This etext was produced by David Widger
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By ALFRED DE VIGNY
There are moments in our life when we long ardently for strong excitement
to drown our petty griefs--times when the soul, like the lion in the
fable, wearied with the continual attacks of the gnat, earnestly desires
a mightier enemy and real danger. Cinq-Mars found himself in this
condition of mind, which always results from a morbid sensibility in the
organic constitution and a perpetual agitation of the heart. Weary of
continually turning over in his mind a combination of the events which he
desired, and of those which he dreaded; weary of calculating his chances
to the best of his power; of summoning to his assistance all that his
education had taught him concerning the lives of illustrious men, in
order to compare it with his present situation; oppressed by his regrets,
his dreams, predictions, fancies, and all that imaginary world in which
he had lived during his solitary journey-he breathed freely upon finding
himself thrown into a real world almost as full of agitation; and the
realizing of two actual dangers restored circulation to his blood, and
youth to his whole being.
Since the nocturnal scene at the inn near Loudun, he had not been able to
resume sufficient empire over his mind to occupy himself with anything
save his cherished though sad reflections; and consumption was already
threatening him, when happily he arrived at the camp of Perpignan, and
happily also had the opportunity of accepting the proposition of the Abbe
de Gondi--for the reader has no doubt recognized Cinq-Mars in the person
of that young stranger in mourning, so careless and so melancholy, whom
the duellist in the cassock invited to be his second.
He had ordered his tent to be pitched as a volunteer in the street of the
camp assigned to the young noblemen who were to be presented to the King
and were to serve as aides-de-camp to the Generals; he soon repaired
thither, and was quickly armed, horsed, and cuirassed, according to the
custom of the time, and set out alone for the Spanish bastion, the place
of rendezvous. He was the first arrival, and found that a small plot of
turf, hidden among the works of the besieged place, had been well chosen
by the little Abbe for his homicidal purposes; for besides the
probability that no one would have suspected officers of engaging in a
duel immediately beneath the town which they were attacking, the body of
the bastion separated them from the French camp, and would conceal them
like an immense screen. It was wise to take these precautions, for at
that time it cost a man his head to give himself the satisfaction of
risking his body.
While waiting for his friends and his adversaries, Cinq-Mars had time to
examine the southern side of Perpignan, before which he stood. He had
heard that these works were not those which were to be attacked, and he
tried in vain to account for the besieger's projects. Between this
southern face of the town, the mountains of Albere, and the Col du
Perthus, there might have been advantageous lines of attack, and redoubts
against the accessible point; but not a single soldier was stationed
there. All the forces seemed directed upon the north of Perpignan, upon
the most difficult side, against a brick fort called the Castillet, which
surmounted the gate of Notre-Dame. He discovered that a piece of ground,
apparently marshy, but in reality very solid, led up to the very foot of
the Spanish bastion; that this post was guarded with true Castilian
negligence, although its sole strength lay entirely in its defenders;
for its battlements, almost in ruin, were furnished with four pieces of
cannon of enormous calibre, embedded in the turf, and thus rendered
immovable, and impossible to be directed against a troop advancing
rapidly to the foot of the wall.
It was easy to see that these enormous pieces had discouraged the
besiegers from attacking this point, and had kept the besieged from any
idea of addition to its means of defence. Thus, on the one side, the
vedettes and advanced posts were at a distance, and on the other, the
sentinels were few and ill supported. A young Spaniard, carrying a long
gun, with its rest suspended at his side and the burning match in his
right hand, who was walking with nonchalance upon the rampart, stopped to
look at Cinq-Mars, who was riding about the ditches and moats.
"Senor caballero," he cried, "are you going to take the bastion by
yourself on horseback, like Don Quixote--Quixada de la Mancha?"
At the same time he detached from his side the iron rest, planted it in
the ground, and supported upon it the barrel of his gun in order to take
aim, when a grave and older Spaniard, enveloped in a dirty brown cloak,
said to him in his own tongue:
"'Ambrosio de demonio', do you not know that it is forbidden to throw
away powder uselessly, before sallies or attacks are made, merely to have
the pleasure of killing a boy not worth your match? It was in this very
place that Charles the Fifth threw the sleeping sentinel into the ditch
and drowned him. Do your duty, or I shall follow his example."
Ambrosio replaced the gun upon his shoulder, the rest at his side, and
continued his walk upon the rampart.
Cinq-Mars had been little alarmed at this menacing gesture, contenting
himself with tightening the reins of his horse and bringing the spurs
close to his sides, knowing that with a single leap of the nimble animal
he should be carried behind the wall of a hut which stood near by, and
should thus be sheltered from the Spanish fusil before the operation of
the fork and match could be completed. He knew, too, that a tacit
convention between the two armies prohibited marksmen from firing upon
the sentinels; each party would have regarded it as assassination. The
soldier who had thus prepared to attack Cinq-Mars must have been ignorant
of this understanding. Young D'Effiat, therefore, made no visible
movement; and when the sentinel had resumed his walk upon the rampart,
he again betook himself to his ride upon the turf, and presently saw five
cavaliers directing their course toward him. The first two, who came on
at full gallop, did not salute him, but, stopping close to him, leaped to
the ground, and he found himself in the arms of the Counsellor de Thou,
who embraced him tenderly, while the little Abbe de Gondi, laughing
"Behold another Orestes recovering his Pylades, and at the moment of
immolating a rascal who is not of the family of the King of kings, I
"What! is it you, my dear Cinq-Mars?" cried De Thou; "and I knew not of
your arrival in the camp! Yes, it is indeed you; I recognize you,
although you are very pale. Have you been ill, my dear friend? I have
often written to you; for my boyish friendship has always remained in my
"And I," answered Henri d'Effiat, "I have been very culpable toward you;
but I will relate to you all the causes of my neglect. I can speak of
them, but I was ashamed to write them. But how good you are! Your
friendship has never relaxed."
"I knew you too well," replied De Thou; "I knew that there could be no
real coldness between us, and that my soul had its echo in yours."
With these words they embraced once more, their eyes moist with those
sweet tears which so seldom flow in one's life, but with which it seems,
nevertheless, the heart is always charged, so much relief do they give in
This moment was short; and during these few words, Gondi had been pulling
them by their cloaks, saying:
"To horse! to horse, gentlemen! Pardieu! you will have time enough to
embrace, if you are so affectionate; but do not delay. Let our first
thought be to have done with our good friends who will soon arrive. We
are in a fine position, with those three villains there before us, the
archers close by, and the Spaniards up yonder! We shall be under three
He was still speaking, when De Launay, finding himself at about sixty
paces from his opponents, with his seconds, who were chosen from his own
friends rather than from among the partisans of the Cardinal, put his
horse to a canter, advanced gracefully toward his young adversaries, and
gravely saluted them.
"Gentlemen, I think that we shall do well to select our men, and to take
the field; for there is talk of attacking the lines, and I must be at my
"We are ready, Monsieur," said Cinq-Mars; "and as for selecting
opponents, I shall be very glad to become yours, for I have not forgotten
the Marechal de Bassompierre and the wood of Chaumont. You know my
opinion concerning your insolent visit to my mother."
"You are very young, Monsieur. In regard to Madame, your mother,
I fulfilled the duties of a man of the world; toward the Marechal,
those of a captain of the guard; here, those of a gentleman toward
Monsieur l'Abbe, who has challenged me; afterward I shall have that honor
"If I permit you," said the Abbe, who was already on horseback.
They took sixty paces of ground--all that was afforded them by the extent
of the meadow that enclosed them. The Abbe de Gondi was stationed
between De Thou and his friend, who sat nearest the ramparts, upon which
two Spanish officers and a score of soldiers stood, as in a balcony, to
witness this duel of six persons--a spectacle common enough to them.
They showed the same signs of joy as at their bullfights, and laughed
with that savage and bitter laugh which their temperament derives from
their admixture of Arab blood.
At a sign from Gondi, the six horses set off at full gallop, and met,
without coming in contact, in the middle of the arena; at that instant,
six pistol-shots were heard almost together, and the smoke covered the
When it dispersed, of the six cavaliers and six horses but three men and
three animals were on their legs. Cinq-Mars was on horseback, giving his
hand to his adversary, as calm as himself; at the other end of the field,
De Thou stood by his opponent, whose horse he had killed, and whom he was
helping to rise. As for Gondi and De Launay, neither was to be seen.
Cinq-Mars, looking about for them anxiously, perceived the Abbe's horse,
which, caracoling and curvetting, was dragging after him the future
cardinal, whose foot was caught in the stirrup, and who was swearing as
if he had never studied anything but the language of the camp. His nose
and hands were stained and bloody with his fall and with his efforts to
seize the grass; and he was regarding with considerable dissatisfaction
his horse, which in spite of himself he irritated with his spurs, making
its way to the trench, filled with water, which surrounded the bastion,
when, happily, Cinq-Mars, passing between the edge of the swamp and the
animal, seized its bridle and stopped its career.
"Well, my dear Abbe, I see that no great harm has come to you, for you
speak with decided energy."
"Corbleu!" cried Gondi, wiping the dust out of his eyes, "to fire a
pistol in the face of that giant I had to lean forward and rise in my
stirrups, and thus I lost my balance; but I fancy that he is down, too."
"You are right, sir," said De Thou, coming up; "there is his horse
swimming in the ditch with its master, whose brains are blown out. We
must think now of escaping."
"Escaping! That, gentlemen, will be rather difficult," said the
adversary of Cinq-Mars, approaching. "Hark! there is the cannon-shot,
the signal for the attack. I did not expect it would have been given so
soon. If we return we shall meet the Swiss and the foot-soldiers, who
are marching in this direction."
"Monsieur de Fontrailles says well," said De Thou; "but if we do not
return, here are these Spaniards, who are running to arms, and whose
balls we shall presently have whistling about our heads."
"Well, let us hold a council," said Gondi; "summon Monsieur de Montresor,
who is uselessly occupied in searching for the body of poor De Launay.
You have not wounded him, Monsieur De Thou?"
"No, Monsieur l'Abbe; not every one has so good an aim as you," said
Montresor, bitterly, limping from his fall. "We shall not have time to
continue with the sword."
"As to continuing, I will not consent to it, gentlemen," said
Fontrailles; "Monsieur de Cinq-Mars has behaved too nobly toward me.
My pistol went off too soon, and his was at my very cheek--I feel the
coldness of it now--but he had the generosity to withdraw it and fire in
the air. I shall not forget it; and I am his in life and in death."
"We must think of other things now," interrupted Cinq-Mars; "a ball has
just whistled past my ear. The attack has begun on all sides; and we are
surrounded by friends and by enemies."
In fact, the cannonading was general; the citadel, the town, and the army
were covered with smoke. The bastion before them as yet was unassailed,
and its guards seemed less eager to defend it than to observe the fate of
the other fortifications.
"I believe that the enemy has made a sally," said Montresor, "for the
smoke has cleared from the plain, and I see masses of cavalry charging
under the protection of the battery."
"Gentlemen," said Cinq-Mars, who had not ceased to observe the walls,
"there is a very decided part which we could take, an important share in
this--we might enter this ill-guarded bastion."
"An excellent idea, Monsieur," said Fontrailles; "but we are but five
against at least thirty, and are in plain sight and easily counted."
"Faith, the idea is not bad," said Gondi; "it is better to be shot up
there than hanged down here, as we shall be if we are found, for De
Launay must be already missed by his company, and all the court knows of
"Parbleu! gentlemen," said Montresor, "help is coming to us."
A numerous troop of horse, in great disorder, advanced toward them at
full gallop; their red uniform made them visible from afar. It seemed to
be their intention to halt on the very ground on which were our
embarrassed duellists, for hardly had the first cavalier reached it when
cries of "Halt!" were repeated and prolonged by the voices of the chiefs
who were mingled with their cavaliers.
"Let us go to them; these are the men-at-arms of the King's guard," said
Fontrailles. "I recognize them by their black cockades. I see also many
of the light-horse with them; let us mingle in the disorder, for I fancy
they are 'ramenes'."
This is a polite phrase signifying in military language "put to rout."
All five advanced toward the noisy and animated troops, and found that
this conjecture was right. But instead of the consternation which one
might expect in such a case, they found nothing but a youthful and
rattling gayety, and heard only bursts of laughter from the two
"Ah, pardieu! Cahuzac," said one, "your horse runs better than mine; I
suppose you have exercised it in the King's hunts!"
"Ah, I see, 'twas that we might be the sooner rallied that you arrived
here first," answered the other.
"I think the Marquis de Coislin must be mad, to make four hundred of us
charge eight Spanish regiments."
"Ha! ha! Locmaria, your plume is a fine ornament; it looks like a
weeping willow. If we follow that, it will be to our burial."
"Gentlemen, I said to you before," angrily replied the young officer,
"that I was sure that Capuchin Joseph, who meddles in everything, was
mistaken in telling us to charge, upon the part of the Cardinal. But
would you have been satisfied if those who have the honor of commanding
you had refused to charge?"
"No, no, no!" answered all the young men, at the same time forming
themselves quickly into ranks.
"I said," interposed the old Marquis de Coislin, who, despite his white
head, had all the fire of youth in his eyes, "that if you were commanded
to mount to the assault on horseback, you would do it."
"Bravo! bravo!" cried all the men-at-arms, clapping their hands.
"Well, Monsieur le Marquis," said Cinq-Mars, approaching, "here is an
opportunity to execute what you have promised. I am only a volunteer;
but an instant ago these gentlemen and I examined this bastion, and I
believe that it is possible to take it."
"Monsieur, we must first examine the ditch to see--"
At this moment a ball from the rampart of which they were speaking struck
in the head the horse of the old captain, laying it low.
"Locmaria, De Mouy, take the command, and to the assault!" cried the two
noble companies, believing their leader dead.
"Stop a moment, gentlemen," said old Coislin, rising, "I will lead you,
if you please. Guide us, Monsieur volunteer, for the Spaniards invite us
to this ball, and we must reply politely."
Hardly had the old man mounted another horse, which one of his men
brought him, and drawn his sword, when, without awaiting his order, all
these ardent youths, preceded by Cinq-Mars and his friends, whose horses
were urged on by the squadrons behind, had thrown themselves into the
morass, wherein, to their great astonishment and to that of the
Spaniards, who had counted too much upon its depth, the horses were in
the water only up to their hams; and in spite of a discharge of grape-
shot from the two largest pieces, all reached pell-mell a strip of land
at the foot of the half-ruined ramparts. In the ardor of the rush, Cinq-
Mars and Fontrailles, with the young Locmaria, forced their horses upon
the rampart itself; but a brisk fusillade killed the three animals, which
rolled over their masters.
"Dismount all, gentlemen!" cried old Coislin; "forward with pistol and
sword! Abandon your horses!"
All obeyed instantly, and threw themselves in a mass upon the breach.
Meantime, De Thou, whose coolness never quitted him any more than his
friendship, had not lost sight of the young Henri, and had received him
in his arms when his horse fell. He helped him to rise, restored to him
his sword, which he had dropped, and said to him, with the greatest
calmness, notwithstanding the balls which rained on all sides:
"My friend, do I not appear very ridiculous amid all this skirmish, in my
costume of Counsellor in Parliament?"
"Parbleu!" said Montresor, advancing, "here's the Abbe, who quite
And, in fact, little Gondi, pushing on among the light horsemen, was
shouting, at the top of his voice: "Three duels and an assault. I hope
to get rid of my cassock at last!"
Saying this, he cut and thrust at a tall Spaniard.
The defence was not long. The Castilian soldiers were no match for the
French officers, and not one of them had time or courage to recharge his
"Gentlemen, we will relate this to our mistresses in Paris," said
Locmaria, throwing his hat into the air; and Cinq-Mars, De Thou, Coislin,
De Mouy, Londigny, officers of the red companies, and all the young
noblemen, with swords in their right hands and pistols in their left,
dashing, pushing, and doing each other by their eagerness as much harm as
they did the enemy, finally rushed upon the platform of the bastion, as
water poured from a vase, of which the opening is too small, leaps out in
Disdaining to occupy themselves with the vanquished soldiers, who cast
themselves at their feet, they left them to look about the fort, without
even disarming them, and began to examine their conquest, like schoolboys
in vacation, laughing with all their hearts, as if they were at a
A Spanish officer, enveloped in his brown cloak, watched them with a
"What demons are these, Ambrosio?" said he to a soldier. "I never have
met with any such before in France. If Louis XIII has an entire army
thus composed, it is very good of him not to conquer all Europe."
"Oh, I do not believe they are very numerous; they must be some poor
adventurers, who have nothing to lose and all to gain by pillage."
"You are right," said the officer; "I will try to persuade one of them to
let me escape."
And slowly approaching, he accosted a young light-horseman, of about
eighteen, who was sitting apart from his comrades upon the parapet. He
had the pink-and-white complexion of a young girl; his delicate hand held
an embroidered handkerchief, with which he wiped his forehead and his
golden locks He was consulting a large, round watch set with rubies,
suspended from his girdle by a knot of ribbons.
The astonished Spaniard paused. Had he not seen this youth overthrow his
soldiers, he would not have believed him capable of anything beyond
singing a romance, reclined upon a couch. But, filled with the
suggestion of Ambrosio, he thought that he might have stolen these
objects of luxury in the pillage of the apartments of a woman; so, going
abruptly up to him, he said:
"Hombre! I am an officer; will you restore me to liberty, that I may
once more see my country?"
The young Frenchman looked at him with the gentle expression of his age,
and, thinking of his own family, he said:
"Monsieur, I will present you to the Marquis de Coislin, who will, I
doubt not, grant your request; is your family of Castile or of Aragon?"
"Your Coislin will ask the permission of somebody else, and will make me
wait a year. I will give you four thousand ducats if you will let me
That gentle face, those girlish features, became infused with the purple
of fury; those blue eyes shot forth lightning; and, exclaiming, "Money to
me! away, fool!" the young man gave the Spaniard a ringing box on the
ear. The latter, without hesitating, drew a long poniard from his
breast, and, seizing the arm of the Frenchman, thought to plunge it
easily into his heart; but, nimble and vigorous, the youth caught him by
the right arm, and, lifting it with force above his head, sent it back
with the weapon it held upon the head of the Spaniard, who was furious
"Eh! eh! Softly, Olivier!" cried his comrades, running from all
directions; "there are Spaniards enough on the ground already."
And they disarmed the hostile officer.
"What shall we do with this lunatic?" said one.
"I should not like to have him for my valet-dechambre," returned
"He deserves to be hanged," said a third; "but, faith, gentlemen, we
don't know how to hang. Let us send him to that battalion of Swiss which
is now passing across the plain."
And the calm and sombre Spaniard, enveloping himself anew in his cloak,
began the march of his own accord, followed by Ambrosio, to join the
battalion, pushed by the shoulders and urged on by five or six of these
Meantime, the first troop of the besiegers, astonished at their success,
had followed it out to the end; Cinq-Mars, so advised by the aged
Coislin, had made with him the circuit of the bastion, and found to their
vexation that it was completely separated from the city, and that they
could not follow up their advantage. They, therefore, returned slowly to
the platform, talking by the way, to rejoin De Thou and the Abbe de
Gondi, whom they found laughing with the young light-horsemen.
"We have Religion and justice with us, gentlemen; we could not fail to
"No doubt, for they fought as hard as we."
There was silence at the approach of Cinq-Mars, and they remained for an
instant whispering and asking his name; then all surrounded him, and took
his hand with delight.
"Gentlemen, you are right," said their old captain; "he is, as our
fathers used to say, the best doer of the day. He is a volunteer, who is
to be presented today to the King by the Cardinal."
"By the Cardinal! We will present him ourselves. Ah, do not let him be
a Cardinalist; he is too good a fellow for that!" exclaimed all the
young men, with vivacity.
"Monsieur, I will undertake to disgust you with him," said Olivier
d'Entraigues, approaching Cinq-Mars, "for I have been his page. Rather
serve in the red companies; come, you will have good comrades there."
The old Marquis saved Cinq-Mars the embarrassment of replying, by
ordering the trumpets to sound and rally his brilliant companies.
The cannon was no longer heard, and a soldier announced that the King and
the Cardinal were traversing the lines to examine the results of the day.
He made all the horses pass through the breach, which was tolerably wide,
and ranged the two companies of cavalry in battle array, upon a spot
where it seemed impossible that any but infantry could penetrate.
Cardinal Richelieu had said to himself, "To soften the first paroxysm of
the royal grief, to open a source of emotions which shall turn from its
sorrow this wavering soul, let this city be besieged; I consent. Let
Louis go; I will allow him to strike a few poor soldiers with the blows
which he wishes, but dares not, to inflict upon me. Let his anger drown
itself in this obscure blood; I agree. But this caprice of glory shall
not derange my fixed designs; this city shall not fall yet. It shall not
become French forever until two years have past; it shall come into my
nets only on the day upon which I have fixed in my own mind. Thunder,
bombs, and cannons; meditate upon your operations, skilful captains;
hasten, young warriors. I shall silence your noise, I shall dissipate
your projects, and make your efforts abortive; all shall end in vain
smoke, for I shall conduct in order to mislead you."
This is the substance of what passed in the bald head of the Cardinal
before the attack of which we have witnessed a part. He was stationed on
horseback, upon one of the mountains of Salces, north of the city; from
this point he could see the plain of Roussillon before him, sloping to
the Mediterranean. Perpignan, with its ramparts of brick, its bastions,
its citadel, and its spire, formed upon this plain an oval and sombre
mass on its broad and verdant meadows; the vast mountains surrounded it,
and the valley, like an enormous bow curved from north to south, while,
stretching its white line in the east, the sea looked like its silver
cord. On his right rose that immense mountain called the Canigou, whose
sides send forth two rivers into the plain below. The French line
extended to the foot of this western barrier. A crowd of generals and of
great lords were on horseback behind the minister, but at twenty paces'
distance and profoundly silent.
Cardinal Richelieu had at first followed slowly the line of operations,
but had later returned and stationed himself upon this height, whence his
eye and his thought hovered over the destinies of besiegers and besieged.
The whole army had its eyes upon him, and could see him from every point.
All looked upon him as their immediate chief, and awaited his gesture
before they acted. France had bent beneath his yoke a long time; and
admiration of him shielded all his actions to which another would have
been often subjected. At this moment, for instance, no one thought of
smiling, or even of feeling surprised, that the cuirass should clothe the
priest; and the severity of his character and aspect suppressed every
thought of ironical comparisons or injurious conjectures. This day the
Cardinal appeared in a costume entirely martial: he wore a reddish-brown
coat, embroidered with gold, a water-colored cuirass, a sword at his
side, pistols at his saddle-bow, and he had a plumed hat; but this he
seldom put on his head, which was still covered with the red cap. Two
pages were behind him; one carried his gauntlets, the other his casque,
and the captain of his guards was at his side.
As the King had recently named him generalissimo of his troops, it was to
him that the generals sent for their orders; but he, knowing only too
well the secret motives of his master's present anger, affected to refer
to that Prince all who sought a decision from his own mouth. It happened
as he had foreseen; for he regulated and calculated the movements of that
heart as those of a watch, and could have told with precision through
what sensations it had passed. Louis XIII came and placed himself at his
side; but he came as a pupil, forced to acknowledge that his master is in
the right. His air was haughty and dissatisfied, his language brusque
and dry. The Cardinal remained impassible. It was remarked that the
King, in consulting him, employed the words of command, thus reconciling
his weakness and his power of place, his irresolution and his pride, his
ignorance and his pretensions, while his minister dictated laws to him in
a tone of the most profound obedience.
"I will have them attack immediately, Cardinal," said the Prince on
coming up; "that is to say," he added, with a careless air, "when all
your preparations are made, and you have fixed upon the hour with our
"Sire, if I might venture to express my judgment, I should be glad did
your Majesty think proper to begin the attack in a quarter of an hour,
for that will give time enough to advance the third line."
"Yes, yes; you are right, Monsieur le Cardinal! I think so, too. I will
go and give my orders myself; I wish to do everything myself. Schomberg,
Schomberg! in a quarter of an hour I wish to hear the signal-gun; I
And Schomberg, taking the command of the right wing, gave the order, and
the signal was made.
The batteries, arranged long since by the Marechal de la Meilleraie,
began to batter a breach, but slowly, because the artillerymen felt that
they had been directed to attack two impregnable points; and because,
with their experience, and above all with the common sense and quick
perception of French soldiers, any one of them could at once have
indicated the point against which the attack should have been directed.
The King was surprised at the slowness of the firing.
"La Meilleraie," said he, impatiently, "these batteries do not play well;
your cannoneers are asleep."
The principal artillery officers were present as well as the Marechal;
but no one answered a syllable. They had looked toward the Cardinal, who
remained as immovable as an equestrian statue, and they imitated his
example. The answer must have been that the fault was not with the
soldiers, but with him who had ordered this false disposition of the
batteries; and this was Richelieu himself, who, pretending to believe
them more useful in that position, had stopped the remarks of the chiefs.
The King, astonished at this silence, and, fearing that he had committed
some gross military blunder by his question, blushed slightly, and,
approaching the group of princes who had accompanied him, said, in order
to reassure himself:
"D'Angouleme, Beaufort, this is very tiresome, is it not? We stand here
Charles de Valois drew near and said:
"It seems to me, Sire, that they are not employing here the machines of
the engineer Pompee-Targon."
"Parbleu!" said the Duc de Beaufort, regarding Richelieu fixedly, "that
is because we were more eager to take Rochelle than Perpignan at the time
that Italian came. Here we have not an engine ready, not a mine, not a
petard beneath these walls; and the Marechal de la Meilleraie told me
this morning that he had proposed to bring some with which to open the
breach. It was neither the Castillet, nor the six great bastions which
surround it, nor the half-moon, we should have attacked. If we go on in
this way, the great stone arm of the citadel will show us its fist a long
The Cardinal, still motionless, said not a single word; he only made a
sign to Fabert, who left the group in attendance, and ranged his horse
behind that of Richelieu, close to the captain of his guards.
The Duc de la Rochefoucauld, drawing near the King, said:
"I believe, Sire, that our inactivity makes the enemy insolent, for look!
here is a numerous sally, directing itself straight toward your Majesty;
and the regiments of Biron and De Ponts fall back after firing."
"Well!" said the King, drawing his sword, "let us charge and force those
villains back again. Bring on the cavalry with me, D'Angouleme. Where
is it, Cardinal?"
"Behind that hill, Sire, there are in column six regiments of dragoons,
and the carabineers of La Roque; below you are my men-at-arms and my
light horse, whom I pray your Majesty to employ, for those of your
Majesty's guard are ill guided by the Marquis de Coislin, who is ever too
zealous. Joseph, go tell him to return."
He whispered to the Capuchin, who had accompanied him, huddled up in
military attire, which he wore awkwardly, and who immediately advanced
into the plain.
In the mean time, the compact columns of the old Spanish infantry issued
from the gate of Notre-Dame like a dark and moving forest, while from
another gate proceeded the heavy cavalry, which drew up on the plain.
The French army, in battle array at the foot of the hill where the King
stood, behind fortifications of earth, behind redoubts and fascines of
turf, perceived with alarm the men-at-arms and the light horse pressed
between these two forces, ten times their superior in numbers.
"Sound the charge!" cried Louis XIII; "or my old Coislin is lost."
And he descended the hill, with all his suite as ardent as himself; but
before he reached the plain and was at the head of his musketeers, the
two companies had taken their course, dashing off with the rapidity of
lightning, and to the cry of "Vive le Roi!" They fell upon the long
column of the enemy's cavalry like two vultures upon a serpent; and,
making a large and bloody gap, they passed beyond, and rallied behind the
Spanish bastion, leaving the enemy's cavalry so astonished that they
thought only of re-forming their own ranks, and not of pursuing.
The French army uttered a burst of applause; the King paused in
amazement. He looked around him, and saw a burning desire for attack in
all eyes; the valor of his race shone in his own. He paused yet another
instant in suspense, listening, intoxicated, to the roar of the cannon,
inhaling the odor of the powder; he seemed to receive another life, and
to become once more a Bourbon. All-who looked on him felt as if they
were commanded by another man, when, raising his sword and his eyes
toward the sun, he cried:
"Follow me, brave friends! here I am King of France!"
His cavalry, deploying, dashed off with an ardor which devoured space,
and, raising billows of dust from the ground, which trembled beneath
them, they were in an instant mingled with the Spanish cavalry, and both
were swallowed up in an immense and fluctuating cloud.
"Now! now!" cried the Cardinal, in a voice of thunder, from his
elevation, "now remove the guns from their useless position! Fabert,
give your orders; let them be all directed upon the infantry which slowly
approaches to surround the King. Haste! save the King!"
Immediately the Cardinal's suite, until then sitting erect as so many
statues, were in motion. The generals gave their orders; the aides-de-
camp galloped off into the plain, where, leaping over the ditches,
barriers, and palisades, they arrived at their destination as soon as the
thought that directed them and the glance that followed them.
Suddenly the few and interrupted flashes which had shone from the
discouraged batteries became a continual and immense flame, leaving no
room for the smoke, which rose to the sky in an infinite number of light
and floating wreaths; the volleys of cannon, which had seemed like far
and feeble echoes, changed into a formidable thunder whose roll was as
rapid as that of drums beating the charge; while from three opposite
points large red flashes from fiery mouths fell upon the dark columns
which issued from the besieged city.
Meantime, without changing his position, but with ardent eyes and
imperative gestures, Richelieu ceased not to multiply his orders, casting
upon those who received them a look which implied a sentence of death if
he was not instantly obeyed.
"The King has overthrown the cavalry; but the foot still resist. Our
batteries have only killed, they have not conquered. Forward with three
regiments of infantry instantly, Gassion, La Meilleraie, and
Lesdiguieres! Take the enemy's columns in flank. Order the rest of the
army to cease from the attack, and to remain motionless throughout the
whole line. Bring paper! I will write myself to Schomberg."
A page alighted and advanced, holding a pencil and paper. The minister,
supported by four men of his suite, also alighted, but with difficulty,
uttering a cry, wrested from him by pain; but he conquered it by an
effort, and seated himself upon the carriage of a cannon. The page
presented his shoulder as a desk; and the Cardinal hastily penned that
order which contemporary manuscripts have transmitted to us, and which
might well be imitated by the diplomatists of our day, who are, it seems,
more desirous to maintain themselves in perfect balance between two ideas
than to seek those combinations which decide the destinies of the world,
regarding the clear and obvious dictates of true genius as beneath their
"M. le Marechal, do not risk anything, and reflect before you
attack. When you are thus told that the King desires you not to
risk anything, you are not to understand that his Majesty forbids
you to fight at all; but his intention is that you do not engage in
a general battle unless it be with a notable hope of gain from the
advantage which a favorable situation may present, the
responsibility of the battle naturally falling upon you."
These orders given, the old minister, still seated upon the gun-carriage,
his arms resting upon the touch-hole, and his chin upon his arms, in the
attitude of one who adjusts and points a cannon, continued in silence to
watch the battle, like an old wolf, which, sated with victims and torpid
with age, contemplates in the plain the ravages of a lion among a herd of
cattle, which he himself dares not attack. From time to time his eye
brightens; the smell of blood rejoices him, and he laps his burning
tongue over his toothless jaw.
On that day, it was remarked by his servants--or, in other words, by all
surrounding him--that from the time of his rising until night he took no
nourishment, and so fixed all the application of his soul on the events
which he had to conduct that he triumphed over his physical pains,
seeming, by forgetting, to have destroyed them. It was this power of
attention, this continual presence of mind, that raised him almost to
genius. He would have attained it quite, had he not lacked native
elevation of soul and generous sensibility of heart.
Everything happened upon the field of battle as he had wished, fortune
attending him there as well as in the cabinet. Louis XIII claimed with
eager hand the victory which his minister had procured for him; he had
contributed himself, however, only that grandeur which consists in
The cannon had ceased to roar when the broken columns of infantry fell
back into Perpignan; the remainder had met the same fate, was already
within the walls, and on the plain no living man was to be seen, save the
glittering squadrons of the King, who followed him, forming ranks as they
He returned at a slow walk, and contemplated with satisfaction the
battlefield swept clear of enemies; he passed haughtily under the very
fire of the Spanish guns, which, whether from lack of skill, or by a
secret agreement with the Prime Minister, or from very shame to kill a
king of France, only sent after him a few balls, which, passing two feet
above his head, fell in front of the lines, and merely served to increase
the royal reputation for courage.
At every step, however, that he took toward the spot where Richelieu
awaited him, the King's countenance changed and visibly fell; he lost all
the flush of combat; the noble sweat of triumph dried upon his brow. As
he approached, his usual pallor returned to his face, as if having the
right to sit alone on a royal head; his look lost its fleeting fire, and
at last, when he joined the Cardinal, a profound melancholy entirely
possessed him. He found the minister as he had left him, on horseback;
the latter, still coldly respectful, bowed, and after a few words of
compliment, placed himself near Louis to traverse the lines and examine
the results of the day, while the princes and great lords, riding at some
distance before and behind, formed a crowd around them.
The wily minister was careful not to say a word or to make a gesture that
could suggest the idea that he had had the slightest share in the events
of the day; and it was remarkable that of all those who came to hand in
their reports, there was not one who did not seem to divine his thoughts,
and exercise care not to compromise his occult power by open obedience.
All reports were made to the King. The Cardinal then traversed, by the
side of the Prince, the right of the camp, which had not been under his
view from the height where he had remained; and he saw with satisfaction
that Schomberg, who knew him well, had acted precisely as his master had
directed, bringing into action only a few of the light troops, and
fighting just enough not to incur reproach for inaction, and not enough
to obtain any distinct result. This line of conduct charmed the
minister, and did not displease the King, whose vanity cherished the idea
of having been the sole conqueror that day. He even wished to persuade
himself, and to have it supposed, that all the efforts of Schomberg had
been fruitless, saying to him that he was not angry with him, that he had
himself just had proof that the enemy before him was less despicable than
had been supposed.
"To show you that you have lost nothing in our estimation," he added, "we
name you a knight of our order, and we give you public and private access
to our person."
The Cardinal affectionately pressed his hand as he passed him, and the
Marechal, astonished at this deluge of favors, followed the Prince with
his bent head, like a culprit, recalling, to console himself, all the
brilliant actions of his career which had remained unnoticed, and
mentally attributing to them these unmerited rewards to reconcile them to
The King was about to retrace his steps, when the Due de Beaufort, with
an astonished air, exclaimed:
"But, Sire, have I still the powder in my eyes, or have I been sun-
struck? It appears to me that I see upon yonder bastion several
cavaliers in red uniforms who greatly resemble your light horse whom we
thought to be killed."
The Cardinal knitted his brows.
"Impossible, Monsieur," he said; "the imprudence of Monsieur de Coislin
has destroyed his Majesty's men-at-arms and those cavaliers. It is for
that reason I ventured just now to say to the King that if the useless
corps were suppressed, it might be very advantageous from a military
point of view."
"Pardieu! your Eminence will pardon me," answered the Duc de Beaufort;
"but I do not deceive myself, and there are seven or eight of them
driving prisoners before them."
"Well! let us go to the point," said the King; "if I find my old Coislin
there I shall be very glad."
With great caution, the horses of the King and his suite passed across
the marsh, and with infinite astonishment their riders saw on the
ramparts the two red companies in battle array as on parade.
"Vive Dieu!" cried Louis; "I think that not one of them is missing!
Well, Marquis, you keep your word--you take walls on horseback."
"In my opinion, this point was ill chosen," said Richelieu, with disdain;
"it in no way advances the taking of Perpignan, and must have cost many
"Faith, you are right," said the King, for the first time since the
intelligence of the Queen's death addressing the Cardinal without
dryness; "I regret the blood which must have been spilled here."
"Only two of own young men have been wounded in the attack, Sire," said
old Coislin; "and we have gained new companions-in-arms, in the
volunteers who guided us."
"Who are they?" said the Prince.
"Three of them have modestly retired, Sire; but the youngest, whom you
see, was the first who proposed the assault, and the first to venture his
person in making it. The two companies claim the honor of presenting him
to your Majesty."
Cinq-Mars, who was on horseback behind the old captain, took off his hat
and showed his pale face, his large, dark eyes, and his long, chestnut
"Those features remind me of some one," said the King; "what say you,
The latter, who had already cast a penetrating glance at the newcomer,
"Unless I am mistaken, this young man is--"
"Henri d'Effiat," said the volunteer, bowing.
"Sire, it is the same whom I had announced to your Majesty, and who was
to have been presented to you by me; the second son of the Marechal."
"Ah!" said Louis, warmly," I am glad to see the son of my old friend
presented by this bastion. It is a suitable introduction, my boy, for
one bearing your name. You will follow us to the camp, where we have
much to say to you. But what! you here, Monsieur de Thou? Whom have
you come to judge?"
"Sire," answered Coislin, "he has condemned to death, without judging,
sundry Spaniards, for he was the second to enter the place."
"I struck no one, Monsieur," interrupted De Thou reddening; "it is not my
business. Herein I have no merit; I merely accompanied my friend,
Monsieur de Cinq-Mars."
"We approve your modesty as well as your bravery, and we shall not forget
this. Cardinal, is there not some presidency vacant?"
Richelieu did not like De Thou. And as the sources of his dislike were
always mysterious, it was difficult to guess the cause of this animosity;
it revealed itself in a cruel word that escaped him. The motive was a
passage in the history of the President De Thou--the father of the young
man now in question--wherein he stigmatized, in the eyes of posterity, a
granduncle of the Cardinal, an apostate monk, sullied with every human
Richelieu, bending to Joseph's ear, whispered:
"You see that man; his father put my name into his history. Well, I will
put his into mine." And, truly enough, he subsequently wrote it in
blood. At this moment, to avoid answering the King, he feigned not to
have heard his question, and to be wholly intent upon the merit of Cinq-
Mars and the desire to see him well placed at court.
"I promised you beforehand to make him a captain in my guards," said the
Prince; "let him be nominated to-morrow. I would know more of him, and
raise him to a higher fortune, if he pleases me. Let us now retire; the
sun has set, and we are far from our army. Tell my two good companies to
The minister, after repeating the order, omitting the implied praise,
placed himself on the King's right hand, and the whole court quitted the
bastion, now confided to the care of the Swiss, and returned to the camp.
The two red companies defiled slowly through the breach which they had
effected with such promptitude; their countenances were grave and silent.
Cinq-Mars went up to his friend.
"These are heroes but ill recompensed," said he; "not a favor, not a
"I, on the other hand," said the simple De Thou "I, who came here against
my will--receive one. Such are courts, such is life; but above us is the
true judge, whom men can not blind."
"This will not prevent us from meeting death tomorrow, if necessary,"
said the young Olivier, laughing.
In order to appear before the King, Cinq-Mars had been compelled to mount
the charger of one of the light horse, wounded in the affair, having lost
his own at the foot of the rampart. As the two companies were marching
out, he felt some one touch his shoulder, and, turning round, saw old
Grandchamp leading a very beautiful gray horse.
"Will Monsieur le Marquis mount a horse of his own?" said he. "I have
put on the saddle and housings of velvet embroidered in gold that
remained in the trench. Alas, when I think that a Spaniard might have
taken it, or even a Frenchman! For just now there are so many people who
take all they find, as if it were their own; and then, as the proverb
says, 'What falls in the ditch is for the soldier.' They might also have
taken the four hundred gold crowns that Monsieur le Marquis, be it said
without reproach, forgot to take out of the holsters. And the pistols!
Oh, what pistols! I bought them in Germany; and here they are as good as
ever, and with their locks perfect. It was quite enough to kill the poor
little black horse, that was born in England as sure as I was at Tours in
Touraine, without also exposing these valuables to pass into the hands of
While making this lamentation, the worthy man finished saddling the gray
horse. The column was long enough filing out to give him time to pay
scrupulous attention to the length of the stirrups and of the bands, all
the while continuing his harangue.
"I beg your pardon, Monsieur, for being somewhat slow about this; but I
sprained my arm slightly in lifting Monsieur de Thou, who himself raised
Monsieur le Marquis during the grand scuffle."
"How camest thou there at all, stupid?" said Cinq-Mars. "That is not
thy business. I told thee to remain in the camp."
"Oh, as to remaining in the camp, that is out of the question. I can't
stay there; when I hear a musket-shot, I should be ill did I not see the
flash. As for my business, that is to take care of your horses, and you
are on them. Monsieur, think you I should not have saved, had I been
able, the life of the poor black horse down there in the trench? Ah, how
I loved him!--a horse that gained three races in his time--a time too
short for those who loved him as I loved him! He never would take his
corn but from his dear Grandchamp; and then he would caress me with his
head. The end of my left ear that he carried away one day--poor fellow!
--proves it, for it was not out of ill-will he bit it off; quite the
contrary. You should have heard how he neighed with rage when any one
else came near him; that was the reason why he broke Jean's leg. Good
creature, I loved him so!
"When he fell I held him on one side with one hand and M. de Locmaria
with the other. I thought at first that both he and that gentleman would
recover; but unhappily only one of them returned to life, and that was he
whom I least knew. You seem to be laughing at what I say about your
horse, Monsieur; you forget that in times of war the horse is the soul of
the cavalier. Yes, Monsieur, his soul; for what is it that intimidates
the infantry? It is the horse! It certainly is not the man, who, once
seated, is little more than a bundle of hay. Who is it that performs the
fine deeds that men admire? The horse. There are times when his master,
who a moment before would rather have been far away, finds himself
victorious and rewarded for his horse's valor, while the poor beast gets
nothing but blows. Who is it gains the prize in the race? The horse,
that sups hardly better than usual, while the master pockets the gold,
and is envied by his friends and admired by all the lords as if he had
run himself. Who is it that hunts the roebuck, yet puts but a morsel in
his own mouth? Again, the horse; sometimes the horse is even eaten
himself, poor animal! I remember in a campaign with Monsieur le
Marechal, it happened that-- But what is the matter, Monsieur, you grow
"Bind up my leg with something--a handkerchief, a strap, or what you
will. I feel a burning pain there; I know not what."
"Your boot is cut, Monsieur. It may be some ball; however, lead is the
friend of man."
"It is no friend of mine, at all events."
"Ah, who loves, chastens! Lead must not be ill spoken of!
What is that--"
While occupied in binding his master's leg below the knee, the worthy
Grandchamp was about to hold forth in praise of lead as absurdly as he
had in praise of the horse, when he was forced, as well as Cinq-Mars, to
hear a warm and clamorous dispute among some Swiss soldiers who had
remained behind the other troops. They were talking with much
gesticulation, and seemed busied with two men among a group of about
D'Effiat, still holding out his leg to his servant, and leaning on the
saddle of his horse, tried, by listening attentively, to understand the
subject of the colloquy; but he knew nothing of German, and could not
comprehend the dispute. Grandchamp, who, still holding the boot, had
also been listening very seriously, suddenly burst into loud laughter,
holding his sides in a manner not usual with him.
"Ha, ha, ha! Monsieur, here are two sergeants disputing which they ought
to hang of the two Spaniards there; for your red comrades did not take
the trouble to tell them. One of the Swiss says that it's the officer,
the other that it's the soldier; a third has just made a proposition for
meeting the difficulty."
"And what does he say?"
"He suggests that they hang them both."
"Stop! stop!" cried Cinq-Mars to the soldiers, attempting to walk; but
his leg would not support him.
"Put me on my horse, Grandchamp."
"Monsieur, you forget your wound."
"Do as I command, and then mount thyself."
The old servant grumblingly obeyed, and then galloped off, in fulfilment
of another imperative order, to stop the Swiss, who were just about to
hang their two prisoners to a tree, or to let them hang themselves; for
the officer, with the sang-froid of his nation, had himself passed the
running noose of a rope around his own neck, and, without being told, had
ascended a small ladder placed against the tree, in order to tie the
other end of the rope to one of its branches. The soldier, with the same
calm indifference, was looking on at the Swiss disputing around him,
while holding the ladder.
Cinq-Mars arrived in time to save them, gave his name to the Swiss
sergeant, and, employing Grandchamp as interpreter, said that the two
prisoners were his, and that he would take them to his tent; that he was
a captain in the guards, and would be responsible for them. The German,
ever exact in discipline, made no reply; the only resistance was on the
part of the prisoner. The officer, still on the top of the ladder,
turned round, and speaking thence as from a pulpit, said, with a sardonic
"I should much like to know what you do here? Who told you I wished to
"I do not ask to know anything about that," said Cinq-Mars; "it matters
not to me what becomes of you afterward. All I propose now is to prevent
an act which seems to me unjust and cruel. You may kill yourself
afterward, if you like."
"Well said," returned the ferocious Spaniard; "you please me. I thought
at first you meant to affect the generous in order to oblige me to be
grateful, which is a thing I detest. Well, I consent to come down; but I
shall hate you as much as ever, for you are a Frenchman. Nor do I thank
you, for you only discharge a debt you owe me, since it was I who this
morning kept you from being shot by this young soldier while he was
taking aim at you; and he is a man who never missed a chamois in the
mountains of Leon."
"Be it as you will," said Cinq-Mars; "come down."
It was his character ever to assume with others the mien they wore toward
him; and the rudeness of the Spaniard made him as hard as iron toward
"A proud rascal that, Monsieur," said Grandchamp; "in your place Monsieur
le Marechal would certainly have left him on his ladder. Come, Louis,
Etienne, Germain, escort Monsieur's prisoners--a fine acquisition, truly!
If they bring you any luck, I shall be very much surprised."
Cinq-Mars, suffering from the motion of his horse, rode only at the pace
of his prisoners on foot, and was accordingly at a distance behind the
red companies, who followed close upon the King. He meditated on his way
what it could be that the Prince desired to say to him. A ray of hope
presented to his mind the figure of Marie de Mantua in the distance; and
for a moment his thoughts were calmed. But all his future lay in that
brief sentence--"to please the King"; and he began to reflect upon all
the bitterness in which his task might involve him.
At that moment he saw approaching his friend, De Thou, who, anxious at
his remaining behind, had sought him in the plain, eager to aid him if
"It is late, my friend; night approaches. You have delayed long; I
feared for you. Whom have you here? What has detained you? The King
will soon be asking for you."
Such were the rapid inquiries of the young counsellor, whose anxiety,
more than the battle itself, had made him lose his accustomed serenity.
"I was slightly wounded; I bring a prisoner, and I was thinking of the
King. What can he want me for, my friend? What must I do if he proposes
to place me about his person? I must please him; and at this thought--
shall I own it?--I am tempted to fly. But I trust that I shall not have
that fatal honor. 'To please,' how humiliating the word! 'to obey'
quite the opposite! A soldier runs the chance of death, and there's an
end. But in what base compliances, what sacrifices of himself, what
compositions with his conscience, what degradation of his own thought,
may not a courtier be involved! Ah, De Thou, my dear De Thou! I am not
made for the court; I feel it, though I have seen it but for a moment.
There is in my temperament a certain savageness, which education has
polished only on the surface. At a distance, I thought myself adapted to
live in this all-powerful world; I even desired it, led by a cherished
hope of my heart. But I shuddered at the first step; I shuddered at the
mere sight of the Cardinal. The recollection of the last of his crimes,
at which I was present, kept me from addressing him. He horrifies me;
I never can endure to be near him. The King's favor, too, has that about
it which dismays me, as if I knew it would be fatal to me."
"I am glad to perceive this apprehension in you; it may be most
salutary," said De Thou, as they rode on. "You are about to enter into
contact with power. Before, you did not even conceive it; now you will
touch it with your very hand. You will see what it is, and what hand
hurls the lightning. Heaven grant that that lightning may never strike
you! You will probably be present in those councils which regulate the
destiny of nations; you will see, you will perchance originate, those
caprices whence are born sanguinary wars, conquests, and treaties; you
will hold in your hand the drop of water which swells into mighty
torrents. It is only from high places that men can judge of human
affairs; you must look from the mountaintop ere you can appreciate the
littleness of those things which from below appear to us great."
"Ah, were I on those heights, I should at least learn the lesson you
speak of; but this Cardinal, this man to whom I must be under obligation,
this man whom I know too well by his works--what will he be to me?"
"A friend, a protector, no doubt," answered De Thou.
"Death were a thousand times preferable to his friendship! I hate his
whole being, even his very name; he spills the blood of men with the
cross of the Redeemer!"
"What horrors are you saying, my friend? You will ruin yourself if you
reveal your sentiments respecting the Cardinal to the King."
"Never mind; in the midst of these tortuous ways, I desire to take a new
one, the right line. My whole opinion, the opinion of a just man, shall
be unveiled to the King himself, if he interrogate me, even should it
cost me my head. I have at last seen this King, who has been described
to me as so weak; I have seen him, and his aspect has touched me to the
heart in spite of myself. Certainly, he is very unfortunate, but he can
not be cruel; he will listen to the truth."
"Yes; but he will not dare to make it triumph," answered the sage De
Thou. "Beware of this warmth of heart, which often draws you by sudden
and dangerous movements. Do not attack a colossus like Richelieu without
having measured him."
"That is just like my tutor, the Abbe Quillet. My dear and prudent
friend, neither the one nor the other of you know me; you do not know how
weary I am of myself, and whither I have cast my gaze. I must mount or
"What! already ambitious?" exclaimed De Thou, with extreme surprise.
His friend inclined his head upon his hands, abandoning the reins of his
horse, and did not answer.
"What! has this selfish passion of a riper age obtained possession of you
at twenty, Henri? Ambition is the saddest of all hopes."
"And yet it possesses me entirely at present, for I see only by means of
it, and by it my whole heart is penetrated."
"Ah, Cinq-Mars, I no longer recognize you! how different you were
formerly! I do not conceal from you that you appear to me to have
degenerated. In those walks of our childhood, when the life, and, above
all, the death of Socrates, caused tears of admiration and envy to flow
from our eyes; when, raising ourselves to the ideal of the highest
virtue, we wished that those illustrious sorrows, those sublime
misfortunes, which create great men, might in the future come upon us;
when we constructed for ourselves imaginary occasions of sacrifices and
devotion--if the voice of a man had pronounced, between us two, the
single world, 'ambition,' we should have believed that we were touching a
De Thou spoke with the heat of enthusiasm and of reproach. Cinq-Mars
went on without answering, and still with his face in his hands. After
an instant of silence he removed them, and allowed his eyes to be seen,
full of generous tears. He pressed the hand of his friend warmly, and
said to him, with a penetrating accent:
"Monsieur de Thou, you have recalled to me the most beautiful thoughts of
my earliest youth. Do not believe that I have fallen; I am consumed by a
secret hope which I can not confide even to you. I despise, as much as
you, the ambition which will seem to possess me. All the world will
believe in it; but what do I care for the world? As for you, noble
friend, promise me that you will not cease to esteem me, whatever you may
see me do. I swear that my thoughts are as pure as heaven itself!"
"Well," said De Thou, "I swear by heaven that I believe you blindly; you
give me back my life!"
They shook hands again with effusion of heart, and then perceived that
they had arrived almost before the tent of the King.
Day was nearly over; but one might have believed that a softer day was
rising, for the moon issued from the sea in all her splendor. The
transparent sky of the south showed not a single cloud, and it seemed
like a veil of pale blue sown with silver spangles; the air, still hot,
was agitated only by the rare passage of breezes from the Mediterranean;
and all sounds had ceased upon the earth. The fatigued army reposed
beneath their tents, the line of which was marked by the fires, and the
besieged city seemed oppressed by the same slumber; upon its ramparts
nothing was to be seen but the arms of the sentinels, which shone in the
rays of the moon, or the wandering fire of the night-rounds. Nothing was
to be heard but the gloomy and prolonged cries of its guards, who warned
one another not to sleep.
It was only around the King that all things waked, but at a great
distance from him. This Prince had dismissed all his suite; he walked
alone before his tent, and, pausing sometimes to contemplate the beauty
of the heavens, he appeared plunged in melancholy meditation. No one
dared to interrupt him; and those of the nobility who had remained in the
royal quarters had gathered about the Cardinal, who, at twenty paces from
the King, was seated upon a little hillock of turf, fashioned into a seat
by the soldiers. There he wiped his pale forehead, fatigued with the
cares of the day and with the unaccustomed weight of a suit of armor; he
bade adieu, in a few hurried but always attentive and polite words, to
those who came to salute him as they retired. No one was near him now
except Joseph, who was talking with Laubardemont. The Cardinal was
looking at the King, to see whether, before reentering, this Prince would
not speak to him, when the sound of the horses of Cinq-Mars was heard.
The Cardinal's guards questioned him, and allowed him to advance without
followers, and only with De Thou.
"You are come too late, young man, to speak with the King," said the
Cardinal-Duke with a sharp voice. "One can not make his Majesty wait."
The two friends were about to retire, when the voice of Louis XIII
himself made itself heard. This Prince was at that moment in one of
those false positions which constituted the misfortune of his whole life.
Profoundly irritated against his minister, but not concealing from
himself that he owed the success of the day to him, desiring, moreover,
to announce to him his intention to quit the army and to raise the siege
of Perpignan, he was torn between the desire of speaking to the Cardinal
and the fear lest his anger might be weakened. The minister, upon his
part, dared not be the first to speak, being uncertain as to the thoughts
which occupied his master, and fearing to choose his time ill, but yet
not able to decide upon retiring. Both found themselves precisely in the
position of two lovers who have quarrelled and desire to have an
explanation, when the King, seized with joy the first opportunity of
extricating himself. The chance was fatal to the minister. See upon
what trifles depend those destinies which are called great.
"Is it not Monsieur de Cinq-Mars?" said the King, in a loud voice.
"Let him approach; I am waiting for him."
Young D'Effiat approached on horseback, and at some paces from the King
desired to set foot to earth; but hardly had his leg touched the ground
when he dropped upon his knees.
"Pardon, Sire!" said he, "I believe that I am wounded;" and the blood
issued violently from his boot.
De Thou had seen him fall, and had approached to sustain him. Richelieu
seized this opportunity of advancing also, with dissembled eagerness.
"Remove this spectacle from the eyes of the King," said he. "You see
very well that this young man is dying."
"Not at all," said Louis, himself supporting him; "a king of France knows
how to see a man die, and has no fear of the blood which flows for him.
This young man interests me. Let him be carried into my tent, and let my
doctors attend him. If his wound is not serious, he shall come with me
to Paris, for the siege is suspended, Monsieur le Cardinal. Such is my
desire; other affairs call me to the centre of the kingdom. I will leave
you here to command in my absence. This is what I desired to say to
With these words the King went abruptly into his tent, preceded by his
pages and his officers, carrying flambeaux.
The royal pavilion was closed, and Cinq-Mars was borne in by De Thou and
his people, while the Duc de Richelieu, motionless and stupefied, still
regarded the spot where this scene had passed. He appeared thunder-
struck, and incapable of seeing or hearing those who observed him.
Laubardemont, still intimidated by his ill reception of the preceding
day, dared not speak a word to him, and Joseph hardly recognized in him
his former master. For an instant he regretted having given himself to
him, and fancied that his star was waning; but, reflecting that he was
hated by all men and had no resource save in Richelieu, he seized him by
the arm, and, shaking him roughly, said to him in a low voice, but
"Come, come, Monseigneur, you are chickenhearted; come with us."
And, appearing to sustain him by the elbow, but in fact drawing him in
spite of himself, with the aid of Laubardemont, he made him enter his
tent, as a schoolmaster forces a schoolboy to rest, fearing the effects
of the evening mist upon him.
The prematurely aged man slowly obeyed the wishes of his two parasites,
and the purple of the pavilion dropped upon him.
O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!
The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight,
Cold, fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
What do I fear? Myself?
I love myself!
Hardly was the Cardinal in his tent before he dropped, armed and
cuirassed, into a great armchair; and there, holding his handkerchief to
his mouth with a fixed gaze, he remained in this attitude, letting his
two dark confidants wonder whether contemplation or annihilation
maintained him in it. He was deadly pale, and a cold sweat streamed upon
his brow. In wiping it with a sudden movement, he threw behind him his
red cap, the only ecclesiastical sign which remained upon him, and again
rested with his mouth upon his hands. The Capuchin on one side, and the
sombre magistrate on the other, considered him in silence, and seemed,
with their brown and black costumes like the priest and the notary of a
The friar, drawing from the depth of his chest a voice that seemed better
suited to repeat the service of the dead than to administer consolation,
"If Monseigneur will recall my counsels given at Narbonne, he will
confess that I had a just presentiment of the troubles which this young
man would one day cause him."
The magistrate continued:
"I have learned from the old deaf abbe who dined at the house of the
Marechale d'Effiat, and who heard all, that this young Cinq-Mars
exhibited more energy than one would have imagined, and that he attempted
to rescue the Marechal de Bassompierre. I have still by me the detailed
report of the deaf man, who played his part very well. His Eminence the
Cardinal must be sufficiently convinced by it."
"I have told Monseigneur," resumed Joseph--for these two ferocious Seyds
alternated their discourse like the shepherds of Virgil--"I have told him
that it would be well to get rid of this young D'Effiat, and that I would
charge myself with the business, if such were his good pleasure.
It would be easy to destroy him in the opinion of the King."
"It would be safer to make him die of his wound," answered Laubardemont;
"if his Eminence would have the goodness to command me, I know intimately
the assistant-physician, who cured me of a blow on the forehead, and is
now attending to him. He is a prudent man, entirely devoted to
Monseigneur the Cardinal-Duke, and whose affairs have been somewhat
embarrassed by gambling."
"I believe," replied Joseph, with an air of modesty, mingled with a touch
of bitterness, "that if his Excellency proposed to employ any one in this
useful project, it should be his accustomed negotiator, who has had some
success in the past."
"I fancy that I could enumerate some signal instances," answered
Laubardemont, "and very recent ones, of which the difficulty was great."
"Ah, no doubt," said the father, with a bow and an air of consideration
and politeness, "your most bold and skilfully executed commission was the
trial of Urbain Grandier, the magician. But, with Heaven's assistance,
one may be enabled to do things quite as worthy and bold. It is not
without merit, for instance," added he, dropping his eyes like a young
girl, "to have extirpated vigorously a royal Bourbon branch."
"It was not very difficult," answered the magistrate, with bitterness,
"to select a soldier from the guards to kill the Comte de Soissons; but
to preside, to judge--"
"And to execute one's self," interrupted the heated Capuchin, "is
certainly less difficult than to educate a man from infancy in the
thought of accomplishing great things with discretion, and to bear all
tortures, if necessary, for the love of heaven, rather than reveal the
name of those who have armed him with their justice, or to die
courageously upon the body of him that he has struck, as did one who was
commissioned by me. He uttered no cry at the blow of the sword of
Riquemont, the equerry of the Prince. He died like a saint; he was my
"To give orders is somewhat different from running risk one's self."
"And did I risk nothing at the siege of Rochelle?"
"Of being drowned in a sewer, no doubt," said Laubardemont.
"And you," said Joseph, "has your danger been that of catching your
fingers in instruments of torture? And all this because the Abbess of
the Ursulines is your niece."
"It was a good thing for your brothers of Saint Francis, who held the
hammers; but I--I was struck in the forehead by this same Cinq-Mars, who
was leading an enraged multitude."
"Are you quite sure of that?" cried Joseph, delighted. "Did he dare to
act thus against the commands of the King?" The joy which this discovery
gave him made him forget his anger.
"Fools!" exclaimed the Cardinal, suddenly breaking his long silence, and
taking from his lips his handkerchief stained with blood. "I would
punish your angry dispute had it not taught me many secrets of infamy on
your part. You have exceeded my orders; I commanded no torture,
Laubardemont. That is your second fault. You cause me to be hated for
nothing; that was useless. But you, Joseph, do not neglect the details
of this disturbance in which Cinq-Mars was engaged; it may be of use in
"I have all the names and descriptions," said the secret judge, eagerly,
bending his tall form and thin, olive-colored visage, wrinkled with a
servile smile, down to the armchair.
"It is well! it is well!" said the minister, pushing him back;
"but that is not the question yet. You, Joseph, be in Paris before this
young upstart, who will become a favorite, I am certain. Become his
friend; make him of my party or destroy him. Let him serve me or fall.
But, above all, send me every day safe persons to give me verbal
accounts. I will have no more writing for the future. I am much
displeased with you, Joseph. What a miserable courier you chose to send
from Cologne! He could not understand me. He saw the King too soon,
and here we are still in disgrace in consequence. You have just missed
ruining me entirely. Go and observe what is about to be done in Paris.
A conspiracy will soon be hatched against me; but it will be the last.
I remain here in order to let them all act more freely. Go, both of you,
and send me my valet after the lapse of two hours; I wish now to be
The steps of the two men were still to be heard as Richelieu, with eyes
fixed upon the entrance to the tent, pursued them with his irritated
"Wretches!" he exclaimed, when he was alone, "go and accomplish some
more secret work, and afterward I will crush you, in pure instruments of
my power. The King will soon succumb beneath the slow malady which
consumes him. I shall then be regent; I shall be King of France myself;
I shall no longer have to dread the caprices of his weakness. I will
destroy the haughty races of this country. I will be alone above them
all. Europe shall tremble."
Here the blood, which again filled his mouth, obliged him to apply his
handkerchief to it once more.
"Ah, what do I say? Unhappy victim that I am! Here am I, death-
stricken! My dissolution is near; my blood flows, and my spirit desires
to labor still. Why? For whom? Is it for glory? That is an empty
word. Is it for men? I despise them. For whom, then, since I shall
die, perhaps, in two or three years? Is it for God? What a name!
I have not walked with Him! He has seen all--"
Here he let his head fall upon his breast, and his eyes met the great
cross of gold which was suspended from his neck. He could not help
throwing himself back in his chair; but it followed him. He took it; and
considering it with fixed arid devouring looks, he said in a low voice:
"Terrible sign! thou followest me! Shall I find thee elsewhere--
divinity and suffering? What am I? What have I done?"
For the first time a singular and unknown terror penetrated him. He
trembled, at once frozen and scorched by an invincible shudder. He dared
not lift his eyes, fearing to meet some terrible vision. He dared not
call, fearing to hear the sound of his own voice. He remained profoundly
plunged in meditations on eternity, so terrible for him, and he murmured
the following kind of prayer:
"Great God, if Thou hearest me, judge me then, but do not isolate me
in judging me! Look upon me, surrounded by the men of my generation;
consider the immense work I had undertaken!, Was not an enormous lever
wanted to bestir those masses; and if this lever in falling crushes some
useless wretches, am I very culpable? I seem wicked to men; but Thou,
Supreme judge, dost thou regard me thus?
"No; Thou knowest it is boundless power which makes creature culpable
against creature. It is not Armand de Richelieu who destroys; it is the
Prime-Minister. It is not for his personal injuries; it is to carry out
a system. But a system--what is this word? Is it permitted me to play
thus with men, to regard them as numbers for working out a thought, which
perhaps is false? I overturn the framework of the throne. What if,
without knowing it, I sap its foundations and hasten its fall! Yes, my
borrowed power has seduced me. O labyrinth! O weakness of human
thought! Simple faith, why did I quit thy path? Why am I not a simple
priest? If I dared to break with man and give myself to God, the ladder
of Jacob would again descend in my dreams."
At this moment his ear was struck by a great noise outside--laughter of
soldiers, ferocious shouts and oaths, mingled with words which were a
long time sustained by a weak yet clear voice; one would have said it was
the voice of an angel interrupted by the laughter of demons. He rose and
opened a sort of linen window, worked in the side of his square tent.
A singular spectacle presented itself to his view; he remained some
instants contemplating it, attentive to the conversation which was going
"Listen, listen, La Valeur!" said one soldier to another. "See, she
begins again to speak and to sing!"
"Put her in the middle of the circle, between us and the fire."
"You do not know her! You do not know her!" said another. "But here is
Grand-Ferre, who says that he knows her."
"Yes, I tell you I know her; and, by Saint Peter of Loudun, I will swear
that I have seen her in my village, when I had leave of absence; and it
was upon an occasion at which one shuddered, but concerning which one
dares not talk, especially to a Cardinalist like you."
"Eh! and pray why dare not one speak of it, you great simpleton?" said
an old soldier, twisting up his moustache.
"It is not spoken of because it burns the tongue. Do you understand
"No, I don't understand it."
"Well, nor I neither; but certain citizens told it to me."
Here a general laugh interrupted him.
"Ha, ha, ha! is he a fool?" said one. "He listens to what the
townsfolk tell him."
"Ah, well! if you listen to their gabble, you have time to lose," said
"You do not know, then, what my mother said, greenhorn?" said the
eldest, gravely dropping his eyes with a solemn air, to compel
"Eh! how can you think that I know it, La Pipe? Your mother must have
died of old age before my grandfather came into the world."
"Well, greenhorn, I will tell you! You shall know, first of all, that my
mother was a respectable Bohemian, as much attached to the regiment of
carabineers of La Roque as my dog Canon there. She carried brandy round
her neck in a barrel, and drank better than the best of us. She had
fourteen husbands, all soldiers, who died upon the field of battle."
"Ha! that was a woman!" interrupted the soldiers, full of respect.
"And never once in her life did she speak to a townsman, unless it was to
say to him on coming to her lodging, 'Light my candle and warm my soup.'"
"Well, and what was it that your mother said to you?"
"If you are in such a hurry, you shall not know, greenhorn. She said
habitually in her talk, 'A soldier is better than a dog; but a dog is
better than a bourgeois.'"
"Bravo! bravo! that was well said!" cried the soldier, filled with
enthusiasm at these fine words.
"That," said Grand-Ferre, "does not prove that the citizens who made the
remark to me that it burned the tongue were in the right; besides, they
were not altogether citizens, for they had swords, and they were grieved
at a cure being burned, and so was I."
"Eh! what was it to you that they burned your cure, great simpleton?"
said a sergeant, leaning upon the fork of his arquebus; "after him
another would come. You might have taken one of our generals in his
stead, who are all cures at present; for me, I am a Royalist, and I say
"Hold your tongue!" cried La Pipe; "let the girl speak. It is these
dogs of Royalists who always disturb us in our amusements."
"What say you?" answered Grand-Ferre. "Do you even know what it is to
be a Royalist?"
"Yes," said La Pipe; "I know you all very well. Go, you are for the old
self-called princes of the peace, together with the wranglers against the
Cardinal and the gabelle. Am I right or not?"
"No, old red-stocking. A Royalist is one who is for the King; that's
what it is. And as my father was the King's valet, I am for the King,
you see; and I have no liking for the red-stockings, I can tell you."
"Ah, you call me red-stocking, eh?" answered the old soldier. "You
shall give me satisfaction to-morrow morning. If you had made war in the
Valteline, you would not talk like that; and if you had seen his Eminence
marching upon the dike at Rochelle, with the old Marquis de Spinola,
while volleys of cannonshot were sent after him, you would have nothing
to say about red-stockings."
"Come, let us amuse ourselves, instead of quarrelling," said the other
The men who conversed thus were standing round a great fire, which
illuminated them more than the moon, beautiful as it was; and in the
centre of the group was the object of their gathering and their cries.
The Cardinal perceived a young woman arrayed in black and covered with a
long, white veil. Her feet were bare; a thick cord clasped her elegant
figure; a long rosary fell from her neck almost to her feet, and her
hands, delicate and white as ivory, turned its beads and made them pass
rapidly beneath her fingers. The soldiers, with a barbarous joy, amused
themselves with laying little brands in her way to burn her naked feet.
The oldest took the smoking match of his arquebus, and, approaching it to
the edge of her robe, said in a hoarse voice:
"Come, madcap, tell me your history, or I will fill you with powder and
blow you up like a mine; take care, for I have already played that trick
to others besides you, in the old wars of the Huguenots. Come, sing."
The young woman, looking at him gravely, made no reply, but lowered her
"You don't manage her well," said Grand-Ferre, with a drunken laugh; "you
will make her cry. You don't know the fine language of the court; let me
speak to her." And, touching her on the chin, "My little heart," he
said, "if you will please, my sweet, to resume the little story you told
just now to these gentlemen, I will pray you to travel with me upon the
river Du Tendre, as the great ladies of Paris say, and to take a glass of
brandy with your faithful chevalier, who met you formerly at Loudun, when
you played a comedy in order to burn a poor devil."
The young woman crossed her arms, and, looking around her with an
imperious air, cried:
"Withdraw, in the name of the God of armies; withdraw, impious men!
There is nothing in common between us. I do not understand your tongue,
nor you mine. Go, sell your blood to the princes of the earth at so many
oboles a day, and leave me to accomplish my mission! Conduct me to the
A coarse laugh interrupted her.
"Do you think," said a carabineer of Maurevert, "that his Eminence the
Generalissimo will receive you with your feet naked? Go and wash them."
"The Lord has said, 'Jerusalem, lift thy robe, and pass the rivers of
water,'" she answered, her arms still crossed. "Let me be conducted to
Richelieu cried in a loud voice, "Bring the woman to me, and let her
All were silent; they conducted her to the minister.
"Why," said she, beholding him--"why bring me before an armed man?"
They left her alone with him without answering.
The Cardinal looked at her with a suspicious air. "Madame," said he,
"what are you doing in the camp at this hour? And if your mind is not
disordered, why these naked feet?"
"It is a vow; it is a vow," answered the young woman, with an air of
impatience, seating herself beside him abruptly. "I have also made a vow
not to eat until I have found the man I seek."
"My sister," said the Cardinal, astonished and softened, looking closely
at her, "God does not exact such rigors from a weak body, and
particularly from one of your age, for you seem very young."
"Young! oh, yes, I was very young a few days ago; but I have since
passed two existences at least, so much have I thought and suffered.
Look on my countenance."
And she discovered a face of perfect beauty. Black and very regular eyes
gave life to it; but in their absence one might have thought her features
were those of a phantom, she was so pale. Her lips were blue and
quivering; and a strong shudder made her teeth chatter.
"You are ill, my sister," said the minister, touched, taking her hand,
which he felt to be burning hot. A sort of habit of inquiring concerning
his own health, and that of others, made him touch the pulse of her
emaciated arm; he felt that the arteries were swollen by the beatings of
a terrible fever.
"Alas!" he continued, with more of interest, "you have killed yourself
with rigors beyond human strength! I have always blamed them, and
especially at a tender age. What, then, has induced you to do this? Is
it to confide it to me that you are come? Speak calmly, and be sure of
"Confide in men!" answered the young woman; "oh, no, never! All have
deceived me. I will confide myself to no one, not even to Monsieur Cinq-
Mars, although he must soon die."
"What!" said Richelieu, contracting his brows, but with a bitter laugh,
--"what! do you know this young man? Has he been the cause of your
"Oh, no! He is very good, and hates wickedness; that is what will ruin
him. Besides," said she, suddenly assuming a harsh and savage air, "men
are weak, and there are things which women must accomplish. When there
were no more valiant men in Israel, Deborah arose."
"Ah! how came you with all this fine learning?" continued the Cardinal,
still holding her hand.
"Oh, I can't explain that!" answered she, with a touching air of naivete
and a very gentle voice; "you would not understand me. It is the Devil
who has taught me all, and who has destroyed me."
"Ah, my child! it is always he who destroys us; but he instructs us
ill," said Richelieu, with an air of paternal protection and an
increasing pity. "What have been your faults? Tell them to me; I am
"Ah," said she, with a look of doubt, "you have much influence over
warriors, brave men and generals! Beneath your cuirass must beat a noble
heart; you are an old General who knows nothing of the tricks of crime."
Richelieu smiled; this mistake flattered him.
"I heard you ask for the Cardinal; do you desire to see him? Did you
come here to seek him?"
The girl drew back and placed a finger upon her forehead.
"I had forgotten it," said she; "you have talked to me too much. I had
overlooked this idea, and yet it is an important one; it is for that that
I have condemned myself to the hunger which is killing me. I must
accomplish it, or I shall die first. Ah," said she, putting her hand
beneath her robe in her bosom, whence she appeared to take something,
"behold it! this idea--"
She suddenly blushed, and her eyes widened extraordinarily. She
continued, bending to the ear of the Cardinal:
"I will tell you; listen! Urbain Grandier, my lover Urbain, told me this
night that it was Richelieu who had been the cause of his death. I took
a knife from an inn, and I come here to kill him; tell me where he is."
The Cardinal, surprised and terrified, recoiled with horror. He dared
not call his guards, fearing the cries of this woman and her accusations;
nevertheless, a transport of this madness might be fatal to him.
"This frightful history will pursue me everywhere!" cried he, looking
fixedly at her, and thinking within himself of the course he should take.
They remained in silence, face to face, in the same attitude, like two
wrestlers who contemplate before attacking each other, or like the
pointer and his victim petrified by the power of a look.
In the mean time, Laubardemont and Joseph had gone forth together; and
ere separating they talked for a moment before the tent of the Cardinal,
because they were eager mutually to deceive each other. Their hatred had
acquired new force by their recent quarrel; and each had resolved to ruin
his rival in the mind of his master. The judge then began the dialogue,
which each of them had prepared, taking the arm of the other as by one
and the same movement.
"Ah, reverend father! how you have afflicted me by seeming to take in
ill part the trifling pleasantries which I said to you just now."
"Heavens, no! my dear Monsieur, I am far from that. Charity, where
would be charity? I have sometimes a holy warmth in conversation, for
the good of the State and of Monseigneur, to whom I am entirely devoted."
"Ah, who knows it better than I, reverend father? But render me justice;
you also know how completely I am attached to his Eminence the Cardinal,
to whom I owe all. Alas! I have employed too much zeal in serving him,
since he reproaches me with it."
"Reassure yourself," said Joseph; "he bears no ill-will toward you. I
know him well; he can appreciate one's actions in favor of one's family.
He, too, is a very good relative."
"Yes, there it is," answered Laubardemont; "consider my condition. My
niece would have been totally ruined at her convent had Urbain triumphed;
you feel that as well as I do, particularly as she did not quite
comprehend us, and acted the child when she was compelled to appear."
"Is it possible? In full audience! What you tell me indeed makes me
feel for you. How painful it must have been!"
"More so than you can imagine. She forgot, in her madness, all that she
had been told, committed a thousand blunders in Latin, which we patched
up as well as we could; and she even caused an unpleasant scene on the
day of the trial, very unpleasant for me and the judges--there were
swoons and shrieks. Ah, I swear that I would have scolded her well had I
not been forced to quit precipitately that, little town of Loudun. But,
you see, it is natural enough that I am attached to her. She is my
nearest relative; for my son has turned out ill, and no one knows what
has become of him during the last four years. Poor little Jeanne de
Belfiel! I made her a nun, and then abbess, in order to preserve all for
that scamp. Had I foreseen his conduct, I should have retained her for
"She is said to have great beauty," answered Joseph; "that is a precious
gift for a family. She might have been presented at court, and the King
--Ah! ah! Mademoiselle de la Fayette--eh! eh!--Mademoiselle
d'Hautefort--you understand; it may be even possible to think of it yet."
"Ah, that is like you, Monseigneur! for we know that you have been
nominated to the cardinalate; how good you are to remember the most
devoted of your friends!"
Laubardemont was yet talking to Joseph when they found themselves at the
end of the line of the camp, which led to the quarter of the volunteers.
"May God and his Holy Mother protect you during my absence!" said
Joseph, stopping. "To-morrow I depart for Paris; and as I shall have
frequent business with this young Cinq-Mars, I shall first go to see him,
and learn news of his wound."
"Had I been listened to," said Laubardemont, "you would not now have had
"Alas, you are right!" answered Joseph, with a profound sigh, and
raising his eyes to heaven; "but the Cardinal is no longer the same man.
He will not take advantage of good ideas; he will ruin us if he goes on
And, making a low bow to the judge, the Capuchin took the road which he
had indicated to him.
Laubardemont followed him for some time with his eyes, and, when he was
quite sure of the route which he had taken, he returned, or, rather, ran
back to the tent of the minister. "The Cardinal dismisses him, he tells
me; that shows that he is tired of him. I know secrets which will ruin
him. I will add that he is gone to pay court to the future favorite.
I will replace this monk in the favor of the minister. The moment is
propitious. It is midnight; he will be alone for an hour and a half yet.
Let me run."
He arrived at the tent of the guards, which was before the pavilion.
"Monseigneur gives audience to some one," said the captain, hesitating;
"you can not enter."
"Never mind; you saw me leave an hour ago, and things are passing of
which I must give an account."
"Come in, Laubardemont," cried the minister; "come in quickly, and
He entered. The Cardinal, still seated, held the two hands of the nun in
one of his, and with the other he imposed silence upon his stupefied
agent, who remained motionless, not yet seeing the face of this woman.
She spoke volubly, and the strange things she said contrasted horribly
with the sweetness of her voice. Richelieu seemed moved.
"Yes, I will stab him with a knife. It is the knife which the demon
Behirith gave me at the inn; but it is the nail of Sisera. It has a
handle of ivory, you see; and I have wept much over it. Is it not
singular, my good General? I will turn it in the throat of him who
killed my friend, as he himself told me to do; and afterward I will burn
the body. There is like for like, the punishment which God permitted to
Adam. You have an astonished air, my brave general; but you would be
much more so, were I to repeat to you his song--the song which he sang to
me again last night, at the hour of the funeral-pyre--you understand?--
the hour when it rains, the hour when my hand burns as now. He said to
me: 'They are much deceived, the magistrates, the red judges. I have
eleven demons at my command; and I shall come to see you when the clock
strikes, under a canopy of purple velvet, with torches--torches of resin
to give us light--' Ah, that is beautiful! Listen, listen to what he
And she sang to the air of De Profundis.
"Is it not singular, my good General?" said she, when she had finished;
"and I--I answer him every evening."
"Then he speaks as spirits and prophets speak. He says: 'Woe, woe to him
who has shed blood! Are the judges of the earth gods? No, they are men
who grow old and suffer, and yet they dare to say aloud, Let that man
die! The penalty of death, the pain of death--who has given to man the
right of imposing it on man? Is the number two? One would be an
assassin, look you! But count well, one, two, three. Behold, they are
wise and just, these grave and salaried criminals! O crime, the horror
of Heaven! If you looked upon them from above as I look upon them, you
would be yet paler than I am. Flesh destroys flesh! That which lives by
blood sheds blood coldly and without anger, like a God with power to
The cries which the unhappy girl uttered, as she rapidly spoke these
words, terrified Richelieu and Laubardemont so much that they still
remained motionless. The delirium and the fever continued to transport
"'Did the judges tremble?' said Urbain Grandier to me. 'Did they tremble
at deceiving themselves?' They work the work of the just. The question!
They bind his limbs with ropes to make him speak. His skin cracks, tears
away, and rolls up like a parchment; his nerves are naked, red, and
glittering; his bones crack; the marrow spurts out. But the judges
sleep! they dream of flowers and spring. 'How hot the grand chamber
is!' says one, awaking; 'this man has not chosen to speak! Is the
torture finished?' And pitiful at last, he dooms him to death--death, the
sole fear of the living! death, the unknown world! He sends before him
a furious soul which will wait for him. Oh! has he never seen the
vision of vengeance? Has he never seen before falling asleep the flayed
Already weakened by fever, fatigue, and grief, the Cardinal, seized with
horror and pity, exclaimed:
"Ah, for the love of God, let this terrible scene have an end! Take away
this woman; she is mad!"
The frantic creature turned, and suddenly uttering loud cries, "Ah, the
judge! the judge! the judge!" she said, recognizing Laubardemont.
The latter, clasping his hands and trembling before the Cardinal, said
"Alas, Monseigneur, pardon me! she is my niece, who has lost her reason.
I was not aware of this misfortune, or she would have been shut up long
ago. Jeanne! Jeanne! come, Madame, to your knees! ask forgiveness of
Monseigneur the Cardinal-duc."
"It is Richelieu!" she cried; and astonishment seemed wholly to paralyze
this young and unhappy beauty. The flush which had animated her at first
gave place to a deadly pallor, her cries to a motionless silence, her
wandering looks to a frightful fixedness of her large eyes, which
constantly followed the agitated minister.
"Take away this unfortunate child quickly," said he; "she is dying, and
so am I. So many horrors pursue me since that sentence that I believe
all hell is loosed upon me."
He rose as he spoke; Jeanne de Belfiel, still silent and stupefied, with
haggard eyes, open mouth, and head bent forward, yet remained beneath the
shock of her double surprise, which seemed to have extinguished the rest
of her reason and her strength. At the movement of the Cardinal, she
shuddered to find herself between him and Laubardemont, looked by turns
at one and the other, let the knife which she held fall from her hand,
and retired slowly toward the opening of the tent, covering herself
completely with her veil, and looking wildly and with terror behind her
upon her uncle who followed, like an affrighted lamb, which already feels
at its back the burning breath of the wolf about to seize it.
Thus they both went forth; and hardly had they reached the open air, when
the furious judge caught the hands of his victim, tied them with a
handkerchief, and easily led her, for she uttered no cry, not even a
sigh, but followed him with her head still drooping upon her bosom, and
as if plunged in profound somnambulism.
Meantime, a scene of different nature was passing in the tent of Cinq-
Mars; the words of the King, the first balm to his wounds, had been
followed by the anxious care of the surgeons of the court. A spent ball,
easily extracted, had been the only cause of his accident. He was
allowed to travel and all was ready. The invalid had received up to
midnight friendly or interested visits; among the first were those of
little Gondi and of Fontrailles, who were also preparing to quit
Perpignan for Paris. The ex-page, Olivier d'Entraigues, joined with them
in complimenting the fortunate volunteer, whom the King seemed to have
distinguished. The habitual coldness of the Prince toward all who
surrounded him having caused those who knew of them to regard the few
words he had spoken as assured signs of high favor, all came to
At length, released from visitors, he lay upon his camp-bed. De Thou sat
by his side, holding his hand, and Grandchamp at his feet, still
grumbling at the numerous interruptions that had fatigued his wounded
master. Cinq-Mars himself tasted one of those moments of calm and hope,
which so refresh the soul as well as the body. His free hand secretly
pressed the gold cross that hung next to his heart, the beloved donor of
which he was so soon to behold. Outwardly, he listened with kindly looks
to the counsels of the young magistrate; but his inward thoughts were all
turned toward the object of his journey--the object, also, of his life.
The grave De Thou went on in a calm, gentle voice:
"I shall soon follow you to Paris. I am happier than you at seeing the
King take you there with him. You are right in looking upon it as the
beginning of a friendship which must be turned to profit. I have
reflected deeply on the secret causes of your ambition, and I think I
have divined your heart. Yes; that feeling of love for France, which
made it beat in your earliest youth, must have gained greater strength.
You would be near the King in order to serve your country, in order to
put in action those golden dreams of your early years. The thought is a
vast one, and worthy of you! I admire you; I bow before you. To
approach the monarch with the chivalrous devotion of our fathers, with a
heart full of candor, and prepared for any sacrifice; to receive the
confidences of his soul; to pour into his those of his subjects; to
soften the, sorrows of the King by telling him the confidence his people
have in him; to cure the wounds of the people by laying them open to its
master, and by the intervention of your favor thus to reestablish that
intercourse of love between the father and his children which for
eighteen years has been interrupted by a man whose heart is marble; for
this noble enterprise, to expose yourself to all the horrors of his
vengeance and, what is even worse, to brave all the perfidious calumnies
which pursue the favorite to the very steps of the throne--this dream was
worthy of you.
"Pursue it, my friend," De Thou continued. "Never become discouraged.
Speak loudly to the King of the merit and misfortunes of his most
illustrious friends who are trampled on. Tell him fearlessly that his
old nobility have never conspired against him; and that from the young
Montmorency to the amiable Comte de Soissons, all have opposed the
minister, and never the monarch. Tell him that the old families of
France were born with his race; that in striking them he affects the
whole nation; and that, should he destroy them, his own race will suffer,
that it will stand alone exposed to the blast of time and events, as an
old oak trembling and exposed to the wind of the plain, when the forest
which surrounded and supported it has been destroyed. Yes!" cried De
Thou, growing animated, "this aim is a fine and noble one. Go on in your
course with a resolute step; expel even that secret shame, that shyness,
which a noble soul experiences before it can resolve upon flattering--
upon paying what the world calls its court. Alas, kings are accustomed
to these continual expressions of false admiration for them! Look upon
them as a new language which must be learned--a language hitherto foreign
to your lips, but which, believe me, may be nobly spoken, and which may
express high and generous thoughts."
During this warm discourse of his friend, Cinq-Mars could not refrain
from a sudden blush; and he turned his head on his pillow toward the
tent, so that his face might not be seen. De Thou stopped:
"What is the matter, Henri? You do not answer. Am I deceived?"
Cinq-Mars gave a deep sigh and remained silent.
"Is not your heart affected by these ideas which I thought would have
The wounded man looked more calmly at his friend and said:
"I thought, my dear De Thou, that you would not interrogate me further,
and that you were willing to repose a blind confidence in me. What evil
genius has moved you thus to sound my soul? I am not a stranger to these
ideas which possess you. Who told you that I had not conceived them?
Who told you that I had not formed the firm resolution of prosecuting
them infinitely farther in action than you have put them in words? Love
for France, virtuous hatred of the ambition which oppresses and shatters
her ancient institutions with the axe of the executioner, the firm belief
that virtue may be as skilful as crime,--these are my gods as much as
yours. But when you see a man kneeling in a church, do you ask him what
saint or what angel protects him and receives his prayer? What matters
it to you, provided that he pray at the foot of the altars that you
adore--provided that, if called upon, he fall a martyr at the foot of
those 'altars? When our forefathers journeyed with naked feet toward the
Holy Sepulchre, with pilgrims' staves in their hands, did men inquire the
secret vow which led them to the Holy Land? They struck, they died; and
men, perhaps God himself, asked no more. The pious captain who led them
never stripped their bodies to see whether the red cross and haircloth
concealed any other mysterious symbol; and in heaven, doubtless, they
were not judged with any greater rigor for having aided the strength of
their resolutions upon earth by some hope permitted to a Christian--some
second and secret thought, more human, and nearer the mortal heart."
De Thou smiled and slightly blushed, lowering his eyes.
"My friend," he answered, gravely; "this excitement may be injurious to
you. Let us not continue this subject; let us not mingle God and heaven
in our discourse. It is not well; and draw the coverings over your
shoulder, for the night is cold. I promise you," he added, covering his
young invalid with a maternal care--"I promise not to offend you again
with my counsels."
"And I," cried Cinq-Mars, despite the interdiction to speak, "swear to
you by this gold cross you see, and by the Holy Mary, to die rather than
renounce the plan that you first traced out! You may one day, perhaps,
be forced to pray me to stop; but then it will be too late."
"Very well!" repeated the counsellor, "now sleep; if you do not stop, I
will go on with you, wherever you lead me."
And, taking a prayer-book from his pocket, he began to read attentively;
in a short time he looked at Cinq-Mars, who was still awake. He made a
sign to Grandchamp to put the lamp out of sight of the invalid; but this
new care succeeded no better. The latter, with his eyes still open,
tossed restlessly on his narrow bed.
"Come, you are not calm," said De Thou, smiling; "I will read to you some
pious passage which will put your mind in repose. Ah, my friend, it is
here that true repose is to be found; it is in this consolatory book,
for, open it where you will, you will always see, on the one hand, man in
the only condition that suits his weakness--prayer, and the uncertainty
as to his destiny--and, on the other, God himself speaking to him of his
infirmities! What a glorious and heavenly spectacle! What a sublime
bond between heaven and earth! Life, death, and eternity are there; open
it at random."
"Yes!" said Cinq-Mars, rising with a vivacity which had something boyish
in it; "you shall read to me, but let me open the book. You know the old
superstition of our country--when the mass-book is opened with a sword,
the first page on the left contains the destiny of him who reads, and the
first person who enters after he has read is powerfully to influence the
reader's future fate."
"What childishness! But be it as you will. Here is your sword; insert
the point. Let us see."
"Let me read myself," said Cinq-Mars, taking one side of the book. Old
Grandchamp gravely advanced his tawny face and his gray hair to the foot
of the bed to listen. His master read, stopped at the first phrase, but
with a smile, perhaps slightly forced, he went on to the end.
"I. Now it was in the city of Milan that they appeared.
"II. The high-priest said to them, 'Bow down and adore the gods.'
"III. And the people were silent, looking at their faces, which appeared
as the faces of angels.
"IV. But Gervais, taking the hand of Protais, cried, looking to heaven,
and filled with the Holy Ghost:
"V. Oh, my brother! I see the Son of man smiling upon us; let me die
"VI. For if I see thy blood, I fear I shall shed tears unworthy of the
Lord our God.
"VII. Then Protais answered him in these words:
"VIII. My brother, it is just that I should perish after thee, for I am
older, and have more strength to see thee suffer.
"IX. But the senators and people ground their teeth at them.
"X. And the soldiers having struck them, their heads fell together on
the same stone.
"XI. Now it was in this same place that the blessed Saint Ambroise found
the ashes of the two martyrs which gave sight to the blind."
"Well," said Cinq-Mars, looking at his friend when he had finished, "what
do you say to that?"
"God's will be done! but we should not scrutinize it."
"Nor put off our designs for a child's play," said D'Effiat impatiently,
and wrapping himself in a cloak which was thrown over him. "Remember the
lines we formerly so frequently quoted, 'Justum et tenacem Propositi
viruna'; these iron words are stamped upon my brain. Yes; let the
universe crumble around me, its wreck shall carry me away still
"Let us not compare the thoughts of man with those of Heaven; and let us
be submissive," said De Thou, gravely.
"Amen!" said old Grandchamp, whose eyes had filled with tears, which he
hastily brushed away.
"What hast thou to do with it, old soldier? Thou weepest," said his
"Amen!" said a voice, in a nasal tone, at the entrance of the tent.
"Parbleu, Monsieur! rather put that question to his Gray Eminence, who
comes to visit you," answered the faithful servant, pointing to Joseph,
who advanced with his arms crossed, making a salutation with a frowning
"Ah, it will be he, then!" murmured Cinq-Mars.
"Perhaps I come inopportunely," said Joseph, soothingly.
"Perhaps very opportunely," said Henri d'Effiat, smiling, with a glance
at De Thou. "What can bring you here, Father, at one o'clock in the
morning? It should be some good work."
Joseph saw he was ill-received; and as he had always sundry reproaches to
make himself with reference to all persons whom he addressed, and as many
resources in his mind for getting out of the difficulty, he fancied that
they had discovered the object of his visit, and felt that he should not
select a moment of ill humor for preparing the way to friendship.
Therefore, seating himself near the bed, he said, coldly:
"I come, Monsieur, to speak to you on the part of the Cardinal-
Generalissimo, of the two Spanish prisoners you have made; he desires to
have information concerning them as soon as possible. I am to see and
question them. But I did not suppose you were still awake; I merely
wished to receive them from your people."
After a forced interchange of politeness, they ordered into the tent the
two prisoners, whom Cinq-Mars had almost forgotten.
They appeared--the one, young and displaying an animated and rather wild
countenance, was the soldier; the other, concealing his form under a
brown cloak, and his gloomy features, which had something ambiguous in
their expression, under his broad-brimmed hat, which he did not remove,
was the officer. He spoke first:
"Why do you make me leave my straw and my sleep? Is it to deliver me or
"Neither," said Joseph.
"What have I to do with thee, man with the long beard? I did not see
thee at the breach."
It took some time after this amiable exordium to make the stranger
understand the right a Capuchin had to interrogate him.
"Well," he said, "what dost thou want?"
"I would know your name and your country."
"I shall not tell my name; and as for my country, I have the air of a
Spaniard, but perhaps am not one, for a Spaniard never acknowledges his
Father Joseph, turning toward the two friends, said: "Unless I deceive
myself, I have heard his voice somewhere. This man speaks French without
an accent; but it seems he wishes to give us enigmas, as in the East."
"The East? that is it," said the prisoner. "A Spaniard is a man from
the East; he is a Catholic Turk; his blood either flags or boils; he is
lazy or indefatigable; indolence makes him a slave, ardor a tyrant;
immovable in his ignorance, ingenious in his superstition, he needs only
a religious book and a tyrannical master; he obeys the law of the pyre;
he commands by that of the poniard. At night he falls asleep in his
bloodthirsty misery, nurses fanaticism, and awakes to crime. Who is this
gentleman? Is it the Spaniard or the Turk? Guess! Ah! you seem to
think that I have wit, because I light upon analogy."
"Truly, gentlemen, you do me honor; and yet the idea may be carried much
further, if desired. If I pass to the physical order, for example, may I
not say to you, This man has long and serious features, a black and
almond-shaped eye, rugged brows, a sad and mobile mouth, tawny, meagre,
and wrinkled cheeks; his head is shaved, and he covers it with a black
handkerchief in the form of a turban; he passes the whole day lying or
standing under a burning sun, without motion, without utterance, smoking
a pipe that intoxicates him. Is this a Turk or a Spaniard? Are you
satisfied, gentlemen? Truly, it would seem so; you laugh, and at what do
you laugh? I, who have presented this idea to you--I have not laughed;
see, my countenance is sad. Ah! perhaps it is because the gloomy
prisoner has suddenly become a gossip, and talks rapidly. That is
nothing! I might tell you other things, and render you some service, my
"If I should relate anecdotes, for example; if I told you I knew a priest
who ordered the death of some heretics before saying mass, and who,
furious at being interrupted at the altar during the holy sacrifice,
cried to those who asked for his orders, 'Kill them all! kill them
all!'--should you all laugh, gentlemen? No, not all! This gentleman
here, for instance, would bite his lips and his beard. Oh! it is true
he might answer that he did wisely, and that they were wrong to interrupt
his unsullied prayer. But if I added that he concealed himself for an
hour behind the curtain of your tent, Monsieur de Cinq-Mars, to listen
while you talked, and that he came to betray you, and not to get me, what
would he say? Now, gentlemen, are you satisfied? May I retire after
The prisoner had uttered this with the rapidity of a quack vending his
wares, and in so loud a voice that Joseph was quite confounded. He arose
indignantly at last, and, addressing himself to Cinq-Mars, said:
"How can you suffer a prisoner who should have been hanged to speak to
you thus, Monsieur?"
The Spaniard, without deigning to notice him any further, leaned toward
D'Effiat, and whispered in his ear:
"I can be of no further use to you; give me my liberty. I might ere this
have taken it; but I would not do so without your consent. Give it me,
or have me killed."
"Go, if you will!" said Cinq-Mars to him. "I assure you I shall be very
glad;" and he told his people to retire with the soldier, whom he wished
to keep in his service.
This was the affair of a moment. No one remained any longer in the tent
with the two friends, except the abashed Joseph and the Spaniard. The
latter, taking off his hat, showed a French but savage countenance. He
laughed, and seemed to respire more air into his broad chest.
"Yes, I am a Frenchman," he said to Joseph. "But I hate France, because
she gave birth to my father, who is a monster, and to me, who have become
one, and who once struck him. I hate her inhabitants, because they have
robbed me of my whole fortune at play, and because I have robbed them and
killed them. I have been two years in Spain in order to kill more
Frenchmen; but now I hate Spain still more. No one will know the reason
why. Adieu! I must live henceforth without a nation; all men are my
enemies. Go on, Joseph, and you will soon be as good as I. Yes, you
have seen me once before," he continued, violently striking him in the
breast and throwing him down. "I am Jacques de Laubardemont, the son of
your worthy friend."
With these words, quickly leaving the tent, he disappeared like an
apparition. De Thou and the servants, who ran to the entrance, saw him,
with two bounds, spring over a surprised and disarmed soldier, and run
toward the mountains with the swiftness of a deer, despite various
musket-shots. Joseph took advantage of the disorder to slip away,
stammering a few words of politeness, and left the two friends laughing
at his adventure and his disappointment, as two schoolboys laugh at
seeing the spectacles of their pedagogue fall off. At last they prepared
to seek a rest of which they both stood in need, and which they soon
found-=the wounded man in his bed, and the young counsellor in his chair.
As for the Capuchin, he walked toward his tent, meditating how he should
turn all this so as to take the greatest possible revenge, when he met
Laubardemont dragging the young mad-woman by her two hands. They
recounted to each other their mutual and horrible adventures.
Joseph had no small pleasure in turning the poniard in the wound of his
friend's heart, by telling him of the fate of his son.
"You are not exactly happy in your domestic relations," he added. "I
advise you to shut up your niece and hang your son, if you are fortunate
enough to find him."
Laubardemont replied with a hideous laugh:
"As for this idiot here, I am going to give her to an ex-secret judge, at
present a smuggler in the Pyrenees at Oleron. He can do what he pleases
with her--make her a servant in his posada, for instance. I care not, so
that my lord never hears of her."
Jeanne de Belfiel, her head hanging down, gave no sign of sensibility.
Every glimmer of reason was extinguished in her; one word alone remained
upon her lips, and this she continually pronounced.
"The judge! the judge! the judge!" she murmured, and was silent.
Her uncle and Joseph threw her, almost like a sack of corn, on one of the
horses which were led up by two servants. Laubardemont mounted another,
and prepared to leave the camp, wishing to get into the mountains before
"A good journey to you!" he said to Joseph. "Execute your business well
in Paris. I commend to you Orestes and Pylades."
"A good journey to you!" answered the other. "I commend to you
Cassandra and OEdipus."
"Oh! he has neither killed his father nor married his mother."
"But he is on the high-road to those little pleasantries."
"Adieu, my reverend Father!"
"Adieu, my venerable friend!"
Then each added aloud, but in suppressed tones:
"Adieu, assassin of the gray robe! During thy absence I shall have the
ear of the Cardinal."
"Adieu, villain in the red robe! Go thyself and destroy thy cursed
family. Finish shedding that portion of thy blood that is in others'
veins. That share which remains in thee, I will take charge of. Ha!
a well-employed night!"
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Ambition is the saddest of all hopes
Assume with others the mien they wore toward him
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