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Catherine de' Medici by Honore de Balzac

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a secretary of State like Robertet was purely and simply a writer; he
counted for almost nothing among the princes and grandees who decided
the affairs of State. His functions were little more than those of the
superintendent of finances, the chancellor, and the keeper of the
seals. The kings granted seats at the council by letters-patent to
those of their subjects whose advice seemed to them useful in the
management of public affairs. Entrance to the council was given in
this way to a president of the Chamber of Parliament, to a bishop, or
to an untitled favorite. Once admitted to the council, the subject
strengthened his position there by obtaining various crown offices on
which devolved such prerogatives as the sword of a Constable, the
government of provinces, the grand-mastership of artillery, the baton
of a marshal, a leading rank in the army, or the admiralty, or a
captaincy of the galleys, often some office at court, like that of
grand-master of the household, now held, as we have already said, by
the Duc de Guise.

"Do you think that the Duc de Nemours will marry Francoise?" said
Madame de Guise to the tutor of the Duc d'Orleans.

"Ah, madame," he replied, "I know nothing but Latin."

This answer made all who were within hearing of it smile. The
seduction of Francoise de Rohan by the Duc de Nemours was the topic of
all conversations; but, as the duke was cousin to Francois II., and
doubly allied to the house of Valois through his mother, the Guises
regarded him more as the seduced than the seducer. Nevertheless, the
power of the house of Rohan was such that the Duc de Nemours was
obliged, after the death of Francois II., to leave France on
consequence of suits brought against him by the Rohans; which suits
the Guises settled. The duke's marriage with the Duchesse de Guise
after Poltrot's assassination of her husband in 1563, may explain the
question which she put to Amyot, by revealing the rivalry which must
have existed between Mademoiselle de Rohan and the duchess.

"Do see that group of the discontented over there?" said the Comte de
Grammont, motioning toward the Messieurs de Coligny, the Cardinal de
Chatillon, Danville, Thore, Moret, and several other seigneurs
suspected of tampering with the Reformation, who were standing between
two windows on the other side of the fireplace.

"The Huguenots are bestirring themselves," said Cypierre. "We know
that Theodore de Beze has gone to Nerac to induce the Queen of Navarre
to declare for the Reformers--by abjuring publicly," he added, looking
at the /bailli/ of Orleans, who held the office of chancellor to the
Queen of Navarre, and was watching the court attentively.

"She will do it!" said the /bailli/, dryly.

This personage, the Orleans Jacques Coeur, one of the richest burghers
of the day, was named Groslot, and had charge of Jeanne d'Albret's
business with the court of France.

"Do you really think so?" said the chancellor of France, appreciating
the full importance of Groslot's declaration.

"Are you not aware," said the burgher, "that the Queen of Navarre has
nothing of the woman in her except sex? She is wholly for things
virile; her powerful mind turns to the great affairs of State; her
heart is invincible under adversity."

"Monsieur le cardinal," whispered the Chancellor Olivier to Monsieur
de Tournon, who had overheard Groslot, "what do you think of that

"The Queen of Navarre did well in choosing for her chancellor a man
from whom the house of Lorraine borrows money, and who offers his
house to the king, if his Majesty visits Orleans," replied the

The chancellor and the cardinal looked at each other, without
venturing to further communicate their thoughts; but Robertet
expressed them, for he thought it necessary to show more devotion to
the Guises than these great personages, inasmuch as he was smaller
than they.

"It is a great misfortune that the house of Navarre, instead of
abjuring the religion of its fathers, does not abjure the spirit of
vengeance and rebellion which the Connetable de Bourbon breathed into
it," he said aloud. "We shall see the quarrels of the Armagnacs and
the Bourguignons revive in our day."

"No," said Groslot, "there's another Louis XI. in the Cardinal de

"And also in Queen Catherine," replied Robertet.

At this moment Madame Dayelle, the favorite bedchamber woman of Queen
Mary Stuart, crossed the hall, and went toward the royal chamber. Her
passage caused a general commotion.

"We shall soon enter," said Madame de Fisque.

"I don't think so," replied the Duchesse de Guise. "Their Majesties
will come out; a grand council is to be held."



Madame Dayelle glided into the royal chamber after scratching on the
door,--a respectful custom, invented by Catherine de' Medici and
adopted by the court of France.

"How is the weather, my dear Dayelle?" said Queen Mary, showing her
fresh young face out of the bed, and shaking the curtains.

"Ah! madame--"

"What's the matter, my Dayelle? You look as if the archers of the
guard were after you."

"Oh! madame, is the king still asleep?"


"We are to leave the chateau; Monsieur le cardinal requests me to tell
you so, and to ask you to make the king agree to it.

"Do you know why, my good Dayelle?"

"The Reformers want to seize you and carry you off."

"Ah! that new religion does not leave me a minute's peace! I dreamed
last night that I was in prison,--I, who will some day unite the
crowns of the three noblest kingdoms in the world!"

"Therefore it could only be a dream, madame."

"Carry me off! well, 'twould be rather pleasant; but on account of
religion, and by heretics--oh, that would be horrid."

The queen sprang from the bed and placed herself in a large arm-chair
of red velvet before the fireplace, after Dayelle had given her a
dressing-gown of black velvet, which she fastened loosely round her
waist by a silken cord. Dayelle lit the fire, for the mornings are
cool on the banks of the Loire in the month of May.

"My uncles must have received some news during the night?" said the
queen, inquiringly to Dayelle, whom she treated with great

"Messieurs de Guise have been walking together from early morning on
the terrace, so as not to be overheard by any one; and there they
received messengers, who came in hot haste from all the different
points of the kingdom where the Reformers are stirring. Madame la
reine mere was there too, with her Italians, hoping she would be
consulted; but no, she was not admitted to the council."

"She must have been furious."

"All the more because she was so angry yesterday," replied Dayelle.
"They say that when she saw your Majesty appear in that beautiful
dress of woven gold, with the charming veil of tan-colored crape, she
was none too pleased--"

"Leave us, my good Dayelle, the king is waking up. Let no one, even
those who have the little /entrees/, disturb us; an affair of State is
in hand, and my uncles will not disturb us."

"Why! my dear Mary, already out of bed? Is it daylight?" said the
young king, waking up.

"My dear darling, while we were asleep the wicked waked, and now they
are forcing us to leave this delightful place."

"What makes you think of wicked people, my treasure? I am sure we
enjoyed the prettiest fete in the world last night--if it were not for
the Latin words those gentlemen will put into our French."

"Ah!" said Mary, "your language is really in very good taste, and
Rabelais exhibits it finely."

"You are such a learned woman! I am so vexed that I can't sing your
praises in verse. If I were not the king, I would take my brother's
tutor, Amyot, and let him make me as accomplished as Charles."

"You need not envy your brother, who writes verses and shows them to
me, asking for mine in return. You are the best of the four, and will
make as good a king as you are the dearest of lovers. Perhaps that is
why your mother does not like you! But never mind! I, dear heart, will
love you for all the world."

"I have no great merit in loving such a perfect queen," said the
little king. "I don't know what prevented me from kissing you before
the whole court when you danced the /branle/ with the torches last
night! I saw plainly that all the other women were mere servants
compared to you, my beautiful Mary."

"It may be only prose you speak, but it is ravishing speech, dear
darling, for it is love that says those words. And you--you know well,
my beloved, that were you only a poor little page, I should love you
as much as I do now. And yet, there is nothing so sweet as to whisper
to one's self: 'My lover is king!'"

"Oh! the pretty arm! Why must we dress ourselves? I love to pass my
fingers through your silky hair and tangle its blond curls. Ah ca!
sweet one, don't let your women kiss that pretty throat and those
white shoulders any more; don't allow it, I say. It is too much that
the fogs of Scotland ever touched them!"

"Won't you come with me to see my dear country? The Scotch love you;
there are no rebellions /there/!"

"Who rebels in this our kingdom?" said Francois, crossing his
dressing-gown and taking Mary Stuart on his knee.

"Oh! 'tis all very charming, I know that," she said, withdrawing her
cheek from the king; "but it is your business to reign, if you please,
my sweet sire."

"Why talk of reigning? This morning I wish--"

"Why say /wish/ when you have only to will all? That's not the speech
of a king, nor that of a lover.--But no more of love just now; let us
drop it! We have business more important to speak of."

"Oh!" cried the king, "it is long since we have had any business. Is
it amusing?"

"No," said Mary, "not at all; we are to move from Blois."

"I'll wager, darling, you have seen your uncles, who manage so well
that I, at seventeen years of age, am no better than a /roi faineant/.
In fact, I don't know why I have attended any of the councils since
the first. They could manage matters just as well by putting the crown
in my chair; I see only through their eyes, and am forced to consent
to things blindly."

"Oh! monsieur," said the queen, rising from the king's knee with a
little air of indignation, "you said you would never worry me again on
this subject, and that my uncles used the royal power only for the
good of your people. Your people!--they are so nice! They would gobble
you up like a strawberry if you tried to rule them yourself. You want
a warrior, a rough master with mailed hands; whereas you--you are a
darling whom I love as you are; whom I should never love otherwise,
--do you hear me, monsieur?" she added, kissing the forehead of the
lad, who seemed inclined to rebel at her speech, but softened at her

"Oh! how I wish they were not your uncles!" cried Francois II. "I
particularly dislike the cardinal; and when he puts on his wheedling
air and his submissive manner and says to me, bowing: 'Sire, the honor
of the crown and the faith of your fathers forbid your Majesty to
--this and that,' I am sure he is working only for his cursed house
of Lorraine."

"Oh, how well you mimicked him!" cried the queen. "But why don't you
make the Guises inform you of what is going on, so that when you
attain your grand majority you may know how to reign yourself? I am
your wife, and your honor is mine. Trust me! we will reign together,
my darling; but it won't be a bed of roses for us until the day comes
when we have our own wills. There is nothing so difficult for a king
as to reign. Am I a queen, for example? Don't you know that your
mother returns me evil for all the good my uncles do to raise the
splendor of your throne? Hey! what difference between them! My uncles
are great princes, nephews of Charlemagne, filled with ardor and ready
to die for you; whereas this daughter of a doctor or a shopkeeper,
queen of France by accident, scolds like a burgher-woman who can't
manage her own household. She is discontented because she can't set
every one by the ears; and then she looks at me with a sour, pale
face, and says from her pinched lips: 'My daughter, you are a queen; I
am only the second woman in the kingdom' (she is really furious, you
know, my darling), 'but if I were in your place I should not wear
crimson velvet while all the court is in mourning; neither should I
appear in public with my own hair and no jewels, because what is not
becoming in a simple lady is still less becoming in a queen. Also I
should not dance myself, I should content myself with seeing others
dance.'--that is what she says to me--"

"Heavens!" cried the king, "I think I hear her coming. If she were to

"Oh, how you tremble before her. She worries you. Only say so, and we
will send her away. Faith, she's Florentine and we can't help her
tricking you, but when it comes to worrying--"

"For Heaven's sake, Mary, hold your tongue!" said Francois, frightened
and also pleased; "I don't want you to lose her good-will."

"Don't be afraid that she will ever break with /me/, who will some day
wear the three noblest crowns in the world, my dearest little king,"
cried Mary Stuart. "Though she hates me for a thousand reasons she is
always caressing me in the hope of turning me against my uncles."

"Hates you!"

"Yes, my angel; and if I had not proofs of that feeling such as women
only understand, for they alone know its malignity, I would forgive
her perpetual opposition to our dear love, my darling. Is it my fault
that your father could not endure Mademoiselle Medici or that his son
loves me? The truth is, she hates me so much that if you had not put
yourself into a rage, we should each have had our separate chamber at
Saint-Germain, and also here. She pretended it was the custom of the
kings and queens of France. Custom, indeed! it was your father's
custom, and that is easily understood. As for your grandfather,
Francois, the good man set up the custom for the convenience of his
loves. Therefore, I say, take care. And if we have to leave this
place, be sure that we are not separated."

"Leave Blois! Mary, what do you mean? I don't wish to leave this
beautiful chateau, where we can see the Loire and the country all
round us, with a town at our feet and all these pretty gardens. If I
go away it will be to Italy with you, to see St. Peter's, and
Raffaelle's pictures."

"And the orange-trees? Oh! my darling king, if you knew the longing
your Mary has to ramble among the orange-groves in fruit and flower!"

"Let us go, then!" cried the king.

"Go!" exclaimed the grand-master as he entered the room. "Yes, sire,
you must leave Blois. Pardon my boldness in entering your chamber; but
circumstances are stronger than etiquette, and I come to entreat you
to hold a council."

Finding themselves thus surprised, Mary and Francois hastily
separated, and on their faces was the same expression of offended
royal majesty.

"You are too much of a grand-master, Monsieur de Guise," said the
king, though controlling his anger.

"The devil take lovers," murmured the cardinal in Catherine's ear.

"My son," said the queen-mother, appearing behind the cardinal; "it is
a matter concerning your safety and that of your kingdom."

"Heresy wakes while you have slept, sire," said the cardinal.

"Withdraw into the hall," cried the little king, "and then we will
hold a council."

"Madame," said the grand-master to the young queen; "the son of your
furrier has brought some furs, which was just in time for the journey,
for it is probable we shall sail down the Loire. But," he added,
turning to the queen-mother, "he also wishes to speak to you, madame.
While the king dresses, you and Madame la reine had better see and
dismiss him, so that we may not be delayed and harassed by this

"Certainly," said Catherine, thinking to herself, "If he expects to
get rid of me by any such trick he little knows me."

The cardinal and the duke withdrew, leaving the two queens and the
king alone together. As they crossed the /salle des gardes/ to enter
the council-chamber, the grand-master told the usher to bring the
queen's furrier to him. When Christophe saw the usher approaching from
the farther end of the great hall, he took him, on account of his
uniform, for some great personage, and his heart sank within him. But
that sensation, natural as it was at the approach of the critical
moment, grew terrible when the usher, whose movement had attracted the
eyes of all that brilliant assembly upon Christophe, his homely face
and his bundles, said to him:--

"Messeigneurs the Cardinal de Lorraine and the Grand-master wish to
speak to you in the council chamber."

"Can I have been betrayed?" thought the helpless ambassador of the

Christophe followed the usher with lowered eyes, which he did not
raise till he stood in the great council-chamber, the size of which is
almost equal to that of the /salle des gardes/. The two Lorrain
princes were there alone, standing before the magnificent fireplace,
which backs against that in the /salle des gardes/ around which the
ladies of the two queens were grouped.

"You have come from Paris; which route did you take?" said the

"I came by water, monseigneur," replied the reformer.

"How did you enter Blois?" asked the grand-master.

"By the docks, monseigneur."

"Did no one question you?" exclaimed the duke, who was watching the
young man closely.

"No, monseigneur. To the first soldier who looked as if he meant to
stop me I said I came on duty to the two queens, to whom my father was

"What is happening in Paris?" asked the cardinal.

"They are still looking for the murderer of the President Minard."

"Are you not the son of my surgeon's greatest friend?" said the Duc de
Guise, misled by the candor of Christophe's expression after his first
alarm had passed away.

"Yes, monseigneur."

The Grand-master turned aside, abruptly raised the portiere which
concealed the double door of the council-chamber, and showed his face
to the whole assembly, among whom he was searching for the king's
surgeon. Ambroise Pare, standing in a corner, caught a glance which
the duke cast upon him, and immediately advanced. Ambroise, who at
this time was inclined to the reformed religion, eventually adopted
it; but the friendship of the Guises and that of the kings of France
guaranteed him against the evils which overtook his co-religionists.
The duke, who considered himself under obligations for life to
Ambroise Pare, had lately caused him to be appointed chief-surgeon to
the king.

"What is it, monseigneur?" said Ambroise. "Is the king ill? I think it

"Likely? Why?"

"The queen is too pretty," replied the surgeon.

"Ah!" exclaimed the duke in astonishment. "However, that is not the
matter now," he added after a pause. "Ambroise, I want you to see
a friend of yours." So saying he drew him to the door of the
council-room, and showed him Christophe.

"Ha! true, monseigneur," cried the surgeon, extending his hand to the
young furrier. "How is your father, my lad?"

"Very well, Maitre Ambroise," replied Christophe.

"What are you doing at court?" asked the surgeon. "It is not your
business to carry parcels; your father intends you for the law. Do you
want the protection of these two great princes to make you a

"Indeed I do!" said Christophe; "but I am here only in the interests
of my father; and if you could intercede for us, please do so," he
added in a piteous tone; "and ask the Grand Master for an order to pay
certain sums that are due to my father, for he is at his wit's end
just now for money."

The cardinal and the duke glanced at each other and seemed satisfied.

"Now leave us," said the duke to the surgeon, making him a sign. "And
you my friend," turning to Christophe; "do your errand quickly and
return to Paris. My secretary will give you a pass, for it is not
safe, /mordieu/, to be travelling on the high-roads!"

Neither of the brothers formed the slightest suspicion of the grave
importance of Christophe's errand, convinced, as they now were, that
he was really the son of the good Catholic Lecamus, the court furrier,
sent to collect payment for their wares.

"Take him close to the door of the queen's chamber; she will probably
ask for him soon," said the cardinal to the surgeon, motioning to

While the son of the furrier was undergoing this brief examination in
the council-chamber, the king, leaving the queen in company with her
mother-in-law, had passed into his dressing-room, which was entered
through another small room next to the chamber.

Standing in the wide recess of an immense window, Catherine looked at
the gardens, her mind a prey to painful thoughts. She saw that in all
probability one of the greatest captains of the age would be foisted
that very day into the place and power of her son, the king of France,
under the formidable title of lieutenant-general of the kingdom.
Before this peril she stood alone, without power of action, without
defence. She might have been likened to a phantom, as she stood there
in her mourning garments (which she had not quitted since the death of
Henri II.) so motionless was her pallid face in the grasp of her
bitter reflections. Her black eyes floated in that species of
indecision for which great statesmen are so often blamed, though it
comes from the vast extent of the glance with which they embrace all
difficulties,--setting one against the other, and adding up, as it
were, all chances before deciding on a course. Her ears rang, her
blood tingled, and yet she stood there calm and dignified, all the
while measuring in her soul the depths of the political abyss which
lay before her, like the natural depths which rolled away at her feet.
This day was the second of those terrible days (that of the arrest of
the Vidame of Chartres being the first) which she was destined to meet
in so great numbers throughout her regal life; it also witnessed her
last blunder in the school of power. Though the sceptre seemed
escaping from her hands, she wished to seize it; and she did seize it
by a flash of that power of will which was never relaxed by either the
disdain of her father-in-law, Francois I., and his court,--where, in
spite of her rank of dauphiness, she had been of no account,--or the
constant repulses of her husband, Henri II., and the terrible
opposition of her rival, Diane de Poitiers. A man would never have
fathomed this thwarted queen; but the fair-haired Mary--so subtle, so
clever, so girlish, and already so well-trained--examined her out of
the corners of her eyes as she hummed an Italian air and assumed a
careless countenance. Without being able to guess the storms of
repressed ambition which sent the dew of a cold sweat to the forehead
of the Florentine, the pretty Scotch girl, with her wilful, piquant
face, knew very well that the advancement of her uncle the Duc de
Guise to the lieutenant-generalship of the kingdom was filling the
queen-mother with inward rage. Nothing amused her more than to watch
her mother-in-law, in whom she saw only an intriguing woman of low
birth, always ready to avenge herself. The face of the one was grave
and gloomy, and somewhat terrible, by reason of the livid tones which
transform the skin of Italian women to yellow ivory by daylight,
though it recovers its dazzling brilliancy under candlelight; the face
of the other was fair and fresh and gay. At sixteen, Mary Stuart's
skin had that exquisite blond whiteness which made her beauty so
celebrated. Her fresh and piquant face, with its pure lines, shone
with the roguish mischief of childhood, expressed in the regular
eyebrows, the vivacious eyes, and the archness of the pretty mouth.
Already she displayed those feline graces which nothing, not even
captivity nor the sight of her dreadful scaffold, could lessen. The
two queens--one at the dawn, the other in the midsummer of life
--presented at this moment the utmost contrast. Catherine was an
imposing queen, an impenetrable widow, without other passion than that
of power. Mary was a light-hearted, careless bride, making playthings
of her triple crowns. One foreboded great evils,--foreseeing the
assassination of the Guises as the only means of suppressing enemies
who were resolved to rise above the Throne and the Parliament;
foreseeing also the bloodshed of a long and bitter struggle; while
the other little anticipated her own judicial murder. A sudden and
strange reflection calmed the mind of the Italian.

"That sorceress and Ruggiero both declare this reign is coming to an
end; my difficulties will not last long," she thought.

And so, strangely enough, an occult science forgotten in our day--that
of astrology--supported Catherine at this moment, as it did, in fact,
throughout her life; for, as she witnessed the minute fulfilment of
the prophecies of those who practised the art, her belief in it
steadily increased.

"You are very gloomy, madame," said Mary Stuart, taking from the hands
of her waiting-woman, Dayelle, a little cap and placing the point of
it on the parting of her hair, while two wings of rich lace surrounded
the tufts of blond curls which clustered on her temples.

The pencil of many painters have so frequently represented this
head-dress that it is thought to have belonged exclusively to Mary Queen
of Scots; whereas it was really invented by Catherine de' Medici, when
she put on mourning for Henri II. But she never knew how to wear it
with the grace of her daughter-in-law, to whom it was becoming. This
annoyance was not the least among the many which the queen-mother
cherished against the young queen.

"Is the queen reproving me?" said Catherine, turning to Mary.

"I owe you all respect, and should not dare to do so," said the
Scottish queen, maliciously, glancing at Dayelle.

Placed between the rival queens, the favorite waiting-woman stood
rigid as an andiron; a smile of comprehension might have cost her her

"Can I be as gay as you, after losing the late king, and now beholding
my son's kingdom about to burst into flames?"

"Public affairs do not concern women," said Mary Stuart. "Besides, my
uncles are there."

These words were, under the circumstances, like so many poisoned

"Let us look at our furs, madame," replied the Italian, sarcastically;
"that will employ us on our legitimate female affairs while your
uncles decide those of the kingdom."

"Oh! but we will go the Council, madame; we shall be more useful than
you think."

"We!" said Catherine, with an air of astonishment. "But I do not
understand Latin, myself."

"You think me very learned," cried Mary Stuart, laughing, "but I
assure you, madame, I study only to reach the level of the Medici, and
learn how to /cure/ the wounds of the kingdom."

Catherine was silenced by this sharp thrust, which referred to the
origin of the Medici, who were descended, some said, from a doctor of
medicine, others from a rich druggist. She made no direct answer.
Dayelle colored as her mistress looked at her, asking for the applause
that even queens demand from their inferiors if there are no other

"Your charming speeches, madame, will unfortunately cure the wounds of
neither Church nor State," said Catherine at last, with her calm and
cold dignity. "The science of my fathers in that direction gave them
thrones; whereas if you continue to trifle in the midst of danger you
are liable to lose yours."

It was at this moment that Ambroise Pare, the chief surgeon, scratched
softly on the door, and Madame Dayelle, opening it, admitted



The young reformer intended to study Catherine's face, all the while
affecting a natural embarrassment at finding himself in such a place;
but his proceedings were much hastened by the eagerness with which the
younger queen darted to the cartons to see her surcoat.

"Madame," said Christophe, addressing Catherine.

He turned his back on the other queen and on Dayelle, instantly
profiting by the attention the two women were eager to bestow upon the
furs to play a bold stroke.

"What do you want of me?" said Catherine giving him a searching look.

Christophe had put the treaty proposed by the Prince de Conde, the
plan of the Reformers, and the detail of their forces in his bosom
between his shirt and his cloth jacket, folding them, however, within
the bill which Catherine owed to the furrier.

"Madame," he said, "my father is in horrible need of money, and if you
will deign to cast your eyes over your bill," here he unfolded the
paper and put the treaty on the top of it, "you will see that your
Majesty owes him six thousand crowns. Have the goodness to take pity
on us. See, madame!" and he held the treaty out to her. "Read it; the
account dates from the time the late king came to the throne."

Catherine was bewildered by the preamble of the treaty which met her
eye, but she did not lose her head. She folded the paper quickly,
admiring the audacity and presence of mind of the youth, and feeling
sure that after performing such a masterly stroke he would not fail to
understand her. She therefore tapped him on the head with the folded
paper, saying:--

"It is very clumsy of you, my little friend, to present your bill
before the furs. Learn to know women. You must never ask us to pay
until the moment when we are satisfied."

"Is that traditional?" said the young queen, turning to her
mother-in-law, who made no reply.

"Ah, mesdames, pray excuse my father," said Christophe. "If he had not
had such need of money you would not have had your furs at all. The
country is in arms, and there are so many dangers to run in getting
here that nothing but our great distress would have brought me. No one
but me was willing to risk them."

"The lad is new to his business," said Mary Stuart, smiling.

It may not be useless, for the understanding of this trifling, but
very important scene, to remark that a surcoat was, as the name
implies (/sur cotte/), a species of close-fitting spencer which women
wore over their bodies and down to their thighs, defining the figure.
This garment protected the back, chest, and throat from cold. These
surcoats were lined with fur, a band of which, wide or narrow as the
case might be, bordered the outer material. Mary Stuart, as she tried
the garment on, looked at herself in a large Venetian mirror to see
the effect behind, thus leaving her mother-in-law an opportunity to
examine the papers, the bulk of which might have excited the young
queen's suspicions had she noticed it.

"Never tell women of the dangers you have run when you have come out
of them safe and sound," she said, turning to show herself to

"Ah! madame, I have your bill, too," he said, looking at her with
well-played simplicity.

The young queen eyed him, but did not take the paper; and she noticed,
though without at the moment drawing any conclusions, that he had
taken her bill from his pocket, whereas he had carried Queen
Catherine's in his bosom. Neither did she find in the lad's eyes that
glance of admiration which her presence invariably excited in all
beholders. But she was so engrossed by her surcoat that, for the
moment, she did not ask herself the meaning of such indifference.

"Take the bill, Dayelle," she said to her waiting-woman; "give it to
Monsieur de Versailles (Lomenie) and tell him from me to pay it."

"Oh! madame," said Christophe, "if you do not ask the king or
monseigneur the grand-master to sign me an order your gracious word
will have no effect."

"You are rather more eager than becomes a subject, my friend," said
Mary Stuart. "Do you not believe my royal word?"

The king now appeared, in silk stockings and trunk-hose (the breeches
of that period), but without his doublet and mantle; he had, however,
a rich loose coat of velvet edged with minever.

"Who is the wretch who dares to doubt your word?" he said,
overhearing, in spite of his distance, his wife's last words.

The door of the dressing-room was hidden by the royal bed. This room
was afterwards called "the old cabinet," to distinguish it from the
fine cabinet of pictures which Henri III. constructed at the
farther end of the same suite of rooms, next to the hall of the
States-general. It was in the old cabinet that Henri III. hid the
murderers when he sent for the Duc de Guise, while he himself remained
hidden in the new cabinet during the murder, only emerging in time to
see the overbearing subject for whom there were no longer prisons,
tribunals, judges, nor even laws, draw his last breath. Were it not for
these terrible circumstances the historian of to-day could hardly trace
the former occupation of these cabinets, now filled with soldiers. A
quartermaster writes to his mistress on the very spot where the
pensive Catherine once decided on her course between the parties.

"Come with me, my friend," said the queen-mother, "and I will see that
you are paid. Commerce must live, and money is its backbone."

"Go, my lad," cried the young queen, laughing; "my august mother knows
more than I do about commerce."

Catherine was about to leave the room without replying to this last
taunt; but she remembered that her indifference to it might provoke
suspicion, and she answered hastily:--

"But you, my dear, understand the business of love."

Then she descended to her own apartments.

"Put away these furs, Dayelle, and let us go to the Council,
monsieur," said Mary to the young king, enchanted with the opportunity
of deciding in the absence of the queen-mother so important a question
as the lieutenant-generalship of the kingdom.

Mary Stuart took the king's arm. Dayelle went out before them,
whispering to the pages; one of whom (it was young Teligny, who
afterwards perished so miserably during the Saint-Bartholomew) cried

"The king!"

Hearing the words, the two soldiers of the guard presented arms, and
the two pages went forward to the door of the Council-room through the
lane of courtiers and that of the maids of honor of the two queens.
All the members of the Council then grouped themselves about the door
of their chamber, which was not very far from the door to the
staircase. The grand-master, the cardinal, and the chancellor advanced
to meet the young sovereign, who smiled to several of the maids of
honor and replied to the remarks of a few courtiers more privileged
than the rest. But the queen, evidently impatient, drew Francois II.
as quickly as possible toward the Council-chamber. When the sound of
arquebuses, dropping heavily on the floor, had announced the entrance
of the couple, the pages replaced their caps upon their heads, and the
private talk among the courtiers on the gravity of the matters now
about to be discussed began again.

"They sent Chiverni to fetch the Connetable, but he has not come,"
said one.

"There is not a single prince of the blood present," said another.

"The chancellor and Monsieur de Tournon looked anxious," remarked a

"The grand-master sent word to the keeper of the seals to be sure not
to miss this Council; therefore you may be certain they will issue

"Why does the queen-mother stay in her own apartments at such a time?"

"They'll cut out plenty of work for us," remarked Groslot to Cardinal
de Chatillon.

In short, everybody had a word to say. Some went and came, in and out
of the great hall; others hovered about the maids of honor of both
queens, as if it might be possible to catch a few words through a wall
three feet thick or through the double doors draped on each side with
heavy curtains.

Seated at the upper end of a long table covered with blue velvet,
which stood in the middle of the room, the king, near to whom the
young queen was seated in an arm-chair, waited for his mother.
Robertet, the secretary, was mending pens. The two cardinals, the
grand-master, the chancellor, the keeper of the seals, and all the
rest of the council looked at the little king, wondering why he did
not give them the usual order to sit down.

The two Lorrain princes attributed the queen-mother's absence to some
trick of their niece. Incited presently by a significant glance, the
audacious cardinal said to his Majesty:--

"Is it the king's good pleasure to begin the council without waiting
for Madame la reine-mere?"

Francois II., without daring to answer directly, said: "Messieurs, be

The cardinal then explained succinctly the dangers of the situation.
This great political character, who showed extraordinary ability under
these pressing circumstances, led up to the question of the
lieutenancy of the kingdom in the midst of the deepest silence. The
young king doubtless felt the tyranny that was being exercised over
him; he knew that his mother had a deep sense of the rights of the
Crown and was fully aware of the danger that threatened his power; he
therefore replied to a positive question addressed to him by the
cardinal by saying:--

"We will wait for the queen, my mother."

Suddenly enlightened by the queen-mother's delay, Mary Stuart
recalled, in a flash of thought, three circumstances which now
struck her vividly; first, the bulk of the papers presented to her
mother-in-law, which she had noticed, absorbed as she was,--for a woman
who seems to see nothing is often a lynx; next, the place where
Christophe had carried them to keep them separate from hers: "Why so?"
she thought to herself; and thirdly, she remembered the cold,
indifferent glance of the young man, which she suddenly attributed to
the hatred of the Reformers to a niece of the Guises. A voice cried to
her, "He may have been an emissary of the Huguenots!" Obeying, like all
excitable natures, her first impulse, she exclaimed:--

"I will go and fetch my mother myself!"

Then she left the room hurriedly, ran down the staircase, to the
amazement of the courtiers and the ladies of honor, entered her
mother-in-law's apartments, crossed the guard-room, opened the door of
the chamber with the caution of a thief, glided like a shadow over the
carpet, saw no one, and bethought her that she should surely surprise
the queen-mother in that magnificent dressing-room which comes between
the bedroom and the oratory. The arrangement of this oratory, to which
the manners of that period gave a role in private life like that of
the boudoirs of our day, can still be traced.

By an almost inexplicable chance, when we consider the state of
dilapidation into which the Crown has allowed the chateau of Blois to
fall, the admirable woodwork of Catherine's cabinet still exists; and
in those delicately carved panels, persons interested in such things
may still see traces of Italian splendor, and discover the secret
hiding-places employed by the queen-mother. An exact description of
these curious arrangements is necessary in order to give a clear
understanding of what was now to happen. The woodwork of the oratory
then consisted of about a hundred and eighty oblong panels, one
hundred of which still exist, all presenting arabesques of different
designs, evidently suggested by the most beautiful arabesques of
Italy. The wood is live-oak. The red tones, seen through the layer of
whitewash put on to avert cholera (useless precaution!), shows very
plainly that the ground of the panels was formerly gilt. Certain
portions of the design, visible where the wash has fallen away, seem
to show that they once detached themselves from the gilded ground in
colors, either blue, or red, or green. The multitude of these panels
shows an evident intention to foil a search; but even if this could be
doubted, the concierge of the chateau, while devoting the memory of
Catherine to the execration of the humanity of our day, shows at the
base of these panels and close to the floor a rather heavy foot-board,
which can be lifted, and beneath which still remain the ingenious
springs which move the panels. By pressing a knob thus hidden, the
queen was able to open certain panels known to her alone, behind
which, sunk in the wall, were hiding-places, oblong like the panels,
and more or less deep. It is difficult, even in these days of
dilapidation, for the best-trained eye to detect which of those panels
is thus hinged; but when the eye was distracted by colors and gilding,
cleverly used to conceal the joints, we can readily conceive that to
find one or two such panels among two hundred was almost an impossible

At the moment when Mary Stuart laid her hand on the somewhat
complicated lock of the door of this oratory, the queen-mother, who
had just become convinced of the greatness of the Prince de Conde's
plans, had touched the spring hidden beneath the foot-board, and one
of the mysterious panels had turned over on its hinges. Catherine was
in the act of lifting the papers from the table to hide them,
intending after that to secure the safety of the devoted messenger who
had brought them to her, when, hearing the sudden opening of the door,
she at once knew that none but Queen Mary herself would dare thus to
enter without announcement.

"You are lost!" she said to Christophe, perceiving that she could no
longer put away the papers, nor close with sufficient rapidity the
open panel, the secret of which was now betrayed.

Christophe answered her with a glance that was sublime.

"/Povero mio/!" said Catherine, before she looked at her
daughter-in-law. "Treason, madame! I hold the traitors at last,"
she cried. "Send for the duke and the cardinal; and see that that
man," pointing to Christophe, "does not escape."

In an instant the able woman had seen the necessity of sacrificing the
poor youth. She could not hide him; it was impossible to save him.
Eight days earlier it might have been done; but the Guises now knew of
the plot; they must already possess the lists she held in her hand,
and were evidently drawing the Reformers into a trap. Thus, rejoiced
to find in these adversaries the very spirit she desired them to have,
her policy now led her to make a merit of the discovery of their plot.
These horrible calculations were made during the rapid moment while
the young queen was opening the door. Mary Stuart stood dumb for an
instant; the gay look left her eyes, which took on the acuteness that
suspicion gives to the eyes of all, and which, in hers, became
terrible from the suddenness of the change. She glanced from
Christophe to the queen-mother and from the queen-mother back to
Christophe,--her face expressing malignant doubt. Then she seized a
bell, at the sound of which one of the queen-mother's maids of honor
came running in.

"Mademoiselle du Rouet, send for the captain of the guard," said Mary
Stuart to the maid of honor, contrary to all etiquette, which was
necessarily violated under the circumstances.

While the young queen gave this order, Catherine looked intently at
Christophe, as if saying to him, "Courage!"

The Reformer understood, and replied by another glance, which seemed
to say, "Sacrifice me, as /they/ have sacrificed me!"

"Rely on me," said Catherine by a gesture. Then she absorbed herself
in the documents as her daughter-in-law turned to him.

"You belong to the Reformed religion?" inquired Mary Stuart of

"Yes, madame," he answered.

"I was not mistaken," she murmured as she again noticed in the eyes of
the young Reformer the same cold glance in which dislike was hidden
beneath an expression of humility.

Pardaillan suddenly appeared, sent by the two Lorrain princes and by
the king to escort the queens. The captain of the guard called for by
Mary Stuart followed the young officer, who was devoted to the Guises.

"Go and tell the king and the grand-master and the cardinal, from me,
to come here at once, and say that I should not take the liberty of
sending for them if something of the utmost importance had not
occurred. Go, Pardaillan.--As for you, Lewiston, keep guard over
that traitor of a Reformer," she said to the Scotchman in his
mother-tongue, pointing to Christophe.

The young queen and queen-mother maintained a total silence until the
arrival of the king and princes. The moments that elapsed were

Mary Stuart had betrayed to her mother-in-law, in its fullest extent,
the part her uncles were inducing her to play; her constant and
habitual distrust and espionage were now revealed, and her young
conscience told her how dishonoring to a great queen was the work that
she was doing. Catherine, on the other hand, had yielded out of fear;
she was still afraid of being rightly understood, and she trembled for
her future. Both women, one ashamed and angry, the other filled with
hatred and yet calm, went to the embrasure of the window and leaned
against the casing, one to right, the other to left, silent; but their
feelings were expressed in such speaking glances that they averted
their eyes and, with mutual artfulness, gazed through the window at
the sky. These two great and superior women had, at this crisis, no
greater art of behavior than the vulgarest of their sex. Perhaps it is
always thus when circumstances arise which overwhelm the human being.
There is, inevitably, a moment when genius itself feels its littleness
in presence of great catastrophes.

As for Christophe, he was like a man in the act of rolling down a
precipice. Lewiston, the Scotch captain, listened to this silence,
watching the son of the furrier and the two queens with soldierly
curiosity. The entrance of the king and Mary Stuart's two uncles put
an end to the painful situation.



The cardinal went straight to the queen-mother.

"I hold the threads of the conspiracy of the heretics," said
Catherine. "They have sent me this treaty and these documents by the
hands of that child," she added.

During the time that Catherine was explaining matters to the cardinal,
Queen Mary whispered a few words to the grand-master.

"What is all this about?" asked the young king, who was left alone in
the midst of the violent clash of interests.

"The proofs of what I was telling to your Majesty have not been long
in reaching us," said the cardinal, who had grasped the papers.

The Duc de Guise drew his brother aside without caring that
he interrupted him, and said in his ear, "This makes me
lieutenant-general without opposition."

A shrewd glance was the cardinal's only answer; showing his brother
that he fully understood the advantages to be gained from Catherine's
false position.

"Who sent you here?" said the duke to Christophe.

"Chaudieu, the minister," he replied.

"Young man, you lie!" said the soldier, sharply; "it was the Prince de

"The Prince de Conde, monseigneur!" replied Christophe, with a puzzled
look. "I never met him. I am studying law with Monsieur de Thou; I am
his secretary, and he does not know that I belong to the Reformed
religion. I yielded only to the entreaties of the minister."

"Enough!" exclaimed the cardinal. "Call Monsieur de Robertet," he said
to Lewiston, "for this young scamp is slyer than an old statesman; he
has managed to deceive my brother, and me too; an hour ago I would
have given him the sacrament without confession."

"You are not a child, /morbleu/!" cried the duke, "and we'll treat you
as a man."

"The heretics have attempted to beguile your august mother," said the
cardinal, addressing the king, and trying to draw him apart to win him
over to their ends.

"Alas!" said the queen-mother to her son, assuming a reproachful look
and stopping the king at the moment when the cardinal was leading him
into the oratory to subject him to his dangerous eloquence, "you see
the result of the situation in which I am; they think me irritated by
the little influence that I have in public affairs,--I, the mother of
four princes of the house of Valois!"

The young king listened attentively. Mary Stuart, seeing the frown
upon his brow, took his arm and led him away into the recess of the
window, where she cajoled him with sweet speeches in a low voice, no
doubt like those she had used that morning in their chamber. The two
Guises read the documents given up to them by Catherine. Finding that
they contained information which their spies, and Monsieur
Braguelonne, the lieutenant of the Chatelet, had not obtained, they
were inclined to believe in the sincerity of Catherine de' Medici.
Robertet came and received certain secret orders relative to
Christophe. The youthful instrument of the leaders of the Reformation
was then led away by four soldiers of the Scottish guard, who took him
down the stairs and delivered him to Monsieur de Montresor, provost of
the chateau. That terrible personage himself, accompanied by six of
his men, conducted Christophe to the prison in the vaulted cellar of
the tower, now in ruins, which the concierge of the chateau de Blois
shows you with the information that these were the dungeons.

After such an event the Council could be only a formality. The king,
the young queen, the Grand-master, and the cardinal returned to it,
taking with them the vanquished Catherine, who said no word except to
approve the measures proposed by the Guises. In spite of a slight
opposition from the Chancelier Olivier (the only person present who
said one word that expressed the independence to which his office
bound him), the Duc de Guise was appointed lieutenant-general of the
kingdom. Robertet brought the required documents, showing a devotion
which might be called collusion. The king, giving his arm to his
mother, recrossed the /salle des gardes/, announcing to the court as
he passed along that on the following day he should leave Blois for
the chateau of Amboise. The latter residence had been abandoned since
the time when Charles VIII. accidentally killed himself by striking
his head against the casing of a door on which he had ordered
carvings, supposing that he could enter without stooping below the
scaffolding. Catherine, to mask the plans of the Guises, remarked
aloud that they intended to complete the chateau of Amboise for the
Crown at the same time that her own chateau of Chemonceaux was
finished. But no one was the dupe of that pretext, and all present
awaited great events.

After spending about two hours endeavoring to see where he was in the
obscurity of the dungeon, Christophe ended by discovering that the
place was sheathed in rough woodwork, thick enough to make the square
hole into which he was put both healthy and habitable. The door, like
that of a pig-pen, was so low that he stooped almost double on
entering it. Beside this door was a heavy iron grating, opening upon a
sort of corridor, which gave a little light and a little air. This
arrangement, in all respects like that of the dungeons of Venice,
showed plainly that the architecture of the chateau of Blois belonged
to the Venetian school, which during the Middle Ages, sent so many
builders into all parts of Europe. By tapping this species of pit
above the woodwork Christophe discovered that the walls which
separated his cell to right and left from the adjoining ones were made
of brick. Striking one of them to get an idea of its thickness, he was
somewhat surprised to hear return blows given on the other side.

"Who are you?" said his neighbor, speaking to him through the

"I am Christophe Lecamus."

"I," replied the voice, "am Captain Chaudieu, brother of the minister.
I was taken prisoner to-night at Beaugency; but, luckily, there is
nothing against me."

"All is discovered," said Christophe; "you are fortunate to be saved
from the fray."

"We have three thousand men at this moment in the forests of the
Vendomois, all determined men, who mean to abduct the king and the
queen-mother during their journey. Happily La Renaudie was cleverer
than I; he managed to escape. You had only just left us when the Guise
men surprised us--"

"But I don't know La Renaudie."

"Pooh! my brother has told me all about it," said the captain.

Hearing that, Christophe sat down upon his bench and made no further
answer to the pretended captain, for he knew enough of the police to
be aware how necessary it was to act with prudence in a prison. In the
middle of the night he saw the pale light of a lantern in the
corridor, after hearing the ponderous locks of the iron door which
closed the cellar groan as they were turned. The provost himself had
come to fetch Christophe. This attention to a prisoner who had been
left in his dark dungeon for hours without food, struck the poor lad
as singular. One of the provost's men bound his hands with a rope and
held him by the end of it until they reached one of the lower halls of
the chateau of Louis XII., which was evidently the antechamber to the
apartments of some important personage. The provost and his men bade
him sit upon a bench, and the man then bound his feet as he had before
bound his hands. On a sign from Monsieur de Montresor the man left the

"Now listen to me, my friend," said the provost-marshal, toying with
the collar of the Order; for, late as the hour was, he was in full

This little circumstance gave the young man several thoughts; he saw
that all was not over; on the contrary, it was evidently neither to
hang nor yet to condemn him that he was brought here.

"My friend, you may spare yourself cruel torture by telling me all you
know of the understanding between Monsieur le Prince de Conde and
Queen Catherine. Not only will no harm be done to you, but you shall
enter the service of Monseigneur the lieutenant-general of the
kingdom, who likes intelligent men and on whom your honest face has
produced a good impression. The queen-mother is about to be sent back
to Florence, and Monsieur de Conde will no doubt be brought to trial.
Therefore, believe me, humble folks ought to attach themselves to the
great men who are in power. Tell me all; and you will find your profit
in it."

"Alas, monsieur," replied Christophe; "I have nothing to tell. I told
all I know to Messieurs de Guise in the queen's chamber. Chaudieu
persuaded me to put those papers under the eyes of the queen-mother;
assuring me that they concerned the peace of the kingdom."

"You have never seen the Prince de Conde?"


Thereupon Monsieur de Montresor left Christophe and went into the
adjoining room; but the youth was not left long alone. The door
through which he had been brought opened and gave entrance to several
men, who did not close it. Sounds that were far from reassuring were
heard from the courtyard; men were bringing wood and machinery,
evidently intended for the punishment of the Reformer's messenger.
Christophe's anxiety soon had matter for reflection in the
preparations which were made in the hall before his eyes.

Two coarse and ill-dressed serving-men obeyed the orders of a stout,
squat, vigorous man, who cast upon Christophe, as he entered, the
glance of a cannibal upon his victim; he looked him over and
/estimated/ him,--measuring, like a connoisseur, the strength of his
nerves, their power and their endurance. The man was the executioner
of Blois. Coming and going, his assistants brought in a mattress,
several mallets and wooden wedges, also planks and other articles, the
use of which was not plain, nor their look comforting to the poor boy
concerned in these preparations, whose blood now curdled in his veins
from a vague but most terrible apprehension. Two personages entered
the hall at the moment when Monsieur de Montresor reappeared.

"Hey, nothing ready!" cried the provost-marshal, to whom the
new-comers bowed with great respect. "Don't you know," he said,
addressing the stout man and his two assistants, "that Monseigneur the
cardinal thinks you already at work? Doctor," added the provost, turning
to one of the new-comers, "this is the man"; and he pointed to

The doctor went straight to the prisoner, unbound his hands, and
struck him on the breast and back. Science now continued, in a serious
manner, the truculent examination of the executioner's eye. During
this time a servant in the livery of the house of Guise brought in
several arm-chairs, a table, and writing-materials.

"Begin the /proces verbal/," said Monsieur de Montresor, motioning to
the table the second personage, who was dressed in black, and was
evidently a clerk. Then the provost went up to Christophe, and said to
him in a very gentle way: "My friend, the chancellor, having learned
that you refuse to answer me in a satisfactory manner, decrees that
you be put to the question, ordinary and extraordinary."

"Is he in good health, and can he bear it?" said the clerk to the

"Yes," replied the latter, who was one of the physicians of the house
of Lorraine.

"In that case, retire to the next room; we will send for you whenever
we require your advice."

The physician left the hall.

His first terror having passed, Christophe rallied his courage; the
hour of his martyrdom had come. Thenceforth he looked with cold
curiosity at the arrangements that were made by the executioner and
his men. After hastily preparing a bed, the two assistants got ready
certain appliances called /boots/; which consisted of several planks,
between which each leg of the victim was placed. The legs thus placed
were brought close together. The apparatus used by binders to press
their volumes between two boards, which they fasten by cords, will
give an exact idea of the manner in which each leg of the prisoner was
bound. We can imagine the effect produced by the insertion of wooden
wedges, driven in by hammers between the planks of the two bound legs,
--the two sets of planks of course not yielding, being themselves
bound together by ropes. These wedges were driven in on a line with
the knees and the ankles. The choice of these places where there is
little flesh, and where, consequently, the wedge could only be forced
in by crushing the bones, made this form of torture, called the
"question," horribly painful. In the "ordinary question" four wedges
were driven in,--two at the knees, two at the ankles; but in the
"extraordinary question" the number was increased to eight, provided
the doctor certified that the prisoner's vitality was not exhausted.
At the time of which we write the "boots" were also applied in the
same manner to the hands and wrists; but, being pressed for time, the
cardinal, the lieutenant-general, and the chancellor spared Christophe
that additional suffering.

The /proces verbal/ was begun; the provost dictated a few sentences as
he walked up and down with a meditative air, asking Christophe his
name, baptismal name, age, and profession; then he inquired the name
of the person from whom he had received the papers he had given to the

"From the minister Chaudieu," answered Christophe.

"Where did he give them to you?"

"In Paris."

"In giving them to you he must have told you whether the queen-mother
would receive you with pleasure?"

"He told me nothing of that kind," said Christophe. "He merely asked
me to give them to Queen Catherine secretly."

"You must have seen Chaudieu frequently, or he would not have known
that you were going to Blois."

"The minister did not know from me that in carrying furs to the queen
I was also to ask on my father's behalf for the money the queen-mother
owes him; and I did not have time to ask the minister who had told him
of it."

"But these papers, which were given to you without being sealed or
enveloped, contained a treaty between the rebels and Queen Catherine.
You must have seen that they exposed you to the punishment of all
those who assist in a rebellion."


"The persons who persuaded you to this act of high treason must have
promised you rewards and the protection of the queen-mother."

"I did it out of attachment to Chaudieu, the only person whom I saw in
the matter."

"Do you persist in saying you did not see the Prince de Conde?"


"The Prince de Conde did not tell you that the queen-mother was
inclined to enter into his views against the Messieurs de Guise?"

"I did not see him."

"Take care! one of your accomplices, La Renaudie, has been arrested.
Strong as he is, he was not able to bear the 'question,' which will
now be put to you; he confessed at last that both he and the Prince de
Conde had an interview with you. If you wish to escape the torture of
the question, I exhort you to tell me the simple truth. Perhaps you
will thus obtain your full pardon."

Christophe answered that he could not state a thing of which he had no
knowledge, or give himself accomplices when he had none. Hearing these
words, the provost-marshal signed to the executioner and retired
himself to the inner room. At that fatal sign Christophe's brows
contracted, his forehead worked with nervous convulsion, as he
prepared himself to suffer. His hands closed with such violence that
the nails entered the flesh without his feeling them. Three men seized
him, took him to the camp bed and laid him there, letting his legs
hang down. While the executioner fastened him to the rough bedstead
with strong cords, the assistants bound his legs into the "boots."
Presently the cords were tightened, by means of a wrench, without the
pressure causing much pain to the young Reformer. When each leg was
thus held as it were in a vice, the executioner grasped his hammer and
picked up the wedges, looking alternately at the victim and at the

"Do you persist in your denial?" asked the clerk.

"I have told the truth," replied Christophe.

"Very well. Go on," said the clerk, closing his eyes.

The cords were tightened with great force. This was perhaps the most
painful moment of the torture; the flesh being suddenly compressed,
the blood rushed violently toward the breast. The poor boy could not
restrain a dreadful cry and seemed about to faint. The doctor was
called in. After feeling Christophe's pulse, he told the executioner
to wait a quarter of an hour before driving the first wedge in, to let
the action of the blood subside and allow the victim to recover his
full sensitiveness. The clerk suggested, kindly, that if he could not
bear this beginning of sufferings which he could not escape, it would
be better to reveal all at once; but Christophe made no reply except
to say, "The king's tailor! the king's tailor!"

"What do you mean by those words?" asked the clerk.

"Seeing what torture I must bear," said Christophe, slowly, hoping to
gain time to rest, "I call up all my strength, and try to increase it
by thinking of the martyrdom borne by the king's tailor for the holy
cause of the Reformation, when the question was applied to him in
presence of Madame la Duchesse de Valentinois and the king. I shall
try to be worthy of him."

While the physician exhorted the unfortunate lad not to force them to
have recourse to more violent measures, the cardinal and the duke,
impatient to know the result of the interrogations, entered the hall
and themselves asked Christophe to speak the truth, immediately. The
young man repeated the only confession he had allowed himself to make,
which implicated no one but Chaudieu. The princes made a sign, on
which the executioner and his assistant seized their hammers, taking
each a wedge, which then they drove in between the joints, standing
one to right, the other to left of their victim; the executioner's
wedge was driven in at the knees, his assistant's at the ankles.

The eyes of all present fastened on those of Christophe, and he, no
doubt excited by the presence of those great personages, shot forth
such burning glances that they appeared to have all the brilliancy of
flame. As the third and fourth wedges were driven in, a dreadful groan
escaped him. When he saw the executioner take up the wedges for the
"extraordinary question" he said no word and made no sound, but his
eyes took on so terrible a fixity, and he cast upon the two great
princes who were watching him a glance so penetrating, that the duke
and cardinal were forced to drop their eyes. Philippe le Bel met with
the same resistance when the torture of the pendulum was applied in
his presence to the Templars. That punishment consisted in striking
the victim on the breast with one arm of the balance pole with which
money is coined, its end being covered with a pad of leather. One of
the knights thus tortured, looked so intently at the king that
Philippe could not detach his eyes from him. At the third blow the
king left the chamber on hearing the knight summon him to appear
within a year before the judgment-seat of God,--as, in fact, he did.
At the fifth blow, the first of the "extraordinary question,"
Christophe said to the cardinal: "Monseigneur, put an end to my
torture; it is useless."

The cardinal and the duke re-entered the adjoining hall, and
Christophe distinctly heard the following words said by Queen
Catherine: "Go on; after all, he is only a heretic."

She judged it prudent to be more stern to her accomplice than the
executioners themselves.

The sixth and seventh wedges were driven in without a word of
complaint from Christophe. His face shone with extraordinary
brilliancy, due, no doubt, to the excess of strength which his fanatic
devotion gave him. Where else but in the feelings of the soul can we
find the power necessary to bear such sufferings? Finally, he smiled
when he saw the executioner lifting the eighth and last wedge. This
horrible torture had lasted by this time over an hour.

The clerk now went to call the physician that he might decide whether
the eighth wedge could be driven in without endangering the life of the
victim. During this delay the duke returned to look at Christophe.

"/Ventre-de-biche/! you are a fine fellow," he said to him, bending
down to whisper the words. "I love brave men. Enter my service, and
you shall be rich and happy; my favors shall heal those wounded limbs.
I do not propose to you any baseness; I will not ask you to return to
your party and betray its plans,--there are always traitors enough for
that, and the proof is in the prisons of Blois; tell me only on what
terms are the queen-mother and the Prince de Conde?"

"I know nothing about it, monseigneur," replied Christophe Lecamus.

The physician came, examined the victim, and said that he could bear
the eighth wedge.

"Then insert it," said the cardinal. "After all, as the queen says, he
is only a heretic," he added, looking at Christophe with a dreadful

At this moment Catherine came with slow steps from the adjoining
apartment and stood before Christophe, coldly observing him. Instantly
she was the object of the closest attention on the part of the two
brothers, who watched alternately the queen and her accomplice. On
this solemn test the whole future of that ambitious woman depended;
she felt the keenest admiration for Christophe, yet she gazed sternly
at him; she hated the Guises, and she smiled upon them!

"Young man," said the queen, "confess that you have seen the Prince de
Conde, and you will be richly rewarded."

"Ah! what a business this is for you, madame!" cried Christophe,
pitying her.

The queen quivered.

"He insults me!" she exclaimed. "Why do you not hang him?" she cried,
turning to the two brothers, who stood thoughtful.

"What a woman!" said the duke in a glance at his brother, consulting
him by his eye, and leading him to the window.

"I shall stay in France and be revenged upon them," thought the queen.
"Come, make him confess, or let him die!" she said aloud, addressing

The provost-marshal turned away his eyes, the executioners were busy
with the wedges; Catherine was free to cast one glance upon the
martyr, unseen by others, which fell on Christophe like the dew. The
eyes of the great queen seemed to him moist; two tears were in them,
but they did not fall. The wedges were driven; a plank was broken by
the blow. Christophe gave one dreadful cry, after which he was silent;
his face shone,--he believed he was dying.

"Let him die?" said the cardinal, echoing the queen's last words with
a sort of irony; "no, no! don't break that thread," he said to the

The duke and the cardinal consulted together in a low voice.

"What is to be done with him?" asked the executioner.

"Send him to the prison at Orleans," said the duke, addressing
Monsieur de Montresor; "and don't hang him without my order."

The extreme sensitiveness to which Christophe's internal organism had
been brought, increased by a resistance which called into play every
power of the human body, existed to the same degree, in his senses. He
alone heard the following words whispered by the Duc de Guise in the
ear of his brother the cardinal:

"I don't give up all hope of getting the truth out of that little
fellow yet."

When the princes had left the hall the executioners unbound the legs
of their victim roughly and without compassion.

"Did any one ever see a criminal with such strength?" said the chief
executioner to his aids. "The rascal bore that last wedge when he
ought to have died; I've lost the price of his body."

"Unbind me gently; don't make me suffer, friends," said poor
Christophe. "Some day I will reward you--"

"Come, come, show some humanity," said the physician. "Monseigneur
esteems the young man, and told me to look after him."

"I am going to Amboise with my assistants,--take care of him
yourself," said the executioner, brutally. "Besides, here comes the

The executioner departed, leaving Christophe in the hands of the
soft-spoken doctor, who by the aid of Christophe's future jailer,
carried the poor boy to a bed, brought him some broth, helped him
to swallow it, sat down beside him, felt his pulse, and tried to
comfort him.

"You won't die of this," he said. "You ought to feel great inward
comfort, knowing that you have done your duty.--The queen-mother bids
me take care of you," he added in a whisper.

"The queen is very good," said Christophe, whose terrible sufferings
had developed an extraordinary lucidity in his mind, and who, after
enduring such unspeakable sufferings, was determined not to compromise
the results of his devotion. "But she might have spared me much agony
be telling my persecutors herself the secrets that I know nothing
about, instead of urging them on."

Hearing that reply, the doctor took his cap and cloak and left
Christophe, rightly judging that he could worm nothing out of a man of
that stamp. The jailer of Blois now ordered the poor lad to be carried
away on a stretcher by four men, who took him to the prison in the
town, where Christophe immediately fell into the deep sleep which,
they say, comes to most mothers after the terrible pangs of



By moving the court to the chateau of Amboise, the two Lorrain princes
intended to set a trap for the leader of the party of the Reformation,
the Prince de Conde, whom they had made the king summon to his
presence. As vassal of the Crown and prince of the blood, Conde was
bound to obey the summons of his sovereign. Not to come to Amboise
would constitute the crime of treason; but if he came, he put himself
in the power of the Crown. Now, at this moment, as we have seen, the
Crown, the council, the court, and all their powers were solely in the
hands of the Duc de Guise and the Cardinal de Lorraine. The Prince de
Conde showed, at this delicate crisis, a presence of mind and a
decision and willingness which made him the worthy exponent of Jeanne
d'Albret and the valorous general of the Reformers. He travelled at
the rear of the conspirators as far as Vendome, intending to support
them in case of their success. When the first uprising ended by a
brief skirmish, in which the flower of the nobility beguiled by Calvin
perished, the prince arrived, with fifty noblemen, at the chateau of
Amboise on the very day after that fight, which the politic Guises
termed "the Tumult of Amboise." As soon as the duke and cardinal heard
of his coming they sent the Marechal de Saint-Andre with an escort of
a hundred men to meet him. When the prince and his own escort reached
the gates of the chateau the marechal refused entrance to the latter.

"You must enter alone, monseigneur," said the Chancellor Olivier, the
Cardinal de Tournon, and Birago, who were stationed outside of the

"And why?"

"You are suspected of treason," replied the chancellor.

The prince, who saw that his suite were already surrounded by the
troop of the Duc de Nemours, replied tranquilly: "If that is so, I
will go alone to my cousin, and prove to him my innocence."

He dismounted, talked with perfect freedom of mind to Birago, the
Cardinal de Tournon, the chancellor, and the Duc de Nemours, from whom
he asked for particulars of the "tumult."

"Monseigneur," replied the duke, "the rebels had confederates in
Amboise. A captain, named Lanoue, had introduced armed men, who opened
the gate to them, through which they entered and made themselves
masters of the town--"

"That is to say, you opened the mouth of a sack, and they ran into
it," replied the prince, looking at Birago.

"If they had been supported by the attack which Captain Chaudieu,
the preacher's brother, was expected to make before the gate of the
Bon-Hommes, they would have been completely successful," replied the
Duc de Nemours. "But in consequence of the position which the Duc de
Guise ordered me to take up, Captain Chaudieu was obliged to turn my
flank to avoid a fight. So instead of arriving by night, like the rest,
this rebel and his men got there at daybreak, by which time the king's
troops had crushed the invaders of the town."

"And you had a reserve force to recover the gate which had been opened
to them?" said the prince.

"Monsieur le Marechal de Saint-Andre was there with five hundred

The prince gave the highest praise to these military arrangements.

"The lieutenant-general must have been fully aware of the plans of the
Reformers, to have acted as he did," he said in conclusion. "They were
no doubt betrayed."

The prince was treated with increasing harshness. After separating him
from his escort at the gates, the cardinal and the chancellor barred
his way when he reached the staircase which led to the apartments of
the king.

"We are directed by his Majesty, monseigneur, to take you to your own
apartments," they said.

"Am I, then, a prisoner?"

"If that were the king's intention you would not be accompanied by a
prince of the Church, nor by me," replied the chancellor.

These two personages escorted the prince to an apartment, where guards
of honor--so-called--were given him. There he remained, without seeing
any one, for some hours. From his window he looked down upon the Loire
and the meadows of the beautiful valley stretching from Amboise to
Tours. He was reflecting on the situation, and asking himself whether
the Guises would really dare anything against his person, when the
door of his chamber opened and Chicot, the king's fool, formerly a
dependent of his own, entered the room.

"They told me you were in disgrace," said the prince.

"You'd never believe how virtuous the court has become since the death
of Henri II."

"But the king loves a laugh."

"Which king,--Francois II., or Francois de Lorraine?"

"You are not afraid of the duke, if you talk in that way!"

"He wouldn't punish me for it, monseigneur," replied Chicot, laughing.

"To what do I owe the honor of this visit?"

"Hey! Isn't it due to you on your return? I bring you my cap and

"Can I go out?"


"Suppose I do go out, what then?"

"I should say that you had won the game by playing against the rules."

"Chicot, you alarm me. Are you sent here by some one who takes an
interest in me?"

"Yes," said Chicot, nodding. He came nearer to the prince, and made
him understand that they were being watched and overheard.

"What have you to say to me?" asked the Prince de Conde, in a low

"Boldness alone can pull you out of this scrape; the message comes
from the queen-mother," replied the fool, slipping his words into the
ear of the prince.

"Tell those who sent you," replied Conde, "that I should not have
entered this chateau if I had anything to reproach myself with, or to

"I rush to report that lofty answer!" cried the fool.

Two hours later, that is, about one o'clock in the afternoon, before
the king's dinner, the chancellor and Cardinal de Tournon came to
fetch the prince and present him to Francois II. in the great gallery
of the chateau of Amboise, where the councils were held. There, before
the whole court, Conde pretended surprise at the coldness with which
the little king received him, and asked the reason of it.

"You are accused, cousin," said the queen-mother, sternly, "of taking
part in the conspiracy of the Reformers; and you must prove yourself a
faithful subject and a good Catholic, if you do not desire to draw
down upon your house the anger of the king."

Hearing these words said, in the midst of the most profound silence,
by Catherine de' Medici, on whose right arm the king was leaning, the
Duc d'Orleans being on her left side, the Prince de Conde recoiled
three steps, laid his hand on his sword with a proud motion, and
looked at all the persons who surrounded him.

"Those who said that, madame," he cried in an angry voice, "lied in
their throats!"

Then he flung his glove at the king's feet, saying: "Let him who
believes that calumny come forward!"

The whole court trembled as the Duc de Guise was seen to leave his
place; but instead of picking up the glove, he advanced to the
intrepid hunchback.

"If you desire a second in that duel, monseigneur, do me the honor to
accept my services," he said. "I will answer for you; I know that you
will show the Reformers how mistaken they are if they think to have
you for their leader."

The prince was forced to take the hand of the lieutenant-general of
the kingdom. Chicot picked up the glove and returned it to Monsieur de

"Cousin," said the little king, "you must draw your sword only for the
defence of the kingdom. Come and dine."

The Cardinal de Lorraine, surprised at his brother's action, drew him
away to his own apartments. The Prince de Conde, having escaped his
apparent danger, offered his hand to Mary Stuart to lead her to the
dining hall; but all the while that he made her flattering speeches he
pondered in his mind what trap the astute Balafre was setting for him.
In vain he worked his brains, for it was not until Queen Mary herself
betrayed it that he guessed the intention of the Guises.

"'Twould have been a great pity," she said laughing, "if so clever a
head had fallen; you must admit that my uncle has been generous."

"Yes, madame; for my head is only useful on my shoulders, though one
of them is notoriously higher than the other. But is this really your
uncle's generosity? Is he not getting the credit of it rather cheaply?
Do you think it would be so easy to take off the head of a prince of
the blood?"

"All is not over yet," she said. "We shall see what your conduct will
be at the execution of the noblemen, your friends, at which the
Council has decided to make a great public display of severity."

"I shall do," said the prince, "whatever the king does."

"The king, the queen-mother, and myself will be present at the
execution, together with the whole court and the ambassadors--"

"A fete!" said the prince, sarcastically.

"Better than that," said the young queen, "an /act of faith/, an act
of the highest policy. 'Tis a question of forcing the noblemen of
France to submit themselves to the Crown, and compelling them to give
up their tastes for plots and factions--"

"You will not break their belligerent tempers by the show of danger,
madame; you will risk the Crown itself in the attempt," replied the

At the end of the dinner, which was gloomy enough, Queen Mary had the
cruel boldness to turn the conversation openly upon the trial of the
noblemen on the charge of being seized with arms in their hands, and
to speak of the necessity of making a great public show of their

"Madame," said Francois II., "is it not enough for the king of France
to know that so much brave blood is to flow? Must he make a triumph of

"No, sire; but an example," replied Catherine.

"It was the custom of your father and your grandfather to be present
at the burning of heretics," said Mary Stuart.

"The kings who reigned before me did as they thought best, and I
choose to do as I please," said the little king.

"Philip the Second," remarked Catherine, "who is certainly a great
king, lately postponed an /auto da fe/ until he could return from the
Low Countries to Valladolid."

"What do you think, cousin?" said the king to Prince de Conde.

"Sire, you cannot avoid it, and the papal nuncio and all the
ambassadors should be present. I shall go willingly, as these ladies
take part in the fete."

Thus the Prince de Conde, at a glance from Catherine de' Medici,
bravely chose his course.

* * * * *

At the moment when the Prince de Conde was entering the chateau
d'Amboise, Lecamus, the furrier of the two queens, was also arriving
from Paris, brought to Amboise by the anxiety into which the news of
the tumult had thrown both his family and that of Lallier. When the
old man presented himself at the gate of the chateau, the captain of
the guard, on hearing that he was the queens' furrier, said:--

"My good man, if you want to be hanged you have only to set foot in
this courtyard."

Hearing these words, the father, in despair, sat down on a stone at a
little distance and waited until some retainer of the two queens or
some servant-woman might pass who would give him news of his son. But
he sat there all day without seeing any one whom he knew, and was
forced at last to go down into the town, where he found, not without
some difficulty, a lodging in a hostelry on the public square where
the executions took place. He was obliged to pay a pound a day to
obtain a room with a window looking on the square. The next day he had
the courage to watch, from his window, the execution of all the
abettors of the rebellion who were condemned to be broken on the wheel
or hanged, as persons of little importance. He was happy indeed not to
see his own son among the victims.

When the execution was over he went into the square and put himself in
the way of the clerk of the court. After giving his name, and slipping
a purse full of crowns into the man's hand, he begged him to look on
the records and see if the name of Christophe Lecamus appeared in
either of the three preceding executions. The clerk, touched by the
manner and the tones of the despairing father, took him to his own
house. After a careful search he was able to give the old man an
absolute assurance that Christophe was not among the persons thus far
executed, nor among those who were to be put to death within a few

"My dear man," said the clerk, "Parliament has taken charge of the
trial of the great lords implicated in the affair, and also that of
the principal leaders. Perhaps your son is detained in the prisons of
the chateau, and he may be brought forth for the magnificent execution
which their Excellencies the Duc de Guise and the Cardinal de Lorraine
are now preparing. The heads of twenty-seven barons, eleven counts,
and seven marquises,--in all, fifty noblemen or leaders of the
Reformers,--are to be cut off. As the justiciary of the county of
Tourine is quite distinct from that of the parliament of Paris, if you
are determined to know about your son, I advise you to go and see the
Chancelier Olivier, who has the management of this great trial under
orders from the lieutenant-general of the kingdom."

The poor old man, acting on this advice, went three times to see the
chancellor, standing in a long queue of persons waiting to ask mercy
for their friends. But as the titled men were made to pass before the
burghers, he was obliged to give up the hope of speaking to the
chancellor, though he saw him several times leave the house to go
either to the chateau or to the committee appointed by the Parliament,
--passing each time between a double hedge of petitioners who were
kept back by the guards to allow him free passage. It was a horrible
scene of anguish and desolation; for among these petitioners were many
women, wives, mothers, daughters, whole families in distress. Old
Lecamus gave much gold to the footmen of the chateau, entreating them
to put certain letters which he wrote into the hand either of Dayelle,
Queen Mary's woman, or into that of the queen-mother; but the footmen
took the poor man's money and carried the letters, according to the
general order of the cardinal, to the provost-marshal. By displaying
such unheard-of cruelty the Guises knew that they incurred great
dangers from revenge, and never did they take such precautions for
their safety as they did while the court was at Amboise; consequently,
neither the greatest of all corrupters, gold, nor the incessant and
active search which the old furrier instituted gave him the slightest
gleam of light on the fate of his son. He went about the little town
with a mournful air, watching the great preparations made by order of
the cardinal for the dreadful show at which the Prince de Conde had
agreed to be present.

Public curiosity was stimulated from Paris to Nantes by the means
adopted on this occasion. The execution was announced from all pulpits
by the rectors of the churches, while at the same time they gave
thanks for the victory of the king over the heretics. Three handsome
balconies, the middle one more sumptuous than the other two, were
built against the terrace of the chateau of Amboise, at the foot of
which the executions were appointed to take place. Around the open
square, stagings were erected, and these were filled with an immense
crowd of people attracted by the wide-spread notoriety given to this
"act of faith." Ten thousand persons camped in the adjoining fields
the night before the day on which the horrible spectacle was appointed
to take place. The roofs on the houses were crowded with spectators,
and windows were let at ten pounds apiece,--an enormous sum in those
days. The poor old father had engaged, as we may well believe, one of
the best places from which the eye could take in the whole of the
terrible scene, where so many men of noble blood were to perish on a
vast scaffold covered with black cloth, erected in the middle of the
open square. Thither, on the morning of the fatal day, they brought
the /chouquet/,--a name given to the block on which the condemned man
laid his head as he knelt before it. After this they brought an
arm-chair draped with black, for the clerk of the Parliament, whose
business it was to call up the condemned noblemen to their death and
read their sentences. The whole square was guarded from early morning
by the Scottish guard and the gendarmes of the king's household, in
order to keep back the crowd which threatened to fill it before the
hour of the execution.

After a solemn mass said at the chateau and in the churches of the
town, the condemned lords, the last of the conspirators who were left
alive, were led out. These gentlemen, some of whom had been put to the
torture, were grouped at the foot of the scaffold and surrounded by
monks, who endeavored to make them abjure the doctrines of Calvin. But
not a single man listened to the words of the priests who had been
appointed for this duty by the Cardinal of Lorraine; among whom the
gentlemen no doubt feared to find spies of the Guises. In order to
avoid the importunity of these antagonists they chanted a psalm, put
into French verse by Clement Marot. Calvin, as we all know, had
ordained that prayers to God should be in the language of each
country, as much from a principle of common sense as in opposition to
the Roman worship. To those in the crowd who pitied these unfortunate
gentlemen it was a moving incident to hear them chant the following
verse at the very moment when the king and court arrived and took
their places:--

"God be merciful unto us,
And bless us!
And show us the light of his countenance,
And be merciful unto us."

The eyes of all the Reformers turned to their leader, the Prince de
Conde, who was placed intentionally between Queen Mary and the young
Duc d'Orleans. Catherine de' Medici was beside the king, and the rest
of the court were on her left. The papal nuncio stood behind Queen
Mary; the lieutenant-general of the kingdom, the Duc de Guise, was on
horseback below the balcony, with two of the marshals of France and
his staff captains. When the Prince de Conde appeared all the
condemned noblemen who knew him bowed to him, and the brave hunchback
returned their salutation.

"It would be hard," he remarked to the Duc d'Orleans, "not to be civil
to those about to die."

The two other balconies were filled by invited guests, courtiers, and
persons on duty about the court. In short, the whole company of the
chateau de Blois had come to Amboise to assist at this festival of
death, precisely as it passed, a little later, from the pleasures of a
court to the perils of war, with an easy facility, which will always
seem to foreigners one of the main supports of their policy toward

The poor syndic of the furriers of Paris was filled with the keenest
joy at not seeing his son among the fifty-seven gentlemen who were
condemned to die.

At a sign from the Duc de Guise, the clerk seated on the scaffold
cried in a loud voice:--

"Jean-Louis-Alberic, Baron de Raunay, guilty of heresy, of the crime
of /lese-majeste/, and assault with armed hand against the person of
the king."

A tall handsome man mounted the scaffold with a firm step, bowed to
the people and the court, and said:

"That sentence lies. I took arms to deliver the king from his enemies,
the Guises."

He placed his head on the block, and it fell. The Reformers chanted:--

"Thou, O God! hast proved us;
Thou hast tried us;
As silver is tried in the fire,
So hast thou purified us."

"Robert-Jean-Rene Briquemart, Comte de Villemongis, guilty of the
crime of /lese-majeste/, and of attempts against the person of the
king!" called the clerk.

The count dipped his hands in the blood of the Baron de Raunay, and

"May this blood recoil upon those who are really guilty of those

The Reformers chanted:--

"Thou broughtest us into the snare;
Thou laidest afflictions upon our loins;
Thou hast suffered our enemies
To ride over us."

"You must admit, monseigneur," said the Prince de Conde to the papal
nuncio, "that if these French gentlemen know how to conspire, they
also know how to die."

"What hatreds, brother!" whispered the Duchesse de Guise to the
Cardinal de Lorraine, "you are drawing down upon the heads of our

"The sight makes me sick," said the young king, turning pale at the
flow of blood.

"Pooh! only rebels!" replied Catherine de' Medici.

The chants went on; the axe still fell. The sublime spectacle of men
singing as they died, and, above all, the impression produced upon the
crowd by the progressive diminution of the chanting voices, superseded
the fear inspired by the Guises.

"Mercy!" cried the people with one voice, when they heard the solitary
chant of the last and most important of the great lords, who was saved
to be the final victim. He alone remained at the foot of the steps by
which the others had mounted the scaffold, and he chanted:--

"Thou, O God, be merciful unto us,
And bless us,
And cause thy face to shine upon us.

"Come, Duc de Nemours," said the Prince de Conde, weary of the part he
was playing; "you who have the credit of the skirmish, and who helped
to make these men prisoners, do you not feel under an obligation to
ask mercy for this one? It is Castelnau, who, they say, received your
word of honor that he should be courteously treated if he

"Do you think I waited till he was here before trying to save him?"
said the Duc de Nemours, stung by the stern reproach.

The clerk called slowly--no doubt he was intentionally slow:--

"Michel-Jean-Louis, Baron de Castelnau-Chalosse, accused and convicted
of the crime of /lese-majeste/, and of attempts against the person of
the king."

"No," said Castelnau, proudly, "it cannot be a crime to oppose the
tyranny and the projected usurpation of the Guises."

The executioner, sick of his task, saw a movement in the king's
gallery, and fumbled with his axe.

"Monsieur le baron," he said, "I do not want to execute you; a
moment's delay may save you."

All the people again cried, "Mercy!"

"Come!" said the king, "mercy for that poor Castelnau, who saved the
life of the Duc d'Orleans."

The cardinal intentionally misunderstood the king's speech.

"Go on," he motioned to the executioner, and the head of Castelnau
fell at the very moment when the king had pronounced his pardon.

"That head, cardinal, goes to your account," said Catherine de'

The day after this dreadful execution the Prince de Conde returned to

The affair produced a great sensation in France and at all the foreign
courts. The torrents of noble blood then shed caused such anguish to
the chancellor Olivier that his honorable mind, perceiving at last the
real end and aim of the Guises disguised under a pretext of defending
religion and the monarchy, felt itself no longer able to make head
against them. Though he was their creature, he was not willing to
sacrifice his duty and the Throne to their ambition; and he withdrew
from his post, suggesting l'Hopital as his rightful successor.
Catherine, hearing of Olivier's suggestion, immediately proposed
Birago, and put much warmth into her request. The cardinal, knowing
nothing of the letter written by l'Hopital to the queen-mother, and
supposing him faithful to the house of Lorraine, pressed his
appointment in opposition to that of Birago, and Catherine allowed
herself to seem vanquished. From the moment that l'Hopital entered
upon his duties he took measures against the Inquisition, which the
Cardinal de Lorraine was desirous of introducing into France; and he
thwarted so successfully all the anti-gallican policy of the Guises,
and proved himself so true a Frenchmen, that in order to subdue him he
was exiled, within three months of his appointment, to his
country-seat of Vignay, near Etampes.

The worthy old Lecamus waited impatiently till the court left Amboise,
being unable to find an opportunity to speak to either of the queens,
and hoping to put himself in their way as the court advanced along the
river-bank on its return to Blois. He disguised himself as a pauper,
at the risk of being taken for a spy, and by means of this travesty,
he mingled with the crowd of beggars which lined the roadway. After
the departure of the Prince de Conde, and the execution of the
leaders, the duke and cardinal thought they had sufficiently silenced
the Reformers to allow the queen-mother a little more freedom. Lecamus
knew that, instead of travelling in a litter, Catherine intended to go
on horseback, /a la planchette/,--such was the name given to a sort of

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