“Very well, I say no more about it,” exclaimed Louis XIV.
“Have I at least convinced you, sire?” placing his hand upon that of the young king.
“If there be anything else, ask it, sire; I shall most happy to grant it to you, having refused this.”
“Anything else, my lord?”
“Why yes; am I not devoted body and soul to your majesty? Hola! Bernouin! — lights and guards for his majesty! His majesty is returning to his own chamber.”
“Not yet, monsieur: since you place your good-will at my disposal, I will take advantage of it.”
“For yourself, sire?” asked the cardinal, hoping that his niece was at length about to be named.
“No, monsieur, not for myself,” replied Louis, “but still for my brother Charles.”
The brow of Mazarin again became clouded, and he grumbled a few words that the king could not catch.
Instead of the hesitation with which he had accosted the cardinal a quarter of an hour before, there might be read in the eyes of the young king that will against which a struggle might be maintained, and which might be crushed by its own impotence, but which, at least, would preserve, like a wound in the depth of the heart, the remembrance of its defeat.
“This time, my lord cardinal, we have to deal with something more easily found than a million.”
“Do you think so, sire?” said Mazarin, looking at the king with that penetrating eye which was accustomed to read to the bottom of hearts.
“Yes, I think so; and when you know the object of my request — "
“And do you think I do not know it, sire?”
“You know what remains for me to say to you?”
“Listen, sire; these are King Charles’s own words — "
“Listen. ‘And if that miserly, beggarly Italian,’ said he — "
“My lord cardinal!”
“That is the sense, if not the words. Eh! Good heavens! I wish him no ill on that account; one is biased by his passions. He said to you: ’If that vile Italian refuses the million we ask of him, sire, — if we are forced, for want of money, to renounce diplomacy, well, then, we will ask him to grant us five hundred gentlemen.’”
The king started, for the cardinal was only mistaken in the number.
“Is not that it, sire?” cried the minister, with a triumphant accent. “And then he added some fine words: he said, ’I have friends on the other side of the channel, and these friends only want a leader and a banner. When they see me, when they behold the banner of France, they will rally around me, for they will comprehend that I have your support. The colors of the French uniform will be worth as much to me as the million M. de Mazarin refuses us,’ — for he was pretty well assured I should refuse him that million. — ’I shall conquer with these five hundred gentlemen, sire, and all the honor will be yours.’ Now, that is what he said, or to that purpose, was it not? — turning those plain words into brilliant metaphors and pompous images, for they are fine talkers in that family! The father talked even on the scaffold.”