“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.
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 quality.”
“Monsieur,” said the cardinal, turning towards the queen-mother, “is an ancient servant of your majesty’s, Monsieur le Comte de la Fere.”
Anne of Austria was as oblivious as a queen whose life had been mingled with fine and stormy days. She looked at Mazarin, whose evil smile promised her something disagreeable; then she solicited from Athos, by another look, an explanation.
“Monsieur,” continued the cardinal, “was a Treville musketeer, in the service of the late king. Monsieur is well acquainted with England, whither he has made several voyages at various periods; he is a subject of the highest merit.”
These words made allusion to all the memories which Anne of Austria trembled to evoke. England, that was her hatred of Richelieu and her love for Buckingham; a Treville musketeer, that was the whole Odyssey of the triumphs which had made the heart of the young woman throb, and of the dangers which had been so near overturning the throne of the young queen. These words had much power, for they rendered mute and attentive all the royal personages, who, with very various sentiments, set about recomposing at the same time the mysteries which the young had not seen, and which the old had believed to be forever effaced.
“Speak, monsieur,” said Louis XIV., the first to escape from troubles, suspicions, and remembrances.
“Yes, speak,” added Mazarin, to whom the little malicious thrust directed against Anne of Austria had restored energy and gayety.