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Book 4 Chapter 16 Cinq Mars by Alfred de Vigny


CHAPTER XVI

THE CONFUSION

This same morning, the various events of which we have seen in the
apartments of Gaston d'Orleans and of the Queen, the calm and silence of
study reigned in a modest cabinet of a large house near the Palais de
justice. A bronze lamp, of a gothic shape, struggling with the coming
day, threw its red light upon a mass of papers and books which covered a
large table; it lighted the bust of L'Hopital, that of Montaigne the
essayist, the President de Thou, and of King Louis XIII.

A fireplace sufficiently large for a man to enter and sit there was
occupied by a large fire burning upon enormous andirons. Upon one of
these was placed the foot of the studious De Thou, who, already risen,
examined with attention the new works of Descartes and Grotius. He was
writing upon his knee his notes upon these books of philosophy and
politics, which were then the general subjects of conversation; but at
this moment the 'Meditations Metaphysiques' absorbed all his attention.
The philosopher of Touraine enchanted the young counsellor. Often, in his
enthusiasm, he struck the book, uttering exclamations of admiration;
sometimes he took a sphere placed near him, and, turning it with his
fingers, abandoned himself to the most profound reveries of science;
then, led by them to a still greater elevation of mind, he would suddenly
throw himself upon his knees before a crucifix, placed upon the
chimney-piece, because at the limits of the human mind he had found God.
At other times he buried himself in his great armchair, so as to be
nearly sitting upon his shoulders, and, placing his two hands upon his
eyes, followed in his head the trace of the reasoning of Rene Descartes,
from this idea of the first meditation:

   "Suppose that we are asleep, and that all these particularities--
   that is, that we open our eyes, move our heads, spread our arms--are
   nothing but false illusions."

to this sublime conclusion of the third:

   "Only one thing remains to be said; it is that like the idea of
   myself, that of God is born and produced with me from the time I was
   created. And certainly it should not be thought strange that God,
   in creating me, should have implanted in me this idea, to be, as it
   were, the mark of the workman impressed upon his work."

These thoughts entirely occupied the mind of the young counsellor, when a
loud noise was heard under the windows. He thought that some house on
fire excited these prolonged cries, and hastened to look toward the wing
of the building occupied by his mother and sisters; but all appeared to
sleep there, and the chimneys did not even send forth any smoke, to
attest that its inhabitants were even awake. He blessed Heaven for it;
and, running to another window, he saw the people, whose exploits we have
witnessed, hastening toward the narrow streets which led to the quay.

After examining this rabble of women and children, the ridiculous flag
which led them, and the rude disguises of the men: "It is some popular
fete or some carnival comedy," said he; and again returning to the corner
of the fire, he placed a large almanac upon the table, and carefully
sought in it what saint was honored that day. He looked in the column of
the month of December; and, finding at the fourth day of this month the
name of Ste.-Barbe, he remembered that he had seen several small cannons
and barrels pass, and, perfectly satisfied with the explanation which he
had given himself, he hastened to drive away the interruption which had
called off his attention, and resumed his quiet studies, rising only to
take a book from the shelves of his library, and, after reading in it a
phrase, a line, or only a word, he threw it from him upon his table or on
the floor, covered in this way with books or papers which he would not
trouble himself to return to their places, lest he should break the
thread of his reveries.

Suddenly the door was hastily opened, and a name was announced which he
had distinguished among those at the bar--a man whom his connections with
the magistracy had made personally known to him.

"And by what chance, at five o'clock in the morning, do I see Monsieur
Fournier?" he cried. "Are there some unfortunates to defend, some
families to be supported by the fruits of his talent, some error to
dissipate in us, some virtue to awaken in our hearts? for these are of
his accustomed works. You come, perhaps, to inform me of some fresh
humiliation of our parliament. Alas! the secret chambers of the Arsenal
are more powerful than the ancient magistracy of Clovis. The parliament
is on its knees; all is lost, unless it is soon filled with men like
yourself."

"Monsieur, I do not merit your praise," said the Advocate, entering,
accompanied by a grave and aged man, enveloped like himself in a large
cloak. "I deserve, on the contrary, your censure; and I am almost a
penitent, as is Monsieur le Comte du Lude, whom you see here. We come to
ask an asylum for the day."

"An asylum! and against whom?" said De Thou, making them sit down.

"Against the lowest people in Paris, who wish to have us for chiefs, and
from whom we fly. It is odious; the sight, the smell, the ear, and the
touch, above all, are too severely wounded by it," said M. du Lude, with
a comical gravity. "It is too much!"

"Ah! too much, you say?" said De Thou, very much astonished, but not
willing to show it.

"Yes," answered the Advocate; "really, between ourselves, Monsieur le
Grand goes too far."

"Yes, he pushes things too fast. He will render all our projects
abortive," added his companion.

"Ah! and you say he goes too far?" replied M. de Thou, rubbing his chin,
more and more surprised.

Three months had passed since his friend Cinq-Mars had been to see him;
and he, without feeling much disquieted about it--knowing that he was at
St.-Germain in high favor, and never quitting the King--was far removed
from the news of the court. Absorbed in his grave studies, he never heard
of public events till they were forced upon his attention. He knew
nothing of current life until the last moment, and often amused his
intimate friends by his naive astonishment--the more so that from a
little worldly vanity he desired to have it appear as if he were fully
acquainted with the course of events, and tried to conceal the surprise
he experienced at every fresh intelligence. He was now in this situation,
and to this vanity was added the feeling of friendship; he would not have
it supposed that Cinq-Mars had been negligent toward him, and, for his
friend's honor even, would appear to be aware of his projects.

"You know very well how we stand now," continued the Advocate.

"Yes, of course. Well?"

"Intimate as you are with him, you can not be ignorant that all has been
organizing for a year past."

"Certainly, all has been organizing; but proceed."

"You will admit with us that Monsieur le Grand is wrong?"

"Ah, that is as it may be; but explain yourself. I shall see."

"Well, you know upon what we had agreed at the last conference of which
he informed you?"

"Ah! that is to say--pardon me, I perceive it almost; but set me a little
upon the track."

"It is useless; you no doubt remember what he himself recommended us to
do at Marion de Lorme's?"

"To add no one to our list," said M. du Lude.

"Ah, yes, yes! I understand," said De Thou; "that appears reasonable,
very reasonable, truly."

"Well," continued Fournier, "he himself has infringed this agreement; for
this morning, besides the ragamuffins whom that ferret the Abbe de Gondi
brought to us, there was some vagabond captain, who during the night
struck with sword and poniard gentlemen of both parties, crying out at
the top of his voice, 'A moi, D'Aubijoux! You gained three thousand
ducats from me; here are three sword-thrusts for you. 'A moi', La
Chapelle! I will have ten drops of your blood in exchange for my ten
pistoles!' and I myself saw him attack these gentlemen and many more of
both sides, loyally enough, it is true--for he struck them only in front
and on their guard--but with great success, and with a most revolting
impartiality."

"Yes, Monsieur, and I was about to tell him my opinion," interposed De
Lude, "when I saw him escape through the crowd like a squirrel, laughing
greatly with some suspicious looking men with dark, swarthy faces; I do
not doubt, however, that Monsieur de Cinq-Mars sent him, for he gave
orders to that Ambrosio whom you must know--that Spanish prisoner, that
rascal whom he has taken for a servant. In faith, I am disgusted with all
this; and I was not born to mingle with this canaille."

"This, Monsieur," replied Fournier, "is very different from the affair at
Loudun. There the people only rose, without actually revolting; it was
the sensible and estimable part of the populace, indignant at an
assassination, and not heated by wine and money. It was a cry raised
against an executioner--a cry of which one could honorably be the
organ--and not these howlings of factious hypocrisy, of a mass of unknown
people, the dregs of the mud and sewers of Paris. I confess that I am
very tired of what I see; and I have come to entreat you to speak about
it to Monsieur le Grand."

De Thou was very much embarrassed during this conversation, and sought in
vain to understand what Cinq-Mars could have to do with the people, who
appeared to him merely merrymaking; on the other hand, he persisted in
not owning his ignorance. It was, however, complete; for the last time he
had seen his friend, he had spoken only of the King's horses and stables,
of hawking, and of the importance of the King's huntsmen in the affairs
of the State, which did not seem to announce vast projects in which the
people could take a part. He at last timidly ventured to say:

"Messieurs, I promise to do your commission; meanwhile, I offer you my
table and beds as long as you please. But to give my advice in this
matter is very difficult. By the way, it was not the fete of Sainte-Barbe
I saw this morning?"

"The Sainte-Barbe!" said Fournier.

"The Sainte-Barbe!" echoed Du Lude. "They burned powder."

"Oh, yes, yes! that is what Monsieur de Thou means," said Fournier,
laughing; "very good, very good indeed! Yes, I think to-day is
Sainte-Barbe."

De Thou was now altogether confused and reduced to silence; as for the
others, seeing that they did not understand him, nor he them, they had
recourse to silence.

They were sitting thus mute, when the door opened to admit the old tutor
of Cinq-Mars, the Abbe Quillet, who entered, limping slightly. He looked
very gloomy, retaining none of his former gayety in his air or language;
but his look was still animated, and his speech energetic.

"Pardon me, my dear De Thou, that I so early disturb you in your
occupations; it is strange, is it not, in a gouty invalid? Ah, time
advances; two years ago I did not limp. I was, on the contrary, nimble
enough at the time of my journey to Italy; but then fear gives legs as
well as wings."

Then, retiring into the recess of a window, he signed De Thou to come to
him.

"I need hardly remind you, my friend, who are in their secrets, that I
affianced them a fortnight ago, as they have told you."

"Ah, indeed! Whom?" exclaimed poor De Thou, fallen from the Charybdis
into the Scylla of astonishment.

"Come, come, don't affect surprise; you know very well whom," continued
the Abbe. "But, faith, I fear I have been too complaisant with them,
though these two children are really interesting in their love. I fear
for him more than for her; I doubt not he is acting very foolishly,
judging from the disturbance this morning. We must consult together about
it."

"But," said De Thou, very gravely, "upon my honor, I do not know what you
mean. Who is acting foolishly?"

"Now, my dear Monsieur, will you still play the mysterious with me? It is
really insulting," said the worthy man, beginning to be angry.

"No, indeed, I mean it not; whom have you affianced?"

"Again! fie, Monsieur!"

"And what was the disturbance this morning?"

"You are laughing at me! I take my leave," said the Abbe, rising.

"I vow that I understand not a word of all that has been told me to-day.
Do you mean Monsieur de Cinq-Mars?"

"Very well, Monsieur, very well! you treat me as a Cardinalist; very
well, we part," said the Abbe Quillet, now altogether furious. And he
snatched up his crutch and quitted the room hastily, without listening to
De Thou, who followed him to his carriage, seeking to pacify him, but
without effect, because he did not wish to name his friend upon the
stairs in the hearing of his servants, and could not explain the matter
otherwise. He had the annoyance of seeing the old Abbe depart, still in a
passion; he called out to him amicably, "Tomorrow," as the coachman drove
off, but got no answer.

It was, however, not uselessly that he had descended to the foot of the
stairs, for he saw thence hideous groups of the mob returning from the
Louvre, and was thus better able to judge of the importance of their
movements in the morning; he heard rude voices exclaiming, as in triumph:

"She showed herself, however, the little Queen!" "Long live the good Duc
de Bouillon, who is coming to us! He has a hundred thousand men with him,
all on rafts on the Seine. The old Cardinal de la Rochelle is dead! Long
live the King! Long live Monsieur le Grand!"

The cries redoubled at the arrival of a carriage and four, with the royal
livery, which stopped at the counsellor's door, and in which De Thou
recognized the equipage of Cinq-Mars; Ambrosio alighted to open the ample
curtains, which the carriages of that period had for doors. The people
threw themselves between the carriage-steps and the door of the house, so
that Cinq-Mars had an absolute struggle ere he could get out and
disengage himself from the market-women, who sought to embrace him,
crying:

"Here you are, then, my sweet, my dear! Here you are, my pet! Ah, how
handsome he is, the love, with his big collar! Isn't he worth more than
the other fellow with the white moustache? Come, my son, bring us out
some good wine this morning."

Henri d'Effiat pressed, blushing deeply the while, his friend's
hand,--who hastened to have his doors closed.

"This popular favor is a cup one must drink," said he, as they ascended
the stairs.

"It appears to me," replied De Thou, gravely, "that you drink it even to
the very dregs."

"I will explain all this clamorous affair to you," answered Cinq-Mars,
somewhat embarrassed. "At present, if you love me, dress yourself to
accompany me to the Queen's toilette."

"I promised you blind adherence," said the counsellor; "but truly I can
not keep my eyes shut much longer if--"

"Once again, I will give you a full explanation as we return from the
Queen. But make haste; it is nearly ten o'clock."

"Well, I will go with you," replied De Thou, conducting him into his
cabinet, where were the Comte du Lude and Fournier, while he himself
passed into his dressing-room.