List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

"Ah! I did not know you were my champion to such an extent, monsieur le

"You doubt it!" cried the abbe.  "Listen, then, to what happened, no
longer ago than yesterday, in the Rue de la Hochette.  A man was
cheapening a fowl."

"Well, how could that injure me, abbe?"

"This way.  The fowl was not fat.  The purchaser refused to give eighteen
sous for it, saying that he could not afford eighteen sous for the skin
of a fowl from which M. Fouquet had sucked all the fat."

"Go on."

"The joke caused a deal of laughter," continued the abbe; "laughter at
your expense, death to the devils! and the _canaille_ were delighted.
The joker added, 'Give me a fowl fed by M. Colbert, if you like! and I
will pay all you ask.'  And immediately there was a clapping of hands.  A
frightful scandal! you understand; a scandal which forces a brother to
hide his face."

Fouquet colored.  "And you veiled it?" said the superintendent.

"No, for so it happened I had one of my men in the crowd; a new recruit
from the provinces, one M. Menneville, whom I like very much.  He made
his way through the press, saying to the joker: '_Mille barbes!_
Monsieur the false joker, here's a thrust for  Colbert!'  'And one for
Fouquet,' replied the joker.  Upon which they drew in front of the cook's
shop, with a hedge of the curious round them, and five hundred as curious
at the windows."

"Well?" said Fouquet.

"Well, monsieur, my Menneville spitted the joker, to the great
astonishment of the spectators, and said to the cook: - 'Take this goose,
my friend, for it is fatter than your fowl.'  That is the way, monsieur,"
ended the abbe , triumphantly, "in which I spend my revenues; I maintain
the honor of the family, monsieur."  Fouquet hung his head.  "And I have
a hundred as good as he," continued the abbe.

"Very well," said Fouquet, "give the account to Gourville, and remain
here this evening."

"Shall we have supper?"

"Yes, there will be supper."

"But the chest is closed."

"Gourville will open it for you.  Leave us, monsieur l'abbe, leave us."

"Then we are friends?" said the abbe, with a bow.

"Oh, yes, friends.  Come, Gourville."

"Are you going out?  You will not stay to supper, then?"

"I shall be back in an hour; rest easy, abbe."  Then aside to Gourville,
- "Let them put to my English horses," said he, "and direct the coachman
to stop at the Hotel de Ville de Paris."

Chapter LVI:
M. de la Fontaine's Wine.

Carriages were already bringing the guests of Fouquet to Saint-Mande;
already the whole house was getting warm with the preparations for
supper, when the superintendent launched his fleet horses upon the roads
to Paris, and going by the quays, in order to meet fewer people on the
way, soon reached the Hotel de Ville.  It wanted a quarter to eight.
Fouquet alighted at the corner of the Rue de Long-Pont, and, on foot,
directed his course towards the Place de Greve, accompanied by
Gourville.  At the turning of the Place they saw a man dressed in black
and violet, of dignified mien, who was preparing to stop at Vincennes.
He had before him a large hamper filled with bottles, which he had
just purchased at the _cabaret_ with the sign of "L'Image-de-Notre-Dame."

"Eh, but! that is Vatel! my _maitre d'hotel!_" said Fouquet to Gourville.

"Yes, monseigneur," replied the latter.

"What can he have been doing at the sign of L'Image-de-Notre-Dame?"

"Buying wine, no doubt."

"What! buy wine for me, at a _cabaret?_" said Fouquet.  "My cellar, then,
must be in a miserable condition!" and he advanced towards the _maitre
d'hotel_, who was arranging his bottles in the carriage with the most
minute care.

"_Hola!_  Vatel," said he, in the voice of a master.

"Take care, monseigneur!" said Gourville, "you will be recognized."

"Very well!  Of what consequence? - Vatel!"

The man dressed in black and violet turned round.  He had a good and mild
countenance, without expression - a mathematician minus the pride.  A
certain fire sparkled in the eyes of this personage, a rather sly smile
played round his lips; but the observer might soon have remarked that
this fire and this smile applied to nothing, enlightened nothing.  Vatel
laughed like an absent man, and amused himself like a child.  At the
sound of his master's voice he turned round, exclaiming: "Oh!

"Yes, it is I.  What the devil are you doing here, Vatel?  Wine!  You are
buying wine at a _cabaret_ in the Place de Greve!"

"But, monseigneur," said Vatel, quietly after having darted a hostile
glance at Gourville, "why am I interfered with here?  Is my cellar kept
in bad order?"

"No, certes, Vatel, no; but - "

"But what?" replied Vatel.  Gourville touched Fouquet's elbow.

"Don't be angry, Vatel; I thought my cellar - your cellar - sufficiently
well stocked for us to be able to dispense with recourse to the cellar of

"Eh, monsieur," said Vatel, shrinking from monseigneur to monsieur with a
degree of disdain: "your cellar is so well stocked that when certain of
your guests dine with you they have nothing to drink."

Fouquet, in great surprise, looked at Gourville.  "What do you mean by

"I mean that your butler had not wine for all tastes, monsieur; and that
M. de la Fontaine, M. Pelisson, and M. Conrart, do not drink when they
come to the house - these gentlemen do not like strong wine.  What is to
be done, then?"

"Well, and therefore?"

"Well, then, I have found here a _vin de Joigny_, which they like.  I
know they come here once a week to drink at the Image-de-Notre-Dame.
That is the reason I am making this provision."

Fouquet had no more to say; he was convinced.  Vatel, on his part, had
much more to say, without doubt, and it was plain he was getting warm.
"It is just as if you would reproach me, monseigneur, for going to the
Rue Planche Milbray, to fetch, myself, the cider M. Loret drinks when he
comes to dine at your house."

"Loret drinks cider at my house!" cried Fouquet, laughing.

"Certainly he does, monsieur, and that is the reason why he dines there
with pleasure."

"Vatel," cried Fouquet, pressing the hand of his _maitre d'hotel_, "you
are a man!  I thank you, Vatel, for having understood that at my house M.
de la Fontaine, M. Conrart, and M. Loret are as great as dukes and peers,
as great as princes, greater than myself.  Vatel, you are a good servant,
and I double your salary."

Vatel did not even thank his master, he merely shrugged his shoulders a
little, murmuring this superb sentiment: "To be thanked for having done
one's duty is humiliating."

"He is right," said Gourville, as he drew Fouquet's attention, by a
gesture, to another point.  He showed him a low-built tumbrel, drawn by
two horses, upon which rocked two strong gibbets, bound together, back to
back, by chains, whilst an archer, seated upon the cross-beam, suffered,
as well as he could, with his head cast down, the comments of a hundred
vagabonds, who guessed the destination of the gibbets, and were escorting
them to the Hotel de Ville.  Fouquet started.  "It is decided, you see,"
said Gourville.

"But it is not done," replied Fouquet.

"Oh, do not flatter yourself, monseigneur; if they have thus lulled your
friendship and suspicions - if things have gone so far, you will be able
to undo nothing."

"But I have not given my sanction."

"M. de Lyonne has ratified for you."

"I will go to the Louvre."

"Oh, no, you will not."

"Would you advise such baseness?" cried Fouquet, "would you advise me to
abandon my friends? would you advise me, whilst able to fight, to throw
the arms I hold in my hand to the ground?"

"I do not advise you to do anything of the kind, monseigneur.  Are you
in a position to quit the post of superintendent at this moment?"


"Well, if the king wishes to displace you - "

"He will displace me absent as well as present."

"Yes, but you will not have insulted him."

"Yes, but I shall have been base; now I am not willing that my friends
should die; and they shall _not_ die!"

"For that it is necessary you should go to the Louvre, is it not?"


"Beware! once at the Louvre, you will be forced to defend your friends
openly, that is to say, to make a profession of faith; or you will be
forced to abandon them irrevocably."


"Pardon me; - the king will propose the alternative to you, rigorously,
or else you will propose it to him yourself."

"That is true."

"That is the reason why conflict must be avoided.  Let us return to Saint-
Mande, monseigneur."

"Gourville, I will not stir from this place, where the crime is to be
carried out, where my disgrace is to be accomplished; I will not stir, I
say, till I have found some means of combating my enemies."

"Monseigneur," replied Gourville, "you would excite my pity, if I did not
know you for one of the great spirits of this world.  You possess a
hundred and fifty millions, you are equal to the king in position, and a
hundred and fifty millions his superior in money.  M. Colbert has not
even had the wit to have the will of Mazarin accepted.  Now, when a man
is the richest person in a kingdom, and will take the trouble to spend
the money, if things are done he does not like, it is because he is a
poor man.  Let us return to Saint-Mande, I say."

"To consult with Pelisson? - we will."

"No, monseigneur, to count your money."

"So be it," said Fouquet, with angry eyes; - "yes, yes, to Saint-Mande!"
He got into his carriage again, and Gourville with him.  Upon their road,
at the end of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, they overtook the humble
equipage of Vatel, who was quietly conveying home his _vin de Joigny_.
The black horses, going at a swift pace, alarmed, as they passed, the
timid hack of the _maitre d'hotel_, who, putting his head out at the
window, cried, in a fright, "Take care of my bottles!" (2)

Chapter LVII:
The Gallery of Saint-Mande.

Fifty persons were waiting for the superintendent.  He did not even take
the time to place himself in the hands of his _valet de chambre_ for a

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: