Louis hated Fouquet
mortally) the man who had just shown himself so delightful and charming a
host in every way, was a real insult to one's conscience.  "It almost
seems," said D'Artagnan to himself, "that if I am not a poor, mean,
miserable fellow, I should let M. Fouquet know the opinion the king has
about him.  Yet, if I betray my master's secret, I shall be a false-
hearted, treacherous knave, a traitor, too, a crime provided for and
punishable by military laws - so much so, indeed, that twenty times, in
former days when wars were rife, I have seen many a miserable fellow
strung up to a tree for doing, in but a small degree, what my scruples
counsel me to undertake upon a great scale now.  No, I think that a man
of true readiness of wit ought to get out of this difficulty with more
skill than that.  And now, let us admit that I do possess a little
readiness of invention; it is not at all certain, though, for, after
having for forty years absorbed so large a quantity, I shall be lucky if
there were to be a pistole's-worth left."  D'Artagnan buried his head in
his hands, tore at his mustache in sheer vexation, and added, "What can
be the reason of M. Fouquet's disgrace?  There seem to be three good
ones: the first, because M. Colbert doesn't like him; the second, because
he wished to fall in love with Mademoiselle de la Valliere; and lastly,
because the king likes M. Colbert and loves Mademoiselle de la Valliere.
Oh! he is lost!  But shall I put my foot on his neck, I, of all men, when
he is falling a prey to the intrigues of a pack of women and clerks?  For
shame!  If he be dangerous, I will lay him low enough; if, however, he be
only persecuted, I will look on.  I have come to such a decisive
determination, that neither king nor living man shall change my mind.  If
Athos were here, he would do as I have done.  Therefore, instead of
going, in cold blood, up to M. Fouquet, and arresting him off-hand and
shutting him up altogether, I will try and conduct myself like a man who
understands what good manners are.  People will talk about it, of course;
but they shall talk well of it, I am determined."  And D'Artagnan,
drawing by a gesture peculiar to himself his shoulder-belt over his
shoulder, went straight off to M. Fouquet, who, after he had taken leave
of his guests, was preparing to retire for the night and to sleep
tranquilly after the triumphs of the day.  The air was still perfumed, or
infected, whichever way it may be considered, with the odors of the
torches and the fireworks.  The wax-lights were dying away in their
sockets, the flowers fell unfastened from the garlands, the groups of
dancers and courtiers were separating in the salons.  Surrounded by his
friends, who complimented him and received his flattering remarks in
return, the surintendant half-closed his wearied eyes.  He longed for
rest and quiet; he sank upon the bed of laurels which had been heaped up
for him for so many days past; it might almost have been said that he
seemed bowed beneath the weight of the new debts which he had incurred
for the purpose of giving the greatest possible honor to this _fete_.
Fouquet had just retired to his room, still smiling, but more than half-
asleep.  He could listen to nothing more, he could hardly keep his eyes
open; his bed seemed to possess a fascinating and irresistible attraction
for him.  The god Morpheus, the presiding deity of the dome painted by
Lebrun, had extended his influence over the adjoining rooms, and showered
down his most sleep-inducing poppies upon the master of the house.
Fouquet, almost entirely alone, was being assisted by his _valet de
chambre_ to undress, when M. d'Artagnan appeared at the entrance of the
room.  D'Artagnan had never been able to succeed in making himself common
at the court; and notwithstanding he was seen everywhere and on all
occasions, he never failed to produce an effect wherever and whenever he
made his appearance.  Such is the happy privilege of certain natures,
which in that respect resemble either thunder or lightning; every one
recognizes them; but their appearance never fails to arouse surprise and
astonishment, and whenever they occur, the impression is always left that
the last was the most conspicuous or most important.

"What!  M. d'Artagnan?" said Fouquet, who had already taken his right arm
out of the sleeve of his doublet.

"At your service," replied the musketeer.

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