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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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when dead, he has posterity, which applauds or accuses."

"Thank you, mother," replied Louis, bowing respectfully to the queen.
"Thank you Monsieur, Fouquet," said he, dismissing the superintendent
civilly.

"Do you accept?" asked Anne of Austria, once more.

"I shall consider of it," replied he, looking at Fouquet.


Chapter XLVIII:
Agony.

The day that the deed of gift had been sent to the king, the cardinal
caused himself to be transported to Vincennes.  The king and the court
followed him thither.  The last flashes of this torch still cast splendor
enough around to absorb all other lights in its rays.  Besides, as it has
been seen, the faithful satellite of his minister, young Louis XIV.,
marched to the last minute in accordance with his gravitation.  The
disease, as Guenaud had predicted, had become worse; it was no longer an
attack of gout, it was an attack of death; then there was another thing
which made that agony more agonizing still, - and that was the agitation
brought into his mind by the donation he had sent to the king, and which,
according to Colbert, the king ought to send back unaccepted to the
cardinal.  The cardinal had, as we have said, great faith in the
predictions of his secretary; but the sum was a large one, and whatever
might be the genius of Colbert, from time to time the cardinal thought to
himself that the Theatin also might possibly have been mistaken, and
there was at least as much chance of his not being damned, as there was
of Louis XIV. sending back his millions.

Besides, the longer the donation was in coming back, the more Mazarin
thought that forty millions were worth a little risk, particularly of so
hypothetic a thing as the soul.  Mazarin, in his character of cardinal
and prime minister, was almost an atheist, and quite a materialist.
Every time that the door opened, he turned sharply round towards that
door, expecting to see the return of his unfortunate donation; then,
deceived in his hope, he fell back again with a sigh, and found his pains
so much the greater for having forgotten them for an instant.

Anne of Austria had also followed the cardinal; her heart, though age had
made it selfish, could not help evincing towards the dying man a sorrow
which she owed him as a wife, according to some; and as a sovereign,
according to others.  She had, in some sort, put on a mourning
countenance beforehand, and all the court wore it as she did.

Louis, in order not to show on his face what was passing at the bottom of
his heart, persisted in remaining in his own apartments, where his nurse
alone kept him company; the more he saw the approach of the time when all
constraint would be at an end, the more humble and patient he was,
falling back upon himself, as all strong men do when they form great
designs, in order to gain more spring at the decisive moment.  Extreme
unction had been administered to the cardinal, who, faithful to his
habits of dissimulation, struggled against appearances, and even against
reality, receiving company in his bed, as if he only suffered from a
temporary complaint.

Guenaud, on his part, preserved profound secrecy; wearied with visits and
questions, he answered nothing but "his eminence is still full of youth
and strength, but God wills that which He wills, and when He has decided
that man is to be laid low, he will be laid low."  These words, which he
scattered with a sort of discretion, reserve, and preference, were
commented upon earnestly by two persons, - the king and the cardinal.
Mazarin, notwithstanding the prophecy of Guenaud, still lured himself
with a hope, or rather played his part so well, that the most cunning,
when saying that he lured himself, proved that they were his dupes.

Louis, absent from the cardinal for two days; Louis, with his eyes fixed
upon that same donation which so constantly preoccupied the cardinal;
Louis did not exactly know how to make out Mazarin's conduct.  The son of
Louis XIII., following the paternal traditions, had, up to that time,
been so little of a king that, whilst ardently desiring royalty, he
desired it with that terror which always accompanies the unknown.  Thus,
having formed his resolution, which, besides, he communicated to nobody,
he determined to have an interview with Mazarin.  It was Anne of Austria,
who, constant in her attendance upon the cardinal, first heard this
proposition of the king's, and transmitted it to the dying man, whom it
greatly agitated.  For what purpose could Louis wish for an interview?
Was it to return the deed, as Colbert had said he would?  Was it to keep
it, after thanking him, as Mazarin thought he would?  Nevertheless, as
the dying man felt that the uncertainty increased his torments, he did
not hesitate an instant.

"His majesty will be welcome, - yes, very welcome," cried he, making a
sign to Colbert, who was seated at the foot of the bed, and which the
latter understood perfectly.  "Madame," continued Mazarin, "will your
majesty be good enough to assure the king yourself of the truth of what I
have just said?"

Anne of Austria rose; she herself was anxious to have the question of the
forty millions settled - the question which seemed to lie heavy on the
mind of everyone.  Anne of Austria went out; Mazarin made a great effort,
and, raising himself up towards Colbert: "Well, Colbert," said he, "two
days have passed away - two mortal days - and, you see, nothing has been
returned from yonder."

"Patience, my lord," said Colbert.

"Are you mad, you wretch?  You advise me to have patience!  Oh, in sad
truth, Colbert, you are laughing at me.  I am dying and you call out to
me to wait!"

"My lord," said Colbert, with his habitual coolness, "it is impossible
that things should not come out as I have said.  His majesty is coming to
see you, and no doubt he brings back the deed himself."

"Do you think so?  Well, I, on the contrary, am sure that his majesty is
coming to thank me."

At this moment Anne of Austria returned.  On her way to the apartments of
her son she had met with a new empiric.  This was a powder which was said
to have power to save the cardinal; and she brought a portion of this
powder with her.  But this was not what Mazarin expected; therefore he
would not even look at it, declaring that life was not worth the pains
that were taken to preserve it.  But, whilst professing this
philosophical axiom, his long-confined secret escaped him at last.

"That, madame," said he, "that is not the interesting part of my
situation.  I made, two days ago, a little donation to the king; up to
this time, from delicacy, no doubt, his majesty has not condescended to
say anything about it; but the time for explanation is come, and I
implore your majesty to tell me if the king has made up his mind on that
matter."

Anne of Austria was about to reply, when Mazarin stopped her.

"The truth, madame," said he - "in the name of Heaven, the truth!  Do
not flatter a dying man with a hope that may prove vain."  There he
stopped, a look from Colbert telling him he was on the wrong track.

"I know," said Anne of Austria, taking the cardinal's hand, "I know that
you have generously made, not a little donation, as you modestly call it,
but a magnificent gift.  I know how painful it would be to you if the
king - "

Mazarin listened, dying as he was, as ten living men could not have
listened.

"If the king - " replied he.

"If the king," continued Anne of Austria, "should not freely accept what
you offer so nobly."

Mazarin allowed himself to sink back upon his pillow like Pantaloon; that
is to say, with all the despair of a man who bows before the tempest; but
he still preserved sufficient strength and presence of mind to cast upon
Colbert one of those looks which are well worth ten sonnets, which is to
say, ten long poems.

"Should you not," added the queen, "have considered the refusal of the
king as a sort of insult?"  Mazarin rolled his head about upon his
pillow, without articulating a syllable.  The queen was deceived, or
feigned to be deceived, by this demonstration.

"Therefore," resumed she, "I have circumvented him with good counsels;
and as certain minds, jealous, no doubt, of the glory you are about to
acquire by this generosity, have endeavored to prove to the king that he
ought not to accept this donation, I have struggled in your favor, and so
well I have struggled, that you will not have, I hope, that distress to
undergo."

"Ah!" murmured Mazarin, with languishing eyes, "ah! that is a service I
shall never forget for a single minute of the few hours I still have to
live."

"I must admit," continued the queen, "that it was not without trouble I
rendered it to your eminence."

"Ah, _peste!_  I believe that.  Oh! oh!"

"Good God! what is the matter?"

"I am burning!"

"Do you suffer much?"

"As much as one of the damned."

Colbert would have liked to sink through the floor.

"So, then," resumed Mazarin, "your majesty thinks that the king - " he
stopped several seconds - "that the king is coming here to offer me some
small thanks?"

"I think so," said queen.  Mazarin annihilated Colbert with his last look.

At that moment the ushers announced that the king was in the ante-
chambers, which were filled with people.  This announcement produced a
stir of which Colbert took advantage to escape by the door of the
_ruelle_.  Anne of Austria arose, and awaited her son, standing.  Louis
XIV. appeared at the threshold of the door, with his eyes fixed upon the
dying man, who did not even think it worth while to notice that majesty
from whom he thought he had nothing more to expect.  An usher placed an
armchair close to the bed.  Louis bowed to his mother, then to the
cardinal, and sat down.  The queen took a seat in her turn.

Then, as the king looked behind him, the usher understood that look, and
made a sign to the courtiers who filled up the doorway to go out, which
they instantly did.  Silence fell upon the chamber with the velvet
curtains.  The king, still very young, and very timid in the presence of
him who had been his master from his birth, still respected him much,

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