Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 19

Chapter XIX
The Shadow of Fouquet
D’Artagnan, still confused and oppressed by the conversation he had just had with the King, asked himself if he were really in possession of his senses; if the scene had occurred at Vaux; if he, d’Artagnan, were really the captain of the Musketeers and Fouquet the owner of the château 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 superintendent’s wines had met with a distinguished reception at the fête.

The Gascon, however, was a man of calm self-possession; and when he touched his steel blade he was able to assume, figuratively, the coolness of that steel for his great occasions. “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. Nicholas Fouquet, the superintendent 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 now the thing to be done is 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 Monsieur the Superintendent may pass from the height of favor to the direst disgrace; so that he may exchange Vaux for a dungeon; so that after having been steeped to his lips, as it were, in all the perfumes and incense of Ahasuerus, he may be 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 scruples. To deliver thus 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 case of conscience. “It seems to me,” said d’Artagnan to himself, “that if I am not a wretch, I shall let M. Fouquet know the purpose of the King in regard to him. Yet if I betray my master’s secret, I shall be a false-hearted knave and a traitor,- a crime provided for and punishable by military laws, as proved by the fact that twenty times in the wars I have seen miserable fellows strung up for doing in little degree what my scruples counsel me to do on a larger scale. No, I think that a man of intelligence ought to get out of this difficulty with more skill than that. And now shall we admit that I have intelligence? It is doubtful; having drawn on it for forty years, I shall be lucky if there be a pistole’s worth left.”

D’Artagnan buried his head in his hands, tore his mustache in sheer vexation, and added, “For what reason is M. Fouquet disgraced? For three reasons: 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 a lost man! But shall I put my foot on his neck,- I, a man, when he is falling a prey to the intrigues of a set 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 opinion. If Athos were here, he would do as I have done. Therefore, instead of going cold-bloodedly up to M. Fouquet and arresting him off-hand and shutting him up, I will try to 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 Fouquet, who having taken leave of the ladies was preparing to sleep tranquilly after the triumphs of the day.

The air was still perfumed or infected, whichever way it may be considered, with the odor of 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 were complimenting him and receiving his flattering remarks in return, the superintendent 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 was bowed beneath the weight of the new debts which he had incurred for the purpose of giving the greatest possible honor to this fête.

Fouquet had just retired to his room, still smiling, but more than half dead. 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 the lightning or the thunder: every one recognizes them; but their appearance never fails to arouse surprise and astonishment, and whenever it occurs the impression is always left that the last visitation was the loudest or brightest and most violent. “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.

“Come in, my dear M. d’Artagnan.”

“Thank you.”

“Have you come to criticise the fête?

“You have an ingenious mind.”

“By no means.”

“Are not your men looked after properly?”

“In every way.”

“You are not comfortably lodged, perhaps?”

“Nothing could be better.”

“In that case, I have to thank you for being so amiably disposed, and I must not fail to express my obligations to you for all your flattering kindness.”

These words were as much as to say, “My dear d’Artagnan, pray go to bed, since you have a bed to lie down on, and let me do the same.”

D’Artagnan did not seem to understand. “Are you going to bed already?” he said to the superintendent.

“Yes: have you anything to say to me?”

“Nothing, Monsieur; nothing at all. You sleep in this room, then?”

“Yes; as you see.”

“Monsieur, you have given a most charming fête to the King.”

“Do you think so?”

“Oh, beautiful!”

“Is the King pleased?”

“Enchanted!”

“Did he desire you to say as much to me?”

“He would not choose so unworthy a messenger, Monseigneur.”

“You do not do yourself justice, M. d’Artagnan.”

“Is that your bed there?”

“Yes; but why do you ask? Are you not satisfied with your own?”

“May I speak frankly to you?”

“Most assuredly.”

“Well, then, I am not.”

Fouquet started; and then replied, “M. d’Artagnan, take my room.”

“What! deprive you of it, Monseigneur? Never!”

“What am I to do, then?”

“Allow me to share it with you.”

Fouquet looked at the musketeer fixedly. “Ah! ah!” he said, “you have just left the King?”

“I have, Monseigneur.”

“And the King wishes you to pass the night in my room?”

“Monseigneur-”

“Very well, M. d’Artagnan, very well. You are master here.”

“I assure you, Monseigneur, that I do not wish to abuse-”

Fouquet turned to his valet, and said, “Leave us!” When the man had left, he said to d’Artagnan, “You have something to say to me?”

“I?”

“A man of your superior intelligence cannot have come to talk with a man like myself, at such an hour as the present, without grave motives.”

“Do not interrogate me.”

“On the contrary, what do you want with me?”

“Nothing more than the pleasure of your society.”

“Come into the garden, then,” said the superintendent, suddenly, “or into the park.”

“No,” replied the musketeer, hastily; “no.”

“Why?”

“The fresh air-”

“Come, admit at once that you arrest me,” said the superintendent to the captain.

“Never!” said the latter.

“You intend to look after me, then?”

“Yes, Monseigneur, I do, upon my honor.”

“Upon your honor!- ah, that is quite another thing! So I am to be arrested in my own house?”

“Do not say such a thing.”

“On the contrary, I will proclaim it aloud.”

“If you do so, I shall be compelled to persuade you to be silent.”

“Very good! Violence towards me in my own house! Ah, that is well done!”

“We do not seem to understand each other at all. Stay a moment! There is a chess-board there; we will have a game, if you have no objection.”

“M. d’Artagnan, I am in disgrace, then?”

“Not at all; but-”

“I am prohibited, I suppose, from withdrawing from your sight.”

“I do not understand a word you are saying, Monseigneur; and if you wish me to withdraw, tell me so.”

“My dear M. d’Artagnan, your mode of action is enough to drive me mad. I was almost sinking for want of sleep, but you have completely awakened me.”

“I shall never forgive myself, I am sure; and if you wish to reconcile me with myself, why, go to sleep in your bed in my presence; I shall be delighted at it.”

“I am under surveillance, I see.”

“I will leave the room, then.”

“You are beyond my comprehension.”

“Good-night, Monseigneur,” said d’Artagnan, as he pretended to withdraw.

Fouquet ran after him. “I will not lie down,” he said. “Seriously, and since you refuse to treat me as a man, and since you finesse with me, I will try to set you at bay, as a hunter does a wild boar.”

“Bah!” cried d’Artagnan, pretending to smile.

“I shall order my horses and set off for Paris,” said Fouquet, sounding the heart of the captain of the Musketeers.

“If that be the case, Monseigneur, it is very different.”

“You will arrest me?”

“No; but I shall go with you.”

“That is quite sufficient, M. d’Artagnan,” returned Fouquet, in a cold tone of voice. “It is not idly that you have acquired your reputation as a man of intelligence and full of resources; but with me that is quite superfluous. Let us two come to the point. Grant me a service. Why do you arrest me? What have I done?”

“Oh, I know nothing about what you may have done; but I do not arrest you- this evening.”

“This evening!” said Fouquet, turning pale; “but to-morrow?”

“It is not to-morrow just yet, Monseigneur. Who can ever answer for the morrow?”

“Quick, quick, Captain! let me speak to M. d’Herblay.”

“Alas! that is quite impossible, Monseigneur. I have strict orders to see that you hold no communication with any one.”

“With M. d’Herblay, Captain,- with your friend!”

“Monseigneur, is M. d’Herblay the only person with whom you ought to be prevented from holding any communication?”

Fouquet colored, and then assuming an air of resignation, said: “You are right, Monsieur; you have taught me a lesson that I ought not to have provoked. A fallen man cannot assert his right to anything, even to those whose fortunes he may have made; for a still greater reason he cannot claim anything from those to whom he may never have had the happiness of doing a service.”

“Monseigneur!”

“It is true, M. d’Artagnan; you have always acted in the most admirable manner towards me,- in such a manner, indeed, as most becomes the man who is destined to arrest me. You, at least, have never asked me anything.”

“Monseigneur,” replied the Gascon, touched by his eloquent and noble tone of grief, “will you- I ask it as a favor- pledge me your word as a man of honor that you will not leave this room?”

“What is the use of it, dear M. d’Artagnan, since you keep watch and ward over me? Do you suppose that I should struggle against the most valiant sword in the kingdom?”

“It is not that at all, Monseigneur, but that I am going to look for M. d’Herblay, and consequently to leave you alone.”

Fouquet uttered a cry of delight and surprise.

“To look for M. d’Herblay, to leave me alone!” he exclaimed, clasping his hands together.

“Which is M. d’Herblay’s room? The blue room, is it not?”

“Yes, my friend, yes.”

“Your friend! thank you for that word, Monseigneur; you confer it upon me to-day, at least, even if you have never done so before.”

“Ah, you have saved me!”

“It will take me a good ten minutes to go from hence to the blue room, and to return?” said d’Artagnan.

“Nearly so.”

“And then to wake Aramis, who sleeps soundly when he sleeps at all, I put that down at another five minutes; making a total of fifteen minutes’ absence. And now, Monseigneur, give me your word that you will not in any way attempt to make your escape, and that when I return I shall find you here again.”

“I give it to you, Monsieur,” replied Fouquet, with an expression of the warmest and deepest gratitude.

D’Artagnan disappeared. Fouquet looked at him as he quitted the room, waited with feverish impatience until the door was closed behind him, and as soon as it was shut, flew to his keys, opened two or three secret doors concealed in various articles of furniture in the room, looked vainly for certain papers, which doubtless he had left at St. Mandé, and which he seemed to regret not finding; then hurriedly seizing hold of letters, contracts, writings, he heaped them up into a pile, which he burned in the extremest haste upon the marble hearth of the fireplace, not even taking time to draw from the interior of it the vases and pots of flowers with which it was filled. As soon as he had finished, like a man who had just escaped an imminent danger, and whose strength abandons him as soon as the danger is past, he sank down, completely overcome, on a couch.

When d’Artagnan returned, he found Fouquet in the same position. The worthy musketeer had not the slightest doubt that Fouquet, having given his word, would not even think of failing to keep it; but he had thought it most likely that Fouquet would turn his (d’Artagnan’s) absence to the best advantage in getting rid of all the papers, memorandums, and contracts which might possibly render his position, which was even now serious enough, still more dangerous. And so, lifting up his head like a dog who gains the scent, d’Artagnan perceived a certain odor resembling smoke, which he had fully expected to find in the atmosphere; having found it, he made a movement of his head in token of satisfaction.

When d’Artagnan entered, Fouquet had, on his side, raised his head, and not one of d’Artagnan’s movements had escaped him.

The looks of the two men met, and they both saw that they had understood each other without exchanging a syllable.

“Well!” asked Fouquet, the first to speak, “and M. d’Herblay?”

“Upon my word, Monseigneur,” replied d’Artagnan, “M. d’Herblay must be desperately fond of walks by night, and composing verses by moonlight in the park of Vaux with some of your poets in all probability; for he is not in his room.”

“What! not in his room?” cried Fouquet, whose last hope had thus escaped him; for without knowing in what way the Bishop of Vannes could assist him, he well knew that he could not expect assistance from any one else.

“Or, indeed,” continued d’Artagnan, “if he is in his own room, he has very good reasons for not answering.”

“But surely you did not call him in such a manner that he could have heard you?”

“You can hardly suppose, Monseigneur, that having already exceeded my orders, which forbade my leaving you a single moment,- you can hardly suppose, I say, that I should have been mad enough to rouse the whole house and allow myself to be seen in the corridor of the Bishop of Vannes, in order that M. Colbert might state with positive certainty that I gave you time to burn your papers.”

“My papers?”

“Of course; at least, that is what I should have done in your place. When any one opens a door for me, I always avail myself of it.”

“Yes, yes, and I thank you; I have availed myself of it.”

“And you have done right, morbleu! Every man has his own peculiar secrets, with which others have nothing to do. But let us return to Aramis, Monseigneur.”

“Well, then, I tell you, you could not have called loudly enough, or he would have heard you.”

“However softly any one may call Aramis, Monseigneur, he always hears when he has an interest in hearing. I repeat what I said before,- Aramis was not in his own room, or he had certain reasons for not recognizing my voice, of which I am ignorant, and of which you even may be ignorant yourself, notwithstanding your liegeman is his Greatness the Lord Bishop of Vannes.”

Fouquet drew a deep sigh, rose from his seat, made three or four turns in his room, and finished by seating himself, with an expression of extreme dejection, upon his magnificent bed with velvet hangings and trimmed with the costliest lace.

D’Artagnan looked at Fouquet with feelings of the deepest and sincerest pity.

“I have seen a good many men arrested in my life,” said the musketeer, sadly,- “I have seen both M. de Cinq-Mars and M. de Chalais arrested, though I was very young then; I have seen M. de Conde arrested with the Princes; I have seen M. de Retz arrested; I have seen M. Broussel arrested. Stay a moment, Monseigneur! It is disagreeable to have to say it; but the very one of all those whom you most resemble at this moment was that poor fellow Broussel. You were very near doing as he did,- putting your dinner napkin in your portfolio, and wiping your mouth with your papers. Mordioux! Monseigneur Fouquet, a man like you ought not to be dejected in this manner. Suppose your friends saw you.”

“M. d’Artagnan,” returned the superintendent, with a smile full of gentleness, “you do not understand me. It is precisely because my friends do not see me, that I am such as you see me now. I do not live isolated from others; I am nothing when left to myself. Understand that throughout my whole life I have passed every moment of my time in making friends whom I hoped to render my stay and support. In times of prosperity all these happy voices- and rendered so by me- formed in my honor a concert of praises and kindly actions. In the least disfavor, these humbler voices accompanied in harmonious accents the murmur of my own heart. Isolation I have never yet known. Poverty- a phantom I have. sometimes beheld, clad in rags, awaiting me at the end of my journey through life- poverty is the spectre with which many of my own friends have trifled for years past, which they poetize and caress, and to which they have attracted me. Poverty!- I accept it, acknowledge it, receive it as a disinherited sister; for poverty is not solitude, nor exile, nor imprisonment. Is it likely I shall ever be poor, with such friends as Pélisson, as La Fontaine, as Moliere; with such a mistress as- Oh! solitude, to me, a man of society; to me, a man inclined to pleasure; to me, who exist only because others exist- Oh, if you knew how utterly lonely and desolate I feel at this moment, and how you, who separate me from all I love, seem to be the image of solitude, of annihilation, and of death!”

“But I have already told you, M. Fouquet,” replied d’Artagnan, moved to the depths of his soul, “that you exaggerate matters a great deal too much. The King likes you.”

“No, no,” said Fouquet, shaking his head.

“M. de Colbert hates you.”

“M. de Colbert! What does that matter to me?”

“He will ruin you.”

“Oh! I defy him to do that, for I am ruined already.”

At this singular confession of the superintendent, d’Artagnan cast his glance all round the room; and although he did not open his lips, Fouquet understood him so thoroughly that he added:

“What can be done with these magnificent things when one is no longer magnificent? Do you know what good the greater part of the wealth and the possessions which we rich enjoy, confer upon us?- merely to disgust us, by their very splendor even, with everything which does not equal this splendor. Vaux, you will say, and the wonders of Vaux! What then? What boot these wonders? If I am ruined, how shall I fill with water the urns which my Naiads bear in their arms, or force the air into the lungs of my Tritons? To be rich enough, M. d’Artagnan, a man must be too rich.”

D’Artagnan shook his head.

“Oh, I know very well what you think,” replied Fouquet, quickly. “If Vaux were yours, you would sell it, and would purchase an estate in the country,- an estate which should have woods, orchards, and fields,- an estate which should support its master. With forty millions you would do well-”

“Ten millions,” interrupted d’Artagnan.

“Not a million, my dear captain! No one in France is rich enough to give two millions for Vaux, and to continue to maintain it as I have done; no one could do it,- no one would know how.”

“Well,” said d’Artagnan, “in any case, a million is not misery.”

“It is not far from it, my dear monsieur. But you do not understand me. No; I will not sell my residence at Vaux,- I will give it to you, if you like”; and Fouquet accompanied these words with a movement of the shoulders to which it would be impossible to do justice.

“Give it to the King; you will make a better bargain.”

“The King does not require me to give it to him,” said Fouquet. “He will take it away from me very readily if it pleases him; and that is the reason why I should prefer to see it perish. Do you know, M. d’Artagnan, that if the King were not under my roof, I would take this candle, go straight to the dome, set fire to a couple of huge chests of fusees and fireworks which are in reserve there, and reduce my palace to ashes.”

“Bah!” said the musketeer, negligently. “At all events, you would not be able to burn the gardens; and that is the best part of the establishment.”

“And yet,” resumed Fouquet, thoughtfully, “what was I saying? Great heavens! burn Vaux,- destroy my palace! But Vaux is not mine. This wealth, these wonderful creations, are, it is true, the property, so far as sense of enjoyment goes, of the man who has paid for them; but so far as duration is concerned, they belong to those who created them. Vaux belongs to Lebrun, to Lenotre, to Pélisson, to Levau, to La Fontaine, to Moliere; Vaux belongs to posterity, in fact. You see, M. d’Artagnan, that my very house ceases to be my own.”

“That is good,” said d’Artagnan; “I like that idea, and I recognize M. Fouquet himself in it. That idea, indeed, makes me forget that poor fellow Broussel altogether; and I recall no longer the whining complaints of that old Frondeur. If you are ruined, Monsieur, look at the affair manfully; for you too, mordioux! belong to posterity, and have no right to lessen yourself in any way. Stay a moment! Look at me,- I who seem to exercise in a degree a kind of superiority over you because I arrest you. Fate, which distributes their different parts to the comedians of this world, accorded to me a less agreeable and less advantageous part to fill than yours has been. I am one of those who think that the parts which kings and powerful nobles are called upon to act are of infinitely more worth than those of beggars or lackeys. It is better on the stage,- on the stage, I mean, of another theatre than that of this world,- it is better to wear a fine coat and to talk fine language than to walk the boards shod with a pair of old shoes, or to get one’s backbone caressed by sticks well laid on. In one word, you have been a prodigal with money, have ordered and been obeyed, have been steeped to the lips in enjoyment; while I have dragged my tether after me, have been commanded and have obeyed, and have drudged my life away. Well, although I may seem of such trifling importance beside you, Monseigneur, I do declare to you that the recollection of what I have done serves me as a spur, and prevents me from bowing my old head too soon. I shall remain until the very end a good trooper; and when my turn comes I shall fall perfectly straight, all in a heap, still alive, after having selected my place beforehand. Do as I do, M. Fouquet,- you will not find yourself the worse for it; that happens only once in a lifetime to men like yourself, and the chief thing is to do it well when the chance presents itself. There is a Latin proverb- the words have escaped me, but I remember the sense of it very well, for I have thought it over more than once- which says, ‘The end crowns the work!’”

Fouquet rose from his seat, passed his arm round d’Artagnan’s neck, and clasped him in a close embrace, while with the other hand he pressed the captain’s hand. “An excellent homily,” he said after a moment’s pause.

“A soldier’s, Monseigneur.”

“You have a regard for me in telling me all that.”

“Perhaps.”

Fouquet resumed his pensive attitude once more, and then, a moment after, said:

“Where can M. d’Herblay be? I dare not ask you to send for him.”

“You would not ask me, because I would not do it, M. Fouquet. People would learn it; and Aramis, who is not mixed up with the affair, might possibly be compromised and included in your disgrace.”

“I will wait here till daylight,” said Fouquet.

“Yes; that is best.”

“What shall we do when daylight comes?”

“I know nothing at all about it, Monseigneur.”

“M. d’Artagnan, will you do me a favor?”

“Most willingly.”

“You guard me, I remain; you are acting in the full discharge of your duty, I suppose?”

“Certainly.”

“Very good, then; remain as close to me as my shadow, if you like, I prefer that shadow any other.”

D’Artagnan bowed.

“But forget that you are M. d’Artagnan, Captain of the Musketeers; forget that I am M. Fouquet, Superintendent of the Finances, and let us talk about my affairs.”

“Peste! a thorny subject that!”

“Truly?”

“Yes; but for your sake, M. Fouquet, I would do the impossible.”

“Thank you. What did the King say to you?”

“Nothing.”

“Ah! is that the way you talk?”

“The deuce!”

“What do you think of my situation?”

“Nothing.”

“However, unless you have some ill-feeling against me-”

“Your position is a difficult one.”

“In what respect?”

“Because you are under your own roof.”

“However difficult it may be, yet I understand it very well.”

“Do you suppose that with any one else but yourself I should have shown so much frankness?”

“What! so much frankness, do you say,- you who refuse to tell me the slightest thing?”

“At all events, then, so much ceremony and so much consideration.”

“Ah! I admit that.”

“One moment, Monseigneur! Let me tell you how I should have behaved towards any one else but yourself. I should have arrived at your door just as your friends had left you, or if they had not yet gone I should have waited until they were leaving, and should then have caught them one after the other like rabbits; I should have locked them up quietly; I should have stolen softly along the carpet of your corridor, and with one hand upon you, before you suspected the slightest thing about it, I should have kept you safely until my master’s breakfast in the morning. In this way I should have avoided all publicity, all disturbance, all opposition; but there would also have been no warning for M. Fouquet, no consideration for his feelings, none of those delicate concessions which are shown by persons who are essentially courteous in their natures whenever the decisive moment may arrive. Are you satisfied with that plan?”

“It makes me shudder.”

“I thought you would not like it. It would have been very disagreeable had I chosen to appear to-morrow without notice and to ask you for your sword.”

“Oh, Monsieur, I should have died from shame and anger.”

“Your gratitude is too eloquently expressed. I have not done enough to deserve it, I assure you.”

“Most certainly, Monsieur, you will never get me to believe that.”

“Well, then, Monseigneur, if you are satisfied with what I have done, and have somewhat recovered from the shock which I prepared you for as much as I could, let us allow the few hours that remain to pass away undisturbed. You are harassed, and require to arrange your thoughts; I beg you, therefore, to go to sleep, or pretend to go to sleep, either on your bed or in your bed. I shall sleep in this arm-chair; and when I fall asleep my rest is so sound that a cannon could not wake me.”

Fouquet smiled.

“I except, however,” continued the musketeer, “the case where one opens a door, whether secret or visible, whether to go out or to come in. Oh, for that my ear is sensitive to the last degree! Any creaking noise makes me start,- it is a matter of natural antipathy. Move about as much as you like; walk up and down in any part of the room; write, efface, destroy, burn: but do not touch either the key or the handle of the door; for I should start up in a moment, and that would shake my nerves terribly.”

“M. d’Artagnan,” said Fouquet, “you are certainly the most witty and the most courteous man I ever met; and you will leave me only one regret, that of having made your acquaintance so late.”

D’Artagnan drew a deep sigh, which seemed to say, “Alas! you have perhaps made it too soon.” He then settled himself in his arm-chair; while Fouquet, half lying on his bed and leaning on his arm, meditated upon his adventure. In this way both of them, leaving the candles burning, awaited the first dawn of day; and when Fouquet happened to sigh too loudly, d’Artagnan only snored the louder. Not a single visit, not even from Aramis, disturbed their quietude; not a sound, even, was heard throughout the vast palace. Outside, the guards of honor and the patrols of the musketeers paced up and down; and the sound of their feet could be heard on the gravel walks. It was an additional soporific for the sleepers; while the murmuring of the wind through the trees and the unceasing music of the fountains still went on uninterruptedly, without being disturbed at the slight noises and trifling affairs of which the life and death of man consist.

Alexandre Dumas pere