“A million!” cried the abbe; “why, for less than half, I would have half Paris sacked.”
“There must be no disorder,” said Pelisson. “The governor being gained, the two prisoners escape; once clear of the fangs of the law, they will call together the enemies of Colbert, and prove to the king that his young justice, like all other monstrosities, is not infallible.”
“Go to Paris, then, Pelisson,” said Fouquet, “and bring hither the two victims; to-morrow we shall see.”
Gourville gave Pelisson the five hundred thousand livres. “Take care the wind does not carry you away,” said the abbe; “what a responsibility. Peste! Let me help you a little.”
“Silence!” said Fouquet, “somebody is coming. Ah! the fireworks are producing a magical effect.” At this moment a shower of sparks fell rustling among the branches of the neighboring trees. Pelisson and Gourville went out together by the door of the gallery; Fouquet descended to the garden with the five last plotters.
As Fouquet was giving, or appearing to give, all his attention to the brilliant illuminations, the languishing music of the violins and hautboys, the sparkling sheaves of the artificial fires, which, inflaming the heavens with glowing reflections, marked behind the trees the dark profile of the donjon of Vincennes; as, we say, the superintendent was smiling on the ladies and the poets, the fete was every whit as gay as usual; and Vatel, whose restless, even jealous look, earnestly consulted the aspect of Fouquet, did not appear dissatisfied with the welcome given to the ordering of the evening’s entertainment. The fireworks over, the company dispersed about the gardens and beneath the marble porticoes with the delightful liberty which reveals in the master of the house so much forgetfulness of greatness, so much courteous hospitality, so much magnificent carelessness. The poets wandered about, arm in arm, through the groves; some reclined upon beds of moss, to the great damage of velvet clothes and curled heads, into which little dried leaves and blades of grass insinuated themselves. The ladies, in small numbers, listened to the songs of the singers and the verses of the poets; others listened to the prose, spoken with much art, by men who were neither actors nor poets, but to whom youth and solitude gave an unaccustomed eloquence, which appeared to them better than everything else in the world. “Why,” said La Fontaine, “does not our master Epicurus descend into the garden? Epicurus never abandoned his pupils; the master is wrong.”
“Monsieur,” said Conrart, “you yourself are in the wrong persisting in decorating yourself with the name of an Epicurean; indeed, nothing here reminds me of the doctrine of the philosopher of Gargetta.”
“Bah!” said La Fontaine, “is it not written that Epicurus purchased a large garden and lived in it tranquilly with his friends?”