“There is always the same annoyance where money is concerned,” cried the Queen irritably, “in spite of the vast sums which my Netherlands pour into the treasury—four times as much as Spain supplies, including the gold and silver of the New World. You keep it secret, but two fifths of the revenue from all the countries over which Charles reigns are contributed by my provinces. Torrents of ducats inundate your treasury, and yet—yet—it’s enough to drive one mad!—in spite of this and the lamentable parsimony with which the Emperor deprives himself of both great and small pleasures—it is simply absurd!—the story is always: The finances are at the lowest ebb—save and save again. To protect the plumes in his new cap from being injured by the rain, the sovereign of half the world ordered an old hat to be brought, and waited in the shower until the shabby felt came. And where are the millions which this excellent economist saves from his personal expenses? The dragon War devours them all. True, he has vanquished foes enough, but the demon of melancholy, that makes even Dr. Mathys anxious, is far worse than the infidels before whom you were compelled to retreat in Algiers—far more terrible than the Turks and heretics combined. Yet what are you and the wise treasurer doing? The idea of lessening the salaries of the physician-in-ordinary and his colleagues has never entered the heads of the estimable gentlemen who call themselves his Majesty’s faithful servants. Very well! Then put the musicians’ travelling expenses upon the apothecary’s bill. They have as much right to be there as the senna leaves. But, if the penny pinchers in the council of finance refuse to advance the necessary funds, why—charge this medicine to my account. I’ll pay for it, in spite of the numerous leeches that suck my substance.”
“It certainly will not come to that, your Majesty,” replied Quijada soothingly. “Our sovereign lord knows, too, that it beseems him to be less rigid in saving. Only yesterday he dipped into his purse deeply enough for another remedy.”
“What was that?” asked the Queen in surprise.
“He paid the debts of my colleague Malfalconnet, not less than ten thousand ducats.”
“There it is!” exclaimed the regent, striking her hands sharply together. “The baron dispels the Emperor’s melancholy by his ready wit, which often hits the nail on the head, and his nimble tongue, but my medicine must provide the fitting mood for Malfalconnet’s dearly bought jests and witticisms to exert the proper influence.”
“And, moreover,” Quijada added gaily, “your Majesty will present the completed deed for the treasurer’s action. But now I most humbly entreat you to dismiss me. I must inform the quartermasters at once, and look after the matter myself if your Majesty’s costly magic pills are not to be spoiled by this wet April weather. Besides, many of the musicians are not the strongest of men.”