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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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countenance and pushed him towards the door.

"And the letter of the queen-mother, my lord?" asked Colbert.

"It is in with the rest, in the packet," said Mazarin.

"Oh! very well," replied Colbert; and placing his hat between his knees,
he began to unseal the packet.

Mazarin uttered a cry.  "What are you doing?" said he, angrily.

"I am unsealing the packet, my lord."

"You mistrust me, then, master pedant, do you?  Did any one ever see such
impertinence?"

"Oh! my lord, do not be angry with me!  It is certainly not your
eminence's word I place in doubt, God forbid!"

"What then?"

"It is the carefulness of your chancery, my lord.  What is a letter?  A
rag.  May not a rag be forgotten?  And look, my lord, look if I was not
right.  Your clerks have forgotten the rag; the letter is not in the
packet."

"You are an insolent fellow, and you have not looked," cried Mazarin,
very angrily; "begone and wait my pleasure."  Whilst saying these words,
with perfectly Italian subtlety he snatched the packet from the hands of
Colbert, and re-entered his apartments.

But this anger could not last so long as to be replaced in time by
reason.  Mazarin, every morning, on opening his closet door, found the
figure of Colbert like a sentinel behind the bench, and this disagreeable
figure never failed to ask him humbly, but with tenacity, for the queen-
mother's letter.  Mazarin could hold out no longer, and was obliged to
give it up.  He accompanied this restitution with a most severe
reprimand, during which Colbert contented himself with examining,
feeling, even smelling, as it were, the paper, the characters, and the
signature, neither more nor less than if he had to deal with the greatest
forger in the kingdom.  Mazarin behaved still more rudely to him, but
Colbert, still impassible, having obtained a certainty that the letter
was the true one, went off as if he had been deaf.  This conduct obtained
for him afterwards the post of Joubert; for Mazarin, instead of bearing
malice, admired him, and was desirous of attaching so much fidelity to
himself.

It may be judged by this single anecdote, what the character of Colbert
was.  Events, developing themselves, by degrees allowed all the powers of
his mind to act freely.  Colbert was not long in insinuating himself to
the good graces of the cardinal: he became even indispensable to him.
The clerk was acquainted with all his accounts without the cardinal's
ever having spoken to him about them.  This secret between them was a
powerful tie, and this was why, when about to appear before the Master of
another world, Mazarin was desirous of taking good counsel in disposing
the wealth he was so unwillingly obliged to leave in this world.  After
the visit of Guenaud, he therefore sent for Colbert, desired him to sit
down, and said to him: "Let us converse, Monsieur Colbert, and seriously,
for I am very ill, and I may chance to die."

"Man is mortal," replied Colbert.

"I have always remembered that, M. Colbert, and I have worked with that
end in view.  You know that I have amassed a little wealth."

"I know you have, monseigneur."

"At how much do you estimate, as near as you can, the amount of this
wealth, M. Colbert?"

"At forty millions, five hundred and sixty thousand, two hundred livres,
nine cents, eight farthings," replied Colbert.

The cardinal heaved a deep sigh, and looked at Colbert with wonder, but
he allowed a smile to steal across his lips.

"Known money," added Colbert, in reply to that smile.

The cardinal gave quite a start in bed.  "What do you mean by that?" said
he.

"I mean," said Colbert, "that besides those forty millions, five hundred
and sixty thousand, two hundred livres, nine cents, eight farthings,
there are thirteen millions that are not known."

"_Ouf!_" sighed Mazarin, "what a man!"

At this moment, the head of Bernouin appeared through the embrasure of
the door.

"What is it?" asked Mazarin, "and why do you disturb me?"

"The Theatin father, your eminence's director, was sent for this evening;
and he cannot come again to my lord till after to-morrow."

Mazarin looked a Colbert, who rose and took his hat, saying: "I shall
come again, my lord."

Mazarin hesitated.  "No, no," said he; "I have as much business to
transact with you as with him.  Besides, you are my other confessor - and
what I have to say to one the other may hear.  Remain where you are,
Colbert."

"But my lord, if there be no secret of penitence, will the director
consent to my being here?"

"Do not trouble yourself about that; come into the _ruelle_."

"I can wait outside, monseigneur."

"No, no, it will do you good to hear the confession of a rich man."

Colbert bowed and went into the _ruelle_.

"Introduce the Theatin father," said Mazarin, closing the curtains.


Chapter XLV:
Confession of a Man of Wealth.

The Theatin entered deliberately, without being too much astonished at
the noise and agitation which anxiety for the cardinal's health had
raised in his household.  "Come in, my reverend  father," said Mazarin,
after a last look at the _ruelle_, "come in and console me."

"That is my duty, my lord," replied the Theatin.

"Begin by sitting down, and making yourself comfortable, for I am going
to begin with a general confession; you will afterwards give me a good
absolution, and I shall believe myself more tranquil."

"My lord," said the father, "you are not so ill as to make a general
confession urgent - and it will be very fatiguing - take care."

"You suspect, then, that it may be long, father?"

"How can I think it otherwise, when a man has lived so completely as your
eminence has done?"

"Ah! that is true! - yes - the recital may be long."

"The mercy of God is great," snuffled the Theatin.

"Stop," said Mazarin; "there I begin to terrify myself with having
allowed so many things to pass which the Lord might reprove."

"Is that not always so?" said the Theatin naively, removing further from
the lamp his thin pointed face, like that of a mole.  "Sinners are so
forgetful beforehand, and scrupulous when it is too late."

"Sinners?" replied Mazarin.  "Do you use that word ironically, and to
reproach me with all the genealogies I have allowed to be made on my
account - I - the son of a fisherman, in fact?"

[This is quite untranslatable - it being a play upon the words _pecheur_
(with a grave over the first e), a sinner, and _pecheur_ (with an accent
circumflex over the first e), a fisherman.  It is in very bad taste. 
TRANS.]

"Hum!" said the Theatin.

"That is a first sin, father; for I have allowed myself made to descend
from two old Roman consuls, S. Geganius Macerinus 1st, Macerinus 2d, and
Proculus Macerinus 3d, of whom the Chronicle of Haolander speaks.  From
Macerinus to Mazarin the proximity was tempting.  Macerinus, a
diminutive, means leanish, poorish, out of case.  Oh! reverend father!
Mazarini may now be carried to the augmentative _Maigre_, thin as
Lazarus.  Look!" - and he showed his fleshless arms.

"In your having been born of a family of fishermen I see nothing
injurious to you; for - St. Peter was a fisherman; and if you are a
prince of the church, my lord, he was the supreme head of it.  Pass on,
if you please."

"So much the more for my having threatened with the Bastile a certain
Bounet, a priest of Avignon, who wanted to publish a genealogy of the
Casa Mazarini much too marvelous."

"To be probable?" replied the Theatin.

"Oh! if I had acted up to his idea, father, that would have been the vice
of pride - another sin."

"It was an excess of wit, and a person is not to be reproached with such
sorts of abuses.  Pass on, pass on!"

"I was all pride.  Look you, father, I will endeavor to divide that into
capital sins."

"I like divisions, when well made."

"I am glad of that.  You must know that in 1630 - alas! that is thirty-
one years ago - "

"You were then twenty-nine years old, monseigneur."

"A hot-headed age.  I was then something of a soldier, and I threw myself
at Casal into the arquebusades, to show that I rode on horseback as well
as an officer.  It is true, I restored peace between the French and the
Spaniards.  That redeems my sin a little."

"I see no sin in being able to ride well on horseback," said the Theatin;
"that is in perfect good taste, and does honor to our gown.  As a
Christian, I approve of your having prevented the effusion of blood; as a
monk, I am proud of the bravery a monk has exhibited."

Mazarin bowed his head humbly.  "Yes," said he, "but the consequences?"

"What consequences?"

"Eh! that damned sin of pride has roots without end.  From the time that
I threw myself in that manner between two armies, that I had smelt powder
and faced lines of soldiers, I have held generals a little in contempt."

"Ah!" said the father.

"There is the evil; so that I have not found one endurable since that
time."

"The fact is," said the Theatin, "that the generals we have had have not
been remarkable."

"Oh!" cried Mazarin, "there was Monsieur le Prince.  I have tormented him
thoroughly!"

"He is not much to be pitied: he has acquired sufficient glory, and
sufficient wealth."

"That may be, for Monsieur le Prince; but M. Beaufort, for example - whom
I held suffering so long in the dungeon of Vincennes?"

"Ah! but he was a rebel, and the safety of the state required that you
should make a sacrifice.  Pass on!"

"I believe I have exhausted pride.  There is another sin which I am
afraid to qualify."

"I can qualify it myself.  Tell it."

"A great sin, reverend father!"

"We shall judge, monseigneur."

"You cannot fail to have heard of certain relations which I have had 
with her majesty the queen-mother; - the malevolent - "

"The malevolent, my lord, are fools.  Was it not necessary for the good
of the state and the interests of the young king, that you should live in
good intelligence with the queen?  Pass on, pass on!"

"I assure you," said Mazarin, "you remove a terrible weight from my
breast."

"These are all trifles! - look for something serious."

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