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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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particularly now, in the supreme majesty of death.  He did not dare,
therefore, to begin the conversation, feeling that every word must have
its weight not only upon things of this world, but of the next.  As to
the cardinal, at that moment he had but one thought - his donation.  It
was not physical pain which gave him that air of despondency, and that
lugubrious look; it was the expectation of the thanks that were about to
issue from the king's mouth, and cut off all hope of restitution.
Mazarin was the first to break the silence.  "Is your majesty come to
make any stay at Vincennes?" said he.

Louis made an affirmative sign with his head.

"That is a gracious favor," continued Mazarin, "granted to a dying man,
and which will render death less painful to him."

"I hope," replied the king, "I am come to visit, not a dying man, but a
sick man, susceptible of cure."

Mazarin replied by a movement of the head.

"Your majesty is very kind; but I know more than you on that subject.
The last visit, sire," said he, "the last visit."

"If it were so, monsieur le cardinal," said Louis, "I would come a last
time to ask the counsels of a guide to whom I owe everything."

Anne of Austria was a woman; she could not restrain her tears.  Louis
showed himself much affected, and Mazarin still more than his two guests,
but from very different motives.  Here the silence returned.  The queen
wiped her eyes, and the king resumed his firmness.

"I was saying," continued the king, "that I owed much to your eminence."
The eyes of the cardinal had devoured the king, for he felt the great
moment had come.  "And," continued Louis, "the principal object of my
visit was to offer you very sincere thanks for the last evidence of
friendship you have kindly sent me."

The cheeks of the cardinal became sunken, his lips partially opened, and
the most lamentable sigh he had ever uttered was about to issue from his
chest.

"Sire," said he, "I shall have despoiled my poor family; I shall have
ruined all who belong to me, which may be imputed to me as an error; but,
at least, it shall not be said of me that I have refused to sacrifice
everything to my king."

Anne of Austria's tears flowed afresh.

"My dear Monsieur Mazarin," said the king, in a more serious tone than
might have been expected from his youth, "you have misunderstood me,
apparently."

Mazarin raised himself upon his elbow.

"I have no purpose to despoil your dear family, nor to ruin your
servants.  Oh, no, that must never be!"

"Humph!" thought Mazarin, "he is going to restore me some scraps; let us
get the largest piece we can."

"The king is going to be foolishly affected and play generous," thought
the queen; "he must not be allowed to impoverish himself; such an
opportunity for getting a fortune will never occur again."

"Sire," said the cardinal, aloud, "my family is very numerous, and my
nieces will be destitute when I am gone."

"Oh," interrupted the queen, eagerly, "have no uneasiness with respect to
your family, dear Monsieur Mazarin; we have no friends dearer than your
friends; your nieces shall be my children, the sisters of his majesty;
and if a favor be distributed in France, it shall be to those you love."

"Smoke!" thought Mazarin, who knew better than any one the faith that can
be put in the promises of kings.  Louis read the dying man's thought in
his face.

"Be comforted, my dear Monsieur Mazarin," said he, with a half-smile, sad
beneath its irony; "the Mesdemoiselles de Mancini will lose, in losing
you, their most precious good; but they shall none the less be the
richest heiresses of France; and since you have been kind enough to give
me their dowry" - the cardinal was panting - "I restore it to them,"
continued Louis, drawing from his breast and holding towards the
cardinal's bed the parchment which contained the donation that, during
two days, had kept alive such tempests in the mind of Mazarin.

"What did I tell you, my lord?" murmured in the alcove a voice which
passed away like a breath.

"Your majesty returns my donation!" cried Mazarin, so disturbed by joy as
to forget his character of a benefactor.

"Your majesty rejects the forty millions!" cried Anne of Austria, so
stupefied as to forget her character of an afflicted wife, or queen.

"Yes, my lord cardinal; yes, madame," replied Louis XIV., tearing the
parchment which Mazarin had not yet ventured to clutch; "yes, I
annihilate this deed, which despoiled a whole family.  The wealth
acquired by his eminence in my service is his own wealth and not mine."

"But, sire, does your majesty reflect," said Anne of Austria, "that you
have not ten thousand crowns in your coffers?"

"Madame, I have just performed my first royal action, and I hope it will
worthily inaugurate my reign."

"Ah! sire, you are right!" cried Mazarin; "that is truly great - that is
truly generous which you have just done."  And he looked, one after the
other, at the pieces of the act spread over his bed, to assure himself
that it was the original and not a copy that had been torn.  At length
his eyes fell upon the fragment which bore his signature, and recognizing
it, he sunk back on his bolster in a swoon.  Anne of Austria, without
strength to conceal her regret, raised her hands and eyes towards heaven.

"Oh! sire," cried Mazarin, "may you be blessed!  My God!  May you be
beloved by all my family.  _Per Baccho!_  If ever any of those belonging
to me should cause your displeasure, sire, only frown, and I will rise
from my tomb!"

This _pantalonnade_ did not produce all the effect Mazarin had counted
upon.  Louis had already passed to considerations of a higher nature, and
as to Anne of Austria, unable to bear, without abandoning herself to the
anger she felt burning within her, the magnanimity of her son and the
hypocrisy of the cardinal, she arose and left the chamber, heedless of
thus betraying the extent of her grief.  Mazarin saw all this, and
fearing that Louis XIV. might repent his decision, in order to draw
attention another way he began to cry out, as, at a later period, Scapin
was to cry out, in that sublime piece of pleasantry with which the morose
and grumbling Boileau dared to reproach Moliere.  His cries, however, by
degrees, became fainter; and when Anne of Austria left the apartment,
they ceased altogether.

"Monsieur le cardinal," said the king, "have you any recommendations to
make me?"

"Sire," replied Mazarin, "you are already wisdom itself, prudence
personified; of your generosity I shall not venture to speak; that which
you have just done exceeds all that the most generous men of antiquity or
of modern times have ever done."

The king received this praise coldly.

"So you confine yourself," said he, "to your thanks - and your
experience, much more extensive than my wisdom, my prudence, or my
generosity, does not furnish you with a single piece of friendly advice
to guide my future."  Mazarin reflected for a moment.  "You have just
done much for me, sire," said he, "that is, for my family."

"Say no more about that," said the king.

"Well!" continued Mazarin, "I shall give you something in exchange for
these forty millions you have refused so royally."

Louis XIV. indicated by a movement that these flatteries were displeasing
to him.  "I shall give you a piece of advice," continued Mazarin; "yes, a
piece of advice - advice more precious than the forty millions."

"My lord cardinal!" interrupted Louis.

"Sire, listen to this advice."

"I am listening."

"Come nearer, sire, for I am weak! - nearer, sire, nearer!"

The king bent over the dying man.  "Sire," said Mazarin, in so low a tone
that the breath of his words arrived only like a recommendation from the
tomb in the attentive ears of the king - "Sire, never have a prime
minister."

Louis drew back astonished.  The advice was a confession - a treasure, in
fact, was that sincere confession of Mazarin.  The legacy of the cardinal
to the young king was composed of six words only, but those six words, as
Mazarin had said, were worth forty millions.  Louis remained for an
instant bewildered.  As for Mazarin, he appeared only to have said
something quite natural.  A little scratching was heard along the
curtains of the alcove.  Mazarin understood: "Yes, yes!" cried he,
warmly, "yes, sire, I recommend to you a wise man, an honest man, and a
clever man."

"Tell me his name, my lord."

"His name is yet almost unknown, sire; it is M. Colbert, my attendant.
Oh! try him," added Mazarin, in an earnest voice; "all that he has
predicted has come to pass; he has a safe glance, he is never mistaken
either in things or in men - which is more surprising still.  Sire, I owe
you much, but I think I acquit myself of all towards you in giving you M.
Colbert."

"So be it," said Louis, faintly, for, as Mazarin had said, the name of
Colbert was quite unknown to him, and he thought the enthusiasm of the
cardinal partook of the delirium of a dying man.  The cardinal sank back
on his pillows.

"For the present, adieu, sire! adieu," murmured Mazarin.  "I am tired,
and I have yet a rough journey to take before I present myself to my new
Master.  Adieu, sire!"

The young king felt the tears rise to his eyes; he bent over the dying
man, already half a corpse, and then hastily retired.


Chapter XLIX:
The First Appearance of Colbert.

The whole night was passed in anguish, common to the dying man and to the
king: the dying man expected his deliverance, the king awaited his
liberty.  Louis did not go to bed.  An hour after leaving the chamber of
the cardinal, he learned that the dying man, recovering a little
strength, had insisted upon being dressed, adorned and painted, and
seeing the ambassadors.  Like Augustus, he no doubt considered the world
a great stage, and was desirous of playing out the last act of the
comedy.  Anne of Austria reappeared no more in the cardinal's apartments;
she had nothing more to do there.  Propriety was the pretext for her
absence.  On his part, the cardinal did not ask for her: the advice the
queen had giver her son rankled in his heart.

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