The Vicomte de Bragelonne
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 7 out of 13
call it, and that was your father; he thought it proper to be silent, I
must beg you to allow me to be so likewise." And D'Artagnan bowed like a
man upon whom it was evident no entreaties could prevail.
"Since it is so, sir," said Buckingham, "pardon my indiscretion, I beg
you; and if, at any time, I should go into France - " and he turned round
to take a last look at the princess, who took but little notice of him,
totally occupied as she was, or appeared to be, with Rochester.
"Well?" said D'Artagnan.
"I was saying that if, any day, I were to go to France - "
"You will go, my lord," said D'Artagnan, "I shall answer for that."
"And how so?"
"Oh, I have strange powers of prediction; if I do predict anything I am
seldom mistaken. If, then, you do come to France?"
"Well, then, monsieur, you, of whom kings ask that valuable friendship
which restores crowns to them, I will venture to beg of you a little of
that great interest you took in my father."
"My lord," replied D'Artagnan, "believe me, I shall deem myself highly
honored if, in France, you remember having seen me here. And now
permit - "
Then, turning towards the princess: "Madam," said he, "your royal
highness is a daughter of France; and in that quality I hope to see you
again in Paris. One of my happy days will be on that on which your royal
highness shall give me any command whatever, thus proving to me that you
have not forgotten the recommendations of your august brother." And he
bowed respectfully to the young princess, who gave him her hand to kiss
with a right royal grace.
"Ah! madam," said Buckingham, in a subdued voice, "what can a man do to
obtain a similar favor from your royal highness?"
"_Dame!_ my lord," replied Henrietta, "ask Monsieur d'Artagnan; he will
How D'Artagnan drew, as a Fairy would have done, a Country-Seat from a
The king's words regarding the wounded pride of Monk had inspired
D'Artagnan with no small portion of apprehension. The lieutenant had
had, all his life, the great art of choosing his enemies; and when he had
found them implacable and invincible, it was when he had not been able,
under any pretense, to make them otherwise. But points of view change
greatly in the course of a life. It is a magic lantern, of which the eye
of man every year changes the aspects. It results that from the last day
of a year on which we saw white, to the first day of the year on which we
shall see black, there is the interval of but a single night.
Now, D'Artagnan, when he left Calais with his ten scamps, would have
hesitated as little in attacking a Goliath, a Nebuchadnezzar, or a
Holofernes, as he would in crossing swords with a recruit or caviling
with a land-lady. Then he resembled the sparrow-hawk, which, when
fasting, will attack a ram. Hunger is blind. But D'Artagnan satisfied -
D'Artagnan rich - D'Artagnan a conqueror - D'Artagnan proud of so
difficult a triumph - D'Artagnan had too much to lose not to reckon,
figure by figure, with probable misfortune.
His thoughts were employed, therefore, all the way on the road from his
presentation, with one thing, and that was, how he should conciliate a
man like Monk, a man whom Charles himself, king as he was, conciliated
with difficulty; for, scarcely established, the protected might again
stand in need of the protector, and would, consequently, not refuse him,
such being the case, the petty satisfaction of transporting M.
d'Artagnan, or of confining him in one of the Middlesex prisons, or
drowning him a little on his passage from Dover to Boulogne. Such sorts
of satisfaction kings are accustomed to render to viceroys without
It would not be at all necessary for the king to be active in that
_contrepartie_ of the play in which Monk should take his revenge. The
part of the king would be confined to simply pardoning the viceroy of
Ireland all he should undertake against D'Artagnan. Nothing more was
necessary to place the conscience of the Duke of Albemarle at rest than
a _te absolvo_ said with a laugh, or the scrawl of "Charles the King,"
traced at the foot of a parchment; and with these two words pronounced,
and these two words written, poor D'Artagnan was forever crushed beneath
the ruins of his imagination.
And then, a thing sufficiently disquieting for a man with such foresight
as our musketeer, he found himself alone; and even the friendship of
Athos could not restore his confidence. Certainly if the affair had only
concerned a free distribution of sword-thrusts, the musketeer would have
counted upon his companion; but in delicate dealings with a king, when
the _perhaps_ of an unlucky chance should arise in justification of Monk
or of Charles of England, D'Artagnan knew Athos well enough to be sure he
would give the best possible coloring to the loyalty of the survivor, and
would content himself with shedding floods of tears on the tomb of the
dead, supposing the dead to be his friend, and afterwards composing his
epitaph in the most pompous superlatives.
"Decidedly," thought the Gascon; and this thought was the result of the
reflections which he had just whispered to himself and which we have
repeated aloud - "decidedly, I must be reconciled with M. Monk, and
acquire proof of his perfect indifference for the past. If, and God
forbid it should be so! he is still sulky and reserved in the expression
of this sentiment, I shall give my money to Athos to take away with him,
and remain in England just long enough to unmask him, then, as I have a
quick eye and a light foot, I shall notice the first hostile sign; to
decamp or conceal myself at the residence of my lord Buckingham, who
seems a good sort of devil at the bottom, and to whom, in return for his
hospitality, I shall relate all that history of the diamonds, which can
now compromise nobody but an old queen, who need not be ashamed, after
being the wife of a miserly creature like Mazarin, of having formerly
been the mistress of a handsome nobleman like Buckingham. _Mordioux!_
that is the thing, and this Monk shall not get the better of me. Eh?
and besides I have an idea!"
We know that, in general, D'Artagnan was not wanting in ideas; and during
this soliloquy, D'Artagnan buttoned his vest up to the chin, and nothing
excited his imagination like this preparation for a combat of any kind,
called _accinction_ by the Romans. He was quite heated when he reached the
mansion of the Duke of Albemarle. He was introduced to the viceroy with
a promptitude which proved that he was considered as one of the
household. Monk was in his business-closet.
"My lord," said D'Artagnan, with that expression of frankness which the
Gascon knew so well how to assume, "my lord, I have come to ask your
Monk, as closely buttoned up morally as his antagonist was physically,
replied: "Ask, my friend;" and his countenance presented an expression
not less open than that of D'Artagnan.
"My lord, in the first place, promise me secrecy and indulgence."
"I promise you all you wish. What is the matter? Speak!"
"It is, my lord, that I am not quite pleased with the king."
"Indeed! And on what account, my dear lieutenant?"
"Because his majesty gives way sometimes to jests very compromising for
his servants; and jesting, my lord, is a weapon that seriously wounds men
of the sword, as we are."
Monk did all in his power not to betray his thought, but D'Artagnan
watched him with too close attention not to detect an almost
imperceptible flush upon his face. "Well, now, for my part," said he,
with the most natural air possible, "I am not an enemy of jesting, my
dear Monsieur d'Artagnan; my soldiers will tell you that even many times
in camp, I listened very indifferently, and with a certain pleasure, to
the satirical songs which the army of Lambert passed into mine, and
which, certainly, would have caused the ears of a general more
susceptible than I am to tingle."
"Oh, my lord," said D'Artagnan, "I know you are a complete man; I know
you have been, for a long time, placed above human miseries; but there
are jests and jests of a certain kind, which have the power of irritating
me beyond expression."
"May I inquire what kind, my friend?"
"Such as are directed against my friends or against people I respect, my
Monk made a slight movement, which D'Artagnan perceived. "Eh! and in
what," asked Monk, "in what can the stroke of a pin which scratches
another tickle your skin? Answer me that."
"My lord, I can explain it to you in a single sentence; it concerns you."
Monk advanced a single step towards D'Artagnan. "Concerns me?" said he.
"Yes, and this is what I cannot explain; but that arises, perhaps, from
my want of knowledge of his character. How can the king have the heart
to jest about a man who has rendered him so many and such great
services? How can one understand that he should amuse himself in setting
by the ears a lion like you with a gnat like me?"
"I cannot conceive that in any way," said Monk.
"But so it is. The king, who owed me a reward, might have rewarded me as
a soldier, without contriving that history of the ransom, which affects
you, my lord."
"No," said Monk, laughing: "it does not affect me in any way, I can
"Not as regards me, I can understand; you know me, my lord, I am so
discreet that the grave would appear a babbler compared to me; but - do
you understand, my lord?"
"No," replied Monk, with persistent obstinacy.
"If another knew the secret which I know - "
"Eh! my lord, why, that unfortunate secret of Newcastle."
"Oh! the million of the Comte de la Fere?"
"No, my lord, no; the enterprise made upon your grace's person."
"It was well played, chevalier, that is all, and no more is to be said
about it: you are a soldier, both brave and cunning, which proves that
you unite the qualities of Fabius and Hannibal. You employed your means,
force and cunning: there is nothing to be said against that: I ought to
have been on guard."
"Ah! yes; I know, my lord, and I expected nothing less from your
partiality; so that if it were only the abduction in itself, _Mordioux!_
that would be nothing; but there are - "
"The circumstances of that abduction."
"Oh! you know very well what I mean, my lord."
"No, curse me if I do."
"There is - in truth, it is difficult to speak it."
"Well, there is that devil of a box!"
Monk colored visibly. "Well, I have forgotten it."
"Deal box," continued D'Artagnan, "with holes for the nose and mouth. In
truth, my lord, all the rest was well; but the box, the box! that was
really a coarse joke." Monk fidgeted about in his chair. "And,
notwithstanding my having done that," resumed D'Artagnan, "I, a soldier
of fortune, it was quite simple, because by the side of that action, a
little inconsiderate I admit, which I committed, but which the gravity of
the case may excuse, I am circumspect and reserved."
"Oh!" said Monk, "believe me, I know you well, Monsieur d'Artagnan, and I
D'Artagnan never took his eyes off Monk; studying all which passed in the
mind of the general, as he prosecuted _his idea_. "But it does not
concern me," resumed he.
"Well, then, who does it concern?" said Monk, who began to grow a little
"It relates to the king, who will never restrain his tongue."
"Well! and suppose he should say all he knows?" said Monk, with a degree
"My lord," replied D'Artagnan, "do not dissemble, I implore you, with a
man who speaks so frankly as I do. You have a right to feel your
susceptibility excited, however benignant it may be. What, the devil! it
is not the place for a man like you, a man who plays with crowns and
scepters as a Bohemian plays with his balls; it is not the place of a
serious man, I said, to be shut up in a box like some freak of natural
history; for you must understand it would make all your enemies ready to
burst with laughter, and you are so great, so noble, so generous, that
you must have many enemies. This secret is enough to set half the human
race laughing, if you were represented in that box. It is not decent to
have the second personage in the kingdom laughed at."
Monk was quite out of countenance at the idea of seeing himself
represented in this box. Ridicule, as D'Artagnan had judiciously
foreseen, acted upon him in a manner which neither the chances of war,
the aspirations of ambition, nor the fear of death had been able to do.
"Good," thought the Gascon, "he is frightened: I am safe."
"Oh! as to the king," said Monk, "fear nothing, my dear Monsieur
d'Artagnan; the king will not jest with Monk, I assure you!"
The momentary flash of his eye was noticed by D'Artagnan. Monk lowered
his tone immediately: "The king," continued he, "is of too noble a
nature, the king's heart is too high to allow him to wish ill to those
who do him good."
"Oh! certainly," cried D'Artagnan. "I am entirely of your grace's
opinion with regard to his heart, but not as to his head - it is good,
but it is trifling."
"The king will not trifle with Monk, be assured."
"Then you are quite at ease, my lord?"
"On that side, at least! yes, perfectly!"
"Oh! I understand you; you are at ease as far as the king is concerned?"
"I have told you I was."
"But you are not so much so on my account?"
"I thought I had told you that I had faith in your loyalty and
"No doubt, no doubt, but you must remember one thing - "
"What is that?"
"That I was not alone, that I had companions; and what companions!"
"Oh! yes, I know them."
"And, unfortunately, my lord, they know you, too!"
"Well; they are yonder, at Boulogne, waiting for me."
"And you fear - "
"Yes, I fear that in my absence - _Parbleu!_ If I were near them, I
could answer for their silence."
"Was I not right in saying that the danger, if there was any danger,
would not come from his majesty, however disposed he may be to jest, but
from your companions, as you say? To be laughed at by a king may be
tolerable, but by the horse-boys and scamps of the army! Damn it!"
"Yes, I understand, that would be unbearable; that is why, my lord, I
came to say, - do you not think it would be better for me to set out for
France as soon as possible?"
"Certainly, if you think your presence - "
"Would impose silence upon those scoundrels? Oh! I am sure of that, my
"Your presence will not prevent the report from spreading, if the tale
has already transpired."
"Oh! it has not transpired, my lord, I will wager. At all events, be
assured that I am determined upon one thing."
"What is that?"
"To blow out the brains of the first who shall have propagated that
report, and of the first who has heard it. After which I shall return to
England to seek an asylum, and perhaps employment with your grace."
"Oh, come back! come back!"
"Unfortunately, my lord, I am acquainted with nobody here but your grace,
and if I should no longer find you, or if you should have forgotten me in
"Listen to me, Monsieur d'Artagnan," replied Monk; "you are a superior
man, full of intelligence and courage; you deserve all the good fortune
this world can bring you; come with me into Scotland, and, I swear to
you, I shall arrange for you a fate which all may envy."
"Oh! my lord, that is impossible. At present I have a sacred duty to
perform; I have to watch over your glory, I have to prevent a low jester
from tarnishing in the eyes of our contemporaries - who knows? in the
eyes of posterity - the splendor of your name."
"Of posterity, Monsieur d'Artagnan?"
"Doubtless. It is necessary, as regards posterity, that all the details
of that history should remain a mystery; for, admit that this unfortunate
history of the deal box should spread, and it should be asserted that you
had not re-established the king loyally, and of your own free will, but
in consequence of a compromise entered into at Scheveningen between you
two. It would be vain for me to declare how the thing came about, for
though I know I should not be believed, it would be said that I had
received my part of the cake, and was eating it."
Monk knitted his brow. - "Glory, honor, probity!" said he, "you are but
"Mist!" replied D'Artagnan; "nothing but mist, through which nobody can
"Well, then, go to France, my dear Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Monk; "go,
and to render England more attractive and agreeable to you, accept a
remembrance of me."
"What now?" thought D'Artagnan.
"I have on the banks of the Clyde," continued Monk, "a little house in a
grove, cottage as it is called here. To this house are attached a
hundred acres of land. Accept it as a souvenir."
"Oh, my lord! - "
"Faith! you will be there in your own home, and that will be the place of
refuge you spoke of just now."
"For me to be obliged to your lordship to such an extent! Really, your
grace, I am ashamed."
"Not at all, not at all, monsieur," replied Monk, with an arch smile; "it
is I who shall be obliged to you. And," pressing the hand of the
musketeer, "I shall go and draw up the deed of gift," - and he left the
D'Artagnan looked at him as he went out with something of a pensive and
even an agitated air.
"After all," said he, "he is a brave man. It is only a sad reflection
that it is from fear of me, and not affection that he acts thus. Well, I
shall endeavor that affection may follow." Then, after an instant's
deeper reflection, - "Bah!" said he, "to what purpose? He is an
Englishman." And he in turn went out, a little confused after the combat.
"So," said he, "I am a land-owner! But how the devil am I to share the
cottage with Planchet? Unless I give him the land, and I take the
chateau, or the he takes the house and I - nonsense! M. Monk will never
allow me to share a house he has inhabited, with a grocer. He is too
proud for that. Besides, why should I say anything about it to him? It
was not with the money of the company I have acquired that property, it
was with my mother-wit alone; it is all mine, then. So, now I will go
and find Athos." And he directed his steps towards the dwelling of the
Comte de la Fere.
How D'Artagnan regulated the "Assets" of the Company before he
established its "Liabilities."
"Decidedly," said D'Artagnan to himself, "I have struck a good vein.
That star which shines once in the life of every man, which shone for Job
and Iris, the most unfortunate of the Jews and the poorest of the Greeks,
is come at last to shine on me. I will commit no folly, I will take
advantage of it; it comes quite late enough to find me reasonable."
He supped that evening, in very good humor, with his friend Athos; he
said nothing to him about the expected donation, but he could not forbear
questioning his friend, while eating, about country produce, sowing, and
planting. Athos replied complacently, as he always did. His idea was
that D'Artagnan wished to become a land-owner, only he could not help
regretting, more than once, the absence of the lively humor and amusing
sallies of the cheerful companion of former days. In fact, D'Artagnan
was so absorbed, that, with his knife, he took advantage of the grease
left at the bottom of his plate, to trace ciphers and make additions of
The order, or rather license, for their embarkation, arrived at Athos's
lodgings that evening. While this paper was remitted to the comte,
another messenger brought to D'Artagnan a little bundle of parchments,
adorned with all the seals employed in setting off property deeds in
England. Athos surprised him turning over the leaves of these different
acts which established the transmission of property. The prudent Monk –
others would say the generous Monk - had commuted the donation into a
sale, and acknowledged the receipt of the sum of fifteen thousand crowns
as the price of the property ceded. The messenger was gone. D'Artagnan
still continued reading, Athos watched him with a smile. D'Artagnan,
surprising one of those smiles over his shoulder, put the bundle in its
"I beg your pardon," said Athos.
"Oh! not at all, my friend," replied the lieutenant, "I shall tell you - "
"No, don't tell me anything, I beg you; orders are things so sacred, that
to one's brother, one's father, the person charged with such orders
should never open his mouth. Thus I, who speak to you, and love you more
tenderly than brother, father, or all the world - "
"Except your Raoul?"
"I shall love Raoul still better when he shall be a man, and I shall have
seen him develop himself in all the phases of his character and his
actions - as I have seen you, my friend."
"You said, then, that you had an order likewise, and that you would not
communicate it to me."
"Yes, my dear D'Artagnan."
The Gascon sighed. "There was a time," said he, "when you would have
placed that order open upon the table, saying, 'D'Artagnan, read this
scrawl to Porthos, Aramis, and to me.'"
"That is true. Oh! that was the time of youth, confidence, the generous
season when the blood commands, when it is warmed by feeling!"
"Well! Athos, will you allow me to tell you?"
"Speak, my friend!"
"That delightful time, that generous season, that ruling by warm blood,
were all very fine things, no doubt: but I do not regret them at all. It
is absolutely like the period of studies. I have constantly met with
fools who would boast of the days of pensums, ferules, and crusts of dry
bread. It is singular, but I never loved all that; for my part, however
active and sober I might be (you know if I was so, Athos), however simple
I might appear in my clothes, I would not the less have preferred the
braveries and embroideries of Porthos to my little perforated cassock,
which gave passage to the wind in winter and the sun in summer. I should
always, my friend, mistrust him who would pretend to prefer evil to
good. Now, in times past all went wrong with me, and every month found a
fresh hole in my cassock and in my skin, a gold crown less in my poor
purse; of that execrable time of small beer and see-saw, I regret
absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing save our friendship; for within me I
have a heart, and it is a miracle that heart has not been dried up by the
wind of poverty which passed through all the holes of my cloak, or
pierced by the swords of all shapes which passed through the holes in my
"Do not regret our friendship," said Athos, "that will only die with
ourselves. Friendship is composed, above all things, of memories and
habits, and if you have just now made a little satire upon mine, because
I hesitate to tell you the nature of my mission into France - "
"Who! I? - Oh! heavens! if you knew, my dear friend, how indifferent all
the missions of the world will henceforth become to me!" And he laid his
hand upon the parchment in his vest pocket.
Athos rose from the table and called the host in order to pay the
"Since I have known you, my friend," said D'Artagnan, "I have never
discharged the reckoning. Porthos often did, Aramis sometimes, and you,
you almost always drew out your purse with the dessert. I am now rich,
and should like to try if it is heroic to pay."
"Do so," said Athos, returning his purse to his pocket.
The two friends then directed their steps towards the port, not, however,
without D'Artagnan's frequently turning round to watch the transportation
of his dear crowns. Night had just spread her thick veil over the yellow
waters of the Thames; they heard those noises of casks and pulleys, the
preliminaries of preparing to sail which had so many times made the
hearts of the musketeers beat when the dangers of the sea were the least
of those they were going to face. This time they were to embark on board
a large vessel which awaited them at Gravesend, and Charles II., always
delicate in small affairs, had sent one of his yachts, with twelve men of
his Scots guard, to do honor to the ambassador he was sending to France.
At midnight the yacht had deposited its passengers on board the vessel,
and at eight o'clock in the morning, the vessel landed the ambassador and
his friend on the wharf at Boulogne. Whilst the comte, with Grimaud, was
busy procuring horses to go straight to Paris, D'Artagnan hastened to the
hostelry where, according to his orders, his little army was to wait for
him. These gentlemen were at breakfast upon oysters, fish, and spiced
brandy, when D'Artagnan appeared. They were all very gay, but not one of
them had yet exceeded the bounds of reason. A hurrah of joy welcomed the
general. "Here I am," said D'Artagnan, "the campaign is ended. I am
come to bring each his supplement of pay, as agreed upon." Their eyes
sparkled. "I will lay a wager there are not, at this moment, a hundred
crowns remaining in the purse of the richest among you."
"That is true!" cried they in chorus.
"Gentlemen," said D'Artagnan, "then, this is the last order. The treaty
of commerce has been concluded, thanks to our _coup-de-main_ which made
us masters of the most skillful financier of England, for now I am at
liberty to confess to you that the man we had to carry off was the
treasurer of General Monk."
This word treasurer produced a certain effect on his army. D'Artagnan
observed that the eyes of Menneville alone did not evince perfect faith.
"This treasurer," he continued, "I conveyed to a neutral territory,
Holland; I forced him to sign the treaty; I have even reconducted him to
Newcastle, and he was obliged to be satisfied with our proceedings
towards him - the deal coffer being always carried without jolting, and
being lined softly, I asked a gratification for you. Here it is." He
threw a respectable-looking purse upon the cloth; and all involuntarily
stretched out their hands. "One moment, my lambs," said D'Artagnan; "if
there are profits, there are also charges."
"Oh! oh!" murmured they.
"We are about to find ourselves, my friends, in a position which would
not be tenable for people without brains. I speak plainly; we are
between the gallows and the Bastile."
"Oh! Oh!" said the chorus.
"That is easily understood. It was necessary to explain to General Monk
the disappearance of his treasurer. I waited, for that purpose, till the
unhoped-for moment of the restoration of King Charles II., who is one of
This army exchanged a glance of satisfaction in reply to the sufficiently
proud look of D'Artagnan. "The king being restored, I restored to Monk
his man of business, a little plucked, it is true, but, in short, I
restored him. Now, General Monk, when he pardoned me, for he has
pardoned me, could not help repeating these words to me, which I charge
every one of you to engrave deeply there, between the eyes, under the
vault of the cranium: - 'Monsieur, the joke has been a good one, but I
don't naturally like jokes; if ever a word of what you have done' (you
understand me, Menneville) 'escapes from your lips, or the lips of your
companions, I have, in my government of Scotland and Ireland, seven
hundred and forty-one wooden gibbets, of strong oak, clamped with iron,
and freshly greased every week. I will make a present of one of these
gibbets to each of you, and observe well, M. d'Artagnan,' added he
(observe it also, M. Menneville), 'I shall still have seven hundred and
thirty left for my private pleasure. And still further – '"
"Ah! ah!" said the auxiliaries, "is there still more?"
"A mere trifle. 'Monsieur d'Artagnan, I send to the king of France the
treaty in question, with a request that he will cast into the Bastile
provisionally, and then send to me, all who have taken part in this
expedition; and that is a prayer with which the king will certainly
A cry of terror broke from all corners of the table.
"There! there! there!" said D'Artagnan, "this brave M. Monk has forgotten
one thing, and that is he does not know the name of any one of you; I
alone know you, and it is not I, you well may believe, who will betray
you. Why should I? As for you - I cannot suppose you will be silly
enough to denounce yourselves, for then the king, to spare himself the
expense of feeding and lodging you, will send you off to Scotland, where
the seven hundred and forty-one gibbets are to be found. That is all,
messieurs; I have not another word to add to what I have had the honor to
tell you. I am sure you have understood me perfectly well, have you not,
"Perfectly," replied the latter.
"Now the crowns!" said D'Artagnan. "Shut the doors," he cried, and
opened the bag upon the table, from which rolled several fine gold
crowns. Every one made a movement towards the floor.
"Gently!" cried D'Artagnan. "Let no one stoop, and then I shall not be
out in my reckoning." He found it all right, gave fifty of those
splendid crowns to each man, and received as many benedictions as he
bestowed pieces. "Now," said he, "if it were possible for you to reform
a little, if you could become good and honest citizens - "
"That is rather difficult," said one of the troop.
"What then, captain?" said another.
"Because I might be able to find you again, and, who knows what other
good fortune?" He made a sign to Menneville, who listened to all he said
with a composed air. "Menneville," said he, "come with me. Adieu, my
brave fellows! I need not warn you to be discreet."
Menneville followed him, whilst the salutations of the auxiliaries were
mingled with the sweet sound of the money clinking in their pockets.
"Menneville," said D'Artagnan, when they were once in the street, "you
were not my dupe; beware of being so. You did not appear to have any
fear of the gibbets of Monk, or the Bastile of his majesty, King Louis
XIV., but you will do me the favor of being afraid of me. Then listen;
at the smallest word that shall escape you, I will kill you as I would a
fowl. I have absolution from our holy father, the pope, in my pocket."
"I assure you I know absolutely nothing, my dear M. d'Artagnan, and that
your words have all been to me so many articles of faith."
"I was quite sure you were an intelligent fellow," said the musketeer; "I
have tried you for a length of time. These fifty crowns which I give you
above the rest will prove the esteem I have for you. Take them."
"Thanks, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Menneville.
"With that sum you can really become an honest man," replied D'Artagnan,
in the most serious tone possible. "It would be disgraceful for a mind
like yours, and a name you no longer dare to bear, to sink forever under
the rust of an evil life. Become a gallant man, Menneville, and live for
a year upon those hundred gold crowns: it is a good provision; twice the
pay of a high officer. In a year come to me, and, _Mordioux!_ I will
make something of you."
Menneville swore, as his comrades had sworn, that he would be as silent
as the grave. And yet some one must have spoken; and as, certainly, it
was not one of the nine companions, and quite as certainly, it was not
Menneville, it must have been D'Artagnan, who, in his quality of a
Gascon, had his tongue very near to his lips. For, in short, if it were
not he, who could it be? And how can it be explained that the secret of
the deal coffer pierced with holes should come to our knowledge, and in
so complete a fashion that we have, as has been seen, related the history
of it in all its most minute details; details which, besides, throw a
light as new as unexpected upon all that portion of the history of
England which has been left, up to the present day, completely in
darkness by the historian of our neighbors?
In which it is seen that the French Grocer had already been established
in the Seventeenth Century.
His accounts once settled, and his recommendations made, D'Artagnan
thought of nothing but returning to Paris as soon as possible. Athos, on
his part, was anxious to reach home and to rest a little. However whole
the character and the man may remain after the fatigues of a voyage, the
traveler perceives with pleasure, at the close of the day - even though
the day has been a fine one - that night is approaching, and will bring a
little sleep with it. So, from Boulogne to Paris, jogging on, side by
side, the two friends, in some degree absorbed each in his individual
thoughts, conversed of nothing sufficiently interesting for us to repeat
to our readers. Each of them given up to his personal reflections, and
constructing his future after his own fashion, was, above all, anxious to
abridge the distance by speed. Athos and D'Artagnan arrived at the gates
of Paris on the evening of the fourth day after leaving Boulogne.
"Where are you going, my friend?" asked Athos. "I shall direct my course
straight to my hotel."
"And I straight to my partner's."
"Yes; at the Pilon d'Or."
"Well, but shall we not meet again?"
"If you remain in Paris, yes; for I shall stay here."
"No: after having embraced Raoul, with whom I have appointed a meeting at
my hotel, I shall set out immediately for La Fere."
"Well, adieu, then, dear and true friend."
"_Au revoir!_ I should rather say, for why can you not come and live
with me at Blois? You are free, you are rich, I shall purchase for you,
if you like, a handsome estate in the vicinity of Cheverny or of
Bracieux. On the one side you will have the finest woods in the world,
which join those of Chambord; on the other, admirable marshes. You who
love sporting, and who, whether you admit it or not, are a poet, my dear
friend, you will find pheasants, rail and teal, without counting sunsets
and excursions on the water, to make you fancy yourself Nimrod and Apollo
themselves. While awaiting the purchase, you can live at La Fere, and we
shall go together to fly our hawks among the vines, as Louis XIII. used
to do. That is a quiet amusement for old fellows like us."
D'Artagnan took the hands of Athos in his own. "Dear count," said he, "I
shall say neither 'Yes' nor 'No.' Let me pass in Paris the time
necessary for the regulation of my affairs, and accustom myself, by
degrees, to the heavy and glittering idea which is beating in my brain
and dazzles me. I am rich, you see, and from this moment until the time
when I shall have acquired the habit of being rich, I know myself, and I
shall be an insupportable animal. Now, I am not enough of a fool to wish
to appear to have lost my wits before a friend like you, Athos. The
cloak is handsome, the cloak is richly gilded, but it is new, and does
not seem to fit me."
Athos smiled. "So be it," said he. "But _a propos_ of this cloak, dear
D'Artagnan, will you allow me to offer you a little advice?"
"You will not be angry?"
"When wealth comes to a man late in life or all at once, that man, in
order not to change, must most likely become a miser - that is to say,
not spend much more money than he had done before; or else become a
prodigal, and contract so many debts as to become poor again."
"Oh! but what you say looks very much like a sophism, my dear philosophic
"I do not think so. Will you become a miser?"
"No, _pardieu!_ I was one already, having nothing. Let us change."
"Then be prodigal."
"Still less, _Mordioux!_ Debts terrify me. Creditors appear to me, by
anticipation, like those devils who turn the damned upon the gridirons,
and as patience is not my dominant virtue, I am always tempted to thrash
"You are the wisest man I know, and stand in no need of advice from any
one. Great fools must they be who think they have anything to teach
you. But are we not at the Rue Saint Honore?"
"Yes, dear Athos."
"Look yonder, on the left, that small, long white house is the hotel
where I lodge. You may observe that it has but two stories; I occupy the
first; the other is let to an officer whose duties oblige him to be
absent eight or nine months in the year, - so I am in that house as in my
own home, without the expense."
"Oh! how well you manage, Athos! What order and what liberality! They
are what I wish to unite! But, of what use trying! that comes from
birth, and cannot be acquired."
"You are a flatterer! Well! adieu, dear friend. _A propos_, remember me
to Master Planchet; he always was a bright fellow."
"And a man of heart, too, Athos. Adieu."
And the separated. During all this conversation, D'Artagnan had not for
a moment lost sight of a certain pack-horse, in whose panniers, under
some hay, were spread the _sacoches_ (messenger's bags) with the
portmanteau. Nine o'clock was striking at Saint-Merri. Planchet's helps
were shutting up his shop. D'Artagnan stopped the postilion who rode the
pack-horse, at the corner of the Rue des Lombards, under a pent-house,
and calling one of Planchet's boys, he desired him not only to take care
of the two horses, but to watch the postilion; after which he entered the
shop of the grocer, who had just finished supper, and who, in his little
private room, was, with a degree of anxiety, consulting the calendar, on
which, every evening, he scratched out the day that was past. At the
moment when Planchet, according to his daily custom, with the back of his
pen, erased another day, D'Artagnan kicked the door with his foot, and
the blow made his steel spur jingle. "Oh! good Lord!" cried Planchet.
The worthy grocer could say no more; he had just perceived his partner.
D'Artagnan entered with a bent back and a dull eye: the Gascon had an
idea with regard to Planchet.
"Good God!" thought the grocer, looking earnestly at the traveler, "he
looks sad!" The musketeer sat down.
"My dear Monsieur d'Artagnan!" said Planchet, with a horrible palpitation
of the heart. "Here you are! and your health?"
"Tolerably good, Planchet, tolerably good!" said D'Artagnan, with a
"You have not been wounded, I hope?"
"Ah, I see," continued Planchet, more and more alarmed, "the expedition
has been a trying one?"
"Yes," said D'Artagnan. A shudder ran down Planchet's back. "I should
like to have something to drink," said the musketeer, raising his head
Planchet ran to the cupboard, and poured out to D'Artagnan some wine in a
large glass. D'Artagnan examined the bottle.
"What wine is that?" asked he.
"Alas! that which you prefer, monsieur," said Planchet; "that good old
Anjou wine, which was one day nearly costing us all so dear."
"Ah!" replied D'Artagnan, with a melancholy smile, "Ah! my poor Planchet,
ought I still to drink good wine?"
"Come! my dear master," said Planchet, making a super-human effort,
whilst all his contracted muscles, his pallor and his trembling betrayed
the most acute anguish. "Come! I have been a soldier and consequently
have some courage; do not make me linger, dear Monsieur d'Artagnan; our
money is lost, is it not?"
Before he answered, D'Artagnan took his time, and that appeared an age to
the poor grocer. Nevertheless he did nothing but turn about on his chair.
"And if that were the case," said he, slowly, moving his head up and
down, "if that were the case, what would you say, my dear friend?"
Planchet, from being pale, turned yellow. It might have been thought he
was going to swallow his tongue, so full became his throat, so red were
"Twenty thousand livres!" murmured he. "Twenty thousand livres, and
yet - "
D'Artagnan, with his neck elongated, his legs stretched out, and his
hands hanging listlessly, looked like a statue of discouragement.
Planchet drew up a sigh from the deepest cavities of his breast.
"Well," said he, "I see how it is. Let us be men! It is all over, is it
not? The principal thing is, monsieur, that your life is safe."
"Doubtless! doubtless! - life is something - but I am ruined!"
"_Cordieu!_ monsieur!" said Planchet, "If it is so, we must not despair
for that; you shall become a grocer with me; I shall take you for my
partner, we will share the profits, and if there should be no more
profits, well, why then we shall share the almonds, raisins and prunes,
and we will nibble together the last quarter of Dutch cheese."
D'Artagnan could hold out no longer. "_Mordioux!_" cried he, with great
emotion, "thou art a brave fellow, on my honor, Planchet. You have not
been playing a part, have you? You have not seen the pack-horse with the
bags under the shed yonder?"
"What horse? What bags?" said Planchet, whose trembling heart began to
suggest that D'Artagnan was mad.
"Why, the English bags, _Mordioux!_" said D'Artagnan, all radiant, quite
"Ah! good God!" articulated Planchet, drawing back before the dazzling
fire of his looks.
"Imbecile!" cried D'Artagnan, "you think me mad! _Mordioux!_ On the
contrary, never was my head more clear, or my heart more joyous. To the
bags, Planchet, to the bags!"
"But to what bags, good heavens!"
D'Artagnan pushed Planchet towards the window.
"Under that shed yonder, don't you see a horse?"
"Don't you see how his back is laden?"
"Don't you see your lad talking with the postilion?"
"Yes, yes, yes!"
"Well, you know the name of that lad, because he is your own. Call him."
"Abdon! Abdon!" vociferated Planchet, from the window.
"Bring the horse!" shouted D'Artagnan.
"Bring the horse!" screamed Planchet.
"Now give ten livres to the postilion," said D'Artagnan, in the tone he
would have employed in commanding a maneuver; "two lads to bring up the
first two bags, two to bring up the two last, - and move, _Mordioux!_ be
Planchet rushed down the stairs, as if the devil had been at his heels.
A moment later the lads ascended the stairs, bending beneath their
burden. D'Artagnan sent them off to their garrets, carefully closed the
door, and addressing Planchet, who, in his turn, looked a little wild, -
"Now, we are by ourselves," said he; and he spread upon the floor a large
cover, and emptied the first bag into it. Planchet did the same with the
second; then D'Artagnan, all in a tremble, let out the precious bowels of
the third with a knife. When Planchet heard the provoking sound of the
silver and gold - when he saw bubbling out of the bags the shining
crowns, which glittered like fish from the sweep-net - when he felt
himself plunging his hands up to the elbows in that still rising tide of
yellow and white coins, a giddiness seized him, and like a man struck by
lightning, he sank heavily down upon the enormous heap, which his weight
caused to roll away in all directions. Planchet, suffocated with joy,
had lost his senses. D'Artagnan threw a glass of white wine in his face,
which incontinently recalled him to life.
"Ah! good heavens! good heavens! good heavens!" said Planchet, wiping his
mustache and beard.
At that time, as they do now, grocers wore the cavalier mustache and the
lansquenet beard, only the money baths, already rare in those days, have
become almost unknown now.
"_Mordioux!_" said D'Artagnan, "there are a hundred thousand livres for
you, partner. Draw your share, if you please, and I will draw mine."
"Oh! the lovely sum! Monsieur d'Artagnan, the lovely sum!"
"I confess that half an hour ago I regretted that I had to give you so
much; but now I no longer regret it; thou art a brave grocer, Planchet.
There, let us close our accounts, for, as they say, short reckonings make
"Oh! rather, in the first place, tell me the whole history," said
Planchet; "that must be better than the money."
"_Ma foi!_" said D'Artagnan, stroking his mustache, "I can't say no; and
if ever the historian turns to me for information, he will be able to say
he has not dipped his bucket into a dry spring. Listen, then, Planchet,
I will tell you all about it."
"And I shall build piles of crowns," said Planchet. "Begin, my dear
"Well, this is it," said D'Artagnan, drawing his breath.
"And that is it," said Planchet, picking up his first handful of crowns.
Mazarin's Gaming Party.
In a large chamber of the Palais Royal, hung with a dark colored velvet,
which threw into strong relief the gilded frames of a great number of
magnificent pictures, on the evening of the arrival of the two Frenchmen,
the whole court was assembled before the alcove of M. le Cardinal de
Mazarin, who gave a card party to the king and queen.
A small screen separated three prepared tables. At one of these tables
the king and the two queens were seated. Louis XIV., placed opposite to
the young queen, his wife, smiled upon her with an expression of real
happiness. Anne of Austria held the cards against the cardinal, and her
daughter-in-law assisted her in the game, when she was not engaged in
smiling at her husband. As for the cardinal, who was lying on his bed
with a weary and careworn face, his cards were held by the Comtesse de
Soissons, and he watched them with an incessant look of interest and
The cardinal's face had been painted by Bernouin; but the rouge, which
glowed only on his cheeks, threw into stronger contrast the sickly pallor
of his countenance and the shining yellow of his brow. His eyes alone
acquired a more brilliant luster from this auxiliary, and upon those sick
man's eyes were, from time to time, turned the uneasy looks of the king,
the queen, and the courtiers. The fact is, that the two eyes of the
Signor Mazarin were the stars more or less brilliant in which the France
of the seventeenth century read its destiny every evening and every
Monseigneur neither won nor lost; he was, therefore, neither gay nor
sad. It was a stagnation in which, full of pity for him, Anne of Austria
would not have willingly left him; but in order to attract the attention
of the sick man by some brilliant stroke, she must have either won or
lost. To win would have been dangerous, because Mazarin would have
changed his indifference into an ugly grimace; to lose would likewise
have been dangerous, because she must have cheated, and the infanta, who
watched her game, would, doubtless, have exclaimed against her partiality
for Mazarin. Profiting by this calm, the courtiers were chatting. When
not in a bad humor, M. de Mazarin was a very _debonnaire_ prince, and he,
who prevented nobody from singing, provided they paid, was not tyrant
enough to prevent people from talking, provided they made up their minds
They were therefore chatting. At the first table, the king's younger
brother, Philip, Duc d'Anjou, was admiring his handsome face in the glass
of a box. His favorite, the Chevalier de Lorraine, leaning over the back
of the prince's chair, was listening, with secret envy, to the Comte de
Guiche, another of Philip's favorites, who was relating in choice terms
the various vicissitudes of fortune of the royal adventurer Charles II.
He told, as so many fabulous events, all the history of his
perigrinations in Scotland, and his terrors when the enemy's party was so
closely on his track; of nights spent in trees, and days spent in hunger
and combats. By degrees, the fate of the unfortunate king interested his
auditors so greatly, that the play languished even at the royal table,
and the young king, with a pensive look and downcast eye, followed,
without appearing to give any attention to it, the smallest details of
this Odyssey, very picturesquely related by the Comte de Guiche.
The Comtesse de Soissons interrupted the narrator: "Confess, count, you
"Madame, I am repeating like a parrot all the stories related to me by
different Englishmen. To my shame I am compelled to say, I am as exact
as a copy."
"Charles II. would have died before he could have endured all that."
Louis XIV. raised his intelligent and proud head. "Madame," said he, in
a grave tone, still partaking something of the timid child, "monsieur le
cardinal will tell you that during my minority the affairs of France were
in jeopardy, - and that if I had been older, and obliged to take sword in
hand, it would sometimes have been for the purpose of procuring the
"Thanks to God," said the cardinal, who spoke for the first time, "your
majesty exaggerates, and your supper has always been ready with that of
The king colored.
"Oh!" cried Philip, inconsiderately, from his place, and without ceasing
to admire himself, - "I recollect once, at Melun, the supper was laid for
nobody, and that the king ate two-thirds of a slice of bread, and
abandoned to me the other third."
The whole assembly, seeing Mazarin smile, began to laugh. Courtiers
flatter kings with the remembrance of past distresses, as with the hopes
of future good fortune.
"It is not to be denied that the crown of France has always remained firm
upon the heads of its kings," Anne of Austria hastened to say, "and that
it has fallen off of that of the king of England; and when by chance that
crown oscillated a little, - for there are throne-quakes as well as
earthquakes, - every time, I say, that rebellion threatened it, a good
victory restored tranquillity."
"With a few gems added to the crown," said Mazarin.
The Comte de Guiche was silent: the king composed his countenance, and
Mazarin exchanged looks with Anne of Austria, as if to thank her for her
"It is of no consequence," said Philip, smoothing his hair; "my cousin
Charles is not handsome, but he is very brave, and fought like a
landsknecht; and if he continues to fight thus, no doubt he will finish
by gaining a battle, like Rocroi - "
"He has no soldiers," interrupted the Chevalier de Lorraine.
"The king of Holland, his ally, will give him some. I would willingly
have given him some if I had been king of France."
Louis XIV. blushed excessively. Mazarin affected to be more attentive to
his game than ever.
"By this time," resumed the Comte de Guiche, "the fortune of this unhappy
prince is decided. If he has been deceived by Monk, he is ruined.
Imprisonment, perhaps death, will finish what exiles, battles, and
privations have commenced."
Mazarin's brow became clouded.
"It is certain," said Louis XIV., "that his majesty Charles II., has
quitted the Hague?"
"Quite certain, your majesty," replied the young man; "my father has
received a letter containing all the details; it is even known that the
king has landed at Dover; some fishermen saw him entering the port; the
rest is still a mystery."
"I should like to know the rest," said Philip, impetuously. "You know, -
you, my brother."
Louis XIV. colored again. That was the third time within an hour. "Ask
my lord cardinal," replied he, in a tone which made Mazarin, Anne of
Austria, and everybody else open their eyes.
"That means, my son," said Anne of Austria, laughing, "that the king does
not like affairs of state to be talked of out of the council."
Philip received the reprimand with good grace, and bowed, first smiling
at his brother, and then at his mother. But Mazarin saw from the corner
of his eye that a group was about to be formed in the corner of the room,
and that the Duc d'Anjou, with the Comte de Guiche, and the Chevalier de
Lorraine, prevented from talking aloud, might say, in a whisper, what it
was not convenient should be said. He was beginning, then, to dart at
them glances full of mistrust and uneasiness, inviting Anne of Austria to
throw perturbation in the midst of the unlawful assembly, when, suddenly,
Bernouin, entering from behind the tapestry of the bedroom, whispered in
the ear of Mazarin, "Monseigneur, an envoy from his majesty, the king of
Mazarin could not help exhibiting a slight emotion, which was perceived
by the king. To avoid being indiscreet, rather than to appear useless,
Louis XIV. rose immediately, and approaching his eminence, wished him
good-night. All the assembly had risen with a great noise of rolling of
chairs and tables being pushed away.
"Let everybody depart by degrees," said Mazarin in a whisper to Louis
XIV., "and be so good as to excuse me a few minutes. I am going to
dispatch an affair about which I wish to converse with your majesty this
"And the queens?" asked Louis XIV.
"And M. le Duc d'Anjou," said his eminence.
At the same time he turned round in his _ruelle_, the curtains of which,
in falling, concealed the bed. The cardinal, nevertheless, did not lose
sight of the conspirators.
"M. le Comte de Guiche," said he, in a fretful voice, whilst putting on,
behind the curtain, his dressing-gown, with the assistance of Bernouin.
"I am here, my lord," said the young man, as he approached.
"Take my cards, you are lucky. Win a little money for me of these
"Yes, my lord."
The young man sat down at the table from which the king withdrew to talk
with the two queens. A serious game was commenced between the comte and
several rich courtiers. In the meantime Philip was discussing the
questions of dress with the Chevalier de Lorraine, and they had ceased to
hear the rustling of the cardinal's silk robe from behind the curtain.
His eminence had followed Bernouin into the closet adjoining the bedroom.
An Affair of State.
The cardinal, on passing into his cabinet, found the Comte de la Fere,
who was waiting for him, engaged in admiring a very fine Raphael placed
over a sideboard covered with a plate. His eminence came in softly,
lightly, and as silently as a shadow, and surprised the countenance of
the comte, as he was accustomed to do, pretending to divine by the simple
expression of the face of his interlocutor what would be the result of
But this time Mazarin was foiled in his expectation: he read nothing upon
the face of Athos, not even the respect he was accustomed to see on all
faces. Athos was dressed in black, with a simple lacing of silver. He
wore the Holy Ghost, the Garter, and the Golden Fleece, three orders of
such importance, that a king alone, or else a player, could wear them at
Mazarin rummaged a long time in his somewhat troubled memory to recall
the name he ought to give to this icy figure, but he did not succeed. "I
am told," said he, at length, "you have a message from England for me."
And he sat down, dismissing Bernouin, who, in his quality of secretary,
was getting his pen ready.
"On the part of his majesty, the king of England, yes, your eminence."
"You speak very good French for an Englishman, monsieur," said Mazarin,
graciously, looking through his fingers at the Holy Ghost, Garter, and
Golden Fleece, but more particularly at the face of the messenger.
"I am not an Englishman, but a Frenchman, monsieur le cardinal," replied
"It is remarkable that the king of England should choose a Frenchman for
his ambassador; it is an excellent augury. Your name, monsieur, if you
"Comte de la Fere," replied Athos, bowing more slightly than the
ceremonial and pride of the all-powerful minister required.
Mazarin bent his shoulders, as if to say: -
"I do not know that name."
Athos did not alter his carriage.
"And you come, monsieur," continued Mazarin, "to tell me - "
"I come on the part of his majesty the king of Great Britain to announce
to the king of France" - Mazarin frowned - "to announce to the king of
France," continued Athos, imperturbably, "the happy restoration of his
majesty Charles II. to the throne of his ancestors."
This shade did not escape his cunning eminence. Mazarin was too much
accustomed to mankind, not to see in the cold and almost haughty
politeness of Athos, an index of hostility, which was not of the
temperature of that hot-house called a court.
"You have powers, I suppose?" asked Mazarin, in a short, querulous tone.
"Yes, monseigneur." And the word "monseigneur" came so painfully from
the lips of Athos that it might be said it skinned them.
Athos took from an embroidered velvet bag which he carried under his
doublet a dispatch. The cardinal held out his hand for it. "Your
pardon, monseigneur," said Athos. "My dispatch is for the king."
"Since you are a Frenchman, monsieur, you ought to know the position of a
prime minister at the court of France."
"There was a time," replied Athos, "when I occupied myself with the
importance of prime ministers; but I have formed, long ago, a resolution
to treat no longer with any but the king."
"Then, monsieur," said Mazarin, who began to be irritated, "you will
neither see the minister nor the king."
Mazarin rose. Athos replaced his dispatch in its bag, bowed gravely, and
made several steps towards the door. This coolness exasperated Mazarin.
"What strange diplomatic proceedings are these!" cried he. "Have we
returned to the times when Cromwell sent us bullies in the guise of
_charges d'affaires?_ You want nothing, monsieur, but the steel cap on
your head, and a Bible at your girdle."
"Monsieur," said Athos, dryly, "I have never had, as you have, the
advantage of treating with Cromwell; and I have only seen his _charges
d'affaires_ sword in hand; I am therefore ignorant of how he treated with
prime ministers. As for the king of England, Charles II., I know that
when he writes to his majesty King Louis XIV., he does not write to his
eminence the Cardinal Mazarin. I see no diplomacy in that distinction."
"Ah!" cried Mazarin, raising his attenuated hand, and striking his head,
"I remember now!" Athos looked at him in astonishment. "Yes, that is
it!" said the cardinal, continuing to look at his interlocutor; "yes,
that is certainly it. I know you now, monsieur. Ah! _diavolo!_ I am no
"In fact, I was astonished that, with your eminence's excellent memory,"
replied Athos, smiling, "you had not recognized me before."
"Always refractory and grumbling - monsieur - monsieur - What do they
call you? Stop - a name of a river - Potamos; no - the name of an island
- Naxos; no, _per Giove!_ - the name of a mountain - Athos! now I have
it. Delighted to see you again, and to be no longer at Rueil, where you
and your damned companions made me pay ransom. Fronde! still Fronde!
accursed Fronde! Oh, what grudges! Why, monsieur, have your antipathies
survived mine? If any one has cause to complain, I think it could not be
you, who got out of the affair not only in a sound skin, but with the
_cordon_ of the Holy Ghost around your neck."
"My lord cardinal," replied Athos, "permit me not to enter into
considerations of that kind. I have a mission to fulfill. Will you
facilitate the means of my fulfilling that mission, or will you not?"
"I am astonished," said Mazarin, - quite delighted at having recovered
his memory, and bristling with malice, - "I am astonished, Monsieur –
Athos - that a _Frondeur_ like you should have accepted a mission for the
Perfidious Mazarin, as used to be said in the good old times - " And
Mazarin began to laugh, in spite of a painful cough, which cut short his
sentences, converting them into sobs.
"I have only accepted the mission near the king of France, monsieur le
cardinal," retorted the comte, though with less asperity, for he thought
he had sufficiently the advantage to show himself moderate.
"And yet, _Monsieur le Frondeur_," said Mazarin, gayly, "the affair which
you have taken in charge must, from the king - "
"With which I have been given in charge, monseigneur. I do not run after
"Be it so. I say that this negotiation must pass through my hands. Let
us lose no precious time, then. Tell me the conditions."
"I have had the honor of assuring your eminence that only the letter of
his majesty King Charles II. contains the revelation of his wishes."
"Pooh! you are ridiculous with your obstinacy, Monsieur Athos. It is
plain you have kept company with the Puritans yonder. As to your secret,
I know it better than you do; and you have done wrongly, perhaps, in not
having shown some respect for a very old and suffering man, who has
labored much during his life, and kept the field for his ideas as bravely
as you have for yours. You will not communicate your letter to me? You
will say nothing to me? Very well! Come with me into my chamber; you
shall speak to the king - and before the king. - Now, then, one last
word: who gave you the Fleece? I remember you passed for having the
Garter; but as to the Fleece, I do not know - "
"Recently, my lord, Spain, on the occasion of the marriage of his majesty
Louis XIV., sent King Charles II. a brevet of the Fleece in blank;
Charles II. immediately transmitted it to me, filling up the blank with
Mazarin arose, and leaning on the arm of Bernouin, he returned to his
_ruelle_ at the moment the name of M. le Prince was being announced. The
Prince de Conde, the first prince of the blood, the conqueror of Rocroi,
Lens, and Nordlingen, was, in fact, entering the apartment of Monseigneur
de Mazarin, followed by his gentlemen, and had already saluted the king,
when the prime minister raised his curtain. Athos had time to see Raoul
pressing the hand of the Comte de Guiche, and send him a smile in return
for his respectful bow. He had time, likewise, to see the radiant
countenance of the cardinal, when he perceived before him, upon the
table, an enormous heap of gold, which the Comte de Guiche had won in a
run of luck, after his eminence had confided his cards to him. So
forgetting ambassador, embassy and prince, his first thought was of the
gold. "What!" cried the old man - "all that - won?"
"Some fifty thousand crowns; yes, monseigneur," replied the Comte de
Guiche, rising. "Must I give up my place to your eminence, or shall I
"Give up! give up! you are mad. You would lose all you have won.
"My lord!" said the Prince de Conde, bowing.
"Good-evening, monsieur le prince," said the minister, in a careless
tone; "it is very kind of you to visit an old sick friend."
"A friend!" murmured the Comte de la Fere, at witnessing with stupor this
monstrous alliance of words; - "friends! when the parties are Conde and
Mazarin seemed to divine the thoughts of the _Frondeur_, for he smiled
upon him with triumph, and immediately, - "Sire," said he to the king, "I
have the honor of presenting to your majesty, Monsieur le Comte de la
Fere, ambassador from his Britannic majesty. An affair of state,
gentlemen," added he, waving his hand to all who filled the chamber, and
who, the Prince de Conde at their head, all disappeared at the simple
gesture. Raoul, after a last look cast at the comte, followed M. de
Conde. Philip of Anjou and the queen appeared to be consulting about
"A family affair," said Mazarin, suddenly, detaining them in their
seats. "This gentleman is the bearer of a letter in which King Charles
II., completely restored to his throne, demands an alliance between
Monsieur, the brother of the king, and Mademoiselle Henrietta, grand-
daughter of Henry IV. Will you remit your letter of credit to the king,
monsieur le comte?"
Athos remained for a minute stupefied. How could the minister possibly
know the contents of the letter, which had never been out of his keeping
for a single instant? Nevertheless, always master of himself, he held
out the dispatch to the young king, Louis XIV., who took it with a
blush. A solemn silence reigned in the cardinal's chamber. It was only
troubled by the dull sound of the gold, which Mazarin, with his yellow,
dry hand, piled up in a casket, whilst the king was reading.
The maliciousness of the cardinal did not leave much for the ambassador
to say; nevertheless, the word "restoration" had struck the king, who,
addressing the comte, upon whom his eyes had been fixed since his
entrance, - "Monsieur," said he, "will you have the kindness to give us
some details concerning the affairs of England. You come from that
country, you are a Frenchman, and the orders which I see glittering upon
your person announce you to be a man of merit as well as a man of
"Monsieur," said the cardinal, turning towards the queen-mother, "is an
ancient servant of your majesty's, Monsieur le Comte de la Fere."
Anne of Austria was as oblivious as a queen whose life had been mingled
with fine and stormy days. She looked at Mazarin, whose evil smile
promised her something disagreeable; then she solicited from Athos, by
another look, an explanation.
"Monsieur," continued the cardinal, "was a Treville musketeer, in the
service of the late king. Monsieur is well acquainted with England,
whither he has made several voyages at various periods; he is a subject
of the highest merit."
These words made allusion to all the memories which Anne of Austria
trembled to evoke. England, that was her hatred of Richelieu and her
love for Buckingham; a Treville musketeer, that was the whole Odyssey of
the triumphs which had made the heart of the young woman throb, and of
the dangers which had been so near overturning the throne of the young
queen. These words had much power, for they rendered mute and attentive
all the royal personages, who, with very various sentiments, set about
recomposing at the same time the mysteries which the young had not seen,
and which the old had believed to be forever effaced.
"Speak, monsieur," said Louis XIV., the first to escape from troubles,
suspicions, and remembrances.
"Yes, speak," added Mazarin, to whom the little malicious thrust directed
against Anne of Austria had restored energy and gayety.
"Sire," said the comte, "a sort of miracle has changed the whole destiny
of Charles II. That which men, till that time, had been unable to do,
God resolved to accomplish."
Mazarin coughed while tossing about in his bed.
"King Charles II.," continued Athos, "left the Hague neither as a
fugitive nor a conqueror, but as an absolute king, who, after a distant
voyage from his kingdom, returns amidst universal benedictions."
"A great miracle, indeed," said Mazarin; "for, if the news was true, King
Charles II., who has just returned amidst benedictions, went away amidst
The king remained impassible. Philip, younger and more frivolous, could
not repress a smile, which flattered Mazarin as an applause of his
"It is plain," said the king, "there is a miracle; but God, who does so
much for kings, monsieur le comte, nevertheless employs the hand of man
to bring about the triumph of His designs. To what men does Charles II.
principally owe his re-establishment?"
"Why," interrupted Mazarin, without any regard for the king's pride –
"does not your majesty know that it is to M. Monk?"
"I ought to know it," replied Louis XIV., resolutely; "and yet I ask my
lord ambassador, the causes of the change in this General Monk?"
"And your majesty touches precisely the question," replied Athos; "for
without the miracle of which I have had the honor to speak, General Monk
would probably have remained an implacable enemy of Charles II. God
willed that a strange, bold, and ingenious idea should enter into the
mind of a certain man, whilst a devoted and courageous idea took
possession of the mind of another man. The combinations of these two
ideas brought about such a change in the position of M. Monk, that, from
an inveterate enemy, he became a friend to the deposed king."
"These are exactly the details I asked for," said the king. "Who and
what are the two men of whom you speak?"
"Two Frenchmen, sire."
"Indeed! I am glad of that."
"And the two ideas," said Mazarin; - "I am more curious about ideas than
about men, for my part."
"Yes," murmured the king.
"The second idea, the devoted, reasonable idea - the least important, sir
- was to go and dig up a million in gold, buried by King Charles I. at
Newcastle, and to purchase with that gold the adherence of Monk."
"Oh, oh!" said Mazarin, reanimated by the word million. "But Newcastle
was at the time occupied by Monk."
"Yes, monsieur le cardinal, and that is why I venture to call the idea
courageous as well as devoted. It was necessary, if Monk refused the
offers of the negotiator, to reinstate King Charles II. in possession of
this million, which was to be torn, as it were, from the loyalty and not
the loyalism of General Monk. This was effected in spite of many
difficulties: the general proved to be loyal, and allowed the money to be
"It seems to me," said the timid, thoughtful king, "that Charles II.
could not have known of this million whilst he was in Paris."
"It seems to me," rejoined the cardinal, maliciously, "that his majesty
the king of Great Britain knew perfectly well of this million, but that
he preferred having two millions to having one."
"Sire," said Athos, firmly, "the king of England, whilst in France, was
so poor that he had not even money to take the post; so destitute of hope
that he frequently thought of dying. He was so entirely ignorant of the
existence of the million at Newcastle, that but for a gentleman - one of
your majesty's subjects - the moral depositary of the million, who
revealed the secret to King Charles II., that prince would still be
vegetating in the most cruel forgetfulness."
"Let us pass on to the strange, bold and ingenious idea," interrupted
Mazarin, whose sagacity foresaw a check. "What was that idea?"
"This - M. Monk formed the only obstacle to the re-establishment of the
fallen king. A Frenchman imagined the idea of suppressing this obstacle."
"Oh! oh! but he is a scoundrel, that Frenchman," said Mazarin; "and the
idea is not so ingenious as to prevent its author being tied up by the
neck at the Place de Greve, by decree of the parliament."
"Your eminence is mistaken," replied Athos, dryly; "I did not say that
the Frenchman in question had resolved to assassinate M. Monk, but only
to suppress him. The words of the French language have a value which the
gentlemen of France know perfectly. Besides, this is an affair of war;
and when men serve kings against their enemies they are not to be
condemned by a parliament - God is their judge. This French gentleman,
then, formed the idea of gaining possession of the person of Monk, and he
executed his plan."
The king became animated at the recital of great actions. The king's
younger brother struck the table with his hand, exclaiming, "Ah! that is
"He carried off Monk?" said the king. "Why, Monk was in his camp."
"And the gentleman was alone, sire."
"That is marvelous!" said Philip.
"Marvelous, indeed!" cried the king.
"Good! There are the two little lions unchained," murmured the
cardinal. And with an air of spite, which he did not dissemble: "I am
unacquainted with these details, will you guarantee their authenticity,
"All the more easily, my lord cardinal, from having seen the events."
The king had involuntarily drawn close to the count, the Duc d'Anjou had
turned sharply round, and pressed Athos on the other side.
"What next? monsieur, what next?" cried they both at the same time.
"Sire, M. Monk, being taken by the Frenchman, was brought to King Charles
II., at the Hague. The king gave back his freedom to Monk, and the
grateful general, in return, gave Charles II. the throne of Great
Britain, for which so many valiant men had fought in vain."
Philip clapped his hands with enthusiasm, Louis XIV., more reflective,
turned towards the Comte de la Fere.
"Is this true," said he, "in all its details?"
"Absolutely true, sire."
"That one of my gentlemen knew the secret of the million, and kept it?"
"The name of that gentleman?"
"It was your humble servant," said Athos, simply, and bowing.
A murmur of admiration made the heart of Athos swell with pleasure. He
had reason to be proud, at least. Mazarin, himself, had raised his arms
"Monsieur," said the king, "I shall seek and find means to reward you."
Athos made a movement. "Oh, not for your honesty, to be paid for that
would humiliate you; but I owe you a reward for having participated in
the restoration of my brother, King Charles II."
"Certainly," said Mazarin.
"It is the triumph of a good cause which fills the whole house of France
with joy," said Anne of Austria.
" I continue," said Louis XIV.: "Is it also true that a single man
penetrated to Monk, in his camp, and carried him off?"
"That man had ten auxiliaries, taken from a very inferior rank."
"And nothing more but them?"
"And he is named?"
"Monsieur d'Artagnan, formerly lieutenant of the musketeers of your
Anne of Austria colored; Mazarin became yellow with shame; Louis XIV. was
deeply thoughtful, and a drop of moisture fell from his pale brow. "What
men!" murmured he. And, involuntarily, he darted a glance at the
minister which would have terrified him, if Mazarin, at the moment, had
not concealed his head under his pillow.
"Monsieur," said the young Duc d'Anjou, placing his hand, delicate and
white as that of a woman, upon the arm of Athos, "tell that brave man, I
beg you, that Monsieur, brother of the king, will to-morrow drink his
health before five hundred of the best gentlemen of France." And, on
finishing those words, the young man, perceiving that his enthusiasm had
deranged one of his ruffles, set to work to put it to rights with the
greatest care imaginable.
"Let us resume business, sire," interrupted Mazarin, who never was
enthusiastic, and who wore no ruffles.
"Yes, monsieur," replied Louis XIV. "Pursue your communication, monsieur
le comte," added he, turning towards Athos.
Athos immediately began and offered in due form the hand of the Princess
Henrietta Stuart to the young prince, the king's brother. The conference
lasted an hour; after which the doors of the chamber were thrown open to
the courtiers, who resumed their places as if nothing had been kept from
them in the occupations of that evening. Athos then found himself again
with Raoul, and the father and son were able to clasp each other's hands.
In which Mazarin becomes Prodigal.
Whilst Mazarin was endeavoring to recover from the serious alarm he had
just experienced, Athos and Raoul were exchanging a few words in a corner
of the apartment. "Well, here you are at Paris, then, Raoul?" said the
"Yes, monsieur, since the return of M. le Prince."
"I cannot converse freely with you here, because we are observed; but I
shall return home presently, and shall expect you as soon as your duty
Raoul bowed, and, at that moment, M. le Prince came up to them. The
prince had that clear and keen look which distinguishes birds of prey of
the noble species; his physiognomy itself presented several distinct
traits of this resemblance. It is known that in the Prince de Conde, the
aquiline nose rose out sharply and incisively from a brow slightly
retreating, rather low than high, and according to the railers of the
court, - a pitiless race without mercy even for genius, - constituted
rather an eagle's beak than a human nose, in the heir of the illustrious
princes of the house of Conde. This penetrating look, this imperious
expression of the whole countenance, generally disturbed those to whom
the prince spoke, more than either majesty or regular beauty could have
done in the conqueror of Rocroi. Besides this, the fire mounted so
suddenly to his projecting eyes, that with the prince every sort of
animation resembled passion. Now, on account of his rank, everybody at
the court respected M. le Prince, and many even, seeing only the man,
carried their respect as far as terror.
Louis de Conde then advanced towards the Comte de la Fere and Raoul, with
the marked intention of being saluted by the one, and of speaking with
the other. No man bowed with more reserved grace than the Comte de la
Fere. He disdained to put into a salutation all the shades which a
courtier ordinarily borrows from the same color - the desire to please.
Athos knew his own personal value, and bowed to the prince like a man,
correcting by something sympathetic and undefinable that which might have
appeared offensive to the pride of the highest rank in the inflexibility
of his attitude. The prince was about to speak to Raoul. Athos
forestalled him. "If M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne," said he, "were not
one of the humble servants of your royal highness, I would beg him to
pronounce my name before you - _mon prince_."
"I have the honor to address Monsieur le Comte de la Fere," said Conde,
"My protector," added Raoul, blushing.
"One of the most honorable men in the kingdom," continued the prince;
"one of the first gentlemen of France, and of whom I have heard so much
that I have frequently desired to number him among my friends."
"An honor of which I should be unworthy," replied Athos, "but for the
respect and admiration I entertain for your royal highness."
"Monsieur de Bragelonne," said the prince, "is a good officer, and it is
plainly seen that he has been to a good school. Ah, monsieur le comte,
in your time, generals had soldiers!"
"That is true, my lord, but nowadays soldiers have generals."
This compliment, which savored so little of flattery, gave a thrill of
joy to the man whom already Europe considered a hero; and who might be
thought to be satiated with praise.
"I regret very much," continued the prince, "that you should have retired
from the service, monsieur le comte; for it is more than probable that
the king will soon have a war with Holland or England, and opportunities
for distinguishing himself would not be wanting for a man who, like you,
knows Great Britain as well as you do France."
"I believe I may say, monseigneur, that I have acted wisely in retiring
from the service," said Athos, smiling. "France and Great Britain will
henceforward live like two sisters, if I can trust my presentiments."
"Stop, monseigneur, listen to what is being said yonder, at the table of
my lord the cardinal."
"Where they are playing?"
"Yes, my lord."
The cardinal had just raised himself on one elbow, and made a sign to the
king's brother, who went to him.
"My lord," said the cardinal, "pick up, if you please, all those gold
crowns." And he pointed to the enormous pile of yellow and glittering
pieces which the Comte de Guiche had raised by degrees before him by a
surprising run of luck at play.
"For me?" cried the Duc d'Anjou.
"Those fifty thousand crowns; yes, monseigneur, they are yours."
"Do you give them to me?"
"I have been playing on your account, monseigneur," replied the cardinal,
getting weaker and weaker, as if this effort of giving money had
exhausted all his physical and moral faculties.
"Oh, good heavens!" exclaimed Philip, wild with joy, "what a fortunate
day!" And he himself, making a rake of his fingers, drew a part of the
sum into his pockets, which he filled, and still full a third remained on
"Chevalier," said Philip to his favorite, the Chevalier de Lorraine,
"come hither, chevalier." The favorite quickly obeyed. "Pocket the
rest," said the young prince.
This singular scene was considered by the persons present only as a
touching kind of family _fete_. The cardinal assumed the airs of a
father with the sons of France, and the two princes had grown up under
his wing. No one then imputed to pride, or even impertinence, as would
be done nowadays, this liberality on the part of the first minister. The
courtiers were satisfied with envying the prince. - The king turned away
"I never had so much money before," said the young prince, joyously, as
he crossed the chamber with his favorite to go to his carriage. "No,
never! What a weight these crowns are!"
"But why has monsieur le cardinal given away all this money at once?"
asked M. le Prince of the Comte de la Fere. "He must be very ill, the
"Yes, my lord, very ill, without doubt; he looks very ill, as your royal
highness may perceive."
"But surely he will die of it. A hundred and fifty thousand livres! Oh,
it is incredible! But, comte, tell me a reason for it?"
"Patience, monseigneur, I beg of you. Here comes M. le Duc d'Anjou,
talking with the Chevalier de Lorraine; I should not be surprised if they
spared us the trouble of being indiscreet. Listen to them."
In fact the chevalier said to the prince in a low voice, "My lord, it is
not natural for M. Mazarin to give you so much money. Take care! you
will let some of the pieces fall, my lord. What design has the cardinal
upon you to make him so generous?"
"As I said," whispered Athos in the prince's ear; "that, perhaps, is the
best reply to your question."
"Tell me, my lord," repeated the chevalier impatiently, as he was
calculating, by weighing them in his pocket, the quota of the sum which
had fallen to his share by rebound.
"My dear chevalier, a wedding present."
"How a wedding present?"
"Eh! yes, I am going to be married," replied the Duc d'Anjou, without
perceiving, at the moment, he was passing the prince and Athos, who both
The chevalier darted at the young duke a glance so strange, and so
malicious, that the Comte de la Fere quite started on beholding it.
"You! you to be married!" repeated he; "oh! that's impossible. You would
not commit such a folly!"
"Bah! I don't do it myself; I am made to do it," replied the Duc
d'Anjou. "But come, quick! let us get rid of our money." Thereupon he
disappeared with his companion, laughing and talking, whilst all heads
were bowed on his passage.
"Then," whispered the prince to Athos, "that is the secret."
"It was not I who told you so, my lord."
"He is to marry the sister of Charles II.?"
"I believe so."
The prince reflected for a moment, and his eye shot forth one of its not
infrequent flashes. "Humph!" said he slowly, as if speaking to himself;
"our swords are once more to be hung on the wall - for a long time!" and
All that sigh contained of ambition silently stifled, of extinguished
illusions and disappointed hopes, Athos alone divined, for he alone heard
that sigh. Immediately after, the prince took leave and the king left
the apartment. Athos, by a sign made to Bragelonne, renewed the desire
he had expressed at the beginning of the scene. By degrees the chamber
was deserted, and Mazarin was left alone, a prey to suffering which he
could no longer dissemble. "Bernouin! Bernouin!" cried he in a broken
"What does monseigneur want?"
"Guenaud - let Guenaud be sent for," said his eminence. "I think I'm
Bernouin, in great terror, rushed into the cabinet to give the order, and
the _piqueur_, who hastened to fetch the physician, passed the king's
carriage in the Rue Saint Honore.
The cardinal's order was pressing; Guenaud quickly obeyed it. He found
his patient stretched on his bed, his legs swelled, his face livid, and
his stomach collapsed. Mazarin had a severe attack of gout. He suffered
tortures with the impatience of a man who has not been accustomed to
resistances. On seeing Guenaud: "Ah!" said he; "now I am saved!"
Guenaud was a very learned and circumspect man, who stood in no need of
the critiques of Boileau to obtain a reputation. When facing a disease,
if it were personified in a king, he treated the patient as a Turk treats
a Moor. He did not, therefore, reply to Mazarin as the minister
expected: "Here is the doctor; good-bye disease!" On the contrary, on
examining his patient, with a very serious air:
"Oh! oh!" said he.
"Eh! what! Guenaud! How you look at me!"
"I look as I should on seeing your complaint, my lord; it is a very
"The gout - oh! yes, the gout."
"With complications, my lord."
Mazarin raised himself upon his elbow, and, questioning by look and
gesture: "What do you mean by that? Am I worse than I believe myself to
"My lord," said Guenaud, seating himself beside the bed; "your eminence
has worked very hard during your life; your eminence has suffered much."
"But I am not old, I fancy. The late M. de Richelieu was but seventeen
months younger than I am when he died, and died of a mortal disease. I
am young, Guenaud: remember, I am scarcely fifty-two."
"Oh! my lord, you are much more than that. How long did the Fronde last?"
"For what purpose do you put such a question to me?"
"For a medical calculation, monseigneur."
"Well, some ten years - off and on."
"Very well; be kind enough to reckon every year of the Fronde as three
years - that makes thirty; now twenty and fifty-two makes seventy-two
years. You are seventy-two, my lord; and that is a great age."
Whilst saying this, he felt the pulse of his patient. This pulse was
full of such fatal indications, that the physician continued,
notwithstanding the interruptions of the patient: "Put down the years of
the Fronde at four each, and you have lived eighty-two years."
"Are you speaking seriously, Guenaud?"
"Alas! yes, monseigneur."
"You take a roundabout way, then, to inform me that I am very ill?"
"_Ma foi!_ yes, my lord, and with a man of the mind and courage of your
eminence, it ought not to be necessary to do so."
The cardinal breathed with such difficulty that he inspired pity even in
a pitiless physician. "There are diseases and diseases," resumed
Mazarin. "From some of them people escape."
"That is true, my lord."
"Is it not?" cried Mazarin, almost joyously; "for, in short, what else
would be the use of power, of strength of will? What would the use of
genius be - your genius, Guenaud? What would be the use of science and
art, if the patient, who disposes of all that, cannot be saved from
Guenaud was about to open his mouth, but Mazarin continued:
"Remember," said he, "I am the most confiding of your patients; remember
I obey you blindly, and that consequently - "
"I know all that," said Guenaud.
"I shall be cured, then?"
"Monseigneur, there is neither strength of will, nor power, nor genius,
nor science that can resist a disease which God doubtless sends, or which
He cast upon the earth at the creation, with full power to destroy and
kill mankind. When the disease is mortal, and nothing can - "
"Is - my - disease - mortal?" asked Mazarin.
"Yes, my lord."
His eminence sank down for a moment, like an unfortunate wretch who is
crushed by a falling column. But the spirit of Mazarin was a strong one,
or rather his mind was a firm one. "Guenaud," said he, recovering from
his first shock, "you will permit me to appeal from your judgment. I
will call together the most learned men of Europe: I will consult them.
I will live, in short, by the virtue of I care not what remedy."
"My lord must not suppose," said Guenaud, "that I have the presumption to
pronounce alone upon an existence so valuable as yours. I have already
assembled all the good physicians and practitioners of France and
Europe. There were twelve of them."
"And they said - "
"They said that your eminence was suffering from a mortal disease; I have
the consultation signed in my portfolio. If your eminence will please to
see it, you will find the names of all the incurable diseases we have met
with. There is first - "
"No, no!" cried Mazarin, pushing away the paper. "No, no, Guenaud, I
yield! I yield!" And a profound silence, during which the cardinal
resumed his senses and recovered his strength, succeeded to the agitation
of this scene. "There is another thing," murmured Mazarin; "there are
empirics and charlatans. In my country, those whom physicians abandon
run the chance of a quack, who kills them ten times but saves them a
"Has not your eminence observed, that during the last month I have
changed my remedies ten times?"
"Well, I have spent fifty thousand crowns in purchasing the secrets of
all these fellows: the list is exhausted, and so is my purse. You are
not cured: and, but for my art, you would be dead."
"That ends it!" murmured the cardinal; "that ends it." And he threw a
melancholy look upon the riches which surrounded him. "And must I quit
all that?" sighed he. "I am dying, Guenaud! I am dying!"
"Oh! not yet, my lord," said the physician.
Mazarin seized his hand. "In what time?" asked he, fixing his two large
eyes upon the impassible countenance of the physician.
"My lord, we never tell that."
"To ordinary men, perhaps not; - but to me - to me, whose every minute is
worth a treasure. Tell me, Guenaud, tell me!"
"No, no, my lord."
"I insist upon it, I tell you. Oh! give me a month, and for every one of
those thirty days I will pay you a hundred thousand crowns."
"My lord," replied Guenaud, in a firm voice, "it is God who can give you
days of grace, and not I. God only allows you a fortnight."
The cardinal breathed a painful sigh, and sank back down upon his pillow,
murmuring, "Thank you, Guenaud, thank you!"
The physician was about to depart; the dying man, raising himself up:
"Silence!" said he, with flaming eyes, "silence!"
"My lord, I have known this secret two months; you see that I have kept
"Go, Guenaud; I will take care of your fortunes; go, and tell Brienne to
send me a clerk called M. Colbert. Go!"
Colbert was not far off. During the whole evening he had remained in one
of the corridors, chatting with Bernouin and Brienne, and commenting,
with the ordinary skill of people of court, upon the news which developed
like air-bubbles upon the water, on the surface of each event. It is
doubtless time to trace, in a few words, one of the most interesting
portraits of the age, and to trace it with as much truth, perhaps, as
contemporary painters have been able to do. Colbert was a man in whom
the historian and the moralist have an equal right.
He was thirteen years older than Louis XIV., his future master. Of
middle height, rather lean than otherwise, he had deep-set eyes, a mean
appearance, his hair was coarse, black and thin, which, say the
biographers of his time, made him take early to the skull-cap. A look of
severity, of harshness even, a sort of stiffness, which, with inferiors,
was pride, with superiors an affectation of superior virtue; a surly cast
of countenance upon all occasions, even when looking at himself in a
glass alone - such is the exterior of his personage. As to the moral
part of his character, the depth of his talent for accounts, and his
ingenuity in making sterility itself productive, were much boasted of.
Colbert had formed the idea of forcing governors of frontier places to
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