“Thanks!” said he, “my brother. You pity me, and that is all I can require of you in your present situation.”
“Sire,” said Louis XIV., with a sudden impulse, and raising his head, “it is a million you require, or two hundred gentlemen, I think you say?”
“Sire, a million would be quite sufficient.”
“That is very little.”
“Offered to a single man it is a great deal. Convictions have been purchased at a much lower price; and I should have nothing to do but with venalities.”
“Two hundred gentlemen! Reflect! — that is little more than a single company.”
“Sire, there is in our family a tradition, and that is, that four men, four French gentlemen, devoted to my father, were near saving my father, though condemned by a parliament, guarded by an army and surrounded by a nation.”
“Then if I can procure you a million, or two hundred gentlemen, you will be satisfied; and you will consider me your well-affectioned brother?”
“I shall consider you as my saviour; and if I recover the throne of my father, England will be, as long as I reign it, a sister to France, as you will have been a brother to me.”
“Well, my brother,” said Louis, rising, “what you hesitate to ask for, I will myself demand; that which I have never done on my own account, I will do on yours. I will go and find the king of France — the other — the rich, the powerful one, I mean. I will myself solicit this million, or these two hundred gentlemen; and — we will see.”
“Oh!” cried Charles; “you are a noble friend, sire — a heart created by God! You save me, my brother; and if you should ever stand in need of the life you restored me, demand it.”
“Silence, my brother, — silence!” said Louis, in a suppressed voice. “Take care that no one hears you! We have not obtained our end yet. To ask money of Mazarin — that is worse than traversing the enchanted forest, each tree of which inclosed a demon. It is more than setting out to conquer a world.”
“But yet, sire, when you ask it — "
“I have already told you that I never asked,” replied Louis with a haughtiness that made the king of England turn pale.
And the latter, like a wounded man, made a retreating movement — “Pardon me, my brother,” replied he. “I have neither a mother nor a sister who are suffering. My throne is hard and naked, but I am firmly seated on my throne. Pardon me that expression, my brother; it was that of an egotist. I will retract it, therefore, by a sacrifice, — I will go to monsieur le cardinal. Wait for me, if you please — I will return.”
Whilst the king was directing his course rapidly towards the wing of the castle occupied by the cardinal, taking nobody with him but his valet de chambre, the officer of musketeers came out, breathing like a man who has for a long time been forced to hold his breath, from the little cabinet of which we have already spoken, and which the king believed to be quite solitary. This little cabinet had formerly been part of the chamber, from which it was only separated by a thin partition. It resulted that this partition, which was only for the eye, permitted the ear the least indiscreet to hear every word spoken in the chamber.