"This evening - to-morrow - to-morrow evening; for you must stand in need of rest." "I have rested, sire." "That is well. Then between this and to-morrow evening, when you please." D'Artagnan bowed as if to take his leave; but, perceiving the king very much embarrassed, "Will you majesty," said he, stepping two paces forward, "take the court with you?" "Certainly I shall." "Then you majesty will, doubtless, want the musketeers?" And the eye of the king sank beneath the penetrating glance of the captain. "Take a brigade of them," replied Louis. "Is that all? Has your majesty no other orders to give me?" "No - ah - yes." "I am all attention, sire." "At the castle of Nantes, which I hear is very ill arranged, you will adopt the practice of placing musketeers at the door of each of the principal dignitaries I shall take with me." "Of the principal?" "Yes." "For instance, at the door of M. de Lyonne?" "Yes." "And that of M. Letellier?" "Yes." "Of M. de Brienne?" "Yes." "And of monsieur le surintendant?" "Without doubt." "Very well, sire. By to-morrow I shall have set out." "Oh, yes; but one more word, Monsieur d'Artagnan. At Nantes you will meet with M. le Duc de Gesvres, captain of the guards. Be sure that your musketeers are placed before his guards arrive. Precedence always belongs to the first comer." "Yes, sire." "And if M. de Gesvres should question you?" "Question me, sire! Is it likely that M. de Gesvres should question me?" And the musketeer, turning cavalierly on his heel, disappeared. "To Nantes!" said he to himself, as he descended from the stairs. "Why did he not dare to say, from thence to Belle-Isle?" As he reached the great gates, one of M. Brienne's clerks came running after him, exclaiming, "Monsieur d'Artagnan! I beg your pardon - " "What is the matter, Monsieur Ariste?" "The king has desired me to give you this order." "Upon your cash-box?" asked the musketeer. "No, monsieur; on that of M. Fouquet." D'Artagnan was surprised, but he took the order, which was in the king's own writing, and was for two hundred pistoles. "What!" thought he, after having politely thanked M. Brienne's clerk, "M. Fouquet is to pay for the journey, then! _Mordioux!_ that is a bit of pure Louis XI. Why was not this order on the chest of M. Colbert? He would have paid it with such joy." And D'Artagnan, faithful to his principle of never letting an order at sight get cold, went straight to the house of M. Fouquet, to receive his two hundred pistoles. Chapter XXXV: The Last Supper. The superintendent had no doubt received advice of the approaching departure, for he was giving a farewell dinner to his friends. From the bottom to the top of the house, the hurry of the servants bearing dishes, and the diligence of the _registres_, denoted an approaching change in offices and kitchen. D'Artagnan, with his order in his hand, presented himself at the offices, when he was told it was too late to pay cash, the chest was closed. He only replied: "On the king's service." The clerk, a little put out by the serious air of the captain, replied, that "that was a very respectable reason, but that the customs of the house were respectable likewise; and that, in consequence, he begged the bearer to call again next day." D'Artagnan asked if he could not see M. Fouquet. The clerk replied that M. le surintendant did not interfere with such details, and rudely closed the outer door in the captain's face. But the latter had foreseen this stroke, and placed his boot between the door and the door-case, so that the lock did not catch, and the clerk was still nose to nose with his interlocutor. This made him change his tone, and say, with terrified politeness, "If monsieur wishes to speak to M. le surintendant, he must go to the ante-chambers; these are the offices, where monseigneur never comes." "Oh! very well! Where are they?" replied D'Artagnan. "On the other side of the court," said the clerk, delighted to be free. D'Artagnan crossed the court, and fell in with a crowd of servants. "Monseigneur sees nobody at this hour," he was answered by a fellow carrying a vermeil dish, in which were three pheasants and twelve quails. "Tell him," said the captain, laying hold of the servant by the end of his dish, "that I am M. d'Artagnan, captain of his majesty's musketeers." The fellow uttered a cry of surprise, and disappeared; D'Artagnan following him slowly. He arrived just in time to meet M. Pelisson in the ante-chamber: the latter, a little pale, came hastily out of the dining- room to learn what was the matter. D'Artagnan smiled. "There is nothing unpleasant, Monsieur Pelisson; only a little order to receive the money for." "Ah!" said Fouquet's friend, breathing more freely; and he took the captain by the hand, and, dragging him behind him, led him into the dining-room, where a number of friends surrounded the surintendant, placed in the center, and buried in the cushions of a _fauteuil_. There were assembled all the Epicureans who so lately at Vaux had done the honors of the mansion of wit and money in aid of M. Fouquet. Joyous friends, for the most part faithful, they had not fled their protector at the approach of the storm, and, in spite of the threatening heavens, in spite of the trembling earth, they remained there, smiling, cheerful, as devoted in misfortune as they had been in prosperity. On the left of the surintendant sat Madame de Belliere; on his right was Madame Fouquet; as if braving the laws of the world, and putting all vulgar reasons of propriety to silence, the two protecting angels of this man united to offer, at the moment of the crisis, the support of their twined arms. Madame de Belliere was pale, trembling, and full of respectful attentions for madame la surintendante, who, with one hand on her husband's, was looking anxiously towards the door by which Pelisson had gone out to bring D'Artagnan. The captain entered at first full of courtesy, and afterwards of admiration, when, with his infallible glance, he had divined as well as taken in the expression of every face. Fouquet raised himself up in his chair. "Pardon me, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said he, "if I did not myself receive you when coming in the king's name." And he pronounced the last words with a sort of melancholy firmness, which filled the hearts of all his friends with terror. "Monseigneur," replied D'Artagnan, "I only come to you in the king's name to demand payment of an order for two hundred pistoles." The clouds passed from every brow but that of Fouquet, which still remained overcast. "Ah! then," said he, "perhaps you also are setting out for Nantes?" "I do not know whither I am setting out, monseigneur." "But," said Madame Fouquet, recovered from her fright, "you are not going so soon, monsieur le capitaine, as not to do us the honor to take a seat with us?" "Madame, I should esteem that a great honor done me, but I am so pressed for time, that, you see, I have been obliged to permit myself to interrupt your repast to procure payment of my note." "The reply to which shall be gold," said Fouquet, making a sign to his intendant, who went out with the order D'Artagnan handed him. "Oh!" said the latter, "I was not uneasy about the payment; the house is good." A painful smile passed over the pale features of Fouquet. "Are you in pain?" asked Madame de Belliere. "Do you feel your attack coming on?" asked Madame Fouquet. "Neither, thank you both," said Fouquet. "Your attack?" said D'Artagnan, in his turn; "are you unwell, monseigneur?" "I have a tertian fever, which seized me after the _fete_ at Vaux." "Caught cold in the grottos, at night, perhaps?" "No, no; nothing but agitation, that was all." "The too much heart you displayed in your reception of the king," said La Fontaine, quietly, without suspicion that he was uttering a sacrilege. "We cannot devote too much heart to the reception of our king," said Fouquet, mildly, to his poet. "Monsieur meant to say the too great ardor," interrupted D'Artagnan, with perfect frankness and much amenity. "The fact is, monseigneur, that hospitality was never practiced as at Vaux." Madame Fouquet permitted her countenance to show clearly that if Fouquet had conducted himself well towards the king, the king had hardly done the like to the minister. But D'Artagnan knew the terrible secret. He alone with Fouquet knew it; those two men had not, the one the courage to complain, the other the right to accuse. The captain, to whom the two hundred pistoles were brought, was about to take his leave, when Fouquet, rising, took a glass of wine, and ordered one to be given to D'Artagnan. "Monsieur," said he, "to the health of the king, _whatever may happen_." "And to your health, monseigneur, _whatever may happen_," said D'Artagnan. He bowed, with these words of evil omen, to all the company, who rose as soon as they heard the sound of his spurs and boots at the bottom of the stairs. "I, for a moment, thought it was I and not my money he wanted," said Fouquet, endeavoring to laugh. "You!" cried his friends; "and what for, in the name of Heaven!" "Oh! do not deceive yourselves, my dear brothers in Epicurus," said the superintendent; "I do not wish to make a comparison between the most humble sinner on the earth, and the God we adore, but remember, he gave one day to his friends a repast which is called the Last Supper, and which was nothing but a farewell dinner, like that which we are making at this moment." A painful cry of denial arose from all parts of the table. "Shut the doors," said Fouquet, and the servants disappeared. "My friends," continued Fouquet, lowering his voice, "what was I formerly? What am I now? Consult among yourselves and reply. A man like me sinks when he does not continue to rise. What shall we say, then, when he really sinks? I have no more money, no more credit; I have no longer anything but powerful enemies, and powerless friends."
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