“But what is the meaning of these words: ’To be condemned by the Chamber of Justice’?”
“Dame!” said the marquise, “that is clear enough, I think. Besides, that is not all. Read on, read on;” and Fouquet continued, — “The two first to death, the third to be dismissed, with MM. d’Hautemont and de la Vallette, who will only have their property confiscated.”
“Great God!” cried Fouquet, “to death, to death! Lyodot and D’Eymeris. But even if the Chamber of Justice should condemn them to death, the king will never ratify their condemnation, and they cannot be executed without the king’s signature.”
“The king has made M. Colbert intendant.”
“Oh!” cried Fouquet, as if he caught a glimpse of the abyss that yawned beneath his feet, “impossible! impossible! But who passed a pencil over the marks made by Colbert?”
“I did. I was afraid the first would be effaced.”
“Oh! I will know all.”
“You will know nothing, monsieur; you despise your enemy too much for that.”
“Pardon me, my dear marquise; excuse me; yes, M. Colbert is my enemy, I believe him to be so; yes, M. Colbert is a man to be dreaded, I admit. But I! I have time, and as you are here, as you have assured me of your devotion, as you have allowed me to hope for your love, as we are alone — "
“I came here to save you, Monsieur Fouquet, and not to ruin myself,” said the marquise, rising — “therefore, beware! — "
“Marquise, in truth you terrify yourself too much at least, unless this terror is but a pretext — "
“He is very deep, very deep; this M. Colbert: beware!”
Fouquet, in his turn, drew himself up. “And I?” asked he.
“And you, you have only a noble heart. Beware! beware!”
“I have done what was right, my friend, at the risk of my reputation. Adieu!”
“Not adieu, au revoir!”
“Perhaps,” said the marquise, giving her hand to Fouquet to kiss, and walking towards the door with so firm a step, that he did not dare to bar her passage. As to Fouquet, he retook, with his head hanging down and a fixed cloud on his brow, the path of the subterranean passage along which ran the metal wires that communicated from one house to the other, transmitting, through two glasses, the wishes and signals of hidden correspondents.
Fouquet hastened back to his apartment by the subterranean passage, and immediately closed the mirror with the spring. He was scarcely in his closet, when he heard some one knocking violently at the door, and a well-known voice crying: — “Open the door, monseigneur, I entreat you, open the door!” Fouquet quickly restored a little order to everything that might have revealed either his absence or his agitation: he spread his papers over the desk, took up a pen, and, to gain time, said, through the closed door, — “Who is there?”