“Yes, it is I. What the devil are you doing here, Vatel? Wine! You are buying wine at a cabaret in the Place de Greve!”
“But, monseigneur,” said Vatel, quietly after having darted a hostile glance at Gourville, “why am I interfered with here? Is my cellar kept in bad order?”
“No, certes, Vatel, no; but — "
“But what?” replied Vatel. Gourville touched Fouquet’s elbow.
“Don’t be angry, Vatel; I thought my cellar — your cellar — sufficiently well stocked for us to be able to dispense with recourse to the cellar of L’Image-de-Notre-Dame.”
“Eh, monsieur,” said Vatel, shrinking from monseigneur to monsieur with a degree of disdain: “your cellar is so well stocked that when certain of your guests dine with you they have nothing to drink.”
Fouquet, in great surprise, looked at Gourville. “What do you mean by that?”
“I mean that your butler had not wine for all tastes, monsieur; and that M. de la Fontaine, M. Pelisson, and M. Conrart, do not drink when they come to the house — these gentlemen do not like strong wine. What is to be done, then?”
“Well, and therefore?”
“Well, then, I have found here a vin de Joigny, which they like. I know they come here once a week to drink at the Image-de-Notre-Dame. That is the reason I am making this provision.”
Fouquet had no more to say; he was convinced. Vatel, on his part, had much more to say, without doubt, and it was plain he was getting warm. “It is just as if you would reproach me, monseigneur, for going to the Rue Planche Milbray, to fetch, myself, the cider M. Loret drinks when he comes to dine at your house.”
“Loret drinks cider at my house!” cried Fouquet, laughing.
“Certainly he does, monsieur, and that is the reason why he dines there with pleasure.”
“Vatel,” cried Fouquet, pressing the hand of his maitre d’hotel, “you are a man! I thank you, Vatel, for having understood that at my house M. de la Fontaine, M. Conrart, and M. Loret are as great as dukes and peers, as great as princes, greater than myself. Vatel, you are a good servant, and I double your salary.”
Vatel did not even thank his master, he merely shrugged his shoulders a little, murmuring this superb sentiment: “To be thanked for having done one’s duty is humiliating.”
“He is right,” said Gourville, as he drew Fouquet’s attention, by a gesture, to another point. He showed him a low-built tumbrel, drawn by two horses, upon which rocked two strong gibbets, bound together, back to back, by chains, whilst an archer, seated upon the cross-beam, suffered, as well as he could, with his head cast down, the comments of a hundred vagabonds, who guessed the destination of the gibbets, and were escorting them to the Hotel de Ville. Fouquet started. “It is decided, you see,” said Gourville.
“But it is not done,” replied Fouquet.