Part 1 out of 13
This etext was produced by Charles Franks and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
PRINCE EUGENE AND HIS TIMES
An Historical Novel
AUTHOR OF FREDERICK THE GREAT AND HIS COURT, THE MERCHANT OF BERLIN,
BERLIN AND SANS-SOUCI, JOSEPH II. AND HIS COURT, ETC.
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN
BY ADELAIDE DeV. CHAUDRON
I. The Countess of Soissons
II. The Laboratory
III. Prince Eugene
IV. The Riot
V. Barbesieur Louvois
VI. The State Reception
VII. Help in Time of Need
VIII. The Flight
IX. The Parting
I. Marianna Mancini
II. The Trial
III. A Skirmish
IV. Louvois' Daughter
V. The Court-Ball
VI. The Lady of the Bedchamber
VII. The Lady of the Bedchamber
VIII. First Love
IX. The Betrayal
I. The Disappointment
II. The Foes
III. The Repulse
IV. The Farewell
V. A Page from History
VI. The Emperor Leopold I.
VII. The Council of War
VIII. The Plains of Kitsee
IX. The Baptism of Blood
XI. The Re-enforcements
I. The Fall of Buda
II. The Friends
III. The Marquis Strozzi
V. The Regatta
VI. The Negotiator
VII. The Lovers reunited
VIII. Antonio's Expiation
IX. The Dungeon
I. A Twofold Victory
II. The Dumb Music
III. The Retirement of the Commander-in-Chief
IV. The Fall of Belgrade
V. The Marchioness
VI. The Flight
VII. The Forester's Hut
I. Sister Angelica
II. Louis the Fourteenth
III. The King and the Petitioners
IV. The Window that was too large
V. The Imperial Diet at Regensburg
VI. The Judith of Esslingen
VII. Her Return
I. The Island of Bliss
II. The French in Speier
III. The Treasure
IV. Caspar's Vengeance
V. The Duchess of Orleans
VI. The Deliverance of Trier
VII. The Fire-tongs
VIII. Brave Hearts
I. The Advance into France
II. The Ravens
III. Sick and Well
IV. The Duke's Dangerous Illness
V. The Marquis Strozzi
VI. Insanity and Revenge
VII. The Ambrosia
VIII. The Betrothal
PRINCE EUGENE AND HIS TIMES.
PRINCE EUGENE, THE LITTLE ABBE
THE COUNTESS OF SOISSONS.
"Is that your last word, madame?" said Louvois, in a tone so
emphatic as to be almost threatening.
"My last word," replied the countess, haughtily. "My daughter is too
young to marry, and were she older, I would not impose a husband
upon her who was not the man of her choice. She shall bestow her
hand and heart together."
"Do you mean that it is impossible for your daughter to love my
son?" asked Louvois, hastily.
The countess raised her shoulders and smiled superciliously, while
from her large black eyes there darted forth a glance that spoke
volumes to the mind of the irritated minister.
"It would appear," said she, "that there can be no sympathy between
the Mancinis and the Louvois, and that their antipathies are to be
perpetuated from generation to generation."
"You would remind me of the similarity which the fate of my son as a
wooer bears to that of his father?" asked Louvois. "I do not deny
it; the repulse which twenty-one years ago I received from Olympia
Mancini, she repeats to-day in the person of her daughter. But it
may be that on some other occasion the Mancinis shall be repulsed by
"A threat?" said the countess, angrily.
Now it was the shoulders of the minister that were raised. "I have
sowed love and reaped hate," said he, quietly.
The countess laughed. "Ah," said she, "I see that you have
remodelled your speech according to the pious formulary of Madame de
Maintenon, and that you seek for your troubadours among the
"Yes--the Scriptural prophets satisfy MY cravings for knowledge,"
replied Louvois, smiling. "Pity that everybody else is not as
orthodox as I!"
"What do you mean?" asked the countess, uneasily.
"I mean that it would be better for the Countess de Soissons if she
imitated the discretion of Madame de Maintenon, and eschewed
association with those unholy prophets who draw their inspiration
from the stars."
"Do you think so? And yet the book of the stars is inspired and
contains truth, for therein it stands written that our two families
will never be united by the bonds of love. What is the use of
striving against destiny? Fate has willed our enmity, and we must
submit with resignation," said the countess, with an affected drawl.
"You see," added she, pathetically, "how beautifully I fall into
your new-fashioned dialect, and how harmoniously my dulcet notes
mingle with those of the court chorus."
"I remember the dulcet notes of a poem written years ago, which were
wont to edify the court with a strain that would sound inharmonious
there to-day. What would De Montespan and De Maintenon say to such
discordant lines as these?" And Louvois began to hum the following:
"La belle Olympe n'a point de seconde,
Et l'Amour a bien reuni
Dedans l'infanta Mancini
Par un avantage supreme
Tout ce qui force a dire: J'aime!
Et qui l'a fait dire a nos dieux!"
[Footnote: "Les Nieces de Mazarion," par Renee, p. 177.]
"What they would say?" replied the countess; "why, they would listen
approvingly to a rhapsody which time has falsified, and imagine that
I wince to hear it sung. But they would be in error. I thank you for
recalling to my mind the golden vision of the past, wherein a king
knelt at my feet, and Louvois lived upon my smiles. She who can look
back upon conquests such as these, can afford to despise the
contrarieties of the present, while she plumes her victorious wings
for future flight, wherein she shall attain indemnification for the
trifling vexations of to-day."
"I wish you may realize your joyous anticipations," replied Louvois,
with a sneer. "But if you will allow me to draw your horoscope, you
will confess that I am a wiser seer than your dear friend La
For one moment the features of the countess contracted painfully,
but she mastered her emotion and was able to reply with a tranquil
smile,--"Do so, your excellency, I am all attention."
"I read in the stars that snares encompass you, Countess de
Soissons. You have enemies, numerous, powerful, and crafty. At their
head stands the queen, who can never forgive you for having opened
one of her letters, and having stolen thence a note addressed to the
king, which accused her of secret machinations with Spain. Then
there is poor Louise de la Valliere, who for your cruel sarcasms
shed such oceans of tears--"
"She is in a convent."
"True, but the scars of your persecutions are upon her heart; and
although she may be a Christian, think you that she has ceased to be
a woman? Third--among the number of those who hate you is the
Marquise de Montespan, to whom the brilliant assemblages at the
Hotel de Soissons are a source of mortification, for she can never
forget that, on more than one occasion, the king has forgotten his
rendezvous with her, to linger at the side of his fascinating
hostess. And we must not overlook the pious De Maintenon, who lives
in constant terror lest some day or other your presence should
recall to the king that golden vision of his youth, whereof Olympia
Mancini was the enshrined divinity. For this reason you are more
obnoxious to the ex-governess than De Montespan herself. The star of
the latter favorite is already on the wane, whereas yours may rise
again at the bidding of Memory. These four women have long-meditated
your destruction, and many are the thorns with which they have
strewed your path in life. But, to compass your ruin, there was
wanting ONE strong arm that could concentrate their scattered
missiles, and hurl them in ONE great bomb at your head. Countess de
Soissons, that arm is mine--I, Louvois, the trusted minister of the
king, the friend of De Maintenon, the mightiest subject in France--I
am the man whose arm shall strike on behalf of your enemies, of whom
in me behold the chief! You have thrown me your gauntlet, and I
raise it. I proclaim myself your foe, and since there must be war
between our races, we shall see whether for the future the Mancinis
may not be made to suffer through the Louvois! This is my horoscope,
and now mark well my last words: La Voisin the soothsayer was
arrested last night."
All the self-control which she could gather to meet this sinister
disclosure, could not smother the groan which was upheaved from
Olympia's sinking heart.
Louvois affected not to hear it. He bowed low and prepared to take
his leave. The countess made no effort to detain him; she was too
frightened for circumspection, and she followed his retreating
figure with eyes that were all aflame with hate. Nor did their fiery
glow abate when, having reached the door, Louvois turned and
He surveyed her calmly, but his eye returned hate for hate, and so
for a moment they stared at each other, while there passed between
the two a silent challenge, which both felt was to be fought out to
After a pause Louvois spoke. His mouth dilated with a cruel smile,
which, when its mocking light was seen, betokened peril to those who
"Madame," said he. "not only has La Voisin been arrested, but her
private papers have been seized." So saying, he bowed again and
disappeared behind the portiere.
The countess listened to his echoing footsteps until they were no
longer audible, nor did she move until she heard the roll of the
carriage which bore him away.
Gradually the sound of the receding vehicle melted into distance,
and a deep silence ensued. This silence first roused the countess
from her lethargy. A tremor convulsed her limbs; her dilated orbs
which had been fixed upon the door relaxed, and wandered from the
silken hangings of the walls to the gilded furniture around her;
from the tables of Florentine marble to the rainbow-tinted
chandeliers, whose pendants swayed to and fro in the sunshine. And
now they rested dreamily upon a picture which, conspicuous for size
and beauty, hung immediately opposite to the sofa whereon she was
reclining. It was the full length portrait of a handsome youth. He
was not tall, but he was gracefully proportioned. His shoulders were
broad; and, rising from the midst of a slender throat, adorned with
a fall of lace, appeared his stately head crowned with a wealth of
long, brown curls. His face was of a beautiful oval, his complexion
clear, his mouth wreathed with happy smiles. The brow was high and
arched, and the fine gray eyes beamed with hope and energy. In one
hand he held a rose, which he extended to a person not represented
in the picture; the other band, half veiled by its overhanging fall
of gossamer lace, rested carelessly on the table, while close by lay
two rose-buds, which seemed just to have been dropped from the half-
open fingers. Over an arm-chair in the background was thrown a
mantle of royal ermine, which partially concealed the kingly crown
that surmounted its high carved back.
The eyes of the countess were fixed upon this picture with an
expression of tender sadness, and slowly, as if yielding to an
influence altogether objective, she rose from her seat and advanced
toward the portrait, where she remained gazing until her sight was
dimmed by tears, while the youth smiled ever, and ever held out the
What golden tribute had his homage brought to her ambition! What
ecstasy had it poured into her heart! How truly had she loved that
princely boy, who, careless, happy, and fickle, was bestowing upon
other women the roses which for her had withered years ago, leaving
upon their blighted stems the sharp and cruel thorns of his
Since then, twenty-three years had gone by; she had become a wife
and the mother of seven children, but the wound still festered; the
old sorrow still sang its mournful dirge within a heart which to-day
beat as wildly as ever, and felt a pang as keen as when it first
grew jealous, and learned that not she, but Marie, had become the
divinity whom Louis worshipped.
Marie, too, had been forsaken, and had stifled the cries of her
despairing heart by marriage with another. The fate of both sisters
had been the same--a short dream of gratified ambition, followed by
long years of humiliation. It seemed that the prosperity and
happiness of Cardinal Mazarin's nieces had been coexistent with his
life, for when the eyes of their uncle closed in death, the light of
their fortunes grew dim and expired.
The portrait of Louis XIV., which was calling up the spectres of so
many buried joys, had been painted expressly for Olympia Mancini. It
represented his first declaration of love to her, and had been sent
as a souvenir of "the brightest hour of his life." He had barely
reached his thirty-seventh year, and yet this winsome youth had been
transformed into a demure devotee, who, despising the vanities of
the world, had turned his heart toward heaven, and spent his life
doing penance for the sins of his early manhood!
And this transformation was the work of a woman who had neither
beauty, youth, nor birth to recommend her to the favor of a monarch-
-a woman who had been the paid governess of the king's bastards, and
was not even gifted with intellect enough to cover her other
These last thoughts brought a smile to the face of the countess.
Turning suddenly away from the portrait she crossed the room with
rapid steps, and placed herself directly in front of a large
Venetian mirror which occupied the space between two windows. It
gave back the reflection of an exquisite figure, whose outlines
contributed much to the grace with which the folds of a blue satin
dress fell in rich profusion around it. The white shoulders were
scarcely concealed by a shawl of superb lace, and the arms, still
round, were set off by costly bracelets. The raven hair, with not a
trace of time's finger to discolor its glossy blackness, fell around
her face in curls as delicate as the tendrils of a grape. Her brow
was smooth and polished, her eyes aglow with passionate longing,
and, as her lips curved into a complacent smile, they disclosed two
rows of pearly teeth, compact and without a fleck.
Yes, she was not deceived. Olympia de Soissons was a handsome woman,
and with so much comeliness, such ready wit, and such unrivalled
powers of conversation, she might gird up her loins to do battle
with her rivals. Was not Madame de Maintenon her elder by three
years? And as for De Montespan, was she not wasting away into an old
woman? If they had found it possible to win the heart of this
sensual Louis, why not she? This heart had once been all her own,
and why should not she, who combined the beauty of one mistress with
the shrewdness of the other, dispossess them both, and re-enter into
possession of her old domains?
She smiled again, and saw how well her smiles became her. "Yes,"
said she to herself, "yes, I will recall this truant merlin, and he
shall return to perch upon the hand he used to love! I will be
mistress of his heart and mistress of his realms. She foretold it
all, and gave me the charm wherewith to work the spell."
But as she gave utterance to these last words, her lips began to
quiver, and her fine features were distorted by some sudden pain.
She had just called to mind the fearful intelligence of La Voisin's
"Great God! If my letters should have been found among her papers!
What, oh what would be MY fate?"
She shuddered--and in place of the triumphant vision of a heart
recaptured, a monarch at her feet, there arose the fearful spectacle
of an execution which, four years before, she had witnessed at the
bloody Place de Greve. Once more she saw the square, black with a
mass of human beings, who, jeering, shouting, and cursing, moved
hither and thither like the waves of a turbulent ocean; at every
window that looked out upon the place, she saw gayly-dressed ladies
who peered anxiously out to catch a glimpse of one gloomy object
that loomed darkly up from its centre. She saw the crowd give way
and part, as, keeping pace with the dull sound of a muffled drum, a
sad procession entered upon the scene. At its head marched a
battalion of soldiers, and behind them, seated in the felon's cart,
came a pale, beautiful woman, who ever and anon pressed to her
quivering lips the crucifix held out to her by a priest--that last
link of sympathy between the convict and his fellow-creatures. At
the criminal's side, in symbolic robes of sanguinary red, was the
executioner that was to sever this slender tie, and wrench the
spirit from the body to whose guardianship God had committed it on
earth. Silently the hideous cortege moved on, while the crowd fell
back to let it pass, until the scaffold came to view. How joyously
the sun's rays seemed to play around the glittering axe that was to
end a career of secret crime! How eagerly the high-born dames bend
forward to catch sight of the criminal, as, leaning on the arm of
the priest, she tottered to her doom! Olympia remembered only too
well the moment when the drum ceased its "discordant sound," and
when the silence was so oppressive that the low voice of the
condemned was heard uttering her last prayer. She knelt beside the
block--a circle of light was described upon the air--and the head
fell upon the blood-besprinkled sand.
The Countess de Soissons sickened as she remembered that the woman
whom she had seen executed was one of high position, no less a
personage than the beautiful and fascinating Marquise de
Brinvilliers. Neither her rank, her charms, nor the strenuous
efforts of her powerful friends, had been adequate to save her from
the headsman's axe. She had been convicted of poisoning, and had
shared the fate of other malefactors of less repute. Her confidante
La Voisin had been arrested at the time, but as nothing proved her
to have been an accomplice of her former mistress she had escaped
Something new with regard to the fortune-teller must have
transpired, for Louvois had considered her arrest as an ill-omen for
the Countess de Soissons. Not only for Olympia, however, was the
arrest of Catherine a calamity, for she was the trusty counsellor of
many a noble lady who, before suspicion had sullied her name, had
been the dear and intimate associate of the Marquise de
The countess had turned away from the contemplation of her mellow
charms, and was on her way to her boudoir. She bolted the door
within, and, crossing the room, mounted a chair that stood by the
side of a tall mirror set in a thick gilt frame. She touched a
spring, when the mirror glided noiselessly aside, revealing a dark
recess within the wall.
Olympia slipped through the opening, which closed behind her, darted
up a narrow staircase, and, hastily drawing a key from a pocket
concealed within the folds of her dress, she unlocked the door of a
room whose aspect was anything but appropriate to the pursuits of a
lady of quality.
It was to all appearances a kitchen, for one entire side of it was
occupied by a hearth full of recesses, each one of which contained a
furnace fitted up with iron utensils for cooking. On the mantel,
which corresponded to this immense hearth, were ranged pipkins and
other vessels of different sizes, interspersed with rows of phials
and flasks containing liquids of every imaginable color. On a
massive oaken table, in the centre of the apartment, were placed a
number of bowls and dishes, and near them lay a disorderly pile of
papers, books, and pamphlets.
Olympia approached the hearth, stooped over one of the furnaces, and
from a fagot lying near gathered a few small sticks. Over these
sticks she poured a fluid from one of her flasks, and then rubbing
them briskly together, they began to emit sparks. She placed them
under the furnace, added a little more fuel, and in a few moments
had a good fire.
She now sprang to her feet, and hastily pushing aside a row of
pipkins, opened a small door which had been concealed behind them,
above the mantel. From a recess within the wall she took a brass-
bound casket, which she placed upon the table.
The casket contained some books, papers, and several diminutive
phials. One of these phials she held up to the light, contemplating
its contents with manifest satisfaction.
"Herein lies the spell that is to lure my faithless monarch back
again. La Voisin may rot in prison, but her mantle of science has
fallen upon me, and her secrets are mine. Her last, best gift shall
restore me to my throne. Not only did she leave me the means of
success, but she foretold the certainty of that success besides. It
must be so: La Voisin never erred in her predictions, and I shall
Pressing the phial to her lips, Olympia hid it beneath the folds of
her lace tucker, murmuring the while, "I shall sip of this nectar
anon; for the present, I must provide for discovery."
She took the papers that lay in the casket, and weighing them in her
hand said musingly:
"How light they are, and yet how heavy was the gold with which I
purchased them! 'Tis a pity they should be destroyed: what if I
should forget? But no! oblivion of their treasured secrets were
impossible to me; so away with you! You might turn traitors, and I
had best anticipate treachery by destruction."
Then followed the books and the contents of the phials remaining in
the casket. The blue flames leaped high as these last were added to
the cremation, and the room became oppressive with their unwholesome
"The window must be opened," said Olympia. "This odor might betray
me. People might suspect me of having cooked arsenic in my kitchen
instead of onions."
With, these words she opened the casement, and the noxious cloud
passed slowly out into the air.
"Now all is safe. Louvois can send as many bailiffs as he lists, and
should they poke their inquisitive noses into my sanctum, they will
find nothing for their pains but an innocent laboratory wherein the
Countess de Soissons prepares her cosmetics, and makes experiments
in the chemistry of the toilet."
She replaced her casket, searched the mantel carefully, and then
glanced sharply around the room to assure herself that she was alone
Yes! Alone, the witnesses of her guilt consumed, and their ashes
etherealized throughout space.
The countess smiled, and, as she locked the door of her laboratory,
her spirits revived and her thoughts once more reverted to the
ambitious dreams of the morning. When she had reached her boudoir
again, and the complaisant mirror had resumed its place, she drew
the flask from her bosom, removed the glass stopper, inhaled for a
moment its perfume, and then, raising it to her lips, drained the
contents to their last drop.
"And this philter is to make me mistress of your heart, King Louis!
How I long to begin my reign!"
A slight rustling was heard outside, and the guilty woman trembled
anew. She concealed the phial, and listened breathlessly, while her
straining eyes were fixed upon the door as though they had hoped to
see through its panels of oak whether friend or foe stood without.
A slight knock was heard, and now, in spite of herself, the Countess
de Soissons grew pale and shivered. What if the myrmidons of Louvois
had come with a lettre de cachet! What if--No! not even HE would go
so far in his enmity to the niece of the great cardinal, the
relative of the reigning Duke of Savoy, and the daughter-in-law of
the Princess Carignan.
So she summoned resolution enough to cross the room, draw back the
bolt, and to say in a loud, imperious tone: "Come in."
The door opened, and admitted a young man. The countess no sooner
recognized him than she smiled, and, with a slight elevation of her
shoulders, said, "Nobody but you."
"Nobody but me," replied the youth, sadly. "I come to ask of my
gracious mother an interview."
The countess inclined her head in token of assent; but, as she did
so, her eyes rested on the diminutive form of her son with an
expression that savored of disdain. The look was unmotherly, and
seemed to say, "How can a man of such insignificant appearance be
the son of the stately Countess de Soissons?"
And indeed to a careless observer the words were not inappropriate
to his dwarfish proportions. His head, which, between his
excessively wide shoulders, was perched upon the top of a very long
neck, was too large, much too large for his body. His face was
narrow, his complexion swarthy, his sallow cheeks high and sunken. A
nose slightly turned up, gave an expression of boldness to his
countenance, increased by the shortness of his upper lip, which
exposed to view two large front teeth that were almost ferocious in
their size. On either side of his high, narrow forehead, his hair,
instead of being worn according to the prevailing fashion, was
suffered to fall in long elf-locks about his ears. Notwithstanding
all these disadvantages, his eyes were so superlatively beautiful
that they almost persuaded you into the belief that he was handsome.
From their lustrous depths there streamed a meteoric splendor,
which, more than words, revealed the genius, the enthusiasm, and the
noble soul to which Nature had assigned such unworthy corporality.
Those speaking eyes were fixed upon the countess in tender sadness,
while, in a respectful attitude near the door, he awaited her
permission to approach.
She languidly extended her hand, and, Eugene coming forward, bent
over and imprinted upon it a heartfelt kiss.
"My dear mother then consents?" said he, humbly.
"I know of no reason why I should refuse," replied the countess,
carelessly. "Neither am I able to divine wherefore you make your
request in a tone of such unusual solemnity. One would suppose that
the little abbe has come to invite his mother to a confession of her
sins, so portentous is his demeanor."
"Would I could receive that confession," exclaimed he, earnestly;
"would I could look into my mother's heart and read the secrets
"Indeed! and have you come hither to catechise your mother, then?"
said the countess, with a frown.
"No, dear mother, no," cried Eugene, eagerly; "I have come to ask of
you whether I may walk with head erect before the world, or whether
I must die because of our dishonor?"
"An extraordinary alternative to present for my decision, certainly;
and I confess that I am very curious to learn how it happens that I
can assist you in your dilemma. Speak, then, and I will listen."
With these words the countess threw herself indolently into an arm-
chair, and motioned Eugene to a seat. But he only advanced a step or
two, and gazed wistfully upon her handsome, hardened face.
"Mother," said he, in a low, husky voice, "the soothsayer La Voisin
has been arrested."
"Ah! what else?" asked the countess, with perfect composure.
"Her house is guarded, every corner has been searched, and her
papers have all been seized."
"And what else?" repeated the countess.
Her son looked up, and a ray of hope shot athwart his pale and
anxious face. "Nothing is talked of in Paris," continued he, "but
the strange revelations connected with her arrest. It is said that
she not only drew the horoscope of those who were accustomed to
visit her, and gave them philters, but--but--"
"But," echoed the countess as her son paused.
"But that she prepared secret poisons, one of which, called 'La
poudre de succession,' was specially designed for the use of those
who wished to remove an inconvenient relative."
This time the countess was silent; her brow contracted, and she
An involuntary cry burst from the lips of her son, which recalled
her to a sense of her imprudence.
"What ails you?" asked she, abruptly. "Have you seen a ghost, that
you cry out in a voice so unearthly?"
"Yes, mother, I have seen a ghost--the ghost of my father! "And
while the countess grew pale, and her eyes dilated with fear, her
unhappy son sank upon his knees before her, and clasped his hands
with agony of apprehension.
"Mother, have mercy on me, and forgive me if, in the anguish of my
writhing soul, I ask you whether you are innocent of my father's
"Has any one dared to accuse me?" asked she, with a scowl.
"Ay! And so publicly, that men spoke of it together as I passed them
in the streets to-day. Need I say that I was ready to die of grief
as I heard the epithet of murderess applied to the mother who to me
has been the ideal of beauty, goodness, and excellence, which my
heart has worshipped to the exclusion of all other loves! My brain
was on fire as I dashed through the scornful crowd, and made my way
to you, mother, here to look upon your dear face, and read in your
eyes your innocence of the hideous crime. We are alone with God: in
mercy tell me, are you innocent or guilty?"
As he raised his face to hers, the countess saw there such powerful
love struggling with his anguish, that her heart was touched, and
the angry words she had meditated died upon her lips.
"These are cruel doubts wherewith to assail your mother, Eugene,"
said she, after a pause. "Follow me, and in the presence of your
forefathers you shall he answered."
With a lofty bend of the head, she left the room, followed by her
stricken child. They crossed a spacious hall, and traversed one
after another the apartments of state which were thrown open to
guests on occasions of great ceremony, and led to the grand hall of
reception. At the farther end of this hall, under a canopy of purple
velvet, surmounted by a ducal crown, were the two thrones which, on
the days of these state receptions, the Count and Countess de
Soissons were privileged to occupy in presence of their guests,
provided his majesty were not of the number. This right they held by
virtue of their connection with the royal house of France, and their
close relationship to the Duke of Savoy. At the time of the marriage
of his niece with the Count de Soissons, Cardinal Mazarin had
obtained from Louis XIV. an acknowledgment of her husband as a
prince of the blood, and, by virtue of this acknowledgment, his
right to attend without invitation all court festivities, to appear
at the public and private levees of the king, and in his own palace
to sit upon a throne.
On either side of the throne-room of the Hotel de Soissons were
ranged the portraits of their ancestors, in armor, in ducal or
episcopal robes, in doublet and hose, or in flowing wigs. Silently
the mother and son walked by the stately effigies of princes and
princesses, until they had reached the farthest portrait there.
With outstretched arms the countess pointed to the likeness of a
handsome man, clad in a rich court-suit, which well became his
aristocratic figure. As he gazed upon the pleasant smile that
illumined a face expressive of exceeding goodness, the eyes of young
Eugene filled with tears.
His mother surveyed him with a curl of her lip.
"Tears!" said she. "And yet you stand before the portrait of your
father, whom you accuse me of having murdered!"
"No, no," cried her son, eagerly, "I did not accuse, I--I--"
"You inquired," interrupted the countess, disdainfully. "And by your
inquiry you insinuate that such a crime by the hand of your mother
was not only possible, but probable."
"Unhappily, I have more than once seen La Voisin in your boudoir,
The countess affected not to hear. "Then a son considers himself
justifiable in asking of his mother whether or not she poisoned his
father; he should do so with the sword of justice in his hand, not
with an eyelid that trembles with cowardly tears."
"Mother, have pity on me," sobbed Eugene, throwing himself at her
feet. "Do not answer my cruel question, for I read your innocence in
the noble scorn that flashes from your eye, and beams from every
feature of your dear, truthful face. Pardon me, beloved mother;
pardon your repentant child."
"No, I shall not pardon the poltroon who, believing that his mother
has disgraced his escutcheon, weeps like a woman over wrongs which
he should avenge like a man. But I forgot. The little abbe of Savoy
is not accustomed to wear a sword; HIS weapon is the missal. Go,
then, to your prayers, and when you pray for your father's soul, ask
forgiveness of God for your heartless and ungrateful conduct to his
"Dear, dear mother, have pity!" sobbed Eugene, still kneeling at her
"Was there any pity in your heart for me when you asked that
"I was demented," cried he; "maddened by the sneers that were flung
at me in the streets to-day."
"And, to console yourself, you joined in the popular cry. 'Vox
populi vox Dei,' I suppose, is your pious motto."
"Mother!" cried Eugene, springing to his feet, "crush me, if you
will, under the weight of your anger, but do not stretch me upon the
rack of your scorn. I am no devotee; and, if the king, my family,
and yourself, are, forcing me into a career which is repugnant to
every instinct of my manhood, pity me, if you will, but do not
"Pity you!" sneered the countess. "I am a woman; but he who would
venture to pity ME, would receive my glove in his face for his
insolence. Go, faint heart! You are fit for nothing but a whining
priest, for there is not a spark of manhood within your sluggish
breast. No generous blood of the princes of Savoy mantles in your
sallow check; 'tis the ichorous fluid of the churchman Mazarin that-
"Mother!" thundered Eugene, with a force that gave the lie to her
derisive words--"mother, you shall go no further in your disdain of
me, for the blood of Savoy is seething within my veins, and I may,
perchance, forget that she who so affronts my father's son, is my
"You have already forgotten," replied the countess, coldly. "My
answer to your infamous charge shall be made not to you, but to your
So saying, she bent her steps toward the ducal throne, and seating
herself thereon, addressed her son:
"Eugene of Savoy, Prince of Carignan, Bourbon, and Piedmont, bend
your knee before the mother that bore you, and hearken to her
The prince obeyed, and knelt at the foot of the throne.
The countess raised her arm, and pointed to the portraits that hung:
around. "You have been witnesses," said she, addressing them all,
"to the outrage which has been put upon me to-day by him who
inherits your name, but not your worth. If I am the guilty wretch
which he has pronounced me to be, strike me to the earth for my
crimes, and justify his parricidal words. But you know that I am
innocent, and that, with bitter tears, I lamented the death of my
"Murdered!" exclaimed Eugene. "It is, then, true that he was
"Yes," replied the countess, "he was murdered, but not by bowl or
With these words, she rose, and, slowly descending from her throne,
she returned to the spot which she had left, and gazed mournfully
upon her husband's portrait. "He was a noble, brave, and gallant
prince," said she, softly. "He loved me unspeakably, and wherefore
should I have taken the life of him whose whole pleasure lay in
ministering to my happiness? What could I gain by the death of the
dearest friend I ever had? Ah, never would he have mistrusted his
Olympia! Had the envious rabble of Paris defamed me while he lived
to defend my honor, it is not your father, Prince Eugene, that would
have joined my traducers and outraged my woman-hood, as you have
"Forgive me," murmured the prince.
"Yes, my beloved," continued she, addressing the picture, "they
accuse me of murdering thee, because they seek my ruin as they
"Who, dear mother, who?" cried Eugene, passionately. "Who are the
fiends that murdered my father and calumniate my mother?"
"They are Louis XIV.," exclaimed the countess, "his minister
Louvois, and his two mistresses, De Montespan and De Maintenon."
"The king!" echoed Eugene, in a voice of such fury, that his mother
turned her eyes from the portrait, and stared at him with amazement.
"You hate the king?" said she, hurriedly.
"Yes," said Eugene, his eyes flashing fire; "yes, I hate him."
"Do not ask me, mother; I dare not say wherefore I hate the king."
"Then I will tell you why. You hate him because you believe the
scandalous reports which my enemies have spread throughout Europe as
regards my relations, in years gone by, with Louis. You believe that
your mother was once the king's mistress, and that, to hide her
shame, she borrowed the name of the Count de Soissons."
Eugene made no reply.
"Ah, why have I no son to shelter me from these infamous suspicions!
Why must I live and die under such false and disgraceful
"Then, it is not true?" cried Eugene, joyfully. "You did not love
the king, mother?"
"Yes, I did love him," said she, calmly, "and loved him as an
Italian alone can love."
Eugene groaned, and covered his face with his hands.
"I do not deny the love," continued the countess, "for it was all
the work of Cardinal Mazarin. He brought me from Italy, and bade me
win the king's heart and become a queen; and when he did so he added
a recommendation to me to be a good, dutiful niece, and never to
forget who it was had helped me to a crown. I saw the youth whom the
cardinal desired me to love: the handsomest, wittiest, and most
accomplished cavalier in France. I obeyed but too willingly, and
Louis became the idol of my life."
"Then it is true that my mother was beloved by the king?" said
"Beloved by him, but never his mistress!" returned the countess,
proudly. "Yes, he loved me as I did him, with the trust, the
strength, the passion, that are characteristic of a first love. I
was ambitious for him as well as for myself, and would have had him
a monarch in deed as well as in name. I led him away from the
frivolous regions of indolent enjoyment to the starry realms of
poetry, art, and science; and, had Louis ever risen to the fame of
Numa, I should have merited that of Egeria. But this conflicted with
the ambition of the cardinal. He had no sooner comprehended the
nature of the influence I exerted over his royal tool, than he
poisoned his ear by insinuating that ambition, not love, was the
spring of all my efforts to elevate him to the level of his
magnificent destiny. Poor, weak Louis! He was anything that Cardinal
Mazarin chose to make him; so at the word of command he ceased to
love, and went to make an offering of his accommodating affections
to Marie. She made him take an oath never to look at me again."
"Did he respect the oath?"
"Just so long as he loved Marie. I need not tell you that I suffered
from his inconstancy. I was inexpressibly grieved; but pride upheld
me, and Louis never received a word or look of reproach for his
faithlessness. Meanwhile your father offered his hand, and before I
accepted it he was made acquainted with the history of my heart. I
concealed nothing from him, so that he was at once the confidant of
my past sorrows, and their comforter."
"Thank you, dear, dear mother," said Eugene, tenderly. "In the name
of all your children, let me thank you for your noble candor."
"I married the Prince de Soissons, and here, in presence of his
assembled ancestors, I swear that I have kept unstained the faith I
pledged him at the marriage-altar. Let the world belie me as it
will, Olympia Mancini has ever been a spotless wife. So true is
this, that Louis, when he had abandoned Marie, and had tired of his
queen, returned to me with vows of a love which he swore had been
the only genuine passion of his life; and when, as my husband's
loyal wife, I repulsed the advances of his sovereign, that sovereign
became my bitterest enemy. Not even after he had consoled himself
with the insipid charms of that poor, flimsy creature, La Valliere,
did Louis relent; his animosity, because of some witticism of mine
on the subject of his hysterical mistress, has pursued me throughout
life; not only me, but every member of my family. For a mere epigram
I was banished from Paris, and your father stripped of a lucrative
and honorable office. We managed after a time to return to court,
but my enemies were more powerful than I. Through the jealousy of
the Marquise de Montespan I was a second time banished; but before
we left, your father fought two duels with noblemen who had
circulated the calumnies which the marquise had originated
concerning me. The Duke de Noailles was wounded, and the Chevalier
de Grand Mercy killed. Although the challenges had been honorably
sent and accepted, the Count de Soissons was summoned before the
king and publicly rebuked. Oh, let me speak no longer of the
contumely we endured during those bitter days! My husband died,
blessing me, and cursing the selfish monarch who had ruined us
Eugene clinched his hand. "I shall remember the curse," cried he,
"and it shall be verified if God give me strength, mother!"
"Yes, avenge us if you can, Eugene, but, until the day of reckoning
come, we must be politic and wary. Be silent and discreet as I was,
when, on being allowed to return to Paris, I humbled myself for my
dear children's sake, and not only swore to write no more epigrams,
but went in person to sue to Madame de Montespan for pardon and
"Mother, is it possible! Far better had it been for us to die
obscurely in some provincial village, than purchase our admission to
court at the price of such humiliation as that!"
"No, no--I had sworn to be revenged upon my persecutors, and no plan
of vendetta could I carry out in a provincial village. Do you
remember what I told my sons on the day of our return to the Hotel
"Ay, mother, that do I. You said: 'Bow your heads in ostensible
humility, but never forget that the Bourbons have robbed you of your
inheritance. Never forget that if you are poor, it is because on
some idle pretext of a conspiracy that never could be proved, Louis
XIV. sequestered the estates of the Counts de Soissons.' These were
your words, and you see that I have not forgotten them. They are the
steel on which I have sharpened the hate I feel for the King of
France. And now that its edge is keen, why may I not lift it against
the man who belied my mother, and murdered my father? Oh mother,
mother, why will you force me to become a priest?"
"What else could you become?" asked Olympia. "The king is your
guardian, and he it is that from your childhood has destined you for
"I hate this garb," exclaimed Eugene, touching his cassock. "My
vocation is not for the priesthood, and, if I am called upon to
utter compulsory vows, I feel that I shall disgrace my cloth. Dear
mother, loosen the detested bonds that bind me to a listless and
contemplative life! Gird me with a sword, and let me go out to
battle with the world like a man!"
The countess looked disdainfully at the diminutive figure of her
son, and raised her shoulders with contempt. "You a soldier!"
"Yes!" exclaimed Eugene, passionately. "Yes! My soul abhors the
cloister, and yearns for the battle-field. While you have fancied
that I was studying theology, I have been poring over the lives of
great commanders; and, instead of preparing my soul for heaven, I
have trained my body for earthly strife. Look not so compassionately
upon my stature, mother. This body is slender, but 'tis the coat of
mail that covers an intrepid soul, and I have hardened it until it
can bid defiance to wind or weather. With this arm I curb the
wildest horse, nor will its sinews yield to the blow of the most
practised swordsman in France. I have studied the science of warfare
in books: my life has been one long preparation for its practice,
and I cannot, will not relinquish my day-dreams of glory."
"There is no help for it, I tell you. All princes of the blood are
wards of the king: your royal guardian has chosen your profession,
and you must either submit or bear the consequences of his wrath."
"What care I for his wrath? Let him give me my freedom, and I will
promise never to seek my fortune at his hands."
"At all events, wait for some favorable opportunity to rebel,
Eugene. We are poor and dependent now, and your brother's scandalous
marriage has forever marred our hopes of seeing him heir to the
duchy of Savoy. To think of a Prince de Carignan uniting himself to
the daughter of the equerry of the Prince de Conde! What a
"My brother consulted his heart and not his escutcheon," replied
Eugene, with a smile. "He followed the example of his father, and
may God bless him with a wife as beautiful and as virtuous as his
The countess, who had begun to frown at Eugene's apology for his
brother, could not resist this filial flattery. She gave him her
hand, which he kissed devoutly.
"You no longer believe me guilty, my son?" said she. Eugene knelt
and murmured: "Pardon, dear, dear mother! My life will be all too
short to expiate my unworthy doubts, and to avenge your wrongs."
"Avenge them, but do not exasperate the king. Imitate Richelieu and
Mazarin, and the priest's gown will no longer be distasteful to you.
They were great in the field and in the cabinet, and both possessed
more than regal power, for both were the rulers of kings."
Eugene was about to reply, but Olympia raised her hand in
remonstrance, and continued:
"I exact of you, for a time at least, apparent submission and
perfect silence. When the hour is ripe for retaliation, you shall
strike, and repay me for all that I have endured at the hands of the
king. But, for the present, breathe not the name of Louis above a
whisper. I have a deadlier foe than he to encounter now. Louvois,
Louvois, I dread above all other men; and if you have the strength
of a man in your arm, Eugene, let the force of its vengeance fall
upon the head of him, whose animosity is more potent than that of
all my other enemies united."
"It shall crush him and all who seek to injure you, mother.
Revenge!--yes, revenge for your wrongs, for my father's death, and
for MY bondage!"
"Ay, revenge, Eugene! A man may wear the garb of an ecclesiastic
with the heart of a hero, and to your brave heart these Princes of
Carignan commit my cause! Come, let us leave our ancestors to their
grim repose. May they lend their ghostly aid to the arm that wields
the carnal weapons of our righteous vengeance!"
As she turned to leave the gallery, the train of her blue satin
dress became entangled in the claws of the lion which supported the
throne. Eugene stooped hastily to release it, and, instead of
dropping it again, he smiled affectionately upon his mother and
placed himself in the attitude of a page.
The countess looked pleased at the attention, and said, "Have you
learned, among your other accomplishments, to be a trainbearer?"
"Yes, mother, I have learned to be your trainbearer, but to no other
mortal would I condescend to do such service."
But Olympia was not listening. She was day-dreaming again, and the
substance of her dreams was as follows:
"How soon, perchance, the court of France may bear my train along,
while I, victorious and exultant, crush the head of my enemies
beneath my heel! I feel the glow of the philter as it courses
through my veins, warming the blood that shall mantle in my cheeks,
kindling the fire that shall flash from my eyes! The hour is nigh
when I am to make my last supreme effort for mastery over the heart
of Louis: if I fail--I have an avenger in Eugene, who--"
At this moment an outcry was heard in the streets, and as Olympia
opened the door of her cabinet, she was confronted by her steward,
who, unannounced, stood pale as death before his astonished
"What, in the name of Heaven, is the matter?" exclaimed she. "Whence
these discordant yells without, and how comes it that you enter my
private apartments without a summons?"
"I trust your highness will pardon my boldness; the case is too
urgent to admit of formalities, and I come to receive your
instructions as to--"
Here the voice of the steward was overpowered by the yells of the
populace without, and for several moments the countess and her son
stood in speechless amazement, waiting an explanation. "What can it
mean?" asked she at last.
"Your highness," replied the trembling steward, "the court is filled
with an infuriated mob, who rushed in before we had time to close
Eugene, with an exclamation of dismay, would have darted to the
window, but the steward raised his hand imploringly.
"Do not let them see you, prince," cried he. "They have torn up the
pavement, and with the stones have shattered the windows of the
"Then it is a riot," said the countess, "and the canaille of Paris
have rebelled against the aristocracy."
"Unhappily, your highness, their anger is directed exclusively
against the Hotel Soissons, and, if I judged by the number of our
assailants, I should say that all Paris has joined in the attack.
Not only the canaille are here, but, as I was hurrying to the corps
de garde to ask for protection, I saw more than one well-dressed
personage descend from his carriage and come thither to increase the
number of our enemies."
"I understand," said the countess, setting her teeth, "the anger of
the mob is directed against ME."
"Mother," whispered Eugene, "they must be the same men whom I met in
the streets, and whose jeers drove me thither to add to your misery
the stab of my unfilial doubts."
"Did you say that you had sent off for guards?" asked she of Latour.
"Yes. your highness. I went at once to the headquarters of the corps
de garde, and the officer of the day promised immediate succor."
"It will not be sent," returned Olympia. "But hark! What tumult is
"They are battering the palace-doors," said Eugene, who, in spite of
the steward's entreaties, had approached the window and was looking
down upon the mob. The palace de Soissons fronted the Poie Deux
Ecus, from which it was separated by a tall iron railing. The
enclosure was filled with a throng so dense that there was scarcely
room for them to move a limb; and yet, in their regular assaults
upon the palace-doors, they seemed to be obeying the commands of
some unseen chief.
Eugene surveyed the scene with something of that calm but powerful
interest which possesses the soul of a commander about to engage the
"The multitude increase," said he. "If they continue to press in
much longer, the court will be so thronged that no more missiles can
At that very moment the windows were assailed by a hail-storm of
stones, one of which fell at Olympia's feet. She touched it with the
point of her satin slipper, remarking as she did so, "This is a
greeting from Louvois."
"For God's sake, your highness, be not so rash!" exclaimed Latour,
as a second stone flew over the head of the prince, and shattered
part of a cornice close by.
Eugene had not moved. He heeded neither steward nor stone, but stood
with folded arms, looking upon the terrible concourse of his
mother's accusers. His face was very pale and resolute; it expressed
nothing beyond stern endurance; but the eye was threatening, and the
dwarfish figure had expanded until the abbe was forgotten, and in
his place stood the implacable foe of Louis XIV.
"Yes," said he, "I was right. The crowd is so dense that they now
threaten one another, and, unless they force the entrance to the
palace, they will be crushed by their own numbers."
"They will never force the entrance," said Latour. "The door is
barred and bolted, and they may bombard it for a day before they
ever make an impression upon the stout plates of iron with which it
"Ay," replied Eugene, with a smile. "Catharine de Medicis knew how
to build a stronghold. She knew from experience what it is to face
an insurrection, and took her precautions accordingly. We owe her a
debt of gratitude for our security--Good heavens!" cried he,
interrupting himself, "they have found means to send us another
A shower of stones came rattling toward the very window where he
stood, one of which struck the countess on the shoulder and caused
her to wince.
Once more Latour besought her to take refuge in another apartment.
"You have said that they cannot force the entrance: what do you
fear?" said she.
"I fear the stones, your highness."
"Then I will prove to the rabble that I, no more than Cardinal
Mazarin, am to be terrified by stones," returned Olympia,
approaching the window and placing herself at the side of her son.
The multitude, as they recognized her, broke forth into a wild shout
"Look! there is the woman who murdered her husband, and would have
murdered her children too!" "There is the wretch who would have
poisoned the king!" "There stands the accomplice of La Voisin!" "And
while her tool languishes in prison, she has no right to breathe the
free air of heaven!" "Away with her to the Bastile!" "To the
Bastile, to the Bastile!" "No! let her be burned for her crimes!"
"Louvois! Louvois!" murmured Olympia, her brow reddening with
Another yell from the besiegers was silenced by a loud voice, whose
words of command rose clear above the tumult.
"I knew it," said Eugene, "they have a leader. There is a method in
these manifestations which shows that they are not the disconnected
efforts of a many-headed monster."
"Great God! And the guards are not even to be seen!" cried Latour,
who stood with folded hands, murmuring snatches of prayer for help.
"Nor will they be seen," added Olympia, in a low voice.
Eugene was glancing now at his mother, now at her persecutors. As
his eye wandered from one to another of the uplifted and angry faces
below, he saw two men somewhat elevated above the rest, who with
their outstretched arms were giving the signal for a fresh
onslaught. No demonstration, however, followed the command, for the
people had gravitated into one solid body, of which no portion was
capable of independent action.
"Now," thought the prince, "now would be the opportunity for
retaliation. If I had but the means!--Latour." continued he, aloud,
"do the iron gates of entrance open within or without?"
"Without, your highness."
"So that if we could get access to the street, we might cage up
these base-born villains, might we not?"
"Yes, your highness; but he who shuts the gates must undo the chains
by which they are fastened back."
"Who has the keys?"
"I, your highness. I have them now upon my person."
"There are outlets by which you could gain access to the gates
without facing the people?"
"Certainly, your highness," began Latour; but his words were drowned
in another outburst of howlings from the maddened mob, and another
discharge of stones whizzed through the air, crushing the mullions
of the windows to splinters, and dashing their fragments of
shivering glass into the very faces of the unfortunate besieged.
"If the guards would but come!" said Latour, reiterating for the
twentieth time his doleful refrain.
"Since it appears that they have no intention of coming," replied
the prince, "we must e'en take this matter of defence in our own
hands. Hasten, Latour, to the street--undo the fastenings, and quick
as thought lock the gates!"
"But, your highness, do you suppose that I shall be suffered by that
infuriated crowd to lock or unlock the gates at pleasure?"
"Never fear; their faces are all turned toward the palace. You will
have accomplished the thing before they know that you have
undertaken it. Take two other men with you, who, as soon as you
release the chains, must fling the gates together, while you relock
them. Now be dexterous, and you will have performed no unimportant
feat of strategy."
"I will do my best, your highness."
"Before you go, summon the household to my presence. How many men
are there at home to-day?"
"Twelve, your highness."
"Enough to settle with two thousand such wretches."
Latour darted away on his double mission, and the prince turned to
his mother, who, undaunted and defiant, still stood before the
window contemplating her assailants, giving back look for look of
scorn and abhorrence.
"May I beg of my dear mother permission to absent myself for a
while?" said Eugene.
The countess looked round with inquiring eyes. "Whither would you
go, my son?" asked she.
"I wish to give some orders to the domestics, to arm them, and
assign to each man his post."
"Where will you find weapons, my son?"
"I have among my effects a small collection of fire-arms. They are
all in good order, and all loaded. I have nothing to do but
distribute them, and place my men."
The countess smiled. "In good sooth, I begin to believe that you are
fitter for a soldier than for a churchman. But you are not in
earnest when you speak of using firearms?"
"Why not? We are attacked, and, obeying the laws of necessity, we
defend ourselves. Unfortunately, we are forced to remain on the
defensive; I only wish I had an opportunity to attack."
"But what means that new outbreak of fury?" asked the countess,
returning to the window.
"It means," cried Eugene, joyfully, "that Latour has been
successful, and the gates are locked. The ruffians have discovered
the snare, and they howl accordingly. Now to my garrison; I must
station it with judgment, for it is not numerous."
"I will accompany you, my son," said the countess. "I would not miss
the sight of the first exploit of my future cardinal, him who
promises to unite in his own person the wisdom of Mazarin with the
prowess of Richelieu!"
The servants were assembled in the hall, whither they had taken
refuge from the stones and splintering glass, that were flying in
the palace windows. They were not a very valiant-looking body of
troops, but their commander made no comment upon their dismayed
faces. He merely counted them and spoke to his valet.
"Darmont, conduct these men to the armory, and provide each one with
a musket. Let them handle the guns carefully, for they are heavily
loaded. Bring me my pistols also. And now, away! and return
Silently, and, to all appearances, not much edified by these
recommendations, the domestics followed Darmont, while Eugene
returned to his station at the window.
"Not only have they a leader," said he, "but I believe that they
were instigated to make this attack, mother."
"No doubt of it," replied Olympia; "and since Louvois has dared so
much, we may infer that he has the sanction of the king for his
"Look!" cried Eugene, catching her arm, "there is the leader!--that
tall man in the brown suit, with bright buttons, who stands upon the
stone seat, near the gates."
"I see him," returned the countess. "He is speaking with two men who
are directly in front of him. This person looks familiar to me: I
have surely seen that tall figure and those wide shoulders before.
If his hat were not drawn so far over his brows, and we could but
see his face, our doubts as to the source of this outrage would
speedily be solved."
"He has been giving instructions, for the two men are addressing the
crowd. I fear we must look out for another bombardment."
And so it seemed; for the mob, having recovered from their momentary
fright, were evidently preparing for action. Hundreds of brawny
arms, each one of which grasped a stone, were raised into the air:
while as many stooping forms were seen, crouching close to the
ground, that they might leave room for the slingers to hurl their
missiles without impediment.
"That is a good manoeuvre," said Eugene. "Their leader understands
strategic warfare. They are ready, and await the word of command. It
comes! Stand back, mother!"
A crash was heard, but not a stone had been aimed at the windows.
"Ah, I understand," cried Eugene. "They are trying to force the
door, and so obtain their release. Thank Heaven! Here comes the
garrison, a handful of braves who, I hope, are destined to change
the fortunes of the day.--Now," continued he, advancing to meet
them, "listen to me. There are twelve of you, and the hall has seven
openings. Leave the central window free, and station yourselves two
at each one of the other six. Throw open the casements, cock your
guns, and be ready for the word of command. Darmont, give me my
With one of these in either hand, Eugene stationed himself at the
window in the centre, while his mother stood by his side.
"They are about to favor us with another volley," said the prince.
"Neither they nor their leader have as yet remarked the changed
aspect of the palace-windows."
"The hat of the leader is purposely drawn down, and, while he
succeeds in concealing his features, he loses sight of the danger
which threatens from above. So much the better for us; but I do long
to have a sight of his face," returned the countess.
"You shall have your wish," replied Eugene, with a smile. "I will
knock off his hat, and your curiosity shall be gratified."
"How will you manage to do that?"
"You shall see," said he, raising the pistol that he held in his
He fired, and when the smoke had cleared away, the face of the
leader was exposed to view. The ball had struck the hat, which had
fallen, and now a pair of dark, sinister eyes were glaring at the
spot whence the insult had been sent.
"Have a care," said the prince, leaning forward and addressing the
crowd. "If you send another missile against these walls, I will have
twelve of your lives!"
The men, who were just about to fling their stones, paused and
stared at one another in dumb perplexity.
Their leader, pale with rage, gave the word of command.
Eugene heard it, and called out in clear, defiant tones: "If the
leader of this riot attempt a repetition of his order, I will break
his right arm."
"Another volley, men!" shouted the chief.
A second report from the window was heard, which was answered by a
yell from below. Eugene's ball had pierced the elbow of the leader,
and the dismayed crowd had made a hasty movement toward the gates.
"Do you not see that there is no egress for you except through the
palace? Look at the murderess there, instigating her whelp to new
crimes! She exults over your weakness, and laughs at your panic. On!
on! Batter down the doors!"
"On!" echoed the mob; and their stones were flung with such frenzy
against the palace-doors, that its very walls trembled.
"Fire!" called out the sonorous voice of Eugene, and in another
moment might be seen the sinking forms of twelve of the rioters,
while, among the others, some were pale with fright, and a few cried
out that they would he revenged.
"Revenge is for those whom you have insulted and attacked," replied
the prince, deliberately. "You have made a cowardly assault upon a
noble lady, and not one of you shall leave this place alive!--Make
ready! Take aim!" continued he to his men.
The click of the locks was distinctly heard, and in the crowd each
man fancied that one of those carbines was aimed at his own head.
The mob was losing heart; not even their leader was to be seen or
heard. He had taken refuge in a sheltered corner of the court, where
his wounds were being bound up by his lieutenants. Inconspicuous as
he was, however, the sharp eyes of Olympia had followed him to his
retreat. Not for one moment did she lose sight of him; she was
determined to solve the enigma of his identity. As the last
bellicose words of Prince Eugene rang through the ears of his
dismayed followers, the wounded ringleader flung back his head with
such sudden haste, that its masses of dark, tangled hair were
entirely thrown aside, and the face that was revealed by their
removal, caused the countess to start and utter an exclamation of
surprise. As Eugene was about to give the command to fire, his
mother caught his arm, and whispered in his ear:
"My son, I now think that I can tell you the name of yonder caitiff
there, and, if I have guessed rightly, it were better for us to
cease hostile demonstrations, and capitulate."
"Capitulate!" cried the prince, indignantly. "Capitulate with the
rabble! Who can be this man that has so suddenly cowered the heart
of my noble mother?"
"I think that he is the son of Louvois," whispered she.
"Ah, the presuming Barbesieur, who would have given his name to a
Princess de Carignan?"
"Yes--the same. His beard is dyed, and he wears false locks, but,
spite of his disguise, I feel sure that it is Barbesieur. And I warn
you, Eugene! harm not a hair on his head, for he is the favorite son
of the mightiest man in France--mighty and vindictive. Kill as many
of the rabble as you will; but give positive orders to your men not
to touch Barbesieur Louvois."
"I ought to command them to fire on no other man, for he is
responsible for the acts of every rioter here."
"That would be to cast your entire family into the very jaws of
destruction. These men who call me murderess, could not be made to
believe that I have the tenderness of a mother for my children; but
you, Eugene, who know how dearly I love you all, you can understand
that no revenge would be sweet that was purchased at the expense of
my children's welfare. Spare, then, I implore you, the man who holds
your destinies in his unfriendly hand."
"So be it," sighed Eugene, and he went from man to man, saying in a
low voice, "Direct your fire toward the left." He then took his
station at the central window, and, raising his arm, called out a
second time: "Make ready! Take aim!"
The multitude heard, and their exceeding consternation found
utterance in one prolonged shriek of horror.
"Do not fire!" screamed a hundred voices. "Do not fire! We are
The order was countermanded, and the self-possessed defender of the
beleaguered palace advanced his head and contemplated the ignoble
faces of his enemies.
"You acknowledge yourself baffled, then? You are willing to
"Ay!" was the ready response of every rioter there.
"You swear to desist now and forever from your infamous attack upon
this palace? You swear never more to make use of vituperative
epithets toward the family of the deceased Count de Soissons?"
"We swear, we swear! Open the gates! Let us out! Let us out!" was
now the universal cry.
"Not so fast. Before you have my permission to retire, I must have
unequivocal, outspoken evidence of your repentance and conversion.
You have presumed to asperse the good name of the Countess de
Soissons. Take back your injurious words, and cheer her now, right
lustily. Cry out three times, 'Long live the noble Countess de
Soissons!' and, if your acclamations are to my mind, I will open the
The reply to these conditions was a greeting so enthusiastic and so
unanimous, that you would have sworn the mob had assembled before
the hotel to tender to its inmates a popular ovation.
"Miserable canaille!" muttered their chief; "they are base enough to
hurl their stones at ME, if that beardless manikin up there should
require it of them, as a peace-offering to his immaculate mother!"
"I told your excellency that you could not trust them," replied the
companion on whose arm he was leaning. "It is a dangerous thing to
be identified with any action of theirs."
"You were right, Francois. Give me your arm, and let us try to reach
the gates, so as to be the first to escape from this accursed man-
"You have cheered the countess but once," cried Eugene to the
multitude. "Do you wish me to renew our strife?"
"Long live the noble Countess de Soissons!" was the prompt reply.
And, without waiting for a third suggestion, they shouted again and
again, "Long live the Countess de Soissons!"
Olympia's flashing eyes rested proudly on her son. "I thank you,
Eugene: you have avenged me effectually. All Paris will be filled
with lampoons on the ridiculous repulse of the valiant Barbesieur
and his followers."
Eugene made no reply. His eyes were fixed upon the personage whom
they supposed to be the son of Louvois, and the prince knew
perfectly well wherefore he seemed in such nervous haste to reach
"He hopes to escape without recognition," muttered Eugene, "but I
must have a word with him before we part."
"Open the gates!" clamored the populace anew; then suddenly there
was a cry of alarm which was echoed from man to man, from group to
group, until it shaped itself into these words: "The guards! The
Thundering down the street came a troop of horsemen who halted
directly in front of the palace-gates.
"Louvois' spies have been reporting the failure of his son's warlike
expedition," remarked Olympia, "and the guards whom WE had vainly
called to our help, have come in hot haste to protect our
By this time the officer in command was at the gates making vain
efforts to open them.
"What does this signify?" asked he. "And what is this multitude
about in the court of the Hotel de Soissons?"
"Look at the palace-windows and the palace-doors, and you will read
your answer there," replied Eugene. "I closed the gates against a
furious and misguided mob; but we have come to terms, and I am about
to liberate them. I crave your indulgence for these poor fellows:
they have been deceived, and knew not what they did, and I hope that
you will make good the forgiveness I have extended to their fault,
by allowing them to go hence without molestation."
"If so," replied the officer, "I shall be happy to confirm you
highness's clemency by carrying out your order for their release."
"Is it possible," asked the countess of her son, "that you are in
earnest? You intend to suffer those wretches to go away unharmed!
Because I asked your forbearance for one man, shall this vile horde
be snatched from the hands of justice!"
"Do you suppose that justice has any intention of overtaking them?"
asked Eugene, with a significant smile. "Believe me, dear mother, I
do but anticipate the object for which the guards were sent, and
spare myself and you the humiliation of publishing to the world that
neither law nor justice takes cognizance of the wrongs of the
Countess de Soissons. These men have come hither to succor our
enemies, not us."
"Ah, my son, I begin to appreciate you. You have inherited the
sagacity of your great uncle," returned Olympia.
"Open the gates! open the gates!" cried the rioters.
"Will your highness be pleased to send some one to release your
prisoners?" asked the captain of the guardsmen.
"I shall be there myself, in a moment," was the reply.
"You!" exclaimed the countess. "Would you expose yourself to the
vengeance of the populace, Eugene?"
"They will not molest me. Barbesieur Louvois has reached the gates,
and I must greet him ere he goes.--Come, Latour and Darmont, and
show me the way by the private staircase. The rest of you keep your
posts and be watchful, for the struggle may be renewed, and it is
just possible that I may have to order you to fire.--And now shall I
conduct my mother to her boudoir?"
"No, my son, I remain here to observe what passes below, nor will I
retire until I shall have seen the ending of this curious
Eugene bowed and withdrew. "Go before, Latour," said he. "I am
unacquainted with the private inlets and outlets of the palace."
Latour obeyed, saying to himself: "They may well make a priest of
this virtuous youth, who knows nothing of the secret windings of his
own hotel. His father and his brother were wiser than he; and many a
night have they gone in and out on visits of gallantry, when they
were young enough to be as squeamish as he, or old enough to have
reformed their ways."
"Give me the keys," said Eugene, as they emerged from the side-
entrance. "I will unlock the gates, and when I cry 'Halt!' do you
seize upon a man whom I shall point out to you as he attempts to
force the passage in advance of his confederates."
"Let us alone for holding him fast, your highness."
Eugene went a few steps farther; then, turning round, he said: "Yes-
-grasp him well, hut be careful not to take him by the right arm,
for I believe that it is wounded."
As he spoke these merciful words, Eugene blushed, for he saw a
derisive smile on Latour's face.
"I was in error," thought the steward. "Such a soft heart ought to
have been lodged in the body of a woman."
They had now reached the palace-front, where, in return for the
obsequious salutation of the captain of the guard, Eugene slightly
inclined his head.
"You came late to the rescue," said the prince. "Had you answered
the requisition of my steward, you would have spared me the painful
necessity of wounding a dozen of those poor devils."
"Was there bloodshed?" returned the officer.
"Of course there was. You can hardly imagine that I quieted these
turbulent rioters with a lullaby. Yes, there has been bloodshed, and
I have had satisfaction for the affront offered to my house to-day.
I hope you hold me justified in my method of procedure."
"Perfectly justified, your highness."
"Then the matter rests here, and peace is proclaimed. From my
amnesty, however, I except one man, him who is responsible for all
the evil that has been done by his followers."
"Your highness has only to point him out, and I will have him
"You give me your word of honor that he shall not escape
"My word of honor, your highness."
"Latour and Darmont, station yourselves one on either side of me,
while I unlock the gates."
They took their positions, and Eugene slowly drew out his ponderous
keys. They were heard to click in the locks, and at the welcome
sound, there was a shout of joy from the imprisoned rioters. They
pressed eagerly forward--the gates parted--and the crowd began to
pour out into the streets. Eugene soon perceived the tall form of
the ringleader, although he had borrowed the hat of his companion,
and wore it slouched far down over his face.
As he approached the entrance, Eugene gave the signal agreed upon,
and he was seized by Latour and Darmont. But they had forgotten the
precaution given them as regarded his wounded arm, for as they
touched him he had been unable to suppress a cry of pain.
"Hold him, Latour," said the prince, "and you, Darmont, close the
gates so that only one man may pass at a time. Some of those guards
might be of service to us. Have I your permission to employ them,
Eight men were ordered to dismount and to station themselves at the
gates, which, spite of the tremendous pressure from within, they
managed to secure, so that each man as he passed could be scanned by
him, who, notwithstanding his delicate build and diminutive stature,
was unquestionably the hero of the day.
"Now that the court is empty, you can see what devastation has been
committed," said he to the captain of the guard.
"Yes, indeed," replied the latter, raising himself in his stirrups
to overlook the railing, "they have uprooted the whole pavement."
"And have seriously damaged the windows," added Eugene. "For all
this destruction we have to thank yonder churl," continued he,
pointing to a man of almost gigantic stature, who was struggling to
free himself from the hands of Latour and Darmont. "Not content with
the laurels he has won as the ringleader of a mob, he has aspired to
achieve renown by defaming women. He has incited the populace to
asperse the good name of my honored mother, and by Heaven, he shall
suffer for every opprobrious word that has fallen from the tongue of
every base-born villain that followed him hither!"
"Your highness shall yourself dictate his punishment," replied the
"Then order your men to capture the twelve last rioters that leave
the enclosure, and let their leader, who is a thousand times more
guilty than they, oversee the restoration of the pavement, and
himself remove yonder Druid's temple, that lies before the central
"Never!" exclaimed the giant, redoubling his efforts to escape, and
writhing so vigorously that Latour and Darmont had to strain every
sinew to retain their hold of his huge body.
Eugene eyed his prisoner with withering scorn. "You hear him,
captain! He says 'Never!' as though it were for him to decide
whether or not my judgment is a righteous one. And yet I think it
most moderate amends to make for such immeasurable wrong."
"Indeed, your highness, it is most disproportionate to the enormity
of the offence. It is only too merciful!--Here! Eight men to carry
out the orders of the noble Prince of Savoy!" shouted he,
The crowd, meanwhile, by this time convinced that submission was
their only alternative, were passing slowly and silently through the
gates. They were so completely subdued, that not one ventured a
remonstrance. They were intent each man upon his own retreat, and
nobody was troubled about the fate of the chief.
"There are just twelve men within the enclosure," said the officer.
"Instead of capturing them singly, close the gates, and secure them
all at once."
"But first let us admit my distinguished prisoner.--Thrust him in,
Latour, and conduct him to his task. He must expiate his offence
against the Countess de Soissons, by removing that heap of stones,
which were cast by his command against my palace-doors. If he prove
intractable, bring him to his senses by administering a blow or two
with a stout cudgel."
The chief, who for a few moments had been hoping by affected
submission to withdraw the attention of Eugene from himself to his
followers, gave a howl of rage, and looked around for his companion.
The latter, instead of passing out with the crowd, had remained
voluntarily in the enclosure with the twelve who were to suffer for
They whispered together, after which the subordinate, approaching
the captain of the guard, said: "Captain, I come to offer myself in
the place of my poor brother, who, having been wounded in the arm,
is helpless, and incapable of removing the smallest of those
"What says your highness?" asked the officer of the prince.
"I grant the petition, for it is reasonable. Let him confine
himself, then, to the superintendence of the work."
"Captain, I crave permission to conduct my brother to a surgeon,
where his wound may be dressed. It is impossible that any man can be
so brutal as to require him to stay here with a bullet in his arm,"
said the subordinate.
"The bullet was no impediment while outrage was to be committed on
the properly of the Countess de Soissons," thundered Eugene, "and I
exact that he remain."
"Your highness's commands shall be obeyed," replied the officer.
"Captain," said the ringleader, dragging himself forward, while in
his tremendous strength he forced his captors along with him,
"captain, I must have a word in private with you. I have something
of importance to communicate, and you must come nearer that I may
whisper in your ear."
So imperious was the sound of his voice that the captain
involuntarily obeyed, and bent down his ear to listen. Although the
latter was on horseback and the former on fact, his tall figure was
almost on a level with the officer's head.
He spoke a few low words, the captain started, and, quickly raising
his head, he surveyed the gigantic chief from head to foot. He then
conferred with him a few moments, after which he addressed himself
in a very embarrassed manner to Eugene.
"Your highness, this poor man complains so piteously of the agony he
endures, that it would be cruel to detain him any longer. If you
have no objection, I will send him to the surgeon, accompanied by
four of my men, who, when his wound shall have been dressed, can
reconduct him hither."
"He will not return," replied Eugene, with a shrug. "He will find
means to escape the vigilance of the police. So be it. Let his
wounds be dressed, and let him depart whither he lists. But I have a
few words of adieu to speak ere he goes." So saying, he approached
his tall adversary, and so commanding was his presence, so fiery his
eye, and so proud his demeanor, that Eugene of Savoy looked mightier
than the wide-shouldered giant before him.
"I wish merely to say to this fellow that he is a knave," said the
prince. "Yes, captain, a knave, although you start to hear me call
him thus. I neither know his name, nor wish to know it; hut I shall
recognize him among a thousand, and, if ever I meet him again, I
will give him a knave's portion--a sound horsewhipping. And now away
with him! His presence is intolerable!"
"I go," replied the other, pale and trembling with rage. "But
beware, little priestling, how you cross MY path! If ever you dare
intrude yourself upon my sight, I will crush your diminutive carcass
as an elephant does a crawling worm!" He went, followed by him who
had claimed him as a brother, and accompanied by four guardsmen, who
rode at some distance behind their prisoners.
"And now, captain," said Eugene, "since your sympathizing heart has
made it impossible for you to allow justice its way, you will, I
presume, see fit to appoint another man to supervise the repairing
of my court-yard."
"I myself will attend to it, your highness," said the officer,
bowing to his saddle-bow. "Not only that; I will send workmen to
replace the broken panes and restore the window-frames, so that by
to-morrow no trace of the damage done shall remain."
Eugene laughed. "You are certainly most accommodating! As much so as
if the city guard had participated in the riot! Adieu, sir! And may
this be our last meeting of the sort!"
Accompanied by his two domestics, he re-entered the palace. His
twelve men were at their posts, and the countess was still standing
at the window whence she had witnessed the scene below. Eugene
dismissed his household, gave orders to have his weapons carefully
replaced in his armory, and then, with a deep inclination to his
mother, he asked if he might now conduct her to her boudoir.
She gave a smiling assent, took his proffered arm, and returned to
her cabinet. Once there, she turned toward her son, and,
contemplating him for the first time in her life with pride and
admiration, she thanked him warmly for what he had done.
"My dear son," said she, "I must congratulate you upon your strength
of character. Believe me, you looked mightier far than Louvois'
overgrown Titan. If he surpassed you in stature, your great soul
towered far above his lofty person. I could not hear what you were
saying to those two men, Eugene, but I read in the glance of your
fearless eye that your words were such as would have rejoiced my
heart to overhear. In that moment my soul went far out into the
future, and there I saw you great, glorious, renowned. You know,
Eugene, that I have sometimes strange revelations of things hidden
from ordinary mortals: I have visions that are prophetic, and I tell
you that you are destined to earn imperishable fame. Go, my son, and
fulfil your destiny!"
Eugene, his features illumined by enthusiasm and radiant with hope,
covered his mother's hand with kisses, and again besought her
forgiveness for his unfilial behavior in the gallery. "Dear mother,"
said he, tearfully. "are you indeed reconciled to your unworthy
"Yes, Eugene, yes. When you compelled that unwilling multitude to do
me homage, I forgave you from my heart. I have always loved you as
my child, but from this day forward I honor you as my deliverer.
Come to my arms and take the mother's kiss that shall consecrate you
Eugene, intoxicated with happiness, threw himself upon her bosom,
and was clasped to her heart. "With this kiss I greet the hero whose
exploits shall shed new lustre upon his princely house. God bless
thee, my son! Sweeter lips may meet thine in the glow of a love more
passionate, but never will they kiss thee with a tenderness more
true than does thy proud mother this day!"
"And never will I love woman more tenderly than I do my precious
mother. You were my ideal of womanly perfection as a child, and your
adored image will be my soul's divinity to the latest hour of my
life! Never again will I doubt you; were the whole world to scorn
you, I at least will believe in you, and honor you with a faith as
implicit as that which leads man to martyrdom for his Redeemer's
"Believe in me, and trust me," returned the countess, again
impressing a kiss on her son's forehead. "And when you are great and
powerful, think of this hour, my child. 'Tis one of the brightest of
my life; one of the few wherein I have unveiled my heart to mortal
man. Think of it, then, Eugene, when you wear the hat of a cardinal,
"What, mother! You would devote me to the priesthood, after all that
has passed between us to-day!"
"'Tis your only path to renown; 'tis the only ladder by which
ambition can climb to power. With Louis' favor, you may become a
cardinal and a statesman; without it you will never become a field-
marshal. We must take fate as we find it, Eugene; not whine because
we may not fashion it to our own liking."
"Then be it so: I submit. But I tell you, for the last time, that
under my priestly gown there will be heard the wild and unseemly
throbbings of a heart that not only pants for glory, but yearns for
"Cardinals may hope for both," returned Olympia, with a strange,
unpleasant smile. "Ask the widowed Queen Anne, whether Richelieu
knew how to love. And ask her whether Mazarin was not as fond as he
was sagacious. But enough of day-dreams: we must return to the
affairs of real life. There has been a demonstration of serious
import against me to-day. I must oppose it by another. Louvois and
his minions must learn that I am not to be intimidated by their
menaces, nor to be browbeaten by their contumely."
Near her hand, on a porphyry table, lay a golden bell--a marvel of
Benvenuto Cellini's workmanship. The countess took it up and rang.
The steward answered the summons, and begged to know what her
highness was pleased to command.
"Let the palace-doors be thrown open, that the people may know how
little I fear their dislike. Send all the lackeys out, and let them
announce to the court that to-day I hold a special levee, and that
my rooms will be opened to visitors at nine this evening. Let the
equerry be informed that in half an hour I shall take a drive in my
open caleche, with six horses and two outriders, all in livery of
The steward bowed and left the room. When he had gone, the countess
again addressed her son: "In half an hour the court will be
assembled at the Pre aux Clercs; no doubt it would gratify more than
one of those envious Parisians were I absent to-day. But they shall
not enjoy any such satisfaction. They shall greet me as usual, and
I--I--I intend to approach the king!"
"And I, dearest mother," said Eugene, "beg to be allowed to
accompany you in your ride."
"You shall do so, son of my heart," exclaimed Olympia, giving him
her hand. "I see that you are not only the child of my love, but
bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Yes, Eugene, you shall be my
knight, and no loving maiden was ever prouder of her cavalier than I
shall be of mine!"