“But,” added Louis, “does not the money belong to the family?”
“If this money belonged to the family it would be disposed of in the testament, as the rest of the fortune is. If this money belonged to the family, I, who drew up the deed of donation in favor of your majesty, should have added the sum of thirteen millions to that of forty millions which was offered to you.”
“How!” exclaimed Louis XIV., “was it you who drew up the deed of donation?”
“And yet the cardinal was attached to you?” added the king, ingenuously.
“I had assured his eminence you would by no means accept the gift,” said Colbert, in that same quiet manner we have described, and which, even in the common habits of life, had something solemn in it.
Louis passed his hand over his brow: “Oh! how young I am,” murmured he, “to have command of men.”
Colbert waited the end of this monologue. He saw Louis raise his head. “At what hour shall I send the money to your majesty?” asked he.
“To-night, at eleven o’clock; I desire that no one may know that I possess this money.”
Colbert made no more reply than if the thing had not been said to him.
“Is the amount in ingots, or coined gold?”
“In coined gold, sire.”
“That is well.”
“Where shall I send it?”
“To the Louvre. Thank you, M. Colbert.”
Colbert bowed and retired. “Thirteen millions!” exclaimed Louis, as soon as he was alone. “This must be a dream!” Then he allowed his head to sink between his hands, as if he were really asleep. But, at the end of a moment, he arose, and opening the window violently, he bathed his burning brow in the keen morning air, which brought to his senses the scent of the trees, and the perfume of the flowers. A splendid dawn was gilding the horizon, and the first rays of the sun bathed in flame the young king’s brow. “This is the dawn of my reign,” murmured Louis XIV. “It’s a presage sent by the Almighty.”
In the morning, the news of the death of the cardinal was spread through the castle, and thence speedily reached the city. The ministers Fouquet, Lyonne, and Letellier entered la salle des seances, to hold a council. The king sent for them immediately. “Messieurs,” said he,” as long as monsieur le cardinal lived, I allowed him to govern my affairs; but now I mean to govern them myself. You will give me your advice when I ask it. You may go.”
The ministers looked at each other with surprise. If they concealed a smile it was with a great effort, for they knew that the prince, brought up in absolute ignorance of business, by this took upon himself a burden much too heavy for his strength. Fouquet took leave of his colleagues upon the stairs, saying: — “Messieurs! there will be so much the less labor for us.”