Twenty Years After

Contents:
Author: "Alexandre Dumas, père"  | Date: 1845

CHAPTER IV: Anne of Austria at the Age of Forty-six

LEFT alone with Bernouin, Mazarin remained a moment thoughtful. He had learned much, and yet he did not know enough. Mazarin was a cheat at cards. That detail Brienne has preserved for us; he called that using his opportunities. He resolved not to commence the game with d’Artagnan until he knew well all his adversary’s cards.

"My Lord orders nothing?" asked Bernouin.

"Yes, indeed," replied Mazarin; "light me, I am going to the queen."

Bernouin took a candlestick and led the way. There was a secret passage which connected the apartments and cabinet of Mazarin with the apartments of the queen. It was through this corridor that the cardinal passed to visit, at any hour, Anne of Austria.

On arriving in the bed chamber where this passage ended, Bernouin met Madame Beauvais. Madame Beauvais and Bernouin were the confidants of these superannuated amours; and Madame Beauvais undertook to announce the cardinal to Anne of Austria, who was in her oratory with the young king, Louis XIV.

Anne of Austria, seated in a great armchair, her elbow resting upon a table, and her head supported by her hand, was regarding the royal child, who, lying upon the carpet, was turning the leaves of a great book full of battle pictures. Anne of Austria was a queen who knew well how to weary herself with dignity. She remained sometimes whole hours retired in her chamber or her oratory without reading or praying. The book with which the king played was a Quintus Curtius enriched by engravings representing the feats of arms of Alexander.

Madame Beauvais appeared at the door of the oratory and announced the Cardinal Mazarin. The child raised himself upon one knee, frowned, and looking at his mother, "Why then," said he, "does he enter thus without asking for an audience?"

Anne colored slightly.

"It is important," replied she, "that a prime minister, in these unsettled times, should come to render account at any hour of all that is happening, to the queen, without exciting the curiosity or remarks of the whole court."

"But it seems to me that M. de Richelieu did not enter in this manner," returned the persistent child.

"How can you recollect what M. de Richelieu did? You could not know it; you were too young."

"I do not recollect it; I have asked, and they have told me about it."

"And who has told you that?" replied Anne of Austria, with a movement of anger poorly disguised.

"I know that I ought never to name the persons who answer my questions," responded the child, "or I should learn nothing more."

At this moment Mazarin entered; the king arose, took his book, closed it, and carried it to the table, near which he continued standing in order to compel Mazarin to remain standing also.

Mazarin watched with his keen eyes all this scene, and seemed to ask an explanation of what had preceded it. He bent respectfully before the queen, and made a low inclination to the king, who replied by a slight bend of the head; but a look from his mother reproved him for this expression of the dislike which from his infancy Louis XIV had entertained towards the cardinal, and he received with a smile upon his lips the homage of the minister. Anne of Austria sought to divine from the countenance of Mazarin the cause of this unexpected visit, the cardinal usually not coming to her apartments until every one had retired. The minister gave a slight nod; then addressing Madame Beauvais, "It is time that the king should retire to rest," said she; "call Laporte."

Already, before this, the queen had several times told the young Louis that he must retire; but each time the child had coaxingly begged leave to remain. This time he made no remark; he only compressed his lips, and grew pale. An instant afterwards Laporte entered. The child went directly to him without embracing his mother.

"Well, Louis," said Anne, "why do you not embrace me?"

"I thought you were angry with me, Madame; you send me away."

"I do not send you away; you have just had the smallpox, and are still weak, and I fear that sitting up late may fatigue you."

"You did not have the same fear when you made me go today to the Palais to pass those odious decrees which have caused so much murmuring among the people."

"Sire," interposed Laporte, to change the subject, "to whom does your Majesty wish me to give the candlestick?"

"To any one you please, Laporte," replied the child, "provided," added he, in a loud voice, "that it is not Mancini."

Mancini was a nephew of the cardinal, whom Mazarin had placed near the person of the king as child of honor, and upon whom Louis XIV turned a portion of the hatred he felt for his minister.

And the king went out without embracing his mother and without bowing to the cardinal.

"Well and good!" said Mazarin; "I am glad to see that his Majesty is being brought up with a horror of dissimulation."

"Why so?" asked the queen, a little timidly.

"It seems to me that the sortie of the king does not require any commentary; besides, his Majesty does not give himself the trouble to conceal the little affection he bears me, which does not prevent me, however, from being entirely devoted to his service, as well as to that of your Majesty."

"I ask pardon of you for him, Cardinal," said the queen, "he is a child, who cannot yet know all the obligations he is under to you."

The cardinal smiled.

"But," continued the queen, "you have come, doubtless, for some important object; what is it, then?"

Mazarin seated, or rather threw himself, into a large chair with a melancholy air.

"It is," said he, "that in all probability we shall soon be forced to separate, unless you carry your devotion to me so far as to follow me into Italy."

"And why so?" demanded the queen.

"Because, as is said in the opera of Thisbe," replied Mazarin, "’The whole world conspires to divide our loves.’"

"You jest, sir!" said the queen, attempting to resume something of her former dignity.

"Alas, no, Madame!" rejoined Mazarin; "I do not jest the least in the world. I should much rather weep, I pray you to believe it; and there is reason for it, for mark well that I have said: ’The whole world conspires to divide our loves.’ Now, as you are part of the whole world, I wish to say that you also desert me."

"Cardinal!"

"Eh! mon Dieu, did I not see you the other day smile very agreeably on the Duc d’Orleans, or rather at what he was saying to you?"

"And what was he saying?"

"He said to you, Madame, ’It is your Mazarin who is the stumbling-block; dismiss him, and all will go well.’"

"What do you wish me to do?"

"Oh, Madame, you are the queen, it seems to me!"

"Fine royalty! at the mercy of every scribbler of the Palais-Royal, or of every lordling in the kingdom."

"Nevertheless you have the power to banish from your presence those who displease you."

"That is to say those who displease you," returned the queen.

"Me?"

"Yes, indeed. Who sent away Madame de Chevreuse, who during twelve years had been persecuted under the other reign?"

"An intriguing woman who wished to continue against me the cabals begun against M. de Richelieu!"

"Who dismissed Madame de Hautefort,- that friend so perfect that she had refused the good graces of the king in order to remain in mine?"

"A prude who told you every night as she undressed you that it was to lose your soul only to love a priest; as if one were a priest because one happens to be a cardinal!"

"Who caused M. de Beaufort to be arrested?"

"A blunderhead who was talking of nothing less than assassinating me!"

"You see, Cardinal," returned the queen, "that your enemies are mine."

"That is not enough, Madame, it is further necessary that your friends should be mine also."

"My friends, sir!" The queen shook her head. "Alas! I have no longer any."

"How is it that you have no longer friends in prosperity, when you had many in adversity?"

"Because in prosperity I have forgotten those friends, sir; because I have done like the queen, Marie de Medicis, who on the return from her first exile neglected all those who suffered for her, and who, proscribed a second time, died at Cologne, abandoned by the whole world and even by her son, because every one neglected her in their turn."

"Well, let us see!" said Mazarin, "is there not time to repair the evil? Recall to mind your friends, your oldest ones."

"What do you mean to say, sir?" replied the queen.

"Nothing else than what I say: recall them to mind."

"Alas! I look in vain around me. I have no influence over any one. Monsieur, as always, is led by his favorite: yesterday it was Choisy; today it is La Riviere; tomorrow it will be another. Monsieur the Prince is led by the Coadjutor, who is led by Madame de Guemenee."

"Therefore, Madame, I do not tell you to look among your friends of today, but among those of former times."

"Among my friends of former times?" said the queen.

"Yes, among your friends of former times, among those who aided you to contend with M. le Duc de Richelieu, and even vanquish him."

"What does he wish to learn?" murmured the queen, looking at the cardinal anxiously.

"Yes"; continued he, "in certain circumstances, with the powerful and shrewd mind which characterizes your Majesty, you have known how, thanks to the aid of your friends, to repel the attacks of that adversary."

"I!" said the queen. "I have suffered, that is all."

"Yes," said Mazarin, "as women suffer, in avenging themselves. Come, let us come to the fact! Do you know M. de Rochefort?"

"M. de Rochefort was not one of my friends," said the queen; "but on the contrary one of my most bitter enemies; one of the most faithful servants of Monsieur the Cardinal. I thought you knew that."

"I know it so well," responded Mazarin, "that we have put him in the Bastille."

"Has he come out?" demanded the queen.

"No, re-assure yourself; he is there still. I have only spoken of him to call to mind another person. Do you know M. d’Artagnan?" continued Mazarin, looking the queen in the face.

Anne of Austria received the blow full in her heart.

"Could the Gascon have been indiscreet?" she murmured; then aloud, "d’Artagnan!" added she. "Wait a moment; yes certainly that name is familiar to me. D’Artagnan, a musketeer who was in love with one of my women,- poor little creature! she was poisoned on my account."

"And that is all?" said Mazarin.

The queen regarded the cardinal with surprise.

"But, sir," said she, "it seems that you are making me undergo an interrogation?"

"In which," said Mazarin, with his constant smile and soft voice, "you answer only according to your own fancy."

"Explain clearly your desires, sir, and I will reply in the same manner," said the queen, beginning to show impatience.

"Well, Madame," said Mazarin, bowing, "I desire that you share with me your friends, as I have shared with you the little of industry and talent which Heaven has bestowed upon me. Circumstances are serious, and it is going to be necessary to act with energy."

"Again!" said the queen. "I thought that we had finished with M. de Beaufort."

"Yes; you have seen only the torrent which strove to overturn everything, and you have paid no attention to the stagnant water. There is, however, in France, a proverb about the water that stagnates."

"Finish," said the queen.

"Well!" continued Mazarin, "every day I suffer affronts from your princes and titled servants,- all automata who do not see that I hold the string that moves them, and who under my patient gravity have not divined the laugh of the irritated man who has sworn to himself to become one day their master. We have caused the arrest of M. de Beaufort, it is true; but he is the least dangerous of them. There is still Monsieur the Prince-"

"The conqueror of Rocroy! Do you think of him?"

"Yes, Madame, and very often; but pazienza, as we Italians say. Then after M. de Conde, there is the Duc d’Orleans."

"What are you saying? The first prince of the blood, the uncle of the king!"

"No! not the first prince of the blood, not the uncle of the king, but the cowardly conspirator, who during the other reign, impelled by his capricious and whimsical character, gnawed by miserable idleness, devoured by a dull ambition, jealous of every one who surpassed him in loyalty and courage, irritated at being nothing, thanks to his nullity, made himself the echo of every bad report, made himself the soul of all the cabals, gave the signal of forward to all those brave men who had the folly to believe in the honor of a man of royal blood, and who disowned them when they mounted the scaffold! No, not the first prince of the blood, not the uncle of the king, I repeat it, but the assassin of Chalais, of Montmorency and of Cinq-Mars, who attempts today to play the same game, and thinks he shall succeed because he has changed adversaries, and instead of having opposed to him a man who threatens, there is only a man who smiles. But he is mistaken; he has lost in losing M. de Richelieu, and it is not my interest to leave near the queen this leaven of discord with which the late cardinal for twenty years caused the anger of the king to boil."

Anne blushed, and buried her face in her hands.

"I do not wish to humiliate your Majesty," continued Mazarin, returning to a calmer tone, but at the same time with unusual firmness. "I wish that the queen should be respected, and that her minister should be respected, since in the eyes of all I am only that. Your Majesty knows that I am not, as many people say, a ’dancing puppet’ come from Italy. It is necessary that every one should know it like your Majesty."

"Well, then, what must I do?" said Anne of Austria, bowed down under this domineering voice.

"You must seek in your memory the names of those faithful and devoted men who crossed the sea despite M. de Richelieu, leaving traces of their blood all along their route, to bring back to your Majesty certain jewels given to M. de Buckingham."

Anne arose, majestic and incensed, as if moved by a steel spring, and regarding the cardinal with that haughtiness and dignity which rendered her so powerful in the days of her youth.

"You insult me, sir!" said she.

"I wish, in fine," continued Mazarin finishing the thought which the movement of the queen had interrupted,- "I wish you to do today for your husband what you did formerly for your lover."

"Again that calumny!" cried the queen. "I thought it killed and completely stifled, for you had spared me till now; but lo! you speak of it to me in your turn. So much the better, for it will be a question this time between us; and the whole shall be finished, do you understand that?"

"But, Madame," said Mazarin, astonished at this return of courage, "I do not ask that you should tell me all."

"And I,- I wish to tell you all," responded Anne of Austria. "Listen, then. I wish to tell you that there were at this time four devoted hearts, four loyal souls, four faithful swords who saved more than my life, sir, and saved my honor."

"Ah, you avow it," said Mazarin.

"Is it only the guilty whose honor may be at stake, sir, and cannot one dishonor another, a woman especially, by appearances? Yes, appearances were against me, and I was about to be dishonored, but nevertheless, I swear it to you, I was not guilty. I swear it-"

The queen sought for some sacred object upon which she could swear; and drawing from a closet concealed by the tapestry a small coffer of rosewood, inlaid with silver, and laying it on the altar,- "I swear it," said she, "on these sacred relics, that I loved M. de Buckingham, but M. de Buckingham was not my lover!"

"And what are these relics on which you make this oath, Madame?" said Mazarin, smiling; "for I forewarn you, in my character of Roman I am incredulous. There are relics and relics."

The queen detached a small golden key from her neck, and presented it to the cardinal.

"Open it, sir," said she, "and look for yourself."

Mazarin, astonished, took the key, and opened the coffer, in which he found only a dagger, corroded with rust, and two letters, one of which was spotted with blood.

"What is that?" demanded Mazarin.

"What is that, sir?" said Anne of Austria, with a queenly gesture, and stretching out over the open coffer an arm still beautiful despite the lapse of years.

"I am going to tell you. Those, sir, two letters are the only ones that I ever wrote to him. This dagger is the one with which Felton stabbed him. Read these letters, sir, and you will see if I have told a falsehood."

Notwithstanding this permission, Mazarin, by a natural sentiment, instead of reading the letters, took the dagger which the dying Buckingham had torn from his wound, and sent by Laporte to the queen. Its blade was wholly corroded, for the blood had become rust; then, after a momentary examination, during which the queen grew as white as the altar-cloth on which she was leaning, he replaced it in the coffer with an involuntary shudder.

"It is well, Madame," said he; "I trust to your oath."

"No, no, read," said the queen, frowning,- "read; I wish it, I order it, so that, as I am resolved, everything shall be finished this time, and we shall never recur again to this subject. Do you think," added she, with a ghastly smile, "that I shall be inclined to reopen this coffer at each one of your future accusations?"

Mazarin, dominated by this energy, obeyed almost mechanically, and read the two letters; One was that in which the queen asked the return of the ornaments,- the one borne by d’Artagnan, and which arrived in time. The other was the one Laporte had given the duke, in which the queen warned him that he was about to be assassinated, and which had arrived too late.

"It is well, Madame," said Mazarin; "there is nothing to reply to that."

"If, sir," said the queen, closing the coffer, and resting her hand upon it,- "if there is anything to say, it is that I have always been ungrateful to those men who saved me, and who had done all they could do to save him also; it is that I gave nothing to that brave d’Artagnan of whom you were speaking just now, but my hand to kiss and this diamond."

The queen extended her beautiful hand towards the cardinal, and showed him a fine stone which sparkled on her finger. "He sold it, as it appears," continued she, "in a moment of need; he sold it to save me a second time, for it was to send a messenger to the duke, and warn him that he was to be assassinated."

"D’Artagnan knew it, then?"

"He knew all. How did he do it? I am ignorant; but in fine, he sold it to M. d’Essart, on whose finger I saw it, and from whom I re-purchased it. But this diamond belongs to him, sir; return it to him on my part, and since you have the honor to have near you such a man, try to make him useful."

"Thanks, Madame!" said Mazarin, "I will profit by the counsel."

"And now," said the queen, her voice broken by emotion, "have you any other question to ask me?"

"Nothing, Madame," responded the cardinal, with his most caressing voice, "except to beg you to pardon me my unjust suspicions; but I love you so much that it is not strange that I should be jealous- even of the past."

A smile of indefinable expression crossed the lips of the queen. "Well, then, sir," said she, "if you have no further question to ask, leave me; you ought to understand that after such a scene I have need to be alone."

Mazarin bent low. "I retire, Madame," said he; "do you permit me to return?"

"Yes, but tomorrow; all that time will not be too much in which to compose myself."

The cardinal took the queen’s hand, raised it with an air of gallantry to his lips, and then retired.

Scarcely had he gone out than the queen passed into the apartment of her son, and asked Laporte if the king had retired. Laporte pointed with his hand to the child, who was asleep. Anne of Austria ascended the steps of the bed, approached her lips to the ruffled forehead of her son, and left there a gentle kiss; then she retired as silently as she came, merely saying to the valet de chambre:

"Try, then, my dear Laporte, that the king may be more courteous to Monsieur the Cardinal, to whom both he and I are under such great obligations."

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Chicago: Alexandre Dumas père, "Chapter IV: Anne of Austria at the Age of Forty-Six," Twenty Years After Original Sources, accessed August 9, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=49TXSU32MARLPDY.

MLA: Dumas, Alexandre, père. "Chapter IV: Anne of Austria at the Age of Forty-Six." Twenty Years After, Original Sources. 9 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=49TXSU32MARLPDY.

Harvard: Dumas, A, 'Chapter IV: Anne of Austria at the Age of Forty-Six' in Twenty Years After. Original Sources, retrieved 9 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=49TXSU32MARLPDY.