List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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presence with the king, and that Aramis, in order to have obtained
Fouquet's pardon, must have made considerable progress in the royal
favor, and that this favor explained, in its tenor, the hardly
conceivable assurance with which M. d'Herblay issued the order in the
king's name.  For D'Artagnan it was quite sufficient to have understood
something of the matter in hand to order to understand the rest.  He
bowed and withdrew a couple of paces, as though he were about to leave.

"I am going with you," said the bishop.

"Where to?"

"To M. Fouquet; I wish to be a witness of his delight."

"Ah!  Aramis, how you puzzled me just now!" said D'Artagnan again.

"But you understand _now_, I suppose?"

"Of course I understand," he said aloud; but added in a low tone to
himself, almost hissing the words between his teeth, "No, no, I do not
understand yet.  But it is all the same, for here is the order for it."
And then he added, "I will lead the way, monseigneur," and he conducted
Aramis to Fouquet's apartments.

Chapter XXI:
The King's Friend.

Fouquet was waiting with anxiety; he had already sent away many of his
servants and friends, who, anticipating the usual hour of his ordinary
receptions, had called at his door to inquire after him.  Preserving the
utmost silence respecting the danger which hung suspended by a hair above
his head, he only asked them, as he did every one, indeed, who came to
the door, where Aramis was.  When he saw D'Artagnan return, and when he
perceived the bishop of Vannes behind him, he could hardly restrain his
delight; it was fully equal to his previous uneasiness.  The mere sight
of Aramis was a complete compensation to the surintendant for the
unhappiness he had undergone in his arrest.  The prelate was silent and
grave; D'Artagnan completely bewildered by such an accumulation of events.

"Well, captain, so you have brought M. d'Herblay to me."

"And something better still, monseigneur."

"What is that?"


"I am free!"

"Yes; by the king's order."

Fouquet resumed his usual serenity, that he might interrogate Aramis with
a look.

"Oh! yes, you can thank M. l'eveque de Vannes," pursued D'Artagnan, "for
it is indeed to him that you owe the change that has taken place in the

"Oh!" said Fouquet, more humiliated at the service than grateful at its

"But you," continued D'Artagnan, addressing Aramis - "you, who have
become M. Fouquet's protector and patron, can you not do something for

"Anything in the wide world you like, my friend," replied the bishop, in
his calmest tones.

"One thing only, then, and I shall be perfectly satisfied.  How on earth
did you manage to become the favorite of the king, you who have never
spoken to him more than twice in your life?"

"From a friend such as you are," said Aramis, "I cannot conceal anything."

"Ah! very good, tell me, then."

"Very well.  You think that I have seen the king only twice, whilst the
fact is I have seen him more than a hundred times; only we have kept it
very secret, that is all."  And without trying to remove the color which
at this revelation made D'Artagnan's face flush scarlet, Aramis turned
towards M. Fouquet, who was as much surprised as the musketeer.
"Monseigneur," he resumed, "the king desires me to inform you that he is
more than ever your friend, and that your beautiful _fete_, so generously
offered by you on his behalf, has touched him to the very heart."

And thereupon he saluted M. Fouquet with so much reverence of manner,
that the latter, incapable of understanding a man whose diplomacy was of
so prodigious a character, remained incapable of uttering a single
syllable, and equally incapable of thought or movement.  D'Artagnan
fancied he perceived that these two men had something to say to each
other, and he was about to yield to that feeling of instinctive
politeness which in such a case hurries a man towards the door, when he
feels his presence is an inconvenience for others; but his eager
curiosity, spurred on by so many mysteries, counseled him to remain.

Aramis thereupon turned towards him, and said, in a quiet tone, "You will
not forget, my friend, the king's order respecting those whom he intends
to receive this morning on rising."  These words were clear enough, and
the musketeer understood them; he therefore bowed to Fouquet, and then to
Aramis, - to the latter with a slight admixture of ironical respect, -
and disappeared.

No sooner had he left, than Fouquet, whose impatience had hardly been
able to wait for that moment, darted towards the door to close it, and
then returning to the bishop, he said, "My dear D'Herblay, I think it now
high time you should explain all that has passed, for, in plain and
honest truth, I do not understand anything."

"We will explain all that to you," said Aramis, sitting down, and making
Fouquet sit down also.  "Where shall I begin?"

"With this first of all.  Why does the king set me at liberty?"

"You ought rather to ask me what his reason was for having you arrested."

"Since my arrest, I have had time to think over it, and my idea is that
it arises out of some slight feeling of jealousy.  My _fete_ put M.
Colbert out of temper, and M. Colbert discovered some cause of complaint
against me; Belle-Isle, for instance."

"No; there is no question at all just now of Belle-Isle."

"What is it, then?"

"Do you remember those receipts for thirteen millions which M. de Mazarin
contrived to steal from you?"

"Yes, of course!"

"Well, you are pronounced a public robber."

"Good heavens!"

"Oh! that is not all.  Do you also remember that letter you wrote to La

"Alas! yes."

"And that proclaims you a traitor and a suborner."

"Why should he have pardoned me, then?"

"We have not yet arrived at that part of our argument.  I wish you to be
quite convinced of the fact itself.  Observe this well: the king knows
you to be guilty of an appropriation of public funds.  Oh! of course _I_
know that you have done nothing of the kind; but, at all events, the king
has seen the receipts, and he can do no other than believe you are

"I beg your pardon, I do not see - "

"You will see presently, though.  The king, moreover, having read your
love-letter to La Valliere, and the offers you there made her, cannot
retain any doubt of your intentions with regard to that young lady; you
will admit that, I suppose?"

"Certainly.  Pray conclude."

"In the fewest words.  The king, we may henceforth assume, is your
powerful, implacable, and eternal enemy."

"Agreed.  But am I, then, so powerful, that he has not dared to sacrifice
me, notwithstanding his hatred, with all the means which my weakness, or
my misfortunes, may have given him as a hold upon me?"

"It is clear, beyond all doubt," pursued Aramis, coldly, "that the king
has quarreled with you - irreconcilably."

"But, since he has absolved me - "

"Do you believe it likely?" asked the bishop, with a searching look.

"Without believing in his sincerity, I believe it in the accomplished

Aramis slightly shrugged his shoulders.

"But why, then, should Louis XIV. have commissioned you to tell me what
you have just stated?"

"The king charged me with no message for you."

"With nothing!" said the superintendent, stupefied.  "But, that order - "

"Oh! yes.  You are quite right.  There _is_ an order, certainly;" and
these words were pronounced by Aramis in so strange a tone, that Fouquet
could not resist starting.

"You are concealing something from me, I see.  What is it?"

Aramis softly rubbed his white fingers over his chin, but said nothing.

"Does the king exile me?"

"Do not act as if you were playing at the game children play at when they
have to try and guess where a thing has been hidden, and are informed, by
a bell being rung, when they are approaching near to it, or going away
from it."

"Speak, then."


"You alarm me."

"Bah! that is because you have not guessed, then."

"What did the king say to you?  In the name of our friendship, do not
deceive me."

"The king has not said one word to me."

"You are killing me with impatience, D'Herblay.  Am I still

"As long as you like."

"But what extraordinary empire have you so suddenly acquired over his
majesty's mind?"

"Ah! that's the point."

"He does your bidding?"

"I believe so."

"It is hardly credible."

"So any one would say."

"D'Herblay, by our alliance, by our friendship, by everything you hold
dearest in the world, speak openly, I implore you.  By what means have
you succeeded in overcoming Louis XIV.'s prejudices, for he did not like
you, I am certain."

"The king will like me _now_," said Aramis, laying stress upon the last

"You have something particular, then, between you?"


"A secret, perhaps?"

"A secret."

"A secret of such a nature as to change his majesty's interests?"

"You are, indeed, a man of superior intelligence, monseigneur, and have
made a particularly accurate guess.  I have, in fact, discovered a
secret, of a nature to change the interests of the king of France."

"Ah!" said Fouquet, with the reserve of a man who does not wish to ask
any more questions.

"And you shall judge of it yourself," pursued Aramis; "and you shall tell
me if I am mistaken with regard to the importance of this secret."

"I am listening, since you are good enough to unbosom yourself to me;
only do not forget that I have asked you about nothing which it may be
indiscreet in you to communicate."

Aramis seemed, for a moment, as if he were collecting himself.

"Do not speak!" said Fouquet: "there is still time enough."

"Do you remember," said the bishop, casting down his eyes, "the birth of
Louis XIV.?"

"As if it were yesterday."

"Have you ever heard anything particular respecting his birth?"

"Nothing; except that the king was not really the son of Louis XIII."

"That does not matter to us, or the kingdom either; he is the son of his
father, says the French law, whose father is recognized by law."

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