“One moment, — does not the king sign the ordonances?”
Mazarin passed from sighs to groans. “Absolution! absolution!” cried he.
“Impossible, my lord. Restitution! restitution!” replied the Theatin.
“But you absolve me from all other sins, why not from that?”
“Because,” replied the father, “to absolve you for that motive would be a sin for which the king would never absolve me, my lord.”
Thereupon the confessor quitted his penitent with an air full of compunction. He then went out in the same manner he had entered.
“Oh, good God!” groaned the cardinal. “Come here, Colbert, I am very, very ill indeed, my friend.”
Colbert reappeared beneath the curtains.
“Have you heard?” said Mazarin.
“Alas! yes, my lord.”
“Can he be right? Can all this money be badly acquired?”
“A Theatin, monseigneur, is a bad judge in matters of finance,” replied Colbert, coolly. “And yet it is very possible that, according to his theological views, your eminence has been, in a certain degree, in the wrong. People generally find they have been so, — when they die.”
“In the first place, they commit the wrong of dying, Colbert.”
“That is true, my lord. Against whom, however, did the Theatin make out that you had committed these wrongs? Against the king?”
Mazarin shrugged his shoulders. “As if I had not saved both his state and his finances.”
“That admits of no contradiction, my lord.”
“Does it? Then I have received a merely legitimate salary, in spite of the opinion of my confessor?”
“That is beyond doubt.”
“And I might fairly keep for my own family, which is so needy, a good fortune, — the whole, even, of which I have earned?”
“I see no impediment to that, monseigneur.”
“I felt assured that in consulting you, Colbert, I should have good advice,” replied Mazarin, greatly delighted.
Colbert resumed his pedantic look. “My lord,” interrupted he, “I think it would be quite as well to examine whether what the Theatin said is not a snare.”
“Oh! no; a snare? What for? The Theatin is an honest man.”
“He believed your eminence to be at death’s door, because your eminence consulted him. Did I not hear him say — ’Distinguish that which the king has given you from that which you have given yourself.’ Recollect, my lord, if he did not say something a little like that to you? — that is quite a theatrical speech.”
“That is possible.”
“In which case, my lord, I should consider you as required by the Theatin to — "
“To make restitution!” cried Mazarin, with great warmth.
“Eh! I do not say no.”
“What, of all! You do not dream of such a thing! You speak just as the confessor did.”