“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 voice.
“What does monseigneur want?”
“Guenaud — let Guenaud be sent for,” said his eminence. “I think I’m dying.”
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.