The Comtesse de Soissons interrupted the narrator: “Confess, count, you are inventing.”
“Madame, I am repeating like a parrot all the stories related to me by different Englishmen. To my shame I am compelled to say, I am as exact as a copy.”
“Charles II. would have died before he could have endured all that.”
Louis XIV. raised his intelligent and proud head. “Madame,” said he, in a grave tone, still partaking something of the timid child, “monsieur le cardinal will tell you that during my minority the affairs of France were in jeopardy, — and that if I had been older, and obliged to take sword in hand, it would sometimes have been for the purpose of procuring the evening meal.”
“Thanks to God,” said the cardinal, who spoke for the first time, “your majesty exaggerates, and your supper has always been ready with that of your servants.”
The king colored.
“Oh!” cried Philip, inconsiderately, from his place, and without ceasing to admire himself, — “I recollect once, at Melun, the supper was laid for nobody, and that the king ate two-thirds of a slice of bread, and abandoned to me the other third.”
The whole assembly, seeing Mazarin smile, began to laugh. Courtiers flatter kings with the remembrance of past distresses, as with the hopes of future good fortune.
“It is not to be denied that the crown of France has always remained firm upon the heads of its kings,” Anne of Austria hastened to say, “and that it has fallen off of that of the king of England; and when by chance that crown oscillated a little, — for there are throne-quakes as well as earthquakes, — every time, I say, that rebellion threatened it, a good victory restored tranquillity.”
“With a few gems added to the crown,” said Mazarin.
The Comte de Guiche was silent: the king composed his countenance, and Mazarin exchanged looks with Anne of Austria, as if to thank her for her intervention.
“It is of no consequence,” said Philip, smoothing his hair; “my cousin Charles is not handsome, but he is very brave, and fought like a landsknecht; and if he continues to fight thus, no doubt he will finish by gaining a battle, like Rocroi — "
“He has no soldiers,” interrupted the Chevalier de Lorraine.
“The king of Holland, his ally, will give him some. I would willingly have given him some if I had been king of France.”
Louis XIV. blushed excessively. Mazarin affected to be more attentive to his game than ever.
“By this time,” resumed the Comte de Guiche, “the fortune of this unhappy prince is decided. If he has been deceived by Monk, he is ruined. Imprisonment, perhaps death, will finish what exiles, battles, and privations have commenced.”
Mazarin’s brow became clouded.
“It is certain,” said Louis XIV., “that his majesty Charles II., has quitted the Hague?”
“Quite certain, your majesty,” replied the young man; “my father has received a letter containing all the details; it is even known that the king has landed at Dover; some fishermen saw him entering the port; the rest is still a mystery.”