“Impossible, for the ordonnances have been converted into bills, which bills, for the convenience of return and facility of transaction, are divided into so many parts that the originals can no longer be recognized.”
Louis, very much agitated, walked about, still frowning. “But, if this is as you say, Monsieur Colbert,” said he, stopping all at once, “I shall be ruined before I begin to reign.”
“You are, in fact, sire,” said the impassible caster-up of figures.
“Well, but yet, monsieur, the money is somewhere?”
“Yes, sire, and even as a beginning, I bring your majesty a note of funds which M. le Cardinal Mazarin was not willing to set down in his testament, neither in any act whatever, but which he confided to me.”
“Yes, sire, with an injunction to remit it to your majesty.”
“What! besides the forty millions of the testament?”
“M. de Mazarin had still other funds?”
“Why, that man was a gulf!” murmured the king. “M. de Mazarin on one side, M. Fouquet on the other, — more than a hundred millions perhaps between them! No wonder my coffers should be empty!” Colbert waited without stirring.
“And is the sum you bring me worth the trouble?” asked the king.
“Yes, sire, it is a round sum.”
“Amounting to how much?”
“To thirteen millions of livres, sire.”
“Thirteen millions!” cried Louis, trembling with joy; “do you say thirteen millions, Monsieur Colbert?”
“I said thirteen millions, yes, your majesty.”
“Of which everybody is ignorant?”
“Of which everybody is ignorant.”
“Which are in your hands?”
“In my hands, yes, sire.”
“And which I can have?”
“Within two hours, sire.”
“But where are they, then?”
“In the cellar of a house which the cardinal possessed in the city, and which he was so kind as to leave me by a particular clause of his will.”
“You are acquainted with the cardinal’s will, then?”
“I have a duplicate of it, signed by his hand.”
“Yes, sire, and here it is.” Colbert drew the deed quietly from his pocket, and showed it to the king. The king read the article relative to the donation of the house.
“But,” said he, “there is no question here but of the house; there is nothing said of the money.”
“Your pardon, sire, it is in my conscience.”
“And Monsieur Mazarin has intrusted it to you?”
“Why not, sire?”
“He! a man mistrustful of everybody?”
“He was not so of me, sire, as your majesty may perceive.”
Louis fixed his eyes with admiration upon that vulgar but expressive face. “You are an honest man, M. Colbert,” said the king.
“That is not a virtue, it is a duty,” replied Colbert, coolly.