Skip to main content.

Book 2 Chapter 7 Cinq Mars by Alfred de Vigny


CHAPTER VII

THE CABINET

   Men have rarely the courage to be wholly good or wholly bad.
                         MACHIAVELLI.

Let us leave our young traveller sleeping; he will soon pursue a long and
beautiful route. Since we are at liberty to turn to all points of the
map, we will fix our eyes upon the city of Narbonne.

Behold the Mediterranean, not far distant, washing with its blue waters
the sandy shores. Penetrate into that city resembling Athens; and to find
him who reigns there, follow that dark and irregular street, mount the
steps of the old archiepiscopal palace, and enter the first and largest
of its apartments.

This was a very long salon, lighted by a series of high lancet windows,
of which the upper part only retained the blue, yellow, and red panes
that shed a mysterious light through the apartment. A large round table
occupied its entire breadth, near the great fireplace; around this table,
covered with a colored cloth and scattered with papers and portfolios,
were seated, bending over their pens, eight secretaries copying letters
which were handed to them from a smaller table. Other men quietly
arranged the completed papers in the shelves of a bookcase, partly filled
with books bound in black.

Notwithstanding the number of persons assembled in the room, one might
have heard the movements of the wings of a fly. The only interruption to
the silence was the sound of pens rapidly gliding over paper, and a
shrill voice dictating, stopping every now and then to cough. This voice
proceeded from a great armchair placed beside the fire, which was
blazing, notwithstanding the heat of the season and of the country. It
was one of those armchairs that you still see in old castles, and which
seem made to read one's self to sleep in, so easy is every part of it.
The sitter sinks into a circular cushion of down; if the head leans back,
the cheeks rest upon pillows covered with silk, and the seat juts out so
far beyond the elbows that one may believe the provident upholsterers of
our forefathers sought to provide that the book should make no noise in
falling so as to awaken the sleeper.

But we will quit this digression, and speak of the man who occupied the
chair, and who was very far from sleeping. He had a broad forehead,
bordered with thin white hair, large, mild eyes, a wan face, to which a
small, pointed, white beard gave that air of subtlety and finesse
noticeable in all the portraits of the period of Louis XIII. His mouth
was almost without lips, which Lavater deems an indubitable sign of an
evil mind, and it was framed in a pair of slight gray moustaches and a
'royale'--an ornament then in fashion, which somewhat resembled a comma
in form. The old man wore a close red cap, a large 'robe-dechambre', and
purple silk stockings; he was no less a personage than Armand Duplessis,
Cardinal de Richelieu.

Near him, around the small table, sat four youths from fifteen to twenty
years of age; these were pages, or domestics, according to the term then
in use, which signified familiars, friends of the house. This custom was
a relic of feudal patronage, which still existed in our manners. The
younger members of high families received wages from the great lords, and
were devoted to their service in all things, challenging the first comer
at the wish of their patron. The pages wrote letters from the outline
previously given them by the Cardinal, and after their master had glanced
at them, passed them to the secretaries, who made fair copies. The Duke,
for his part, wrote on his knee private notes upon small slips of paper,
inserting them in almost all the packets before sealing them, which he
did with his own hand.

He had been writing a short time, when, in a mirror before him, he saw
the youngest of his pages writing something on a sheet of paper much
smaller than the official sheet. He hastily wrote a few words, and then
slipped the paper under the large sheet which, much against his
inclination, he had to fill; but, seated behind the Cardinal, he hoped
that the difficulty with which the latter turned would prevent him from
seeing the little manoeuvre he had tried to exercise with much dexterity.
Suddenly Richelieu said to him, dryly, "Come here, Monsieur Olivier."

These words came like a thunder-clap on the poor boy, who seemed about
sixteen. He rose at once, however, and stood before the minister, his
arms hanging at his side and his head lowered.

The other pages and the secretaries stirred no more than soldiers when a
comrade is struck down by a ball, so accustomed were they to this kind of
summons. The present one, however, was more energetic than usual.

"What were you writing?"

"My lord, what your Eminence dictated."

"What!"

"My lord, the letter to Don Juan de Braganza."

"No evasions, Monsieur; you were writing something else."

"My lord," said the page, with tears in his eyes, "it was a letter to one
of my cousins."

"Let me see it."

The page trembled in every limb and was obliged to lean against the
chimney-piece, as he said, in a hardly audible tone, "It is impossible."

"Monsieur le Vicomte Olivier d'Entraigues," said the minister, without
showing the least emotion, "you are no longer in my service." The page
withdrew. He knew that there was no reply; so, slipping his letter into
his pocket, and opening the folding-doors just wide enough to allow his
exit, he glided out like a bird escaped from the cage.

The minister went on writing the note upon his knee.

The secretaries redoubled their silent zeal, when suddenly the two wings
of the door were thrown back and showed, standing in the opening, a
Capuchin, who, bowing, with his arms crossed over his breast, seemed
waiting for alms or for an order to retire. He had a dark complexion, and
was deeply pitted with smallpox; his eyes, mild, but somewhat squinting,
were almost hidden by his thick eyebrows, which met in the middle of his
forehead; on his mouth played a crafty, mischievous, and sinister smile;
his beard was straight and red, and his costume was that of the order of
St. Francis in all its repulsiveness, with sandals on his bare feet, that
looked altogether unfit to tread upon carpet.

Such as he was, however, this personage appeared to create a great
sensation throughout the room; for, without finishing the phrase, the
line, or even the word begun, every person rose and went out by the door
where he was still standing--some saluting him as they passed, others
turning away their heads, and the young pages holding their fingers to
their noses, but not till they were behind him, for they seemed to have a
secret fear of him. When they had all passed out, he entered, making a
profound reverence, because the door was still open; but, as soon as it
was shut, unceremoniously advancing, he seated himself near the Cardinal,
who, having recognized him by the general movement he created, saluted
him with a dry and silent inclination of the head, regarding him fixedly,
as if awaiting some news and unable to avoid knitting his brows, as at
the aspect of a spider or some other disagreeable creature.

The Cardinal could not resist this movement of displeasure, because he
felt himself obliged, by the presence of his agent, to resume those
profound and painful conversations from which he had for some days been
free, in a country whose pure air, favorable to him, had somewhat soothed
the pain of his malady; that malady had changed to a slow fever, but its
intervals were long enough to enable him to forget during its absence
that it must return. Giving, therefore, a little rest to his hitherto
indefatigable mind, he had been awaiting, for the first time in his life
perhaps, without impatience, the return of the couriers he had sent in
all directions, like the rays of a sun which alone gave life and movement
to France. He had not expected the visit he now received, and the sight
of one of those men, whom, to use his own expression, he "steeped in
crime," rendered all the habitual disquietudes of his life more present
to him, without entirely dissipating the cloud of melancholy which at
that time obscured his thoughts.

The beginning of his conversation was tinged with the gloomy hue of his
late reveries; but he soon became more animated and vigorous than ever,
when his powerful mind had reentered the real world.

His confidant, seeing that he was expected to break the silence, did so
in this abrupt fashion:

"Well, my lord, of what are you thinking?"

"Alas, Joseph, of what should we all think, but of our future happiness
in a better life? For many days I have been reflecting that human
interests have too much diverted me from this great thought; and I repent
me of having spent some moments of my leisure in profane works, such as
my tragedies, 'Europe' and 'Mirame,' despite the glory they have already
gained me among our brightest minds--a glory which will extend unto
futurity."

Father Joseph, full of what he had to say, was at first surprised at this
opening; but he knew his master too well to betray his feelings, and,
well skilled in changing the course of his ideas, replied:

"Yes, their merit is very great, and France will regret that these
immortal works are not followed by similar productions."

"Yes, my dear Joseph; but it is in vain that such men as Boisrobert,
Claveret, Colletet, Corneille, and, above all, the celebrated Mairet,
have proclaimed these tragedies the finest that the present or any past
age has produced. I reproach myself for them, I swear to you, as for a
mortal sin, and I now, in my hours of repose, occupy myself only with my
'Methode des Controverses', and my book on the 'Perfection du Chretien.'
I remember that I am fifty-six years old, and that I have an incurable
malady."

"These are calculations which your enemies make as precisely as your
Eminence," said the priest, who began to be annoyed with this
conversation, and was eager to talk of other matters.

The blood mounted to the Cardinal's face.

"I know it! I know it well!" he said; "I know all their black villainy,
and I am prepared for it. But what news is there?"

"According to our arrangement, my lord, we have removed Mademoiselle
d'Hautefort, as we removed Mademoiselle de la Fayette before her. So far
it is well; but her place is not filled, and the King--"

"Well!"

"The King has ideas which he never had before."

"Ha! and which come not from me? 'Tis well, truly," said the minister,
with an ironic sneer.

"What, my lord, leave the place of the favorite vacant for six whole
days? It is not prudent; pardon me for saying so."

"He has ideas--ideas!" repeated Richelieu, with a kind of terror; "and
what are they?"

"He talks of recalling the Queen-mother," said the Capuchin, in a low
voice; "of recalling her from Cologne."

"Marie de Medicis!" cried the Cardinal, striking the arms of his chair
with his hands. "No, by Heaven, she shall not again set her foot upon the
soil of France, whence I drove her, step by step! England has not dared
to receive her, exiled by me; Holland fears to be crushed by her; and my
kingdom to receive her! No, no, such an idea could not have originated
with himself! To recall my enemy! to recall his mother! What perfidy! He
would not have dared to think of it."

Then, having mused for a moment, he added, fixing a penetrating look
still full of burning anger upon Father Joseph:

"But in what terms did he express this desire? Tell me his precise
words."

"He said publicly; and in the presence of Monsieur: 'I feel that one of
the first duties of a Christian is to be a good son, and I will resist no
longer the murmurs of my conscience.'"

"Christian! conscience! these are not his expressions. It is Father
Caussin--it is his confessor who is betraying me," cried the Cardinal.
"Perfidious Jesuit! I pardoned thee thy intrigue with La Fayette; but I
will not pass over thy secret counsels. I will have this confessor
dismissed, Joseph; he is an enemy to the State, I see it clearly. But I
myself have acted with negligence for some days past; I have not
sufficiently hastened the arrival of the young d'Effiat, who will
doubtless succeed. He is handsome and intellectual, they say. What a
blunder! I myself merit disgrace. To leave that fox of a Jesuit with the
King, without having given him my secret instructions, without a hostage,
a pledge, or his fidelity to my orders! What neglect! Joseph, take a pen,
and write what I shall dictate for the other confessor, whom we will
choose better. I think of Father Sirmond."

Father Joseph sat down at the large table, ready to write, and the
Cardinal dictated to him those duties, of a new kind, which shortly
afterward he dared to have given to the King, who received them,
respected them, and learned them by heart as the commandments of the
Church. They have come down to us, a terrible monument of the empire that
a man may seize upon by means of circumstances, intrigues, and audacity:

   "I. A prince should have a prime minister, and that minister three
   qualities: (1) He should have no passion but for his prince; (2) He
   should be able and faithful; (3) He should be an ecclesiastic.

   "II. A prince ought perfectly to love his prime minister.

   "III. Ought never to change his prime minister.

   "IV. Ought to tell him all things.

   "V. To give him free access to his person.

   "VI. To give him sovereign authority over his people.

   "VII. Great honors and large possessions.

   "VIII. A prince has no treasure more precious than his prime
   minister.

   "IX. A prince should not put faith in what people say against his
   prime minister, nor listen to any such slanders.

   "X. A prince should reveal to his prime minister all that is said
   against him, even though he has been bound to keep it secret.

   "XI. A prince should prefer not only the well-being of the State,
   but also his prime minister, to all his relations."

Such were the commandments of the god of France, less astonishing in
themselves than the terrible naivete which made him bequeath them to
posterity, as if posterity also must believe in him.

While he dictated his instructions, reading them from a small piece of
paper, written with his own hand, a deep melancholy seemed to possess him
more and more at each word; and when he had ended, he fell back in his
chair, his arms crossed, and his head sunk on his breast.

Father Joseph, dropping his pen, arose and was inquiring whether he were
ill, when he heard issue from the depths of his chest these mournful and
memorable words:

"What utter weariness! what endless trouble! If the ambitious man could
see me, he would flee to a desert. What is my power? A miserable
reflection of the royal power; and what labors to fix upon my star that
incessantly wavering ray! For twenty years I have been in vain attempting
it. I can not comprehend that man. He dare not flee me; but they take him
from me--he glides through my fingers. What things could I not have done
with his hereditary rights, had I possessed them? But, employing such
infinite calculation in merely keeping one's balance, what of genius
remains for high enterprises? I hold Europe in my hand, yet I myself am
suspended by a trembling hair. What is it to me that I can cast my eyes
confidently over the map of Europe, when all my interests are
concentrated in his narrow cabinet, and its few feet of space give me
more trouble to govern than the whole country besides? See, then, what it
is to be a prime minister! Envy me, my guards, if you can."

His features were so distorted as to give reason to fear some accident;
and at the same moment he was seized with a long and violent fit of
coughing, which ended in a slight hemorrhage. He saw that Father Joseph,
alarmed, was about to seize a gold bell that stood on the table, and,
suddenly rising with all the vivacity of a young man, he stopped him,
saying:

"'Tis nothing, Joseph; I sometimes yield to these fits of depression; but
they do not last long, and I leave them stronger than before. As for my
health, I know my condition perfectly; but that is not the business in
hand. What have you done at Paris? I am glad to know the King has arrived
in Bearn, as I wished; we shall be able to keep a closer watch upon him.
How did you induce him to come away?"

"A battle at Perpignan."

"That is not bad. Well, we can arrange it for him; that occupation will
do as well as another just now. But the young Queen, what says she?"

"She is still furious against you; her correspondence discovered, the
questioning to which you had subjected her--"

"Bah! a madrigal and a momentary submission on my part will make her
forget that I have separated her from her house of Austria and from the
country of her Buckingham. But how does she occupy herself?"

"In machinations with Monsieur. But as we have his entire confidence,
here are the daily accounts of their interviews."

"I shall not trouble myself to read them; while the Duc de Bouillon
remains in Italy I have nothing to fear in that quarter. She may have as
many petty plots with Gaston in the chimney-corner as she pleases; he
never got beyond his excellent intentions, forsooth! He carries nothing
into effect but his withdrawal from the kingdom. He has had his third
dismissal; I will manage a fourth for him whenever he pleases; he is not
worth the pistol-shot you had the Comte de Soissons settled with, and yet
the poor Comte had scarce more energy than he."

And the Cardinal, reseating himself in his chair, began to laugh gayly
enough for a statesman.

"I always laugh when I think of their expedition to Amiens. They had me
between them, Each had fully five hundred gentlemen with him, armed to
the teeth, and all going to despatch me, like Concini; but the great
Vitry was not there. They very quietly let me talk for an hour with them
about the hunt and the Fete Dieu, and neither of them dared make a sign
to their cut-throats. I have since learned from Chavigny that for two
long months they had been waiting that happy moment. For myself, indeed,
I observed nothing, except that little villain, the Abbe de
Gondi,--[Afterward Cardinal de Retz.]--who prowled near me, and seemed to
have something hidden under his sleeve; it was he that made me get into
the coach."

"Apropos of the Abbe, my lord, the Queen insists upon making him
coadjutor."

"She is mad! he will ruin her if she connects herself with him; he's a
musketeer in canonicals, the devil in a cassock. Read his 'Histoire de
Fiesque'; you may see himself in it. He will be nothing while I live."

"How is it that with a judgment like yours you bring another ambitious
man of his age to court?"

"That is an entirely different matter. This young Cinq-Mars, my friend,
will be a mere puppet. He will think of nothing but his ruff and his
shoulder-knots; his handsome figure assures me of this. I know that he is
gentle and weak; it was for this reason I preferred him to his elder
brother. He will do whatever we wish."

"Ah, my lord," said the monk, with an expression of doubt, "I never place
much reliance on people whose exterior is so calm; the hidden flame is
often all the more dangerous. Recollect the Marechal d'Effiat, his
father."

"But I tell you he is a boy, and I shall bring him up; while Gondi is
already an accomplished conspirator, an ambitious knave who sticks at
nothing. He has dared to dispute Madame de la Meilleraie with me. Can you
conceive it? He dispute with me! A petty priestling, who has no other
merit than a little lively small-talk and a cavalier air. Fortunately,
the husband himself took care to get rid of him."

Father Joseph, who listened with equal impatience to his master when he
spoke of his 'bonnes fortunes' or of his verses, made, however, a grimace
which he meant to be very sly and insinuating, but which was simply ugly
and awkward; he fancied that the expression of his mouth, twisted about
like a monkey's, conveyed, "Ah! who can resist your Eminence?" But his
Eminence only read there, "I am a clown who knows nothing of the great
world"; and, without changing his voice, he suddenly said, taking up a
despatch from the table:

"The Duc de Rohan is dead, that is good news; the Huguenots are ruined.
He is a lucky man. I had him condemned by the Parliament of Toulouse to
be torn in pieces by four horses, and here he dies quietly on the
battlefield of Rheinfeld. But what matters? The result is the same.
Another great head is laid low! How they have fallen since that of
Montmorency! I now see hardly any that do not bow before me. We have
already punished almost all our dupes of Versailles; assuredly they have
nothing with which to reproach me. I simply exercise against them the law
of retaliation, treating them as they would have treated me in the
council of the Queen-mother. The old dotard Bassompierre shall be doomed
for perpetual imprisonment, and so shall the assassin Marechal de Vitry,
for that was the punishment they voted me. As for Marillac, who
counselled death, I reserve death for him at the first false step he
makes, and I beg thee, Joseph, to remind me of him; we must be just to
all. The Duc de Bouillon still keeps up his head proudly on account of
his Sedan, but I shall make him yield. Their blindness is truly
marvellous! They think themselves all free to conspire, not perceiving
that they are merely fluttering at the ends of the threads that I hold in
my hand, and which I lengthen now and then to give them air and space.
Did the Huguenots cry out as one man at the death of their dear duke?"

"Less so than at the affair of Loudun, which is happily concluded."

"What! Happily? I hope that Grandier is dead?"

"Yes; that is what I meant. Your Eminence may be fully satisfied. All was
settled in twenty-four hours. He is no longer thought of. Only
Laubardemont committed a slight blunder in making the trial public. This
caused a little tumult; but we have a description of the rioters, and
measures have been taken to seek them out."

"This is well, very well. Urbain was too superior a man to be left there;
he was turning Protestant. I would wager that he would have ended by
abjuring. His work against the celibacy of priests made me conjecture
this; and in cases of doubt, remember, Joseph, it is always best to cut
the tree before the fruit is gathered. These Huguenots, you see, form a
regular republic in the State. If once they had a majority in France, the
monarchy would be lost, and they would establish some popular government
which might be durable."

"And what deep pain do they daily cause our holy Father the Pope!" said
Joseph.

"Ah," interrupted the Cardinal, "I see; thou wouldst remind me of his
obstinacy in not giving thee the hat. Be tranquil; I will speak to-day on
the subject to the new ambassador we are sending, the Marechal d'Estrees,
and he will, on his arrival, doubtless obtain that which has been in
train these two years--thy nomination to the cardinalate. I myself begin
to think that the purple would become thee well, for it does not show
blood-stains."

And both burst into laughter--the one as a master, overwhelming the
assassin whom he pays with his utter scorn; the other as a slave,
resigned to all the humiliation by which he rises.

The laughter which the ferocious pleasantry of the old minister had
excited had hardly subsided, when the door opened, and a page announced
several couriers who had arrived simultaneously from different points.
Father Joseph arose, and, leaning against the wall like an Egyptian
mummy, allowed nothing to appear upon his face but an expression of
stolid contemplation. Twelve messengers entered successively, attired in
various disguises; one appeared to be a Swiss soldier, another a sutler,
a third a master-mason. They had been introduced into the palace by a
secret stairway and corridor, and left the cabinet by a door opposite
that at which they had entered, without any opportunity of meeting one
another or communicating the contents of their despatches. Each laid a
rolled or folded packet of papers on the large table, spoke for a moment
with the Cardinal in the embrasure of a window and withdrew. Richelieu
had risen on the entrance of the first messenger, and, careful to do all
himself, had received them all, listened to all, and with his own hand
had closed the door upon all. When the last was gone, he signed to Father
Joseph, and, without speaking, both proceeded to unfold, or, rather, to
tear open, the packets of despatches, and in a few words communicated to
each other the substance of the letters.

"The Due de Weimar pursues his advantage; the Duc Charles is defeated.
Our General is in good spirits; here are some of his lively remarks at
table. Good!"

"Monseigneur le Vicomte de Turenne has retaken the towns of Lorraine; and
here are his private conversations--"

"Oh! pass over them; they can not be dangerous. He is ever a good and
honest man, in no way mixing himself up with politics; so that some one
gives him a little army to play at chess with, no matter against whom, he
is content. We shall always be good friends."

"The Long Parliament still endures in England. The Commons pursue their
project; there are massacres in Ireland. The Earl of Strafford is
condemned to death."

"To death! Horrible!"

"I will read: 'His Majesty Charles I has not had the courage to sign the
sentence, but he has appointed four commissioners.'"

"Weak king, I abandon thee! Thou shalt have no more of our money. Fall,
since thou art ungrateful! Unhappy Wentworth!"

A tear rose in the eyes of Richelieu as he said this; the man who had but
now played with the lives of so many others wept for a minister abandoned
by his prince. The similarity between that position and his own affected
him, and it was his own case he deplored in the person of the foreign
minister. He ceased to read aloud the despatches that he opened, and his
confidant followed his example. He examined with scrupulous attention the
detailed accounts of the most minute and secret actions of each person of
any importance-accounts which he always required to be added to the
official despatches made by his able spies. All the despatches to the
King passed through his hands, and were carefully revised so as to reach
the King amended to the state in which he wished him to read them. The
private notes were all carefully burned by the monk after the Cardinal
had ascertained their contents. The latter, however, seemed by no means
satisfied, and he was walking quickly to and fro with gestures expressive
of anxiety, when the door opened, and a thirteenth courier entered. This
one seemed a boy hardly fourteen years old; he held under his arm a
packet sealed with black for the King, and gave to the Cardinal only a
small letter, of which a stolen glance from Joseph could collect but four
words. The Cardinal started, tore the billet into a thousand pieces, and,
bending down to the ear of the boy, spoke to him for a long time; all
that Joseph heard was, as the messenger went out:

"Take good heed to this; not until twelve hours from this time."

During this aside of the Cardinal, Joseph was occupied in concealing an
infinite number of libels from Flanders and Germany, which the minister
always insisted upon seeing, however bitter they might be to him. In this
respect, he affected a philosophy which he was far from possessing, and
to deceive those around him he would sometimes pretend that his enemies
were not wholly wrong, and would outwardly laugh at their pleasantries;
but those who knew his character better detected bitter rage lurking
under this apparent moderation, and knew that he was never satisfied
until he had got the hostile book condemned by the parliament to be
burned in the Place de Greve, as "injurious to the King, in the person of
his minister, the most illustrious Cardinal," as we read in the decrees
of the time, and that his only regret was that the author was not in the
place of his book--a satisfaction he gave himself whenever he could, as
in the case of Urbain Grandier.

It was his colossal pride which he thus avenged, without avowing it even
to himself--nay, laboring for a length of time, sometimes for a whole
twelvemonth together, to persuade himself that the interest of the State
was concerned in the matter. Ingenious in connecting his private affairs
with the affairs of France, he had convinced himself that she bled from
the wounds which he received. Joseph, careful not to irritate his
ill-temper at this moment, put aside and concealed a book entitled
'Mystres Politiques du Cardinal de la Rochelle'; also another, attributed
to a monk of Munich, entitled 'Questions quolibetiques, ajustees au temps
present, et Impiete Sanglante du dieu Mars'. The worthy advocate Aubery,
who has given us one of the most faithful histories of the most eminent
Cardinal, is transported with rage at the mere title of the first of
these books, and exclaims that "the great minister had good reason to
glorify himself that his enemies, inspired against their will with the
same enthusiasm which conferred the gift of rendering oracles upon the
ass of Balaam, upon Caiaphas and others, who seemed most unworthy of the
gift of prophecy, called him with good reason Cardinal de la Rochelle,
since three years after their writing he reduced that town; thus Scipio
was called Africanus for having subjugated that PROVINCE!" Very little
was wanting to make Father Joseph, who had necessarily the same feelings,
express his indignation in the same terms; for he remembered with
bitterness the ridiculous part he had played in the siege of Rochelle,
which, though not a province like Africa, had ventured to resist the most
eminent Cardinal, and into which Father Joseph, piquing himself on his
military skill, had proposed to introduce the troops through a sewer.
However, he restrained himself, and had time to conceal the libel in the
pocket of his brown robe ere the minister had dismissed his young courier
and returned to the table.

"And now to depart, Joseph," he said. "Open the doors to all that court
which besieges me, and let us go to the King, who awaits me at Perpignan;
this time I have him for good."

The Capuchin drew back, and immediately the pages, throwing open the
gilded doors, announced in succession the greatest lords of the period,
who had obtained permission from the King to come and salute the
minister. Some, even, under the pretext of illness or business, had
departed secretly, in order not to be among the last at Richelieu's
reception; and the unhappy monarch found himself almost as alone as other
kings find themselves on their deathbeds. But with him, the throne
seemed, in the eyes of the court, his dying couch, his reign a continual
last agony, and his minister a threatening successor.

Two pages, of the first families of France, stood at the door, where the
ushers announced each of the persons whom Father Joseph had found in the
ante room. The Cardinal, still seated in his great arm chair, remained
motionless as the common couriers entered, inclined his head to the more
distinguished, and to princes alone put his hands on the elbows of his
chair and slightly rose; each person, having profoundly saluted him,
stood before him near the fireplace, waited till he had spoken to him,
and then, at a wave of his hand, completed the circuit of the room, and
went out by the same door at which he had entered, paused for a moment to
salute Father Joseph, who aped his master, and who for that reason had
been named "his Gray Eminence," and at last quitted the palace, unless,
indeed, he remained standing behind the chair, if the minister had
signified that he should, which was considered a token of very great
favor.

He allowed to pass several insignificant persons, and many whose merits
were useless to him; the first whom he stopped in the procession was the
Marechal d'Estrees, who, about to set out on an embassy to Rome, came to
make his adieux; those behind him stopped short. This circumstance warned
the courtiers in the anteroom that a longer conversation than usual was
on foot, and Father Joseph, advancing to the threshold, exchanged with
the Cardinal a glance which seemed to say, on the one side, "Remember the
promise you have just made me," on the other, "Set your mind at rest." At
the same time, the expert Capuchin let his master see that he held upon
his arm one of his victims, whom he was forming into a docile instrument;
this was a young gentleman who wore a very short green cloak, a pourpoint
of the same color, close-fitting red breeches, with glittering gold
garters below the knee-the costume of the pages of Monsieur. Father
Joseph, indeed, spoke to him secretly, but not in the way the Cardinal
imagined; for he contemplated being his equal, and was preparing other
connections, in case of defection on the part of the prime minister.

"Tell Monsieur not to trust in appearances, and that he has no servant
more faithful than I. The Cardinal is on the decline, and my conscience
tells me to warn against his faults him who may inherit the royal power
during the minority. To give your great Prince a proof of my faith, tell
him that it is intended to arrest his friend, Puy-Laurens, and that he
had better be kept out of the way, or the Cardinal will put him in the
Bastille."

While the servant was thus betraying his master, the master, not to be
behindhand with him, betrayed his servant. His self-love, and some
remnant of respect to the Church, made him shudder at the idea of seeing
a contemptible agent invested with the same hat which he himself wore as
a crown, and seated as high as himself, except as to the precarious
position of minister. Speaking, therefore, in an undertone to the
Marechal d'Estrees, he said:

"It is not necessary to importune Urbain VIII any further in favor of the
Capuchin you see yonder; it is enough that his Majesty has deigned to
name him for the cardinalate. One can readily conceive the repugnance of
his Holiness to clothe this mendicant in the Roman purple."

Then, passing on to general matters, he continued:

"Truly, I know not what can have cooled the Holy Father toward us; what
have we done that was not for the glory of our Holy Mother, the Catholic
Church?"

"I myself said the first mass at Rochelle, and you see for yourself,
Monsieur le Marechal, that our habit is everywhere; and even in your
armies, the Cardinal de la Vallette has commanded gloriously in the
palatinate."

"And has just made a very fine retreat," said the Marechal, laying a
slight emphasis upon the word.

The minister continued, without noticing this little outburst of
professional jealousy, and raising his voice, said:

"God has shown that He did not scorn to send the spirit of victory upon
his Levites, for the Duc de Weimar did not more powerfully aid in the
conquest of Lorraine than did this pious Cardinal, and never was a naval
army better commanded than by our Archbishop of Bordeaux at Rochelle."

It was well known that at this very time the minister was incensed
against this prelate, whose haughtiness was so overbearing, and whose
impertinent ebullitions were so frequent as to have involved him in two
very disagreeable affairs at Bordeaux. Four years before, the Duc
d'Epernon, then governor of Guyenne, followed by all his train and by his
troops, meeting him among his clergy in a procession, had called him an
insolent fellow, and given him two smart blows with his cane; whereupon
the Archbishop had excommunicated him. And again, recently, despite this
lesson, he had quarrelled with the Marechal de Vitry, from whom he had
received "twenty blows with a cane or stick, which you please," wrote the
Cardinal Duke to the Cardinal de la Vallette, "and I think he would like
to excommunicate all France." In fact, he did excommunicate the
Marechal's baton, remembering that in the former case the Pope had
obliged the Duc d'Epernon to ask his pardon; but M. Vitry, who had caused
the Marechal d'Ancre to be assassinated, stood too high at court for
that, and the Archbishop, in addition to his beating, got well scolded by
the minister.

M. d'Estrees thought, therefore, sagely that there might be some irony in
the Cardinal's manner of referring to the warlike talents of the
Archbishop, and he answered, with perfect sang-froid:

"It is true, my lord, no one can say that it was upon the sea he was
beaten."

His Eminence could not restrain a smile at this; but seeing that the
electrical effect of that smile had created others in the hall, as well
as whisperings and conjectures, he immediately resumed his gravity, and
familiarly taking the Marechal's arm, said:

"Come, Monsieur l'Ambassadeur, you are ready at repartee. With you I
should not fear Cardinal Albornos, or all the Borgias in the world--no,
nor all the efforts of their Spain with the Holy Father."

Then, raising his voice, and looking around, as if addressing himself to
the silent, and, so to speak, captive assembly, he continued:

"I hope that we shall no more be reproached, as formerly, for having
formed an alliance with one of the greatest men of our day; but as
Gustavus Adolphus is dead, the Catholic King will no longer have any
pretext for soliciting the excommunication of the most Christian King.
How say you, my dear lord?" addressing himself to the Cardinal de la
Vallette, who now approached, fortunately without having heard the late
allusion to himself. "Monsieur d'Estrees, remain near our chair; we have
still many things to say to you, and you are not one too many in our
conversations, for we have no secrets. Our policy is frank and open to
all men; the interest of his Majesty and of the State--nothing more."

The Marechal made a profound bow, fell back behind the chair of the
minister, and gave place to the Cardinal de la Vallette, who, incessantly
bowing and flattering and swearing devotion and entire obedience to the
Cardinal, as if to expiate the obduracy of his father, the Duc d'Epernon,
received in return a few vague words, to no meaning or purpose, the
Cardinal all the while looking toward the door, to see who should follow.
He had even the mortification to find himself abruptly interrupted by the
minister, who cried at the most flattering period of his honeyed
discourse:

"Ah! is that you at last, my dear Fabert? How I have longed to see you,
to talk of the siege!"

The General, with a brusque and awkward manner, saluted the
Cardinal-Generalissimo, and presented to him the officers who had come
from the camp with him. He talked some time of the operations of the
siege, and the Cardinal seemed to be paying him court now, in order to
prepare him afterward for receiving his orders even on the field of
battle; he spoke to the officers who accompanied him, calling them by
their names, and questioning them about the camp.

They all stood aside to make way for the Duc d'Angouleme--that Valois,
who, having struggled against Henri IV, now prostrated himself before
Richelieu. He solicited a command, having been only third in rank at the
siege of Rochelle. After him came young Mazarin, ever supple and
insinuating, but already confident in his fortune.

The Duc d'Halluin came after them; the Cardinal broke off the compliments
he was addressing to the others, to utter, in a loud voice:

"Monsieur le Duc, I inform you with pleasure that the King has made you a
marshal of France; you will sign yourself Schomberg, will you not, at
Leucate, delivered, as we hope, by you? But pardon me, here is Monsieur
de Montauron, who has doubtless something important to communicate."

"Oh, no, my lord, I would only say that the poor young man whom you
deigned to consider in your service is dying of hunger."

"Pshaw! at such a moment to speak of things like this! Your little
Corneille will not write anything good; we have only seen 'Le Cid' and
'Les Horaces' as yet. Let him work, let him work! it is known that he is
in my service, and that is disagreeable. However, since you interest
yourself in the matter, I give him a pension of five hundred crowns on my
privy purse."

The Chancellor of the Exchequer retired, charmed with the liberality of
the minister, and went home to receive with great affability the
dedication of Cinna, wherein the great Corneille compares his soul to
that of Augustus, and thanks him for having given alms 'a quelques
Muses'.

The Cardinal, annoyed by this importunity, rose, observing that the day
was advancing, and that it was time to set out to visit the King.

At this moment, and as the greatest noblemen present were offering their
arms to aid him in walking, a man in the robe of a referendary advanced
toward him, saluting him with a complacent and confident smile which
astonished all the people there, accustomed to the great world, seeming
to say: "We have secret affairs together; you shall see how agreeable he
makes himself to me. I am at home in his cabinet." His heavy and awkward
manner, however, betrayed a very inferior being; it was Laubardemont.

Richelieu knit his brows when he saw him, and cast a glance at Joseph;
then, turning toward those who surrounded him, he said, with bitter
scorn:

"Is there some criminal about us to be apprehended?"

Then, turning his back upon the discomfited Laubardemont, the Cardinal
left him redder than his robe, and, preceded by the crowd of personages
who were to escort him in carriages or on horseback, he descended the
great staircase of the palace.

All the people and the authorities of Narbonne viewed this royal
departure with amazement.

The Cardinal entered alone a spacious square litter, in which he was to
travel to Perpignan, his infirmities not permitting him to go in a coach,
or to perform the journey on horseback. This kind of moving chamber
contained a bed, a table, and a small chair for the page who wrote or
read for him. This machine, covered with purple damask, was carried by
eighteen men, who were relieved at intervals of a league; they were
selected among his guards, and always performed this service of honor
with uncovered heads, however hot or wet the weather might be. The Duc
d'Angouleme, the Marechals de Schomberg and d'Estrees, Fabert, and other
dignitaries were on horseback beside the litter; after them, among the
most prominent were the Cardinal de la Vallette and Mazarin, with
Chavigny, and the Marechal de Vitry, anxious to avoid the Bastille, with
which it was said he was threatened.

Two coaches followed for the Cardinal's secretaries, physicians, and
confessor; then eight others, each with four horses, for his gentlemen,
and twenty-four mules for his luggage. Two hundred musketeers on foot
marched close behind him, and his company of men-at-arms of the guard and
his light-horse, all gentlemen, rode before and behind him on splendid
horses.

Such was the equipage in which the prime minister proceeded to Perpignan;
the size of the litter often made it necessary to enlarge the roads, and
knock down the walls of some of the towns and villages on the way, into
which it could not otherwise enter, "so that," say the authors and
manuscripts of the time, full of a sincere admiration for all this
luxury--"so that he seemed a conqueror entering by the breach." We have
sought in vain with great care in these documents, for any account of
proprietors or inhabitants of these dwellings so making room for his
passage who shared in this admiration; but we have been unable to find
any mention of such.