Alexandre Dumas: The Man in the Iron Mask

Chapter 54: M. Fouquet's Friends. (continued)

At the word widow, pronounced by Pelisson whilst Fouquet was still alive, the king turned very pale; - his pride disappeared; pity rose from his heart to his lips; he cast a softened look upon the men who knelt sobbing at his feet.

"God forbid," said he, "that I should confound the innocent with the guilty. They know me but ill who doubt my mercy towards the weak. I strike none but the arrogant. Do, messieurs, do all that your hearts counsel you to assuage the grief of Madame Fouquet. Go, messieurs - go!"

The three now rose in silence with dry eyes. The tears had been scorched away by contact with their burning cheeks and eyelids. They had not the strength to address their thanks to the king, who himself cut short their solemn reverences by entrenching himself suddenly behind the fauteuil.

D'Artagnan remained alone with the king.

"Well," said he, approaching the young prince, who interrogated him with his look. "Well, my master! If you had not the device which belongs to your sun, I would recommend you one which M. Conrart might translate into eclectic Latin, 'Calm with the lowly; stormy with the strong.'"

The king smiled, and passed into the next apartment, after having said to D'Artagnan, "I give you the leave of absence you must want to put the affairs of your friend, the late M. du Vallon, in order."

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