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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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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
peril?"

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
hundred times."

"Has not your eminence observed, that during the last month I have
changed my remedies ten times?"

"Yes.  Well?"

"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
it faithfully."

"Go, Guenaud; I will take care of your fortunes; go, and tell Brienne to
send me a clerk called M. Colbert.  Go!"


Chapter XLIV:
Colbert.

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
feed the garrisons without pay, with what they drew from contributions.
Such a valuable quality made Mazarin think of replacing Joubert, his
intendant, who had recently died, by M. Colbert, who had such skill in
nibbling down allowances.  Colbert by degrees crept into court,
notwithstanding his lowly birth, for he was the son of a man who sold
wine as his father had done, but who afterwards sold cloth, and then silk
stuffs.  Colbert, destined for trade, had been clerk in Lyons to a
merchant, whom he had quitted to come to Paris in the office of a Chatlet
procureur named Biterne.  It was here he learned the art of drawing up an
account, and the much more valuable one of complicating it.

This stiffness of manner in Colbert had been of great service to him; it
is so true that Fortune, when she has a caprice, resembles those women of
antiquity, who, when they had a fancy, were disgusted by no physical or
moral defects in either men or things.  Colbert, placed with Michel
Letellier, secretary of state in 1648, by his cousin Colbert, Seigneur de
Saint-Penange, who protected him, received one day from the minister a
commission for Cardinal Mazarin.  His eminence was then in the enjoyment
of flourishing health, and the bad years of the Fronde had not yet
counted triple and quadruple for him.  He was at Sedan, very much annoyed
at a court intrigue in which Anne of Austria seemed inclined to desert
his cause.

Of this intrigue Letellier held the thread.  He had just received a
letter from Anne of Austria, a letter very valuable to him, and strongly
compromising Mazarin; but, as he already played the double part which
served him so well, and by which he always managed two enemies so as to
draw advantage from both, either by embroiling them more and more or by
reconciling them, Michel Letellier wished to send Anne of Austria's
letter to Mazarin, in order that he might be acquainted with it, and
consequently pleased with his having so willingly rendered him a
service.  To send the letter was an easy matter; to recover it again,
after having communicated it, that was the difficulty.  Letellier cast
his eyes around him, and seeing the black and meager clerk with the
scowling brow, scribbling away in his office, he preferred him to the
best gendarme for the execution of this design.

Colbert was commanded to set out for Sedan, with positive orders to carry
the letter to Mazarin, and bring it back to Letellier.  He listened to
his orders with scrupulous attention, required the instructions to be
repeated twice, and was particular in learning whether the bringing back
was as necessary as the communicating, and Letellier replied sternly,
"More necessary."  Then he set out, traveled like a courier, without any
care for his body, and placed in the hands of Mazarin, first a letter
from Letellier, which announced to the cardinal the sending of the
precious letter, and then that letter itself.  Mazarin colored greatly
whilst reading Anne of Austria's letter, gave Colbert a gracious smile
and dismissed him.

"When shall I have the answer, monseigneur?"

"To-morrow."

"To-morrow morning?"

"Yes, monsieur."

The clerk turned upon his heel, after making his very best bow.  The next
day he was at his post at seven o'clock.  Mazarin made him wait till
ten.  He remained patiently in the ante-chamber; his turn having come, he
entered; Mazarin gave him a sealed packet.  On the envelope of this packet
were these words: - Monsieur Michel Letellier, etc.  Colbert looked at
the packet with much attention; the cardinal put on a pleasant

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