“Your majesty returns my donation!” cried Mazarin, so disturbed by joy as to forget his character of a benefactor.
“Your majesty rejects the forty millions!” cried Anne of Austria, so stupefied as to forget her character of an afflicted wife, or queen.
“Yes, my lord cardinal; yes, madame,” replied Louis XIV., tearing the parchment which Mazarin had not yet ventured to clutch; “yes, I annihilate this deed, which despoiled a whole family. The wealth acquired by his eminence in my service is his own wealth and not mine.”
“But, sire, does your majesty reflect,” said Anne of Austria, “that you have not ten thousand crowns in your coffers?”
“Madame, I have just performed my first royal action, and I hope it will worthily inaugurate my reign.”
“Ah! sire, you are right!” cried Mazarin; “that is truly great — that is truly generous which you have just done.” And he looked, one after the other, at the pieces of the act spread over his bed, to assure himself that it was the original and not a copy that had been torn. At length his eyes fell upon the fragment which bore his signature, and recognizing it, he sunk back on his bolster in a swoon. Anne of Austria, without strength to conceal her regret, raised her hands and eyes towards heaven.
“Oh! sire,” cried Mazarin, “may you be blessed! My God! May you be beloved by all my family. Per Baccho! If ever any of those belonging to me should cause your displeasure, sire, only frown, and I will rise from my tomb!”
This pantalonnade did not produce all the effect Mazarin had counted upon. Louis had already passed to considerations of a higher nature, and as to Anne of Austria, unable to bear, without abandoning herself to the anger she felt burning within her, the magnanimity of her son and the hypocrisy of the cardinal, she arose and left the chamber, heedless of thus betraying the extent of her grief. Mazarin saw all this, and fearing that Louis XIV. might repent his decision, in order to draw attention another way he began to cry out, as, at a later period, Scapin was to cry out, in that sublime piece of pleasantry with which the morose and grumbling Boileau dared to reproach Moliere. His cries, however, by degrees, became fainter; and when Anne of Austria left the apartment, they ceased altogether.
“Monsieur le cardinal,” said the king, “have you any recommendations to make me?”
“Sire,” replied Mazarin, “you are already wisdom itself, prudence personified; of your generosity I shall not venture to speak; that which you have just done exceeds all that the most generous men of antiquity or of modern times have ever done.”
The king received this praise coldly.
“So you confine yourself,” said he, “to your thanks — and your experience, much more extensive than my wisdom, my prudence, or my generosity, does not furnish you with a single piece of friendly advice to guide my future.” Mazarin reflected for a moment. “You have just done much for me, sire,” said he, “that is, for my family.”