“Here they are.” The king signed them, and D’Artagnan looked on, to assure himself of their regularity.
“Adieu! Monsieur d’Artagnan,” added the king; “I think you have perfectly understood me.”
“I? I understand that your majesty sends me to Belle-Ile-en-Mer, that is all.”
“To learn how M. Fouquet’s works are going on; that is all.”
“Very well: I admit you may be taken.”
“And I do not admit it,” replied the Gascon, boldly.
“I admit you may be killed,” continued the king.
“That is not probable, sire.”
“In the first case, you must not speak; in the second there must be no papers found upon you.”
D’Artagnan shrugged his shoulders without ceremony, and took leave of the king, saying to himself: — “The English shower continues — let us remain under the spout!”
Whilst D’Artagnan was returning to Planchet’s house, his head aching and bewildered with all that had happened to him, there was passing a scene of quite a different character, and which, nevertheless, is not foreign to the conversation our musketeer had just had with the king; only this scene took place out of Paris, in a house possessed by the superintendent Fouquet in the village of Saint-Mande. The minister had just arrived at this country-house, followed by his principal clerk, who carried an enormous portfolio full of papers to be examined, and others waiting for signature. As it might be about five o’clock in the afternoon, the masters had dined: supper was being prepared for twenty subaltern guests. The superintendent did not stop: on alighting from his carriage, he, at the same bound, sprang through the doorway, traversed the apartments and gained his cabinet, where he declared he would shut himself up to work, commanding that he should not be disturbed for anything but an order from the king. As soon as this order was given, Fouquet shut himself up, and two footmen were placed as sentinels at his door. Then Fouquet pushed a bolt which displaced a panel that walled up the entrance, and prevented everything that passed in this apartment from being either seen or heard. But, against all probability, it was only for the sake of shutting himself up that Fouquet shut himself up thus, for he went straight to a bureau, seated himself at it, opened the portfolio, and began to make a choice amongst the enormous mass of papers it contained. It was not more than ten minutes after he had entered, and taken all the precautions we have described, when the repeated noise of several slight equal knocks struck his ear, and appeared to fix his utmost attention. Fouquet raised his head, turned his ear, and listened.