record without delay. And there are economies which I am convinced would offer His Majesty the chance to provide for the needs of his policies, and at the same time limit the drain on his subjects. If they no longer fear their masters, perhaps they might begin to learn to love them?’
Mazarin frowned doubtfully but nodded.
‘Yes, yes.’ Then, turning to Le Tellier:
‘Monsieur Chancellor, I must inform you about Monsieur Fouquet’s reflections on the arts; and we shall talk of weapons again later. As for re-arming: forsooth! What a taste you have for war, Monsieur Superintendent!’ the Cardinal declared with false irony. ‘All those fortifications you have built on your land at Belle-Île – has the squirrel on your coat of arms turned into a lion? I thought that your India Company was involved in peaceful trade?’
‘Indeed it is, Monsieur Cardinal,’ Fouquet replied in a neutral tone which scarcely masked his emotion. ‘And the fortifications which my enemies like to talk about are warehouses. But those are merely my private interests. And my private interests matter little when I have the honour of maintaining the interests of the Crown.’
Mazarin smiled once more but did not reply, his face inscrutable. When he turned towards Chancellor Le Tellier his expression hadturned to one of benevolence, as if to signify that the formal part of the council was to be cut short:
‘Well, Monsieur Chancellor, how are the preparations for the marriage of your son Monsieur de Louvois? For my part, I am finding it difficult to involve myself as much as I would like in the nuptials of my nieces Hortense and Marie … The poor angels,’ he moaned, and tears appeared at the corners of his eyes as he raised them to the heavens.
Pressing his hands together, the Chief Minister murmured a few words in Italian, crossed himself, then stretched out his arms to support himself on the dark wooden arms of his chair and dismissed the ministers, explaining that, if he hoped to disprove his doctors, he must rest again.
When his visitors had left, Mazarin remained motionless for several minutes, savouring the return of silence. Opening his eyes again, he shook the little golden bell with the olive-wood handle which never left his side. The footsteps of his butler grated on the wooden floor. Dreamily, Mazarin said without looking at him:
‘Tell Colbert to come up and see me.’
The servant left discreetly and the Chief Minister commented to himself:
‘Isn’t it funny that after so many years, I still sometimes have difficulty distinguishing deceitfulness from honesty … Their outward appearances are so alike!’
Sitting up straight he added with a sigh:
‘Sheep, insipid courtiers; and what about him: I can never tell if his impetuosity … But I have no more time for daydreams and half measures. More’s the pity. No more time.’
Palais-Royal Theatre – Tuesday 15 February, eleven o’clock in the morning
‘M URDER! Murder! Help! Somebody, help!’
It was Julie’s voice. Gabriel, who had just arrived at the theatre, rushed down the corridor in the direction of the shouts and discovered the troupe’s concierge on the floor. He was struggling as best he could with two men who had him in their grasp, while the young actress, in tears, looked on in terror. Curled up with his arms wrapped around his head, the old man strove to protect himself from his attackers’ blows. Gabriel grabbed one of them by the collar and hauled him upright, smashing his fist full into the man’s face with all his youthful strength. The man’s nose split open and blood poured out, spattering his white shirt as he crumpled under the violence of the blow.
‘Run,’ shouted the other man.
Fast as lightning he leapt forward, opened the window and jumped into the void, swiftly followed by Gabriel, who was determined to overpower him. The young actor landed quite well, as the ground-floor window gave directly onto one of the