“What, monseigneur, do you not know me?” replied the voice.
“Yes, yes,” said Fouquet to himself, “yes, my friend, I know you well enough.” And then, aloud: “Is it not Gourville?”
“Why, yes, monseigneur.”
Fouquet arose, cast a look at one of his glasses, went to the door, pushed back the bolt, and Gourville entered. “Ah! monseigneur! monseigneur!” cried he, “what cruelty!”
“I have been a quarter of an hour imploring you to open the door, and you would not even answer me.”
“Once and for all, you know that I will not be disturbed when I am busy. Now, although I might make you an exception, Gourville, I insist upon my orders being respected by others.”
“Monseigneur, at this moment, orders, doors, bolts, locks, and walls I could have broken, forced and overthrown!”
“Ah! ah! it relates to some great event, then?” asked Fouquet.
“Oh! I assure you it does, monseigneur,” replied Gourville.
“And what is this event?” said Fouquet, a little troubled by the evident agitation of his most intimate confidant.
“There is a secret chamber of justice instituted, monseigneur.”
“I know there is, but do the members meet, Gourville?”
“They not only meet, but they have passed a sentence, monseigneur.”
“A sentence?” said the superintendent, with a shudder and pallor he could not conceal. “A sentence! — and on whom?”
“Two of your best friends.”
“Lyodot and D’Eymeris, do you mean? But what sort of a sentence?”
“Sentence of death.”
“Passed? Oh! you must be mistaken, Gourville; that is impossible.”
“Here is a copy of the sentence which the king is to sign to-day, if he has not already signed it.”
Fouquet seized the paper eagerly, read it, and returned
it to Gourville.
“The king will never sign that,” said he.
Gourville shook his head.
“Monseigneur, M. Colbert is a bold councilor: do not be too confident!”
“Monsieur Colbert again!” cried Fouquet. “How is it that that name rises upon all occasions to torment my ears, during the last two or three days? You make so trifling a subject of too much importance, Gourville. Let M. Colbert appear, I will face him; let him raise his head, I will crush him; but you understand, there must be an outline upon which my look may fall, there must be a surface upon which my feet may be placed.”
Patience, monseigneur; for you do not know what Colbert is — study him quickly; it is with this dark financier as it is with meteors, which the eye never sees completely before their disastrous invasion; when we feel them we are dead.”
“Oh! Gourville, this is going too far,” replied Fouquet, smiling; “allow me, my friend, not to be so easily frightened; M. Colbert a meteor! Corbleu, we confront the meteor. Let us see acts, and not words. What has he done?”