Twenty Years After

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

CHAPTER XL: The Royalty of M. de Mazarin

THE arrest had made no noise, caused no scandal, and was hardly known. It had in no respect impeded the course of events, and the deputation sent by the city of Paris was solemnly informed that it would be received in audience by the queen.

The queen received it, silent and proud as usual. She listened to the grievances and supplications of the deputies; but when they had finished their discourse, no one could have said, from Anne of Austria’s looks of unconcern, that she had attended to them. By way of compensation, Mazarin, who was present at the audience, listened attentively to what these deputies asked. It was his own dismissal in clear and precise terms.

The speeches ended, the queen remaining silent, Mazarin said: "Messieurs, I join with you in supplicating the queen to put an end to her subjects’ ills. I have done all I can to alleviate them, and yet the public belief, so you say, is that they proceed from me, a poor foreigner, who has not succeeded in pleasing the French. Alas; I am not understood, and the reason is evident: I succeeded a man of the grandest type, who had till that time upheld the sceptre of the sovereigns of France. The memory of M. de Richelieu crushes me. If I were ambitious I should vainly struggle against it; but I am not so, and I desire to give you a proof of this. I declare myself beaten. I will do what the people ask. If the Parisians have wrongs- and who has not, Messieurs?- Paris has been punished enough, enough blood has been shed, enough misery has fallen on a city deprived both of king and justice. It is not for me, a simple individual, to assume such importance as to divide a queen from her kingdom. Since you demand my retirement, well- I will retire."

"Then," said Aramis, in a whisper to his neighbor, "peace is concluded, and the conference useless. Nothing more is needed than to send M. Mazarin under a good guard to the frontier, and to see that he does not return."

"Wait a moment, Monsieur," said the lawyer to whom Aramis spoke. "Hang it, how you hurry along! It is clear that you are a military man. There is a list of rewards and indemnities to be made clear."

"Monsieur the Chancellor," said the queen, turning towards our old acquaintance Seguier, "you will open the conference; it will take place at Rueil. Monsieur the Cardinal has said things which have greatly moved me. That is why I do not answer you at greater length. As to the question who is to stay or go, I have too much gratitude for Monsieur the Cardinal not to allow him to act freely in all respects. Monsieur the Cardinal will do what he pleases."

A fleeting pallor clouded the intelligent face of the Premier. He looked at the queen with uneasiness. Her face was so impassive that he, like the rest, could not read what was passing in her heart.

"But," added the queen, "while awaiting M. de Mazarin’s decision, let there be question only of the king."

The deputies bowed and went out.

"What!" said the queen, when the last of them had left the room; "you would give in to these lawyers and barristers!"

"For your Majesty’s happiness," said Mazarin, fixing his piercing eye on the queen, "there is no sacrifice I am not ready to put upon myself."

Anne drooped her head, and fell into one of those reveries so habitual to her. The remembrance of Athos came to her mind. His bold mien, his firm, and at the same time, dignified language, the visions which he had called up, reminded her of a past of an intoxicating poetry,- youth, beauty, the brightness of the love of twenty; the rough combats of her supporters, and the bloody end of Buckingham, the only man she had really loved; and the heroism of these obscure defenders, who had saved her from the double hatred of Richelieu and the king.

Mazarin looked at her; and now that she believed herself alone, and was no longer watched by a crowd of enemies, he traced her thoughts upon her countenance, as one sees the clouds passing across transparent lakes, reflections of the sky.

"It is necessary," she murmured, "to yield to the storm, purchase a peace, and wait patiently for better times."

Mazarin smiled bitterly at this proposition, which showed that she had taken the minister’s proposal quite seriously.

Anne had not seen this smile, but observing that her demand met with no response, she raised her head.

"Well! you do not reply, Cardinal; what are you thinking about?"

"I was thinking, Madame, that that impudent man, whose arrest we have just ordered, made allusion to Buckingham, whom you allowed to be assassinated; to Madame de Chevreuse, whom you exiled; to M. de Beaufort, whom you imprisoned. But if he made allusion to me, it is because he does not know what I am to you."

Anne of Austria trembled as she ever did when wounded in her pride. She blushed, and pressed her sharp nails into her handsome hands instead of replying.

"He is a man of good counsel, honor, and mind, besides being a man of determination. You know something of these qualities, do you not, Madame? I want therefore to tell him,- it is a personal favor I am asking,- in what he is mistaken respecting me. It is this really,- that what is proposed to me is almost an abdication, and this requires reflection."

"An abdication!" said Anne; "I believe, Monsieur, that it is only kings who abdicate."

"Well!" replied Mazarin, "am I not almost a king, and king of France, even? When thrown on the foot of a royal bed, I assure you, Madame, that my minister’s robe resembles at night a royal cloak."

This was one of the humiliations which Mazarin most frequently subjected her to, and under which she constantly bent her head.

It was only Elizabeth and Catharine II who remained at once mistresses and queens to their lovers.

Anne of Austria looked with a sort of terror at the menacing countenance of the cardinal, who at these times was not without a certain greatness.

"Monsieur, have I not said, and have you not understood that I said to these people that you should do what you pleased?"

"In that case I believe I must please myself by remaining. It is not only my own interest, but, I may even dare to say, your safety."

"Stay then, Monsieur, I desire nothing else; but then don’t let me be insulted."

"You are speaking of the revolters’ pretensions, and of the tone in which they express them. Patience! They have selected a field on which I am a more skillful general than they- the conference. We shall beat them only by temporizing. They are already short of food; it will be worse in a week."

"Eh! good heavens!- yes, Monsieur, I knew that it will come to that. But it is not of them only that the question is; it is not they who inflict the worst wounds on me."

"Ah! I understand you. You refer to those remembrances which these three or four gentlemen perpetually call forth. But we hold them prisoners, and they are just guilty enough to allow us to hold them in captivity as long as we like; only one is out of our power and defies us. But, the devil! we shall succeed in sending him to join his companions. We have done many things more difficult than that, I think. I have shut up at Rueil, under my own eyes, within the reach of my hand, the two most intractable. This very day the third shall join them."

"So long as they are prisoners it will be all right, but they will go forth one day or other."

"Yes, if you give them their liberty."

"Ah," continued Anne, replying to her own thoughts, "that’s why I regret Paris!"

"And why so?"

"For the Bastille, Monsieur, which is so strong and discreet."

"Madame, with the conference we shall have peace; with peace, Paris; with Paris, the Bastille. Our four Hectors will rot there."

Anne of Austria slightly frowned while Mazarin kissed her hand to take leave. Mazarin went away after this action, half-humble, half-gallant. Anne of Austria followed him with her eyes, and as he got farther away, a smile of contempt was imprinted on her lips.

"I have despised," she murmured, "the love of a cardinal who never said ’I will do,’ but ’I have done.’ He knew safer retreats than Rueil, darker and more silent even than the Bastille. Oh, the degenerate world!"

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Chicago: Alexandre Dumas père, "Chapter XL: The Royalty of M. De Mazarin," Twenty Years After Original Sources, accessed January 27, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FE5TW4FIKNS3E5.

MLA: Dumas, Alexandre, père. "Chapter XL: The Royalty of M. De Mazarin." Twenty Years After, Original Sources. 27 Jan. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FE5TW4FIKNS3E5.

Harvard: Dumas, A, 'Chapter XL: The Royalty of M. De Mazarin' in Twenty Years After. Original Sources, retrieved 27 January 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FE5TW4FIKNS3E5.