List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"Well, this is it," said D'Artagnan, drawing his breath.

"And that is it," said Planchet, picking up his first handful of crowns.

Chapter XXXIX:
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
to lose.

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
are inventing."

"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
evening meal."

"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
your servants."

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
very evening."

"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.

Chapter XL:
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
the conversation.

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

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