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Book 6 Chapter 24 Cinq Mars by Alfred de Vigny


CHAPTER XXIV

THE WORK

One night, before Perpignan, a very unusual event took place. It was ten
o'clock; and all were asleep. The slow and almost suspended operations of
the siege had rendered the camp and the town inactive. The Spaniards
troubled themselves little about the French, all communication toward
Catalonia being open as in time of peace; and in the French army men's
minds were agitated with that secret anxiety which precedes great events.

Yet all was calm; no sound was heard but that of the measured tread of
the sentries. Nothing was seen in the dark night but the red light of the
matches of their guns, always smoking, when suddenly the trumpets of the
musketeers, of the light-horse, and of the men-at-arms sounded almost
simultaneously, "boot and saddle," and "to horse." All the sentinels
cried to arms; and the sergeants, with flambeaux, went from tent to tent,
along pike in their hands, to waken the soldiers, range them in lines,
and count them. Some files marched in gloomy silence along the streets of
the camp, and took their position in battle array. The sound of the
mounted squadrons announced that the heavy cavalry were making the same
dispositions. After half an hour of movement the noise ceased, the
torches were extinguished, and all again became calm, but the army was on
foot.

One of the last tents of the camp shone within as a star with flambeaux.
On approaching this little white and transparent pyramid, we might have
distinguished the shadows of two men reflected on the canvas as they
walked to and fro within. Outside several men on horseback were in
attendance; inside were De Thou and Cinq-Mars.

To see the pious and wise De Thou thus up and armed at this hour, you
might have taken him for one of the chiefs of the revolt. But a closer
examination of his serious countenance and mournful expression
immediately showed that he blamed it, and allowed himself to be led into
it and endangered by it from an extraordinary resolution which aided him
to surmount the horror he had of the enterprise itself. From the day when
Henri d'Effiat had opened his heart and confided to him its whole secret,
he had seen clearly that all remonstrance was vain with a young man so
powerfully resolved.

De Thou had even understood what M. de Cinq-Mars had not told him, and
had seen in the secret union of his friend with the Princesse Marie, one
of those ties of love whose mysterious and frequent faults, voluptuous
and involuntary derelictions, could not be too soon purified by public
benediction. He had comprehended that punishment, impossible to be
supported long by a lover, the adored master of that young girl, and who
was condemned daily to appear before her as a stranger, to receive
political disclosures of marriages they were preparing for her. The day
when he received his entire confession, he had done all in his power to
prevent Cinq-Mars going so far in his projects as the foreign alliance.
He had evoked the gravest recollections and the best feelings, without
any other result than rendering the invincible resolution of his friend
more rude toward him. Cinq-Mars, it will be recollected, had said to him
harshly, "Well, did I ask you to take part in this conspiracy?" And he
had desired only to promise not to denounce it; and he had collected all
his power against friendship to say, "Expect nothing further from me if
you sign this treaty." Yet Cinq-Mars had signed the treaty; and De Thou
was still there with him.

The habit of familiarly discussing the projects of his friend had perhaps
rendered them less odious to him. His contempt for the vices of the
Prime-Minister; his indignation at the servitude of the parliaments to
which his family belonged, and at the corruption of justice; the powerful
names, and more especially the noble characters of the men who directed
the enterprise--all had contributed to soften down his first painful
impression. Having once promised secrecy to M. de Cinq-Mars, he
considered himself as in a position to accept in detail all the secondary
disclosures; and since the fortuitous event which had compromised him
with the conspirators at the house of Marion de Lorme, he considered
himself united to them by honor, and engaged to an inviolable secrecy.
Since that time he had seen Monsieur, the Duc de Bouillon, and
Fontrailles; they had become accustomed to speak before him without
constraint, and he to hear them.

The dangers which threatened his friend now drew him into their vortex
like an invincible magnet. His conscience accused him; but he followed
Cinq-Mars wherever he went without even, from excess of delicacy,
hazarding a single expression which might resemble a personal fear. He
had tacitly given up his life, and would have deemed it unworthy of both
to manifest a desire to regain it.

The master of the horse was in his cuirass; he was armed, and wore large
boots. An enormous pistol, with a lighted match, was placed upon his
table between two flambeaux. A heavy watch in a brass case lay near the
pistol. De Thou, wrapped in a black cloak, sat motionless with folded
arms. Cinq-Mars paced backward and forward, his arms crossed behind his
back, from time to time looking at the hand of the watch, too sluggish in
his eyes. He opened the tent, looked up to the heavens, and returned.

"I do not see my star there," said he; "but no matter. She is here in my
heart."

"The night is dark," said De Thou.

"Say rather that the time draws nigh. It advances, my friend; it
advances. Twenty minutes more, and all will be accomplished. The army
only waits the report of this pistol to begin."

De Thou held in his hand an ivory crucifix, and looking first at the
cross, and then toward heaven, "Now," said he, "is the hour to complete
the sacrifice. I repent not; but oh, how bitter is the cup of sin to my
lips! I had vowed my days to innocence and to the works of the soul, and
here I am about to commit a crime, and to draw the sword."

But forcibly seizing the hand of Cinq-Mars, "It is for you, for you!" he
added with the enthusiasm of a blindly devoted heart. "I rejoice in my
errors if they turn to your glory. I see but your happiness in my fault.
Forgive me if I have returned for a moment to the habitual thought of my
whole life."

Cinq-Mars looked steadfastly at him; and a tear stole slowly down his
cheek.

"Virtuous friend," said he, "may your fault fall only on my head! But let
us hope that God, who pardons those who love, will be for us; for we are
criminal--I through love, you through friendship."

Then suddenly looking at the watch, he took the long pistol in his hand,
and gazed at the smoking match with a fierce air. His long hair fell over
his face like the mane of a young lion.

"Do not consume," said he; "burn slowly. Thou art about to light a flame
which the waves of ocean can not extinguish. The flame will soon light
half Europe; it may perhaps reach the wood of thrones. Burn slowly,
precious flame! The winds which fan thee are violent and fearful; they
are love and hatred. Reserve thyself! Thy explosion will be heard afar,
and will find echoes in the peasant's but and the king's palace.

"Burn, burn, poor flame! Thou art to me a sceptre and a thunderbolt!"

De Thou, still holding his ivory crucifix in his hand, said in a low
voice:

"Lord, pardon us the blood that will be shed! We combat the wicked and
the impious." Then, raising his voice, "My friend, the cause of virtue
will triumph," he said; "it alone will triumph. God has ordained that the
guilty treaty should not reach us; that which constituted the crime is no
doubt destroyed. We shall fight without the foreigners, and perhaps we
shall not fight at all. God will change the heart of the king."

"'Tis the hour! 'tis the hour!" exclaimed Cinq-Mars, his eyes fixed upon
the watch with a kind of savage joy; "four minutes more, and the
Cardinalists in the camp will be crushed! We shall march upon Narbonne!
He is there! Give me the pistol!"

At these words he hastily opened the tent, and took up the match.

"A courier from Paris! an express from court!" cried a voice outside, as
a man, heated with hard riding and overcome with fatigue, threw himself
from his horse, entered, and presented a letter to Cinq-Mars.

"From the Queen, Monseigneur," he said. Cinq-Mars turned pale, and read
as follows:

   M. DE CINQ-MARS: I write this letter to entreat and conjure you to
   restore to her duties our well-beloved adopted daughter and friend,
   the Princesse Marie de Gonzaga, whom your affection alone turns from
   the throne of Poland, which has been offered to her. I have sounded
   her heart. She is very young, and I have good reason to believe
   that she would accept the crown with less effort and less grief than
   you may perhaps imagine.

   It is for her you have undertaken a war which will put to fire and
   sword my beautiful and beloved France. I supplicate and implore you
   to act as a gentleman, and nobly to release the Duchesse de Mantua
   from the promises she may have made you. Thus restore repose to her
   soul, and peace to our beloved country.

   The Queen, who will throw herself at your feet if need be,

                         ANNE.

Cinq-Mars calmly replaced the pistol upon the table; his first impulse
had been to turn its muzzle upon himself. However, he laid it down, and
snatching a pencil, wrote on the back of the letter;

   MADAME: Marie de Gonzaga, being my wife, can not be Queen of Poland
   until after my death. I die.

                         CINQ-MARS.

Then, as if he would not allow himself time for a moment's reflection, he
forced the letter into the hands of the courier.

"To horse! to horse!" cried he, in a furious tone. "If you remain another
instant, you are a dead man!"

He saw him gallop off, and reentered the tent. Alone with his friend, he
remained an instant standing, but pale, his eyes fixed, and looking on
the ground like a madman. He felt himself totter.

"De Thou!" he cried.

"What would you, my friend, my dear friend? I am with you. You have acted
grandly, most grandly, sublimely!"

"De Thou!" he cried again, in a hollow voice, and fell with his face to
the ground, like an uprooted tree.

Violent tempests assume different aspects, according to the climates in
which they take place. Those which have spread over a terrible space in
northern countries assemble into one single cloud under the torrid
zone--the more formidable, that they leave the horizon in all its purity,
and that the furious waves still reflect the azure of heaven while tinged
with the blood of man. It is the same with great passions. They assume
strange aspects according to our characters; but how terrible are they in
vigorous hearts, which have preserved their force under the veil of
social forms? When youth and despair embrace, we know not to what fury
they may rise, or what may be their sudden resignation; we know not
whether the volcano will burst the mountain or become suddenly
extinguished within its entrails.

De Thou, in alarm, raised his friend. The blood gushed from his nostrils
and ears; he would have thought him dead, but .for the torrents of tears
which flowed from his eyes. They were the only sign of life. Suddenly he
opened his lids, looked around him, and by an extraordinary energy
resumed his senses and the power of his will.

"I am in the presence of men," said he; "I must finish with them. My
friend, it is half-past eleven; the hour for the signal has passed. Give,
in my name, the order to return to quarters. It was a false alarm, which
I will myself explain this evening."

De Thou had already perceived the importance of this order; he went out
and returned immediately.

He found Cinq-Mars seated, calm, and endeavoring to cleanse the blood
from his face.

"De Thou," said he, looking fixedly at him, "retire; you disturb me."

"I leave you not," answered the latter.

"Fly, I tell you! the Pyrenees are not far distant. I can not speak much
longer, even to you; but if you remain with me, you will die. I give you
warning."

"I remain," repeated De Thou.

"May God preserve you, then!" answered Cinq-Mars, "for I can do nothing
more; the moment has passed. I leave you here. Call Fontrailles and all
the confederates: distribute these passports among them. Let them fly
immediately; tell them all has failed, but that I thank them. For you,
once again I say, fly with them, I entreat you; but whatever you do,
follow me not--follow me not, for your life! I swear to you not to do
violence to myself!"

With these words, shaking his friend's hand without looking at him, he
rushed from the tent.

Meantime, some leagues thence another conversation was taking place. At
Narbonne, in the same cabinet in which we formerly beheld Richelieu
regulating with Joseph the interests of the State, were still seated the
same men, nearly as we have described them. The minister, however, had
grown much older in three years of suffering; and the Capuchin was as
much terrified with the result of his expedition as his master appeared
tranquil.

The Cardinal, seated in his armchair, his legs bound and encased with
furs and warm clothing, had upon his knees three kittens, which gambolled
upon his scarlet robe. Every now and then he took one of them and placed
it upon the others, to continue their sport. He smiled as he watched
them. On his feet lay their mother, looking like an enormous animated
muff.

Joseph, seated near him, was going over the account of all he had heard
in the confessional. Pale even now, at the danger he had run of being
discovered, or of being murdered by Jacques, he concluded thus:

"In short, your Eminence, I can not help feeling agitated to my heart's
core when I reflect upon the dangers which have, and still do, threaten
you. Assassins offer themselves to poniard you. I beheld in France the
whole court against you, one half of the army, and two provinces. Abroad,
Spain and Portugal are ready to furnish troops. Everywhere there are
snares or battles, poniards or cannon."

The Cardinal yawned three times, without discontinuing his amusement, and
then said:

"A cat is a very fine animal. It is a drawing-room tiger. What
suppleness, what extraordinary finesse! Here is this little yellow one
pretending to sleep, in order that the tortoise-shell one may not notice
it, but fall upon its brother; and this one, how it tears the other! See
how it sticks its claws into its side! It would kill and eat it, I fully
believe, if it were the stronger. It is very amusing. What pretty
animals!"

He coughed and sneezed for some time; then he continued:

"Messire Joseph, I sent word to you not to speak to me of business until
after my supper. . . I have an appetite now, and it is not yet my hour.
Chicot, my doctor, recommends regularity, and I feel my usual pain in my
side. This is how I shall spend the evening," he added, looking at the
clock. "At nine, we will settle the affairs of Monsieur le Grand. At ten,
I shall be carried round the garden to take the air by moonlight. Then I
shall sleep for an hour or two. At midnight the King will be here; and at
four o'clock you may return to receive the various orders for arrests,
condemnations, or any others I may have to give you, for the provinces,
Paris, or the armies of his Majesty."

Richelieu said all this in the same tone of voice, with a uniform
enunciation, affected only by the weakness of his chest and the loss of
several teeth.

It was seven in the evening. The Capuchin withdrew. The Cardinal supped
with the greatest tranquillity; and when the clock struck half-past
eight, he sent for Joseph, and said to him, when he was seated:

"This, then, is all they have been able to do against me during more than
two years. They are poor creatures, truly! The Duc de Bouillon, whom I
thought possessed some ability, has forfeited all claim to my opinion. I
have watched him closely; and I ask you, has he taken one step worthy of
a true statesman? The King, Monsieur, and the rest, have only shown their
teeth against me, and without depriving me of one single man. The young
Cinq-Mars is the only man among them who has any consecutiveness of
ideas. All that he has done has been done surprisingly well. I must do
him justice; he had good qualities. I should have made him my pupil, had
it not been for his obstinate character. But he has here charged me 'a
l'outrance, and must take the consequences. I am sorry for him. I have
left them to float about in open water for the last two years. I shall
now draw the net."

"It is time, Monseigneur," said Joseph, who often trembled involuntarily
as he spoke. "Do you bear in mind that from Perpignan to Narbonne the way
is short? Do you know that if your army here is powerful, your own troops
are weak and uncertain; that the young nobles are furious; and that the
King is not sure?"

The Cardinal looked at the clock.

"It is only half-past eight, Joseph. I have already told you that I will
not talk about this affair until nine. Meantime, as justice must be done,
you will write what I shall dictate, for my memory serves me well. There
are still some objectionable persons left, I see by my notes--four of the
judges of Urbain Grandier. He was a rare genius, that Urbain Grandier,"
he added, with a malicious expression. Joseph bit his lips. "All the
other judges have died miserably. As to Houmain, he shall be hanged as a
smuggler by and by. We may leave him alone for the present. But there is
that horrible Lactantius, who lives peacefully, Barre, and Mignon. Take a
pen, and write to the Bishop of Poitiers,

   "MONSEIGNEUR: It is his Majesty's pleasure that Fathers Mignon and
   Barre be superseded in their cures, and sent with the shortest
   possible delay to the town of Lyons, with Father Lactantius,
   Capuchin, to be tried before a special tribunal, charged with
   criminal intentions against the State."

Joseph wrote as coolly as a Turk strikes off a head at a sign from his
master. The Cardinal said to him, while signing the letter:

"I will let you know how I wish them to disappear, for it is important to
efface all traces of that affair. Providence has served me well. In
removing these men, I complete its work. That is all that posterity shall
know of the affair."

And he read to the Capuchin that page of his memoirs in which he recounts
the possession and sorceries of the magician.--[Collect. des Memoires
xxviii. 189.]--During this slow process, Joseph could not help looking at
the clock.

"You are anxious to come to Monsieur le Grand," said the Cardinal at
last. "Well, then, to please you, let us begin."

"Do you think I have not my reasons for being tranquil? You think that I
have allowed these poor conspirators to go too far. No, no! Here are some
little papers that would reassure you, did you know their contents.
First, in this hollow stick is the treaty with Spain, seized at Oleron. I
am well satisfied with Laubardemont; he is an able man."

The fire of ferocious jealousy sparkled under the thick eyebrows of the
monk.

"Ah, Monseigneur," said he, "you know not from whom he seized it. He
certainly suffered him to die, and in that respect we can not complain,
for he was the agent of the conspiracy; but it was his son."

"Say you the truth?" cried the Cardinal, in a severe tone. "Yes, for you
dare not lie to me. How knew you this?"

"From his attendants, Monsiegneur. Here are their reports. They will
testify to them."

The Cardinal having examined these papers, said:

"We will employ him once more to try our conspirators, and then you shall
do as you like with him. I give him to you."

Joseph joyfully pocketed his precious denunciations, and continued:

"Your Eminence speaks of trying men who are still armed and on
horseback."

"They are not all so. Read this letter from Monsieur to Chavigny. He asks
for pardon. He dared not address me the first day, and his prayers rose
no higher than the knees of one of my servants.

   To M. de Chavigny:

   M. DE CHAVIGNY: Although I believe that you are little satisfied
   with me (and in truth you have reason to be dissatisfied), I do not
   the less entreat you to endeavor my reconciliation with his
   Eminence, and rely for this upon the true love you bear me, and
   which, I believe, is greater than your anger. You know how much I
   require to be relieved from the danger I am in. You have already
   twice stood my friend with his Eminence. I swear to you this shall
   be the last time I give you such an employment.
                       GASTON D'ORLEANS.

"But the next day he took courage, and sent this to myself,

   To his Excellency the Cardinal-Duc:

   MY COUSIN: This ungrateful M. le Grand is the most guilty man in the
   world to have displeased you. The favors he received from his
   Majesty have always made me doubtful of him and his artifices. For
   you, my cousin, I retain my whole esteem. I am truly repentant at
   having again been wanting in the fidelity I owe to my Lord the King,
   and I call God to witness the sincerity with which I shall be for
   the rest of my life your most faithful friend, with the same
   devotion that I am, my cousin, your affectionate cousin,
                              GASTON.

and the third to the King. His project choked him; he could not keep it
down. But I am not so easily satisfied. I must have a free and full
confession, or I will expel him from the kingdom. I have written to him
this morning.

   [MONSIEUR: Since God wills that men should have recourse to a frank
   and entire confession to be absolved of their faults in this world,
   I indicate to you the steps you must take to be delivered from this
   danger. Your Highness has commenced well; you must continue. This
   is all I can say to you.]

"As to the magnificent and powerful Due de Bouillon, sovereign lord of
Sedan and general-in-chief of the armies in Italy, he has just been
arrested by his officers in the midst of his soldiers, concealed in a
truss of straw. There remain, therefore, only our two young neighbors.
They imagine they have the camp wholly at their orders, while they really
have only the red troops. All the rest, being Monsieur's men, will not
act, and my troops will arrest them. However, I have permitted them to
appear to obey. If they give the signal at half-past eleven, they will be
arrested at the first step. If not, the King will give them up to me this
evening. Do not open your eyes so wide. He will give them up to me, I
repeat, this night, between midnight and one o'clock. You see that all
has been done without you, Joseph. We can dispense with you very well;
and truly, all this time, I do not see that we have received any great
service from you. You grow negligent."

"Ah, Monseigneur! did you but know the trouble I have had to discover the
route of the bearers of the treaty! I only learned it by risking my life
between these young people."

The Cardinal laughed contemptuously, leaning back in his chair.

"Thou must have been very ridiculous and very fearful in that box,
Joseph; I dare say it was the first time in thy life thou ever heardst
love spoken of. Dost thou like the language, Father Joseph? Tell me, dost
thou clearly understand it? I doubt whether thou hast formed a very
refined idea of it."

Richelieu, his arms crossed, looked at his discomfited Capuchin with
infinite delight, and continued in the scornfully familiar tone of a
grand seigneur, which he sometimes assumed, pleasing himself with putting
forth the noblest expressions through the most impure lips:

"Come, now, Joseph, give me a definition of love according to thy idea.
What can it be--for thou seest it exists out of romances. This worthy
youngster undertook these little conspiracies through love. Thou heardst
it thyself with throe unworthy ears. Come, what is love? For my part, I
know nothing about it."

The monk was astounded, and looked upon the ground with the stupid eye of
some base animal. After long consideration, he replied in a drawling and
nasal voice:

"It must be a kind of malignant fever which leads the brain astray; but
in truth, Monseigneur, I have never reflected on it until this moment. I
have always been embarrassed in speaking to a woman. I wish women could
be omitted from society altogether; for I do not see what use they are,
unless it be to disclose secrets, like the little Duchess or Marion de
Lorme, whom I can not too strongly recommend to your Eminence. She
thought of everything, and herself threw our little prophecy among the
conspirators with great address. We have not been without the marvellous
this time. As in the siege of Hesdin, all we have to do is to find a
window through which you may pass on the day of the execution."

   [In 1638, Prince Thomas having raised the siege of Hesdin, the
   Cardinal was much vexed at it. A nun of the convent of Mount
   Calvary had said that the victory would be to the King and Father
   Joseph, thus wishing it to be believed that Heaven protected the
   minister.--Memoires pour l'histoire du Cardinal de Richelieu.]

"This is another of your absurdities, sir," said the Cardinal; "you will
make me as ridiculous as yourself, if you go on so; I am too powerful to
need the assistance of Heaven. Do not let that happen again. Occupy
yourself only with the people I consign to you. I traced your part
before. When the master of the horse is taken, you will see him tried and
executed at Lyons. I will not be known in this. This affair is beneath
me; it is a stone under my feet, upon which I ought not to have bestowed
so much attention."

Joseph was silent; he could not understand this man, who, surrounded on
every side by armed enemies, spoke of the future as of a present over
which he had the entire control, and of the present as a past which he no
longer feared. He knew not whether to look upon him as a madman or a
prophet, above or below the standard of human nature.

His astonishment was redoubled when Chavigny hastily entered, and nearly
falling, in his heavy boots, over the Cardinal's footstool, exclaimed in
great agitation:

"Sir, one of your servants has just arrived from Perpignan; and he has
beheld the camp in an uproar, and your enemies in the saddle."

"They will soon dismount, sir," replied Richelieu, replacing his
footstool. "You appear to have lost your equanimity."

"But--but, Monseigneur, must we not warn Monsieur de Fabert?"

"Let him sleep, and go to bed yourself; and you also, Joseph."

"Monseigneur, another strange event has occurred--the King has arrived."

"Indeed, that is extraordinary," said the minister, looking at his watch.
"I did not expect him these two hours. Retire, both of you."

A heavy trampling and the clattering of arms announced the arrival of the
Prince; the folding-doors were thrown open; the guards in the Cardinal's
service struck the ground thrice with their pikes; and the King appeared.

He entered, supporting himself with a cane on one side, and on the other
leaning upon the shoulder of his confessor, Father Sirmond, who withdrew,
and left him with the Cardinal; the latter rose with difficulty, but
could not advance a step to meet the King, because his legs were bandaged
and enveloped. He made a sign that they should assist the King to a seat
near the fire, facing himself. Louis XIII fell into an armchair furnished
with pillows, asked for and drank a glass of cordial, prepared to
strengthen him against the frequent fainting-fits caused by his malady of
languor, signed to all to leave the room, and, alone with Richelieu, he
said in a languid voice:

"I am departing, my dear Cardinal; I feel that I shall soon return to
God. I become weaker from day to day; neither the summer nor the southern
air has restored my strength."

"I shall precede your Majesty," replied the minister. "You see that death
has already conquered my limbs; but while I have a head to think and a
hand to write, I shall be at the service of your Majesty."

"And I am sure it was your intention to add, 'a heart to love me.'"

"Can your Majesty doubt it?" answered the Cardinal, frowning, and biting
his lips impatiently at this speech.

"Sometimes I doubt it," replied the King. "Listen: I wish to speak openly
to you, and to complain of you to yourself. There are two things which
have been upon my conscience these three years. I have never mentioned
them to you; but I reproached you secretly; and could anything have
induced me to consent to any proposals contrary to your interest, it
would be this recollection."

There was in this speech that frankness natural to weak minds, who seek
by thus making their ruler uneasy, to compensate for the harm they dare
not do him, and revenge their subjection by a childish controversy.

Richelieu perceived by these words that he had run a great risk; but he
saw at the same time the necessity of venting all his spleen, and, to
facilitate the explosion of these important avowals, he accumulated all
the professions he thought most calculated to provoke the King.

"No, no!" his Majesty at length exclaimed, "I shall believe nothing until
you have explained those two things, which are always in my thoughts,
which were lately mentioned to me, and which I can justify by no
reasoning. I mean the trial of Urbain Grandier, of which I was never well
informed, and the reason for the hatred you bore to my unfortunate
mother, even to her very ashes."

"Is this all, Sire?" said Richelieu. "Are these my only faults? They are
easily explained. The first it was necessary to conceal from your Majesty
because of its horrible and disgusting details of scandal. There was
certainly an art employed, which can not be looked upon as guilty, in
concealing, under the title of 'magic,' crimes the very names of which
are revolting to modesty, the recital of which would have revealed
dangerous mysteries to the innocent; this was a holy deceit practised to
hide these impurities from the eyes of the people."

"Enough, enough, Cardinal," said Louis XIII, turning away his head, and
looking downward, while a blush covered his face; "I can not hear more. I
understand you; these explanations would disgust me. I approve your
motives; 'tis well. I had not been told that; they had concealed these
dreadful vices from me. Are you assured of the proofs of these crimes?"

"I have them all in my possession, Sire; and as to the glorious Queen,
Marie de Medicis, I am surprised that your Majesty can forget how much I
was attached to her. Yes, I do not fear to acknowledge it; it is to her I
owe my elevation. She was the first who deigned to notice the Bishop of
Luton, then only twenty-two years of age, to place me near her. What have
I not suffered when she compelled me to oppose her in your Majesty's
interest! But this sacrifice was made for you. I never had, and never
shall have, to regret it."

"'Tis well for you, but for me!" said the King, bitterly.

"Ah, Sire," exclaimed the Cardinal, "did not the Son of God himself set
you an example? It is by the model of every perfection that we regulate
our counsels; and if the monument due to the precious remains of your
mother is not yet raised, Heaven is my witness that the works were
retarded through the fear of afflicting your heart by bringing back the
recollection of her death. But blessed be the day in which I have been
permitted to speak to you on the subject! I myself shall say the first
mass at Saint-Denis, when we shall see her deposited there, if Providence
allows me the strength."

The countenance of the King assumed a more affable yet still cold
expression; and the Cardinal, thinking that he could go no farther that
evening in persuasion, suddenly resolved to make a more powerful move,
and to attack the enemy in front. Still keeping his eyes firmly fixed
upon the King, he said, coldly:

"And was it for this you consented to my death?"

"Me!" said the King. "You have been deceived; I have indeed heard of a
conspiracy, and I wished to speak to you about it; but I have commanded
nothing against you."

"'The conspirators do not say so, Sire; but I am bound to believe your
Majesty, and I am glad for your sake that men were deceived. But what
advice were you about to condescend to give me?"

"I--I wished to tell you frankly, and between ourselves, that you will do
well to beware of Monsieur--"

"Ah, Sire, I can not now heed it; for here is a letter which he has just
sent to me for you. He seems to have been guilty even toward your
Majesty."

The King read in astonishment:

   MONSEIGNEUR: I am much grieved at having once more failed in the
   fidelity which I owe to your Majesty. I humbly entreat you to allow
   me to ask a thousand pardons, with the assurances of my submission
   and repentance.
        Your very humble servant,
                    GASTON.

"What does this mean?" cried Louis; "dare they arm against me also?"

"Also!" muttered the Cardinal, biting his lips; "yes, Sire, also; and
this makes me believe, to a certain degree, this little packet of
papers."

While speaking, he drew a roll of parchment from a piece of hollowed
elder, and opened it before the eyes of the King.

"This is simply a treaty with Spain, which I think does not bear the
signature of your Majesty. You may see the twenty articles all in due
form. Everything is here arranged--the place of safety, the number of
troops, the supplies of men and money."

"The traitors!" cried the King, in great agitation; "they must be seized.
My brother renounces them and repents; but do not fail to arrest the Duc
de Bouillon."

"It shall be done, Sire."

"That will be difficult, in the middle of the army in Italy."

"I will answer with my head for his arrest, Sire; but is there not
another name to be added?"

"Who--what--Cinq-Mars?" inquired the King, hesitating.

"Exactly so, Sire," answered the Cardinal.

"I see--but--I think--we might--"

"Hear me!" exclaimed Richelieu, in a voice of thunder; "all must be
settled to-day. Your favorite is mounted at the head of his party; choose
between him and me. Yield up the boy to the man, or the man to the boy;
there is no alternative."

"And what will you do if I consent?" said the King.

"I will have his head and that of his friend."

"Never! it is impossible!" replied the King, with horror, as he relapsed
into the same state of irresolution he evinced when with Cinq-Mars
against Richelieu. "He is my friend as well as you; my heart bleeds at
the idea of his death. Why can you not both agree? Why this division? It
is that which has led him to this. You have between you brought me to the
brink of despair; you have made me the most miserable of men."

Louis hid his head in his hands while speaking, and perhaps he shed
tears; but the inflexible minister kept his eyes upon him as if watching
his prey, and without remorse, without giving the King time for
reflection--on the contrary, profiting by this emotion to speak yet
longer.

"And is it thus," he continued, in a harsh and cold voice, "that you
remember the commandments of God communicated to you by the mouth of your
confessor? You told me one day that the Church expressly commanded you to
reveal to your prime minister all that you might hear against him; yet I
have never heard from you of my intended death! It was necessary that
more faithful friends should apprise me of this conspiracy; that the
guilty themselves through the mercy of Providence should themselves make
the avowal of their fault. One only, the most guilty, yet the least of
all, still resists, and it is he who has conducted the whole; it is he
who would deliver France into the power of the foreigner, who would
overthrow in one single day my labors of twenty years. He would call up
the Huguenots of the south, invite to arms all orders of the State,
revive crushed pretensions, and, in fact, renew the League which was put
down by your father. It is that--do not deceive yourself--it is that
which raises so many heads against you. Are you prepared for the combat?
If so, where are your arms?"

The King, quite overwhelmed, made no reply; he still covered his face
with his hands. The stony-hearted Cardinal crossed his arms and
continued:

"I fear that you imagine it is for myself I speak. Do you really think
that I do not know my own powers, and that I fear such an adversary?
Really, I know not what prevents me from letting you act for
yourself--from transferring the immense burden of State affairs to the
shoulders of this youth. You may imagine that during the twenty years I
have been acquainted with your court, I have not forgotten to assure
myself a retreat where, in spite of you, I could now go to live the six
months which perhaps remain to me of life. It would be a curious
employment for me to watch the progress of such a reign. What answer
would you return, for instance, when all the inferior potentates,
regaining their station, no longer kept in subjection by me, shall come
in your brother's name to say to you, as they dared to say to Henri IV on
his throne: 'Divide with us all the hereditary governments and
sovereignties, and we shall be content.'--[Memoires de Sully, 1595.]--You
will doubtless accede to their request; and it is the least you can do
for those who will have delivered you from Richelieu. It will, perhaps,
be fortunate, for to govern the Ile-de-France, which they will no doubt
allow you as the original domain, your new minister will not require many
secretaries."

While speaking thus, he furiously pushed the huge table, which nearly
filled the room, and was laden with papers and numerous portfolios.

Louis was aroused from his apathetic meditation by the excessive audacity
of this discourse. He raised his head, and seemed to have instantly
formed one resolution for fear he should adopt another.

"Well, sir," said he, "my answer is that I will reign alone."

"Be it so!" replied Richelieu. "But I ought to give you notice that
affairs are at present somewhat complicated. This is the hour when I
generally commence my ordinary avocations."

"I will act in your place," said Louis. "I will open the portfolios and
issue my commands."

"Try, then," said Richelieu. "I shall retire; and if anything causes you
to hesitate, you can send for me."

He rang a bell. In the same instant, and as if they had awaited the
signal, four vigorous footmen entered, and carried him and his chair into
another apartment, for we have before remarked that he was unable to
walk. While passing through the chambers where the secretaries were at
work, he called out in a loud voice:

"You will receive his Majesty's commands."

The King remained alone, strong in his new resolution, and, proud in
having once resisted, he became anxious immediately to plunge into
political business. He walked around the immense table, and beheld as
many portfolios as they then counted empires, kingdoms, and States in
Europe. He opened one and found it divided into sections equalling in
number the subdivisions of the country to which it related. All was in
order, but in alarming order for him, because each note only referred to
the very essence of the business it alluded to, and related only to the
exact point of its then relations with France. These laconic notes proved
as enigmatic to Louis, as did the letters in cipher which covered the
table. Here all was confusion. An edict of banishment and expropriation
of the Huguenots of La Rochelle was mingled with treaties with Gustavus
Adolphus and the Huguenots of the north against the empire. Notes on
General Bannier and Wallenstein, the Duc de Weimar, and Jean de Witt were
mingled with extracts from letters taken from the casket of the Queen,
the list of the necklaces and jewels they contained, and the double
interpretation which might be put upon every phrase of her notes. Upon
the margin of one of these letters was written: "For four lines in a
man's handwriting he might be criminally tried." Farther on were
scattered denunciations against the Huguenots; the republican plans they
had drawn up; the division of France into departments under the annual
dictatorship of a chief. The seal of this projected State was affixed to
it, representing an angel leaning upon a cross, and holding in his hand a
Bible, which he raised to his forehead. By the side was a document which
contained a list of those cardinals the pope had selected the same day as
the Bishop of Lurgon (Richelieu). Among them was to be found the Marquis
de Bedemar, ambassador and conspirator at Venice.

Louis XIII exhausted his powers in vain over the details of another
period, seeking unsuccessfully for any documents which might allude to
the present conspiracy, to enable him to perceive its true meaning, and
all that had been attempted against him, when a diminutive man, of an
olive complexion, who stooped much, entered the cabinet with a measured
step. This was a Secretary of State named Desnoyers. He advanced, bowing.

"May I be permitted to address your Majesty on the affairs of Portugal?"
said he.

"And consequently of Spain?" said Louis. "Portugal is a province of
Spain."

"Of Portugal," reiterated Desnoyers. "Here is the manifesto we have this
moment received." And he read, "Don John, by the grace of God, King of
Portugal and of Algarves, kingdoms on this side of Africa, lord over
Guinea, by conquest, navigation, and trade with Arabia, Persia, and the
Indies--"

"What is all that?" said the King. "Who talks in this manner?"

"The Duke of Braganza, King of Portugal, crowned already some time by a
man whom they call Pinto. Scarcely has he ascended the throne than he
offers assistance to the revolted Catalonians."

"Has Catalonia also revolted? The King, Philip IV, no longer has the
Count-Duke for his Prime-Minister?"

"Just the contrary, Sire. It is on this very account. Here is the
declaration of the States-General of Catalonia to his Catholic Majesty,
signifying that the whole country will take up arms against his
sacrilegious and excommunicated troops. The King of Portugal--"

"Say the Duke of Braganza!" replied Louis. "I recognize no rebels."

"The Duke of Braganza, then," coldly repeated the Secretary of State,
"sends his nephew, Don Ignacio de Mascarenas, to the principality of
Catalonia, to seize the protection (and it may be the sovereignty) of
that country, which he would add to that he has just reconquered. Your
Majesty's troops are before Perpignan--"

"Well, and what of that?" said Louis.

"The Catalonians are more disposed toward France than toward Portugal,
and there is still time to deprive the King of-the Duke of Portugal, I
should say--of this protectorship."

"What! I assist rebels! You dare--"

"Such was the intention of his Eminence," continued the Secretary of
State. "Spain and France are nearly at open war, and Monsieur d'Olivares
has not hesitated to offer the assistance of his Catholic Majesty to the
Huguenots."

"Very good. I will consider it," said the King. "Leave me."

"Sire, the States-General of Catalonia are in a dilemma. The troops from
Aragon march against them."

"We shall see. I will come to a decision in a quarter of an hour,"
answered Louis XIII.

The little Secretary of State left the apartment discontented and
discouraged. In his place Chavigny immediately appeared, holding a
portfolio, on which were emblazoned the arms of England. "Sire," said he,
"I have to request your Majesty's commands upon the affairs of England.
The Parliamentarians, commanded by the Earl of Essex, have raised the
siege of Gloucester. Prince Rupert has at Newbury fought a disastrous
battle, and of little profit to his Britannic Majesty. The Parliament is
prolonged. All the principal cities take part with it, together with all
the seaports and the Presbyterian population. King Charles I implores
assistance, which the Queen can no longer obtain from Holland."

"Troops must be sent to my brother of England," said Louis; but he wanted
to look over the preceding papers, and casting his eyes over the notes of
the Cardinal, he found that under a former request of the King of England
he had written with his own hand:

"We must consider some time and wait. The Commons are strong. King
Charles reckons upon the Scots; they will sell him.

"We must be cautious. A warlike man has been over to see Vincennes, and
he has said that 'princes ought never to be struck, except on the head.'"

The Cardinal had added "remarkable," but he had erased this word and
substituted "formidable." Again, beneath:

"This man rules Fairfax. He plays an inspired part. He will be a great
man--assistance refused--money lost."

The King then said, "No, no! do nothing hastily. I shall wait."

"But, Sire," said Chavigny, "events pass rapidly. If the courier be
delayed, the King's destruction may happen a year sooner."

"Have they advanced so far?" asked Louis.

"In the camp of the Independents they preach up the republic with the
Bible in their hands. In that of the Royalists, they dispute for
precedency, and amuse themselves."

"But one turn of good fortune may save everything?"

"The Stuarts are not fortunate, Sire," answered Chavigny, respectfully,
but in a tone which left ample room for consideration.

"Leave me," said the King, with some displeasure.

The State-Secretary slowly retired.

It was then that Louis XIII beheld himself as he really was, and was
terrified at the nothingness he found in himself. He at first stared at
the mass of papers which surrounded him, passing from one to the other,
finding dangers on every side, and finding them still greater with the
remedies he invented. He rose; and changing his place, he bent over, or
rather threw himself upon, a geographical map of Europe. There he found
all his fears concentrated. In the north, the south, the very centre of
the kingdom, revolutions appeared to him like so many Eumenides. In every
country he thought he saw a volcano ready to burst forth. He imagined he
heard cries of distress from kings, who appealed to him for help, and the
furious shouts of the populace. He fancied he felt the territory of
France trembling and crumbling beneath his feet. His feeble and fatigued
sight failed him. His weak head was attacked by vertigo, which threw all
his blood back upon his heart.

"Richelieu!" he cried, in a stifled voice, while he rang a bell; "summon
the Cardinal immediately."

And he swooned in an armchair.

When the King opened his eyes, revived by salts and potent essences which
had been applied to his lips and temples, he for one instant beheld
himself surrounded by pages, who withdrew as soon as he opened his eyes,
and he was once more left alone with the Cardinal. The impassible
minister had had his chair placed by that of the King, as a physician
would seat himself by the bedside of his patient, and fixed his sparkling
and scrutinizing eyes upon the pale countenance of Louis. As soon as his
victim could hear him, he renewed his fearful discourse in a hollow
voice:

"You have recalled me. What would you with me?"

Louis, who was reclining on the pillow, half opened his eyes, fixed them
upon Richelieu, and hastily closed them again. That bony head, armed with
two flaming eyes, and terminating in a pointed and grizzly beard, the cap
and vestments of the color of blood and flames,--all appeared to him like
an infernal spirit.

"You must reign," he said, in a languid voice.

"But will you give me up Cinq-Mars and De Thou?" again urged the
implacable minister, bending forward to read in the dull eyes of the
Prince, as an avaricious heir follows up, even to the tomb, the last
glimpses of the will of a dying relative.

"You must reign," repeated the King, turning away his head.

"Sign then," said Richelieu; "the contents of this are, 'This is my
command--to take them, dead or alive.'"

Louis, whose head still reclined on the raised back of the chair,
suffered his hand to fall upon the fatal paper, and signed it. "For
pity's sake, leave me; I am dying!" he said.

"That is not yet all," continued he whom men call the great politician.
"I place no reliance on you; I must first have some guarantee and
assurance. Sign this paper, and I will leave you:

   "When the King shall go to visit the Cardinal, the guards of the
   latter shall remain under arms; and when the Cardinal shall visit
   the King, the guards of the Cardinal shall share the same post with
   those of his Majesty.

"Again:

   "His Majesty undertakes to place the two princes, his sons, in the
   Cardinal's hands, as hostages of the good faith of his attachment."

"My children!" exclaimed Louis, raising his head, "dare you?"

"Would you rather that I should retire?" said Richelieu.

The King again signed.

"Is all finished now?" he inquired, with a deep sigh.

All was not finished; one other grief was still in reserve for him. The
door was suddenly opened, and Cinq-Mars entered. It was the Cardinal who
trembled now.

"What would you here, sir?" said he, seizing the bell to ring for
assistance.

The master of the horse was as pale as the King, and without
condescending to answer Richelieu, he advanced steadily toward Louis
XIII, who looked at him with the air of a man who has just received a
sentence of death.

"You would, Sire, find it difficult to have me arrested, for I have
twenty thousand men under my command," said Henri d'Effiat, in a sweet
and subdued voice.

"Alas, Cinq-Mars!" replied the King, sadly; "is it thou who hast been
guilty of these crimes?"

"Yes, Sire; and I also bring you my sword, for no doubt you came here to
surrender me," said he, unbuckling his sword, and laying it at the feet
of the King, who fixed his eyes upon the floor without making any reply.

Cinq-Mars smiled sadly, but not bitterly, for he no longer belonged to
this earth. Then, looking contemptuously at Richelieu, "I surrender
because I wish to die, but I am not conquered."

The Cardinal clenched his fist with passion; but he restrained his fury.
"Who are your accomplices?" he demanded. Cinq-Mars looked steadfastly at
Louis, and half opened his lips to speak. The King bent down his head,
and felt at that moment a torture unknown to all other men.

"I have none," said Cinq-Mars, pitying the King; and he slowly left the
apartment. He stopped in the first gallery. Fabert and all the gentlemen
rose on seeing him. He walked up to the commander, and said:

"Sir, order these gentlemen to arrest me!"

They looked at each other, without daring to approach him.

"Yes, sir, I am your prisoner; yes, gentlemen, I am without my sword, and
I repeat to you that I am the King's prisoner."

"I do not understand what I see," said the General; "there are two of you
who surrender, and I have no instruction to arrest any one."

"Two!" said Cinq-Mars; "the other is doubtless De Thou. Alas! I recognize
him by this devotion."

"And had I not also guessed your intention?" exclaimed the latter, coming
forward, and throwing himself into his arms.