List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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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
reply.

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
done."

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
venalities."

"Two hundred gentlemen!  Reflect! - that is little more than a single
company."

"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
nation."

"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."


Chapter X:
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.

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