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Book 5 Chapter 19 Cinq Mars by Alfred de Vigny


CHAPTER XIX

THE HUNTING PARTY

Meanwhile the illness of Louis XIII threw France into the apprehension
which unsettled States ever feel on the approach of the death of princes.
Although Richelieu was the hub of the monarchy, he reigned only in the
name of Louis, though enveloped with the splendor of the name which he
had assumed. Absolute as he was over his master, Richelieu still feared
him; and this fear reassured the nation against his ambitious desires, to
which the King himself was the fixed barrier. But this prince dead, what
would the imperious minister do? Where would a man stop who had already
dared so much? Accustomed to wield the sceptre, who would prevent him
from still holding it, and from subscribing his name alone to laws which
he alone would dictate? These fears agitated all minds. The people in
vain looked throughout the kingdom for those pillars of the nobility, at
the feet of whom they had been wont to find shelter in political storms.
They now only saw their recent tombs. Parliament was dumb; and men felt
that nothing could be opposed to the monstrous growth of the Cardinal's
usurping power. No one was entirely deceived by the affected sufferings
of the minister. None was touched with that feigned agony which had too
often deceived the public hope; and distance nowhere prevented the weight
of the dreaded 'parvenu' from being felt.

The love of the people soon revived toward the son of Henri IV. They
hastened to the churches; they prayed, and even wept. Unfortunate princes
are always loved. The melancholy of Louis, and his mysterious sorrow
interested all France; still living, they already regretted him, as if
each man desired to be the depositary of his troubles ere he carried away
with him the grand mystery of what is suffered by men placed so high that
they can see nothing before them but their tomb.

The King, wishing to reassure the whole nation, announced the temporary
reestablishment of his health, and ordered the court to prepare for a
grand hunting party to be given at Chambord--a royal domain, whither his
brother, the Duc d'Orleans, prayed him to return.

This beautiful abode was the favorite retreat of Louis, doubtless
because, in harmony with his feelings, it combined grandeur with sadness.
He often passed whole months there, without seeing any one whatsoever,
incessantly reading and re-reading mysterious papers, writing unknown
documents, which he locked up in an iron coffer, of which he alone had
the key. He sometimes delighted in being served by a single domestic, and
thus so to forget himself by the absence of his suite as to live for many
days together like a poor man or an exiled citizen, loving to figure to
himself misery or persecution, in order the better to enjoy royalty
afterward. Another time he would be in a more entire solitude; and having
forbidden any human creature to approach him, clothed in the habit of a
monk, he would shut himself up in the vaulted chapel. There, reading the
life of Charles V, he would imagine himself at St. Just, and chant over
himself that mass for the dead which brought death upon the head of the
Spanish monarch.

But in the midst of these very chants and meditations his feeble mind was
pursued and distracted by contrary images. Never did life and the world
appear to him more fair than in such times of solitude among the tombs.
Between his eyes and the page which he endeavored to read passed
brilliant processions, victorious armies, or nations transported with
love. He saw himself powerful, combating, triumphant, adored; and if a
ray of the sun through the large windows fell upon him, suddenly rising
from the foot of the altar, he felt himself carried away by a thirst for
daylight and the open air, which led him from his gloomy retreat. But
returned to real life, he found there once more disgust and ennui, for
the first men he met recalled his power to his recollection by their
homage.

It was then that he believed in friendship, and summoned it to his side;
but scarcely was he certain of its possession than unconquerable scruples
suddenly seized upon his soul-scruples concerning a too powerful
attachment to the creature, turning him from the Creator, and frequently
inward reproaches for removing himself too much from the affairs of the
State. The object of his momentary affection then seemed to him a
despotic being, whose power drew him from his duties; but, unfortunately
for his favorites, he had not the strength of mind outwardly to manifest
toward them the resentment he felt, and thus to warn them of their
danger, but, continuing to caress them, he added by this constraint fuel
to the secret fire of his heart, and was impelled to an absolute hatred
of them. There were moments when he was capable of taking any measures
against them.

Cinq-Mars knew perfectly the weakness of that mind, which could not keep
firmly in any path, and the weakness of a heart which could neither
wholly love nor wholly hate. Thus, the position of favorite, the envy of
all France, the object of jealousy even on the part of the great
minister, was so precarious and so painful that, but for his love, he
would have burst his golden chains with greater joy than a galley-slave
feels when he sees the last ring that for two long years he has been
filing with a steel spring concealed in his mouth, fall to the earth.
This impatience to meet the fate he saw so near hastened the explosion of
that patiently prepared mine, as he had declared to his friend; but his
situation was that of a man who, placed by the side of the book of life,
should see hovering over it the hand which is to indite his damnation or
his salvation. He set out with Louis to Chambord, resolved to take the
first opportunity favorable to his design. It soon presented itself.

The very morning of the day appointed for the chase, the King sent word
to him that he was waiting for him on the Escalier du Lys. It may not,
perhaps, be out of place to speak of this astonishing construction.

Four leagues from Blois, and one league from the Loire, in a small and
deep valley, between marshy swamps and a forest of large holm-oaks, far
from any highroad, the traveller suddenly comes upon a royal, nay, a
magic castle. It might be said that, compelled by some wonderful lamp, a
genie of the East had carried it off during one of the "thousand and one
nights," and had brought it from the country of the sun to hide it in the
land of fogs and mist, for the dwelling of the mistress of a handsome
prince.

Hidden like a treasure; with its blue domes, its elegant minarets rising
from thick walls or shooting into the air, its long terraces overlooking
the wood, its light spires bending with the wind, its terraces everywhere
rising over its colonnades, one might there imagine one's self in the
kingdom of Bagdad or of Cashmir, did not the blackened walls, with their
covering of moss and ivy, and the pallid and melancholy hue of the sky,
denote a rainy climate. It was indeed a genius who raised this building;
but he came from Italy, and his name was Primaticcio. It was indeed a
handsome prince whose amours were concealed in it; but he was a king, and
he bore the name of Francois I. His salamander still spouts fire
everywhere about it. It sparkles in a thousand places on the arched
roofs, and multiplies the flames there like the stars of heaven; it
supports the capitals with burning crowns; it colors the windows with its
fires; it meanders up and down the secret staircases, and everywhere
seems to devour with its flaming glances the triple crescent of a
mysterious Diane--that Diane de Poitiers, twice a goddess and twice
adored in these voluptuous woods.

The base of this strange monument is like the monument itself, full of
elegance and mystery; there is a double staircase, which rises in two
interwoven spirals from the most remote foundations of the edifice up to
the highest points, and ends in a lantern or small lattice-work cabinet,
surmounted by a colossal fleur-de-lys, visible from a great distance. Two
men may ascend it at the same moment, without seeing each other.

This staircase alone seems like a little isolated temple. Like our
churches, it is sustained and protected by the arcades of its thin,
light, transparent, openwork wings. One would think the docile stone had
given itself to the finger of the architect; it seems, so to speak,
kneaded according to the slightest caprice of his imagination. One can
hardly conceive how the plans were traced, in what terms the orders were
explained to the workmen. The whole thing appears a transient thought, a
brilliant revery that at once assumed a durable form---the realization of
a dream.

Cinq-Mars was slowly ascending the broad stairs which led him to the
King's presence, and stopping longer at each step, in proportion as he
approached him, either from disgust at the idea of seeing the Prince
whose daily complaints he had to hear, or thinking of what he was about
to do, when the sound of a guitar struck his ear. He recognized the
beloved instrument of Louis and his sad, feeble, and trembling voice
faintly reechoing from the vaulted ceiling. Louis seemed trying one of
those romances which he was wont to compose, and several times repeated
an incomplete strain with a trembling hand. The words could scarcely be
distinguished; all that Cinq-Mars heard were a few such as 'Abandon,
ennui de monde, et belle flamme.

The young favorite shrugged his shoulders as he listened.

"What new chagrin moves thee?" he said. "Come, let me again attempt to
read that chilled heart which thinks it needs something."

He entered the narrow cabinet.

Clothed in black, half reclining on a couch, his elbows resting upon
pillows, the Prince was languidly touching the chords of his guitar; he
ceased this when he saw the grand ecuyer enter, and, raising his large
eyes to him with an air of reproach, swayed his head to and fro for a
long time without speaking. Then in a plaintive but emphatic tone, he
said:

"What do I hear, Cinq-Mars? What do I hear of your conduct? How much you
do pain me by forgetting all my counsels! You have formed a guilty
intrigue; was it from you I was to expect such things--you whom I so
loved for your piety and virtue?"

Full of his political projects, Cinq-Mars thought himself discovered, and
could not help a momentary anxiety; but, perfectly master of himself, he
answered without hesitation:

"Yes, Sire; and I was about to declare it to you, for I am accustomed to
open my soul to you."

"Declare it to me!" exclaimed the King, turning red and white, as under
the shivering of a fever; "and you dare to contaminate my ears with these
horrible avowals, Monsieur, and to speak so calmly of your disorder! Go!
you deserve to be condemned to the galley, like Rondin; it is a crime of
high treason you have committed in your want of faith toward me. I had
rather you were a coiner, like the Marquis de Coucy, or at the head of
the Croquants, than do as you have done; you dishonor your family, and
the memory of the marechal your father."

Cinq-Mars, deeming himself wholly lost, put the best face he could upon
the matter, and said with an air of resignation:

"Well, then, Sire, send me to be judged and put to death; but spare me
your reproaches."

"Do you insult me, you petty country-squire?" answered Louis. "I know
very well that you have not incurred the penalty of death in the eyes of
men; but it is at the tribunal of God, Monsieur, that you will be
judged."

"Heavens, Sire!" replied the impetuous young man, whom the insulting
phrase of the King had offended, "why do you not allow me to return to
the province you so much despise, as I have sought to do a hundred times?
I will go there. I can not support the life I lead with you; an angel
could not bear it. Once more, let me be judged if I am guilty, or allow
me to return to Touraine. It is you who have ruined me in attaching me to
your person. If you have caused me to conceive lofty hopes, which you
afterward overthrew, is that my fault? Wherefore have you made me grand
ecuyer, if I was not to rise higher? In a word, am I your friend or not?
and, if I am, why may I not be duke, peer, or even constable, as well as
Monsieur de Luynes, whom you loved so much because he trained falcons for
you? Why am I not admitted to the council? I could speak as well as any
of the old ruffs there; I have new ideas, and a better arm to serve you.
It is your Cardinal who has prevented you from summoning me there. And it
is because he keeps you from me that I detest him," continued Cinq-Mars,
clinching his fist, as if Richelieu stood before him; "yes, I would kill
him with my own hand, if need were."

D'Effiat's eyes were inflamed with anger; he stamped his foot as he
spoke, and turned his back to the King, like a sulky child, leaning
against one of the columns of the cupola.

Louis, who recoiled before all resolution, and who was always terrified
by the irreparable, took his hand.

O weakness of power! O caprices of the human heart! it was by this
childish impetuosity, these very defects of his age, that this young man
governed the King of France as effectually as did the first politician of
the time. This Prince believed, and with some show of reason, that a
character so hasty must be sincere; and even his fiery rage did not anger
him. It did not apply to the real subject of his reproaches, and he could
well pardon him for hating the Cardinal. The very idea of his favorite's
jealousy of the minister pleased him, because it indicated attachment;
and all he dreaded was his indifference. Cinq-Mars knew this, and had
desired to make it a means of escape, preparing the King to regard all
that he had done as child's play, as the consequence of his friendship
for him; but the danger was not so great, and he breathed freely when the
Prince said to him:

"The Cardinal is not in question here. I love him no more than you do;
but it is with your scandalous conduct I reproach you, and which I shall
have much difficulty to pardon in you. What, Monsieur! I learn that
instead of devoting yourself to the pious exercises to which I have
accustomed you, when I fancy you are at your Salut or your Angelus--you
are off from Saint Germain, and go to pass a portion of the night--with
whom? Dare I speak of it without sin? With a woman lost in reputation,
who can have no relations with you but such as are pernicious to the
safety of your soul, and who receives free-thinkers at her house--in a
word, Marion de Lorme. What have you to say? Speak."

Leaving his hand in that of the King, but still leaning against the
column, Cinq-Mars answered:

"Is it then so culpable to leave grave occupations for others more
serious still? If I go to the house of Marion de Lorme, it is to hear the
conversation of the learned men who assemble there. Nothing is more
harmless than these meetings. Readings are given there which, it is true,
sometimes extend far into the night, but which commonly tend to exalt the
soul, so far from corrupting it. Besides, you have never commanded me to
account to you for all that I do; I should have informed you of this long
ago if you had desired it."

"Ah, Cinq-Mars, Cinq-Mars! where is your confidence? Do you feel no need
of it? It is the first condition of a perfect friendship, such as ours
ought to be, such as my heart requires."

The voice of Louis became more affectionate, and the favorite, looking at
him over his shoulder, assumed an air less angry, but still simply
ennuye, and resigned to listening to him.

"How often have you deceived me!" continued the King; "can I trust myself
to you? Are they not fops and gallants whom you meet at the house of this
woman? Do not courtesans go there?"

"Heavens! no, Sire; I often go there with one of my friends--a gentleman
of Touraine, named Rene Descartes."

"Descartes! I know that name! Yes, he is an officer who distinguished
himself at the siege of Rochelle, and who dabbles in writing; he has a
good reputation for piety, but he is connected with Desbarreaux, who is a
free-thinker. I am sure that you must mix with many persons who are not
fit company for you, many young men without family, without birth. Come,
tell me whom saw you last there?"

"Truly, I can scarcely remember their names," said Cinq-Mars, looking at
the ceiling; "sometimes I do not even ask them. There was, in the first
place, a certain Monsieur--Monsieur Groot, or Grotius, a Hollander."

"I know him, a friend of Barnevelt; I pay him a pension. I liked him well
enough; but the Card--but I was told that he was a high Calvinist."

"I also saw an Englishman, named John Milton; he is a young man just come
from Italy, and is returning to London. He scarcely speaks at all."

"I don't know him--not at all; but I'm sure he's some other Calvinist.
And the Frenchmen, who were they?"

"The young man who wrote Cinna, and who has been thrice rejected at the
Academie Francaise; he was angry that Du Royer occupied his place there.
He is called Corneille."

"Well," said the King, folding his arms, and looking at him with an air
of triumph and reproach, "I ask you who are these people? Is it in such a
circle that you ought to be seen?"

Cinq-Mars was confounded at this observation, which hurt his self-pride,
and, approaching the King, he said:

"You are right, Sire; but there can be no harm in passing an hour or two
in listening to good conversation. Besides, many courtiers go there, such
as the Duc de Bouillon, Monsieur d'Aubijoux, the Comte de Brion, the
Cardinal de la Vallette, Messieurs de Montresor, Fontrailles; men
illustrious in the sciences, as Mairet, Colletet, Desmarets, author of
Araine; Faret, Doujat, Charpentier, who wrote the Cyropedie; Giry,
Besons, and Baro, the continuer of Astree--all academicians."

"Ah! now, indeed, here are men of real merit," said Louis; "there is
nothing to be said against them. One can not but gain from their society.
Theirs are settled reputations; they're men of weight. Come, let us make
up; shake hands, child. I permit you to go there sometimes, but do not
deceive me any more; you see I know all. Look at this."

So saying, the King took from a great iron chest set against the wall
enormous packets of paper scribbled over with very fine writing. Upon one
was written, Baradas, upon another, D'Hautefort, upon a third, La
Fayette, and finally, Cinq-Mars. He stopped at the latter, and continued:

"See how many times you have deceived me! These are the continual faults
of which I have myself kept a register during the two years I have known
you; I have written out our conversations day by day. Sit down."

Cinq-Mars obeyed with a sigh, and had the patience for two long hours to
listen to a summary of what his master had had the patience to write
during the course of two years. He yawned many times during the reading,
as no doubt we should all do, were it needful to report this dialogue,
which was found in perfect order, with his will, at the death of the
King. We shall only say that he finished thus:

"In fine, hear what you did on the seventh of December, three days ago. I
was speaking to you of the flight of the hawk, and of the knowledge of
hunting, in which you are deficient. I said to you, on the authority of
La Chasse Royale, a work of King Charles IX, that after the hunter has
accustomed his dog to follow a beast, he must consider him as of himself
desirous of returning to the wood, and the dog must not be rebuked or
struck in order to make him follow the track well; and that in order to
teach a dog to set well, creatures that are not game must not be allowed
to pass or run, nor must any scents be missed, without putting his nose
to them.

"Hear what you replied to me (and in a tone of ill-humor--mind that!) 'Ma
foi! Sire, give me rather regiments to conduct than birds and dogs. I am
sure that people would laugh at you and me if they knew how we occupy
ourselves.' And on the eighth--wait, yes, on the eighth--while we were
singing vespers together in my chambers, you threw your book angrily into
the fire, which was an impiety; and afterward you told me that you had
let it drop--a sin, a mortal sin. See, I have written below, lie,
underlined. People never deceive me, I assure you."

"But, Sire--"

"Wait a moment! wait a moment! In the evening you told me the Cardinal
had burned a man unjustly, and out of personal hatred."

"And I repeat it, and maintain it, and will prove it, Sire. It is the
greatest crime of all of that man whom you hesitate to disgrace, and who
renders you unhappy. I myself saw all, heard, all, at Loudun. Urbain
Grandier was assassinated, rather than tried. Hold, Sire, since you have
there all those memoranda in your own hand, merely reperuse the proofs
which I then gave you of it."

Louis, seeking the page indicated, and going back to the journey from
Perpignan to Paris, read the whole narrative with attention, exclaiming:

"What horrors! How is it that I have forgotten all this? This man
fascinates me; that's certain. You are my true friend, Cinq-Mars. What
horrors! My reign will be stained by them. What! he prevented the letters
of all the nobility and notables of the district from reaching me! Burn,
burn alive! without proofs! for revenge! A man, a people have invoked my
name in vain; a family curses me! Oh, how unhappy are kings!"

And the Prince, as he concluded, threw aside his papers and wept.

"Ah, Sire, those are blessed tears that you weep!" exclaimed Cinq-Mars,
with sincere admiration. "Would that all France were here with me! She
would be astonished at this spectacle, and would scarcely believe it."

"Astonished! France, then, does not know me?"

"No, Sire," said D'Effiat, frankly; "no one knows you. And I myself, with
the rest of the world, at times accuse you of coldness and indifference."

"Of coldness, when I am dying with sorrow! Of coldness, when I have
immolated myself to their interests! Ungrateful nation! I have sacrificed
all to it, even pride, even the happiness of guiding it myself, because I
feared on its account for my fluctuating life. I have given my sceptre to
be borne by a man I hate, because I believed his hand to be stronger than
my own. I have endured the ill he has done to myself, thinking that he
did good to my people. I have hidden my own tears to dry theirs; and I
see that my sacrifice has been even greater than I thought it, for they
have not perceived it. They have believed me incapable because I was
kind, and without power because I mistrusted my own. But, no matter! God
sees and knows me!"

"Ah, Sire, show yourself to France such as you are; reassume your usurped
power. France will do for your love what she would never do from fear.
Return to life, and reascend the throne."

"No, no; my life is well-nigh finished, my dear friend. I am no longer
capable of the labor of supreme command.'"

"Ah, Sire, this persuasion alone destroys your vigor. It is time that men
should cease to confound power with crime, and call this union genius.
Let your voice be heard proclaiming to the world that the reign of virtue
is about to begin with your own; and hence forth those enemies whom vice
has so much difficulty in suppressing will fall before a word uttered
from your heart. No one has as yet calculated all that the good faith of
a king of France may do for his people--that people who are drawn so
instantaneously to ward all that is good and beautiful, by their
imagination and warmth of soul, and who are always ready with every kind
of devotion. The King, your father, led us with a smile. What would not
one of your tears do?"

During this address the King, very much surprised, frequently reddened,
hemmed, and gave signs of great embarrassment, as always happened when
any attempt was made to bring him to a decision. He also felt the
approach of a conversation of too high an order, which the timidity of
his soul forbade him to venture upon; and repeatedly putting his hand to
his chest, knitting his brows as if suffering violent pain, he endeavored
to relieve himself by the apparent attack of illness from the
embarrassment of answering. But, either from passion, or from a
resolution to strike the crowning blow, Cinq-Mars went on calmly and with
a solemnity that awed Louis, who, forced into his last intrenchments, at
length said:

"But, Cinq-Mars, how can I rid myself of a minister who for eighteen
years past has surrounded me with his creatures?"

"He is not so very powerful," replied the grand ecuyer; "and his friends
will be his most sure enemies if you but make a sign of your head. The
ancient league of the princes of peace still exists, Sire, and it is only
the respect due to the choice of your Majesty that prevents it from
manifesting itself."

"Ah, mon Dieu! thou mayst tell them not to stop on my account. I would
not restrain them; they surely do not accuse me of being a Cardinalist.
If my brother will give me the means of replacing Richelieu, I will adopt
them with all my heart."

"I believe, Sire, that he will to-day speak to you of Monsieur le Duc de
Bouillon. All the Royalists demand him."

"I don't dislike him," said the King, arranging his pillows; "I don't
dislike him at all, although he is somewhat factious. We are relatives.
Knowest thou, chez ami"--and he placed on this favorite expression more
emphasis than usual--"knowest thou that he is descended in direct line
from Saint Louis, by Charlotte de Bourbon, daughter of the Duc de
Montpensier? Knowest thou that seven princes of the blood royal have been
united to his house; and eight daughters of his family, one of whom was a
queen, have been married to princes of the blood royal? Oh, I don't at
all dislike him! I have never said so, never!"

"Well, Sire," said Cinq-Mars, with confidence, "Monsieur and he will
explain to you during the hunt how all is prepared, who are the men that
may be put in the place of his creatures, who the field-marshals and the
colonels who may be depended upon against Fabert and the Cardinalists of
Perpignan. You will see that the minister has very few for him.

"The Queen, Monsieur, the nobility, and the parliaments are on our side;
and the thing is done from the moment that your Majesty is not opposed to
it. It has been proposed to get rid of the Cardinal as the Marechal
d'Ancre was got rid of, who deserved it less than he."

"As Concini?" said the King. "Oh, no, it must not be. I positively can
not consent to it. He is a priest and a cardinal. We shall be
excommunicated. But if there be any other means, I am very willing.
Thou mayest speak of it to thy friends; and I on my side will think of
the matter."

The word once spoken, the King gave himself up to his resentment, as if
he had satisfied it, as if the blow were already struck. Cinq-Mars was
vexed to see this, for he feared that his anger thus vented might not be
of long duration. However, he put faith in his last words, especially
when, after numberless complaints, Louis added:

"And would you believe that though now for two years I have mourned my
mother, ever since that day when he so cruelly mocked me before my whole
court by asking for her recall when he knew she was dead--ever since that
day I have been trying in vain to get them to bury her in France with my
fathers? He has exiled even her ashes."

At this moment Cinq-Mars thought he heard a sound on the staircase; the
King reddened.

"Go," he said; "go! Make haste and prepare for the hunt! Thou wilt ride
next to my carriage. Go quickly! I desire it; go!"

And he himself pushed Cinq-Mars toward the entrance by which he had come.

The favorite went out; but his master's anxiety had not escaped him.

He slowly descended, and tried to divine the cause of it in his mind,
when he thought he heard the sound of feet ascending the other staircase.
He stopped; they stopped. He re-ascended; they seemed to him to descend.
He knew that nothing could be seen between the interstices of the
architecture; and he quitted the place, impatient and very uneasy, and
determined to remain at the door of the entrance to see who should come
out. But he had scarcely raised the tapestry which veiled the entrance to
the guardroom than he was surrounded by a crowd of courtiers who had been
awaiting him, and was fain to proceed to the work of issuing the orders
connected with his post, or to receive respects, communications,
solicitations, presentations, recommendations, embraces--to observe that
infinitude of relations which surround a favorite, and which require
constant and sustained attention, for any absence of mind might cause
great misfortunes. He thus almost forgot the trifling circumstance which
had made him uneasy, and which he thought might after all have only been
a freak of the imagination. Giving himself up to the sweets of a kind of
continual apotheosis, he mounted his horse in the great courtyard,
attended by noble pages, and surrounded by brilliant gentlemen.

Monsieur soon arrived, followed by his people; and in an hour the King
appeared, pale, languishing, and supported by four men. Cinq-Mars,
dismounting, assisted him into a kind of small and very low carriage,
called a brouette, and the horses of which, very docile and quiet ones,
the King himself drove. The prickers on foot at the doors held the dogs
in leash; and at the sound of the horn scores of young nobles mounted,
and all set out to the place of meeting.

It was a farm called L'Ormage that the King had fixed upon; and the
court, accustomed to his ways, followed the many roads of the park, while
the King slowly followed an isolated path, having at his side the grand
ecuyer and four persons whom he had signed to approach him.

The aspect of this pleasure party was sinister. The approach of winter
had stripped well-nigh all the leaves from the great oaks in the park,
whose dark branches now stood up against a gray sky, like branches of
funereal candelabra. A light fog seemed to indicate rain; through the
melancholy boughs of the thinned wood the heavy carriages of the court
were seen slowly passing on, filled with women, uniformly dressed in
black, and obliged to await the result of a chase which they did not
witness. The distant hounds gave tongue, and the horn was sometimes
faintly heard like a sigh. A cold, cutting wind compelled every man to
don cloaks, and some of the women, putting over their faces a veil or
mask of black velvet to keep themselves from the air which the curtains
of their carriages did not intercept (for there were no glasses at that
time), seemed to wear what is called a domino. All was languishing and
sad. The only relief was that ever and anon groups of young men in the
excitement of the chase flew down the avenue like the wind, cheering on
the dogs or sounding their horns. Then all again became silent, as after
the discharge of fireworks the sky appears darker than before.

In a path, parallel with that followed by the King, were several
courtiers enveloped in their cloaks. Appearing little intent upon the
stag, they rode step for step with the King's brouette, and never lost
sight of him. They conversed in low tones.

"Excellent! Fontrailles, excellent! victory! The King takes his arm every
moment. See how he smiles upon him! See! Monsieur le Grand dismounts and
gets into the brouette by his side. Come, come, the old fox is done at
last!"

"Ah, that's nothing! Did you not see how the King shook hands with
Monsieur? He's made a sign to you, Montresor. Look, Gondi!"

"Look, indeed! That's very easy to say; but I don't see with my own eyes.
I have only those of faith, and yours. Well, what are they doing now? I
wish to Heaven I were not so near-sighted! Tell me, what are they doing?"

Montresor answered, "The King bends his ear toward the Duc de Bouillon,
who is speaking to him; he speaks again! he gesticulates! he does not
cease! Oh, he'll be minister!"

"He will be minister!" said Fontrailles.

"He will be minister!" echoed the Comte du Lude.

"Oh, no doubt of it!" said Montresor.

"I hope he'll give me a regiment, and I'll marry my cousin," cried
Olivier d'Entraigues, with boyish vivacity.

The Abbe de Gondi sneered, and, looking up at the sky, began to sing to a
hunting tune.

       "Les etourneaux ont le vent bon,
        Ton ton, ton ton, ton taine, ton ton--"

"I think, gentlemen, you are more short-sighted than I, or else miracles
will come to pass in the year of grace 1642; for Monsieur de Bouillon is
no nearer being Prime-Minister, though the King do embrace him, than I.
He has good qualities, but he will not do; his qualities are not various
enough. However, I have much respect for his great and singularly foolish
town of Sedan, which is a fine shelter in case of need."

Montresor and the rest were too attentive to every gesture of the Prince
to answer him; and they continued:

"See, Monsieur le Grand takes the reins, and is driving."

The Abbe replied with the same air:

       "Si vous conduisez ma brouette,
        Ne versez pas, beau postillon,
        Ton ton, ton ton, ton taine, ton ton."

"Ah, Abbe, your songs will drive me mad!" said Fontrailles. "You've got
airs ready for every event in life."

"I will also find you events which shall go to all the airs," answered
Gondi.

"Faith, the air of these pleases me!" said Fontrailles, in an under
voice. "I shall not be obliged by Monsieur to carry his confounded treaty
to Madrid, and I am not sorry for it; it is a somewhat touchy commission.
The Pyrenees are not so easily passed as may be supposed; the Cardinal is
on the road."

"Ha! Ha!" cried Montresor.

"Ha! Ha!" said Olivier.

"Well, what is the matter with you? ah, ah!" asked Gondi. "What have you
discovered that is so great?"

"Why, the King has again shaken hands with Monsieur. Thank Heaven,
gentlemen, we're rid of the Cardinal! The old boar is hunted down. Who
will stick the knife into him? He must be thrown into the sea."

"That's too good for him," said Olivier; "he must be tried."

"Certainly," said the Abbe; "and we sha'n't want for charges against an
insolent fellow who has dared to discharge a page, shall we?" Then,
curbing his horse, and letting Olivier and Montresor pass on, he leaned
toward M. du Lude, who was talking with two other serious personages, and
said:

"In truth, I am tempted to let my valet-de-chambre into the secret; never
was a conspiracy treated so lightly. Great enterprises require mystery.
This would be an admirable one if some trouble were taken with it. 'Tis
in itself a finer one than I have ever read of in history. There is stuff
enough in it to upset three kingdoms, if necessary, and the blockheads
will spoil all. It is really a pity. I should be very sorry. I've a taste
for affairs of this kind; and in this one in particular I feel a special
interest. There is grandeur about it, as can not be denied. Do you not
think so, D'Aubijoux, Montmort?"

While he was speaking, several large and heavy carriages, with six and
four horses, followed the same path at two hundred paces behind these
gentlemen; the curtains were open on the left side through which to see
the King. In the first was the Queen; she was alone at the back, clothed
in black and veiled. On the box was the Marechale d'Effiat; and at the
feet of the Queen was the Princesse Marie. Seated on one side on a stool,
her robe and her feet hung out of the carriage, and were supported by a
gilt step--for, as we have already observed, there were then no doors to
the coaches. She also tried to see through the trees the movements of the
King, and often leaned back, annoyed by the passing of the
Prince-Palatine and his suite.

This northern Prince was sent by the King of Poland, apparently on a
political negotiation, but in reality, to induce the Duchesse de Mantua
to espouse the old King Uladislas VI; and he displayed at the court of
France all the luxury of his own, then called at Paris "barbarian and
Scythian," and so far justified these names by strange eastern costumes.
The Palatine of Posnania was very handsome, and wore, in common with the
people of his suite, a long, thick beard. His head, shaved like that of a
Turk, was covered with a furred cap. He had a short vest, enriched with
diamonds and rubies; his horse was painted red, and amply plumed. He was
attended by a company of Polish guards in red and yellow uniforms,
wearing large cloaks with long sleeves, which hung negligently from the
shoulder. The Polish lords who escorted him were dressed in gold and
silver brocade; and behind their shaved heads floated a single lock of
hair, which gave them an Asiatic and Tartar aspect, as unknown at the
court of Louis XIII as that of the Moscovites. The women thought all this
rather savage and alarming.

Marie de Mantua was importuned with the profound salutations and Oriental
elegancies of this foreigner and his suite. Whenever he passed before
her, he thought himself called upon to address a compliment to her in
broken French, awkwardly made up of a few words about hope and royalty.
She found no other means to rid herself of him than by repeatedly putting
her handkerchief to her nose, and saying aloud to the Queen:

"In truth, Madame, these gentlemen have an odor about them that makes one
quite ill."

"It will be desirable to strengthen your nerves and accustom yourself to
it," answered Anne of Austria, somewhat dryly.

Then, fearing she had hurt her feelings, she continued gayly:

"You will become used to them, as we have done; and you know that in
respect to odors I am rather fastidious. Monsieur Mazarin told me, the
other day, that my punishment in purgatory will consist in breathing ill
scents and sleeping in Russian cloth."

Yet the Queen was very grave, and soon subsided into silence. Burying
herself in her carriage, enveloped in her mantle, and apparently taking
no interest in what was passing around her, she yielded to the motion of
the carriage. Marie, still occupied with the King, talked in a low voice
with the Marechale d'Effiat; each sought to give the other hopes which
neither felt, and sought to deceive each other out of love.

"Madame, I congratulate you; Monsieur le Grand is seated with the King.
Never has he been so highly distinguished," said Marie.

Then she was silent for a long time, and the carriage rolled mournfully
over the dead, dry leaves.

"Yes, I see it with joy; the King is so good!" answered the Marechale.

And she sighed deeply.

A long and sad silence again followed; each looked at the other and
mutually found their eyes full of tears. They dared not speak again; and
Marie, drooping her head, saw nothing but the brown, damp earth scattered
by the wheels. A melancholy revery occupied her mind; and although she
had before her the spectacle of the first court of Europe at the feet of
him she loved, everything inspired her with fear, and dark presentiments
involuntarily agitated her.

Suddenly a horse passed by her like the wind; she raised her eyes, and
had just time to see the features of Cinq-Mars. He did not look at her;
he was pale as a corpse, and his eyes were hidden under his knitted brows
and the shadows of his lowered hat. She followed him with trembling eyes;
she saw him stop in the midst of the group of cavaliers who preceded the
carriages, and who received him with their hats off.

A moment after he went into the wood with one of them, looking at her
from the distance, and following her with his eyes until the carriage had
passed; then he seemed to give the man a roll of papers, and disappeared.
The mist which was falling prevented her from seeing him any more. It
was, indeed, one of those fogs so frequent on the banks of the Loire.

The sun looked at first like a small blood-red moon, enveloped in a
tattered shroud, and within half an hour was concealed under so thick a
cloud that Marie could scarcely distinguish the foremost horses of the
carriage, while the men who passed at the distance of a few paces looked
like grizzly shadows. This icy vapor turned to a penetrating rain and at
the same time a cloud of fetid odor. The Queen made the beautiful
Princess sit beside her; and they turned toward Chambord quickly and in
silence. They soon heard the horns recalling the scattered hounds; the
huntsmen passed rapidly by the carriage, seeking their way through the
fog, and calling to each other. Marie saw only now and then the head of a
horse, or a dark body half issuing from the gloomy vapor of the woods,
and tried in vain to distinguish any words. At length her heart beat;
there was a call for M. de Cinq-Mars.

"The King asks for Monsieur le Grand," was repeated about; "where can
Monsieur le Grand Ecuyer be gone to?"

A voice, passing near, said, "He has just lost himself."

These simple words made her shudder, for her afflicted spirit gave them
the most sinister meaning. The terrible thought pursued her to the
chateau and into her apartments, wherein she hastened to shut herself.
She soon heard the noise of the entry of the King and of Monsieur, then,
in the forest, some shots whose flash was unseen. She in vain looked at
the narrow windows; they seemed covered on the outside with a white cloth
that shut out the light.

Meanwhile, at the extremity of the forest, toward Montfrault, there had
lost themselves two cavaliers, wearied with seeking the way to the
chateau in the monotonous similarity of the trees and paths; they were
about to stop near a pond, when eight or nine men, springing from the
thickets, rushed upon them, and before they had time to draw, hung to
their legs and arms and to the bridles of their horses in such a manner
as to hold them fixed. At the same time a hoarse voice cried in the fog:

"Are you Royalists or Cardinalists? Cry, 'Vive le Grand!' or you are dead
men!"

"Scoundrels," answered the first cavalier, trying to open the holsters of
his pistols, "I will have you hanged for abusing my name."

"Dios es el Senor!" cried the same voice.

All the men immediately released their hold, and ran into the wood; a
burst of savage laughter was heard, and a man approached Cinq-Mars.

"Amigo, do you not recognize me? 'Tis but a joke of Jacques, the Spanish
captain."

Fontrailles approached, and said in a low voice to the grand ecuyer:

"Monsieur, this is an enterprising fellow; I would advise you to employ
him. We must neglect no chance."

"Listen to me," said Jacques de Laubardemont, "and answer at once. I am
not a phrase-maker, like my father. I bear in mind that you have done me
some good offices; and lately again, you have been useful to me, as you
always are, without knowing it, for I have somewhat repaired my fortune
in your little insurrections. If you will, I can render you an important
service; I command a few brave men."

"What service?" asked Cinq-Mars. "We will see."

"I commence by a piece of information. This morning while you descended
the King's staircase on one side, Father Joseph ascended the other."

"Ha! this, then, is the secret of his sudden and inexplicable change! Can
it be? A king of France! and to allow us to confide all our secrets to
him."

"Well! is that all? Do you say nothing? You know I have an old account to
settle with the Capuchin."

"What's that to me?" and he hung down his head, absorbed in a profound
revery.

"It matters a great deal to you, since you have only to speak the word,
and I will rid you of him before thirty-six hours from this time, though
he is now very near Paris. We might even add the Cardinal, if you wish."

"Leave me; I will use no poniards," said Cinq-Mars.

"Ah! I understand you," replied Jacques. "You are right; you would prefer
our despatching him with the sword. This is just. He is worth it; 'tis a
distinction due to him. It were undoubtedly more suitable for great lords
to take charge of the Cardinal; and that he who despatches his Eminence
should be in a fair way to be a marechal. For myself, I am not proud; one
must not be proud, whatever one's merit in one's profession. I must not
touch the Cardinal; he's a morsel for a king!"

"Nor any others," said the grand ecuyer.

"Oh, let us have the Capuchin!" said Captain Jacques, urgently.

"You are wrong if you refuse this office," said Fontrailles; "such things
occur every day. Vitry began with Concini; and he was made a marechal.
You see men extremely well at court who have killed their enemies with
their own hands in the streets of Paris, and you hesitate to rid yourself
of a villain! Richelieu has his agents; you must have yours. I can not
understand your scruples."

"Do not torment him," said Jacques, abruptly; "I understand it. I thought
as he does when I was a boy, before reason came. I would not have killed
even a monk; but let me speak to him." Then, turning toward Cinq-Mars,
"Listen: when men conspire, they seek the death or at least the downfall
of some one, eh?"

And he paused.

"Now in that case, we are out with God, and in with the Devil, eh?"

"Secundo, as they say at the Sorbonne; it's no worse when one is damned,
to be so for much than for little, eh?"

"Ergo, it is indifferent whether a thousand or one be killed. I defy you
to answer that."

"Nothing could be better argued, Doctor-dagger," said Fontrailles,
half-laughing, "I see you will be a good travelling-companion. You shall
go with me to Spain if you like."

"I know you are going to take the treaty there," answered Jacques; "and I
will guide you through the Pyrenees by roads unknown to man. But I shall
be horribly vexed to go away without having wrung the neck of that old
he-goat, whom we leave behind, like a knight in the midst of a game of
chess. Once more Monsieur," he continued with an air of pious
earnestness, "if you have any religion in you, refuse no longer;
recollect the words of our theological fathers, Hurtado de Mendoza and
Sanchez, who have proved that a man may secretly kill his enemies, since
by this means he avoids two sins--that of exposing his life, and that of
fighting a duel. It is in accordance with this grand consolatory
principle that I have always acted."

"Go, go!" said Cinq-Mars, in a voice thick with rage; "I have other
things to think of."

"Of what more important?" said Fontrailles; "this might be a great weight
in the balance of our destinies."

"I am thinking how much the heart of a king weighs in it," said
Cinq-Mars.

"You terrify me," replied the gentleman; "we can not go so far as that!"

"Nor do I think what you suppose, Monsieur," continued D'Effiat, in a
severe tone. "I was merely reflecting how kings complain when a subject
betrays them. Well, war! war! civil war, foreign war, let your fires be
kindled! since I hold the match, I will apply it to the mine. Perish the
State! perish twenty kingdoms, if necessary! No ordinary calamities
suffice when the King betrays the subject. Listen to me."

And he took Fontrailles a few steps aside.

"I only charged you to prepare our retreat and succors, in case of
abandonment on the part of the King. Just now I foresaw this abandonment
in his forced manifestation of friendship; and I decided upon your
setting out when he finished his conversation by announcing his departure
for Perpignan. I feared Narbonne; I now see that he is going there to
deliver himself up a prisoner to the Cardinal. Go at once. I add to the
letters I have given you the treaty here; it is in fictitious names, but
here is the counterpart, signed by Monsieur, by the Duc de Bouillon, and
by me. The Count-Duke of Olivares desires nothing further. There are
blanks for the Duc d'Orleans, which you will fill up as you please. Go;
in a month I shall expect you at Perpignan. I will have Sedan opened to
the seventeen thousand Spaniards from Flanders."

Then, advancing toward the adventurer, who awaited him, he said:

"For you, brave fellow, since you desire to aid me, I charge you with
escorting this gentleman to Madrid; you will be largely recompensed."

Jacques, twisting his moustache, replied:

"Ah, you do not then scorn to employ me! you exhibit your judgment and
taste. Do you know that the great Queen Christina of Sweden has asked for
me, and wished to have me with her as her confidential man. She was
brought up to the sound of the cannon by the 'Lion of the North,'
Gustavus Adolphus, her father. She loves the smell of powder and brave
men; but I would not serve her, because she is a Huguenot, and I have
fixed principles, from which I never swerve. 'Par exemple', I swear to
you by Saint Jacques to guide Monsieur through the passes of the Pyrenees
to Oleron as surely as through these woods, and to defend him against the
Devil, if need be, as well as your papers, which we will bring you back
without blot or tear. As for recompense, I want none. I always find it in
the action itself. Besides, I do not receive money, for I am a gentleman.
The Laubardemonts are a very ancient and very good family."

"Adieu, then, noble Monsieur," said Cinq-Mars; "go!"

After having pressed the hand of Fontrailles, he sighed and disappeared
in the wood, on his return to the chateau of Chambord.