Part 1 out of 8
This etext was produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]
By ALFRED DE VIGNY
With a Prefaces by CHARLES DE MAZADE, and GASTON BOISSIER of the French
ALFRED DE VIGNY
The reputation of Alfred de Vigny has endured extraordinary vicissitudes
in France. First he was lauded as the precursor of French romantic
poetry and stately prose; then he sank in semi-oblivion, became the
curiosity of criticism, died in retirement, and was neglected for a long
time, until the last ten years or so produced a marked revolution of
taste in France. The supremacy of Victor Hugo has been, if not
questioned, at least mitigated; other poets have recovered from their
obscurity. Lamartine shines now like a lamp relighted; and the pure,
brilliant, and profoundly original genius of Alfred de Vigny now takes,
for the first time, its proper place as one of the main illuminating
forces of the nineteenth century.
It was not until one hundred years after this poet's birth that it became
clearly recognized that he is one of the most important of all the great
writers of France, and he is distinguished not only in fiction, but also
in poetry and the drama. He is a follower of Andre Chenier, Lamartine,
and Victor Hugo, a lyric sun, a philosophic poet, later, perhaps in
consequence of the Revolution of 1830, becoming a "Symbolist." He has
been held to occupy a middle ground between De Musset and Chenier, but he
has also something suggestive of Madame de Stael, and, artistically, he
has much in common with Chateaubriand, though he is more coldly
impersonal and probably much more sincere in his philosophy. If Sainte-
Beuve, however, calls the poet in his Nouveaux Lundis a "beautiful angel,
who has been drinking vinegar," then the modern reader needs a strong
caution against malice and raillery, if not jealousy and perfidy,
although the article on De Vigny abounds otherwise with excessive
At times, indeed, under the cruel deceptions of love, he seemed to lose
faith in his idealism; his pessimism, nevertheless, always remained
noble, restrained, sympathetic, manifesting itself not in appeals for
condolence, but in pitying care for all who were near and dear to him.
Yet his lofty prose and poetry, interpenetrated with the stern despair of
pessimistic idealism, will always be unintelligible to the many. As a
poet, De Vigny appeals to the chosen few alone. In his dramas his genius
is more emancipated from himself, in his novels most of all. It is by
these that he is most widely known, and by these that he exercised the
greatest influence on the literary life of his generation.
Alfred-Victor, Count de Vigny, was born in Loches, Touraine, March 27,
1797. His father was an army officer, wounded in the Seven Years' War.
Alfred, after having been well educated, also selected a military career
and received a commission in the "Mousquetaires Rouges," in 1814, when
barely seventeen. He served until 1827, "twelve long years of peace,"
then resigned. Already in 1822 appeared a volume of 'Poemes' which was
hardly noticed, although containing poetry since become important to the
evolution of French verse: 'La Neige, le Coy, le Deluge, Elva, la
Frigate', etc., again collected in 'Poemes antiques et modernes' (1826).
Other poems were published after his death in 'Les Destinies' (1864).
Under the influence of Walter Scott, he wrote a historical romance in
1826, 'Cinq-Mars, ou une Conjuration sans Louis XIII'. It met with the
most brilliant and decided success and was crowned by the Academy. Cinq-
Mars will always be remembered as the earliest romantic novel in France
and the greatest and most dramatic picture of Richelieu now extant. De
Vigny was a convinced Anglophile, well acquainted with the writings of
Shakespeare and Milton, Byron, Wordsworth, Shelley, Matthew Arnold, and
Leopardi. He also married an English lady in 1825--Lydia Bunbury.
Other prose works are 'Stello' (1832), in the manner of Sterne and
Diderot, and 'Servitude et Grandeur militaire' (1835), the language of
which is as caustic as that of Merimee. As a dramatist, De Vigny
produced a translation of 'Othello--Le More de Venice' (1829); also 'La
Marechale d'Ancre' (1832); both met with moderate success only. But a
decided "hit" was 'Chatterton' (1835), an adaption from his prose-work
'Stello, ou les Diables bleus'; it at once established his reputation on
the stage; the applause was most prodigious, and in the annals of the
French theatre can only be compared with that of 'Le Cid'. It was a
great victory for the Romantic School, and the type of Chatterton, the
slighted poet, "the marvellous boy, the sleepless soul that perished in
his pride," became contagious as erstwhile did the type of Werther.
For twenty years before his death Alfred de Vigny wrote nothing. He
lived in retirement, almost a recluse, in La Charente, rarely visiting
Paris. Admitted into L'Academie Francaise in 1845, he describes in his
'Journal d'un Poete' his academic visits and the reception held out to
him by the members of L'Institut. This work appeared posthumously in
He died in Paris, September 17, 1863.
CHARLES DE MAZADE
de l'Academie Francaise.
Considering Alfred de Vigny first as a writer, it is evident that he
wished the public to regard him as different from the other romanticists
of his day; in fact, in many respects, his method presents a striking
contrast to theirs. To their brilliant facility, their prodigious
abundance, and the dazzling luxury of color in their pictures of life he
opposes a style always simple, pure, clear, with delicacy of touch,
careful drawing of character, correct locution, and absolute chastity.
Yet, even though he had this marked regard for purity in literary style,
no writer had more dislike of mere pedantry. His high ideal in literary
art and his self-respect inspired him with an invincible repugnance
toward the artificialities of style of that period, which the
romanticists--above all, Chateaubriand, their master--had so much abused.
Every one knows of the singular declaration made by Chateaubriand to
Joubert, while relating the details of a nocturnal voyage: "The moon
shone upon me in a slender crescent, and that prevented me from writing
an untruth, for I feel sure that had not the moon been there I should
have said in my letter that it was shining, and then you would have
convicted me of an error in my almanac!"
This habit of sacrificing truth and exactitude of impression, for the
sake of producing a harmonious phrase or a picturesque suggestion,
disgusted Alfred de Vigny. "The worst thing about writers is that they
care very little whether what they write is true, so long as they only
write," we read on one page of his Journal. He adds, "They should seek
words only in their own consciences." On another page he says: "The most
serious lack in literary work is sincerity. Perceiving clearly that the
combination of technical labor and research for effective expression, in
producing literary work, often leads us to a paradox, I have resolved to
sacrifice all to conviction and truth, so that this precious element of
sincerity, complete and profound, shall dominate my books and give to
them the sacred character which the divine presence of truth always
Besides sincerity, De Vigny possessed, in a high degree, a gift which was
not less rare in that age--good taste. He had taste in the art of
writing, a fine literary tact, a sense of proportion, a perception of
delicate shades of expression, an instinct that told him what to say and
what to suppress, to insinuate, or to be left to the understanding. Even
in his innovations in form, in his boldness of style, he showed a rare
discretion; never did he do violence to the genius of the French
language, and one may apply to him without reserve the eulogy that
Quintilian pronounced upon Horace: 'Verbis felicissime audax'.
He cherished also a fixed principle that art implied selection. He was
neither idealist nor realist, in the exclusive and opposing sense in
which we understand these terms; he recommended a scrupulous observance
of nature, and that every writer should draw as close to it as possible,
but only in order to interpret it, to reveal it with a true feeling, yet
without a too intimate analysis, and that no one should attempt to
portray it exactly or servilely copy it. "Of what use is art," he says,
"if it is only a reduplication of existence? We see around us only too
much of the sadness and disenchantment of reality." The three novels
that compose the volume 'Servitude et Grandeur militaire' are, in this
respect, models of romantic composition that never will be surpassed,
bearing witness to the truth of the formula followed by De Vigny in all
his literary work: "Art is the chosen truth."
If, as a versifier, Alfred de Vigny does not equal the great poets of his
time, if they are his superiors in distinction and brilliancy, in
richness of vocabulary, freedom of movement, and variety of rhythm, the
cause is to be ascribed less to any lack of poetic genius than to the
nature of his inspiration, even to the laws of poesy, and to the secret
and irreducible antinomy that exists between art and thought. When, for
example, Theophile Gautier reproached him with being too little impressed
with the exigencies of rhyme, his criticism was not well grounded, for
richness of rhyme, though indispensable in works of descriptive
imagination, has no 'raison d'etre' in poems dominated by sentiment and
thought. But, having said that, we must recognize in his poetry an
element, serious, strong, and impressive, characteristic of itself alone,
and admire, in the strophes of 'Mozse', in the imprecations of 'Samson',
and in the 'Destinees', the majestic simplicity of the most beautiful
Moreover, the true originality of De Vigny does not lie in the manner of
composition; it was primarily in the role of precursor that he played his
part on the stage of literature. Let us imagine ourselves at the period
about the beginning of the year 1822. Of the three poets who, in making
their literary debuts, had just published the 'Meditations, Poemes
antiques et modernes, and Odes', only one had, at that time, the instinct
of renewal in the spirit of French poesy, and a sense of the manner in
which this must be accomplished; and that one was not Lamartine, and
certainly it was not Victor Hugo.
Sainte-Beuve has said, with authority, that in Lamartine there is
something suggestive of Millevoye, of Voltaire (he of the charming
epistles), and of Fontanes; and Victor Hugo wrote with very little
variation from the technical form of his predecessors. "But with Alfred
de Vigny," he says, "we seek in vain for a resemblance to any French
poetry preceding his work. For example, where can we find anything
resembling 'Moise, Eloa, Doloeida'? Where did he find his inspiration
for style and composition in these poems? If the poets of the Pleiades
of the Restoration seem to have found their inspiration within
themselves, showing no trace of connection with the literature of the
past, thus throwing into confusion old habits of taste and of routine,
certain it is that among them Alfred de Vigny should be ranked first."
Even in the collection that bears the date of 1822, some years before the
future author of Legende des Siecles had taken up romanticism, Alfred de
Vigny had already conceived the idea of setting forth, in a series of
little epics, the migrations of the human soul throughout the ages. "One
feels," said he in his Preface, "a keen intellectual delight in
transporting one's self, by mere force of thought, to a period of
antiquity; it resembles the pleasure an old man feels in recalling first
his early youth, and then the whole course of his life. In the age of
simplicity, poetry was devoted entirely to the beauties of the physical
forms of nature and of man; each step in advance that it has made since
then toward our own day of civilization and of sadness, seems to have
blended it more and more with our arts, and even with the sufferings of
our souls. At present, with all the serious solemnity of Religion and of
Destiny, it lends to them their chief beauty. Never discouraged, Poetry
has followed Man in his long journey through the ages, like a sweet and
beautiful companion. I have attempted, in our language, to show some of
her beauties, in following her progress toward the present day."
The arrangement of the poems announced in this Preface is tripartite,
like that of the 'Legende des Siecles: Poemes antiques, poemes judaiques,
poemes modernes.--Livre mystique, livre antique, livre moderne'. But the
name of precursor would be a vain title if all that were necessary to
merit it was the fact that one had been the first to perceive a new path
to literary glory, to salute it from a distance, yet never attempt to
make a nearer approach.
In one direction at least, Alfred de Vigny was a true innovator, in the
broadest and most meritorious sense of the word: he was the creator of
philosophic poetry in France. Until Jocelyn appeared, in 1836, the form
of poetic expression was confined chiefly to the ode, the ballad, and the
elegy; and no poet, with the exception of the author of 'Moise' and
'Eloa', ever dreamed that abstract ideas and themes dealing with the
moralities could be expressed in the melody of verse.
To this priority, of which he knew the full value, Alfred de Vigny laid
insistent claim. "The only merit," he says in one of his prefaces, "that
any one ever has disputed with me in this sort of composition is the
honor of having promulgated in France all works of the kind in which
philosophic thought is presented in either epic or dramatic form."
But it was not alone priority in the sense of time that gave him right of
way over his contemporaries; he was the most distinguished representative
of poetic philosophy of his generation. If the phrases of Lamartine seem
richer, if his flight is more majestic, De Vigny's range is surer and
more powerful. While the philosophy of the creator of 'Les Harmonies' is
uncertain and inconsistent, that of the poet of 'Les Destinees' is strong
and substantial, for the reason that the former inspires more sentiment
than ideas, while the latter, soaring far above the narrow sphere of
personal emotion, writes of everything that occupies the intellect of
Thus, by his vigor and breadth of thought, by his profound understanding
of life, by the intensity of his dreams, Alfred de Vigny is superior to
Victor Hugo, whose genius was quite different, in his power to portray
picturesque scenes, in his remarkable fecundity of imagination, and in
his sovereign mastery of technique.
But nowhere in De Vigny's work is that superiority of poetic thought so
clearly shown as in those productions wherein the point of departure was
farthest from the domain of intellect, and better than any other has he
understood that truth proclaimed by Hegel: "The passions of the soul and
the affections of the heart are matter for poetic expression only in so
far as they are general, solid, and eternal."
De Vigny was also the only one among our poets that had a lofty ideal of
woman and of love. And in order to convince one's self of this it is
sufficient to reread successively the four great love-poems of that
period: 'Le Lac, La Tristesse d'Olympio, Le Souvenir, and La Colere de
Lamartine's conception of love was a sort of mild ecstasy, the sacred
rapture in which the senses play no part, and noble emotions that cause
neither trouble nor remorse. He ever regarded love as a kind of sublime
and passionate religion, of which 'Le Lac' was the most beautiful hymn,
but in which the image of woman is so vague that she almost seems to be
On the other hand, what is 'La Tristesse d'Olympio' if not an admirable
but common poetic rapture, a magnificent summary of the sufferings of the
heart--a bit of lyric writing equal to the most beautiful canzoni of the
Italian masters, but wherein we find no idea of love, because all is
artificial and studied; no cry from the soul is heard,--no trace of
After another fashion the same criticism applies to Le Souvenir; it was
written under a stress of emotion resulting from too recent events; and
the imagination of the author, subservient to a memory relentlessly
faithful, as is often the case with those to whom passion is the chief
principle of inspiration, was far from fulfilling the duties of his high
vocation, which is to purify the passions of the poet from individual and
accidental characteristics in order to leave unhampered whatever his work
may contain that is powerful and imperishable.
Alfred de Vigny alone, of the poets of his day, in his 'Colere de
Samson', has risen to a just appreciation of woman and of love; his ideal
is grand and tragic, it is true, and reminds one of that gloomy passage
in Ecclesiastes which says: "Woman is more bitter than death, and her
arms are like chains."
It is by this character of universality, of which all his writings show
striking evidence, that Alfred de Vigny is assured of immortality. A
heedless generation neglected him because it preferred to seek subjects
in strong contrast to life of its own time. But that which was not
appreciated by his contemporaries will be welcomed by posterity. And
when, in French literature, there shall remain of true romanticism only a
slight trace and the memory of a few great names, the author of the
'Destinees' will still find an echo in all hearts.
No writer, no matter how gifted, immortalizes himself unless he has
crystallized into expressive and original phrase the eternal sentiments
and yearnings of the human heart. "A man does not deserve the name of
poet unless he can express personal feeling and emotion, and only that
man is worthy to be called a poet who knows how to assimilate the varied
emotions of mankind." If this fine phrase of Goethe's is true, if true
poetry is only that which implies a mastery of spiritual things as well
as of human emotion, Alfred de Vigny is assuredly one of our greatest
poets, for none so well as he has realized a complete vision of the
universe, no one has brought before the world with more boldness the
problem of the soul and that of humanity. Under the title of poet he
belongs not only to our national literature, but occupies a distinctive
place in the world of intellect, with Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe, among
those inspired beings who transmit throughout succeeding centuries the
light of reason and the traditions of the loftiest poetic thought.
Alfred de Vigny was elected to a chair in the French Academy in 1846 and
died at Paris, September 17, 1863.
Secretaire Perpetuel de l'Academie Francaise.
TRUTH IN ART
The study of social progress is to-day not less needed in literature than
is the analysis of the human heart. We live in an age of universal
investigation, and of exploration of the sources of all movements.
France, for example, loves at the same time history and the drama,
because the one explores the vast destinies of humanity, and the other
the individual lot of man. These embrace the whole of life. But it is
the province of religion, of philosophy, of pure poetry only, to go
beyond life, beyond time, into eternity.
Of late years (perhaps as a result of our political changes) art has
borrowed from history more than ever. All of us have our eyes fixed on
our chronicles, as though, having reached manhood while going on toward
greater things, we had stopped a moment to cast up the account of our
youth and its errors. We have had to double the interest by adding to it
As France has carried farther than other nations this love of facts, and
as I had chosen a recent and well-remembered epoch, it seemed to me that
I ought not to imitate those foreigners who in their pictures barely show
in the horizon the men who dominate their history. I placed ours in the
foreground of the scene; I made them leading actors in this tragedy,
wherever I endeavored to represent the three kinds of ambition by which
we are influenced, and with them the beauty of self-sacrifice to a noble
ideal. A treatise on the fall of the feudal system; on the position, at
home and abroad, of France in the seventeenth century; on foreign
alliances; on the justice of parliaments or of secret commissions, or on
accusations of sorcery, would not perhaps have been read. But the
romance was read.
I do not mean to defend this last form of historical composition, being
convinced that the real greatness of a work lies in the substance of the
author's ideas and sentiments, and not in the literary form in which they
are dressed. The choice of a certain epoch necessitates a certain
treatment--to another epoch it would be unsuitable; these are mere
secrets of the workshop of thought which there is no need of disclosing.
What is the use of theorizing as to wherein lies the charm that moves us?
We hear the tones of the harp, but its graceful form conceals from us its
frame of iron. Nevertheless, since I have been convinced that this book
possesses vitality, I can not help throwing out some reflections on the
liberty which the imagination should employ in weaving into its tapestry
all the leading figures of an age, and, to give more consistency to their
acts, in making the reality of fact give way to the idea which each of
them should represent in the eyes of posterity; in short, on the
difference which I find between Truth in art and the True in fact.
Just as we descend into our consciences to judge of actions which our
minds can not weigh, can we not also search in ourselves for the feeling
which gives birth to forms of thought, always vague and cloudy? We shall
find in our troubled hearts, where discord reigns, two needs which seem
at variance, but which merge, as I think, in a common source--the love of
the true, and the love of the fabulous.
On the day when man told the story of his life to man, history was born.
Of what use is the memory of facts, if not to serve as an example of good
or of evil? But the examples which the slow train of events presents to
us are scattered and incomplete. They lack always a tangible and visible
coherence leading straight on to a moral conclusion. The acts of the
human race on the world's stage have doubtless a coherent unity, but the
meaning of the vast tragedy enacted will be visible only to the eye of
God, until the end, which will reveal it perhaps to the last man. All
systems of philosophy have sought in vain to explain it, ceaselessly
rolling up their rock, which, never reaching the top, falls back upon
them--each raising its frail structure on the ruins of the others, only
to see it fall in its turn.
I think, then, that man, after having satisfied his first longing for
facts, wanted something fuller--some grouping, some adaptation to his
capacity and experience, of the links of this vast chain of events which
his sight could not take in. Thus he hoped to find in the historic
recital examples which might support the moral truths of which he was
conscious. Few single careers could satisfy this longing, being only
incomplete parts of the elusive whole of the history of the world; one
was a quarter, as it were, the other a half of the proof; imagination did
the rest and completed them. From this, without doubt, sprang the fable.
Man created it thus, because it was not given him to see more than
himself and nature, which surrounds him; but he created it true with a
truth all its own.
This Truth, so beautiful, so intellectual, which I feel, I see, and long
to define, the name of which I here venture to distinguish from that of
the True, that I may the better make myself understood, is the soul of
all the arts. It is the selection of the characteristic token in all the
beauties and the grandeurs of the visible True; but it is not the thing
itself, it is something better: it is an ideal combination of its
principal forms, a luminous tint made up of its brightest colors, an
intoxicating balm of its purest perfumes, a delicious elixir of its best
juices, a perfect harmony of its sweetest sounds--in short, it is a
concentration of all its good qualities. For this Truth, and nothing
else, should strive those works of art which are a moral representation
of life-dramatic works. To attain it, the first step is undoubtedly to
learn all that is true in fact of every period, to become deeply imbued
with its general character and with its details; this involves only a
cheap tribute of attention, of patience, and of memory: But then one must
fix upon some chosen centre, and group everything around it; this is the
work of imagination, and of that sublime common-sense which is genius
Of what use were the arts if they were only the reproduction and the
imitation of life? Good heavens! we see only too clearly about us the
sad and disenchanting reality--the insupportable lukewarmness of feeble
characters, of shallow virtues and vices, of irresolute loves, of
tempered hates, of wavering friendships, of unsettled beliefs, of
constancy which has its height and its depth, of opinions which
evaporate. Let us dream that once upon a time have lived men stronger
and greater, who were more determined for good or for evil; that does us
good. If the paleness of your True is to follow us into art, we shall
close at once the theatre and the book, to avoid meeting it a second
time. What is wanted of works which revive the ghosts of human beings
is, I repeat, the philosophical spectacle of man deeply wrought upon by
the passions of his character and of his epoch; it is, in short, the
artistic Truth of that man and that epoch, but both raised to a higher
and ideal power, which concentrates all their forces. You recognize this
Truth in works of the imagination just as you cry out at the resemblance
of a portrait of which you have never seen the original; for true talent
paints life rather than the living.
To banish finally the scruples on this point of the consciences of some
persons, timorous in literary matters, whom I have seen affected with a
personal sorrow on viewing the rashness with which the imagination sports
with the most weighty characters of history, I will hazard the assertion
that, not throughout this work, I dare not say that, but in many of these
pages, and those perhaps not of the least merit, history is a romance of
which the people are the authors. The human mind, I believe, cares for
the True only in the general character of an epoch. What it values most
of all is the sum total of events and the advance of civilization, which
carries individuals along with it; but, indifferent to details, it cares
less to have them real than noble or, rather, grand and complete.
Examine closely the origin of certain deeds, of certain heroic
expressions, which are born one knows not how; you will see them leap out
ready-made from hearsay and the murmurs of the crowd, without having in
themselves more than a shadow of truth, and, nevertheless, they will
remain historical forever. As if by way of pleasantry, and to put a joke
upon posterity, the public voice invents sublime utterances to mark,
during their lives and under their very eyes, men who, confused, avow
themselves as best they may, as not deserving of so much glory--
[In our time has not a Russian General denied the fire of Moscow,
which we have made heroic, and which will remain so? Has not a
French General denied that utterance on the field of Waterloo which
will immortalize it? And if I were not withheld by my respect for a
sacred event, I might recall that a priest has felt it to be his
duty to disavow in public a sublime speech which will remain the
noblest that has ever been pronounced on a scaffold: "Son of Saint
Louis, rise to heaven!" When I learned not long ago its real
author, I was overcome by the destruction of my illusion, but before
long I was consoled by a thought that does honor to humanity in my
eyes. I feel that France has consecrated this speech, because she
felt the need of reestablishing herself in her own eyes, of blinding
herself to her awful error, and of believing that then and there an
honest man was found who dared to speak aloud.]
and as not being able to support so high renown. In vain; their
disclaimers are not received. Let them cry out, let them write, let them
print, let them sign--they are not listened to. These utterances are
inscribed in bronze; the poor fellows remain historical and sublime in
spite of themselves. And I do not find that all this is done in the ages
of barbarism alone; it is still going on, and it molds the history of
yesterday to the taste of public opinion--a Muse tyrannical and
capricious, which preserves the general purport and scorns detail.
Which of you knows not of such transformation? Do you not see with your
own eyes the chrysalis fact assume by degrees the wings of fiction? Half
formed by the necessities of the time, a fact is hidden in the ground
obscure and incomplete, rough, misshapen, like a block of marble not yet
rough-hewn. The first who unearth it, and take it in hand, would wish it
differently shaped, and pass it, already a little rounded, into other
hands; others polish it as they pass it along; in a short time it is
exhibited transformed into an immortal statue. We disclaim it; witnesses
who have seen and heard pile refutations upon explanations; the learned
investigate, pore over books, and write. No one listens to them any more
than to the humble heroes who disown it; the torrent rolls on and bears
with it the whole thing under the form which it has pleased it to give to
these individual actions. What was needed for all this work? A nothing,
a word; sometimes the caprice of a journalist out of work. And are we
the losers by it? No. The adopted fact is always better composed than
the real one, and it is even adopted only because it is better. The
human race feels a need that its destinies should afford it a series of
lessons; more careless than we think of the reality of facts, it strives
to perfect the event in order to give it a great moral significance,
feeling sure that the succession of scenes which it plays upon earth is
not a comedy, and that since it advances, it marches toward an end, of
which the explanation must be sought beyond what is visible.
For my part, I acknowledge my gratitude to the voice of the people for
this achievement; for often in the finest life are found strange
blemishes and inconsistencies which pain me when I see them. If a man
seems to me a perfect model of a grand and noble character, and if some
one comes and tells me of a mean trait which disfigures him, I am
saddened by it, even though I do not know him, as by a misfortune which
affects me in person; and I could almost wish that he had died before the
change in his character.
Thus, when the Muse (and I give that name to art as a whole, to
everything which belongs to the domain of imagination, almost in the same
way as the ancients gave the name of Music to all education), when the
Muse has related, in her impassioned manner, the adventures of a
character whom I know to have lived; and when she reshapes his
experiences into conformity with the strongest idea of vice or virtue
which can be conceived of him--filling the gaps, veiling the
incongruities of his life, and giving him that perfect unity of conduct
which we like to see represented even in evil--if, in addition to this,
she preserves the only thing essential to the instruction of the world,
the spirit of the epoch, I know no reason why we should be more exacting
with her than with this voice of the people which every day makes every
fact undergo so great changes.
The ancients carried this liberty even into history; they wanted to see
in it only the general march, and broad movements of peoples and nations;
and on these great movements, brought to view in courses very distinct
and very clear, they placed a few colossal figures--symbols of noble
character and of lofty purpose.
One might almost reckon mathematically that, having undergone the double
composition of public opinion and of the author, their history reaches us
at third hand and is thus separated by two stages from the original fact.
It is because in their eyes history too was a work of art; and in
consequence of not having realized that such is its real nature, the
whole Christian world still lacks an historical monument like those which
dominate antiquity and consecrate the memory of its destinies--as its
pyramids, its obelisks, its pylons, and its porticos still dominate the
earth which was known to them, and thereby commemorate the grandeur of
If, then, we find everywhere evidence of this inclination to desert the
positive, to bring the ideal even into historic annals, I believe that
with greater reason we should be completely indifferent to historical
reality in judging the dramatic works, whether poems, romances, or
tragedies, which borrow from history celebrated characters. Art ought
never to be considered except in its relations with its ideal beauty.
Let it be said that what is true in fact is secondary merely; it is only
an illusion the more with which it adorns itself--one of our prejudices
which it respects. It can do without it, for the Truth by which it must
live is the truth of observation of human nature, and not authenticity of
fact. The names of the characters have nothing to do with the matter.
The idea is everything; the proper name is only the example and the proof
of the idea.
So much the better for the memory of those who are chosen to represent
philosophical or moral ideas; but, once again, that is not the question.
The imagination can produce just as fine things without them; it is a
power wholly creative; the imaginary beings which it animates are endowed
with life as truly as the real beings which it brings to life again. We
believe in Othello as we do in Richard III., whose tomb is in
Westminster; in Lovelace and Clarissa as in Paul and Virginia, whose
tombs are in the Isle of France. It is with the same eye that we must
watch the performance of its characters, and demand of the Muse only her
artistic Truth, more lofty than the True--whether collecting the traits
of a character dispersed among a thousand entire individuals, she
composes from them a type whose name alone is imaginary; or whether she
goes to their tomb to seek and to touch with her galvanic current the
dead whose great deeds are known, forces them to arise again, and drags
them dazzled to the light of day, where, in the circle which this fairy
has traced, they re-assume unwillingly their passions of other days, and
begin again in the sight of their descendants the sad drama of life.
ALFRED DE VIGNY.
Fare thee well! and if forever,
Still forever fare thee well!
Do you know that charming part of our country which has been called the
garden of France--that spot where, amid verdant plains watered by wide
streams, one inhales the purest air of heaven?
If you have travelled through fair Touraine in summer, you have no doubt
followed with enchantment the peaceful Loire; you have regretted the
impossibility of determining upon which of its banks you would choose to
dwell with your beloved. On its right bank one sees valleys dotted with
white houses surrounded by woods, hills yellow with vines or white with
the blossoms of the cherry-tree, walls covered with honeysuckles, rose-
gardens, from which pointed roofs rise suddenly. Everything reminds the
traveller either of the fertility of the land or of the antiquity of its
monuments; and everything interests him in the work of its busy
Nothing has proved useless to them; it seems as if in their love for so
beautiful a country--the only province of France never occupied by
foreigners--they have determined not to lose the least part of its soil,
the smallest grain of its sand. Do you fancy that this ruined tower is
inhabited only by hideous night-birds? No; at the sound of your horse's
hoofs, the smiling face of a young girl peeps out from the ivy, whitened
with the dust from the road. If you climb a hillside covered with vines,
a light column of smoke shows you that there is a chimney at your feet;
for the very rock is inhabited, and families of vine-dressers breathe in
its caverns, sheltered at night by the kindly earth which they
laboriously cultivate during the day. The good people of Touraine are as
simple as their life, gentle as the air they breathe, and strong as the
powerful earth they dig. Their countenances, like their characters, have
something of the frankness of the true people of St. Louis; their
chestnut locks are still long and curve around their ears, as in the
stone statues of our old kings; their language is the purest French, with
neither slowness, haste, nor accent--the cradle of the language is there,
close to the cradle of the monarchy.
But the left bank of the stream has a more serious aspect; in the
distance you see Chambord, which, with its blue domes and little cupolas,
appears like some great city of the Orient; there is Chanteloup, raising
its graceful pagoda in the air. Near these a simpler building attracts
the eyes of the traveller by its magnificent situation and imposing size;
it is the chateau of Chaumont. Built upon the highest hill of the shore,
it frames the broad summit with its lofty walls and its enormous towers;
high slate steeples increase their loftiness, and give to the building
that conventual air, that religious form of all our old chateaux, which
casts an aspect of gravity over the landscape of most of our provinces.
Black and tufted trees surround this ancient mansion, resembling from
afar the plumes that encircled the hat of King Henry. At the foot of the
hill, connected with the chateau by a narrow path, lies a pretty village,
whose white houses seem to have sprung from the golden sand; a chapel
stands halfway up the hill; the lords descended and the villagers
ascended to its altar-the region of equality, situated like a neutral
spot between poverty and riches, which have been too often opposed to
each other in bitter conflict.
Here, one morning in the month of June, 1639, the bell of the chateau
having, as usual, rung at midday, the dinner-hour of the family,
occurrences of an unusual kind were passing in this ancient dwelling.
The numerous domestics observed that in repeating the morning prayers
before the assembled household, the Marechale d'Effiat had spoken with a
broken voice and with tears in her eyes, and that she had appeared in a
deeper mourning than was customary. The people of the household and the
Italians of the Duchesse de Mantua, who had at that time retired for a
while to Chaumont, saw with surprise that sudden preparations were being
made for departure. The old domestic of the Marechal d'Effiat (who had
been dead six months) had taken again to his travelling-boots, which he
had sworn to abandon forever. This brave fellow, named Grandchamp, had
followed the chief of the family everywhere in the wars, and in his
financial work; he had been his equerry in the former, and his secretary
in the latter. He had recently returned from Germany, to inform the
mother and the children of the death of the Marechal, whose last sighs he
had heard at Luzzelstein. He was one of those faithful servants who are
become too rare in France; who suffer with the misfortunes of the family,
and rejoice with their joys; who approve of early marriages, that they
may have young masters to educate; who scold the children and often the
fathers; who risk death for them; who serve without wages in revolutions;
who toil for their support; and who in prosperous times follow them
everywhere, or exclaim at their return, "Behold our vines!" He had a
severe and remarkable face, a coppery complexion, and silver-gray hair,
in which, however, some few locks, black as his heavy eyebrows, made him
appear harsh at first; but a gentle countenance softened this first
impression. At present his voice was loud. He busied himself much that
day in hastening the dinner, and ordered about all the servants, who were
in mourning like himself.
"Come," said he, "make haste to serve the dinner, while Germain, Louis,
and Etienne saddle their horses; Monsieur Henri and I must be far away by
eight o'clock this evening. And you, gentlemen, Italians, have you
warned your young Princess? I wager that she is gone to read with her
ladies at the end of the park, or on the banks of the lake. She always
comes in after the first course, and makes every one rise from the
"Ah, my good Grandchamp," said in a low voice a young maid servant who
was passing, "do not speak of the Duchess; she is very sorrowful, and
I believe that she will remain in her apartment. Santa Maria! what a
shame to travel to-day! to depart on a Friday, the thirteenth of the
month, and the day of Saint Gervais and of Saint-Protais--the day of two
martyrs! I have been telling my beads all the morning for Monsieur de
Cinq-Mars; and I could not help thinking of these things. And my
mistress thinks of them too, although she is a great lady; so you need
With these words the young Italian glided like a bird across the large
dining-room, and disappeared down a corridor, startled at seeing the
great doors of the salon opened.
Grandchamp had hardly heard what she had said, and seemed to have been
occupied only with the preparations for dinner; he fulfilled the
important duties of major-domo, and cast severe looks at the domestics to
see whether they were all at their posts, placing himself behind the
chair of the eldest son of the house. Then all the inhabitants of the
mansion entered the salon. Eleven persons seated themselves at table.
The Marechale came in last, giving her arm to a handsome old man,
magnificently dressed, whom she placed upon her left hand. She seated
herself in a large gilded arm-chair at the middle of one side of the
table, which was oblong in form. Another seat, rather more ornamented,
was at her right, but it remained empty. The young Marquis d'Effiat,
seated in front of his mother, was to assist her in doing the honors of
the table. He was not more than twenty years old, and his countenance
was insignificant; much gravity and distinguished manners proclaimed,
however, a social nature, but nothing more. His young sister of
fourteen, two gentlemen of the province, three young Italian noblemen of
the suite of Marie de Gonzaga (Duchesse de Mantua), a lady-in-waiting,
the governess of the young daughter of the Marechale, and an abbe of the
neighborhood, old and very deaf, composed the assembly. A seat at the
right of the elder son still remained vacant.
The Marechale, before seating herself, made the sign of the cross, and
repeated the Benedicite aloud; every one responded by making the complete
sign, or upon the breast alone. This custom was preserved in many
families in France up to the Revolution of 1789; some still practise it,
but more in the provinces than in Paris, and not without some hesitation
and some preliminary words upon the weather, accompanied by a deprecatory
smile when a stranger is present--for it is too true that virtue also has
The Marechale possessed an imposing figure, and her large blue eyes were
remarkably beautiful. She did not appear to have yet attained her forty-
fifth year; but, oppressed with sorrow, she walked slowly and spoke with
difficulty, closing her eyes, and allowing her head to droop for a moment
upon her breast, after she had been obliged to raise her voice. At such
efforts her hand pressed to her bosom showed that she experienced sharp
pain. She saw therefore with satisfaction that the person who was seated
at her left, having at the beginning engrossed the conversation, without
having been requested by any one to talk, persisted with an imperturbable
coolness in engrossing it to the end of the dinner. This was the old
Marechal de Bassompierre; he had preserved with his white locks an air of
youth and vivacity curious to see. His noble and polished manners showed
a certain gallantry, antiquated like his costume--for he wore a ruff in
the fashion of Henri IV, and the slashed sleeves fashionable in the
former reign, an absurdity which was unpardonable in the eyes of the
beaux of the court. This would not have appeared more singular than
anything else at present; but it is admitted that in every age we laugh
at the costume of our fathers, and, except the Orientals, I know of no
people who have not this fault.
One of the Italian gentlemen had hardly finished asking the Marechal what
he thought of the way in which the Cardinal treated the daughter of the
Duc de Mantua, when he exclaimed, in his familiar language:
"Heavens, man! what are you talking about? what do I comprehend of this
new system under which France is living? We old companions-in-arms of
his late Majesty can ill understand the language spoken by the new court,
and that in its turn does not comprehend ours. But what do I say? We
speak no language in this sad country, for all the world is silent before
the Cardinal; this haughty little, vassal looks upon us as merely old
family portraits, which occasionally he shortens by the head; but happily
the motto always remains. Is it not true, my dear Puy-Laurens?"
This guest was about the same age as the Marechal, but, being more grave
and cautious, he answered in vague and few words, and made a sign to his
contemporary in order to induce him to observe the unpleasant emotions
which he had caused the mistress of the house by reminding her of the
recent death of her husband and in speaking thus of the minister, his
friend. But it was in vain, for Bassompierre, pleased with the sign of
half-approval, emptied at one draught a great goblet of wine--a remedy
which he lauds in his Memoirs as infallible against the plague and
against reserve; and leaning back to receive another glass from his
esquire, he settled himself more firmly than ever upon his chair, and in
his favorite ideas.
"Yes, we are in the way here; I said so the other day to my dear Duc de
Guise, whom they have ruined. They count the minutes that we have to
live, and shake the hour-glass to hasten the descent of its sands. When
Monsieur le Cardinal-Duc observes in a corner three or four of our tall
figures, who never quitted the side of the late King, he feels that he is
unable to move those statues of iron, and that to do it would require the
hand of a great man; he passes quickly by, and dares not meddle with us,
who fear him not. He believes that we are always conspiring; and they
say at this very moment that there is talk of putting me in the
"Eh! Monsieur le Marechal, why do you delay your departure?" said the
Italian. "I know of no place, except Flanders, where you can find
"Ah, Monsieur! you do not know me. So far from flying, I sought out the
King before his departure, and told him that I did so in order to save
people the trouble of looking for me; and that if I knew when he wished
to send me, I would go myself without being taken. He was as kind as I
expected him to be, and said to me, 'What, my old friend, could you have
thought that I desired to send you there? You know well that I love
"Ah, my dear Marechal, let me compliment you," said Madame d'Effiat, in a
soft voice. "I recognize the benevolence of the King in these words; he
remembers the affection which the King, his father, had toward you. It
appears to me that he always accorded to you all that you desired for
your friends," she added, with animation, in order to put him into the
track of praise, and to beguile him from the discontent which he had so
"Assuredly, Madame," answered he; "no one is more willing to recognize
his virtues than Francois de Bassompierre. I shall be faithful to him to
the end, because I gave myself, body and fortune, to his father at a
ball; and I swear that, with my consent at least, none of my family shall
ever fail in their duties toward the King of France. Although the
Besteins are foreigners and Lorrains, a shake of the hand from Henri IV
gained us forever. My greatest grief has been to see my brother die in
the service of Spain; and I have just written to my nephew to say that I
shall disinherit him if he has passed over to the Emperor, as report says
One of the gentlemen guests who had as yet been silent, and who was
remarkable for the profusion of knots, ribbons, and tags which covered
his dress, and for the black cordon of the Order of St. Michael which
decorated his neck, bowed, observing that it was thus all faithful
subjects ought to speak.
"I' faith, Monsieur de Launay, you deceive yourself very much," said the
Marechal, to whom the recollection of his ancestors now occurred;
"persons of our blood are subjects only at our own pleasure, for God has
caused us to be born as much lords of our lands as the King is of his.
When I came to France, I came at my ease, accompanied by my gentlemen and
pages. I perceive, however, that the farther we go, the more we lose
sight of this idea, especially at the court. But here is a young man who
arrives very opportunely to hear me."
The door indeed opened, and a young man of fine form entered. He was
pale; his hair was brown, his eyes were black, his expression was sad and
reckless. This was Henri d'Effiat, Marquis de Cinq-Mars (a name taken
from an estate of his family). His dress and his short cloak were black;
a collar of lace fell from his neck halfway down his breast; his stout,
small, and very wide-spurred boots made so much noise upon the flags of
the salon that his approach was heard at a distance. He walked directly
toward the Marechale, bowed low, and kissed her hand.
"Well, Henri," she said, "are your horses ready? At what hour do you
"Immediately after dinner, Madame, if you will allow me," said he to his
mother, with the ceremonious respect of the times; and passing behind
her, he saluted M. de Bassompierre before seating himself at the left of
his eldest brother.
"Well," said the Marechal, continuing to eat with an excellent appetite,
"you are about to depart, my son; you are going to the court--a slippery
place nowadays. I am sorry for your sake that it is not now what it used
to be. In former times, the court was simply the drawing-room of the
King, in which he received his natural friends: nobles of great family,
his peers, who visited him to show their devotion and their friendship,
lost their money with him, and accompanied him in his pleasure parties,
but never received anything from him, except permission to bring their
vassals with them, to break their heads in his service. The honors a man
of quality received did not enrich him, for he paid for them out of his
purse. I sold an estate for every grade I received; the title of
colonel-general of the Swiss cost me four hundred thousand crowns,
and at the baptism of the present King I had to buy a costume that
cost me a hundred thousand francs."
"Ah!" said the mistress of the house, smiling, "you must acknowledge for
once that you were not obliged to do that. We have all heard of your
splendid dress of pearls; but I should be much vexed were it still the
custom to wear such."
"Oh, Madame la Marquise, do not fear, those times of magnificence never
will return. We committed follies, no doubt, but they proved our
independence; it is clear that it would then have been hard to convert
from their allegiance to the King adherents who were attached to him by
love alone, and whose coronets contained as many diamonds as his own
locked-up crown. It is also certain that ambition could not then attack
all classes, since such expenses could come only from rich hands, and
since gold comes only from mines. Those great houses, which are being so
furiously assailed, were not ambitious, and frequently, desiring no
employment from the Government, maintained their places at court by their
own weight, existed upon their own foundation, and might say, as one of
them did say, 'The Prince condescends not; I am Rohan.' It was the same
with every noble family, to which its own nobility sufficed; the King
himself expressed it in writing to one of my friends: 'Money is not a
common thing between gentlemen like you and me.'"
"But, Monsieur le Marechal," coldly, and with extreme politeness,
interrupted M. de Launay, who perhaps intended to anger him, "this
independence has produced as many civil wars and revolts as those of
Monsieur de Montmorency."
"Monsieur! I can not consent to hear these things spoken," said the
fiery Marechal, leaping up in his armchair. "Those revolts and wars had
nothing to do with the fundamental laws of the State, and could no more
have overturned the throne than a duel could have done so. Of all the
great party-chiefs, there was not one who would not have laid his victory
at the feet of the King, had he succeeded, knowing well that all the
other lords who were as great as himself would have abandoned the enemy
of the legitimate sovereign. Arms were taken against a faction, and not
against the sovereign authority; and, this destroyed, everything went on
again in the old way. But what have you done in crushing us? You have
crushed the arm of the throne, and have not put anything in its place.
Yes, I no longer doubt that the Cardinal-Duke will wholly accomplish his
design; the great nobility will leave and lose their lands, and, ceasing
to be great proprietors, they will cease to be a great power. The court
is already no more than a palace where people beg; by and by it will
become an antechamber, when it will be composed only of those who
constitute the suite of the King. Great names will begin by ennobling
vile offices; but, by a terrible reaction, those offices will end by
rendering great names vile. Estranged from their homes, the nobility
will be dependent upon the employments which they shall have received;
and if the people, over whom they will no longer have any influence,
choose to revolt--"
"How gloomy you are to-day, Marechal!" interrupted the Marquise; "I hope
that neither I nor my children will ever see that time. I no longer
perceive your cheerful disposition, now that you talk like a politician.
I expected to hear you give advice to my son. Henri, what troubles you?
You seem very absent."
Cinq-Mars, with eyes fixed upon the, great bay window of the dining-room,
looked sorrowfully upon the magnificent landscape. The sun shone in full
splendor, and colored the sands of the Loire, the trees, and the lawns
with gold and emerald. The sky was azure, the waves were of a
transparent yellow, the islets of a vivid green; behind their rounded
outlines rose the great sails of the merchant-vessels, like a fleet in
"O Nature, Nature!" he mused; "beautiful Nature, farewell! Soon will my
heart cease to be of simplicity enough to feel your charm, soon you wall
no longer please my eyes. This heart is already burned by a deep
passion; and the mention of the interests of men stirs it with hitherto
unknown agitation. I must, however, enter this labyrinth; I may,
perchance, lose myself there, but for Marie--"
At this moment, aroused by the words of his mother, and fearing to
exhibit a childish regret at leaving his beautiful country and his
family, he said:
"I am thinking, Madame, of the road which I shall take to Perpignan, and
also of that which shall bring me back to you."
"Do not forget to take that of Poitiers, and to go to Loudun to see your
old tutor, our good Abbe Quillet; he will give you useful advice about
the court. He is on very good terms with the Duc de Bouillon; and
besides, though he may not be very necessary to you, it is a mark of
deference which you owe him."
"Is it, then, to the siege of Perpignan that you are going, my boy?"
asked the old Marechal, who began to think that he had been silent a long
time. "Ah! it is well for you. Plague upon it! a siege! 'tis an
excellent opening. I would have given much had I been able to assist the
late King at a siege, upon my arrival in his court; it would have been
better to be disembowelled then than at a tourney, as I was. But we were
at peace; and I was compelled to go and shoot the Turks with the Rosworm
of the Hungarians, in order that I might not afflict my family by my
idleness. For the rest, may his Majesty receive you as kindly as his
father received me! It is true that the King is good and brave; but they
have unfortunately taught him that cold Spanish etiquette which arrests
all the impulses of the heart. He restrains himself and others by an
immovable presence and an icy look; as for me, I confess that I am always
waiting for the moment of thaw, but in vain. We were accustomed to other
manners from the witty and simple-hearted Henri; and we were at least
free to tell him that we loved him."
Cinq-Mars, with eyes fixed upon those of Bassompierre, as if to force
himself to attend to his discourse, asked him what was the manner of the
late king in conversation.
"Lively and frank," said he. "Some time after my arrival in France, I
played with him and with the Duchesse de Beaufort at Fontainebleau; for
he wished, he said, to win my gold-pieces, my fine Portugal money. He
asked me the reason why I came into this country. 'Truly, Sire,' said I,
frankly, 'I came with no intention of enlisting myself in your service,
but only to pass some time at your court, and afterward at that of
Spain; but you have charmed me so much that, instead of going farther, if
you desire my service, I will devote myself to you till death.' Then he
embraced me, and assured me that I could not find a better master, or one
who would love me more. Alas! I have found it so. And for my part, I
sacrificed everything to him, even my love; and I would have done more,
had it been possible to do more than renounce Mademoiselle de
The good Marechal had tears in his eyes; but the young Marquis d'Effiat
and the Italians, looking at one another, could not help smiling to think
that at present the Princesse de Conde was far from young and pretty.
Cinq-Mars noticed this interchange of glances, and smiled also, but
"Is it true then," he thought, "that the affections meet the same fate as
the fashions, and that the lapse of a few years can throw the same
ridicule upon a costume and upon love? Happy is he who does not outlive
his youth and his illusions, and who carries his treasures with him to
But--again, with effort breaking the melancholy course of his thoughts,
and wishing that the good Marechal should read nothing unpleasant upon
the countenances of his hosts, he said:
"People spoke, then, with much freedom to King Henri? Possibly, however,
he found it necessary to assume that tone at the beginning of his reign;
but when he was master did he change it?"
"Never! no, never, to his last day, did our great King cease to be the
same. He did not blush to be a man, and he spoke to men with force and
sensibility. Ah! I fancy I see him now, embracing the Duc de Guise in
his carriage, on the very day of his death; he had just made one of his
lively pleasantries to me, and the Duke said to him, 'You are, in my
opinion, one of the most agreeable men in the world, and destiny ordained
us for each other. For, had you been but an ordinary man, I should have
taken you into my service at whatever price; but since heaven ordained
that you should be born a great King, it is inevitable that I belong to
you.' Oh, great man!" cried Bassompierre, with tears in his eyes, and
perhaps a little excited by the frequent bumpers he had drunk, "you said
well, 'When you have lost me you will learn my value.'"
During this interlude, the guests at the table had assumed various
attitudes, according to their position in public affairs. One of the
Italians pretended to chat and laugh in a subdued manner with the young
daughter of the Marechale; the other talked to the deaf old Abbe, who,
with one hand behind his ear that he might hear, was the only one who
appeared attentive. Cinq-Mars had sunk back into his melancholy
abstraction, after throwing a glance at the Marechal, as one looks aside
after throwing a tennis-ball until its return; his elder brother did the
honors of the table with the same calm. Puy-Laurens observed the
mistress of the house with attention; he was devoted to the Duc
d'Orleans, and feared the Cardinal. As for the Marechale, she had an
anxious and afflicted air. Careless words had often recalled the death
of her husband or the departure of her son; and, oftener still, she had
feared lest Bassompierre should compromise himself. She had touched him
many times, glancing at the same time toward M. de Launay, of whom she
knew little, and whom she had reason to believe devoted to the prime
minister; but to a man of his character, such warnings were useless.
He appeared not to notice them; but, on the contrary, crushing that
gentleman with his bold glance and the sound of his voice, he affected
to turn himself toward him, and to direct all his conversation to him.
M. de Launay assumed an air of indifference and of assenting politeness,
which he preserved until the moment when the folding-doors opened, and
"Mademoiselle la Duchesse de Mantua" was announced.
The conversation which we have transcribed so lengthily passed, in
reality, with rapidity; and the repast was only half over when the
arrival of Marie de Gonzaga caused the company to rise. She was small,
but very well made, and although her eyes and hair were black, her
complexion was as dazzling as the beauty of her skin. The Marechale
arose to acknowledge her rank, and kissed her on the forehead, in
recognition of her goodness and her charming age.
"We have waited a long time for you to-day, dear Marie," she said,
placing the Duchess beside her; "fortunately, you remain with me to
replace one of my children, who is about to depart."
The young Duchess blushed, lowered her head and her eyes, in order that
no one might see their redness, and said, timidly:
"Madame, that may well be, since you have taken toward me the place of a
mother;" and a glance thrown at Cinq-Mars, at the other end of the table,
made him turn pale.
This arrival changed the conversation; it ceased to be general, and each
guest conversed in a low voice with his neighbor. The Marechal alone
continued to utter a few sentences concerning the magnificence of the old
court, his wars in Turkey, the tournaments, and the avarice of the new
court; but, to his great regret, no one made any reply, and the company
were about to leave the table, when, as the clock struck two, five horses
appeared in the courtyard. Four were mounted by servants, cloaked and
armed; the other horse, black and spirited, was held by old Grandchamp--
it was his master's steed.
"Ah!" exclaimed Bassompierre; "see, our battlehorses are saddled and
bridled. Come, young man, we must say, with our old Marot:
'Adieu la cour, adieu les dames!
Adieu les filles et les femmes!
Adieu vous dy pour quelque temps;
Adieu vos plaisans parse-temps!
Adieu le bal, adieu la dance;
Adieu mesure, adieu cadance,
Tabourins, Hautbois, Violons,
Puisqu'a la guerre nous allons!'"
These old verses and the air of the Marechal made all the guests laugh,
except three persons.
"Heavens!" he continued, "it seems to me as if, like him, I were only
seventeen years old; he will return to us covered with embroidery.
Madame, we must keep his chair vacant for him."
The Marechale suddenly grew pale, and left the table in tears; every one
rose with her; she took only two steps, and sank into another chair. Her
sons and her daughter and the young Duchess gathered anxiously around
her, and heard her say, amid the sighs and tears which she strove to
"Pardon, my friends! it is foolish of me--childish; but I am weak at
present, and am not mistress of myself. We were thirteen at table; and
you, my dear Duchess, were the cause of it. But it is very wrong of me
to show so much weakness before him. Farewell, my child; give me your
forehead to kiss, and may God conduct you! Be worthy of your name and of
Then, as Homer says, "smiling under tears," she raised herself, pushed
her son from her, and said:
"Come, let me see you on horseback, fair sir!"
The silent traveller kissed the hands of his mother, and made a low bow
to her; he bowed also to the Duchess, without raising his eyes. Then,
embracing his elder brother, pressing the hand of the Marechal, and
kissing the forehead of his young sister almost simultaneously, he went
forth, and was on horseback in an instant. Every one went to the windows
which overlooked the court, except Madame d'Effiat, who was still seated
"He sets off at full gallop. That is a good sign," said the Marechal,
"Oh, heavens!" cried the young Princess, retiring from the bay-window.
"What is the matter?" said the mother.
"Nothing, nothing!" said M. de Launay. "Your son's horse stumbled under
the gateway; but he soon pulled him up. See, he salutes us from the
"Another ominous presage!" said the Marquise, upon retiring to her
Every one imitated her by being silent or speaking low.
The day was sad, and in the evening the supper was silent at the chateau
At ten o'clock that evening, the old Marechal, conducted by his valet,
retired to the northern tower near the gateway, and opposite the river.
The heat was extreme; he opened the window, and, enveloping himself in
his great silk robe, placed a heavy candlestick upon the table and
desired to be left alone. His window looked out upon the plain, which
the moon, in her first quarter, indistinctly lighted; the sky was charged
with thick clouds, and all things disposed the mind to melancholy.
Although Bassompierre had nothing of the dreamer in his character, the
tone which the conversation had taken at dinner returned to his memory,
and he reconsidered his life, the sad changes which the new reign had
wrought in it, a reign which seemed to have breathed upon him a wind of
misfortune--the death of a cherished sister; the irregularities of the
heir of his name; the loss of his lands and of his favor; the recent fate
of his friend, the Marechal d'Effiat, whose chambers he now occupied.
All these thoughts drew from him an involuntary sigh, and he went to the
window to breathe.
At that moment he fancied he heard the tramp of a troop of horse at the
side of the wood; but the wind rising made him think that he had been
mistaken, and, as the noise suddenly ceased, he forgot it. He still
watched for some time all the lights of the chateau, which were
successively extinguished, after winding among the windows of the
staircases and rambling about the courtyards and the stables. Then,
leaning back in his great tapestried armchair, his elbow resting on the
table, he abandoned himself to his reflections. After a while, drawing
from his breast a medallion which hung concealed, suspended by a black
ribbon, he said:
"Come, my good old master, talk with me as you have so often talked;
come, great King, forget your court for the smile of a true friend;
come, great man, consult me concerning ambitious Austria; come,
inconstant chevalier, speak to me of the lightness of thy love, and of
the fidelity of thine inconstancy; come, heroic soldier, complain to me
again that I obscure you in combat. Ah, had I only done it in Paris!
Had I only received thy wound? With thy blood the world has lost the
benefits of thine interrupted reign--"
The tears of the Marechal obscured the glass that covered the large
medallion, and he was effacing them with respectful kisses, when, his
door being roughly opened, he quickly drew his sword.
"Who goes there?" he cried, in his surprise, which was much increased
when he saw M. de Launay, who, hat in hand, advanced toward him, and said
to him, with embarrassment:
"Monsieur, it is with a heart pierced with grief that I am forced to tell
you that the King has commanded me to arrest you. A carriage awaits you
at the gate, attended by thirty of the Cardinal-Duke's musketeers."
Bassompierre had not risen: and he still held the medallion in his right
hand, and the sword in the other. He tendered it disdainfully to this
"Monsieur, I know that I have lived too long, and it is that of which I
was thinking; in the name of the great Henri, I restore this sword
peacefully to his son. Follow me."
He accompanied these words with a look so firm that De Launay was
depressed, and followed him with drooping head, as if he had himself been
arrested by the noble old man, who, seizing a flambeau, issued from the
court and found all the doors opened by horse-guards, who had terrified
the people of the chateau in the name of the King, and commanded silence.
The carriage was ready, and departed rapidly, followed by many horses.
The Marechal, seated beside M. de Launay, was about to fall asleep,
rocked by the movement of the vehicle, when a voice cried to the driver,
"Stop!" and, as he continued, a pistol-shot followed. The horses
"I declare, Monsieur, that this is done without my participation," said
Bassompierre. Then, putting his head out at the door, he saw that they
were in a little wood, and that the road was too narrow to allow the,
horses to pass to either the right or the left of the carriage--a great
advantage for the aggressors, since the musketeers could not advance. He
tried to see what was going on when a cavalier, having in his hand a long
sword, with which he parried the strokes of the guard, approached the
"Come, come, Monsieur le Marechal!"
"What! is that you, you madcap, Henri, who are playing these pranks?
Gentlemen, let him alone; he is a mere boy."
And, as De Launay called to the musketeers to cease, Bassompierre
recognized the cavalier.
"And how the devil came you here?" cried Bassompierre. "I thought you
were at Tours, or even farther, if you had done your duty; but here you
are returned to make a fool of yourself."
"Truly, it was not for you I returned, but for a secret affair," said
Cinq-Mars, in a lower tone; "but, as I take it, they are about to
introduce you to the Bastille, and I am sure you will not betray me, for
that delightful edifice is the very Temple of Discretion. Yet had you
thought fit," he continued, aloud, "I should have released you from these
gentlemen in the wood here, which is so dense that their horses would not
have been able to stir. A peasant informed me of the insult passed upon
us, more than upon you, by this violation of my father's house."
"It is the King's order, my boy, and we must respect his will; reserve
your ardor for his service, though I thank you with all my heart. Now
farewell, and let me proceed on my agreeable journey."
De Launay interposed, "I may inform you, Monsieur de Cinq-Mars, that I
have been desired by the King himself to assure Monsieur le Marechal,
that he is deeply afflicted at the step he has found it necessary to
take, and that it is solely from an apprehension that Monsieur
le Marechal may be led into evil that his Majesty requests him to
remain for a few days in the Bastille."--[He remained there twelve
Bassompierre turned his head toward Cinq-Mars with a hearty laugh. "You
see, my friend, how we young men are placed under guardianship; so take
care of yourself."
"I will go, then," said Henri; "this is the last time I shall play the
knight-errant for any one against his will;" and, reentering the wood as
the carriage dashed off at full speed, he proceeded by narrow paths
toward the castle, followed at a short distance by Grandchamp and his
On arriving at the foot of the western tower, he reined in his horse.
He did not alight, but, approaching so near the wall that he could rest
his foot upon an abutment, he stood up, and raised the blind of a window
on the ground-floor, made in the form of a portcullis, such as is still
seen on some ancient buildings.
It was now past midnight, and the moon was hidden behind the clouds. No
one but a member of the family could have found his way through darkness
so profound. The towers and the roof formed one dark mass, which stood
out in indistinct relief against the sky, hardly less dark; no light
shone throughout the chateau, wherein all inmates seemed buried in
slumber. Cinq-Mars, enveloped in a large cloak, his face hidden under
the broad brim of his hat, awaited in suspense a reply to his signal.
It came; a soft voice was heard from within:
"Is that you, Monsieur Cinq-Mars?"
"Alas, who else should it be? Who else would return like a criminal to
his paternal house, without entering it, without bidding one more adieu
to his mother? Who else would return to complain of the present, without
a hope for the future, but I?"
The gentle voice replied, but its tones were agitated, and evidently
accompanied with tears: "Alas! Henri, of what do you complain? Have I
not already done more, far more than I ought? It is not my fault, but my
misfortune, that my father was a sovereign prince. Can one choose one's
birthplace or one's rank, and say for example, 'I will be a shepherdess?'
How unhappy is the lot of princesses! From the cradle, the sentiments of
the heart are prohibited to them; and when they have advanced beyond
childhood, they are ceded like a town, and must not even weep. Since I
have known you, what have I not done to bring my future life within the
reach of happiness, in removing it far from a throne? For two years I
have struggled in vain, at once against my evil fortune, that separates
me from you, and against you, who estrange me from the duty I owe to my
family. I have sought to spread a belief that I was dead; I have almost
longed for revolutions. I should have blessed a change which deprived me
of my rank, as I thanked Heaven when my father was dethroned; but the
court wonders at my absence; the Queen requires me to attend her. Our
dreams are at an end, Henri; we have already slumbered too long. Let us
awake, be courageous, and think no more of those dear two years--forget
all in the one recollection of our great resolve. Have but one thought;
be ambitious for--be ambitious--for my sake."
"Must we, then, indeed, forget all, Marie?" murmured Cinq-Mars.
"Yes, forget all--that I myself have forgotten." Then, after a moment's
pause, she continued with earnestness: "Yes, forget our happy days
together, our long evenings, even our walks by the lake and through the
wood; but keep the future ever in mind. Go, Henri; your father was
Marechal. Be you more; be you Constable, Prince. Go; you are young,
noble, rich, brave, beloved--"
"Beloved forever?" said Henri.
"Forever; for life and for eternity."
Cinq-Mars, tremulously extending his hand to the window, exclaimed:
"I swear, Marie, by the Virgin, whose name you bear, that you shall be
mine, or my head shall fall on the scaffold!"
"Oh, Heaven! what is it you say?" she cried, seizing his hand in her
own. "Swear to me that you will share in no guilty deeds; that you will
never forget that the King of France is your master. Love him above all,
next to her who will sacrifice all for you, who will await you amid
suffering and sorrow. Take this little gold cross and wear it upon your
heart; it has often been wet with my tears, and those tears will flow
still more bitterly if ever you are faithless to the King. Give me the
ring I see on your finger. Oh, heavens, my hand and yours are red with
"Oh, only a scratch. Did you hear nothing, an hour ago?"
"No; but listen. Do you hear anything now?"
"No, Marie, nothing but some bird of night on the tower."
"I heard whispering near us, I am sure. But whence comes this blood?
Tell me, and then depart."
"Yes, I will go, while the clouds are still dark above us. Farewell,
sweet soul; in my hour of danger I will invoke thee as a guardian angel.
Love has infused the burning poison of ambition into my soul, and for the
first time I feel that ambition may be ennobled by its aim. Farewell!
I go to accomplish my destiny."
"And forget not mine."
"Can they ever be separated?"
"Never!" exclaimed Marie, "but by death."
"I fear absence still more," said Cinq-Mars.
"Farewell! I tremble; farewell!" repeated the beloved voice, and the
window was slowly drawn down, the clasped hands not parting till the last
The black horse had all the while been pawing the earth, tossing his head
with impatience, and whinnying. Cinq-Mars, as agitated and restless as
his steed, gave it the rein; and the whole party was soon near the city
of Tours, which the bells of St. Gatien had announced from afar. To the
disappointment of old Grandchamp, Cinq-Mars would not enter the town, but
proceeded on his way, and five days later he entered, with his escort,
the old city of Loudun in Poitou, after an uneventful journey.
Je m'avancais d'un pas penible et mal assure vers le but
de ce convoi tragique.--NODIER, 'Smarra'.
The reign of which we are about to paint a few years--a reign of
feebleness, which was like an eclipse of the crown between the splendors
of Henri IV and those of Louis le Grand--afflicts the eyes which
contemplate it with dark stains of blood, and these were not all the work
of one man, but were caused by great and grave bodies. It is melancholy
to observe that in this age, still full of disorder, the clergy, like a
nation, had its populace, as it had its nobility, its ignorant and its
criminal prelates, as well as those who were learned and virtuous. Since
that time, its remnant of barbarism has been refined away by the long
reign of Louis XIV, and its corruptions have been washed out in the blood
of the martyrs whom it offered up to the revolution of 1793.
We felt it necessary to pause for a moment to express this reflection
before entering upon the recital of the facts presented by the history of
this period, and to intimate that, notwithstanding this consolatory
reflection, we have found it incumbent upon us to pass over many details
too odious to occupy a place in our pages, sighing in spirit at those
guilty acts which it was necessary to record, as in relating the life of
a virtuous old man, we should lament over the impetuosities of his
passionate youth, or over the corrupt tendencies of his riper age.
When the cavalcade entered the narrow streets of Loudun, they heard
strange noises all around them. The streets were filled with agitated
masses; the bells of the church and of the convent were ringing
furiously, as if the town was in flames; and the whole population,
without paying any attention to the travellers, was pressing tumultuously
toward a large edifice that adjoined the church. Here and there dense
crowds were collected, listening in silence to some voice that seemed
raised in exhortation, or engaged in emphatic reading; then, furious
cries, mingled with pious exclamations, arose from the crowd, which,
dispersing, showed the travellers that the orator was some Capuchin or
Franciscan friar, who, holding a wooden crucifix in one hand, pointed
with the other to the large building which was attracting such universal
"Jesu Maria!" exclaimed an old woman, "who would ever have thought that
the Evil Spirit would choose our old town for his abode?"
"Ay, or that the pious Ursulines should be possessed?" said another.
"They say that the demon who torments the Superior is called Legion,"
cried a third:
"One demon, say you?" interrupted a nun; "there were seven in her poor
body, whereunto, doubtless, she had attached too much importance, by
reason of its great beauty, though now 'tis but the receptacle of evil
spirits. The prior of the Carmelites yesterday expelled the demon Eazas
through her mouth; and the reverend Father Lactantius has driven out in
like manner the demon Beherit. But the other five will not depart, and
when the holy exorcists (whom Heaven support!) summoned them in Latin to
withdraw, they replied insolently that they would not go till they had
proved their power, to the conviction even of the Huguenots and heretics,
who, misbelieving wretches! seem to doubt it. The demon Elimi, the
worst of them all, as you know, has threatened to take off Monsieur de
Laubardemont's skull-cap to-day, and to dangle it in the air at
"Holy Virgin!" rejoined the first speaker, "I'm all of a tremble! And
to think that many times I have got this magician Urbain to say masses
"For myself," exclaimed a girl, crossing herself; "I too confessed to him
ten months ago! No doubt I should have been possessed myself, but for
the relic of Saint-Genevieve I luckily had about me, and--"
"Luckily, indeed, Martine," interposed a fat gossip; "for--no offence!--
you, as I remember, were long enough with the handsome sorcerer."
"Pshaw!" said a young soldier, who had joined the group, smoking his
pipe, "don't you know that pretty Martine was dispossessed a month ago."
The girl blushed, and drew the hood of her black cloak over her face.
The elder gossips cast a glance of indignation at the reckless trooper,
and finding themselves now close to the door of the building, and thus
sure of making their way in among the first when it should be thrown
open, sat down upon the stone bench at the side, and, talking of the
latest wonders, raised the expectations of all as to the delight they
were about to have in being spectators of something marvellous--an
apparition, perhaps, but at the very least, an administration of the
"Is it true, aunt," asked Martine of the eldest gossip, "that you have
heard the demons speak?"
"Yes, child, true as I see you; many and many can say the same; and it
was to convince you of it I brought you with me here, that you may see
the power of the Evil One."
"What kind of voice has he?" continued the girl, glad to encourage a
conversation which diverted from herself the invidious attention procured
her by the soldier's raillery.
"Oh, he speaks with a voice like that of the Superior herself, to whom
Our Lady be gracious! Poor young woman! I was with her yesterday a long
time; it was sad to see her tearing her breast, turning her arms and her
legs first one way and then another, and then, all of a sudden, twisting
them together behind her back. When the holy Father Lactantius
pronounced the name of Urbain Grandier, foam came out of her mouth, and
she talked Latin for all the world as if she were reading the Bible. Of
course, I did not understand what she said, and all I can remember of it
now is, 'Urbanus Magicus rosas diabolica,' which they tell me means that
the magician Urbain had bewitched her with some roses the Devil had given
him; and so it must have been, for while Father Lactantius spoke, out of
her ears and neck came a quantity of flame-colored roses, all smelling of
sulphur so strongly that the judge-Advocate called out for every one
present to stop their noses and eyes, for that the demons were about to
"Ah, look there now!" exclaimed with shrill voices and a triumphant air
the whole bevy of assembled women, turning toward the crowd, and more
particularly toward a group of men attired in black, among whom was
standing the young soldier who had cut his joke just before so
"Listen to the noisy old idiots!" exclaimed the soldier. "They think
they're at the witches' Sabbath, but I don't see their broomsticks."
"Young man, young man!" said a citizen, with a sad air, "jest not upon
such subjects in the open air, or, in such a time as this, the wind may
become gushing flames and destroy you."
"Pooh! I laugh at your exorcists!" returned the soldier; "my name is
Grand-Ferre, and I've got here a better exorciser than any of you can
And significantly grasping the handle of his rapier in one hand, with the
other he twisted up his blond moustache, as he looked fiercely around;
but meeting no glance which returned the defiance of his own, he slowly
withdrew, left foot foremost, and strolled along the dark, narrow streets
with all the reckless nonchalance of a young soldier who has just donned
his uniform, and a profound contempt for all who wear not a military
In the meantime eight or ten of the more substantial and rational
inhabitants traversed in a body, slowly and silently, the agitated
throng; they seemed overwhelmed with amazement and distress at the
agitation and excitement they witnessed everywhere, and as each new
instance of the popular frenzy appeared, they exchanged glances of wonder
and apprehension. Their mute depression communicated itself to the
working-people, and to the peasants who had flocked in from the adjacent
country, and who, all sought a guide for their opinions in the faces of
the principal townsmen, also for the most part proprietors of the
surrounding districts. They saw that something calamitous was on foot,
and resorted accordingly to the only remedy open to the ignorant and the
Yet, in the character of the French peasant is a certain scoffing finesse
of which he makes effective use, sometimes with his equals, and almost
invariably with his superiors. He puts questions to power as
embarrassing as are those which infancy puts to mature age. He affects
excessive humility, in order to confuse him whom he addresses with the
very height of his isolated elevation. He exaggerates the awkwardness of
his manner and the rudeness of his speech, as a means of covering his
real thoughts under the appearance of mere uncouthness; yet, despite all
his self-command, there is something in his air, certain fierce
expressions which betray him to the close observer, who discerns in his
sardonic smile, and in the marked emphasis with which he leans on his
long staff, the hopes that secretly nourish his soul, and the aid upon
which he ultimately relies.
One of the oldest of the peasants whom we have indicated came on
vigorously, followed by ten or twelve young men, his sons and nephews,
all wearing the broad-brimmed hat and the blue frock or blouse of the
ancient Gauls, which the peasants of France still wear over their other
garments, as peculiarly adapted to their humid climate and their
When the old man had reached the group of personages of whom we have just
spoken, he took off his hat--an example immediately followed by his whole
family--and showed a face tanned with exposure to the weather, a forehead
bald and wrinkled with age, and long, white hair. His shoulders were
bent with years and labor, but he was still a hale and sturdy man. He
was received with an air of welcome, and even of respect, by one of the
gravest of the grave group he had approached, who, without uncovering,
however, extended to him his hand.
"What! good Father Guillaume Leroux!" said he, "and have you, too, left
our farm of La Chenaie to visit the town, when it's not market-day? Why,
'tis as if your oxen were to unharness themselves and go hunting, leaving
their work to see a poor rabbit run down!"
"Faith, Monsieur le Comte du Lude," replied the farmer, "for that matter,
sometimes the rabbit runs across our path of itself; but, in truth, I've
a notion that some of the people here want to make fools of us, and so
I've come to see about it."
"Enough of that, my friend," returned the Count; "here is Monsieur
Fournier, the Advocate, who assuredly will not deceive you, for he
resigned his office of Attorney-General last night, that he might
henceforth devote his eloquence to the service of his own noble thoughts.
You will hear him, perhaps, to-day, though truly, I dread his appearing
for his own sake as much as I desire it for that of the accused."
"I care not for myself," said Fournier; "truth is with me a passion, and
I would have it taught in all times and all places."
He that spoke was a young man, whose face, pallid in the extreme, was
full of the noblest expression. His blond hair, his light-blue eyes, his
thinness, the delicacy of his frame, made him at first sight seem younger
than he was; but his thoughtful and earnest countenance indicated that
mental superiority and that precocious maturity of soul which are
developed by deep study in youth, combined with natural energy of
character. He was attired wholly in black, with a short cloak in the
fashion of the day, and carried under his left arm a roll of documents,
which, when speaking, he would take in the right hand and grasp
convulsively, as a warrior in his anger grasps the pommel of his sword.
At one moment it seemed as if he were about to unfurl the scroll, and
from it hurl lightning upon those whom he pursued with looks of fiery
indignation--three Capuchins and a Franciscan, who had just passed.
"Pere Guillaume," pursued M. du Lude, "how is it you have brought with
you only your sons, and they armed with their staves?"
"Faith, Monsieur, I have no desire that our girls should learn to dance
of the nuns; and, moreover, just now the lads with their staves may
bestir themselves to better purpose than their sisters would."
"Take my advice, my old friend," said the Count, "and don't bestir
yourselves at all; rather stand quietly aside to view the procession
which you see approaching, and remember that you are seventy years old."
"Ah!" murmured the old man, drawing up his twelve sons in double
military rank, "I fought under good King Henriot, and can play at sword
and pistol as well as the worthy 'ligueurs';" and shaking his head he
leaned against a post, his knotty staff between his crossed legs, his
hands clasped on its thick butt-end, and his white, bearded chin resting
on his hands. Then, half closing his eyes, he appeared lost in
recollections of his youth.
The bystanders observed with interest his dress, slashed in the fashion
of Henri IV, and his resemblance to the Bearnese monarch in the latter
years of his life, though the King's hair had been prevented by the
assassin's blade from acquiring the whiteness which that of the old
peasant had peacefully attained. A furious pealing of the bells,
however, attracted the general attention to the end of the great street,
down which was seen filing a long procession, whose banners and
glittering pikes rose above the heads of the crowd, which successively
and in silence opened a way for the at once absurd and terrible train.
First, two and two, came a body of archers, with pointed beards and large
plumed hats, armed with long halberds, who, ranging in a single file on
each side of the middle of the street, formed an avenue along which
marched in solemn order a procession of Gray Penitents--men attired in
long, gray robes, the hoods of which entirely covered their heads; masks
of the same stuff terminated below their chins in points, like beards,
each having three holes for the eyes and nose. Even at the present day
we see these costumes at funerals, more especially in the Pyrenees. The
Penitents of Loudun carried enormous wax candles, and their slow, uniform
movement, and their eyes, which seemed to glitter under their masks, gave
them the appearance of phantoms.
The people expressed their various feelings in an undertone:
"There's many a rascal hidden under those masks," said a citizen.
"Ay, and with a face uglier than the mask itself," added a young man.
"They make me afraid," tremulously exclaimed a girl.
"I'm only afraid for my purse," said the first speaker.
"Ah, heaven! there are our holy brethren, the Penitents," cried an old
woman, throwing back her hood, the better to look at them. "See the
banner they bear! Ah, neighbors, 'tis a joyful thing to have it among
us! Beyond a doubt it will save us; see, it shows the devil in flames,
and a monk fastening a chain round his neck, to keep him in hell. Ah,
here come the judges--noble gentlemen! dear gentlemen! Look at their
red robes; how beautiful! Blessed be the Virgin, they've been well
"Every man of them is a personal enemy of the Cure," whispered the Count
du Lude to the advocate Fournier, who took a note of the information.
"Don't you know them, neighbors?" pursued the shrill, sharp voice of the
old woman, as she elbowed one and pinched another of those near her to
attract their attention to the objects of her admiration; "see, there's
excellent Monsieur Mignon, whispering to Messieurs the Counsellors of the
Court of Poitiers; Heaven bless them all, say I!"
"Yes, there are Roatin, Richard, and Chevalier--the very men who tried to
have him dismissed a year ago," continued M. du Lude, in undertones, to
the young advocate, who, surrounded and hidden from public observation by
the group of dark-clad citizens, was writing down his observations in a
note-book under his cloak.
"Here; look, look!" screamed the woman. "Make way! here's Monsieur
Barre, the Cure of Saint-Jacques at Chinon."
"A saint!" murmured one bystander.
"A hypocrite!" exclaimed a manly voice.
"See how thin he is with fasting!"
"See how pale he is with remorse!"
"He's the man to drive away devils!"
"Yes, but not till he's done with them for his own purposes."
The dialogue was interrupted by the general exclamation, "How beautiful
The Superior of the Ursulines advanced, followed by all her nuns. Her
white veil was raised; in order that the people might see the features of
the possessed ones, it had been ordered that it should be thus with her
and six of the sisterhood. Her attire had no distinguishing feature,
except a large rosary extending from her neck nearly to her feet, from
which hung a gold cross; but the dazzling pallor of her face, rendered
still more conspicuous by the dark hue of her capuchon, at once fixed the
general gaze upon her. Her brilliant, dark eyes, which bore the impress
of some deep and burning passion, were crowned with eyebrows so perfectly
arched that Nature herself seemed to have taken as much pains to form
them as the Circassian women to pencil theirs artistically; but between
them a slight fold revealed the powerful agitation within. In her
movements, however, and throughout her whole bearing, she affected
perfect calm; her steps were slow and measured, and her beautiful hands
were crossed on her bosom, as white and motionless as those of the marble
statues joined in eternal prayer.
"See, aunt," ejaculated Martine, "see how Sister Agnes and Sister Claire
are weeping, next to the Superior!"
"Ay, niece, they weep because they are the prey of the demon."
"Or rather," interposed the same manly voice that spoke before, "because
they repent of having mocked Heaven."
A deep silence now pervaded the multitude; not a word was heard, not a
movement, hardly a breath. Every one seemed paralyzed by some sudden
enchantment, when, following the nuns, among four Penitents who held him
in chains, appeared the Cure of the Church of Ste. Croix, attired in his
pastor's robe. His was a noble, fine face, with grandeur in its whole
expression, and gentleness in every feature. Affecting no scornful
indifference to his position, he looked calmly and kindly around, as if
he sought on his dark path the affectionate glances of those who loved
him. Nor did he seek in vain; here and there he encountered those
glances, and joyfully returned them. He even heard sobs, and he saw
hands extended toward him, many of which grasped weapons. But no gesture
of his encouraged these mute offers of aid; he lowered his eyes and went
on, careful not to compromise those who so trusted in him, or to involve
them in his own misfortunes. This was Urbain Grandier.
Suddenly the procession stopped, at a sign from the man who walked apart,
and who seemed to command its progress. He was tall, thin, sallow; he
wore a long black robe, with a cap of the same material and color; he had
the face of a Don Basilio, with the eye of Nero. He motioned the guards
to surround him more closely, when he saw with affright the dark group we
have mentioned, and the strong-limbed and resolute peasants who seemed in
attendance upon them. Then, advancing somewhat before the Canons and
Capuchins who were with him, he pronounced, in a shrill voice, this
"We, Sieur de Laubardemont, referendary, being delegated and
invested with discretionary power in the matter of the trial of the
magician Urbain Grandier, upon the various articles of accusation
brought against him, assisted by the reverend Fathers Mignon, canon,
Barre, cure of St. Jacques at Chinon, Father Lactantius, and all the
other judges appointed to try the said magician, have decreed as
"Primo: the factitious assembly of proprietors, noble citizens of
this town and its environs, is dissolved, as tending to popular
sedition; its proceedings are declared null, and its letter to the
King, against us, the judges, which has been intercepted, shall be
publicly burned in the marketplace as calumniating the good
Ursulines and the reverend fathers and judges.
"Secundo: it is forbidden to say, publicly or in private, that the
said nuns are not possessed by the Evil Spirit, or to doubt of the
power of the exorcists, under pain of a fine of twenty thousand
livres, and corporal punishment.
"Let the bailiffs and sheriffs obey this. Given the eighteenth of
June, in the year of grace 1639."
Before he had well finished reading the decree, the discordant blare of
trumpets, bursting forth at a prearranged signal, drowned, to a certain
extent, the murmurs that followed its proclamation, amid which
Laubardemont urged forward the procession, which entered the great
building already referred to--an ancient convent, whose interior had
crumbled away, its walls now forming one vast hall, well adapted for the
purpose to which it was about to be applied. Laubardemont did not deem
himself safe until he was within the building and had heard the heavy,
double doors creak on their hinges as, closing, they excluded the furious
THE GOOD PRIEST
L'homme de paix me parla ainsi.--VICAIRE SAVOYARD.
Now that the diabolical procession is in the arena destined for its
spectacle, and is arranging its sanguinary representation, let us see
what Cinq-Mars had been doing amid the agitated throng. He was naturally
endowed with great tact, and he felt that it would be no easy matter for
him to attain his object of seeing the Abbe Quillet, at a time when
public excitement was at its height. He therefore remained on horseback
with his four servants in a small, dark street that led into the main
thoroughfare, whence he could see all that passed. No one at first paid
any attention to him; but when public curiosity had no other aliment,
he became an object of general interest. Weary of so many strange
scenes, the inhabitants looked upon him with some exasperation, and
whispered to one another, asking whether this was another exorcist come
among them. Feeling that it was time to take a decided course, he
advanced with his attendants, hat in hand, toward the group in black of
whom we have spoken, and addressing him who appeared its chief member,
said, "Monsieur, where can I find Monsieur l'Abbe Quillet?"
At this name, all regarded him with an air of terror, as if he had
pronounced that of Lucifer. Yet no anger was shown; on the contrary, it
seemed that the question had favorably changed for him the minds of all
who heard him. Moreover, chance had served him well in his choice; the
Comte du Lude came up to his horse, and saluting him, said, "Dismount,
Monsieur, and I will give you some useful information concerning him."
After speaking a while in whispers, the two gentlemen separated with all
the ceremonious courtesy of the time. Cinq-Mars remounted his black
horse, and passing through numerous narrow streets, was soon out of the
crowd with his retinue.
"How happy I am!" he soliloquized, as he went his way; "I shall, at all
events, for a moment see the good and kind clergyman who brought me up;
even now I recall his features, his calm air, his voice so full of
As these tender thoughts filled his mind, he found himself in the small,
dark street which had been indicated to him; it was so narrow that the
knee-pieces of his boots touched the wall on each side. At the end of
the street he came to a one-storied wooden house, and in his eagerness
knocked at the door with repeated strokes.
"Who is there?" cried a furious voice within; and at the same moment,
the door opening revealed a little short, fat man, with a very red face,
dressed in black, with a large white ruff, and riding-boots which
engulfed his short legs in their vast depths. In his hands were a pair
"I will sell my life dearly!" he cried; "and--"
"Softly, Abbe, softly," said his pupil, taking his arm; "we are friends."
"Ah, my son, is it you?" said the good man, letting fall his pistols,
which were picked up by a domestic, also armed to the teeth. "What do
you here? The abomination has entered the town, and I only await the
night to depart. Make haste within, my dear boy, with your people. I
took you for the archers of Laubardemont, and, faith, I intended to take
a part somewhat out of my line. You see the horses in the courtyard
there; they will convey me to Italy, where I shall rejoin our friend, the
Duc de Bouillon. Jean! Jean! hasten and close the great gate after
Monsieur's domestics, and recommend them not to make too much noise,
although for that matter we have no habitation near us."
Grandchamp obeyed the intrepid little Abbe, who then embraced Cinq-Mars
four consecutive times, raising himself on the points of his boots, so as
to attain the middle of his pupil's breast. He then hurried him into a
small room, which looked like a deserted granary; and seating him beside
himself upon a black leather trunk, he said, warmly:
"Well, my son, whither go you? How came Madame la Marechale to allow you
to come here? Do you not see what they are doing against an unhappy man,
whose death alone will content them? Alas, merciful Heaven! is this the
first spectacle my dear pupil is to see? And you at that delightful
period of life when friendship, love, confidence, should alone encompass
you; when all around you should give you a favorable opinion of your
species, at your very entry into the great world! How unfortunate!
alas, why did you come?"
When the good Abbe had followed up this lamentation by pressing
affectionately both hands of the young traveller in his own, so red and
wrinkled, the latter answered:
"Can you not guess, my dear Abbe, that I came to Loudun because you are
here? As to the spectacle you speak of, it appears to me simply
ridiculous; and I swear that I do not a whit the less on its account love
that human race of which your virtues and your good lessons have given me
an excellent idea. As to the five or six mad women who--"
"Let us not lose time; I will explain to you all that matter; but answer
me, whither go you, and for what?"
"I am going to Perpignan, where the Cardinal-Duke is to present me to the
At this the worthy but hasty Abbe rose from his box, and walked, or
rather ran, to and fro, stamping. "The Cardinal! the Cardinal!" he
repeated, almost choking, his face becoming scarlet, and the tears rising
to his eyes; "My poor child! they will destroy him! Ah, mon Dieu! what
part would they have him play there? What would they do with him? Ah,
who will protect thee, my son, in that dangerous place?" he continued,
reseating himself, and again taking his pupil's hands in his own with a
paternal solicitude, as he endeavored to read his thoughts in his
"Why, I do not exactly know," said Cinq-Mars, looking up at the ceiling;
"but I suppose it will be the Cardinal de Richelieu, who was the friend
of my father."
"Ah, my dear Henri, you make me tremble; he will ruin you unless you
become his docile instrument. Alas, why can not I go with you? Why must
I act the young man of twenty in this unfortunate affair? Alas, I should
be perilous to you; I must, on the contrary, conceal myself. But you
will have Monsieur de Thou near you, my son, will you not?" said he,
trying to reassure himself; "he was your friend in childhood, though
somewhat older than yourself. Heed his counsels, my child, he is a wise
young man of mature reflection and solid ideas."
"Oh, yes, my dear Abbe, you may depend upon my tender attachment for him;
I never have ceased to love him."
"But you have ceased to write to him, have you not?" asked the good
Abbe, half smilingly.
"I beg your pardon, my dear Abbe, I wrote to him once, and again
yesterday, to inform him that the Cardinal has invited me to court."
"How! has he himself desired your presence?"
Cinq-Mars hereupon showed the letter of the Cardinal-Duke to his mother,
and his old preceptor grew gradually calmer.
"Ah, well!" said he to himself, "this is not so bad, perhaps, after all.
It looks promising; a captain of the guards at twenty--that sounds well!"
and the worthy Abbe's face became all smiles.
The young man, delighted to see these smiles, which so harmonized with
his own thoughts, fell upon the neck of the Abbe and embraced him, as if
the good man had thus assured to him a futurity of pleasure, glory, and
But the good Abbe, with difficulty disengaging himself from this warm
embrace, resumed his walk, his reflections, and his gravity. He coughed
often and shook his head; and Cinq-Mars, not venturing to pursue the
conversation, watched him, and became sad as he saw him become serious.
The old man at last sat down, and in a mournful tone addressed his pupil:
"My friend, my son, I have for a moment yielded like a father to your
hopes; but I must tell you, and it is not to afflict you, that they
appear to me excessive and unnatural. If the Cardinal's sole aim were
to show attachment and gratitude toward your family, he would not have
carried his favors so far; no, the extreme probability is that he has
designs upon you. From what has been told him, he thinks you adapted to
play some part, as yet impossible for us to divine, but which he himself
has traced out in the deepest recesses of his mind. He wishes to educate
you for this; he wishes to drill you into it. Allow me the expression in
consideration of its accuracy, and think seriously of it when the time
shall come. But I am inclined to believe that, as matters are, you would
do well to follow up this vein in the great mine of State; in this way
high fortunes have begun. You must only take heed not to be blinded and
led at will. Let not favors dazzle you, my poor child, and let not
elevation turn your head. Be not so indignant at the suggestion; the
thing has happened to older men than yourself. Write to me often, as
well as to your mother; see Monsieur de Thou, and together we will try to
keep you in good counsel. Now, my son, be kind enough to close that
window through which the wind comes upon my head, and I will tell you
what has been going on here."
Henri, trusting that the moral part of the discourse was over, and
anticipating nothing in the second part but a narrative more or less
interesting, closed the old casement, festooned with cobwebs, and resumed
his seat without speaking.
"Now that I reflect further," continued the Abbe, "I think it will not
perhaps be unprofitable for you to have passed through this place,
although it be a sad experience you shall have acquired; but it will
supply what I may not have formerly told you of the wickedness of men.
I hope, moreover, that the result will not be fatal, and that the letter
we have written to the King will arrive in time."
"I heard that it had been intercepted," interposed Cinq-Mars.
"Then all is over," said the Abbe Quillet; "the Cure is lost. But
listen. God forbid, my son, that I, your old tutor, should seek to
assail my own work, and attempt to weaken your faith! Preserve ever and
everywhere that simple creed of which your noble family has given you the
example, which our fathers possessed in a still higher degree than we,
and of which the greatest captains of our time are not ashamed. Always,
while you wear a sword, remember that you hold it for the service of God.
But at the same time, when you are among men, avoid being deceived by the
hypocrite. He will encompass you, my son; he will assail you on the
vulnerable side of your ingenuous heart, in addressing your religion; and
seeing the extravagance of his affected zeal, you will fancy yourself
lukewarm as compared with him. You will think that your conscience cries
out against you; but it will not be the voice of conscience that you