The Vicomte de Bragelonne
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 2 out of 13
"But the jewelers do: ask them," said the unknown. "Now I believe our
accounts are settled, are they not, monsieur l'hote?"
"Yes, monsieur, and to my profound regret; for I fear I have offended
"Not at all!" replied the unknown, with ineffable majesty.
"Or have appeared to be extortionate with a noble traveler. Consider,
monsieur, the peculiarity of the case."
"Say no more about it, I desire; and leave me to myself."
Cropole bowed profoundly, and left the room with a stupefied air, which
announced that he had a good heart, and felt genuine remorse.
The unknown himself shut the door after him, and, when left alone, looked
mournfully at the bottom of the purse, from which he had taken a small
silken bag containing the diamond, his last resource.
He dwelt likewise upon the emptiness of his pockets, turned over the
papers in his pocket-book, and convinced himself of the state of absolute
destitution in which he was about to be plunged.
He raised his eyes towards heaven, with a sublime emotion of despairing
calmness, brushed off with his hand some drops of sweat which trickled
over his noble brow, and then cast down upon the earth a look which just
before had been impressed with almost divine majesty.
That the storm had passed far from him, perhaps he had prayed in the
bottom of his soul.
He drew near to the window, resumed his place in the balcony, and
remained there, motionless, annihilated, dead, till the moment when, the
heavens beginning to darken, the first flambeaux traversed the enlivened
street, and gave the signal for illumination to all the windows of the
Whilst the unknown was viewing these lights with interest, and lending an
ear to the various noises, Master Cropole entered his apartment, followed
by two attendants, who laid the cloth for his meal.
The stranger did not pay them the least attention; but Cropole
approaching him respectfully, whispered, "Monsieur, the diamond has been
"Ah!" said the traveler. "Well?"
"Well, monsieur, the jeweler of S. A. R. gives two hundred and eighty
pistoles for it."
"Have you them?"
"I thought it best to take them, monsieur; nevertheless, I made it a
condition of the bargain, that if monsieur wished to keep his diamond, it
should be held till monsieur was again in funds."
"Oh, no, not at all: I told you to sell it."
"Then I have obeyed, or nearly so, since, without having definitely sold
it, I have touched the money."
"Pay yourself," added the unknown.
"I will do so, monsieur, since you so positively require it."
A sad smile passed over the lips of the gentleman.
"Place the money on that trunk," said he, turning round and pointing to
the piece of furniture.
Cropole deposited a tolerably large bag as directed, after having taken
from it the amount of his reckoning.
"Now," said he, "I hope monsieur will not give me the pain of not taking
any supper. Dinner has already been refused; this is affronting to the
house of _les Medici_. Look, monsieur, the supper is on the table, and I
venture to say that it is not a bad one."
The unknown asked for a glass of wine, broke off a morsel of bread, and
did not stir from the window whilst he ate and drank.
Shortly after was heard a loud flourish of trumpets; cries arose in the
distance, a confused buzzing filled the lower part of the city, and the
first distinct sound that struck the ears of the stranger was the tramp
of advancing horses.
"The king! the king!" repeated a noisy and eager crowd.
"The king!" cried Cropole, abandoning his guest and his ideas of
delicacy, to satisfy his curiosity.
With Cropole were mingled, and jostled, on the staircase, Madame Cropole,
Pittrino, and the waiters and scullions.
The _cortege_ advanced slowly, lighted by a thousand flambeaux, in the
streets and from the windows.
After a company of musketeers, a closely ranked troop of gentlemen, came
the litter of monsieur le cardinal, drawn like a carriage by four black
horses. The pages and people of the cardinal marched behind.
Next came the carriage of the queen-mother, with her maids of honor at
the doors, her gentlemen on horseback at both sides.
The king then appeared, mounted upon a splendid horse of Saxon breed,
with a flowing mane. The young prince exhibited, when bowing to some
windows from which issued the most animated acclamations, a noble and
handsome countenance, illuminated by the flambeaux of his pages.
By the side of the king, though a little in the rear, the Prince de
Conde, M. Dangeau, and twenty other courtiers, followed by their people
and their baggage, closed this veritably triumphant march. The pomp was
of a military character.
Some of the courtiers - the elder ones, for instance - wore traveling
dresses; but all the rest were clothed in warlike panoply. Many wore the
gorget and buff coat of the times of Henry IV. and Louis XIII.
When the king passed before him, the unknown, who had leant forward over
the balcony to obtain a better view, and who had concealed his face by
leaning on his arm, felt his heart swell and overflow with a bitter
The noise of the trumpets excited him - the popular acclamations deafened
him: for a moment he allowed his reason to be absorbed in this flood of
lights, tumult, and brilliant images.
"He is a king!" murmured he, in an accent of despair.
Then, before he had recovered from his sombre reverie, all the noise, all
the splendor, had passed away. At the angle of the street there remained
nothing beneath the stranger but a few hoarse, discordant voices,
shouting at intervals "_Vive le Roi!_"
There remained likewise the six candles held by the inhabitants of the
hostelry _des Medici_; that is to say, two for Cropole, two for Pittrino,
and one for each scullion. Cropole never ceased repeating, "How
good-looking the king is! How strongly he resembles his illustrious
"A handsome likeness!" said Pittrino.
"And what a lofty carriage he has!" added Madame Cropole, already in
promiscuous commentary with her neighbors of both sexes.
Cropole was feeding their gossip with his own personal remarks, without
observing that an old man on foot, but leading a small Irish horse by the
bridle, was endeavoring to penetrate the crowd of men and women which
blocked up the entrance to the _Medici_. But at that moment the voice of
the stranger was heard from the window.
"Make way, monsieur l'hotelier, to the entrance of your house!"
Cropole turned around, and, on seeing the old man, cleared a passage for
The window was instantly closed.
Pittrino pointed out the way to the newly-arrived guest, who entered
without uttering a word.
The stranger waited for him on the landing; he opened his arms to the old
man, and led him to a seat.
"Oh, no, no, my lord!" said he. "Sit down in your presence? - never!"
"Parry," cried the gentleman, "I beg you will; you come from England –
you come so far. Ah! it is not for your age to undergo the fatigues my
service requires. Rest yourself."
"I have my reply to give your lordship, in the first place."
"Parry, I conjure you to tell me nothing; for if your news had been good,
you would not have begun in such a manner; you go about, which proves
that the news is bad."
"My lord," said the old man, "do not hasten to alarm yourself; all is not
lost, I hope. You must employ energy, but more particularly resignation."
"Parry," said the young man, "I have reached this place through a
thousand snares and after a thousand difficulties; can you doubt my
energy? I have meditated this journey ten years, in spite of all
counsels and all obstacles - have you faith in my perseverance? I have
this evening sold the last of my father's diamonds; for I had nothing
wherewith to pay for my lodgings and my host was about to turn me out."
Parry made a gesture of indignation, to which the young man replied by a
pressure of the hand and a smile.
"I have still two hundred and seventy-four pistoles left and I feel
myself rich. I do not despair, Parry; have you faith in my resignation?"
The old man raised his trembling hands towards heaven.
"Let me know," said the stranger, - "disguise nothing from me - what has
"My recital will be short, my lord; but in the name of Heaven do not
"It is impatience, Parry. Come, what did the general say to you?"
"At first the general would not receive me."
"He took you for a spy?"
"Yes, my lord; but I wrote him a letter."
"He read it, and received me, my lord."
"Did that letter thoroughly explain my position and my views?"
"Oh, yes!" said Parry, with a sad smile; "it painted your very thoughts
"Well - then, Parry."
"Then the general sent me back the letter by an aide-de-camp, informing
me that if I were found the next day within the circumscription of his
command, he would have me arrested."
"Arrested!" murmured the young man. "What! arrest you, my most faithful
"Yes, my lord."
"And notwithstanding you had signed the name _Parry?_"
"To all my letters, my lord; and the aide-de-camp had known me at St.
James's and at Whitehall, too," added the old man with a sigh.
The young man leaned forward, thoughtful and sad.
"Ay, that's what he did before his people," said he, endeavoring to cheat
himself with hopes. "But, privately - between you and him - what did he
"Alas! my lord, he sent to me four cavaliers, who gave me the horse with
which you just now saw me come back. These cavaliers conducted me, in
great haste, to the little port of Tenby, threw me, rather than embarked
me, into a little fishing-boat, about to sail for Brittany, and here I
"Oh!" sighed the young man, clasping his neck convulsively with his hand,
and with a sob. "Parry, is that all? - is that all?"
"Yes, my lord; that is all."
After this brief reply ensued a long interval of silence, broken only by
the convulsive beating of the heel of the young man on the floor.
The old man endeavored to change the conversation; it was leading to
thoughts much too sinister.
"My lord," said he, "what is the meaning of all the noise which preceded
me? What are these people crying '_Vive le Roi!_' for? What king do they
mean? and what are all these lights for?"
"Ah! Parry," replied the young man ironically, "don't you know that this
is the King of France visiting his good city of Blois? All these trumpets
are his, all those gilded housings are his, all those gentlemen wear
swords that are his. His mother precedes him in a carriage magnificently
encrusted with silver and gold. Happy mother! His minister heaps up
millions, and conducts him to a rich bride. Then all these people
rejoice; they love their king, they hail him with their acclamations, and
they cry, '_Vive le Roi! Vive le Roi!_'"
"Well, well, my lord," said Parry, more uneasy at the turn the
conversation had taken than at the other.
"You know," resumed the unknown, "that _my_ mother and _my_ sister,
whilst all this is going on in honor of the King of France, have neither
money nor bread; you know that I myself shall be poor and degraded within
a fortnight, when all Europe will become acquainted with what you have
told me. Parry, are there not examples in which a man of my condition
should himself - "
"My lord, in the name of Heaven - "
"You are right, Parry; I am a coward, and if I do nothing for myself,
what will God do? No, no; I have two arms, Parry, and I have a sword."
And he struck his arm violently with his hand, and took down his sword,
which hung against the wall.
"What are you going to do, my lord?"
"What am I going to do, Parry? What every one in my family does. My
mother lives on public charity, my sister begs for my mother; I have,
somewhere or other, brothers who equally beg for themselves; and I, the
eldest, will go and do as all the rest do - I will go and ask charity!"
And with these words, which he finished sharply with a nervous and
terrible laugh, the young man girded on his sword, took his hat from the
trunk, fastened to his shoulder a black cloak, which he had worn all
during his journey, and pressing the two hands of the old man, who
watched his proceedings with a look of anxiety, -
"My good Parry," said he, "order a fire, drink, eat, sleep, and be
happy; let us both be happy, my faithful friend, my only friend. We are
rich, as rich as kings!"
He struck the bag of pistoles with his clenched hand as he spoke, and it
fell heavily to the ground. He resumed that dismal laugh that had so
alarmed Parry; and whilst the whole household was screaming, singing, and
preparing to install the travelers who had been preceded by their
lackeys, he glided out by the principal entrance into the street, where
the old man, who had gone to the window, lost sight of him in a moment.
What his Majesty King Louis XIV. was at the Age of Twenty-Two.
It has been seen, by the account we have endeavored to give of it, that
the _entree_ of King Louis XIV. into the city of Blois had been noisy and
brilliant; his young majesty had therefore appeared perfectly satisfied
On arriving beneath the porch of the Castle of the States, the king met,
surrounded by his guards and gentlemen, with S. A. R. the duke, Gaston of
Orleans, whose physiognomy, naturally rather majestic, had borrowed on
this solemn occasion a fresh luster and a fresh dignity. On her part,
Madame, dressed in her robes of ceremony, awaited, in the interior
balcony, the entrance of her nephew. All the windows of the old castle,
so deserted and dismal on ordinary days, were resplendent with ladies and
It was then to the sound of drums, trumpets, and _vivats_, that the young
king crossed the threshold of that castle in which, seventy-two years
before, Henry III. had called in the aid of assassination and treachery
to keep upon his head and in his house a crown which was already slipping
from his brow, to fall into another family.
All eyes, after having admired the young king, so handsome and so
agreeable, sought for that other king of France, much otherwise king than
the former, and so old, so pale, so bent, that people called the Cardinal
Louis was at this time endowed with all the natural gifts which make the
perfect gentleman; his eye was brilliant, mild, and of a clear azure
blue. But the most skillful physiognomists, those divers into the soul,
on fixing their looks upon it, if it had been possible for a subject to
sustain the glance of the king, - the most skillful physiognomists, we
say, would never have been able to fathom the depths of that abyss of
mildness. It was with the eyes of the king as with the immense depths of
the azure heavens, or with those more terrific, and almost as sublime,
which the Mediterranean reveals under the keels of its ships in a clear
summer day, a gigantic mirror in which heaven delights to reflect sometimes
its stars, sometimes its storms.
The king was short of stature - he was scarcely five feet two inches: but
his youth made up for this defect, set off likewise by great nobleness in
all his movements, and by considerable address in all bodily exercises.
Certes, he was already quite a king, and it was a great thing to be a
king in that period of traditional devotedness and respect; but as, up to
that time, he had been but seldom and always poorly shown to the people,
as they to whom he was shown saw him by the side of his mother, a tall
woman, and monsieur le cardinal, a man of commanding presence, many found
him so little of a king as to say, -
"Why, the king is not so tall as monsieur le cardinal!"
Whatever may be thought of these physical observations, which were
principally made in the capital, the young king was welcomed as a god by
the inhabitants of Blois, and almost like a king by his uncle and aunt,
Monsieur and Madame, the inhabitants of the castle.
It must, however, be allowed, that when he saw, in the hall of reception,
chairs of equal height for himself, his mother, the cardinal, and his
uncle and aunt, a disposition artfully concealed by the semi-circular
form of the assembly, Louis XIV. became red with anger, and looked around
him to ascertain by the countenances of those that were present, if this
humiliation had been prepared for him. But as he saw nothing upon the
impassible visage of the cardinal, nothing on that of his mother, nothing
on those of the assembly, he resigned himself, and sat down, taking care
to be seated before anybody else.
The gentlemen and ladies were presented to their majesties and monsieur
The king remarked that his mother and he scarcely knew the names of any
of the persons who were presented to them; whilst the cardinal, on the
contrary, never failed, with an admirable memory and presence of mind, to
talk to every one about his estates, his ancestors, or his children, some
of whom he named, which enchanted those worthy country gentlemen, and
confirmed them in the idea that he alone is truly king who knows his
subjects, from the same reason that the sun has no rival, because the sun
alone warms and lightens.
The study of the young king, which had begun a long time before, without
anybody suspecting it, was continued then, and he looked around him
attentively to endeavor to make out something in the physiognomies which
had at first appeared the most insignificant and trivial.
A collation was served. The king, without daring to call upon the
hospitality of his uncle, had waited for it impatiently. This time,
therefore, he had all the honors due, if not to his rank, at least to his
As to the cardinal, he contented himself with touching with his withered
lips a _bouillon_, served in a golden cup. The all-powerful minister,
who had taken her regency from the queen, and his royalty from the king,
had not been able to take a good stomach from nature.
Anne of Austria, already suffering from the cancer which six or eight
years after caused her death, ate very little more than the cardinal.
For Monsieur, already puffed up with the great event which had taken
place in his provincial life, he ate nothing whatever.
Madame alone, like a true Lorrainer, kept pace with his majesty; so that
Louis XIV., who, without this partner, might have eaten nearly alone, was
at first much pleased with his aunt, and afterwards with M. de Saint-
Remy, her _maitre d'hotel_, who had really distinguished himself.
The collation over, at a sign of approbation from M. de Mazarin, the king
arose, and, at the invitation of his aunt, walked about among the ranks
of the assembly.
The ladies then observed - there are certain things for which women are
as good observers at Blois as at Paris - the ladies then observed that
Louis XIV. had a prompt and bold look, which premised a distinguished
appreciator of beauty. The men, on their part, observed that the prince
was proud and haughty, that he loved to look down those who fixed their
eyes upon him too long or too earnestly, which gave presage of a master.
Louis XIV. had accomplished about a third of his review when his ears
were struck with a word which his eminence pronounced whilst conversing
This word was the name of a woman.
Scarcely had Louis XIV. heard this word than he heard, or rather
listening to nothing else; and neglecting the arc of the circle which
awaited his visit, his object seemed to be to come as quickly as possible
to the extremity of the curve.
Monsieur, like a good courtier, was inquiring of monsieur le cardinal
after the health of his nieces; he regretted, he said, not having the
pleasure of receiving them at the same time with their uncle; they must
certainly have grown in stature, beauty and grace, as they had promised
to do the last time Monsieur had seen them.
What had first struck the king was a certain constraint in the voices of
the two interlocutors. The voice of Monsieur was calm and natural when
he spoke thus; while that of M. de Mazarin jumped by a note and a half to
reply above the diapason of his usual voice. It might have been said
that he wished that voice to strike, at the end of the _salon_, any ear
that was too distant.
"Monseigneur," replied he, "Mesdemoiselles de Mazarin have still to
finish their education: they have duties to fulfill, and a position to
make. An abode in a young and brilliant court would dissipate them a
Louis, at this last sentence, smiled sadly. The court was young, it was
true, but the avarice of the cardinal had taken good care that it should
not be brilliant.
"You have nevertheless no intention," replied Monsieur, "to cloister them
or make them _borgeoises?_"
"Not at all," replied the cardinal, forcing his Italian pronunciation in
such a manner that, from soft and velvety as it was, it became sharp and
vibrating; "not at all: I have a full and fixed intention to marry them,
and that as well as I shall be able."
"Parties will not be wanting, monsieur le cardinal," replied Monsieur,
with a _bonhomie_ worthy of one tradesman congratulating another.
"I hope not, monseigneur, and with reason, as God has been pleased to
give them grace, intelligence, and beauty."
During this conversation, Louis XIV., conducted by Madame, accomplished,
as we have described, the circle of presentations.
"Mademoiselle Auricule," said the princess, presenting to his majesty a
fat, fair girl of two-and-twenty, who at a village _fete_ might have been
taken for a peasant in Sunday finery, - "the daughter of my music-
The king smiled. Madame had never been able to extract four correct
notes from either viol or harpsichord.
"Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais," continued Madame; "a young lady of
rank, and my good attendant."
This time it was not the king that smiled; it was the young lady
presented, because, for the first time in her life, she heard, given to
her by Madame, who generally showed no tendency to spoil her, such an
Our old acquaintance Montalais, therefore, made his majesty a profound
courtesy, the more respectful from the necessity she was under of
concealing certain contractions of her laughing lips, which the king
might not have attributed to their real cause.
It was just at this moment that the king caught the word which startled
"And the name of the third?" asked Monsieur.
"Mary, monseigneur," replied the cardinal.
There was doubtless some magical influence in that word, for, as we have
said, the king started in hearing it, and drew Madame towards the middle
of the circle, as if he wished to put some confidential question to her,
but, in reality, for the sake of getting nearer to the cardinal.
"Madame, my aunt," said he, laughing, and in a suppressed voice, "my
geography-master did not teach me that Blois was at such an immense
distance from Paris."
"What do you mean, nephew?" asked Madame.
"Why, because it would appear that it requires several years, as regards
fashion, to travel the distance! - Look at those young ladies!"
"Well; I know them all."
"Some of them are pretty."
"Don't say that too loud, monsieur my nephew; you will drive them wild."
"Stop a bit, stop a bit, dear aunt!" said the king, smiling; "for the
second part of my sentence will serve as a corrective to the first.
Well, my dear aunt, some of them appear old and others ugly, thanks to
their ten-year-old fashions."
"But, sire, Blois is only five days' journey from Paris."
"Yes, that is it," said the king: "two years behind for each day."
"Indeed! do you really think so? Well, that is strange! It never struck
"Now, look, aunt," said Louis XIV., drawing still nearer to Mazarin,
under the pretext of gaining a better point of view, "look at that simple
white dress by the side of those antiquated specimens of finery, and
those pretentious coiffures. She is probably one of my mother's maids
of honor, though I don't know her."
"Ah! ah! my dear nephew!" replied Madame, laughing; "permit me to tell
you that your divinatory science is at fault for once. The young lady
you honor with your praise is not a Parisian, but a Blaisoise."
"Oh, aunt!" replied the king with a look of doubt.
"Come here, Louise," said Madame.
And the fair girl, already known to you under that name, approached them,
timid, blushing, and almost bent beneath the royal glance.
"Mademoiselle Louise Francoise de la Beaume le Blanc, the daughter of the
Marquise de la Valliere," said Madame, ceremoniously.
The young girl bowed with so much grace, mingled with the profound
timidity inspired by the presence of the king, that the latter lost,
while looking at her, a few words of the conversation of Monsieur and
"Daughter-in-law," continued Madame, "of M. de Saint-Remy, my _maitre
d'hotel_, who presided over the confection of that excellent _daube
truffee_ which your majesty seemed so much to appreciate."
No grace, no youth, no beauty, could stand out against such a
presentation. The king smiled. Whether the words of Madame were a
pleasantry, or uttered in all innocency, they proved the pitiless
immolation of everything that Louis had found charming or poetic in the
young girl. Mademoiselle de la Valliere, for Madame and, by rebound, for
the king, was, for a moment, no more than the daughter of a man of a
superior talent over _dindes truffees_.
But princes are thus constituted. The gods, too, were just like this in
Olympus. Diana and Venus, no doubt, abused the beautiful Alcmena and
poor Io, when they condescended for distraction's sake, to speak, amidst
nectar and ambrosia, of mortal beauties, at the table of Jupiter.
Fortunately, Louise was so bent in her reverential salute, that she did
not catch either Madame's words or the king's smile. In fact, if the
poor child, who had so much good taste as alone to have chosen to dress
herself in white amidst all her companions - if that dove's heart, so
easily accessible to painful emotions, had been touched by the cruel
words of Madame, or the egotistical cold smile of the king, it would
have annihilated her.
And Montalais herself, the girl of ingenious ideas, would not have
attempted to recall her to life; for ridicule kills beauty even.
But fortunately, as we have said, Louise, whose ears were buzzing, and
her eyes veiled by timidity, - Louise saw nothing and heard nothing; and
the king, who had still his attention directed to the conversation of the
cardinal and his uncle, hastened to return to them.
He came up just at the moment Mazarin terminated by saying: "Mary, as
well as her sisters, has just set off for Brouage. I make them follow
the opposite bank of the Loire to that along which we have traveled; and
if I calculate their progress correctly, according to the orders I have
given, they will to-morrow be opposite Blois."
These words were pronounced with that tact - that measure, that
distinctness of tone, of intention, and reach - which made _del Signor
Giulio Mazarini_ the first comedian in the world.
It resulted that they went straight to the heart of Louis XIV., and the
cardinal, on turning round at the simple noise of the approaching
footsteps of his majesty, saw the immediate effect of them upon the
countenance of his pupil, an effect betrayed to the keen eyes of his
eminence by a slight increase of color. But what was the ventilation of
such a secret to him whose craft had for twenty years deceived all the
diplomatists of Europe?
From the moment the young king heard these last words, he appeared as if
he had received a poisoned arrow in his heart. He could not remain quiet
in a place, but cast around an uncertain, dead, and aimless look over the
assembly. He with his eyes interrogated his mother more than twenty
times: but she, given up to the pleasure of conversing with her sister-in-
law, and likewise constrained by the glance of Mazarin, did not appear to
comprehend any of the supplications conveyed by the looks of her son.
From this moment, music, lights, flowers, beauties, all became odious and
insipid to Louis XIV. After he had a hundred times bitten his lips,
stretched his legs and his arms like a well-brought-up child, who,
without daring to gape, exhausts all the modes of evincing his weariness
- after having uselessly again implored his mother and the minister, he
turned a despairing look towards the door, that is to say, towards
At this door, in the embrasure of which he was leaning, he saw, standing
out strongly, a figure with a brown and lofty countenance, an aquiline
nose, a stern but brilliant eye, gray and long hair, a black mustache,
the true type of military beauty, whose gorget, more sparkling than a
mirror, broke all the reflected lights which concentrated upon it, and
sent them back as lightning. This officer wore his gray hat with its
long red plumes upon his head, a proof that he was called there by his
duty, and not by his pleasure. If he had been brought thither by his
pleasure - if he had been a courtier instead of a soldier, as pleasure
must always be paid for at the same price - he would have held his hat in
That which proved still better that this officer was upon duty, and was
accomplishing a task to which he was accustomed, was, that he watched,
with folded arms, remarkable indifference, and supreme apathy, the joys
and _ennuis_ of this _fete_. Above all, he appeared, like a philosopher,
and all old soldiers are philosophers, - he appeared above all to
comprehend the _ennuis_ infinitely better than the joys; but in the one
he took his part, knowing very well how to do without the other.
Now, he was leaning, as we have said, against the carved door-frame when
the melancholy, weary eyes of the king, by chance, met his.
It was not the first time, as it appeared, that the eyes of the officer
had met those eyes, and he was perfectly acquainted with the expression
of them; for, as soon as he had cast his own look upon the countenance of
Louis XIV., and had read by it what was passing in his heart - that is to
say, all the _ennui_ that oppressed him - all the timid desire to go out
which agitated him, - he perceived he must render the king a service
without his commanding it, - almost in spite of himself. Boldly,
therefore, as if he had given the word of command to cavalry in battle,
"On the king's service!" cried he, in a clear, sonorous voice.
At these words, which produced the effect of a peal of thunder,
prevailing over the orchestra, the singing and the buzz of the
promenaders, the cardinal and the queen-mother looked at each other
Louis XIV., pale, but resolved, supported as he was by that intuition of
his own thought which he had found in the mind of the officer of
musketeers, and which he had just manifested by the order given, arose
from his chair, and took a step towards the door.
"Are you going, my son?" said the queen, whilst Mazarin satisfied himself
with interrogating by a look which might have appeared mild if it had not
been so piercing.
"Yes, madame," replied the king; "I am fatigued, and, besides, wish to
write this evening."
A smile stole over the lips of the minister, who appeared, by a bend of
the head, to give the king permission.
Monsieur and Madame hastened to give orders to the officers who presented
The king bowed, crossed the hall, and gained the door, where a hedge of
twenty musketeers awaited him. At the extremity of this hedge stood the
officer, impassible, with his drawn sword in his hand. The king passed,
and all the crowd stood on tip-toe, to have one more look at him.
Ten musketeers, opening the crowd of the ante-chambers and the steps,
made way for his majesty. The other ten surrounded the king and
Monsieur, who had insisted upon accompanying his majesty. The domestics
walked behind. This little _cortege_ escorted the king to the chamber
destined for him. The apartment was the same that had been occupied by
Henry III. during his sojourn in the States.
Monsieur had given his orders. The musketeers, led by their officer,
took possession of the little passage by which one wing of the castle
communicates with the other. This passage was commenced by a small
square ante-chamber, dark even in the finest days. Monsieur stopped
"You are passing now, sire," said he, "the very spot where the Duc de
Guise received the first stab of the poniard."
The king was ignorant of all historical matters; he had heard of the
fact, but he knew nothing of the localities or the details.
"Ah!" said he with a shudder.
And he stopped. The rest, both behind and before him, stopped likewise.
"The duc, sire," continued Gaston, "was nearly were I stand: he was
walking in the same direction as your majesty; M. de Loignac was exactly
where your lieutenant of musketeers is; M. de Saint-Maline and his
majesty's ordinaries were behind him and around him. It was here that he
The king turned towards his officer, and saw something like a cloud pass
over his martial and daring countenance.
"Yes, from behind!" murmured the lieutenant, with a gesture of supreme
disdain. And he endeavored to resume the march, as if ill at ease at
being between walls formerly defiled by treachery.
But the king, who appeared to wish to be informed, was disposed to give
another look at this dismal spot.
Gaston perceived his nephew's desire.
"Look, sire," said he, taking a flambeaux from the hands of M. de Saint-
Remy, "this is where he fell. There was a bed there, the curtains of
which he tore with catching at them."
"Why does the floor seem hollowed out at this spot?" asked Louis.
"Because it was here the blood flowed," replied Gaston; "the blood
penetrated deeply into the oak, and it was only by cutting it out that
they succeeded in making it disappear. And even then," added Gaston,
pointing the flambeaux to the spot, "even then this red stain resisted
all the attempts made to destroy it."
Louis XIV. raised his head. Perhaps he was thinking of that bloody trace
that had once been shown him at the Louvre, and which, as a pendant to
that of Blois, had been made there one day by the king his father with
the blood of Concini.
"Let us go on," said he.
The march was resumed promptly; for emotion, no doubt, had given to the
voice of the young prince a tone of command which was not customary with
him. When he arrived at the apartment destined for the king, which
communicated not only with the little passage we have passed through, but
further with the great staircase leading to the court, -
"Will your majesty," said Gaston, "condescend to occupy this apartment,
all unworthy as it is to receive you?"
"Uncle," replied the young king, "I render you my thanks for your cordial
Gaston bowed to his nephew, embraced him, and then went out.
Of the twenty musketeers who had accompanied the king, ten reconducted
Monsieur to the reception-rooms, which were not yet empty,
notwithstanding the king had retired.
The ten others were posted by their officer, who himself explored, in
five minutes, all the localities, with that cold and certain glance which
not even habit gives unless that glance belongs to genius.
Then, when all were placed, he chose as his headquarters the ante-
chamber, in which he found a large _fauteuil_, a lamp, some wine, some
water, and some dry bread.
He refreshed his lamp, drank half a glass of wine, curled his lip with a
smile full of expression, installed himself in his large armchair, and
made preparations for sleeping.
In which the Unknown of the Hostelry of Les Medici loses his Incognito.
This officer, who was sleeping, or preparing to sleep, was,
notwithstanding his careless air, charged with a serious responsibility.
Lieutenant of the king's musketeers, he commanded all the company which
came from Paris, and that company consisted of a hundred and twenty men;
but, with the exception of the twenty of whom we have spoken, the other
hundred were engaged in guarding the queen-mother, and more particularly
Monsignor Giulio Mazarini economized the traveling expenses of his
guards; he consequently used the king's, and that largely, since he took
fifty of them for himself - a peculiarity which would not have failed to
strike any one unacquainted with the usages of that court.
That which would still further have appeared, if not inconvenient, at
least extraordinary, to a stranger, was, that the side of the castle
destined for monsieur le cardinal was brilliant, light and cheerful. The
musketeers there mounted guard before every door, and allowed no one to
enter, except the couriers, who, even while he was traveling, followed
the cardinal for the carrying on of his correspondence.
Twenty men were on duty with the queen-mother; thirty rested, in order to
relieve their companions the next day.
On the king's side, on the contrary, were darkness, silence, and
solitude. When once the doors were closed, there was no longer an
appearance of royalty. All the servitors had by degrees retired.
Monsieur le Prince had sent to know if his majesty required his
attendance; and on the customary "_No_" of the lieutenant of musketeers,
who was habituated to the question and the reply, all appeared to sink
into the arms of sleep, as if in the dwelling of a good citizen.
And yet it was possible to hear from the side of the house occupied by
the young king the music of the banquet, and to see the windows of the
great hall richly illuminated.
Ten minutes after his installation in his apartment, Louis XIV. had been
able to learn, by movement much more distinguished than marked his own
leaving, the departure of the cardinal, who, in his turn, sought his
bedroom, accompanied by a large escort of ladies and gentlemen.
Besides, to perceive this movement, he had nothing to do but look out at
his window, the shutters of which had not been closed.
His eminence crossed the court, conducted by Monsieur, who himself held a
flambeau; then followed the queen-mother, to whom Madame familiarly gave
her arm; and both walked chatting away, like two old friends.
Behind these two couples filed nobles, ladies, pages and officers; the
flambeaux gleamed over the whole court, like the moving reflections of a
conflagration. Then the noise of steps and voices became lost in the
upper floors of the castle.
No one was then thinking of the king, who, leaning on his elbow at his
window, had sadly seen pass away all that light, and heard that noise die
off - no, not one, if it was not that unknown of the hostelry _des
Medici_, whom we have seen go out, enveloped in his cloak.
He had come straight up to the castle, and had, with his melancholy
countenance, wandered round and round the palace, from which the people
had not yet departed; and finding that on one guarded the great entrance,
or the porch, seeing that the soldiers of Monsieur were fraternizing with
the royal soldiers - that is to say, swallowing Beaugency at discretion,
or rather indiscretion - the unknown penetrated through the crowd, then
ascended to the court, and came to the landing of the staircase leading
to the cardinal's apartment.
What, according to all probability, induced him to direct his steps that
way, was the splendor of the flambeaux, and the busy air of the pages and
domestics. But he was stopped short by a presented musket and the cry of
"Where are you going, my friend?" asked the soldier.
"I am going to the king's apartment," replied the unknown, haughtily, but
The soldier called one of his eminence's officers, who, in the tone in
which a youth in office directs a solicitor to a minister, let fall these
words: "The other staircase, in front."
And the officer, without further notice of the unknown, resumed his
The stranger, without reply, directed his steps towards the staircase
pointed out to him. On this side there was no noise, there were no more
Obscurity, through which a sentinel glided like a shadow; silence, which
permitted him to hear the sound of his own footsteps, accompanied with
the jingling of his spurs upon the stone slabs.
This guard was one of the twenty musketeers appointed for attendance upon
the king, and who mounted guard with the stiffness and consciousness of a
"Who goes there?" said the guard.
"A friend," replied the unknown.
"What do you want?"
"To speak to the king."
"Do you, my dear monsieur? That's not very likely."
"Because the king has gone to bed."
"Gone to bed already?"
"No matter: I must speak to him."
"And I tell you that is impossible."
"And yet - "
"Do you require the word?"
"I have no account to render to you. Stand back!"
And this time the soldier accompanied his word with a threatening
gesture; but the unknown stirred no more than if his feet had taken root.
"Monsieur le mousquetaire," said he, "are you a gentleman?"
"I have that honor."
"Very well! I also am one; and between gentlemen some consideration ought
to be observed."
The soldier lowered his arms, overcome by the dignity with which these
words were pronounced.
"Speak, monsieur," said he; "and if you ask me anything in my power - "
"Thank you. You have an officer, have you not?"
"Our lieutenant? Yes, monsieur."
"Well, I wish to speak to him."
"Oh, that's a different thing. Come up, monsieur."
The unknown saluted the soldier in a lofty fashion, and ascended the
staircase; whilst a cry, "Lieutenant, a visit!" transmitted from sentinel
to sentinel, preceded the unknown, and disturbed the slumbers of the
Dragging on his boot, rubbing his eyes, and hooking his cloak, the
lieutenant made three steps towards the stranger.
"What can I do to serve you, monsieur?" asked he.
"You are the officer on duty, lieutenant of the musketeers, are you?"
"I have that honor," replied the officer.
"Monsieur, I must absolutely speak to the king."
The lieutenant looked attentively at the unknown, and in that look, he
saw all he wished to see - that is to say, a person of high distinction
in an ordinary dress.
"I do not suppose you to be mad," replied he; "and yet you seem to me to
be in a condition to know, monsieur, that people do not enter a king's
apartments in this manner without his consent."
"He will consent."
"Monsieur, permit me to doubt that. The king has retired this quarter
of an hour; he must be now undressing. Besides, the word is given."
"When he knows who I am, he will recall the word."
The officer was more and more surprised, more and more subdued.
"If I consent to announce you, may I at least know whom to announce,
"You will announce His Majesty Charles II., King of England, Scotland,
The officer uttered a cry of astonishment, drew back, and there might be
seen upon his pallid countenance one of the most poignant emotions that
ever an energetic man endeavored to drive back to his heart.
"Oh, yes, sire; in fact," said he, "I ought to have recognized you."
"You have seen my portrait, then?"
"Or else you have seen me formerly at court, before I was driven from
"No, sire, it is not even that."
"How then could you have recognized me, if you have never seen my
portrait or my person?"
"Sire, I saw his majesty your father at a terrible moment."
"The day - "
A dark cloud passed over the brow of the prince; then, dashing his hand
across it, "Do you see any difficulty in announcing me?" said he.
"Sire, pardon me," replied the officer, "but I could not imagine a king
under so simple an exterior; and yet I had the honor to tell your majesty
just now that I had seen Charles I. But pardon me, monsieur; I will go
and inform the king."
But returning after going a few steps, "Your majesty is desirous, without
doubt, that this interview should be a secret?" said he.
"I do not require it; but if it were possible to preserve it - "
"It is possible, sire, for I can dispense with informing the first
gentleman on duty; but, for that, your majesty must please to consent to
give up your sword."
"True, true; I had forgotten that no one armed is permitted to enter the
chamber of a king of France."
"Your majesty will form an exception, if you wish it; but then I shall
avoid my responsibility by informing the king's attendant."
"Here is my sword, monsieur. Will you now please to announce me to his
"Instantly, sire." And the officer immediately went and knocked at the
door of communication, which the valet opened to him.
"His Majesty the King of England!" said the officer.
"His Majesty the King of England!" replied the _valet de chambre_.
At these words a gentleman opened the folding-doors of the king's
apartment, and Louis XIV. was seen, without hat or sword, and his
_pourpoint_ open, advancing with signs of the greatest surprise.
"You, my brother - you at Blois!" cried Louis XIV., dismissing with a
gesture both the gentlemen and the _valet de chambre_, who passed out
into the next apartment.
"Sire," replied Charles II., "I was going to Paris, in the hope of seeing
your majesty, when report informed me of your approaching arrival in this
city. I therefore prolonged my abode here, having something very
particular to communicate to you."
"Will this closet suit you, my brother?"
"Perfectly well, sire; for I think no one can hear us here."
"I have dismissed my gentleman and my watcher; they are in the next
chamber. There, behind that partition, is a solitary closet, looking
into the ante-chamber, and in that ante-chamber you found nobody but
a solitary officer, did you?"
"Well, then, speak, my brother; I listen to you."
"Sire, I commence, and entreat your majesty to have pity on the
misfortunes of our house."
The king of France colored, and drew his chair closer to that of the
king of England.
"Sire," said Charles II., "I have no need to ask if your majesty is
acquainted with the details of my deplorable history."
Louis XIV. blushed, this time more strongly than before; then, stretching
forth his hand to that of the king of England, "My brother," said he, "I
am ashamed to say so, but the cardinal scarcely ever speaks of political
affairs before me. Still more, formerly I used to get Laporte, my _valet
de chambre_, to read historical subjects to me; but he put a stop to
these readings, and took away Laporte from me. So that I beg my brother
Charles to tell me all those matters as to a man who knows nothing."
"Well, sire, I think that by taking things from the beginning I shall
have a better chance of touching the heart of your majesty."
"Speak on, my brother - speak on."
"You know, sire, that being called in 1650 to Edinburgh, during
Cromwell's expedition into Ireland, I was crowned at Scone. A year
after, wounded in one of the provinces he had usurped, Cromwell returned
upon us. To meet him was my object; to leave Scotland was my wish."
"And yet," interrupted the young king, "Scotland is almost your native
country, is it not, my brother?"
"Yes, but the Scots were cruel compatriots for me, sire; they had forced
me to forsake the religion of my fathers; they had hung Lord Montrose,
the most devoted of my servants, because he was not a Covenanter; and as
the poor martyr, to whom they had offered a favor when dying, had asked
that his body might be cut into as many pieces as there are cities in
Scotland, in order that evidence of his fidelity might be met with
everywhere, I could not leave one city, or go into another, without
passing under some fragments of a body which had acted, fought, and
breathed for me.
"By a bold, almost desperate march, I passed through Cromwell's army, and
entered England. The Protector set out in pursuit of this strange
flight, which had a crown for its object. If I had been able to reach
London before him, without doubt the prize of the race would have been
mine; but he overtook me at Worcester.
"The genius of England was no longer with us, but with him. On the 3rd
of September, 1651, sire, the anniversary of the other battle of Dunbar,
so fatal to the Scots, I was conquered. Two thousand men fell around me
before I thought of retreating a step. At length I was obliged to fly.
"From that moment my history became a romance. Pursued with persistent
inveteracy, I cut off my hair, I disguised myself as a woodman. One day
spent amidst the branches of an oak gave to that tree the name of the
royal oak, which it bears to this day. My adventures in the county of
Stafford, whence I escaped with the daughter of my host on a pillion
behind me, still fill the tales of the country firesides, and would
furnish matter for ballads. I will some day write all this, sire, for
the instruction of my brother kings.
"I will first tell how, on arriving at the residence of Mr. Norton, I met
with a court chaplain, who was looking on at a party playing at skittles,
and an old servant who named me, bursting into tears, and who was as near
and as certainly killing me by his fidelity as another might have been by
treachery. Then I will tell of my terrors - yes, sire, of my terrors –
when, at the house of Colonel Windham, a farrier who came to shoe our
horses declared they had been shod in the north."
"How strange!" murmured Louis XIV. "I never heard anything of all that;
I was only told of your embarkation at Brighelmstone and your landing
in Normandy." (1)
"Oh!" exclaimed Charles, "if Heaven permits kings to be thus ignorant of
the histories of each other, how can they render assistance to their
brothers who need it?"
"But tell me," continued Louis XIV., "how, after being so roughly
received in England, you can still hope for anything from that unhappy
country and that rebellious people?"
"Oh, sire! since the battle of Worcester, everything is changed there.
Cromwell is dead, after having signed a treaty with France, in which his
name is placed above yours. He died on the 3rd of September, 1658, a
fresh anniversary of the battles of Dunbar and Worcester."
"His son has succeeded him."
"But certain men have a family, sire, and no heir. The inheritance of
Oliver was too heavy for Richard. Richard was neither a republican nor a
royalist; Richard allowed his guards to eat his dinner, and his generals
to govern the republic; Richard abdicated the protectorate on the 22nd of
April, 1659, more than a year ago, sire.
"From that time England is nothing but a tennis-court, in which the
players throw dice for the crown of my father. The two most eager
players are Lambert and Monk. Well, sire, I, in my turn, wish to take
part in this game, where the stakes are thrown upon my royal mantle.
Sire, it only requires a million to corrupt one of these players and make
an ally of him, or two hundred of your gentlemen to drive them out of my
palace at Whitehall, as Christ drove the money-changers from the temple."
"You come, then," replied Louis XIV., to ask me - "
"For your assistance; that is to say, not only for that which kings owe
to each other, but that which simple Christians owe to each other - your
assistance, sire, either in money or men. Your assistance, sire, and
within a month, whether I oppose Lambert to Monk, or Monk to Lambert, I
shall have reconquered my paternal inheritance, without having cost my
country a guinea, or my subjects a drop of blood, for they are now all
drunk with revolutions, protectorates, and republics, and ask nothing
better than to fall staggering to sleep in the arms of royalty. Your
assistance, sire, and I shall owe you more than I owe my father, - my
poor father, who bought at so dear a rate the ruin of our house! You may
judge, sire, whether I am unhappy, whether I am in despair, for I accuse
my own father!"
And the blood mounted to the pale face of Charles II., who remained for
an instant with his head between his hands, and as if blinded by that
blood which appeared to revolt against the filial blasphemy.
The young king was not less affected than his elder brother; he threw
himself about in his _fauteuil_, and could not find a single word of
Charles II., to whom ten years in age gave a superior strength to master
his emotions, recovered his speech the first.
"Sire," said he, "your reply? I wait for it as a criminal waits for his
sentence. Must I die?"
"My brother," replied the French prince, "you ask of me for a million –
me, who was never possessed of a quarter of that sum! I possess
nothing. I am no more king of France than you are king of England. I
am a name, a cipher dressed in _fleur-de-lised_ velvet, - that is all. I
am upon a visible throne; that is my only advantage over your majesty. I
have nothing - I can do nothing."
"Can it be so?" exclaimed Charles II.
"My brother," said Louis, sinking his voice, "I have undergone miseries
with which my poorest gentlemen are unacquainted. If my poor Laporte
were here, he would tell you that I have slept in ragged sheets, through
the holes of which my legs have passed; he would tell you that
afterwards, when I asked for carriages, they brought me conveyances half-
destroyed by the rats of the coach-houses; he would tell you that when I
asked for my dinner, the servants went to the cardinal's kitchen to
inquire if there were any dinner for the king. And look! to-day, this
very day even, when I am twenty-two years of age, - to-day, when I have
attained the grade of the majority of kings, - to-day, when I ought to
have the key of the treasury, the direction of the policy, the supremacy
in peace and war, - cast your eyes around me, see how I am left! Look at
this abandonment - this disdain - this silence! - Whilst yonder - look
yonder! View the bustle, the lights, the homage! There! - there you see
the real king of France, my brother!"
"In the cardinal's apartments?"
"Yes, in the cardinal's apartments."
"Then I am condemned, sire?"
Louis XIV. made no reply.
"Condemned is the word; for I will never solicit him who left my mother
and sister to die with cold and hunger - the daughter and grand-daughter
of Henry IV. – as surely they would have if M. de Retz and the parliament
had not sent them wood and bread."
"To die?" murmured Louis XIV.
"Well!" continued the king of England, "poor Charles II., grandson of
Henry IV., as you are, sire having neither parliament nor Cardinal de
Retz to apply to, will die of hunger, as his mother and sister had nearly
Louis knitted his brow, and twisted violently the lace of his ruffles.
This prostration, this immobility, serving as a mark to an emotion so
visible, struck Charles II., and he took the young man's hand.
"Thanks!" said he, "my brother. You pity me, and that is all I can
require of you in your present situation."
"Sire," said Louis XIV., with a sudden impulse, and raising his head, "it
is a million you require, or two hundred gentlemen, I think you say?"
"Sire, a million would be quite sufficient."
"That is very little."
"Offered to a single man it is a great deal. Convictions have been
purchased at a much lower price; and I should have nothing to do but with
"Two hundred gentlemen! Reflect! - that is little more than a single
"Sire, there is in our family a tradition, and that is, that four men,
four French gentlemen, devoted to my father, were near saving my father,
though condemned by a parliament, guarded by an army and surrounded by a
"Then if I can procure you a million, or two hundred gentlemen, you will
be satisfied; and you will consider me your well-affectioned brother?"
"I shall consider you as my saviour; and if I recover the throne of my
father, England will be, as long as I reign it, a sister to France, as
you will have been a brother to me."
"Well, my brother," said Louis, rising, "what you hesitate to ask for, I
will myself demand; that which I have never done on my own account, I
will do on yours. I will go and find the king of France - the other –
the rich, the powerful one, I mean. I will myself solicit this million,
or these two hundred gentlemen; and - we will see."
"Oh!" cried Charles; "you are a noble friend, sire - a heart created by
God! You save me, my brother; and if you should ever stand in need of
the life you restored me, demand it."
"Silence, my brother, - silence!" said Louis, in a suppressed voice.
"Take care that no one hears you! We have not obtained our end yet. To
ask money of Mazarin - that is worse than traversing the enchanted
forest, each tree of which inclosed a demon. It is more than setting out
to conquer a world."
"But yet, sire, when you ask it - "
"I have already told you that I never asked," replied Louis with a
haughtiness that made the king of England turn pale.
And the latter, like a wounded man, made a retreating movement - "Pardon
me, my brother," replied he. "I have neither a mother nor a sister who
are suffering. My throne is hard and naked, but I am firmly seated on my
throne. Pardon me that expression, my brother; it was that of an
egotist. I will retract it, therefore, by a sacrifice, - I will go to
monsieur le cardinal. Wait for me, if you please - I will return."
The Arithmetic of M. de Mazarin.
Whilst the king was directing his course rapidly towards the wing of the
castle occupied by the cardinal, taking nobody with him but his _valet de
chambre_, the officer of musketeers came out, breathing like a man who
has for a long time been forced to hold his breath, from the little
cabinet of which we have already spoken, and which the king believed to
be quite solitary. This little cabinet had formerly been part of the
chamber, from which it was only separated by a thin partition. It
resulted that this partition, which was only for the eye, permitted the
ear the least indiscreet to hear every word spoken in the chamber.
There was no doubt, then, that this lieutenant of musketeers had heard
all that passed in his majesty's apartment.
Warned by the last words of the young king, he came out just in time to
salute him on his passage, and to follow him with his eyes till he had
disappeared in the corridor.
Then as soon as he had disappeared, he shook his head after a fashion
peculiarly his own, and in a voice which forty years' absence from
Gascony had not deprived of its Gascon accent, "A melancholy service,"
said he, "and a melancholy master!"
These words pronounced, the lieutenant resumed his place in his
_fauteuil_, stretched his legs and closed his eyes, like a man who either
sleeps or meditates.
During this short monologue and the _mise en scene_ that had accompanied
it, whilst the king, through the long corridors of the old castle,
proceeded to the apartment of M. de Mazarin, a scene of another sort was
being enacted in those apartments.
Mazarin was in bed, suffering a little from the gout. But as he was a
man of order, who utilized even pain, he forced his wakefulness to be the
humble servant of his labor. He had consequently ordered Bernouin, his
_valet de chambre_, to bring him a little traveling-desk, so that he
might write in bed. But the gout is not an adversary that allows itself
to be conquered so easily; therefore, at each movement he made, the pain
from dull became sharp.
"Is Brienne there?" asked he of Bernouin.
"No, monseigneur," replied the _valet de chambre_; "M. de Brienne, with
your permission, is gone to bed. But if it is the wish of your eminence,
he can speedily be called."
"No, it is not worth while. Let us see, however. Cursed ciphers!"
And the cardinal began to think, counting on his fingers the while.
"Oh, ciphers is it?" said Bernouin. "Very well! if your eminence
attempts calculations, I will promise you a pretty headache to-morrow!
And with that please to remember M. Guenaud is not here."
"You are right, Bernouin. You must take Brienne's place, my friend.
Indeed, I ought to have brought M. Colbert with me. That young man goes
on very well, Bernouin, very well; a very orderly youth."
"I do not know," sad the _valet de chambre_, "but I don't like the
countenance of your young man who goes on so well."
"Well, well, Bernouin! We don't stand in need of your advice. Place
yourself there: take the pen and write."
"I am ready, monseigneur; what am I to write?"
"There, that's the place: after the two lines already traced."
"I am there."
"Write seven hundred and sixty thousand livres."
"That is written."
"Upon Lyons - " The cardinal appeared to hesitate.
"Upon Lyons," repeated Bernouin.
"Three millions nine hundred thousand livres."
"Upon Bordeaux, seven millions."
"Seven?" repeated Bernouin.
"Yes," said the cardinal, pettishly, "seven." Then, recollecting
himself, "You understand, Bernouin," added he, "that all this money is
to be spent?"
"Eh! monseigneur; whether it be spent or put away is of very little
consequence to me, since none of these millions are mine."
"These millions are the king's; it is the king's money I am reckoning.
Well, what were we saying? You always interrupt me!"
"Seven millions upon Bordeaux."
"Ah! yes; that's right. Upon Madrid four millions. I give you to
understand plainly to whom this money belongs, Bernouin, seeing that
everybody has the stupidity to believe me rich in millions. I repel the
silly idea. A minister, besides, has nothing of his own. Come, go on.
_Rentrees generales_, seven millions; properties, nine millions. Have
you written that, Bernouin?"
"_Bourse_, six hundred thousand livres; various property, two millions.
Ah! I forgot - the furniture of the different chateaux - "
"Must I put of the crown?" asked Bernouin.
"No, no; it is of no use doing that - that is understood. Have you
written that, Bernouin?"
"And the ciphers?"
"Stand straight under one another."
"Cast them up, Bernouin."
"Thirty-nine millions two hundred and sixty thousand livres, monseigneur."
"Ah!" cried the cardinal, in a tone of vexation; "there are not yet forty
Bernouin recommenced the addition.
"No, monseigneur; there want seven hundred and forty thousand livres."
Mazarin asked for the account, and revised it carefully.
"Yes, but," said Bernouin, "thirty-nine millions two hundred and sixty
thousand livres make a good round sum."
"Ah, Bernouin; I wish the king had it."
"Your eminence told me that this money was his majesty's."
"Doubtless, as clear, as transparent as possible. These thirty-nine
millions are bespoken, and much more."
Bernouin smiled after his own fashion - that is, like a man who believes
no more than he is willing to believe - whilst preparing the cardinal's
night draught, and putting his pillow to rights.
"Oh!" said Mazarin, when the valet had gone out; "not yet forty
millions! I must, however, attain that sum, which I had set down for
myself. But who knows whether I shall have time? I sink, I am going, I
shall never reach it! And yet, who knows that I may not find two or
three millions in the pockets of my good friends the Spaniards? They
discovered Peru, those people did, and - what the devil! they must have
As he was speaking thus, entirely occupied with his ciphers, and thinking
no more of his gout, repelled by a preoccupation which, with the
cardinal, was the most powerful of all preoccupations, Bernouin rushed
into the chamber, quite in a fright.
"Well!" asked the cardinal, "what is the matter now?"
"The king, monseigneur, - the king!"
"How? - the king!" said Mazarin, quickly concealing his paper. "The king
here! the king at this hour! I thought he was in bed long ago. What is
the matter, then?"
The king could hear these last words, and see the terrified gesture of
the cardinal rising up in his bed, for he entered the chamber at that
"It is nothing, monsieur le cardinal, or at least nothing which can alarm
you. It is an important communication which I wish to make to your
eminence to-night, - that is all."
Mazarin immediately thought of that marked attention which the king had
given to his words concerning Mademoiselle de Mancini, and the
communication appeared to him probably to refer to this source. He
recovered his serenity then instantly, and assumed his most agreeable
air, a change of countenance which inspired the king with the greatest
joy; and when Louis was seated, -
"Sire," said the cardinal, "I ought certainly to listen to your majesty
standing, but the violence of my complaint - "
"No ceremony between us, my dear monsieur le cardinal," said Louis
kindly: "I am your pupil, and not the king, you know very well, and this
evening in particular, as I come to you as a petitioner, as a solicitor,
and one very humble, and desirous to be kindly received, too."
Mazarin, seeing the heightened color of the king, was confirmed in his
first idea; that is to say, that love thoughts were hidden under all
these fine words. This time, political cunning, as keen as it was, made
a mistake; this color was not caused by the bashfulness of a juvenile
passion, but only by the painful contraction of the royal pride.
Like a good uncle, Mazarin felt disposed to facilitate the confidence.
"Speak, sire," said he, "and since your majesty is willing for an instant
to forget that I am your subject, and call me your master and
instructor, I promise your majesty my most devoted and tender
"Thanks, monsieur le cardinal," answered the king; "that which I have to
ask of your eminence has but little to do with myself."
"So much the worse!" replied the cardinal; "so much the worse! Sire, I
should wish your majesty to ask of me something of importance, even a
sacrifice; but whatever it may be that you ask me, I am ready to set your
heart at rest by granting it, my dear sire."
"Well, this is what brings me here," said the king, with a beating of the
heart that had no equal except the beating of the heart of the minister;
"I have just received a visit from my brother, the king of England."
Mazarin bounded in his bed as if he had been put in relation with a
Leyden jar or a voltaic pile, at the same time that a surprise, or rather
a manifest disappointment, inflamed his features with such a blaze of
anger, that Louis XIV., little diplomatist as he was, saw that the
minister had hoped to hear something else.
"Charles II.?" exclaimed Mazarin, with a hoarse voice and a disdainful
movement of his lips. "You have received a visit from Charles II.?"
"From King Charles II.," replied Louis, according in a marked manner to
the grandson of Henry IV. the title which Mazarin had forgotten to give
him. "Yes, monsieur le cardinal, that unhappy prince has touched my
heart with the relation of his misfortunes. His distress is great, monsieur le
cardinal, and it has appeared painful to me, who have seen my own throne
disputed, who have been forced in times of commotion to quit my capital,
- to me, in short, who am acquainted with misfortune, - to leave a
deposed and fugitive brother without assistance."
"Eh!" said the cardinal, sharply; "why had he not, as you have, a Jules
Mazarin by his side? His crown would then have remained intact."
"I know all that my house owes to your eminence," replied the king,
haughtily, "and you may well believe that I, on my part, shall never
forget it. It is precisely because my brother, the king of England has
not about him the powerful genius who has saved me, it is for that, I
say, that I wish to conciliate the aid of that same genius, and beg you
to extend your arm over his head, well assured, monsieur le cardinal,
that your hand, by touching him only, would know how to replace upon his
brow the crown which fell at the foot of his father's scaffold."
"Sire," replied Mazarin, "I thank you for your good opinion with regard
to myself, but we have nothing to do yonder: they are a set of madmen who
deny God, and cut off the heads of their kings. They are dangerous,
observe, sire, and filthy to the touch after having wallowed in royal
blood and covenantal murder. That policy has never suited me, - I scorn
it and reject it."
"Therefore you ought to assist in establishing a better."
"What is that?"
"The restoration of Charles II., for example."
"Good heavens!" cried Mazarin, "does the poor prince flatter himself with
"Yes, he does," replied the young king, terrified at the difficulties
opposed to this project, which he fancied he could perceive in the
infallible eye of his minister; "he only asks for a million to carry out
"Is that all - a little million, if you please!" said the cardinal,
ironically, with an effort to conquer his Italian accent. "A little
million, if you please, brother! Bah! a family of mendicants!"
"Cardinal," said Louis, raising his head, "that family of mendicants is a
branch of my family."
"Are you rich enough to give millions to other people, sire? Have you
millions to throw away?"
"Oh!" replied Louis XIV., with great pain, which he, however, by a strong
effort, prevented from appearing on his countenance; - "oh! yes, monsieur
le cardinal, I am well aware I am poor, and yet the crown of France is
worth a million, and to perform a good action I would pledge my crown if
it were necessary. I could find Jews who would be willing to lend me a
"So, sire, you say you want a million?" said Mazarin.
"Yes, monsieur, I say so."
"You are mistaken, greatly mistaken, sire; you want much more than
that, - Bernouin! - you shall see, sire, how much you really want."
"What, cardinal!" said the king, "are you going to consult a lackey about
"Bernouin!" cried the cardinal again, without appearing to remark the
humiliation of the young prince. "Come here, Bernouin, and tell me the
figures I gave you just now."
"Cardinal, cardinal! did you not hear me?" said Louis, turning pale with
"Do not be angry, sire; I deal openly with the affairs of your majesty.
Every one in France knows that; my books are as open as day. What did I
tell you to do just now, Bernouin?"
"Your eminence commanded me to cast up an account."
"You did it, did you not?"
"Yes, my lord."
"To verify the amount of which his majesty, at this moment, stands in
need. Did I not tell you so? Be frank, my friend."
"Your eminence said so."
"Well, what sum did I say I wanted?"
"Forty-five millions, I think."
"And what sum could we find, after collecting all our resources?"
"Thirty-nine millions two hundred and sixty thousand."
"That is correct, Bernouin; that is all I wanted to know. Leave us now,"
said the cardinal, fixing his brilliant eye upon the young king, who sat
mute with stupefaction.
"However - " stammered the king.
"What, do you still doubt, sire?" said the cardinal. "Well, here is a
proof of what I said."
And Mazarin drew from under his bolster the paper covered with figures,
which he presented to the king, who turned away his eyes, his vexation
was so deep.
"Therefore, as it is a million you want, sire, and that million is not
set down here, it is forty-six millions your majesty stands in need of.
Well, I don't think that any Jews in the world would lend such a sum,
even upon the crown of France."
The king, clenching his hands beneath his ruffles, pushed away his chair.
"So it must be then!" said he; "my brother the king of England will die
"Sire," replied Mazarin, in the same tone, "remember this proverb, which
I give you as the expression of the soundest policy: 'Rejoice at being
poor when your neighbor is poor likewise.'"
Louis meditated this for a few moments, with an inquisitive glance
directed to the paper, one end of which remained under the bolster.
"Then," said he, "it is impossible to comply with my demand for money, my
lord cardinal, is it?"
"Remember, this will secure me a future enemy, if he succeed in
recovering his crown without my assistance."
"If your majesty only fears that, you may be quite at ease," replied
"Very well, I say no more about it," exclaimed Louis XIV.
"Have I at least convinced you, sire?" placing his hand upon that of the
"If there be anything else, ask it, sire; I shall most happy to grant it
to you, having refused this."
"Anything else, my lord?"
"Why yes; am I not devoted body and soul to your majesty? _Hola!_
Bernouin! - lights and guards for his majesty! His majesty is returning
to his own chamber."
"Not yet, monsieur: since you place your good-will at my disposal, I will
take advantage of it."
"For yourself, sire?" asked the cardinal, hoping that his niece was at
length about to be named.
"No, monsieur, not for myself," replied Louis, "but still for my brother
The brow of Mazarin again became clouded, and he grumbled a few words
that the king could not catch.
Instead of the hesitation with which he had accosted the cardinal a
quarter of an hour before, there might be read in the eyes of the young
king that will against which a struggle might be maintained, and which
might be crushed by its own impotence, but which, at least, would
preserve, like a wound in the depth of the heart, the remembrance of its
"This time, my lord cardinal, we have to deal with something more easily
found than a million."
"Do you think so, sire?" said Mazarin, looking at the king with that
penetrating eye which was accustomed to read to the bottom of hearts.
"Yes, I think so; and when you know the object of my request - "
"And do you think I do not know it, sire?"
"You know what remains for me to say to you?"
"Listen, sire; these are King Charles's own words - "
"Listen. 'And if that miserly, beggarly Italian,' said he - "
"My lord cardinal!"
"That is the sense, if not the words. Eh! Good heavens! I wish him no
ill on that account; one is biased by his passions. He said to you: 'If
that vile Italian refuses the million we ask of him, sire, - if we are
forced, for want of money, to renounce diplomacy, well, then, we will ask
him to grant us five hundred gentlemen.'"
The king started, for the cardinal was only mistaken in the number.
"Is not that it, sire?" cried the minister, with a triumphant accent.
"And then he added some fine words: he said, 'I have friends on the other
side of the channel, and these friends only want a leader and a banner.
When they see me, when they behold the banner of France, they will rally
around me, for they will comprehend that I have your support. The colors
of the French uniform will be worth as much to me as the million M. de
Mazarin refuses us,' - for he was pretty well assured I should refuse him
that million. - 'I shall conquer with these five hundred gentlemen, sire,
and all the honor will be yours.' Now, that is what he said, or to that
purpose, was it not? - turning those plain words into brilliant metaphors
and pompous images, for they are fine talkers in that family! The father
talked even on the scaffold."
The perspiration of shame stood on the brow of Louis. He felt that it
was inconsistent with his dignity to hear his brother thus insulted, but
he did not yet know how to act with him to whom every one yielded, even
his mother. At last he made an effort.
"But," said he, "my lord cardinal, it is not five hundred men, it is only
"Well, but you see I guessed what he wanted."
"I never denied that you had a penetrating eye, and that was why I
thought you would not refuse my brother Charles a thing so simple and so
easy to grant him as what I ask of you in his name, my lord cardinal, or
rather in my own."
"Sire," said Mazarin, "I have studied policy thirty years; first, under
the auspices of M. le Cardinal Richelieu; and then alone. This policy
has not always been over-honest, it must be allowed, but it has never
been unskillful. Now that which is proposed to you majesty is dishonest
and unskillful at the same time."
"Sire, you entered into a treaty with Cromwell."
"Yes, and in that very treaty Cromwell signed his name above mine."
"Why did you sign yours so lo down, sire? Cromwell found a good place,
and he took it; that was his custom. I return, then, to M. Cromwell.
You have a treaty with him, that is to say, with England, since when you
signed that treaty M. Cromwell was England."
"M. Cromwell is dead."
"Do you think so, sire?"
"No doubt he is, since his son Richard has succeeded him, and has
"Yes, that is it exactly. Richard inherited after the death of his
father, and England at the abdication of Richard. The treaty formed part
of the inheritance, whether in the hands of M. Richard or in the hands of
England. The treaty is, then, still as good, as valid as ever. Why
should you evade it, sire? What is changed? Charles wants to-day what
we were not willing to grant him ten years ago; but that was foreseen and
provided against. You are the ally of England, sire, and not of Charles
II. It was doubtless wrong, from a family point of view, to sign a
treaty with a man who had cut off the head of the king your father's
brother-in-law, and to contract an alliance with a parliament which they
call yonder the Rump Parliament; it was unbecoming, I acknowledge, but it
was not unskillful from a political point of view, since, thanks to that
treaty, I saved your majesty, then a minor, the trouble and danger of a
foreign war, which the Fronde - you remember the Fronde, sire?" - the
young king hung his head - "which the Fronde might have fatally
complicated. And thus I prove to your majesty that to change our plan
now, without warning our allies, would be at once unskillful and
dishonest. We should make war with the aggression on our side; we should
make it, deserving to have it made against us; and we should have the
appearance of fearing it whilst provoking it, for a permission granted to
five hundred men, to two hundred men, to fifty men, to ten men, is still
a permission. One Frenchman, that is the nation; one uniform, that is
the army. Suppose, sire, for example, that you should have war with
Holland, which, sooner or later, will certainly happen; or with Spain,
which will perhaps ensue if your marriage fails" (Mazarin stole a furtive
glance at the king), "and there are a thousand causes that might yet make
your marriage fail, - well, would you approve of England's sending to the
United Provinces or to Spain a regiment, a company, a squadron even, of
English gentlemen? Would you think that they kept within the limits of
their treaty of alliance?"
Louis listened; it seemed so strange to him that Mazarin should invoke
good faith, and he the author of so many political tricks, called
Mazarinades. "And yet," said the king, "without manifest of my
authorization, I cannot prevent gentlemen of my states from passing over
into England, if such should be their good pleasure."
"You should compel them to return, sire, or at least protest against
their presence as enemies in a allied country."
"But come, my lord cardinal, you who are so profound a genius, try if you
cannot find a means to assist this poor king, without compromising
"And that is exactly what I am not willing to do, my dear sire," said
Mazarin. "If England were to act exactly according to my wishes, she
could not act better than she does; if I directed the policy of England
from this place, I should not direct it otherwise. Governed as she is
governed, England is an eternal nest of contention for all Europe.
Holland protects Charles II., let Holland do so; they will quarrel, they
will fight. Let them destroy each other's navies, we can construct ours
with the wrecks of their vessels; when we shall save our money to buy
"Oh, how paltry and mean is all this that you are telling me, monsieur
"Yes, but nevertheless it is true, sire; you must confess that. Sill
further. Suppose I admit, for a moment, the possibility of breaking your
word, and evading the treaty - such a thing as sometimes happens, but
that is when some great interest is to be promoted by it, or when the
treaty is found to be too troublesome - well, you will authorize the
engagement asked of you: France - her banner, which is the same thing –
will cross the Straits and will fight; France will be conquered."
"_Ma foi!_ we have a pretty general to fight under - this Charles
II.! Worcester gave us proofs of that."
"But he will no longer have to deal with Cromwell, monsieur."
"But he will have to deal with Monk, who is quite as dangerous. The
brave brewer of whom we are speaking, was a visionary; he had moments of
exaltation, of inflation, during which he ran over like an over-filled
cask; and from the chinks there always escaped some drops of his
thoughts, and by the sample the whole of his thought was to be made out.
Cromwell has thus allowed us more than ten times to penetrate into his
very soul, when one would have conceived that soul to be enveloped in
triple brass, as Horace had it. But Monk! Oh, sire, God defend you from
ever having anything to transact politically with Monk. It is he who has
given me, in one year, all the gray hairs I have. Monk is no fanatic;
unfortunately he is a politician; he does not overflow, he keeps close
together. For ten years he has had his eyes fixed upon one object, and
nobody has yet been able to ascertain what. Every morning, as Louis XI.
advised, he burns his nightcap. Therefore, on the day when this plan,
slowly and solitarily ripened, shall break forth, it will break forth
with all the conditions of success which always accompany an unforeseen
event. That is Monk, sire, of whom, perhaps, you have never even heard –
of whom, perhaps, you did not even know the name, before your brother,
Charles II., who knows what he is, pronounced it before you. He is a
marvel of depth and tenacity, the two only things against which
intelligence and ardor are blunted. Sire, I had ardor when I was young;
I always was intelligent. I may safely boast of it, because I am
reproached with it. I have done very well with these two qualities,
since, from the son of a fisherman of Piscina, I have become prime
minister to the king of France; and in that position your majesty will
perhaps acknowledge I have rendered some service to the throne of your
majesty. Well, sire, if I had met with Monk on my way, instead of
Monsieur de Beaufort, Monsieur de Retz, or Monsieur le Prince - well, we
should have been ruined. If you engage yourself rashly, sire, you will
fall into the talons of this politic soldier. The casque of Monk, sire,
is an iron coffer, and no one has the key of it. Therefore, near him, or
rather before him, I bow, sire, for I have nothing but a velvet cap."
"What do you think Monk wishes to do, then?"
"Eh! sire, if I knew that, I would not tell you to mistrust him, for I
should be stronger than he; but with him, I am afraid to guess - to
guess! - you understand my word? - for if I thought I had guessed, I
should stop at an idea, and, in spite of myself, should pursue that
idea. Since that man has been in power yonder, I am like one of the
damned in Dante whose neck Satan has twisted, and who walk forward
looking around behind them. I am traveling towards Madrid, but I never
lose sight of London. To guess, with that devil of a man, is to deceive
one's self and to deceive one's self is to ruin one's self. God keep me
from ever seeking to guess what he aims at; I confine myself to watching
what he does, and that is well enough. Now I believe - you observe the
meaning of the word _I believe?_ - _I believe_, with respect to Monk,
ties one to nothing - I believe that he has a strong inclination to
succeed Cromwell. Your Charles II. has already caused proposals to be
made to him by ten persons; he has satisfied himself with driving these
ten meddlers from his presence, without saying anything to them but,
'Begone, or I will have you hung.' That man is a sepulcher! At this
moment Monk is affecting devotion to the Rump Parliament; of this
devotion, I am not the dupe. Monk has no wish to be assassinated, - an
assassination would stop him in the middle of his operations; and his
work must be accomplished; - so I believe - but do not believe what I
believe, sire: for as I say I believe from habit - I believe that Monk
is keeping on friendly terms with the parliament till the day comes for
dispersing it. You are asked for swords, but they are to fight against
Monk. God preserve you from fighting against Monk, sire; for Monk would
beat us, and I should never console myself after being beaten by Monk. I
should say to myself, Monk has foreseen that victory ten years. For
God's sake, sire, out of friendship for you, if not out of consideration
for himself, let Charles II. keep quiet. Your majesty will give him a
little income here; give him one of your chateaux. Yes, yes - wait
awhile. But I forget the treaty - that famous treaty of which we were
just now speaking. Your majesty has not even the right to give him a
"How is that?"
"Yes, yes; your majesty is bound not to grant hospitality to King
Charles, and to compel him to leave France even. It was on this account
we forced him to quit you, and yet here he is again. Sire, I hope you
will give your brother to understand that he cannot remain with us; that
it is impossible he should be allowed to compromise us; or I myself - "
"Enough, my lord," said Louis XIV., rising. "In refusing me a million,
perhaps you may be right; your millions are your own. In refusing me
two hundred gentlemen, you are still further in the right; for you are
prime minister, and you have, in the eyes of France, the responsibility
of peace and war. But that you should pretend to prevent me, who am king,
from extending my hospitality to the grandson of Henry IV., to my cousin-
german, to the companion of my childhood - there your power stops, and
there begins my will."
"Sire," said Mazarin, delighted at being let off so cheaply, and who had,
besides, only fought so earnestly to arrive at that, - "sire, I shall
always bend before the will of my king. Let my king, then, keep near
him, or in one of his chateaux, the king of England; let Mazarin know it,
but let not the minister know it."
"Good-night, my lord," said Louis XIV., "I go away in despair."
"But convinced, and that is all I desire, sire," replied Mazarin.
The king made no answer, and retired quite pensive, convinced, not of
all Mazarin had told him, but of one thing which he took care not to
mention to him; and that was, that it was necessary for him to study
seriously both his own affairs and those of Europe, for he found them
very difficult and very obscure. Louis found the king of England seated
in the same place where he had left him. On perceiving him, the English
prince arose; but at the first glance he saw discouragement written in
dark letters upon his cousin's brow. Then, speaking first, as if to
facilitate the painful avowal that Louis had to make to him, -
"Whatever it may be," said he, "I shall never forget all the kindness,
all the friendship you have exhibited towards me."
"Alas!" replied Louis, in a melancholy tone, "only barren good-will, my
Charles II. became extremely pale; he passed his cold hand over his brow,
and struggled for a few instants against a faintness that made him
tremble. "I understand," said he at last; "no more hope!"
Louis seized the hand of Charles II. "Wait, my brother," said he;
"precipitate nothing; everything may change; hasty resolutions ruin all
causes; add another year of trial, I implore you, to the years you have
already undergone. You have, to induce you to act now rather than at
another time, neither occasion nor opportunity. Come with me, my
brother; I will give you one of my residences, whichever you prefer, to
inhabit. I, with you, will keep my eyes upon events; we will prepare.
Come, then, my brother, have courage!"
Charles II. withdrew his hand from that of the king, and drawing back, to
salute him with more ceremony, "With all my heart, thanks!" replied he,
"sire; but I have prayed without success to the greatest king on earth;
now I will go and ask a miracle of God." And he went out without being
willing to hear any more, his head carried loftily, his hand trembling,
with a painful contraction of his noble countenance, and that profound
gloom which, finding no more hope in the world of men, appeared to go
beyond it, and ask it in worlds unknown. The officer of musketeers, on
seeing him pass by thus pale, bowed almost to his knees as he saluted
him. He then took a flambeau, called two musketeers, and descended the
deserted staircase with the unfortunate king, holding in his left hand
his hat, the plume of which swept the steps. Arrived at the door, the
musketeer asked the king which way he was going, that he might direct the
"Monsieur," replied Charles II., in a subdued voice, "you who have known
my father, say, did you ever pray for him? If you have done so, do not
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