“What else?” said Fouquet.
“You will please to remark,” said the abbe, humbly, “that I have asked nothing for myself.”
“That is delicate, monsieur,” replied Fouquet; “so, as you see, I wait.”
“And I ask nothing, oh! no, — it is not for want of need, though, I assure you.”
The minister reflected for a minute. “Twelve hundred pistoles to the tailor; that seems a great deal for clothes,” said he.
“I maintain a hundred men,” said the abbe, proudly; “that is a charge, I believe.”
“Why a hundred men?” said Fouquet. “Are you a Richelieu or a Mazarin, to require a hundred men as a guard? What use do you make of these men? — speak.”
“And do you ask me that?” cried the Abbe Fouquet; “ah! how can you put such a question, — why I maintain a hundred men? Ah!”
“Why, yes, I do put that question to you. What have you to do with a hundred men? — answer.”
“Ingrate!” continued the abbe, more and more affected.
“Why, monsieur the superintendent, I only want one valet de chambre, for my part, and even if I were alone, could help myself very well; but you, you who have so many enemies — a hundred men are not enough for me to defend you with. A hundred men! — you ought to have ten thousand. I maintain, then, these men in order that in public places, in assemblies, no voice may be raised against you; and without them, monsieur, you would be loaded with imprecations, you would be torn to pieces, you would not last a week; no, not a week, do you understand?”
“Ah! I did not know you were my champion to such an extent, monsieur le abbe.”
“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.”
“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.”