List Of Contents | Contents of The Man in the Iron Mask, by Dumas, Pere
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sensible displeasure, see you come to plead for one of the greatest
criminals it is the duty of justice to punish.  A king does not allow
himself to soften save at the tears of the innocent, the remorse of the
guilty.  I have no faith either in the remorse of M. Fouquet or the tears
of his friends, because the one is tainted to the very heart, and the
others ought to dread offending me in my own palace.  For these reasons,
I beg you, Monsieur Pelisson, Monsieur Gourville, and you, Monsieur - ,
to say nothing that will not plainly proclaim the respect you have for my

"Sire," replied Pelisson, trembling at these words, "we are come to say
nothing to your majesty that is not the most profound expression of the
most sincere respect and love that are due to a king from all his
subjects.  Your majesty's justice is redoubtable; every one must yield to
the sentences it pronounces.  We respectfully bow before it.  Far from us
the idea of coming to defend him who has had the misfortune to offend
your majesty.  He who has incurred your displeasure may be a friend of
ours, but he is an enemy to the state.  We abandon him, but with tears,
to the severity of the king."

"Besides," interrupted the king, calmed by that supplicating voice, and
those persuasive words, "my parliament will decide.  I do not strike
without first having weighed the crime; my justice does not wield the
sword without employing first a pair of scales."

"Therefore we have every confidence in that impartiality of the king, and
hope to make our feeble voices heard, with the consent of your majesty,
when the hour for defending an accused friend strikes."

"In that case, messieurs, what do you ask of me?" said the king, with his
most imposing air.

"Sire," continued Pelisson, "the accused has a wife and family.  The
little property he had was scarcely sufficient to pay his debts, and
Madame Fouquet, since her husband's captivity, is abandoned by
everybody.  The hand of your majesty strikes like the hand of God.  When
the Lord sends the curse of leprosy or pestilence into a family, every
one flies and shuns the abode of the leprous or plague-stricken.
Sometimes, but very rarely, a generous physician alone ventures to
approach the ill-reputed threshold, passes it with courage, and risks his
life to combat death.  He is the last resource of the dying, the chosen
instrument of heavenly mercy.  Sire, we supplicate you, with clasped
hands and bended knees, as a divinity is supplicated!  Madame Fouquet has
no longer any friends, no longer any means of support; she weeps in her
deserted home, abandoned by all those who besieged its doors in the hour
of prosperity; she has neither credit nor hope left.  At least, the
unhappy wretch upon whom your anger falls receives from you, however
culpable he may be, his daily bread though moistened by his tears.  As
much afflicted, more destitute than her husband, Madame Fouquet - the
lady who had the honor to receive your majesty at her table - Madame
Fouquet, the wife of the ancient superintendent of your majesty's
finances, Madame Fouquet has no longer bread."

Here the mortal silence which had chained the breath of Pelisson's two
friends was broken by an outburst of sobs; and D'Artagnan, whose chest
heaved at hearing this humble prayer, turned round towards the angle of
the cabinet to bite his mustache and conceal a groan.

The king had preserved his eye dry and his countenance severe; but the
blood had mounted to his cheeks, and the firmness of his look was visibly

"What do you wish?" said he, in an agitated voice.

"We come humbly to ask your majesty," replied Pelisson, upon whom emotion
was fast gaining, "to permit us, without incurring the displeasure of
your majesty, to lend to Madame Fouquet two thousand pistoles collected
among the old friends of her husband, in order that the widow may not
stand in need of the necessaries of life."

At the word _widow_, pronounced by Pelisson whilst Fouquet was still
alive, the king turned very pale; - his pride disappeared; pity rose from
his heart to his lips; he cast a softened look upon the men who knelt
sobbing at his feet.

"God forbid," said he, "that I should confound the innocent with the
guilty.  They know me but ill who doubt my mercy towards the weak.  I
strike none but the arrogant.  Do, messieurs, do all that your hearts
counsel you to assuage the grief of Madame Fouquet.  Go, messieurs - go!"

The three now rose in silence with dry eyes.  The tears had been scorched
away by contact with their burning cheeks and eyelids.  They had not the
strength to address their thanks to the king, who himself cut short their
solemn reverences by entrenching himself suddenly behind the _fauteuil_.

D'Artagnan remained alone with the king.

"Well," said he, approaching the young prince, who interrogated him with
his look.  "Well, my master!  If you had not the device which belongs to
your sun, I would recommend you one which M. Conrart might translate into
eclectic Latin, 'Calm with the lowly; stormy with the strong.'"

The king smiled, and passed into the next apartment, after having said to
D'Artagnan, "I give you the leave of absence you must want to put the
affairs of your friend, the late M. du Vallon, in order."

Chapter LV:
Porthos's Will.

At Pierrefonds everything was in mourning.  The courts were deserted -
the stables closed - the parterres neglected.  In the basins, the
fountains, formerly so jubilantly fresh and noisy, had stopped of
themselves.  Along the roads around the chateau came a few grave
personages mounted on mules or country nags.  These were rural neighbors,
cures and bailiffs of adjacent estates.  All these people entered the
chateau silently, handed their horses to a melancholy-looking groom, and
directed their steps, conducted by a huntsman in black, to the great
dining-room, where Mousqueton received them at the door.  Mousqueton had
become so thin in two days that his clothes moved upon him like an ill-
fitting scabbard in which the sword-blade dances at each motion.  His
face, composed of red and white, like that of the Madonna of Vandyke, was
furrowed by two silver rivulets which had dug their beds in his cheeks,
as full formerly as they had become flabby since his grief began.  At
each fresh arrival, Mousqueton found fresh tears, and it was pitiful to
see him press his throat with his fat hand to keep from bursting into
sobs and lamentations.  All these visits were for the purpose of hearing
the reading of Porthos's will, announced for that day, and at which all
the covetous friends of the dead man were anxious to be present, as he
had left no relations behind him.

The visitors took their places as they arrived, and the great room had
just been closed when the clock struck twelve, the hour fixed for the
reading of the important document.  Porthos's procureur - and that was
naturally the successor of Master Coquenard - commenced by slowly
unfolding the vast parchment upon which the powerful hand of Porthos had
traced his sovereign will.  The seal broken - the spectacles put on - the
preliminary cough having sounded - every one pricked up his ears.
Mousqueton had squatted himself in a corner, the better to weep and the
better to hear.  All at once the folding-doors of the great room, which
had been shut, were thrown open as if by magic, and a warlike figure
appeared upon the threshold, resplendent in the full light of the sun.
This was D'Artagnan, who had come alone to the gate, and finding nobody
to hold his stirrup, had tied his horse to the knocker and announced
himself.  The splendor of daylight invading the room, the murmur of all
present, and, more than all, the instinct of the faithful dog, drew
Mousqueton from his reverie; he raised his head, recognized the old
friend of his master, and, screaming with grief, he embraced his knees,
watering the floor with his tears.  D'Artagnan raised the poor intendant,
embraced him as if he had been a brother, and, having nobly saluted the
assembly, who all bowed as they whispered to each other his name, he went
and took his seat at the extremity of the great carved oak hall, still
holding by the hand poor Mousqueton, who was suffocating with excess of
woe, and sank upon the steps.  Then the procureur, who, like the rest,
was considerably agitated, commenced.

Porthos, after a profession of faith of the most Christian character,
asked pardon of his enemies for all the injuries he might have done
them.  At this paragraph, a ray of inexpressible pride beamed from the
eyes of D'Artagnan.

He recalled to his mind the old soldier; all those enemies of Porthos
brought to earth by his valiant hand; he reckoned up the numbers of them,
and said to himself that Porthos had acted wisely, not to enumerate his
enemies or the injuries done to them, or the task would have been too
much for the reader.  Then came the following schedule of his extensive

"I possess at this present time, by the grace of God -

"1. The domain of Pierrefonds, lands, woods, meadows, waters, and
forests, surrounded by good walls.

"2. The domain of Bracieux, chateaux, forests, plowed lands, forming
three farms.

"3. The little estate Du Vallon, so named because it is in the valley."
(Brave Porthos!)

"4. Fifty farms in Touraine, amounting to five hundred acres.

"5. Three mills upon the Cher, bringing in six hundred livres each.

"6. Three fish-pools in Berry, producing two hundred livres a year.

"As to my personal or movable property, so called because it can be
moved, as is so well explained by my learned friend the bishop of Vannes
- "  (D'Artagnan shuddered at the dismal remembrance attached to that
name) - the procureur continued imperturbably - "they consist - "

"1. In goods which I cannot detail here for want of room, and which
furnish all my chateaux or houses, but of which the list is drawn up by
my intendant."

Every one turned his eyes towards Mousqueton, who was still lost in grief.

"2. In twenty horses for saddle and draught, which I have particularly at

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