List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

such importance, that a king alone, or else a player, could wear them at

Mazarin rummaged a long time in his somewhat troubled memory to recall
the name he ought to give to this icy figure, but he did not succeed.  "I
am told," said he, at length, "you have a message from England for me."

And he sat down, dismissing Bernouin, who, in his quality of secretary,
was getting his pen ready.

"On the part of his majesty, the king of England, yes, your eminence."

"You speak very good French for an Englishman, monsieur," said Mazarin,
graciously, looking through his fingers at the Holy Ghost, Garter, and
Golden Fleece, but more particularly at the face of the messenger.

"I am not an Englishman, but a Frenchman, monsieur le cardinal," replied

"It is remarkable that the king of England should choose a Frenchman for
his ambassador; it is an excellent augury.  Your name, monsieur, if you

"Comte de la Fere," replied Athos, bowing more slightly than the
ceremonial and pride of the all-powerful minister required.

Mazarin bent his shoulders, as if to say: -

"I do not know that name."

Athos did not alter his carriage.

"And you come, monsieur," continued Mazarin, "to tell me - "

"I come on the part of his majesty the king of Great Britain to announce
to the king of France" - Mazarin frowned - "to announce to the king of
France," continued Athos, imperturbably, "the happy restoration of his
majesty Charles II. to the throne of his ancestors."

This shade did not escape his cunning eminence.  Mazarin was too much
accustomed to mankind, not to see in the cold and almost haughty
politeness of Athos, an index of hostility, which was not of the
temperature of that hot-house called a court.

"You have powers, I suppose?" asked Mazarin, in a short, querulous tone.

"Yes, monseigneur."  And the word "monseigneur" came so painfully from
the lips of Athos that it might be said it skinned them.

Athos took from an embroidered velvet bag which he carried under his
doublet a dispatch.  The cardinal held out his hand for it.  "Your
pardon, monseigneur," said Athos.  "My dispatch is for the king."

"Since you are a Frenchman, monsieur, you ought to know the position of a
prime minister at the court of France."

"There was a time," replied Athos, "when I occupied myself with the
importance of prime ministers; but I have formed, long ago, a resolution
to treat no longer with any but the king."

"Then, monsieur," said Mazarin, who began to be irritated, "you will
neither see the minister nor the king."

Mazarin rose.  Athos replaced his dispatch in its bag, bowed gravely, and
made several steps towards the door.  This coolness exasperated Mazarin.
"What strange diplomatic proceedings are these!" cried he.  "Have we
returned to the times when Cromwell sent us bullies in the guise of
_charges d'affaires?_  You want nothing, monsieur, but the steel cap on
your head, and a Bible at your girdle."

"Monsieur," said Athos, dryly, "I have never had, as you have, the
advantage of treating with Cromwell; and I have only seen his _charges
d'affaires_ sword in hand; I am therefore ignorant of how he treated with
prime ministers.  As for the king of England, Charles II., I know that
when he writes to his majesty King Louis XIV., he does not write to his
eminence the Cardinal Mazarin.  I see no diplomacy in that distinction."

"Ah!" cried Mazarin, raising his attenuated hand, and striking his head,
"I remember now!"  Athos looked at him in astonishment.  "Yes, that is
it!" said the cardinal, continuing to look at his interlocutor; "yes,
that is certainly it.  I know you now, monsieur.  Ah! _diavolo!_  I am no
longer astonished."

"In fact, I was astonished that, with your eminence's excellent memory,"
replied Athos, smiling, "you had not recognized me before."

"Always refractory and grumbling - monsieur - monsieur - What do they
call you?  Stop - a name of a river - Potamos; no - the name of an island
- Naxos; no, _per Giove!_ - the name of a mountain - Athos! now I have
it.  Delighted to see you again, and to be no longer at Rueil, where you
and your damned companions made me pay ransom.  Fronde! still Fronde!
accursed Fronde!  Oh, what grudges!  Why, monsieur, have your antipathies
survived mine?  If any one has cause to complain, I think it could not be
you, who got out of the affair not only in a sound skin, but with the
_cordon_ of the Holy Ghost around your neck."

"My lord cardinal," replied Athos, "permit me not to enter into
considerations of that kind.  I have a mission to fulfill.  Will you
facilitate the means of my fulfilling that mission, or will you not?"

"I am astonished," said Mazarin, - quite delighted at having recovered
his memory, and bristling with malice, - "I am astonished, Monsieur 
Athos - that a _Frondeur_ like you should have accepted a mission for the
Perfidious Mazarin, as used to be said in the good old times - "  And
Mazarin began to laugh, in spite of a painful cough, which cut short his
sentences, converting them into sobs.

"I have only accepted the mission near the king of France, monsieur le
cardinal," retorted the comte, though with less asperity, for he thought
he had sufficiently the advantage to show himself moderate.

"And yet, _Monsieur le Frondeur_," said Mazarin, gayly, "the affair which
you have taken in charge must, from the king - "

"With which I have been given in charge, monseigneur.  I do not run after

"Be it so.  I say that this negotiation must pass through my hands.  Let
us lose no precious time, then.  Tell me the conditions."

"I have had the honor of assuring your eminence that only the letter of
his majesty King Charles II. contains the revelation of his wishes."

"Pooh! you are ridiculous with your obstinacy, Monsieur Athos.  It is
plain you have kept company with the Puritans yonder.  As to your secret,
I know it better than you do; and you have done wrongly, perhaps, in not
having shown some respect for a very old and suffering man, who has
labored much during his life, and kept the field for his ideas as bravely
as you have for yours.  You will not communicate your letter to me?  You
will say nothing to me?  Very well!  Come with me into my chamber; you
shall speak to the king - and before the king. - Now, then, one last
word: who gave you the Fleece?  I remember you passed for having the
Garter; but as to the Fleece, I do not know - "

"Recently, my lord, Spain, on the occasion of the marriage of his majesty
Louis XIV., sent King Charles II. a brevet of the Fleece in blank;
Charles II. immediately transmitted it to me, filling up the blank with
my name."

Mazarin arose, and leaning on the arm of Bernouin, he returned to his
_ruelle_ at the moment the name of M. le Prince was being announced.  The
Prince de Conde, the first prince of the blood, the conqueror of Rocroi,
Lens, and Nordlingen, was, in fact, entering the apartment of Monseigneur
de Mazarin, followed by his gentlemen, and had already saluted the king,
when the prime minister raised his curtain.  Athos had time to see Raoul
pressing the hand of the Comte de Guiche, and send him a smile in return
for his respectful bow.  He had time, likewise, to see the radiant
countenance of the cardinal, when he perceived before him, upon the
table, an enormous heap of gold, which the Comte de Guiche had won in a
run of luck, after his eminence had confided his cards to him.  So
forgetting ambassador, embassy and prince, his first thought was of the
gold.  "What!" cried the old man - "all that - won?"

"Some fifty thousand crowns; yes, monseigneur," replied the Comte de
Guiche, rising.  "Must I give up my place to your eminence, or shall I

"Give up! give up! you are mad.  You would lose all you have won.

"My lord!" said the Prince de Conde, bowing.

"Good-evening, monsieur le prince," said the minister, in a careless
tone; "it is very kind of you to visit an old sick friend."

"A friend!" murmured the Comte de la Fere, at witnessing with stupor this
monstrous alliance of words; - "friends! when the parties are Conde and

Mazarin seemed to divine the thoughts of the _Frondeur_, for he smiled
upon him with triumph, and immediately, - "Sire," said he to the king, "I
have the honor of presenting to your majesty, Monsieur le Comte de la
Fere, ambassador from his Britannic majesty.  An affair of state,
gentlemen," added he, waving his hand to all who filled the chamber, and
who, the Prince de Conde at their head, all disappeared at the simple
gesture.  Raoul, after a last look cast at the comte, followed M. de
Conde.  Philip of Anjou and the queen appeared to be consulting about

"A family affair," said Mazarin, suddenly, detaining them in their
seats.  "This gentleman is the bearer of a letter in which King Charles
II., completely restored to his throne, demands an alliance between
Monsieur, the brother of the king, and Mademoiselle Henrietta, grand-
daughter of Henry IV.  Will you remit your letter of credit to the king,
monsieur le comte?"

Athos remained for a minute stupefied.  How could the minister possibly
know the contents of the letter, which had never been out of his keeping
for a single instant?  Nevertheless, always master of himself, he held
out the dispatch to the young king, Louis XIV., who took it with a
blush.  A solemn silence reigned in the cardinal's chamber.  It was only
troubled by the dull sound of the gold, which Mazarin, with his yellow,
dry hand, piled up in a casket, whilst the king was reading.

Chapter XLI:
The Recital.

The maliciousness of the cardinal did not leave much for the ambassador
to say; nevertheless, the word "restoration" had struck the king, who,
addressing the comte, upon whom his eyes had been fixed since his
entrance, - "Monsieur," said he, "will you have the kindness to give us
some details concerning the affairs of England.  You come from that
country, you are a Frenchman, and the orders which I see glittering upon
your person announce you to be a man of merit as well as a man of

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: