Page:The Man in the Iron Mask.djvu/73

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"He has promised me some whitings. Find a rhyme for that. La Fontaine."

Aramis went out laughing, as only he could laugh, and Moliere followed him. They were at the bottom of the stairs when La Fontaine opened the door and shouted out:

"He has promised us some whitings.
In return for all our writings."

The shouts of laughter reached the ears of Fouquet at the moment Aramis opened the door of the study. As to Moliere, he had undertaken to order the horses, while Aramis went to exchange a parting word with the surintendant.

"Oh, how they are laughing there!" said Fouquet, with a sigh.

"Do you not laugh, monseigneur?"

"I laugh no longer now. Monsieur d'Herblay."

"The fête is approaching; money is departing."

"Have I not told you that was my business?"

"Yes; you promised me millions."

"You shall have them the day after the king's entrée into Vaux."

Fouquet looked closely at Aramis, and passed his icy hand across his moistened brow. Aramis perceived that the surintendant either doubted him or felt he was powerless to obtain the money. How could Fouquet suppose that a poor bishop, ex-abbe, ex-musketeer, could find any?

"Why doubt me?" said Aramis.

Fouquet smiled, and shook his head.

"Man of little faith!" added the bishop.

"My dear Monsieur d'Herblay," answered Fouquet, "if I fall———"

"Well, if you 'fall'?"

'I shall, at least, fall from such a height that I shall shatter myself in falling." Then, giving himself a shake, as though to escape from himself, "Whence come you," said he, "my friend?"

"From Paris — from Percerin."

"And what have you been doing at Percerin's, for I suppose you attach no such great importance to our poets’ dresses?"

"No; I went to prepare a surprise."


"Yes; which you are to give to the king."

"And will it cost much?"

"Oh! a hundred pistoles you will give Lebrun."