Part 9 out of 13
"Strozzi, take my advice, and give up this miserable life. Of all
earthly bores, solitude is the greatest."
"No, Barbesieur, in solitude I find my only comfort," returned
Strozzi, with a weary sigh. "Here, at least, Laura is indubitably
mine; here she is Marchioness de Strozzi."
"She is Marchioness de Strozzi throughout the entire world. as I am
ready to prove, who saw your hands joined together, and heard your
reciprocated vows in Paris."
"Yes, yes; but you know that she denies the marriage, and persists
that she is the wife of Eugene of Savoy."
"She is a sentimental fool," cried Barbesieur, with a coarse laugh.
"And devil take me but I would cure her of her folly were she my
wife! If she will not love you, man, why do you not force her to
"Fear me! Her soul knows not fear. Have I not tried to intimidate
her over and over again? and every threat I hurl, she thrusts back
into my teeth, as though her spirit were defended from harm by some
invisible, enchanted armor."
"And you love her! You, the master and jailer, creep about, with
sallow cheek and sunken eye, while your prisoner is the very
impersonation of hopeful happiness. At every unexpected step she
listens with a smile; if a cloud stray across the window, she
mistakes it for the shadow of deliverance! Verily, my excellent
father, who sent me hither to find out whether you were slowly
killing his daughter by your cruelty, will scarcely believe me when
I tell him what a beneficial effect has been produced upon her by
your wholesome restraint. You must know that, although not
remarkable for his social virtues, Monsieur Louvois has intervals of
puling sensibility, at which times he reproaches himself with the
part he took in the comedy of your marriage, and, since Prince
Eugene has grown famous, almost repents that he did not accept that
fascinating individual for his son-in-law. He is beginning to be
absolutely afraid of the little ex-abbe."
"And I too fear him," said Strozzi, gnashing his teeth. "He bears a
charmed life, or he would not see the light of heaven to-day. I
thought I had him beyond all power of rescue, once in Venice. So
sure was I that he must die, that I hastened to Laura and announced
his demise. That night I took her away, hoping by change of scene to
induce forgetfulness, where hope, of course, was extinct. One day,
in Milan, a group of men were talking of some recent victory of the
imperialists, and to my amazement I heard the name of the Prince of
Savoy among those who had most distinguished themselves."
"Was Laura with you?" asked Barbesieur.
"Alas, she was! And her beautiful face was transfigured with joy. I
felt as if I could have swooned with jealousy. I hurried her home,
and in half an hour she was on the road to this castle. Here I knew
that no news could ever reach her of the world or its heroes; here I
could leave her, and fear not to absent myself, for this is a lonely
forest, no strangers ever wander hither, and I have good, watchful
dragons to guard my treasure. I posted then, with all speed, to
Venice, entered the palace at night, and made my way to the secret
prison of which you have heard, to see for myself if it could
possibly be true that Eugene of Savoy was living."
"Did you find any one?"
"Of course, some man was bound to be there: else he could not have
escaped. Conceive my fury when I recognized my own hired bravo,
Antonio, who must have betrayed me, and remained instead of the
prince. I opened a niche in the wall, kicked his rotten carcass into
the lagoon, and, more wretched than ever, returned to this hell
wherein I languish, while paradise is within sight."
"How long do you intend to make a voluntary Tantalus of yourself."
"I shall stay until she forgets Prince Eugene, and loves me."
"I wish you joy; meanwhile I shall await your bulletins at my
delightful residence--your generous gift. I must remain until the
arrival of my father's couriers; and, having seen them off with the
glad tidings of my fair sister's flourishing condition, I will be
off for Bonaletta. I wonder which of us two she hates the more?
Come--we may as well go at once to her rooms, that my visit may be
So saying, Barbesieur put his arm within that of the marquis, but
the latter, drawing back, pointed to the clock on the mantel.
"It is too early: she never permits me to come before eleven."
"And you--her husband, suffer such impertinent dictation from your
"I dare not thwart her by any intrusion of myself except at her
will. If I were to lay my hand on her, she would kill herself, like
another Lucretia, to save her honor. And if I contradict her by
coming before my time, she will start and grow pale, perhaps faint,
and be sick; and oh, Barbesieur! the idea of losing her, makes me
"As you please," returned Barbesieur, with a shrug and a loud laugh.
"But as I am not pining for a sight of her beauty, I shall go
rabbit-hunting, while you stay at home and look wistfully at what
you dare not take."
So saying, Barbesieur shouldered his gun, whistled to his dogs, and
went off to the chase; while Strozzi, his eyes on the dial of the
clock, awaited the hour for visiting his inapproachable wife.
The marchioness was in an apartment situated in the centre of the
wing which her affectionate husband had fitted up for her
incarceration. No one that entered this magnificent suite would ever
have imagined that it was a prison. The walls were covered with
hangings of satin and gold; the floors were hidden by Turkey carpets
as soft as turf; the windows were festooned with curtains of velvet
and lace; and their recesses filled with tall Venetian mirrors.
Paintings of value adorned the walls, and frescoes ornamented the
ceilings; while every object of vertu that was known to the age, lay
in elegant profusion about this luxurious abode.
And yet it was veritably a prison, wherein the Marchioness de
Strozzi was confined "because of her hopeless lunacy," and the
windows thereof were guarded by a strong trellis-work of iron, which
might clearly be seen through their panes, while without, in an
anteroom, two she-dragons kept watch over the doors which led from
the prison to the world without.
The parlor of Laura's habitation opened into a boudoir which led to
the bedroom. This apartment was as sumptuously fitted up as the
others, but its windows were similarly guarded. Opposite, and beyond
the parlor, was a small room occupied by the duennas, so that the
prisoner could not leave her apartments without encountering one or
both of them.
Tonietta, the second lady's maid, was busy with her needle when the
marquis entered, and began his usual routine of inquiries.
"How is the marchioness to-day? Is she quiet and well-disposed? Has
she breakfasted? Does her health seem good?" and so on.
The woman's lip curled, but she controlled herself and made reply.
"Her ladyship is as usual. She has played on the harp, sung, and
taken her chocolate. But she was unusually cheerful while we were
occupied with her toilet, and I do not like this humor."
"Why, why?" asked Strozzi.
"Because it is a very sudden change--too sudden to portend good. She
has always been reserved, and showed no disposition to be friendly.
All of a sudden, she becomes talkative and gay."
"So much the better. That proves that she is becoming accustomed to
"It might prove just the contrary," returned the duenna, with a
crafty glance at her master. "It might be intended to blind us, or
it might prove that she has hopes of escaping."
"Great God!" shrieked Strozzi, "you terrify me. What hope can she
possibly indulge of escape?"
"I do not know, but I like not her cheerfulness, nevertheless.
However, be under no apprehension, my lord; we keep strict watch,
and there is no mode of egress save through one of these two doors.
I am not afraid during the day--but at night! Who knows? Your
lordship was wrong to allow her to sleep in a room without us, and
to permit her to fasten her door against us."
"She would have it so," sighed Strozzi; "but what does it signify?
Had she wings, she could not fly out of her prison."
And, with these words, he passed into the parlor.
Laura sat by a window before her easel, and was so absorbed with her
work that she was, or affected to be, unconscious of her husband's
entrance. Not daring to advance, he stood in the doorway, devouring
her with his eyes, almost mad with desire to clasp her to his heart.
She, on her side, sat painting, and humming a song, her blue-satin
dress defining the graceful contour of her bust and slender waist,
then swelling out beneath into rich folds that shimmered like silver
under the sunbeams that fell upon them from the window above. The
long lace sleeves drooped in gossamer waves over the dress, leaving
bare her round, fair arms, firm and white as those of the Venus of
Milo. Her hair was gathered into a Grecian knot behind, and her
delicate profile, illumined by the morning sun, was so marvellous in
its beauty, that Strozzi's eyes filled with tears as he gazed, and
his sallow, sunken cheeks glowed with mingled love and hate.
He made a few steps forward, and encountered the cold glance of her
splendid eyes, and saw the slight bend of her haughty head, as she
became aware of his presence.
"What brings you hither, sir?" said she. "But I need not ask. You
have come to satisfy yourself by ocular demonstration that your
prisoner has not flown up the chimney. You need not trouble yourself
to remain--I am here."
"Prisoner, say you, cruel Laura! Tis I that am a prisoner; prisoned
by your coldness, and yet I love you--I love you to madness!"
"You are quite right thus to define your love; and perchance it may
lead you to that lunacy which is your lying pretext for
incarcerating me alive in this lonely castle."
"Oh, I fear it, I fear it!" cried he, despairingly, "for day by day
my reason fails me. Have mercy, have mercy!"
"Mercy! You who would have taken the life of the man I love. You are
an assassin, whose just portion would be the scaffold. But enough
why renew each day the mournful duo of your love and my contempt?
Let me be silent and wait."
"Wait! Oh, then, there is hope for me, and you bid me not despair!"
"You!--I spoke of myself; for, as there is a just God above us, I
believe that He will open the doors of my prison, and send His angel
to deliver me."
"Then you arc entirely without sympathy."
"Entirely--for the man that obtained possession of my person by a
fraud, and who, for five long, bitter years, has laden me with the
chains of this lie which he calls our marriage."
"I know that you have suffered, and I have wept for your sufferings,
while I have been impotent to lessen them. Speak but the word--say
that you are that which, by the laws of God and man, you have been
for these five long years, and I open your doors and restore you to
freedom. I ask you not to love me; but I implore you to accept my
love, and acknowledge yourself to be my wife; for well I know that,
the acknowledgment once made, you are too honorable, too virtuous,
to sully the name you are willing to bear. Oh, Laura, my peerless
Laura! I will make amends for all that I have inflicted upon you
through the madness of my love. I have wealth unbounded--a noble
name, high station: all shall be yours. See--I am at your feet. Call
me your husband, and henceforth I live to be your willing slave!"
"Never!" exclaimed she, starting from her seat, and receding in
horror from his touch. "My body you hold in bondage, but my spirit
is free; and it is away from this gloomy prison, far away, mingling
with that of my spouse before Heaven, my Eugene, my lord and
"Silence!" shrieked Strozzi, starting to his feet. "Silence! or you
will drive me mad! And be assured that as long as you defy me, just
so long will I hold you in bondage."
"You may not live forever, marquis, for the Strozzis, like other
men, are mortal; and death, perchance, may liberate me, without your
permission. But live or die, as you choose; I shall find means to
rejoin Eugene, and this conviction gives me strength to endure your
"The Marchioness Bonaletta is too proud and chaste to be the
mistress of any man," returned Strozzi, with some return of
"What do you know of me?--I counsel you not to build your hopes upon
any estimate you may have formed of my notions of honor, for they
will sorely deceive you, if you do."
Before the marquis had time to reply to these defiant words, the
door opened, and Barbesieur, holding a letter in his hand, entered
Laura frowned, and asked Strozzi by what right her room was thus
invaded by a stranger. "I do not desire his presence," she said. "Be
so good as to conduct him to your own apartments."
"I am not so easily conducted, most amiable sister," returned
Barbesieur. "I have come to deliver a message from your father,
after which I shall take my leave without the least regret. We are
about to go to war with Germany, and _I_ am about to receive a
general's commission in the French army, so that I have no time to
lose in forcing my company upon you."
"You a general's commission! You that were once publicly disgraced
"Your marriage has long ago consoled me for that trifling mishap,"
interrupted Barbesieur, "and in Paris nobody has ever presumed to
think less of me on account of it. I think that, in every way, the
sufferer there from was the valiant Eugene. And, by-the-by, that
leads directly to the business that brought me hither. That Emperor
of Austria has been entirely too lucky in war to please the King of
France; and Max Emmanuel, whom we had expected to win over to our
side, is the commander-in-chief of the imperial armies. Max--your
quasi brother-in-law, Strozzi; for doubtless you are aware that
Lucretia, the left-handed electress, is the first person in
importance at the Bavarian court."
"May she be damned for it!" muttered Strozzi, between his teeth.
"Not on her head as much as on yours rests the shame of Lucretia's
act," said Laura, reproachfully.
"Ah!" cried Strozzi, a gleam of joy darting athwart his meagre face,
"you acknowledge, then, that a woman is disgraced who loves a man
whom she cannot marry!"
"A truce to this nonsense, my turtle-doves," interposed Barbesieur.
"I bring you tidings which henceforth render such discussions
superfluous. Listen to me, both of you. My father has sent me a bit
of news which, coming direct from the Marquis do Villars--that is,
from Munich--is positive and authentic. Here it is."
Laura turned away her head that they might not see her emotion,
while Strozzi besought Barbesieur not to be so long-winded.
"Well, I will gratify you both. Belgrade is taken; Prince Eugene, as
usual, was foremost in the fight; but unhappily for some people, and
happily for others--"
Here Barbesieur paused to enjoy the agony of his sister's suspense.
Her face he could not see, but her trembling figure gave evidence of
the poignancy of her anguish.
"Well--" said Strozzi, "what befell him?"
"Something not at all uncommon--he was killed."
Laura turned quickly around and caught the diabolical glance of
Barbesieur's eyes. "I--I do not believe it," murmured she.
"Did you say that you had the original letter from the Marquis?"
asked Strozzi, eagerly.
"Yes, here it is; the marchioness can see for herself."
Laura took the paper and glanced hurriedly over its contents. She
raised her eyes to heaven in thanksgiving. "He is not dead," said
she, almost inaudibly.
"Then you have read very carelessly," returned Barbesieur. "The
letter says, 'so dangerously wounded that he was transported in a
dying condition to Vienna,'"
"Had he been dying, he would not have been transported to Vienna,"
exclaimed Laura, with a smile of returning hope. "No, no! Had Eugene
been dead, the air I breathe, the clouds that I watch as they pass
by yonder grated windows--my heart, whose beatings are responsive to
his--every thing in nature would have revealed the terrible truth.
Eugene lives--and lives to fulfil his great and glorious destiny.
Pardon me, O Lord, that, for a moment, my faith was weak!"
She looked so transcendently lovely as she spoke, that Strozzi's
heart sank within him. He turned his face away, and groaned.
"My charming sister is easily consoled, you perceive," said
Barbesieur to Strozzi. "And now that, according to her own
interpretation of the marriage ceremony, she is widowed, I hope to
hear before long that you have effectually dried up her tears. Come-
-let us leave this hopeful widow to herself."
"I come," replied Strozzi, "for you must take some refreshment
before you go. Until the hour of dinner I take my leave,
"Marquis," said Laura, following him to the door.
Strozzi dropped Barbesieur's arm, and returned to her at once.
"You have something to command?" said he, humbly.
"I do not wish to dine to-day," said she. "It will be useless, then,
for you to return."
"I cannot deny myself that pleasure," was the reply.
Laura constrained herself to soften her tone, and to implore. "Only
this one day," said she, in trembling tones. "I need repose--quiet--
"To weep out the first pangs of widowhood," interrupted Barbesieur,
with one of his coarse laughs. "Come, Strozzi--let her cry it out
to-day, she will be all the more smiling for it to-morrow."
"Then as you please," said Strozzi, bowing respectfully. "I will not
return until to-morrow before noon."
"Tell my turnkeys that they need not disturb me," said Laura. "Let
me be veritably and entirely alone."
"You cannot dispense with their help," objected the marquis.
"I can and will dispense with their presence," returned Laura. "And
may I ask of you, as a guaranty that I shall not be disturbed, to
leave the keys inside? The bolts without are secure, and the women
can watch by the doors to see that I do not attempt to escape."
"Your will shall be my law, to-day," said Strozzi, "for I am but its
slave. When will you reward my love--when, Laura?"
"Leave me, I implore you," was the faltering reply of his stricken,
wife; "leave me for this one day!"
"I will," cried Strozzi, casting passionate glances at her, "but to-
"To-morrow," replied Laura, solemnly, "to-morrow is in the hands of
"There, now," exclaimed Barbesieur, "she is making promises already.
Come along--I am really hungry."
The voice of Strozzi was heard in the anteroom, and in a few moments
Carlotta removed the key to the inside. With one bound Laura reached
the door, and fastened it within. Then crossing the parlor, she
locked herself within her boudoir, and, falling on her knees,
besought the blessing of God upon her flight--for she was resolved
to fly that very night.
For one year--from the day of her meeting with Eugene--Laura had
been revolving in her mind the possibility of escape, and again and
again had she been compelled to acknowledge that escape was
impossible. At night, lest sleep should overpower their senses, her
untiring spies had barred the doors that led from the anteroom with
their beds. Sometimes Laura had proposed to bribe them; but in the
event of success with the women, a watchman kept guard at the head
of the staircase; and at the entrance of the castle was stationed a
porter, whom no one could pass without the watchword. If all these
obstacles had been overcome, and the prisoner had found egress to
the park, she was met by four watchmen, whom neither promises nor
bribery had power to conciliate. These were four bloodhounds who
were loosed at night by the marquis's own hands, and on whose
fidelity he knew that he might count.
Flight through the doors was out of the question; flight from the
windows, had they been free, was equally so; for whoever had dared
their dangerous descent, would have been devoured the very moment he
touched the ground below.
Plan after plan was made and rejected, and yet she must--she would
In her parlor was one of those large chimneys found in old castles,
chimneys that were intended to consume an entire load of wood at
once. On one occasion, Strozzi being present at the time, a chimney-
sweep went up its grimy walls, to cleanse them from the accumulated
soot of the winter. Strozzi, forgetting that the sweep had to
return, began to make declarations to Laura, and finally became so
lovelorn as to throw himself at her feet. He was on his knees,
whining for forgiveness, when the little sweep, like a deus ex
machina, alighted suddenly in the middle of the hearth, and
surprised him in his abject and ridiculous posture.
Laura laughed outright; but the marquis, of course, did not share
her mirth. He turned furiously upon the sweep, threatening to take
his life for his impertinent intrusion. The poor fellow pleaded the
impossibility of getting out by any other means, when the marquis,
stamping his foot with rage, bade him begone up the chimney, and
ordered him to find his way over the castle-roof to another chimney
at the farthest extremity of the building, which led into an ancient
buttery, and thence to the park.
From that day, Laura had revolved in her mind the feasibility of
escape through the chimney. If a boy like that had so often gone up
and down in safety, why not she, when urged by the double incentive
of liberating herself from Strozzi, and making her way to Eugene?
The more she pondered the scheme, the easier it seemed of execution,
and she began seriously to resolve means for carrying it out.
Accident soon befriended her. One day, in stepping back from a
window, whence she had been watching the flight of a flock of birds,
her foot became entangled in the carpet, and she fell. This carpet
did not cover the entire room. Within a foot of the walls it was
fastened by little brass rings, to nails of the same metal, which
caught and confined it to the floor.
Laura naturally looked to see the cause of her fall, and, while
examining the loosened nails, she perceived that the carpet--a
magnificent product of the looms of Turkey--was lined underneath
with a species of black cotton cloth, very similar to that of which
the sweep's garments were made. When she saw this, her heart beat so
wildly that she felt as if it were about to burst. Here was the
material of which her dress should be made! Providence had sent it
to her, and the enthusiastic girl knelt down and thanked God for His
She now began to loosen it, and night after night, when her door was
locked inside, she worked as prisoners alone are gifted to work,
until she had stripped off enough cloth for her purpose. She gave
out that, to beguile her solitude, she was desirous of embroidering
an altar-cloth of black velvet, and Carlotta was dispatched to the
nearest town, to procure materials for the work.
Carlotta was absent three days, whence Laura concluded that the
"nearest town" was at some considerable distance from the castle, of
whose situation the marquis had taken good care that she should
remain ignorant. But another accident revealed to her the name of
the town. She found it in a small paper which enveloped some thread,
and contained the name of the merchant from whom it had been
purchased, with the place of his residence in a street which Laura
knew to be the great thoroughfare of Turin. She was then not two
days' journey from Turin, and no longer on Venetian soil.
Once in Turin, she was safe from pursuit, for her estates lay in
Savoy, and the duke was obliged to give her protection. She was his
subject, and he could not refuse it.
And now began that change of manner and of life which had awakened
the suspicions of the two duennas. For several hours of the day she
worked at her altar-cloth; but when night set in, and her doors were
locked, the needles, thread, and scissors, disappeared from the
frame in the parlor, and the black cloth was gradually converted
into a jacket and pantaloons like that of the sweep. This
accomplished, Laura set about devising a cord and weight, by which
she might descend into the buttery. She had so closely observed the
little lad she was resolved to emulate, that she had succeeded in
fashioning out of the heavy bindings of some old hangings, that lay
in a sort of rubbish closet, a stout rope, of strength sufficient to
bear her weight.
It was at this juncture of her preparations, that Barbesieur broke
in upon her happy solitude, with his terrible tidings of Eugene's
misfortune. She was ready to risk her life to meet him, and
perchance he was mortally wounded, and she might never see him more!
A woman less resolute might have faltered in her purpose; but to
Laura the news of her lover's danger had imparted new strength, and
she would liberate herself that very night, or perish in the
She had no money; the marquis had considered it prudent to relieve
her of the custody of her wealth, and to put it out of her power to
bribe his spies. But she had jewels, and such of these as could be
concealed about her person she took.
During the day she had played upon her harp, and improvised melodies
so ravishing, that Strozzi had been on his knees outside, listening
and weeping by turns. Finally, when she had ceased singing, he
knocked, and besought her to let him look for one moment upon her
face, to let him imprint one kiss upon her hand.
Laura thought it prudent to comply, so she opened the door and
allowed him, for the first time in his life, to hold her hand and
press it to his lips, and to thank her for the heavenly music. Not
to overdo the matter, she allowed him to remain but a few moments;
and the marquis retired, perfectly convinced that all was right, and
that he had a hope of winning that obdurate heart at last.
Night was at hand! The skies were overclouded, with here and there a
star struggling through the darkness. Gradually the castle grew
silent, the closing of doors and drawing of bolts ceased at last,
and all was still.
All, except those two duennas; and Laura saw that if she ever was to
lull them to bed, she must call them in to undress her. So opening
the door, she beckoned to Carlotta, who, to her great joy, appeared
in a dressing-gown. Finally, the comedy being over, and the duennas
completely hoodwinked, Laura locked her doors a second time, and,
retreating to her bedroom, raised the carpet and drew forth her
black disguise. She tore off her white night-gown, clasped a pearl
necklace around her neck, and several diamond bracelets on her arms,
and then arrayed herself in the costume of the chimney-sweeper. She
took up her rope, and, fastening a small iron casket to the end,
slung it over her shoulder, and began her dark, perilous ascent.
Away! away! Over the castle-roof to liberty and love!--
With her delicate little hands she seized a hook that projected from
the chimney. She reached a second and supported her foot on the
first; a third, a fourth; and now the opening grew narrow and more
narrow, and she struggled along through the black, suffocating hole,
until her breath had almost failed her, and she had nigh been choked
to death! Poor girl! She could not reach her eyes to clear them of
the soot that was blinding and maddening her with pain, and she
began to tremble lest she should lose her senses. But she prayed to
God to deliver her, and made one supreme effort to free herself. She
felt the air from above; the hole began to widen, and she could lay
her head backward and breathe. She raised her smarting eyes and saw
a light--a star! A greeting from heaven!
But she felt that at such a moment she must not indulge in
sensibility. The extremity in which she found herself required
resolution, daring, and coolness. She called up all her courage, and
struggled on. At last--at last, her hands rested on the top of the
chimney: she drew herself upward, and with one bound sprang upon the
For a moment or two she leaned her weary arms upon the edge of the
chimney; then, placing her ear at the opening, she listened to hear
if there was any stir below. No--all was silent: not a sound broke
the profound stillness of the night, She must be going then--over
the castle-roof to liberty and love!
She groped, with hands outstretched, for some support, but found
nothing. Nevertheless she must tread the dark and mysterious way
that was to lead her to freedom, and she made a few steps forward.
Suddenly she grew faint and dizzy, and a shudder ran through her
limbs; she tried to rally her strength and put out her foot. It
encountered some obstacle which sent her reeling backward; and,
murmuring a prayer to Heaven, she swooned and fell. When she
recovered her senses, she was lying, she knew not where, perhaps she
had fallen from the battlements to the ground, there to be devoured
by the savage bloodhounds, or to become again and forever the
prisoner of the abhorred marquis. But she felt no pain and,
stretching out her hand to make an effort to rise, she perceived
that she was on a smooth, hard surface, and lay against the
battlements, or rather against a heavy stone balustrade that
surrounded the castle-roof. With this balustrade to grasp, she could
arrive at the chimney she was seeking; all she had to do, was to use
it as a guide to the remote wing she was trying to reach. If there
had been but a few friendly stars to smile upon her perilous
pilgrimage! But the night was fearfully dark; so dark that she had
no reliance beyond her sense of touch. This alone admonished her of
her approach to the angle where she was to turn into the wing. Now
and then she paused and looked back to see if there was light or
sign of life along that broad castle-front. But all was safe, and
she went slowly on. She felt hopeful now, and strengthened, for the
wing was quite remote from the inhabited parts of the castle; its
windows opened low; and a pathway, now overgrown with weeds, led
from one of these windows to a gate which, as the marquis had never
dreamed of danger in that quarter, was always left unlocked for the
accommodation of the foresters and wood-cutters. Oh, that she were
but there! On! on! she must hasten, or she might be discovered! She
was about to press forward, when, to her unspeakable horror, she
perceived that her hand rested no longer on the balustrade. She had
passed the chimney and stood upon the unprotected battlements!
Shuddering, she drew back--her feet almost giving way under her
trembling limbs; but in the might and vigor of her strong, firm
will, she drew herself up and retreated. The roof was not steep--it
had merely descent enough to carry off the rain; but the tiles were
so smooth that more than once she slipped back, and she was becoming
timorous and weak. While she was resting for a moment from her
fatigue, however, she saw something looming up above the roof the
sight whereof restored her courage and her strength. It was the
She darted toward it, and in a few moments had made fast her rope,
and dropped it within. She caught it in her hands, and then,
carefully sliding into the chimney, began her frightful descent. In
vain she tried to resist; the rope slipped through her fingers with
such fearful rapidity that, by the time she had reached the hearth,
her delicate hands were all streaming with blood. She scarcely felt
the pain, she had but one absorbing thought--she was free!
Folding those poor, quivering hands, she whispered a thanksgiving to
God, and rose, full of hope and joy. Not a sound was to be heard;
and now, blessing the obscurity that shielded her from view, she
opened the window, and darted down the pathway. The gate yielded to
her touch, and, like a frightened doe, she fled through the woods,
until the castle was out of sight, and she could venture to breathe.
THE FORESTER'S HUT.
Morning had not yet dawned; nevertheless there was light and life in
a little hut that nestled in the woods near Strozzi Castle. The
forester, in hunting costume, stood in the middle of the hearth;
while his young wife, by the light of a flaming pine torch, prepared
The whole room was illumined by the torch, whose red rays flickered
even over the face of the infant that lay sleeping in its cradle,
and shone far down the forest glade, a kindly beacon to guide the
footsteps of the fugitive of Strozzi Castle.
The forester rose from his breakfast, and slung his gun across his
shoulder. "Now I must go, Marcella," said he, "or the stag will have
left the brook before I get there. By sunrise it will be off."
"Go, then, Luigi, and may the holy Bernard protect you! I do hope
you will bring down the stag, and please the marquis by your skill
as a huntsman."
"Please him? He looks as if nothing on earth would ever please him
again. He is the crossest-looking man you ever saw; so unlike his
wife. They say the marchioness is crazy; but I do not believe it."
"Why, Luigi? Did you ever see her?"
"Once, when I went to the castle to tell the marquis that his hounds
were ready for the hunt. He was out walking in the park, and I had
to wait for him to come back. Presently he came with two lackeys
before him, and two behind, and at his side the most beautiful woman
you ever laid your eyes upon. I could have fallen on my knees before
her, she looked so lovely; while he--bless me, Marcella, with his
fierce eyes and his thick brows frowning over his long, sallow face,
he looked like Love's headsman--such a face.--But I must go; I will
tell you the rest another time."
"Oh no; do tell it to me now, I love so to hear you talk, dear
Luigi. But I will not keep you from your work. Let me go a bit with
you into the forest, as far as the blasted oak. It is too late for
me to sleep, and the baby will not wake for half an hour."
"Very well," said Luigi, kissing her; "come, for morning will soon
So, with their arms entwined about each other, the young couple went
out into the woods, and the sound of their loving voices was sweet
to the ear of the wanderer that stood upon their threshold. Laura
pushed open the door, and entered the little room, looking around to
see if any one was nigh.
Her dress was torn, and her hands and feet were bleeding; but her
countenance beamed with hope, as, approaching the fireplace, she
rested her stiffened limbs.
After enjoying for a few moments the reviving glow of the fire, she
rose and looked around to assure herself that no one was near. "She
is to be absent for half an hour," said Laura to herself. "By that
time I will have destroyed this garment, and God will forgive me the
substitution of my bracelet for one of the peasant's gowns."
Opening a chest that stood by the side of the bed, the marchioness
took out a petticoat and kirtle of coarse, dark stuff; stripped off
her sweep's dress, and, in a trice, was transformed into a country-
maid, very beautiful, but sooty still. Then throwing her disguise
into the fire, she rejoiced to think that no human being would ever
find out the manner of her escape.
Half an hour after, Marcella returned, and rekindling the fire,
prepared to warm her baby's milk. As she rose from her knees, she
looked instinctively around at the child's cradle, and there, to her
extreme astonishment, she saw the figure of a woman with hands
outstretched, and eyes that seemed to plead for mercy. Marcella
darted toward the cradle, her fears being entirely for her child.
But it lay peacefully slumbering with a smile on its face, and the
mother began to be apprehensive for her wares.
"Who are you?" said she, sharply, to Laura.
"Marcella," replied the marchioness, coming forward and taking her
hand, "I am an unhappy woman, that implores you, by all your hopes
of heaven, to rescue her from persecution."
But Marcella heard not a word of this petition. She had recognized
her petticoat and kirtle, and screamed with all her might:
"Those are my clothes, you thief! You have been robbing me! Thief!
thief!" cried she. "Oh, why is Luigi not here? Give me my kirtle!
Off with my clothes, this instant, you rogue!"
Laura was somewhat alarmed, and not a little hurt; for the grasp of
the peasant was rough, and her voice, as she called for help, was
loud and piercing.
"Marcella," said she, when she had opportunity to speak, and her
tones were so pleading, that the woman listened in spite of herself-
-"Marcella, as I stood beside your threshold to-night, I heard your
husband telling you of the misfortunes of the Marchioness Strozzi.
He broke off to go into the forest; you followed him, and now I can
tell you what he related after you left the cottage. Your husband
came respectfully up to the marquis, who repulsed him rudely, and
asked what business he had in the court of the castle. Luigi replied
that Battista had admitted him, whereupon the marquis discharged
Battista on the spot, and drove him from the castle. Then he dragged
the marchioness forward and hurried her up the steps of the
"Just so," murmured Marcella. "But what else? Do you know what else
occurred? What the signora did?"
"Of course I do. Slipping from her finger a diamond-ring, she
presented it to Battista, saying, 'Forgive me; it is I who am the
cause of your dismissal.'"
"So she did!" cried Marcella. "But how came you to know?"
"Alas! I am that unhappy marchioness."
"The Marchioness Strozzi!"
"Yes; but believe me, Marcella, I am not crazy. For five years I
have been a prisoner, and now that God has willed my liberation by
means so marvellous as almost to partake of the character of a
miracle, He has sent me to you that you might aid in the blessed
work of my deliverance. See my hands bleeding and cut--see my feet
torn by thorns, and bruised by stones;--and oh, as you hope for
mercy, help me on my way to liberty!"
"I do not believe you," was the reply of the cautious Marcella. "The
Marchioness Strozzi would not come out of her grand castle by night
to steal a poor peasant-woman's clothes. Where are your fine
garments, if you are the marchioness? Let me see them."
"I came disguised, and burnt up the dress in which I made my escape.
I needed another disguise, and have taken your clothes; but I will
reward you richly for the forced loan. Take this bracelet; your
husband can sell it, and, with the money, buy you a pretty farm."
"Ah!" screamed Marcella again, "now I know you to be a thief,
perhaps worse than a thief! You have been stealing the jewels of the
signora; for aught I know, murdering her with those bloody hands,
and now you want to bribe me to help you away! No. no. you shall not
escape--that I promise you."
"Oh, Marcella, how shall I convince you that I am no impostor? I
swear, by God who made, by Christ who redeemed me, and by His holy
mother, the Blessed Virgin, that I am the Marchioness of Strozzi,
the unhappy prisoner of yonder gloomy castle. It is impossible that
you can be so cruel as to deliver me into the hands of its wicked
lord! A woman that loves--that loves her husband and child, must
surely have a compassionate heart! See--I am at your feet!--In
mercy, help me to escape!"
Marcella slowly shook her head. "I cannot, I cannot, I dare not."
"Yes, yes, you can, you dare do a good action. Think of the joy you
experienced when the pangs of your travail were past, and you had
given birth to a child whom you loved even before it had seen the
light of life. Think, if your child should be in distress like mine,
and kneel in vain at the feet of another woman who might deliver it
from peril, and would not!--Oh, if you were in your grave, as my
dear mother is, would you not curse the heartless being that
repulsed your orphan!--Oh, mother! my dead mother! soften this
woman's heart, that she may help me!"
Just then the voice of the baby, cooing in its cradle, reached
Marcella's ear, and strangely moved her heart.
"Ah, the child--the dear child will plead for me," cried Laura. And,
stooping to the cradle, she raised the baby in her arms, and brought
the little rosy, smiling thing to its mother's feet.
"Let this baby, whom you love, be my advocate. I lay my hand upon
its head and swear before Heaven that I am an innocent fugitive from
persecution. Do unto me as you would have others do unto your own
And Marcella, no longer able to resist the pleadings of that
melodious voice, burst into tears, and, encircling both Laura and
the baby in her arms, clasped them close to her heart.
"My child, my child!" cried she, tenderly. "As I do to this unhappy
lady, so may others do unto you."
"Then you will not betray me!" cried Laura, joyfully. "Oh, good,
good Marcella, may God bless you for those pitying words!"
Marcella wiped her eyes, kissed her baby, and, replacing it in its
cradle, said, "Now, signora, that I consent to assist you, tell me
at once what is to be done, for it must be done quickly."
"Give me these clothes and a little money; guide me out of the
forest to a post-station whence I may travel to Turin; and for these
services take the bracelet: it is honestly mine, and therefore
"It is now four o'clock," observed Marcella, looking toward the
"And precisely at eight the marquis will visit my rooms and discover
my flight. Come--come--we have indeed no time to lose."
"We can reach the station in an hour," replied Marcella, "and the
postilions will start early this morning for--to what point did you
say you wished to travel, signora?"
"That is a pity," murmured Marcella.
"Why?" asked Laura, anxiously.
"Because, if you were going northward, we might find you an escort.
Luigi and I met a courier who was going to the next station to order
post-horses for a traveller who is to leave for Vienna this morning.
The man stopped to ask us the way."
"For Vienna!" cried Laura. "Who is going to Vienna?"
"The physician of the Duke of Savoy, whom his highness is sending to
see a kinsman of his who is very ill in Vienna."
Laura uttered a cry of joy. "O God! my God, I thank thee!--Come,
Marcella: I know the duke's physician, and he, of all other men, is
the one I prefer for an escort."
"But your poor, bleeding feet, signora," cried Marcella, piteously.
"Never mind them. May they bleed anew, so I but reach the station in
time to meet the physician I God has sent him to my deliverance.
Come--let us away!"
Two months had passed away since the fall of Belgrade, and Prince
Eugene of Savoy was still suffering from his wound. Nothing had been
spared that could contribute to his recovery; ho was attended by the
surgeon-in-chief of Max Emmanuel, visited daily by the physicians of
the emperor, and nursed by his untiring secretary, Conrad. More than
once the report of his death had been spread throughout Vienna, and
But, until the arrival of the physician of Victor Amadeus, all
medical skill had proved unavailing. Whether through the agency of
Doctor Franzi or of the nurse whom he had brought with him. Prince
Eugene began, at last, to improve.
Sister Angelica, the nurse, had watched her patient with preterhuman
vigilance. Day and night she sat by his bedside, dressing his wound,
administering his medicine, and resting his fevered head on her
shoulder; laying her soft, cool hand upon his brow, until to wild
delirium succeeded tranquil sleep, or a calm, placid wakefulness. At
such times the nun was accustomed to sing; and at the sound of her
voice, Eugene smiled, and resigned himself to rest.
At last, the glance of his eye grew intelligent, and he returned to
a consciousness of his position. Doctor Franzi remarked with regret,
however, that he was apathetic, listless, and quite indifferent to
his recovery. He made no complaint, seldom spoke, and seemed to be
sinking gradually into a state of nervous prostration.
"Your highness," said the surgeon, one day, "you are now
convalescent, and it is time you made some effort to receive your
Eugene turned wearily away, and sighed. "No, no," murmured he, "I am
averse to the sight of any man, friend or foe."
"Nevertheless, I prescribe it," urged the doctor. "You are now less
sick in body than in mind, and you must have change of scene to
"Change will not cheer me," replied Eugene, languidly. "I feel
nothing but absolute weariness of life."
"A morbid state of mind resulting from your long confinement to this
room, and it must be overcome by yourself. A pretty thing it would
be, to be sure, if, after saving your life, we should allow you to
fling it away because you are as melancholy as a lovesick maiden!"
"Doctor," cried Eugene, flushing. "choose your words more
"Good, good," returned the doctor, with an approving nod. "You have
some spirit left, I perceive, and if you would but see one or two of
your most intimate friends--"
"I will not see them," interrupted Eugene, peevishly. He would have
said something more, but his speech was checked by a paroxysm of
coughing. In a moment, the door opened noiselessly, and the nun
gliding in hastened to support his trembling frame; and. while he
suffered his head to fall upon her shoulder, wiped the dews from his
clammy forehead. Then, gently placing him on his pillow, she warmed
his drink over a lamp, and held it to his lips while he partook of
"Thank you, dear sister," said the invalid, faintly.
The next morning a consultation was held by the physicians of the
prince, and it was decided that he must have change of air without
delay. Eugene, reclining in an arm-chair, looked wearily on, until
the conference was at an end; then, shaking his head and frowning,
he turned away and gazed fixedly at his nurse, who, with arms
crossed over her breast, stood close at hand, ready to anticipate
his wants ere he could give them utterance.
"Your highness must not resist," said the imperial court physician.
"Change of air and of scene is indispensable to your recovery."
"Let me die here," was Eugene's languid reply.
"Your highness is not going to die," observed Doctor Franzi; "but I
am afraid that you are about to cause the death of another person."
"Whom can you mean?" asked Eugene, interested.
"I mean Sister Angelica, your nurse."
"Surely she is not sick," said the prince, turning anxiously around.
"No!" said he, smiling, "no--she is here."
"And yet she is sick," persisted Doctor Franzi. "For a month past,
she has lived without sleep, scarcely snatching a moment to change
her clothing, and never once breathing any but the air of this sick-
room." The nun made a deprecating gesture. "You need not deny it,"
continued the doctor. "Prince, when Sister Angelica was allowed by
the prioress of her convent to accompany me to Vienna, she made a
vow never to leave my patient until he recovered from his illness or
died. Now you are neither dead nor about to die; but if you do all
you can to frustrate our endeavors to cure you, your nurse will
succumb long before you are well enough to dispense with her
"In that case, I cease to oppose you," said Eugene. "Do with me what
you will. God forbid that I should harm my ministering angel!"
"In view of your highness's submission to our orders," observed the
court physician, "his majesty the emperor has offered the use of his
palace at Schonbrunn, and we have taken the liberty of preparing
every thing for your immediate departure."
"His majesty is too kind," was the reply, "and my first care shall
be to thank my gracious sovereign for so signal a proof of his
beneficence. Let us then depart for Schonbrunn. You are satisfied,
dear sister, are you not?"
The sister bowed her head, and passed her hand over Eugene's glossy,
black hair, while Doctor Franzi came in and out, making preparations
for the accommodation of his patient.
A litter was brought, and when the prince had been carefully placed
upon it the doctor inquired whether he felt comfortable enough
therein to bear the journey. Eugene, on his part, asked how his
physician and the nun were to travel.
"We expect to occupy your highness's carriage, and to precede you,
by a half hour, to Schonbrunn."
"Would it be inconvenient or uncomfortable for Sister Angelica to
occupy the litter with me?"
"By no means; but if she accompanies your highness, things will not
be quite so comfortable for your reception."
"Then let me have less comfort, and more content. She supports my
head so delightfully when I cough, and moves my wounded foot so
The nun no sooner heard these words than she put aside the doctor
who was standing before her, and hastened to the litter, altered the
inclination of Eugene's pillow, and very gently changed the position
of his wounded foot,
"Oh, how I thank you, dear sister!" murmured the prince, with a sigh
of relief. "When you are by, pain seems to vanish, and night breaks
into joyful day."
The bearers raised the litter, and the little cortege set out for
Schonbrunn. Two runners went before, to make way, crying as they
"Room for the litter of his highness the Prince of Savoy!"
The hurrying wayfarers retreated at the sound; a passage was opened
through the crowded thoroughfares; and, while the hero of Belgrade
was borne along the streets of Vienna, the people stood respectfully
aside to let him pass.
The air of Schonbrunn was pure and delightful. Every morning the
prince was conveyed to its lovely gardens, where he spent at least
an hour in inhaling the sweet breath of coming spring. He drank
goat's milk for his cough, and partook submissively of the food
prescribed for his nourishment; but his fever was not subdued, and
his cheeks grew paler and thinner each day.
"We must use other means," said Doctor Franzi to the nun, who had
been anxiously questioning him as to the result of a consultation
held that day over the sinking patient. "My colleagues are of
opinion that his fever is hectic, and therefore incurable; but I
differ with them. I really believe that if he could be roused from
his apathy, we could save him yet. Corporeal remedies have done
their hest; we must try a moral reaction."
"What do you mean?" murmured the nun.
"I mean that Sister Angelica must raise her veil, and break her long
silence," replied the doctor, raising her delicate white hand to his
The nun trembled, and caught her breath, the doctor viewing her with
amazement. "What!" said he, "you who have displayed such fortitude
and endurance, are you about to become faint-hearted?"
"Doctor," whispered she, "joy has its agitation as well as grief.
And if the shock should be too great for him!"
"If too great now, he will never be able to bear it, my dear child.
It is possible that it may deprive him for a time of consciousness,
but he will awake to life another man. At least, such is my
impression. I consider that his fate now lies in your hands, and you
must decide it to-day--nay, this very hour."
"Oh, doctor, I am so unprepared! I have no self-command; let us wait
until to-morrow. If we should fail--"
"We shall have done him no injury. I am ready to answer before God
The door was partially opened, and the valet of the prince
apologized for interrupting them. "His highness feels very much
exhausted, and calls for Sister Angelica."
"She will be there in one moment," replied the doctor.--"You see,"
whispered he, "that his heart has divined your presence. As soon as
you leave the room, he begins to suffer."
So saying, he gave her his hand, and she submitted to be led as far
as the door of the prince's sitting-room. There she paused, and
laying her hands upon her heart--
"Oh, it will burst," murmured she. "Doctor, you will remain with me-
-will you not?"
"I will remain as long as my presence is beneficial, and depart as
soon as it becomes oppressive. Come!"
He opened the door, and, with gentle constraint, compelled her to
advance. The prince, extended on his couch, looked very ill. "Have
you given me up? Have you, too, forgotten me?"
"'You too,'" echoed the doctor, while the nun was engaged in
preparing the patient's drink. "Why, has anybody else ever forgotten
"No," sighed Eugene; "I was unjust. But I have lost her, and that
loss is killing me."
"You hear him," whispered the doctor, while the nun, scarcely able
to hold the glass, presented it to the lips of her patient.
"Drink, Prince Eugene," said she, in low, trembling tones. At the
sound of her voice he started, and raised his head to listen.
"Great Heaven! Who spoke?"
The doctor smiled, and, slightly raising his shoulders, replied:
"Nobody but Sister Angelica, I presume, for nobody else is here."
"Sister Angelica!" repeated Eugene, slowly. "I thought she had made
a vow of silence, to last until her return to the convent?"
"You are quite right; but it appears that she has forgotten herself
for a moment, in her anxiety to serve you. Drink, then, to oblige
Eugene clutched the glass and emptied it of its contents.
"Good," said the doctor. "Now that you are somewhat refreshed, I
must entertain you with a little outside gossip. I have letters from
Turin to-day. Victor Amadeus has disenthralled himself from his
filial bondage. His mother, having been regent during his minority,
has been struggling since his majority to retain her supremacy over
him and the duchy. She insisted upon taking precedence of her
daughter-in-law, the reigning duchess, and was equally bent upon
dismissing one of the ministers. There was considerable strife, and
no little intrigue in Turin, until the defection of one of the
dowager's adherents, which so strengthened the opposite party, that
she was obliged to succumb, and retired in high dudgeon to her
estates. The duke, on his side, out of gratitude to his new friend,
has created him prime minister--an appointment which is very popular
in Savoy--for there is not a worthier man in the dukedom than the
Marquis de Bonaletta."
At sound of this name, Eugene started up, and leaning his head upon
his hand, prepared to listen.
The doctor continued: "By-the-by, he is the uncle of the unfortunate
young marchioness of that name who was forced into a marriage with a
depraved Venetian nobleman called Strozzi. Your highness has heard
Eugene murmured something in reply, and sank back upon his pillow.
"A very melancholy affair," pursued the doctor, signing to the nun
to approach, "and it has ended most singularly."
"Ended! How?" cried Eugene. "Speak, doctor, I implore you: is she
"She? The marchioness? Quite the contrary, she is alive and well.
Her husband suddenly disappeared with her from Venice, last spring;
and it was discovered that he had confined her within a solitary
castle, somewhere in a forest; having previously given out to the
world that she was a raving lunatic."
"The accursed liar!" muttered Eugene. "May God grant me life to
avenge her wrongs!"
"Your highness is much moved at the recital," continued the doctor,
"and no wonder, for it is a fact much stranger than fiction. But I
will defer the conclusion of my story to some other day. You are too
much excited to hear it now."
"Oh no, indeed! I am strong--well. Look at me, doctor; and believe
me when I say that your conversation is more healing than all the
medicines you have ever administered."
"In truth, your highness seems quite invigorated within the last
half hour. Do you not perceive the change, Sister Angelica?"
She bowed her head, and approached the couch.
"Then, in mercy, let me hear the rest," cried Eugene, his eyes
flashing with eagerness.
"Be it so, then. In spite of bolts, bars, and her miserable
husband's spies, the marchioness has managed to escape."
"Escape!" exclaimed Eugene, starting from his couch, and standing
upright upon the floor. In a moment the nun was behind him, ready to
support him in case of need; but he walked hurriedly to the window,
threw it wide open, and inhaled the fresh morning air. For a while,
not a word was spoken. The prince looked upward at the blue and
silver clouds that were floating silently by; his large, dark eyes
wandered lovingly over the beautiful landscape that lay below, and
then, bowing his head, he lifted his heart to heaven, and thanked
"Doctor," said he, at last, "whither fled the marchioness?"
"No one knows, your highness. But you must excuse me if I take my
leave. I must attend a consultation of--"
"Doctor," cried the prince, grasping him by the arm, "you cannot go:
I must know all that you have to tell."
The doctor smiled. "Upon my word, your highness speaks as if you
were ordering a charge against the Turks. But I cannot obey: Sister
Angelica has heard the story from beginning to end, and she will
relate the rest of it. Adieu."
So saying, Doctor Franzi left the room.
"Oh, dear sister," cried Eugene, "can you tell me whether she fell
into his hands again?"
"She did not," replied the nun, in a low, tremulous voice; "but the
shock of her disappearance was so terrible in its effects upon the
marquis, that he is now a maniac in the very apartments wherein he
had confined his wretched wife."
Eugene had listened in breathless amazement to these low, fluttering
words; and when they ceased he seemed still to listen. His face had
become excessively pale; his lips were slightly parted, and his eyes
riveted upon some imaginary object at a distance, which seemed to
obliterate from his mind the presence of his companion. She
meanwhile became so terrified that she clasped her hands, and knelt
at his feet.
He saw--he understood it all, and, raising her in his arms, he
pressed her rapturously to his heart. The veil had fallen, and she
was there! His Laura! his long-lost Laura!
LOUIS THE FOURTEENTH.
The morning service was at an end, and King Louis XIV., attended by
his courtiers, left the royal chapel. His countenance was troubled,
and it followed, as a matter of course, that everybody else wore a
woe-begone expression. The fact is, that things were very dull and
solemn at the French court. Feasts and festivals were forbidden, and
nobody was allowed to look cheerful. La Valliere, in a Carmelite
convent, was doing penance for the sin of her love for Louis; while
De Montespan, in the world, was expiating hers within sight of the
king's indifference. He had tired of her long ago, but had permitted
her to remain at court, where her saloons were as stupid, as silent,
and as empty, as they had once been bright and crowded.
The reigning favorite was De Maintenon, who might have had followers
innumerable, had she desired them. But she appeared to be perfectly
unconscious of her own power; going about, now as ever, with modest
mien and simple dress, with folded hands and downcast eyes,
apparently unaware of the existence of any mortal whatsoever, save
that of her well-beloved Louis. And her course, of action had been
triumphantly successful, for by many she was believed to be the
legitimate spouse of the King of France.
From the chapel, Louis betook himself to the boudoir of the
marquise, and greeted her with a slight inclination of his royal
"Why were you not at mass to-day, madame?" inquired he, curtly, as,
hastily crossing the room, he flung open the window, and admitted
the sharp air of a raw autumn morning.
De Maintenon stifled a sigh, and compelled herself to smile. "You
know, sire," replied she, gently, "that I am indisposed. My
physician has forbidden me to breathe the air, and for this reason I
dared not follow the impulse of my heart, and join my prayers to
those of your majesty this morning. The autumn winds are too keen
The king paid no attention to De Maintenon's allusion to the "autumn
winds." The window remained open, and she was obliged to stand
directly in front of it as long as Louis was pleased to enjoy the
"You are becoming sickly, madame," observed he, coldly.
"True, sire, I suffer of late," sighed she.
"You are getting old," replied he, tartly. "Old age is a sorry
companion; it makes people peevish and disagreeable."
The marquise grew as pale as ashes, and the sharp glance of her
black eyes was turned quickly upon the countenance of the king, who,
instead of looking at her, was staring out of the window at the
marble Naiads, over whose white limbs the waters of a fountain were
foaming and plashing, in myriads of pearly drops. He appeared to be
quite unconscious of having wounded the feelings of his sensitive
She, on her part, felt that a crisis was at hand, and that, to waken
the king from his apathy, desperate measures must be adopted. She
plunged into her remedy at once.
"I see," sighed she, "that my presence is irksome to your majesty.
It is better, therefore, that I gather up my strength, and sacrifice
my happiness to yours. I will retire to St. Cyr."
Louis raised his shoulders. "I think not. People often say such
things, but never mean what they say."
"Sire, Madame de la Valliere is a proof of the contrary, and I--
although (as you remarked just now)--I am old, possess a heart over
whose emotions time and age have no power. I love as I have ever
loved, passionately, profoundly; but my love is disinterested, and
soars high above all self-gratification. Now that it has become
obtrusive, its current shall be turned to heaven, and in the sacred
walls of a cloister I will spend the remainder of my days in prayer
for him whose image I shall cherish unto death. Sire, I respectfully
request permission to enter the convent of St. Cyr."
Louis began to be uneasy. He knew very well that De Maintenon had a
vigorous and resolute soul, quite capable of carrying out any
purpose dictated by her head; and, if once she appealed from her
affections to her pride, he felt that no ulterior persuasions of his
would avail to deter her from the step she meditated.
"Are you serious, madame?" said he, reproachfully. "Would you,
indeed, forsake me?"
"Sire, I am so earnest in my intention to free you from the presence
of an infirm old woman, that I repeat my request to be allowed to
depart now--this very hour."
The king hated nothing on earth like surprises; he disliked to have
the sluggish waters of his every-day life stirred by unaccustomed
occurrences. He turned around at once to remonstrate, and, instead
of the pallid face he had encountered just a few minutes ago, he saw
a pair of glowing cheeks and flashing eyes, from whose lustrous
depths there darted a light that warmed up his tepid old heart, and
set it to beating as it had been wont to do, when La Valliere smiled
and De Montespan coquetted.
"Surely," said he, "you would not set a bad example to the wives of
my courtiers, Francoise! You would not teach them that when they
tire of their husbands they may desert them, and bury their ennui in
"Sire, I cannot accept the responsibility of other women's
derelictions. My duty points out to me a convent as the proper
refuge for a woman who has outlived her husband's love."
"I will not release you from your marriage-tie, madame; and, should
you brave my displeasure, and attempt to leave me, I would follow
you to St. Cyr, and drag you from the altar, were you in the very
act of making your vows!"
The marquise dropped on her knees. "Oh, sire, do I hear aright! I am
not odious to you!--You will not drive me away from my earthly
heaven! I may yet be happy, yet be loved!"
The king bent over her, and raised her tenderly in his arms. "Rise,
madame," said he, "it does not become the wife of the King of France
to bend the knee to any man. You know full well, Francoise,"
continued he, affectionately, "that without you my life would be an
aimless, burdensome one. Who could replace you, my wife, my
counsellor, my prime minister?"
"Ah, sire, what words! They thrill me to the depths of my heart, and
restore me to bliss unspeakable!"
"Then the cloud of your discontent has passed away, has it not?"
"Oh, sire, it is day, bright day, and my soul is flooded with
"Then let us sit down on yonder divan, and talk of the affairs of
France. Do you know that I have bad news from Germany?"
"I feared as much, sire, when you entered the room with such a
"These German princes will not come to a decision as to my claims.
For four years my envoys have been before the imperial Diet, vainly
urging them to define our boundaries."
"They are procrastinating in the hope of receiving succor from the
emperor, who, as soon as he has sufficiently humbled the Porte, will
make an attempt to humble France. With Leopold to sustain them, the
Diet will claim Strasburg and Alsatia, and exact of your majesty the
withdrawal of the French troops from all the Rhenish provinces."
"They shall not be withdrawn," returned Louis. "When France has her
grasp upon a province, she never relaxes her hold. And so far am I
from any intention to temporize, that, if the Diet decides against
me, I will not scruple to break the twenty years' truce, and appeal
to arms. This I have long ago decided to do, so we need not discuss
the question any longer. I have other matters to confide to you,
which harass me."
"Has the emperor refused to recognize the new Elector of Cologne?"
asked the marquise, indignantly.
"Yes, he has had the assurance to reject the lawful election of Egon
of Furstenberg; and to appoint, in his stead, Joseph Clemens, the
brother of the Elector of Bavaria, Out of four-and-twenty
prebendaries of the archbishopric of Cologne, fourteen votes were
given to Egon, while Joseph received but ten. And what, do you
suppose, is the ground of the emperor's insolent rejection of my
nominee? He pretends that the fourteen voters were bribed by France,
and that the candidate himself is disaffected, and under French
influence. This is tantamount to a declaration of war; and, what is
worse than all, Pope Innocent sustains the emperor."
The marquise folded her hands in pious resignation. "That is a sad
proof of the unfriendliness of his holiness toward France," murmured
she. "But that is the fault of the Minister Louvois. He has deserved
the displeasure of his holiness by the forcible occupation of
Avignon (so long the residence of the successors of St. Peter), and
by the arrest of the papal nuncio."
"He could not help it." cried Louis, impatiently; "it was an act of
reprisal. Our ambassador at Rome had been affronted; the spies of
the pope had forced themselves into the hotel of the embassy and had
arrested two men that had sought protection from the French flag."
"Sire," said the marquise with determination, "they were papal
subjects and criminals, who had no right to the protection of the
French flag. It should never be said that Louis of France shields
from justice the thieves and murderers whom the Vicar of Christ
would punish. You know, sire, that these men had committed
sacrilege. They had plundered the altar of St. Peter's of its golden
pyx and candlesticks, and had poniarded the sacristan that had them
"It was a crime--that I cannot deny," said Louis with a deprecating
sigh, "but the right of asylum is sacred, and we were forced to
"Sire, do you, an earthly monarch, pretend to believe that you can
shield a criminal from the all-seeing vengeance of the Lord? Had the
sinner the wings of the morning, wherewith he might fly to the
uttermost limits of the earth, the arm of God would overtake and
arrest him in his flight! How, then, do you pretend to cover his
crimes with the folds of the French flag?"
The king was cowed by the bold and uncompromising voice of truth. He
folded his hands and bowed his head.
"Alas, alas! you are right and we were wrong! We should not have
given refuge to these murderers and plunderers. I am truly
repentant, Franchise, and will do my best to expiate the sin."
"Sire, you are right to bewail the sin, but it lies not on your
conscience; it is the fault of your arrogant minister, who, without
consulting you, demanded satisfaction of his holiness; and, when it
was righteously refused, took possession of Avignon, and imprisoned
the papal nuncio. Then, when the deed was done, and not until then,
he dispatched a courier to Paris, to inform you of what had taken
"That is true, dear Francoise," said Louis, mildly; "but, after all,
Louvois had no alternative. Had he consulted me, I might have felt
myself bound to temporize; whereas, by his assumption of the act, he
renders apology on my part possible. The thing is done; the honor of
France is satisfied, and I can now release the nuncio, and make all
necessary excuses to his holiness."
The marquise gazed searchingly at the countenance of the royal
casuist, who bore her scrutiny without flinching, and, with a slight
clearing of his throat, went on:
"I am not yet at the end of my chapter of vexations. A courier has
arrived to-day from the Marquis de Villars. In spite of all his
petty intrigues, and the millions with which he bribed the mistress
of the elector, Max Emmanuel has never been estranged from Austria.
So far from it, he has assumed the chief command of the imperial
armies, and is about to lay siege to Belgrade."
"He will come to grief, sire," cried the marquise. "The Turks and
Hungarians greatly outnumber the imperialists, and--"
The king raised his hand and shook his head. "I would you were
right; but, Francoise, you are a false prophet--my last and worst
tale is told--Belgrade has fallen!"
"The will of God be done!" cried the marquise. "Christianity has
triumphed, and the unbelieving Moslem has bitten the dust!"
"Pray," interrupted Louis, fretfully, "put aside your piety for a
while and look at the thing through the medium of good sense and
earthly foresight. The Emperor of Germany is victorious; he is
gradually weakening the Sultan, so that it is within the range of
possibilities that he overturn the Ottoman power, and consolidate
the Germanic confederations into one great empire. This done, he
will turn his attention to France--of that you may be sure."
"My beloved sovereign speaks of events that will never come to
pass," replied the marquise, with one of her most enticing smiles.
"Long before the Emperor Leopold will have exterminated the Turks,
we will force him to defend his own territories from the invading
armies of France."
"You approve me, then, and think that it is time I began to be
aggressive in my warfare," exclaimed Louis, eagerly.
"I am always of the opinion of my lord and sovereign," was the
courteous reply of the marquise, who had already forgotten the
discussion relating to Avignon. "It remains to be seen if Louvois
"Louvois will do as he is bid," said Louis, frowning.
"Remember, sire, that he said publicly, yesterday, that the French
army was not in a condition to open a campaign, and that it could
not be equipped before spring."
"Before spring!" echoed the king. "While the generals of Leopold
carry every thing before them!--for he has distinguished generals in
his service, madame; one of whom is that same Eugene of Savoy whom
you pronounced unworthy of a bishopric. Whatever he might have done
as a churchman, I would he were an archbishop rather than what he is
"Oh, sire!" said the marquise, reproachfully. "True--I never thought
Prince Eugene had any vocation for the priesthood; and, knowing his
disinclination to the church, I myself advised him to ask for a
commission in the army. He did ask it--a mere captaincy--and your
majesty well remembers who it was that influenced you to refuse him
so small a boon. To Louvois France owes the loss of this great
"Right, right, you are always right, and I have unwittingly given
you another pretext for blaming him."
"Although he is my bitter foe, I would not blame him, sire, were he
"Your bitter foe, Francoise? How?"
"Ah, sire, was it not he that opposed our marriage?"
"Forgive him, dear Francoise, he acted according to his own notions
of duty. But you see that my love was mightier than his objections,
and you are, before God, my own beloved spouse."
"Before God, sire, I am; but the world doubts my right to the name.
In the eyes of the court, I am but the mistress of the king; a
humiliation which I owe to Louvois, who bound your majesty by an
oath never to recognize me as Queen of France."
"I rejoice to think that he did so," was the king's reply, "for the
tie that binds us is sacred in the sight of Heaven, while in the
eyes of the world I am spared the ridicule of placing Scarron's
widow upon the throne of Charlemagne the Great. In your own
reception-room you act as queen, and I am perfectly willing that you
should do so, for it proves that you are the wife of the king, and
not his mistress. Be magnanimous, then, and forgive Louvois if,
above the ambition of Madame de Mainterion, he valued the dignity
and honor of the French throne. But the hour of my interview with
you is at an end: I hold a levee this morning, and must leave you."
Kissing the hand of the marquise, Louis bowed and left the room.
THE KING AND THE PETITIONERS.
When the king entered the audience-chamber, the courtiers, dispersed
in groups about the room, were all in eager conversation. So
absorbed were they in the subject under discussion, that those who
stood at the opposite end of the room were not aware of the royal
presence until the grande tournee forced it upon their attention.
The king joined one of these groups. "Gentlemen," said he, "what
interests you so deeply to-day? Have you received any important
"Yes, sire," replied the Prince de Conti. "We are speaking of my
cousin Eugene. He has been severely wounded, but not until he had
materially assisted the Elector of Bavaria to capture Belgrade."
"Ah! you have heard of the fall of Belgrade!" said the king,
frowning, as he perceived that Louvois was approaching. "Is it you,"
asked he, curtly, "that has been in such hot haste to spread the
news of the successes of the imperial army?"
"Pardon me, sire," replied Louvois, "I am no gossip; nor do the
successes of the Emperor of Austria interest me sufficiently for me
to deem them worthy of announcement here."
"Nevertheless, they are for you a cause of no little humiliation;
for they remind the world that you were once guilty of a blunder in
your statesmanship. If I am not mistaken, it was you who caused me
to refuse Prince Eugene a commission in my army--that same Prince
Eugene who has turned out to be one of the greatest military
geniuses of the age."
"Sire," returned Louvois, reddening with auger, "you yourself were
of the opinion that Prince Eugene of Savoy--" "Sir," interrupted the
king, haughtily, "I am of opinion that when you scorned Prince
Eugene, you were lamentably deficient in judgment; and that, if he
is now shedding lustre upon the arms of Austria, it is because you
repulsed him when he would have entered the service of France."
And the king, whose wounded vanity was greatly comforted by a thrust
at that of his prime minister, turned on his heel, and addressed
himself again to the Prince de Conti:
"Whence came your news of the taking of Belgrade?"
"From the Duke de Luynes, your majesty, who, you may remember, has
joined the imperial armies. But Eugene is not the only Frenchman who
has distinguished himself at the siege; the Prince de Commercy
behaved in a manner worthy of all admiration."
"Yes, indeed," added the young Duke of Maine (the royal son of De
Montespan). "It is such deeds as his that have earned for Frenchmen
the title of the 'Knightly Nation.'"
And the little hobbling duke, who had never drawn a sword from its
scabbard, struck himself on the breast, as if he had represented in
his own person the united chivalry of all France.
"I am curious to hear of the valiant deeds of the Prince de
Commercy," said the king, carelessly. "Pray relate them to us,
prince." The prince bowed: "Sire, as the Prince de Commercy was
charging a body of Janizaries stationed at one of the gates of
Belgrade, a Turk made a sudden dash at his standard-bearer, and
captured the regimental flag. The men were disheartened at their
loss, when the prince, crying out, 'Wait a moment, boys, and you
shall have another,' galloped right into the enemy's midst, and
raised his pistol to bring down the standard-bearer of the Turks.
The latter, taking immediate advantage of the position of the
prince, thrust a lance into his right side. Without giving the least
attention to his wound, Commercy grasped the spear with his left
hand and held it fast, while with his right he drew out his sabre,
killed the standard-bearer and bore away his flag. Then, withdrawing
the lance from his side, he gave the blood-besprinkled banner into
the hands of the German ensign, saying, as he did so, 'Pray be more
careful of this one than you were of the other.'"
The king slightly bowed his head. "Indeed, the Prince de Commercy
does honor to the country that gave him birth. I will take care that
he is suitably rewarded."
"Sire," replied the Prince de Conti, "the Emperor of Germany has
already done so. He has been promoted; and the flag which was
stained with his blood now hangs within the cathedral walls of St.
Stephen's; while, with her own hands, the empress is embroidering a
new one for the regiment, which, in honor of the prince, is called
the Commercy regiment."
"The Emperor of Germany knows how to reward valor," exclaimed the
Duke de la Roche Guyon, "for Eugene of Savoy is only five-and-twenty
years of age, and yet he has been created a field-marshal."
The king affected not to have heard this remark, and passed on. His
courtiers saw, with consternation, that he was annoyed at something,
and every face in the audience-chamber gave back a reflection of the
royal discontent. Louis sauntered along, occasionally addressing a
word or two to such as he "delighted to honor," until the grande
tournee had been made.
When the two Princes de Conti saw that he was disengaged, they
advanced with a mien so respectful, that Louis knew perfectly well
the nature of their errand, although he little guessed its purport.
"Well, gentlemen," said he, "for what new escapade have you come to
crave our royal indulgence? I see, by your demeanor, that you are
about to ask a favor of your sovereign."
"Yes, my liege," replied the elder of the two; "we have come to ask
a favor, but not such a one as your majesty supposes. We have grown
melancholy, and your royal hand can heal us."
"Grown melancholy! You, the boldest, gayest cavalier in Paris!"
"Yes, sire," sighed De Conti. "We cannot sleep for thinking of the
laurels of our kinsman of Savoy, and we humbly crave your royal
permission to join the imperial crusade against the Turks."
Louis frowned, but quickly recovered himself. "Of course--of
course," replied he, condescendingly; "if the laurels of the little
prince disturb your slumbers, you have my full consent to go after
him. 'Twere a pity to deny you so small a boon."
And, without giving opportunity to the two princes to thank him, the
king turned around and addressed Marshal Crequi:
"Who knows," said he, raising his voice, "whether these two silly
boys have not chosen the wiser part? Though they may never earn any
laurels, they may fight away some of their folly--which loss would
be to them great gain."
"Sire, it is perfectly natural for youth to desire glory," returned
the old marshal. "I think that thirst for fame is honorable to a
young nobleman, and for this reason I have consented that my son,
the Marquis do Blanchefort, should join the imperial crusade,
provided he obtains your majesty's consent. I venture to hope that
your majesty will not refuse to him what you have conceded to the
Princes de Conti."
Louis looked with amazement at the smiling countenance of the old
marshal, but he answered as before:
"I certainly will not do less for your soil than for the De Contis.
He has my consent to accompany them on their journey after glory."
The young Marquis de Blanchefort, who was near at hand, would have
expressed his gratitude for the royal permission to leave France,
but the king turned coldly away, and darted a peremptory glance at
The minister understood, and came forward at once.
De Blanchefort, meanwhile, hurried off to join the De Contis, who,
surrounded by a group of young noblemen, were engaged in a low, but
"I have my discharge," whispered he.
"Then you are the third one upon whom fortune has smiled to-day,"
sighed the young Duke de Brienne. "I wish I were as far advanced as
"Allow me to give the three lucky knights a bit of advice,"
whispered the Duke de la Roche Guyon, Louvois's son-in-law. "Make
use of the king's permission without delay. Who knows, but when the
rest of us prefer our petitions, he may not withdraw his consent
"My dear friend," said the younger De Conti, "our trunks are packed,
and our travelling-carriage awaits us at the corner of the Rue St.
Honore. Nobody knows what may happen; so that we are about to depart
without parade, bidding adieu to our friends by notes of farewell."
"You have acted with foresight," replied the duke. "And you, De
Blanchefort, when do you start?"
"My father is a soldier, and admires punctuality," answered the
marquis. "Yesterday afternoon he presented me with a new travelling-
chariot, and this morning he ordered it to be ready for my
departure, at the corner of the Garde Meubles. That is even nearer
than the Rue St. Honore, and if you will allow me, I fly to see if
it is still there."
"Do so," returned the duke, "and our dear princes would do well to
follow your example."
"We were about to take our leave, and now--" began young De Conti.
"Away with you!" was the reply; and the three young men, murmuring,
"Au revoir," disappeared behind the portiere which led to the
antechamber, and sped away from the Louvre to their carriages.
"Messieurs," said the Duke de la Roche Guyon, taking out his watch,
"we must give them a quarter of an hour, before we irritate his
majesty by preferring our own petitions."
When the quarter of an hour had elapsed, the duke replaced his
watch, and resumed: "Now let us go and try our luck."
"Shall we go together, or one by one?" inquired the Duke de
"We are four, and the king's good-nature is soon exhausted. The last
two petitioners would indubitably be rebuffed, so I think we had
better go in a body."
"With yourself as spokesman," said De Brienne.
"Right!" echoed the others, and they are all approached the king. He
was engaged in conversation with Louvois, and interrupted himself to
stare at the four young men, as if he had been greatly astonished to
"Here is your son-in-law," observed he to Louvois. "What can he
"Indeed, sire, nobody knows his wants less than I. He is my
daughter's husband, but no friend of mine."
"Here are De Turenne, De Brienne. and De Liancourt at his heels,"
replied the king, trying to stare them out of countenance, while the
poor young men waited in vain for the royal permission to speak.
At last the Duke de la Roche Guyon gathered courage to begin.
"Your majesty, we come with all respect--"
"We!" echoed the king. "Then you represent four petitioners."
"Yes, your majesty, the three here present and myself. May I be
permitted to state the nature of our petition?"
The king bowed, and De la Roche Guyon resumed: "Sire, we, are all,
like the Princes de Conti and the Marquis de Blanchefort, envious of
the laurels of Eugene of Savoy. We are athirst for glory."
"And you come to ask if I will not make war to gratify your greed
for fame?" asked the king, eagerly.
"Sire!" exclaimed the duke, "can you imagine such assurance on the
part of your subjects? No--we merely ask permission to join the
"The army of the Emperor of Germany!" cried Louis, in a voice so
loud and angry that his courtiers grew pale, and almost forgot to
breathe. But the Duke de la Roche Guyon had steeled himself against
the bolts of this Jupiter Tonans.
"Yes, sire," replied he, courteously, "the army of the emperor who
represents Christendom doing battle with Mohammedanism. It is a holy
cause, and we hope that it has your majesty's sympathy and
"It would appear that the youth of my court are drifting into
imbecility," replied the king, with a contemptuous shrug. "They need
a physician; and it will be time enough to listen to any request
they may have to make, when they shall have returned to their
"Your majesty refuses us!" said the duke, bitterly.
"When the king has spoken, sir," replied Louis, haughtily, "it
becomes his subjects to obey and be silent. The court is dismissed!
Monsieur de Louvois, you will go with me to Trianon, to inspect the
new palace. The court are at liberty to accompany us."
This "at liberty" being a command which nobody dared resist, the
king had no sooner left the room than the courtiers hastened to
their carriages and gave orders to their various coachmen to join
the royal cortege.
THE WINDOW THAT WAS TOO LARGE.
Meanwhile the king had made his way to the boudoir of his marquise,
who advanced joyfully to meet him.
"Madame," said he, "I am about to drive to Trianon; will you
accompany me? Decide according to your own judgment; do not
inconvenience yourself on my account."
"Your majesty knows that I live in your presence," sighed the
"But you dare not leave your room. Well--I am sorry; you would have
enjoyed the drive."
"The drive to Trianon," replied the marquise, "where, as an
architect, Louvois will he the theme of your majesty's encomiums."
The king's lip curled. "Scarcely"--said he. "I do not think that
Louvois will enjoy his visit to-day. I am not at all pleased with
his plans, nor will I be at pains to conceal my displeasure."
The marquise looked inquiringly into the face of the king. It was
smiling and significant.
"Sire," said the marquise, "are you in earnest? May I indeed be
permitted to accompany you to Trianon?"
"Indeed, you cannot conceive how much I regret your inability to
go," returned Louis.
"Oh, sire, my love is mightier than my infirmities; it shall lend me
strength, and I shall have the unspeakable bliss of accompanying
"I counted upon you," returned Louis. "So let us go at once; the
court waits, and punctuality is the politeness of kings."
Without paying the least attention to Louvois, who, as
superintendent of the royal edifices, stood close at hand, the king
entered his coach, and assisted Madame de Maintenon, as she took her
place at his side. Louvois had expected to be invited to ride with
the king, and this oversight, he knew, betokened something sinister
And what could it be? "The old bigot has been sowing her tares
again," said he to himself. "There is some mortification in store
for me, or she would not have exposed herself to this sharp autumn
blast to-day." And he ran over all the late occurrences of the
court, that he might disentangle the knotted thread of the king's
ill-humor. "It must be that accursed business of the Prince of
Savoy, and the king is no better than these silly lads; the laurels
of the little abbe keep him awake at night, and he vents his spleen
upon me. What an oversight it was of mine, to let that Eugene
escape! Had I caused him to disappear from this wicked world and
given him an asylum in the Bastile, he never would have troubled us
with his doings in Germany. THERE was my blunder--my unpardonable
blunder. But it cannot be recalled, and the king's vanity is so
insatiable, that there is no knowing how it is ever to be appeased.
I must succumb for the present, and--Ah!" cried he, interrupting the
current of his despondency, "I think I can repair my error. We must
allow his envious majesty to gather a handful of these laurels for
which he has such a longing. We must put the Emperor of Germany in
Just then the iron gates of Trianon opened to admit the carriage,
and the superintendent of the royal edifices made haste to alight
and wait the arrival of the king.
For the first time, his majesty condescended to seem aware of
Louvois' presence. "Monsieur," said he, to the tottering favorite,
"I have come to inspect this chateau. Madame la marquise, it being
intended as a pleasure-house for yourself, you will oblige me by
speaking frankly on the subject."
So saying, he gave his arm to madame, and the court, with heads
uncovered, came submissively behind.
"Follow us," said the king.
This "us" delighted the marquise, for it was an informal
acknowledgment of her right to be considered as the king's consort.
With her large eyes beaming with joy, and her face radiant with
triumph, she went, hanging on Louis' arm, over the chateau which his
munificence had prepared for her occupation in summer. Immediately
behind them walked Louvois; and after him a long procession of
nobles, not one of whom dared to utter a word. The central building
was pronounced satisfactory; its front and marble colonnade received
their due meed of praise, and the king ended by these words: "I am
perfectly satisfied with Mansard; he is really a distinguished
"Sire," returned Louvois, to whom this eulogium had been addressed,
"Mansard will be overjoyed to hear of his sovereign's approbation.
But your majesty will pardon me if I appropriate some portion of
your praise; the ground-plan of the building is mine. I furnished it
The king made no reply to this attempt to extort a word of approval;
he merely nodded, and went on his way. They had now reached a point
whence the right facade of the building was brought to view.
"Monsieur," said Louis, pointing to the central window, "this window
is out of proportion."
"Pardon me, sire," returned Louvois, submissively, "it is exactly of
the size of the central window in front, and only appears larger
because of the absence of a colonnade."
"Sir," said the king, indignantly, "I tell you that this window is
much too large, and unless it be reduced the entire palace is a
"I must, nevertheless, abide by my judgment, sire," replied Louvois,
respectfully. "The two windows are exactly alike; this one being
more conspicuous than the other, but not one inch higher."
"Then you have been guilty of some great oversight by allowing it to
appear higher than the other," returned the king, rudely. "Your plan
is ridiculous, and the sooner you set about mending it the better."
"Sire," said Louvois, bitterly, "when praise was to be awarded, the
credit of the plan was Mansard's--"
"But as you did not choose to concede it, you must accept the blame
of your blunder. Your vision is not acute, sir, a defect that is as
unbecoming in an architect as in a war minister. You have been
equally blind to the monstrous size of yonder window, and to the
great genius of my kinsman, Eugene of Savoy. Unhappily, your want of
judgment, as regards the man, is irreparable; the defect in your
window you will be so good as to correct."
"Sire," said Louvois, trembling with anger, "I beg to be discharged
from my duties as architect to your majesty. Under the
circumstances. I feel myself inadequate to perform its duties."
"You are quite right," replied the king. "You will then have more