“Then I regret that I cannot be present at this festival!” cried the duke, rising. “You cannot desire that I should be a witness to my own shame and your triumph. You are no Roman emperor, and I am no conquered hero compelled to appear in your triumphal train! I recall my consent, and shall not appear at your to-morrow’s festival!”
“Reflect and consider this well!” said the cardinal, almost sadly. “If you fail to appear to-morrow, when the whole diplomacy are assembled at my house for an official dinner, that will signify not only that the duke breaks with his old friend the cardinal, but also that Spain wishes to dissolve her friendly relations with France.”
“Let it be so considered!” said the duke. “Better an open war than a clandestine defeat! Adieu, Sir Cardinal!”
And the duke made for the door. But the cardinal held him back.
“Have you reflected upon the consequences?” he asked. “You know what important negotiations at this moment occupy the Catholic courts. Of the abolition of the greatest and most powerful of orders, of the extirpation of the Jesuits, is the question. The pope is favorable to this idea of the Portuguese minister, Pombal, but he desires the co-operation of the other Catholic courts. Austria gives her consent, as do Sardinia and all the other Italian states; only the court of Spain has declared itself the friend and defender of the Jesuits, and for your sake has France hitherto remained passive on this most important question, and has affected not to hear the demands of her subjects; for your sake has France stifled her own convictions and joined in your support. Therefore, think well of what you are about to do! To break off your friendly relations with France, is to compel France to take sides against Spain; and if the powerful voice of France is heard against the Jesuits, the single voice of Spain will be powerless to uphold them.”
“Well, then, let them go!” cried the duke. “What care I for the Jesuits when the defence of our honor is concerned? Sir Cardinal, farewell; however France may decide, Spain will never submit to her arrogance!”
The duke abruptly left the room, slamming the door after him.
Cardinal Bernis saw his departure with an expression of sadness.
“And such are the friendships of man,” he murmured to himself; “the slightest offence is sufficient to destroy a friendship of many years. Well, we must reconcile ourselves to it,” he continued after a pause, “and, at all events, it has its very diverting side. For many months I have taken pains to support Grimaldi with the pope in his defence of the Jesuits, and now that celebrated order will be abolished because a French cook has bought a fish that was too dear for the Spanish cook! By what small influences are the destinies of mankind decided!
“But now I have not a moment to lose,” continued the cardinal, rousing himself from his troubled thoughts. “Grimaldi has rendered it impossible for me longer to oppose the views of the Marquise de Pompadour; I must now give effect to the commands of my feminine sovereign, and announce to the pope the assent of France to his policy. To the pope, then, the letter of the marquise may make known the will of Louis.”