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

In which Mazarin becomes Prodigal.

Whilst Mazarin was endeavoring to recover from the serious alarm he had
just experienced, Athos and Raoul were exchanging a few words in a corner
of the apartment.  "Well, here you are at Paris, then, Raoul?" said the

"Yes, monsieur, since the return of M. le Prince."

"I cannot converse freely with you here, because we are observed; but I
shall return home presently, and shall expect you as soon as your duty

Raoul bowed, and, at that moment, M. le Prince came up to them.  The
prince had that clear and keen look which distinguishes birds of prey of
the noble species; his physiognomy itself presented several distinct
traits of this resemblance.  It is known that in the Prince de Conde, the
aquiline nose rose out sharply and incisively from a brow slightly
retreating, rather low than high, and according to the railers of the
court, - a pitiless race without mercy even for genius, - constituted
rather an eagle's beak than a human nose, in the heir of the illustrious
princes of the house of Conde.  This penetrating look, this imperious
expression of the whole countenance, generally disturbed those to whom
the prince spoke, more than either majesty or regular beauty could have
done in the conqueror of Rocroi.  Besides this, the fire mounted so
suddenly to his projecting eyes, that with the prince every sort of
animation resembled passion.  Now, on account of his rank, everybody at
the court respected M. le Prince, and many even, seeing only the man,
carried their respect as far as terror.

Louis de Conde then advanced towards the Comte de la Fere and Raoul, with
the marked intention of being saluted by the one, and of speaking with
the other.  No man bowed with more reserved grace than the Comte de la
Fere.  He disdained to put into a salutation all the shades which a
courtier ordinarily borrows from the same color - the desire to please.
Athos knew his own personal value, and bowed to the prince like a man,
correcting by something sympathetic and undefinable that which might have
appeared offensive to the pride of the highest rank in the inflexibility
of his attitude.  The prince was about to speak to Raoul.  Athos
forestalled him.  "If M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne," said he, "were not
one of the humble servants of your royal highness, I would beg him to
pronounce my name before you - _mon prince_."

"I have the honor to address Monsieur le Comte de la Fere," said Conde,

"My protector," added Raoul, blushing.

"One of the most honorable men in the kingdom," continued the prince;
"one of the first gentlemen of France, and of whom I have heard so much
that I have frequently desired to number him among my friends."

"An honor of which I should be unworthy," replied Athos, "but for the
respect and admiration I entertain for your royal highness."

"Monsieur de Bragelonne," said the prince, "is a good officer, and it is
plainly seen that he has been to a good school.  Ah, monsieur le comte,
in your time, generals had soldiers!"

"That is true, my lord, but nowadays soldiers have generals."

This compliment, which savored so little of flattery, gave a thrill of
joy to the man whom already Europe considered a hero; and who might be
thought to be satiated with praise.

"I regret very much," continued the prince, "that you should have retired
from the service, monsieur le comte; for it is more than probable that
the king will soon have a war with Holland or England, and opportunities
for distinguishing himself would not be wanting for a man who, like you,
knows Great Britain as well as you do France."

"I believe I may say, monseigneur, that I have acted wisely in retiring
from the service," said Athos, smiling.  "France and Great Britain will
henceforward live like two sisters, if I can trust my presentiments."

"Your presentiments?"

"Stop, monseigneur, listen to what is being said yonder, at the table of
my lord the cardinal."

"Where they are playing?"

"Yes, my lord."

The cardinal had just raised himself on one elbow, and made a sign to the
king's brother, who went to him.

"My lord," said the cardinal, "pick up, if you please, all those gold
crowns."  And he pointed to the enormous pile of yellow and glittering
pieces which the Comte de Guiche had raised by degrees before him by a
surprising run of luck at play.

"For me?" cried the Duc d'Anjou.

"Those fifty thousand crowns; yes, monseigneur, they are yours."

"Do you give them to me?"

"I have been playing on your account, monseigneur," replied the cardinal,
getting weaker and weaker, as if this effort of giving money had
exhausted all his physical and moral faculties.

"Oh, good heavens!" exclaimed Philip, wild with joy, "what a fortunate
day!"  And he himself, making a rake of his fingers, drew a part of the
sum into his pockets, which he filled, and still full a third remained on
the table.

"Chevalier," said Philip to his favorite, the Chevalier de Lorraine,
"come hither, chevalier."  The favorite quickly obeyed.  "Pocket the
rest," said the young prince.

This singular scene was considered by the persons present only as a
touching kind of family _fete_.  The cardinal assumed the airs of a
father with the sons of France, and the two princes had grown up under
his wing.  No one then imputed to pride, or even impertinence, as would
be done nowadays, this liberality on the part of the first minister.  The
courtiers were satisfied with envying the prince. - The king turned away
his head.

"I never had so much money before," said the young prince, joyously, as
he crossed the chamber with his favorite to go to his carriage.  "No,
never!  What a weight these crowns are!"

"But why has monsieur le cardinal given away all this money at once?"
asked M. le Prince of the Comte de la Fere.  "He must be very ill, the
dear cardinal!"

"Yes, my lord, very ill, without doubt; he looks very ill, as your royal
highness may perceive."

"But surely he will die of it.  A hundred and fifty thousand livres!  Oh,
it is incredible!  But, comte, tell me a reason for it?"

"Patience, monseigneur, I beg of you.  Here comes M. le Duc d'Anjou,
talking with the Chevalier de Lorraine; I should not be surprised if they
spared us the trouble of being indiscreet.  Listen to them."

In fact the chevalier said to the prince in a low voice, "My lord, it is
not natural for M. Mazarin to give you so much money.  Take care! you
will let some of the pieces fall, my lord.  What design has the cardinal
upon you to make him so generous?"

"As I said," whispered Athos in the prince's ear; "that, perhaps, is the
best reply to your question."

"Tell me, my lord," repeated the chevalier impatiently, as he was
calculating, by weighing them in his pocket, the quota of the sum which
had fallen to his share by rebound.

"My dear chevalier, a wedding present."

"How a wedding present?"

"Eh! yes, I am going to be married," replied the Duc d'Anjou, without
perceiving, at the moment, he was passing the prince and Athos, who both
bowed respectfully.

The chevalier darted at the young duke a glance so strange, and so
malicious, that the Comte de la Fere quite started on beholding it.

"You! you to be married!" repeated he; "oh! that's impossible.  You would
not commit such a folly!"

"Bah!  I don't do it myself; I am made to do it," replied the Duc
d'Anjou.  "But come, quick! let us get rid of our money."  Thereupon he
disappeared with his companion, laughing and talking, whilst all heads
were bowed on his passage.

"Then," whispered the prince to Athos, "that is the secret."

"It was not I who told you so, my lord."

"He is to marry the sister of Charles II.?"

"I believe so."

The prince reflected for a moment, and his eye shot forth one of its not
infrequent flashes.  "Humph!" said he slowly, as if speaking to himself;
"our swords are once more to be hung on the wall - for a long time!" and
he sighed.

All that sigh contained of ambition silently stifled, of extinguished
illusions and disappointed hopes, Athos alone divined, for he alone heard
that sigh.  Immediately after, the prince took leave and the king left
the apartment.  Athos, by a sign made to Bragelonne, renewed the desire
he had expressed at the beginning of the scene.  By degrees the chamber
was deserted, and Mazarin was left alone, a prey to suffering which he
could no longer dissemble.  "Bernouin!  Bernouin!" cried he in a broken

"What does monseigneur want?"

"Guenaud - let Guenaud be sent for," said his eminence.  "I think I'm

Bernouin, in great terror, rushed into the cabinet to give the order, and
the _piqueur_, who hastened to fetch the physician, passed the king's
carriage in the Rue Saint Honore.

Chapter XLIII:

The cardinal's order was pressing; Guenaud quickly obeyed it.  He found
his patient stretched on his bed, his legs swelled, his face livid, and
his stomach collapsed.  Mazarin had a severe attack of gout.  He suffered
tortures with the impatience of a man who has not been accustomed to
resistances.  On seeing Guenaud: "Ah!" said he; "now I am saved!"

Guenaud was a very learned and circumspect man, who stood in no need of
the critiques of Boileau to obtain a reputation.  When facing a disease,
if it were personified in a king, he treated the patient as a Turk treats
a Moor.  He did not, therefore, reply to Mazarin as the minister
expected: "Here is the doctor; good-bye disease!"  On the contrary, on
examining his patient, with a very serious air:

"Oh! oh!" said he.

"Eh! what!  Guenaud!  How you look at me!"

"I look as I should on seeing your complaint, my lord; it is a very
dangerous one."

"The gout - oh! yes, the gout."

"With complications, my lord."

Mazarin raised himself upon his elbow, and, questioning by look and
gesture: "What do you mean by that?  Am I worse than I believe myself to

"My lord," said Guenaud, seating himself beside the bed; "your eminence
has worked very hard during your life; your eminence has suffered much."

"But I am not old, I fancy.  The late M. de Richelieu was but seventeen

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: