Part 3 out of 5
government of Ocampo, nor was Aldao slow in noticing or availing himself
of his disaffection. He offered Quiroga a hundred men, if he chose to
overturn the government and seize upon La Rioja. Quiroga eagerly accepted,
marched upon the city, took it by surprise, threw the Ocampos and their
subordinates into prison, and sent them confessors, with the order to
prepare for death. The remainder of Aldao's force was subsequently induced
to join his cause, and, on the intercession of some of its leaders, the
incarcerated Ocampos were suffered to escape with their lives.
Their banished enemy, Don Nicolas Davila, was called from Tucuman to the
nominal governorship of La Rioja, while Quiroga retained, with his old
title, the actual rule of the province. But Davila was not long content
with this mere semblance of authority. During the temporary absence of
Quiroga, he concerted with Araya, one of the men of Aldao, a plan for the
capture of their master. Quiroga heard of it,--he heard of everything,--
and his answer was the assassination of Captain Araya! Summoned by the
government which he himself had created to answer the accusation of
instigated murder, he advanced upon the Davilas with his Llanista
horsemen. Miguel and Nicolas Davila hastily assembled a body of troops,
and prepared for a final struggle. While the two armies were in presence
of each other, a commissioner from Mendoza endeavored to effect a
peaceable arrangement between their chiefs. Passing from one camp to the
other with propositions and conditions, he inspired the soldiers of the
Davilas with a fatal security. Quiroga, falling suddenly upon them in the
midst of the negotiations, routed them with ease, and slew their general,
who, with a small body of devoted followers, made a fierce onslaught upon
him personally, and succeeded in inflicting upon him a severe wound before
he was shot down. Thenceforth,--from the year 1823,--Quiroga was despot
of La Rioja.
His government was simple enough. His two engrossing objects--if objects,
indeed, he may be said to have possessed--were extortion and the
uprooting of the last vestiges of civilization and law; his instruments,
the dagger and the lash; his amusement, the torture of unwitting
offenders; his serious occupation, the shuffling of cards. For gambling
the man had an insatiable thirst; he played once for forty hours without
intermission; it was death to refuse a game with him; no one might cease
playing without his express commands; no one durst win the stakes; and as
a consequence, he accumulated at cards in a few years almost all the
coined money then existing in the province. Not content with this
source of revenue, he became a farmer of the _diezmo_ or tithes,
appropriated to himself the _mostrenco_ or unbranded cattle, by which
means he speedily became proprietor of many thousand head, even
established a monopoly of beef in his own favor,--and woe to the luckless
fool who should dare to infringe upon the terrible barbarian's
[Footnote 2: Thus the Monagas, the late rulers of Venezuela, are accused
of denuding their country of specie in order to accumulate a vast treasure
abroad in expectation of a rainy day.]
What was the state of society, it will undoubtedly be inquired, in which
the defeat of a handful of men could result in such a despotism? We have
already glanced at the people of La Rioja,--at their dreamy, Oriental
character, at their pastoral pursuits. A community of herdsmen, scattered
over an extensive territory, and deprived at one blow of the two great
families to whom they had been accustomed to look up, with infantine
submission, as their God-appointed chiefs,--these were not the men to
stand up, unprompted by a single master-mind, to rid themselves of one
whose oppression was, after all, only a new form of the treatment to
which, for an entire generation, they had been subjected. La Rioja and San
Juan were the only two provinces in which Quiroga's heavy hand was felt
continuously; in the others he ruled rather by influence than in person;
and the Gauchos, as a matter of course, were enthusiastic for a man who
exalted the peasant at the expense of the citizen, whose exactions were
actually burdensome only to the wealthy, and who permitted every license
to his followers, with the single exception of disobedience to himself.
He was not without--it is impossible that he should have lacked--some of
those instinctive and personal attributes with which almost every savage
chieftain who has maintained so extraordinary an ascendency over his
fellows has been endowed. Sarmiento tells us that he was tall, immensely
powerful, a famous _ginete_ or horseman, a more adroit wielder of the
lasso and the _bolas_ than even his rival, Rosas, capable of great
endurance, and abstinent from intoxicating drinks.
His eye and voice were dreaded more by his soldiers than the lances of
their antagonists. He could wring a Gaucho's secret from his breast; it
was useless to attempt a subterfuge before him. Some article, we are told,
was once stolen from a company of his troops, and every effort for its
recovery proved fruitless. It was reported to Quiroga. He paraded the men,
and, having procured a number of sticks, exactly equal in length, gave to
each man one, proclaiming that the soldier whose stick should be found
longer than the others next morning had been the thief. Next morning he
again drew up his troops. The sticks were mustered by Quiroga himself. Not
one had grown since the previous day; but there was one which was shorter
than the rest. With a terrible roar, Quiroga seized the trembling Gaucho
to whom the stick belonged. "Thou art the thief!" he exclaimed. It was so;
the fellow had cut off a portion of the wood, hoping thus to escape
detection by its growth!--
[Footnote 3: Since the above was written, we have heard of the adoption of
an expedient identical with that of Quiroga, under similar circumstances,
and with the same result. The detector was, however, an English seaman,
now captain of a well-known steam-vessel, who forming part of a crew one
of whom had lost a sum of money, broke off ten twigs of equal length from
a broom, and distributed them among his shipmates, with the same
observation as was used by the Argentine chief. Two hours later he
examined them, and found that the negro steward had _shortened_ his
allotted twig. The money was restored.--The coincidence is instructive.]
Another time, one of his soldiers had been robbed of some trappings, and
no trace of the thief could be discovered. Quiroga ordered the detachment
to file past him, one by one. He stood, himself, with folded arms and
terrible eyes, perusing each man as he passed. At length he darted
forward, pounced upon one of the soldiers, and shouted, "Where is the
_montura_?" "In yonder thicket!" stammered out the self-convicted thief.
"Four musketeers this way!" and the commander was not out of sight before
the wretched Gaucho was a corpse. In these instinctive qualities, so awful
to untutored minds, lay the secret of the power of Quiroga,--and of how
many others of the world's most famous names!
Already in 1825 he was recognized as a lawful authority by the government
of Buenos Ayres, and invited to take part in a Congress of Generals at
that city. At the same time, however, he received a military errand. The
Province of Tucuman having been seized by a young Buenos Ayrean officer,
Colonel Madrid, Quiroga was requested to march against the successful
upstart, and to restore the cause of law and order,--an undertaking
scarcely congruous with his own antecedents. The chief of La Rioja,
however, eagerly accepted the mission, inarched with a small force into
Tucuman, routed Madrid, (and this literally, for his army ran away,
leaving the Colonel to charge Quiroga's force alone, which he did,
escaping by a miracle with his life,) and returned to La Rioja and San
Juan. Into the latter town he made a triumphal entry, through streets
lined on both sides with the principal inhabitants, whom he passed by in
disdainful silence, and who humbly followed the Gaucho tyrant to his
quarters in a clover-field, where he allowed them to stand in anxious
humiliation while he conversed at length with an old negress whom he
seated by his side. Not ten years had elapsed since these very men might
have beheld him pounding _tapias_ on this spot!
We do not propose following the blood-stained career of Juan Facundo
through all its windings and episodes of cruelty and blood. Suffice it to
say, that, with the title of _Comandante de Campana_, he retained in La
Rioja every fraction of actual power,--nominating, nevertheless, a shadowy
governor, who, if he attempted any independent action, was instantly
deposed. His influence gradually extended over the neighboring provinces;
thrice he encountered and defeated Madrid; while at home he gambled,
levied contributions, bastinadoed, and added largely to his army. He
excelled his contemporary, Francia, in the art of inspiring terror; he
only fell short of Rosas in the results. A wry look might at any time call
down upon a luckless child a hundred lashes. He once split the skull of
his own illegitimate son for some trifling act of disobedience. A lady,
who once said to him, while he was in a bad humor, _Adios, mi General_,
was publicly flogged. A young girl, who would not yield to his wishes, he
threw down upon the floor, and kicked her with his heavy boots until she
lay in a pool of blood. Truly, a ruler after the Russian sort!
Dorrego, meanwhile, was at the head of affairs at Buenos Ayres. Opposed to
the "Unitarianism" of Lavalle and Paz, who would have made of their
country, not a republic "one and indivisible," but a confederation after
the model in the North, Dorrego was chiefly anxious to consolidate his
power in the maritime state of Buenos Ayres, leaving the interior
provinces to their own devices, and to the tender mercies of Lopez,
Quiroga, Bustos, with a dozen other Gaucho chiefs. Rosas, the incarnation
of the spirit which was then distracting the entire Confederation, was
made Commandant General by Dorrego, who, however, frequently threatened to
shoot "the insolent boor," but who, unfortunately for his country, never
fulfilled the threat. As for himself, he, indeed, met with that fate at
the hands of Lavalle, who landed with an army from the opposite coast of
Uruguay, defeated Dorrego and Rosas in a pitched battle at the gates of
Buenos Ayres, and entered the city in triumph a few hours later.
With the ascendency of Lavalle came the inauguration--and, alas! only the
inauguration--of a new system. Paz, one of the few Argentinians who really
deserved the name of General that they bore, was sent to Cordova, with
eight hundred veterans of his old command. He defeated Bustos, the tyrant
of Cordova, took possession of the city, (one of the most important
strategic points upon the Pampas,) and restored that confidence and
security to which its inhabitants had so long been strangers. This action
was at the same time a challenge to Quiroga in his neighboring domain. It
was a warning that right was beginning to assert its supremacy over might;
nor was the hero of La Rioja slow to understand it. Collecting a band of
four thousand Gaucho lancers, he marched upon Cordova with the assurance
of an easy victory. The _boleado_ General! The idea of _his_ opposing the
Tiger of the Plains!
What followed this movement is a matter of general history. The battle of
the Tablada has had European, and therefore American, celebrity. It is
known to those who think of Chacabuco and Maipu, of Navarro and Monte
Caseros, only as of spots upon the map; let it, therefore, suffice to say
that Quiroga was beaten decisively, unmistakably, terribly. The serried
veterans of Paz, schooled in the Brazilian wars, stood grimly to the death
before the fiery onslaught of Quiroga; in vain did his horsemen shatter
themselves against the Unitarian General's scanty squares; the tactics of
civilized warfare proved for the first time successful on these plains
against wild ferocity and a larger force; Quiroga was driven back at
length with fearful slaughter, with the loss of arms, ammunition,
reputation, and of seventeen hundred men. He returned to La Rioja, with
the disorganized remnant of his band, marking his path with blood and the
infliction of atrocious chastisements. Even in adversity he is terrible
and is obeyed.
For nearly two years he divided his time between the provinces of San
Juan, Tucuman, and La Rioja, engaged in the prosecution of his designs,
chief among which was the destruction of Paz, who remained at Cordova,
intending to act only on the defensive. At length, in 1830, he considered
himself sufficiently strong for an attack on his recent conqueror. Paz was
unwilling to shed blood a second time; he offered advantageous terms to
Quiroga; but the boastful Gaucho, full of confidence in his savage
lancers, refused to negotiate, and marched against his skilful but
unpresuming antagonist. Paz secretly evacuated Cordova, and, moving
westward, hazarded a feat which is alone sufficient to establish his
character as the best tactician of the New World,--San Martin alone,
perhaps, excepted. Splitting his little army into a dozen brigades, he
occupied the entire mountain-range behind the town, operated, with scarce
five thousand men, upon a front of two hundred miles in extent, held in
his own unwavering grasp the reins which controlled the movements of every
division, and gradually inclosed, as in a net, the forces of Quiroga and
Villafane. In vain they struggled and blindly sought an exit; every door
was closed; until, finally, after a campaign of fifteen days, the
narrowing battalions of Paz surrounded, engaged, and utterly defeated at
Oncativo the bewildered army on whose success Quiroga had staked his all.
The Gaucho himself again escaped. After seven years of dictatorial power,
he is once more reduced to the level upon which we saw him standing in
1818, a vagabond at Buenos Ayres, although from that level he may raise
his head a trifle higher.
And here we might conclude, having seen his rocket-like ascent, and the
swiftly-falling night of his career,--having seen him a laborer, a
deserter, a General, a Dictator, a fugitive; but much remains to be
narrated. Passing over, with the barest mention, his temporary return to
power, which he accomplished by one of those lightning-like expeditions
that even among Gaucho horsemen rendered him conspicuous, let us hasten on
to the great dramatic crisis of his history; and taking no notice of the
five years of marching and countermarching, scheming, fighting, and
negotiating, that intervened between his defeat at the Laguna Larga and
1835, draw to a close our hasty sketch.
In that year, after taking part in a disorderly and fruitless expedition
planned by Rosas to secure the southern frontier against Indian attacks,
he suddenly made his appearance at Buenos Ayres, with a body of armed
satellites, who inspired the newly-seated Dictator--the famous Juan Manuel
de Rosas, who has been already so often mentioned in these pages--with
vivid apprehensions. Rosas, Quiroga, Lopez--the Triumvirate of La Plata--
were bound together, it is true, by a potent tie,--by the strongest,
indeed,--that of self-interest; but as each of the three, and especially
Rosas, was in continual dread lest that consideration in his colleagues
should clash with his own intentions, the presence of Quiroga at Buenos
Ayres was far from satisfactory to the remaining two. His influence over
half a dozen of the despotic governors in the interior was still immense;
the Pampa was his own, after all his defeats; and it was shrewdly
suspected that his indifference to power in La Rioja, and his mysterious
visit to the maritime capital, were indications of a design to seize upon
the government of Buenos Ayres itself. Nor were the actions of Quiroga
suited to remove these apprehensions. The sanguinary despot of the
interior bloomed in the Buenos Ayrean _cafes_ into a profound admirer of
Rivadavia, Lavalle, and Paz, his ancient Unitarian enemies; Buenos Ayres,
the Confederation, he loudly proclaimed, must have a Constitution;
conciliation must supplant the iron-heeled tyranny under which the people
had groaned so long; the very jaguar of the Pampa, said the Porteno wits,
--not yet wholly muzzled by the dread _Mazorca_, or Club, of Rosas,--was
to be stripped of his claws, and made to live on _matagusano_ twigs and
thistles! _Redeunt Saturnia regna!_ The reign of blood, according to
Quiroga, its chief evangelist, was approaching its termination.
In order to form a conception of the effect produced by these
transactions, we must imagine Pelissier or Walewski entertaining, twenty-
three years later, the _cercles_ at Paris with discourses from the beauty
of the last _regime_, with eulogies of Lamartine, and apotheoses of Louis
Blanc; sneering at Espinasse, and eulogizing Cavaignac; vowing that France
can be governed only under a liberal constitution, and paying a visit to
his Majesty, the Elect of December, with a rough-and-tumble suite of
Republican bravos. Assuredly, were such a thing possible in Paris, the
gentlemen in question would very shortly be reviling English hospitality
under its protecting aegis, if not dying of fever at Cayenne. Nor could
Rosas, who was at that time far less firmly seated on his throne than is
at present the man who wields the destinies of France, endure so powerful
a rival in his vicinity. But how to get rid of him? Assassination, by
which a minor offender was so speedily put out of the way, could not
safely be attempted with a man who yet retained a singular mastery over
the minds of thousands of brutal and strong-armed horsemen; a false step
would result in inevitable destruction; and many anxious days were spent
by the gloomy tyrant ere he could decide upon a plan for disposing of his
In the midst of this perplexity intelligence was received of a
disagreement between the governments of Salta, Tucuman, and Santiago,
provinces of the interior, which threatened to expand into warlike
proceedings. Rosas sent for Quiroga. No one but the hero of La Rioja, he
insinuated, had sufficient influence to bring about a settlement of these
disputes; no one but he had power to prevent a war; would he not,
therefore, hasten to Tucuman, and obviate so dire a calamity? Quiroga
hesitated, refused, consented, wavered, and again declined the task. With
a vacillation to which he had hitherto been a stranger, he remained for
many days undecided; a suspicion of deceit appears to have presented
itself to his mind; but at length he resolved to accept the commission.
His hesitation, meanwhile, had completed his ruin; it had given time for
the maturing of deadly plans.
In midsummer, 1835, (December 18th,) the Gaucho chieftain commenced his
fateful journey. As he entered the carriage which was to be his home for
many days, and bade farewell to the adherents who were assembled to
witness his departure, he turned toward the city with a wild expression
and words that were remembered afterwards. _Si salgo bien_, he said, _te
volevre a ver; si no, adios para siempre!_ "If I succeed, I shall see thee
again; if not, farewell forever!" Was it a presentiment of the truth which
came upon him, like that which clouded the great mind of the first
Napoleon as he left the Tuileries when the Hundred Days were running out?
One hour before his departure, a mounted messenger had been dispatched
from Buenos Ayres in the same direction as that he was about to follow;
and the city was scarcely out of sight when Quiroga manifested the most
feverish anxiety to overtake this man. His travelling companions were his
secretary, Dr. Ortiz, and a young man of his acquaintance, bound for
Cordova, to whom he had given a seat in his vehicle. The postilions were
incessantly admonished to make haste. At a shallow stream which they
forded, in the mud of which the wheels became imbedded, resisting every
effort for their release, Quiroga actually hooked the postmaster of the
district, who had hastened to the spot, to the carriage, and made him join
his exertions to those of the horses until the vehicle was extricated,
when he sped onward with fearful velocity, asking at every post-station,
"When did the _chasqui_ from Buenos Ayres pass? An hour ago! Forward,
then!" and the carriage swept onward, on unceasingly, across the lonely
Pampa,--racing, as it afterwards proved, with Death.
At last, Cordova, nearly six hundred miles from his starting-point, was
reached, just one hour after the arrival of the hunted courier. Quiroga
was besought by the cringing magistracy to spend the night in their city.
His only answer was, "Give me horses!" and two hours before midnight he
rolled out of Cordova, having _beaten_ in the grisly race.
Beaten, inasmuch as he was yet alive. For Cordova was ringing with the
details of his intended assassination. Such and such men were to have done
the deed; at such a shop the pistol had been bought; at such a spot it was
to have been fired;--but the marvellous swiftness of the intended victim
had ruined all.
Meanwhile, Quiroga sped onward more at ease toward Tucuman. Arrived there,
he speedily arranged the matters in dispute, and was entreated by the
governors of that province and of Santiago to accept of an escort on his
return; he was besought to avoid Cordova, to avoid Buenos Ayres; he was
counselled to throw off the mask of subservience, and to rally his
numerous adherents in La Rioja and San Juan;--but remonstrance and advice
were alike thrown away upon him. In vain was the most circumstantial
account of the preparations for his murder sent by friends from Cordova;
he appeared as foolhardy now in February as in December he had been panic-
stricken. "To Cordova!" he shouted, as he entered his _galera_; and for
Cordova the postilions steered.
At the little post-hut of Ojos del Agua, in the State of Cordova, Quiroga,
with his secretary, Ortiz, halted one night on the homeward journey.
Shortly before reaching the place, a young man had mysteriously stopped
the carriage, and had warned its hurrying inmates that at a spot called
Barranca Yaco a _partida_, headed by one Santos Perez, was awaiting the
arrival of Quiroga. There the massacre was to take place. The youth, who
had formerly experienced kindness at the hands of Ortiz, begged him to
avoid the danger. The unhappy secretary was rendered almost insane with
terror, but his master sternly rebuked his fears.--"The man is not yet
born," he said, "who shall slay Facundo Quiroga! At a word from me these
fellows will put themselves at my command, and form my escort into
The night at Ojos del Agua was passed sleeplessly enough by the unhappy
Ortiz, but Quiroga was not to be persuaded into ordinary precautions.
Confident in his mastery over the minds of men, he set out unguarded, on
the 18th of February, at break of day. The party consisted of the
chieftain and his trembling secretary, a negro servant on horseback, two
postilions,--one of them a mere lad,--and a couple of couriers who were
travelling in the same direction.
Who that has been on the Pampas but can picture to himself this party as
it left the little mud-hut on the plain? The cumbrous, oscillating
_galera_, with its shaggy, straggling four-in-hand,--the caracoling Gaucho
couriers,--the negro pricking on behind,--the tall grass rolling out on
every side,--the muddy pool that forms the watering-place for beasts and
men scattered over a hundred miles of brookless plain,--the great sun
streaming up from the herbage just in front, awakening the voices of a
million insects and the carols of unnumbered birds in the thickets here
and there! Look long, Quiroga, on that rising sun! listen to the well-
known melody that welcomes his approach! gaze once more upon the rolling
Pampa! look again upon those flying hills! Thou who hast said, "There is
no life but this life," who didst "believe in nothing," shalt know these
things no more! five minutes hence thy statecraft will be over, thy long
apprenticeship will have expired! thou shalt be standing--where thou mayst
learn the secret that the wisest man of all the bookworms thou despisest
will never know alive!
Barranca Yaco is reached. The warning was well founded. A crack is heard,
--there is a puff of smoke,--and two musket-balls pass each other in the
carriage, yet without inflicting injury on its occupants. From either side
the road, however, the _partida_ dashes forth. In a moment the horses are
disabled, the postilions, the negro, and the couriers cut down. Ortiz
trembles more violently than ever; Quiroga rises above himself. Looking
from the carriage while the butchery is going on, he addresses the
murderers with a few unfaltering words. There is glamour in his speech;
the ensanguined assassins hesitate,--another instant, only one moment
more, and they will be on their knees before him; but Santos Perez, who
was at one side, comes up, raises his piece,--and the body of Juan Fecundo
Quiroga falls in a soulless heap with a bullet in the brain! Ortiz was
immediately hacked to pieces; and the tragedy of Cordova is at an end.
Such were the life, misdeeds, and death of the Terror of the Pampas.
Having in the most rapid and imperfect manner sketched the career of this
extraordinary Fortune's-child, his rise from the most abject condition to
unbridled power, his ferocious rule, and his almost heroic end, we may
surely exclaim, that "nothing in his life became him like the leaving of
it," and, presenting this bare _resume_ of facts as a mere outline, a mere
pen-and-ink sketch of the terrible chieftain, refer the curious student to
the impassioned narrative whence our facts are mainly derived.
It may be well to add, that Santos Perez, who was actively pursued by the
government of Buenos Ayres, which itself had instigated him to the
commission of the crime, was finally, after many hairbreadth escapes,
betrayed by his mistress to the agents of Rosas, and suffered death at
Buenos Ayres with savage fortitude. The Lord have mercy on his soul!
THE SCENE AND THE ACTORS.
The heroine of our tale is one so famous in history that her proper name
never appears in it. The seeming paradox is the soberest fact. To us
Americans, glory lies in the abundant display of one's personal
appellation in the newspapers. Our heroine lived in the most gossiping of
all ages, herself its greatest gossip; yet her own name, patronymic or
baptismal, never was talked about. It was not that she sank that name
beneath high-sounding titles; she only elevated the most commonplace of
all titles till she monopolized it, and it monopolized her. Anne Marie
Louise d'Orleans, Souveraine de Dombes, Princesse Dauphine d'Auvergne,
Duchesse de Montpensier, is forgotten, or rather was never remembered; but
the great name of MADEMOISELLE, _La Grande Mademoiselle_, gleams like a
golden thread shot through and through that gorgeous tapestry of crimson
and purple which records for us the age of Louis Quatorze.
In May of the year 1627, while the Queen and Princess of England lived in
weary exile at Paris,--while the slow tide of events was drawing their
husband and father to his scaffold,--while Sir John Eliot was awaiting in
the Tower of London the summoning of the Third Parliament,--while the
troops of Buckingham lay dying, without an enemy, upon the Isle of Rhe,--
while the Council of Plymouth were selling their title to the lands of
Massachusetts Bay,--at the very crisis of the terrible siege of Rochelle,
and perhaps during the very hour when the Three Guardsmen of Dumas held
that famous bastion against an army, the heroine of our story was born.
And she, like the Three Guardsmen, waited till twenty years after for a
The twenty years are over. Richelieu is dead. The strongest will that ever
ruled France has passed away; and the poor, broken King has hunted his
last badger at St. Germain, and meekly followed his master to the grave,
as he had always followed him. Louis XIII., called Louis Le Juste, not
from the predominance of that particular virtue (or any other) in his
character, but simply because he happened to be born under the
constellation of the Scales, has died like a Frenchman, in peace with all
the world except his wife. That beautiful and queenly wife, Anne of
Austria, (Spaniard though she was,)--no longer the wild and passionate
girl who fascinated Buckingham and embroiled two kingdoms,--has hastened
within four days to defy all the dying imprecations of her husband, by
reversing every plan and every appointment he has made. The little prince
has already shown all the Grand Monarque in his childish "Je suis Louis
Quatorze," and has been carried in his bib to hold his first parliament.
That parliament, heroic as its English contemporary, though less
successful, has reached the point of revolution at last. Civil war is
impending. Conde, at twenty-one the greatest general in Europe, after
changing sides a hundred times in a week, is fixed at last. Turenne is
arrayed against him. The young, the brave, the beautiful cluster around
them. The performers are drawn up in line,--the curtain rises,--the play
is "The Wars of the Fronde,"--and into that brilliant arena, like some
fair circus equestrian, gay, spangled, and daring, rides Mademoiselle.
Almost all French historians, from Voltaire to Cousin, (St. Aulaire being
the chief exception,) speak lightly of the Wars of the Fronde. "La Fronde
n'est pas serieuse." Of course it was not. If it had been serious, it
would not have been French. Of course, French insurrections, like French
despotisms, have always been tempered by epigrams; of course, the people
went out to the conflicts in ribbons and feathers; of course, over every
battle there pelted down a shower of satire, like the rain at the Eglinton
tournament. More than two hundred pamphlets rattled on the head of Conde
alone, and the collection of _Mazarinades_, preserved by the Cardinal
himself, fills sixty-nine volumes in quarto. From every field the first
crop was glory, the second a _bon-mot_. When the dagger of De Retz fell
from his breast-pocket, it was "our good archbishop's breviary"; and when
his famous Corinthian troop was defeated in battle, it was "the First
Epistle to the Corinthians." While, across the Channel, Charles Stuart was
listening to his doom, Paris was gay in the midst of dangers, Madame de
Longueville was receiving her gallants in mimic court at the Hotel de
Ville, De Retz was wearing his sword-belt over his archbishop's gown, the
little hunchback Conti was generalissimo, and the starving people were
pillaging Mazarin's library, in joke, "to find something to gnaw upon."
Outside the walls, the maids-of-honor were quarrelling over the straw beds
which annihilated all the romance of martyrdom, and Conde, with five
thousand men, was besieging five hundred thousand. No matter, they all
laughed through it, and through every succeeding turn of the kaleidoscope;
and the "Anything may happen in France," with which La Rochefoucauld
jumped amicably into the carriage of his mortal enemy, was not only the
first and best of his maxims, but the key-note of French history for all
But behind all this sport, as in all the annals of the nation, were
mysteries and terrors and crimes. It was the age of cabalistic ciphers,
like that of De Retz, of which Guy Joli dreamed the solution; of
inexplicable secrets, like the Man in the Iron Mask, whereof no solution
was ever dreamed; of poisons, like that diamond-dust which in six hours
transformed the fresh beauty of the Princess Royal into foul decay; of
dungeons, like that cell at Vincennes which Madame de Rambouillet
pronounced to be "worth its weight in arsenic." War or peace hung on the
color of a ball-dress, and Madame de Chevreuse knew which party was coming
uppermost, by observing whether the binding of Madame de Hautefort's
prayer-book was red or green. Perhaps it was all a little theatrical, but
the performers were all Rachels.
And behind the crimes and the frivolities stood the Parliaments, calm and
undaunted, with leaders, like Mole and Talon, who needed nothing but
success to make their names as grand in history as those of Pym and
Hampden. Among the Brienne Papers in the British Museum there is a
collection of the manifestoes and proclamations of that time, and they are
earnest, eloquent, and powerful, from beginning to end. Lord Mahon alone
among historians, so far as our knowledge goes, has done fit and full
justice to the French parliaments, those assemblies which refused
admission to the foreign armies which the nobles would gladly have
summoned in,--but fed and protected the banished princesses of England,
when the court party had left those descendants of the Bourbons to die of
cold and hunger in the palace of their ancestors. And we have the
testimony of Henrietta Maria herself, the only person who had seen both
revolutions near at hand, that "the troubles in England never appeared so
formidable in their early days, nor were the leaders of the revolutionary
party so ardent or so united." The character of the agitation was no more
to be judged by its jokes and epigrams, than the gloomy glory of the
English Puritans by the grotesque names of their saints, or the stern
resolution of the Dutch burghers by their guilds of rhetoric and
But popular power was not yet developed in France, as it was in England;
all social order was unsettled and changing, and well Mazarin knew it. He
knew the pieces with which he played his game of chess: the king
powerless, the queen mighty, the bishops unable to take a single
straightforward move, and the knights going naturally zigzag; but a host
of plebeian pawns, every one fit for a possible royalty, and therefore to
be used shrewdly, or else annihilated as soon as practicable. True, the
game would not last forever; but after him the deluge.
Our age has forgotten even the meaning of the word Fronde; but here also
the French and Flemish histories run parallel, and the Frondeurs, like the
Gueux, were children of a sarcasm. The Counsellor Bachaumont one day
ridiculed insurrectionists, as resembling the boys who played with slings
(_frondes_) about the streets of Paris, but scattered at the first glimpse
of a policeman. The phrase organized the party. Next morning all fashions
were _a la fronde_,--hats, gloves, fans, bread, and ballads; and it cost
six years of civil war to pay for the Counsellor's facetiousness.
That which was, after all, the most remarkable characteristic of these
wars might be guessed from this fact about the fashions. The Fronde was
preeminently "the War of the Ladies." Educated far beyond the Englishwomen
of their time, they took a controlling share, sometimes ignoble, as often
noble, always powerful, in the affairs of the time. It was not merely a
courtly gallantry which flattered them with a hollow importance. De Retz,
in his Memoirs, compares the women of his age with Elizabeth of England. A
Spanish ambassador once congratulated Mazarin on obtaining temporary
repose. "You are mistaken," he replied, "there is no repose in France, for
I have always women to contend with. In Spain, women have only love-
affairs to employ them; but here we have three who are capable of
governing or overthrowing great kingdoms: the Duchess de Longueville, the
Princess Palatine, and the Duchess de Chevreuse." And there were others as
great as these; and the women who for years outwitted Mazarin and
outgeneralled Conde are deserving of a stronger praise than they have yet
obtained, even from the classic and courtly Cousin.
What men of that age eclipsed or equalled the address and daring of those
delicate and highborn women? What a romance was their ordinary existence!
The Princess Palatine gave refuge to Mme. de Longueville when that alone
saved her from sharing the imprisonment of her brothers Conde and Conti,--
then fled for her own life, by night, with Rochefoucauld. Mme. de
Longueville herself, pursued afterwards by the royal troops, wished to
embark in a little boat, on a dangerous shore, during a midnight storm so
wild that not a fisherman could at first be found to venture forth; the
beautiful fugitive threatened and implored till they consented; the sailor
who bore her in his arms to the boat let her fall amid the furious surges;
she was dragged senseless to the shore again, and, on the instant of
reviving, demanded to repeat the experiment; but as they utterly refused,
she rode inland beneath the tempest, and travelled for fourteen nights
before she could find another place of embarkation.
Madame de Chevreuse rode with one attendant from Paris to Madrid, fleeing
from Richelieu, remaining day and night on her horse, attracting perilous
admiration by the womanly loveliness which no male attire could obscure.
From Spain she went to England, organizing there the French exiles into a
strength which frightened Richelieu; thence to Holland, to conspire nearer
home; back to Paris, on the minister's death, to form the faction of the
Importants; and when the Duke of Beaufort was imprisoned, Mazarin said,
"Of what use to cut off the arms while the head remains?" Ten years from
her first perilous escape, she made a second, dashed through La Vendee,
embarked at St. Malo for Dunkirk, was captured by the fleet of the
Parliament, was released by the Governor of the Isle of Wight, unable to
imprison so beautiful a butterfly, reached her port at last, and in a few
weeks was intriguing at Liege again.
The Duchess de Bouillon, Turenne's sister, purer than those we have named,
but not less daring or determined, after charming the whole population of
Paris by her rebel beauty at the Hotel de Ville, escaped from her sudden
incarceration by walking through the midst of her guards at dusk,
crouching in the shadow of her little daughter, and afterwards allowed
herself to be recaptured, rather than desert that child's sick-bed.
Then there was Clemence de Maille, purest and noblest of all, niece of
Richelieu and hapless wife of the cruel ingrate Conde, his equal in daring
and his superior in every other high quality. Married a child still
playing with her dolls, and sent at once to a convent to learn to read and
write, she became a woman the instant her husband became a captive; while
he watered his pinks in the garden at Vincennes, she went through France
and raised an army for his relief. Her means were as noble as her ends.
She would not surrender the humblest of her friends to an enemy, or suffer
the massacre of her worst enemy by a friend. She threw herself between the
fire of two hostile parties at Bordeaux, and, while men were falling each
side of her, compelled them to peace. Her deeds rang through Europe. When
she sailed from Bordeaux for Paris at last, thirty thousand people
assembled to bid her farewell. She was loved and admired by all the world,
except that husband for whom she dared so much,--and the Archbishop of
Taen. The respectable Archbishop complained, that "this lady did not prove
that she had been authorized by her husband, an essential provision,
without which no woman can act in law." And Conde himself, whose heart,
physically twice as large as other men's, was spiritually imperceptible,
repaid this stainless nobleness by years of persecution, and bequeathed
her, as a life-long prisoner, to his dastard son.
Then, on the royal side, there was Anne of Austria, sufficient unto
herself, Queen Regent, and every inch a queen, (before all but Mazarin,)--
from the moment when the mob of Paris filed through the chamber of the
boy-king, in his pretended sleep, and the motionless and stately mother
held back the crimson draperies, with the same lovely arm which had waved
perilous farewells to Buckingham,--to the day when the news of the fatal
battle of Gien came to her in her dressing-room, and "she remained
undisturbed before the mirror, not neglecting the arrangement of a single
In short, every woman who took part in the Ladies' War became heroic,--
from Marguerite of Lorraine, who snatched the pen from her weak husband's
hand and gave De Retz the order for the first insurrection, down to the
wife of the commandant of the Porte St. Roche, who, springing from her bed
to obey that order, made the drums beat to arms and secured the barrier;
and fitly, amid adventurous days like these, opened the career of
THE FIRST CAMPAIGN.
Grandchild of Henri Quatre, niece of Louis XIII., cousin of Louis XIV.,
first princess of the blood, and with the largest income in the nation,
(500,000 livres,) to support these dignities, Mademoiselle was certainly
born in the purple. Her autobiography admits us to very gorgeous company;
the stream of her personal recollections is a perfect Pactolus. There is
almost a surfeit of royalty in it; every card is a court-card, and all her
counters are counts. "I wore at this festival all the crown-jewels of
France, and also those of the Queen of England." "A far greater
establishment was assigned to me than any _fille de France_ had ever had,
not excepting any of my aunts, the Queens of England and of Spain, and the
Duchess of Savoy." "The Queen, my grandmother, gave me as a governess the
same lady who had been governess to the late King." Pageant or funeral, it
is the same thing. "In the midst of these festivities we heard of the
death of the King of Spain; whereat the Queens were greatly afflicted, and
we all went into mourning." Thus, throughout, her Memoirs glitter like the
coat with which the splendid Buckingham astonished the cheaper chivalry of
France: they drop diamonds.
But for any personal career Mademoiselle found at first no opportunity, in
the earlier years of the Fronde. A gay, fearless, flattered girl, she
simply shared the fortunes of the court; laughed at the
festivals in the palace, laughed at the ominous insurrections in the
streets; laughed when the people cheered her, their pet princess; and when
the royal party fled from Paris, she adroitly secured for herself the best
straw-bed at St. Germain, and laughed louder than ever. She despised the
courtiers who flattered her; secretly admired her young cousin Conde, whom
she affected to despise; danced when the court danced, and ran away when
it mourned. She made all manner of fun of her English lover, the future
Charles II., whom she alone of all the world found bashful; and in general
she wasted the golden hours with much excellent fooling. Nor would she,
perhaps, ever have found herself a heroine, but that her respectable
father was a poltroon.
Lord Mahon ventures to assert, that Gaston, Duke of Orleans, was "the most
cowardly prince of whom history makes mention." A strong expression, but
perhaps safe. Holding the most powerful position in the nation, he never
came upon the scene but to commit some new act of ingenious pusillanimity;
while, by some extraordinary chance, every woman of his immediate kindred
was a natural heroine, and became more heroic through disgust at him. His
wife was Marguerite of Lorraine, who originated the first Fronde
insurrection; his daughter turned the scale of the second. But,
personally, he not only had not the courage to act, but he had not the
courage to abstain from acting; he could no more keep out of parties than
in them; but was always busy, waging war in spite of Mars, and negotiating
in spite of Minerva.
And when the second war of the Fronde broke out, it was in spite of
himself that he gave his name and his daughter to the popular cause. When
the fate of the two nations hung trembling in the balance, the royal army
under Turenne advancing on Paris, and almost arrived at the city of
Orleans, and that city likely to take the side of the strongest,--then
Mademoiselle's hour had come. All her sympathies were more and more
inclining to the side of Conde and the people. Orleans was her own
hereditary city. Her father, as was his custom in great emergencies,
declared that he was very ill and must go to bed immediately; but it was
as easy for her to be strong as it was for him to be weak; so she wrung
from him a reluctant plenipotentiary power; she might go herself and try
what her influence could do. And so she rode forth from Paris, one fine
morning, March 27, 1652,--rode with a few attendants, half in enthusiasm,
half in levity, aiming to become a second Joan of Arc, secure the city,
and save the nation. "I felt perfectly delighted," says the young girl,
"at having to play so extraordinary a part."
The people of Paris had heard of her mission, and cheered her as she went.
The officers of the army, with an escort of five hundred men, met her half
way from Paris. Most of them evidently knew her calibre, were delighted to
see her, and installed her at once over a regular council of war. She
entered into the position with her natural promptness. A certain grave M.
de Rohan undertook to tutor her privately, and met his match. In the
public deliberation, there were some differences of opinion. All agreed
that the army should not pass beyond the Loire: this was Gaston's
suggestion, and nevertheless a good one. Beyond this all was left to
Mademoiselle. Mademoiselle intended to go straight to Orleans. "But the
royal army had reached there already." Mademoiselle did not believe it.
"The citizens would not admit her." Mademoiselle would see about that.
Presently the city government of Orleans sent her a letter, in great
dismay, particularly requesting her to keep her distance. Mademoiselle
immediately ordered her coach, and set out for the city. "I was naturally
resolute," she naively remarks.
Her siege of Orleans is perhaps the most remarkable on record. She was
right in one thing; the royal army had not arrived: but it might appear at
any moment; so the magistrates quietly shut all their gates, and waited to
see what would happen.
Mademoiselle happened. It was eleven in the morning when she reached the
Porte Banniere, and she sat three hours in her state carriage without
seeing a person. With amusing politeness, the governor of the city at last
sent her some confectionery,--agreeing with John Keats, who held that
young women were beings fitter to be presented with sugar-plums than with
one's time. But he took care to explain that the bonbons were not
official, and did not recognize her authority. So she quietly ate them,
and then decided to take a walk outside the walls. Her council of war
opposed this step, as they did every other; but she coolly said (as the
event proved) that the enthusiasm of the populace would carry the city for
her, if she could only get at them.
So she set out on her walk. Her two beautiful ladies-of-honor, the
Countesses de Fiesque and de Frontenac, went with her; a few attendants
behind. She came to a gate. The people were all gathered inside the
ramparts. "Let me in," demanded the imperious young lady. The astonished
citizens looked at each other and said nothing. She walked on,--the crowd
inside keeping pace with her. She reached another gate. The enthusiasm was
increased. The captain of the guard formed his troops in line and saluted
her. "Open the gate," she again insisted. The poor captain made signs that
be had not the keys. "Break it down, then," coolly suggested the daughter
of the House of Orleans; to which his only reply was a profusion of
profound bows, and the lady walked on.
Those were the days of astrology, and at this moment it occurred to our
Mademoiselle, that the chief astrologer of Paris had predicted success to
all her undertakings, from the noon of this very day until the noon
following. She had never had the slightest faith in the mystic science,
but she turned to her attendant ladies, and remarked that the matter was
settled; she should get in. On went the three, until they reached the bank
of the river, and saw, opposite, the gates which opened on the quay. The
Orleans boatmen came flocking round her, a hardy race, who feared neither
queen nor Mazarin. They would break down any gate she chose. She selected
one, got into a boat, and sending back her terrified male attendants, that
they might have no responsibility in the case, she was rowed to the other
side. Her new allies were already at work, and she climbed from the boat
upon the quay by a high ladder, of which several rounds were broken away.
They worked more and more enthusiastically, though the gate was built to
stand a siege, and stoutly resisted this one. Courage is magnetic; every
moment increased the popular enthusiasm, as these highborn ladies stood
alone among the boatmen; the crowd inside joined in the attack upon the
gate; the guard looked on; the city government remained irresolute at the
Hotel de Ville, fairly beleaguered and stormed by one princess and two
A crash, and the mighty timbers of the Porte Brulee yield in the centre.
Aided by the strong and exceedingly soiled hands of her new friends, our
elegant Mademoiselle is lifted, pulled, pushed, and tugged between the
vast iron bars which fortify the gate; and in this fashion, torn,
splashed, and dishevelled generally, she makes entrance into her city. The
guard, promptly adhering to the winning side, present arms to the heroine.
The people fill the air with their applauses; they place her in a large,
wooden chair, and bear her in triumph through the streets. "Everybody came
to kiss my hands, while I was dying with laughter to find myself in so odd
Presently our volatile lady told them that she had learned how to walk,
and begged to be put down; then she waited for her countesses, who arrived
bespattered with mud. The drums beat before her, as she set forth again,
and the city government, yielding to the feminine conqueror, came to do
her homage. She carelessly assured them of her clemency. She "had no doubt
that they would soon have opened the gates, but she was naturally of a
very impatient disposition, and could not wait." Moreover, she kindly
suggested, neither party could now find fault with them; and as for the
future, she would save them all trouble, and govern the city herself,--
which she accordingly did.
By confession of all historians, she alone saved the city for the Fronde,
and, for the moment, secured that party the ascendency in the nation. Next
day the advance-guard of the royal forces appeared,--a day too late.
Mademoiselle made a speech (the first in her life) to the city government;
then went forth to her own small army, by this time drawn near, and held
another council. The next day she received a letter from her father,
(whose health was now decidedly restored,) declaring that she had "saved
Orleans and secured Paris, and shown yet more judgment than courage." The
next day Conde came up with his forces, compared his fair cousin to
Gustavus Adolphus, and wrote to her that "her exploit was such as she only
could have performed, and was of the greatest importance."
Mademoiselle staid a little longer at Orleans, while the armies lay
watching each other, or fighting the battle of Bleneau, of which Conde
wrote her an official bulletin, as being generalissimo. She amused herself
easily, went to mass, played at bowls, received the magistrates, stopped
couriers to laugh over their letters, reviewed the troops, signed
passports, held councils, and did many things "for which she should have
thought herself quite unfitted, if she had not found she did them very
well." The enthusiasm she had inspired kept itself unabated, for she
really deserved it. She was everywhere recognized as head of affairs; the
officers of the army drank her health on their knees, when she dined with
them, while the trumpets sounded and the cannons roared; Conde, when
absent, left instructions to his officers, "Obey the commands of
Mademoiselle, as my own"; and her father addressed a despatch from Paris
to her ladies of honor, as Field-Marshals in her army: "A Mesdames les
Comtesses Marechales de Camp dans l'Armee de ma Fille contre le Mazarin."
CAMPAIGN THE SECOND.
Mademoiselle went back to Paris. Half the population met her outside the
walls; she kept up the heroine, by compulsion, and for a few weeks held
her court as Queen of France. If the Fronde had held its position, she
might very probably have held hers. Conde, being unable to marry her
himself, on account of the continued existence of his invalid wife, (which
he sincerely regretted,) had a fixed design of marrying her to the young
King. Queen Henrietta Maria cordially greeted her, lamented more than ever
her rejection of the "bashful" Charles II., and compared her to the
original Maid of Orleans,--an ominous compliment from an English source.
The royal army drew near; on July 1, 1652, Mademoiselle heard their drums
beating outside. "I shall not stay at home to-day," she said to her
attendants, at two in the morning; "I feel convinced that I shall be
called to do some unforeseen act, as I was at Orleans." And she was not
far wrong. The battle of the Porte St. Antoine was at hand.
Conde and Turenne! The two greatest names in the history of European wars,
until a greater eclipsed them both. Conde, a prophecy of Napoleon, a
general by instinct, incapable of defeat, insatiable of glory, throwing
his marshal's baton within the lines of the enemy, and, following it;
passionate, false, unscrupulous, mean. Turenne, the precursor of
Wellington rather, simple, honest, truthful, humble, eating off his iron
camp-equipage to the end of life. If it be true, as the ancients said,
that an army of stags led by a lion is more formidable than an army of
lions led by a stag, then the presence of two such heroes would have given
lustre to the most trivial conflict. But that fight was not trivial upon
which hung the possession of Paris and the fate of France; and between
these two great soldiers it was our Mademoiselle who was again to hold the
balance, and to decide the day.
The battle raged furiously outside the city. Frenchman fought against
Frenchman, and nothing distinguished the two armies except a wisp of straw
in the hat, on the one side, and a piece of paper on the other. The people
of the metropolis, fearing equally the Prince and the King, had shut the
gates against all but the wounded and the dying. The Parliament was
awaiting the result of the battle, before taking sides. The Queen was on
her knees in the Carmelite Chapel. De Retz was shut up in his palace, and
Gaston of Orleans in his,--the latter, as usual, slightly indisposed; and
Mademoiselle, passing anxiously through the streets, met nobleman after
nobleman, of her acquaintance, borne with ghastly wounds to his residence.
She knew that the numbers were unequal; she knew that her friends must be
losing ground. She rushed back to her father, and implored him to go forth
in person, rally the citizens, and relieve Conde. It was quite impossible;
he was so exceedingly feeble; he could not walk a hundred yards. "Then,
Sir," said the indignant Princess, "I advise you to go immediately to bed.
The world had better believe that you cannot do your duty, than that you
Time passed on, each moment registered in blood. Mademoiselle went and
came; still the same sad procession of dead and dying; still the same mad
conflict, Frenchman against Frenchman, in the three great avenues of the
Faubourg St. Antoine. She watched it from the city walls till she could
bear it no longer. One final, desperate appeal, and her dastard father
consented, not to act himself, but again to appoint her his substitute.
Armed with the highest authority, she hastened to the Hotel de Ville,
where the Parliament was in irresolute session. The citizens thronged
round her, as she went, imploring her to become their leader. She reached
the scene, exhibited her credentials, and breathlessly issued demands
which would have made Gaston's hair stand on end.
"I desire three things," announced Mademoiselle: "first, that the citizens
shall be called to arms."
"It is done," answered the obsequious officials.
"Next," she resolutely went on, "that two thousand men shall be sent to
relieve the troops of the Prince."
They pledged themselves to this also.
"Finally," said the daring lady, conscious of the mine she was springing,
and reserving the one essential point till the last, "that the army of
Conde shall be allowed free passage into the city."
The officials, headed by the Marechal de l'Hopital, at once exhibited the
most extreme courtesy of demeanor, and begged leave to assure her Highness
that under no conceivable circumstances could this request be granted.
She let loose upon them all the royal anger of the House of Bourbon. She
remembered the sights she had just seen; she thought of Rochefoucauld,
with his eye shot out and his white garments stained with blood,--of
Guitant shot through the body,--of Roche-Giffard, whom she pitied, "though
a Protestant." Conde might, at that moment, be sharing their fate; all
depended on her; and so Conrart declares, in his Memoirs, that
"Mademoiselle said some strange things to these gentlemen": as, for
instance, that her attendants should throw them out of the window; that
she would pluck off the Marshal's beard; that he should die by no hand but
her's, and the like. When it came to this, the Marechal de l'Hopital
stroked his chin with a sense of insecurity, and called the council away
to deliberate; "during which time," says the softened Princess, "leaning
on a window which looked on the St. Esprit, where they were saying mass, I
offered up my prayers to God." At last they came back, and assented to
every one of her propositions.
In a moment she was in the streets again. The first person she met was
Vallon, terribly wounded. "We are lost!" he said. "You are saved!" she
cried, proudly. "I command to-day in Paris, as I commanded in Orleans."
"Vous me rendez la vie," said the reanimated soldier, who had been with
her in her first campaign. On she went, meeting at every step men wounded
in the head, in the body, in the limbs,--on horseback, on foot, on planks,
on barrows,--besides the bodies of the slain. She reached the windows
beside the Porte St. Antoine, and Conde met her there; he rode up, covered
with blood and dust, his scabbard lost, his sword in hand. Before she
could speak, that soul of fire uttered, for the only recorded time in his
career, the word _Despair:_ "Ma cousine, vous voyez un homme au
desespoir,"--and burst into tears. But her news instantly revived him, and
his army with him. "Mademoiselle is at the gate," the soldiers cried; and,
with this certainty of a place of refuge, they could do all things. In
this famous fight, five thousand men defended themselves against twelve
thousand, for eight hours. "Did you see Conde himself?" they asked
Turenne, after it was over. "I saw not one, but a dozen Condes," was the
answer; "he was in every place at once."
But there was one danger more for Conde, one opportunity more for
Mademoiselle, that day. Climbing the neighboring towers of the Bastille,
she watched the royal party on the heights of Charonne, and saw fresh
cavalry and artillery detached to aid the army of Turenne. The odds were
already enormous, and there was but one course left for her. She was
mistress of Paris, and therefore mistress of the Bastille. She sent for
the governor of the fortress, and showed him the advancing troops. "Turn
the cannon under your charge, Sir, upon the royal army." Without waiting
to heed the consternation she left behind her, Mademoiselle returned to
the gate. The troops had heard of the advancing reinforcements, and were
drooping again; when, suddenly, the cannon of the Bastille, those Spanish
cannon; flamed out their powerful succor, the royal army halted and
retreated, and the day was won.
The Queen and the Cardinal, watching from Charonne, saw their victims
escape them. But the cannon-shots bewildered them all. "It was probably a
salute to Mademoiselle," suggested some comforting adviser. "No," said the
experienced Marechal de Villeroi, "if Mademoiselle had a hand in it, the
salute was for us." At this, Mazarin comprehended the whole proceeding,
and coldly consoled himself with a _bon-mot_ that became historic. "Elle a
tue son mari," he said,--meaning that her dreams of matrimony with the
young king must now be ended. No matter; the battle of the Porte St.
Antoine was ended also.
There have been many narratives of that battle, including Napoleon's; they
are hard to reconcile, and our heroine's own is by no means the clearest;
but all essentially agree in the part they ascribe to her. One brief
appendix to the campaign, and her short career of heroism fades into the
light of common day.
Yet a third time did Fortune, showering upon one maiden so many
opportunities at once, summon her to arm herself with her father's
authority, that she might go in his stead into that terrible riot which,
two days after, tarnished the glories of Conde, and by its reaction
overthrew the party of the Fronde ere long. None but Mademoiselle dared to
take the part of that doomed minority in the city government, which, for
resisting her own demands, were to be terribly punished on that fourth-of-
July night. "A conspiracy so base," said the generous Talon, "never
stained the soil of France." By deliberate premeditation, an assault was
made by five hundred disguised soldiers on the Parliament assembled in the
Hotel de Ville; the tumult spread; the night rang with a civil conflict
more terrible than that of the day. Conde and Gaston were vainly summoned;
the one cared not, the other dared not. Mademoiselle again took her place
in her carriage and drove forth amid the terrors of the night. The sudden
conflict had passed its cruel climax, but she rode through streets
slippery with blood; she was stopped at every corner. Once a man laid his
arm on the window, and asked if Conde was within the carriage. She
answered "No," and he retreated, the flambeaux gleaming on a weapon
beneath his cloak. Through these interruptions, she did not reach the
half-burned and smoking Hotel de Ville till most of its inmates had left
it; the few remaining she aided to conceal, and emerged again amid the
lingering, yawning crowd, who cheered her with, "God bless Mademoiselle!
all she does is well done."
At four o'clock that morning she went to rest, weary with these days and
nights of responsibility. Sleep soundly, Mademoiselle, you will be
troubled with such no longer. An ignominious peace is at hand; and though
peace, too, has her victories, yours is not a nature grand enough to grasp
them. Last to yield, last to be forgiven, there will yet be little in your
future career to justify the distrust of despots, or to recall the young
heroine of Orleans and St Antoine.
Like a river which loses itself, by infinite subdivision, in the sands, so
the wars of the Fronde disappeared in petty intrigues at last. As the
fighting ended and manoeuvring became the game, of course Mazarin came
uppermost,--Mazarin, that super-Italian, finessing and fascinating, so
deadly sweet, _l'homme plus agreable du monde_, as Madame de Motteville
and Bussy-Rabutin call him,--flattering that he might win, avaricious that
he might be magnificent, winning kings by jewelry and princesses by
lapdogs,--too cowardly for any avoidable collision,--too cool and
economical in his hatred to waste an antagonist by killing him, but always
luring and cajoling him into an unwilling tool,--too serenely careless of
popular emotion even to hate the mob of Paris, any more than a surgeon
hates his own lancet when it cuts him; he only changes his grasp and holds
it more cautiously. Mazarin ruled. And the King was soon joking over the
fight at the Porte St. Antoine, with Conde and Mademoiselle; the Queen at
the same time affectionately assuring our heroine, that, if she could have
got at her on that day, she would certainly have strangled her, but that,
since it was past, she would love her as ever,--as ever; while
Mademoiselle, not to be outdone, lies like a Frenchwoman, and assures the
Queen that really she did not mean to be so naughty, but "she was with
those who induced her to act against her sense of duty!"
The day of civil war was over. The daring heroines and voluptuous blonde
beauties of the Frondeur party must seek excitement elsewhere. Some looked
for it in literature; for the female education of France in that age was
far higher than England could show. The intellectual glory of the reign of
the Grand Monarque began in its women. Marie de Medicis had imported the
Italian grace and wit,--Anne of Austria the Spanish courtesy and romance;
the Hotel de Rambouillet had united the two, and introduced the _genre
precieux_, or stately style, which was superb in its origin, and dwindled
to absurdity in the hands of Mlle. de Scudery and her valets, before
Moliere smiled it away forever. And now that the wars were done, literary
society came up again. Madame de Sable exhausted the wit and the cookery
of the age in her fascinating entertainments,--_pates_ and Pascal,
Rochefoucauld and _ragouts_,--Mme. de Bregy's Epictetus, Mme. de Choisy's
salads,--confectionery, marmalade, elixirs, Des Cartes, Arnould,
Calvinism, and the barometer. Mme. de Sable had a sentimental theory that
no woman should eat at the same table with a lover, but she liked to see
her lovers eat, and Mademoiselle, in her obsolete novel of the "Princesse
de Paphlagonie," gently satirizes this passion of her friend. And
Mademoiselle herself finally eclipsed the Sable by her own entertainments
at her palace of the Luxembourg, where she offered no dish but one of
gossip, serving up herself and friends in a course of "Portraits" so
appetizing that it became the fashion for ten years, and reached
perfection at last in the famous "Characters" of La Bruyere.
Other heroines went into convents, joined the Carmelites, or those nuns of
Port-Royal of whom the Archbishop of Paris said that they lived in the
purity of angels and the pride of devils. Thither went Madame de Sable
herself, finally,--"the late Madame," as the dashing young abbes called
her when she renounced the world. Thither she drew the beautiful
Longueville also, and Heaven smiled on one repentance that seemed sincere.
There they found peace in the home of Angelique Arnould and Jacqueline
Pascal. And thence those heroic women came forth again, when religious war
threatened to take the place of civil: again they put to shame their more
timid male companions, and by their labors Jesuit and Jansenist found
But not such was to be the career of our Mademoiselle, who, at twenty, had
tried the part of devotee for one week and renounced it forever. No doubt,
at thirty-five, she "began to understand that it is part of the duty of a
Christian to attend High Mass on Sundays and holy days"; and her
description of the deathbed of Anne of Austria is a most extraordinary
jumble of the next world and this. But thus much of devotion was to her
only a part of the proprieties of life, and before the altar of those
proprieties she served, for the rest of her existence, with exemplary
zeal. At forty, she was still the wealthiest unmarried princess in Europe;
fastidious in toilette, stainless in reputation, not lovely in temper,
rigid in etiquette, learned in precedence, an oracle in court traditions,
a terror to the young maids-of-honor, and always quarrelling with her own
sisters, younger, fairer, poorer than herself. Her mind and will were as
active as in her girlhood, but they ground chaff instead of wheat. Whether
her sisters should dine at the Queen's table, when she never had; who
should be her trainbearer at the royal marriage; whether the royal Spanish
father-in-law, on the same occasion, should or should not salute the
Queen-mother; who, on any given occasion, should have a _tabouret_, who a
_pliant_, who a chair, who an arm-chair; who should enter the King's
_ruelle_, or her own, or pass out by the private stairway; how she should
arrange the duchesses at state-funerals: these were the things which tried
Mademoiselle's soul, and these fill the later volumes of that
autobiography whose earlier record was all a battle and a march. From
Conde's "Obey Mademoiselle's orders as my own," we come down to this: "For
my part, I had been worrying myself all day; having been told that the new
Queen would not salute me on the lips, and that the King had decided to
sustain her in this position. I therefore spoke to Monsieur the Cardinal
on the subject, bringing forward as an important precedent in my favor,
that the Queen-mother had always kissed the princesses of the blood"; and
so on through many pages. Thus lapsed her youth of frolics into an old age
It is a slight compensation, that this very pettiness makes her chronicles
of the age very vivid in details. How she revels in the silver brocades,
the violet-colored velvet robes, the crimson velvet carpets, the purple
damask curtains fringed with gold and silver, the embroidered _fleurs de
lis_, the wedding-caskets, the cordons of diamonds, the clusters of
emeralds _en poires_ with diamonds, and the Isabelle-colored linen,
whereby hangs a tale! She still kept up her youthful habit of avoiding the
sick-rooms of her kindred, but how magnificently she mourned them when
they died! Her brief, genuine, but quite unexpected sorrow for her father
was speedily assuaged by the opportunity it gave her to introduce the
fashion of gray mourning, instead of black; it had previously, it seems,
been worn by widows only. Servants and horses were all put in deep black,
however, and "the court observed that I was very _magnifique_ in all my
arrangements." On the other hand, be it recorded, that our Mademoiselle,
chivalrous royalist to the last, was the only person at the French court
who refused to wear mourning for the usurper Cromwell!
But, if thus addicted to funeral pageants, it is needless to say that
weddings occupied their full proportion of her thoughts. Her schemes for
matrimony fill the larger portion of her history, and are, like all the
rest, a diamond necklace of great names. In the boudoir, as in the field,
her campaigns were superb, but she was cheated of the results. Her picture
should have been painted, like that of Justice, with sword and scales,--
the one for foes, the other for lovers. She spent her life in weighing
them,--monarch against monarch, a king in hand against an emperor in the
bush. We have it on her own authority, which, in such matters, was
unsurpassable, that she was "the best match in Europe, except the Infanta
of Spain." Not a marriageable prince in Christendom, therefore, can hover
near the French court, but this middle-aged sensitive-plant prepares to
close her leaves and be coy. The procession of her wooers files before our
wondering eyes, and each the likeness of a kingly crown has on: Louis
himself, her bright possibility of twenty years, till he takes her at her
own estimate and prefers the Infanta,--Monsieur, his younger brother,
Philip IV. of Spain, Charles II. of England, the Emperor of Germany, the
Archduke Leopold of Austria,--prospective king of Holland,--the King of
Portugal, the Prince of Denmark, the Elector of Bavaria, the Duke of
Savoy, Conde's son, and Conde himself. For the last of these alone she
seems to have felt any real affection. Their tie was more than cousinly;
the same heroic blood of the early Bourbons was in them, they were trained
by the same precocious successes, only six years apart in age, and
beginning with that hearty mutual aversion which is so often the parent of
love, in impulsive natures like theirs. Their flirtation was platonic, but
chronic; and whenever poor, heroic, desolate Clemence de Maille was sicker
than usual, these cousins were walking side by side in the Tuileries
gardens, and dreaming, almost in silence, of what might be, while Mazarin
shuddered at the thought of mating two such eagles together.--So passed
her life, and at last, like many a matchmaking lady, she baffled all the
gossips, and left them all in laughter when her choice was made.
The tale stands embalmed forever in the famous letter of Madame de Sevigne
to her cousin, M. de Coulanges, written on Monday, December 15, 1670. It
can never be translated too often, so we will risk it again.
"I have now to announce to you the most astonishing circumstance, the most
surprising, most marvellous, most triumphant, most bewildering, most
unheard-of, most singular, most extraordinary, most incredible, most
unexpected, most grand, most trivial, most rare, most common, most
notorious, most secret, (till to-day,) most brilliant, most desirable;
indeed, a thing to which past ages afford but one parallel, and that a
poor one; a thing which we can scarcely believe at Paris; how can it be
believed at Lyons? a thing which excites the compassion of all the world,
and the delight of Madame de Rohan and Madame de Hauterive; a thing which
is to be done on Sunday, when those who see it will hardly believe their
eyes; a thing which will be done on Sunday, and which might perhaps be
impossible on Monday: I cannot possibly announce it; guess it; I give you
three guesses; try now. If you will not, I must tell you. M. de Lauzun
marries on Sunday, at the Louvre,--whom now? I give you three guesses,--
six,--a hundred. Madame de Coulanges says, 'It is not hard to guess; it is
Madame de la Valliere.' Not at all, Madame! 'Mlle. de Retz?' Not a bit;
you are a mere provincial. 'How absurd!' you say; 'it is Mlle. Colbert.'
Not that, either. 'Then, of course, it is Mlle. de Crequi.' Not right yet.
Must I tell you, then? Listen! he marries on Sunday, at the Louvre, by his
Majesty's permission, Mademoiselle,--Mademoiselle de,--Mademoiselle (will
you guess again?)--he marries MADEMOISELLE,--La Grande Mademoiselle,--
Mademoiselle, daughter of the late Monsieur,--Mademoiselle, grand-
daughter of Henri Quatre,--Mademoiselle d'Eu,--Mademoiselle de Dombes,--
Mademoiselle de Montpensier,--Mademoiselle d'Orleans,--Mademoiselle, the
King's own cousin,--Mademoiselle, destined for the throne,--Mademoiselle,
the only fit match in France for Monsieur [the King's brother];--there's
a piece of information for you! If you shriek,--if you are beside
yourself,--if you say it is a hoax, false, mere gossip, stuff, and
nonsense,--if, finally, you say hard things about us, we do not complain;
we took the news in the same way. Adieu; the letters by this post will
show you whether we have told the truth."
Poor Mademoiselle! Madame de Sevigne was right in one thing,--if it were
not done promptly, it might prove impracticable. Like Ralph Roister
Doister, she should ha' been married o' Sunday. Duly the contract was
signed, by which Lauzun took the name of M. de Montpensier and the largest
fortune in the kingdom, surrendered without reservation, all, all to him;
but Mazarin had bribed the notary to four hours' delay, and during that
time the King was brought to change his mind, to revoke his consent, and
to contradict the letters he had written to foreign courts, formally
announcing the nuptials of the first princess of the blood. In reading the
Memoirs of Mademoiselle, one forgets all the absurdity of all her long
amatory angling for the handsome young guardsman, in pity for her deep
despair. When she went to remonstrate with the King, the two royal cousins
fell on their knees, embraced, "and thus we remained for near three
quarters of an hour, not a word being spoken during the whole time, but
both drowned in tears." Reviving, she told the King, with her usual
frankness, that he was "like apes who caress children and suffocate them";
and this high-minded monarch soon proceeded to justify her remark by
ordering her lover to the Castle of Pignerol, to prevent a private
marriage,--which had probably taken place already. Ten years passed,
before the labors and wealth of this constant and untiring wife could
obtain her husband's release; and when he was discharged at last, he came
out a changed, soured, selfish, ungrateful man. "Just Heaven," she had
exclaimed in her youth, "would not bestow such a woman as myself upon a
man who was unworthy of her." But perhaps Heaven was juster than she
thought. They soon parted again forever, and he went to England, there to
atone for these inglorious earlier days by one deed of heroic loyalty
which it is not ours to tell.
And then unrolled the gorgeous tapestry of the maturer reign of the Grand
Monarque,--that sovereign whom his priests in their liturgy styled "the
chief work of the Divine hands," and of whom Mazarin said, more honestly,
that there was material enough in him for four kings and one honest man.
The "Moi-meme" of his boyish resolution became the "L'etat, c'est moi" of
his maturer egotism; Spain yielded to France the mastery of the land, as
she had already yielded to Holland and England the sea; Turenne fell at
Sassbach, Conde sheathed his sword at Chantilly; Bossuet and Bourdaloue,
preaching the funeral sermons of these heroes, praised their glories, and
forgot, as preachers will, their sins; Vatel committed suicide because his
Majesty had not fish enough for breakfast; the Princess Palatine died in a
convent, and the Princess Conde in a prison; the fair Sevigne chose the
better part, and the fairer Montespan the worse; the lovely La Valliere
walked through sin to saintliness, and poor Marie de Mancini through
saintliness to sin; Voiture and Benserade and Corneille passed away, and
Racine and Moliere reigned in their stead; and Mademoiselle, who had won
the first campaigns of her life and lost all the rest, died a weary old
woman at sixty-seven.
Thus wrecked and wasted, her opportunity past, her career a
disappointment, she leaves us only the passing glimpse of what she was,
and the hazy possibility of what she might have been. Perhaps the defect
was, after all, in herself; perhaps the soil was not deep enough to
produce anything but a few stray heroisms, bright and transitory;--perhaps
otherwise. What fascinates us in her is simply her daring, that inborn
fire of the blood to which danger is its own exceeding great reward; a
quality which always kindles enthusiasm, and justly,--but which is a thing
of temperament, not necessarily joined with any other great qualities, and
worthless when it stands alone--But she had other resources,--weapons, at
least, if not qualities; she had birth, wealth, ambition, decision, pride,
perseverance, ingenuity; beauty not slight, though not equalling the
superb Longuevilles and Chevreuses of the age; great personal magnetism,
more than average cultivation for that period, and unsullied chastity. Who
can say what these things might have ended in, under other circumstances?
We have seen how Mazarin, who read all hearts but the saintly, dreaded the
conjunction of herself and Conde; it is scarcely possible to doubt that it
would have placed a new line of Bourbons on the throne. Had she married
Louis XIV., she might not have controlled that steadier will, but there
would have been two Grand Monarques instead of one; had she accepted
Charles II. of England, she might have only increased his despotic
tendencies, but she would easily have disposed of the Duchess of
Portsmouth; had she won Ferdinand III., Germany might have suffered less
by the Peace of Westphalia; had she chosen Alphonso Henry, the House of
Braganza would again have been upheld by a woman's hand. But she did none
of these things, and her only epitaph is that dreary might-have-been.
Nay, not the only one,--for one visible record of her, at least, the soil
of France cherishes among its chiefest treasures. When the Paris
butterflies flutter for a summer day to the decaying watering-place of
Dieppe, some American wanderer, who flutters with them, may cast perchance
a longing eye to where the hamlet of Eu stands amid its verdant meadows,
two miles away, still lovely as when the Archbishop Laurent chose it out
of all the world for his "place of eternal rest," six centuries ago. But
it is not for its memories of priestly tombs and miracles that the summer
visitor seeks it now, nor because the _savant_ loves its ancient sea-
margin or its Roman remains; nor is it because the little Bresle winds
gracefully through its soft bed, beneath forests green in the sunshine,
glorious in the gloom; it is not for the memories of Rollo and William the
Conqueror, which fill with visionary shapes, grander than the living, the
corridors of its half-desolate chateau. It is because these storied walls,
often ruined, often rebuilt, still shelter a gallery of historic portraits
such as the world cannot equal; there is not a Bourbon king, nor a Bourbon
battle, nor one great name among the courtier contemporaries of Bourbons,
that is not represented there; the "Hall of the Guises" contains kindred
faces, from all the realms of Christendom; the "Salon des Rois" holds Joan
of Arc, sculptured in marble by the hand of a princess; in the drawing-
room, Pere la Chaise and Marion de l'Orme are side by side, and the
angelic beauty of Agnes Sorel floods the great hall with light, like a
sunbeam; and in this priceless treasure-house, worth more to France than
almost fair Normandy itself, this gallery of glory, first arranged at
Choisy, then transferred hither to console the solitude of a weeping
woman, the wanderer finds the only remaining memorial of La Grande
THE SWAN-SONG OF PARSON AVERY.
When the reaper's task was ended, and the summer wearing late,
Parson Avery sailed from Newbury with his wife and children eight,
Dropping down the river harbor in the shallop Watch and Wait.
Pleasantly lay the clearings in the mellow summer-morn,
And the newly-planted orchards dropping their fruits first-born,
And the homesteads like brown islands amidst a sea of corn.
Broad meadows reaching seaward the tided creeks between,
And hills rolled, wave-like, inland, with oaks and walnuts green:
A fairer home, a goodlier land, his eye had never seen.
Yet away sailed Parson Avery, away where duty led,
And the voice of God seemed calling, to break the living bread
To the souls of fishers starving on the rocks of Marblehead!
All day they sailed: at nightfall the pleasant land-breeze died,
The blackening sky at midnight its starry lights denied,
And, far and low, the thunder of tempest prophesied.
Blotted out was all the coast-line, gone were rock and wood and sand;
Grimly anxious stood the helmsman with the tiller in his hand,
And questioned of the darkness what was sea and what was land.
And the preacher heard his dear ones, nestled round him, weeping sore:
"Never heed, my little children! Christ is walking on before
To the pleasant land of Heaven, where the sea shall be no more!"
All at once the great cloud parted, like a curtain drawn aside,
To let down the torch of lightning on the terror far and wide;
And the thunder and the whirlwind together smote the tide.
There was wailing in the shallop, woman's wail and man's despair,
A crash of breaking timbers on the rocks so sharp and bare,
And through it all the murmur of Father Avery's prayer.
From the struggle in the darkness with the wild waves and the blast,
On a rock, where every billow broke above him as it passed,
Alone of all hia household the man of God was cast.
There a comrade heard him praying in the pause of wave and wind:
"All my own have gone before me, and I linger just behind;
Not for life I ask, but only for the rest thy ransomed find!
"In this night of death I challenge the promise of thy Word!
Let me see the great salvation of which mine ears have heard!
Let me pass from hence forgiven, through the grace of Christ, our Lord!
"In the baptism of these waters wash white my every sin,
And let me follow up to Thee my household and my kin!
Open the sea-gate of thy Heaven and let me enter in!"
The ear of God was open to his servant's last request;
As the strong wave swept him downward the sweet prayer upward pressed,
And the soul of Father Avery went with it to his rest.
There was wailing on the mainland from the rocks of Marblehead,
In the stricken church of Newbury the notes for prayer were read,
And long by board and hearthstone the living mourned the dead.
And still the fishers out-bound, or scudding from the squall,
With grave and reverent faces the ancient tale recall,
When they see the white waves breaking on the "Rock of Avery's Fall!"
THE DENSLOW PALACE.
It is the privilege of authors and artists to see and to describe; to "see
clearly and describe vividly" gives the pass on all state occasions. It is
the "cap of darkness" and the _talaria_, and wafts them whither they will.
The doors of boudoirs and senate-chambers open quickly, and close after
them,--excluding the talentless and staring rabble. I, who am one of the
humblest of the seers,--a universal admirer of all things beautiful and
great,--from the commonwealths of Plato and Solon, severally, expulsed, as
poet with out music or politic, and a follower of the great,--I, from my
dormitory, or nest, of twelve feet square, can, at an hour's notice, or
less, enter palaces, and bear away, unchecked and unquestioned, those
_imagines_ of Des Cartes which emanate or are thrown off from all forms,--
and this, not in imagination, but in the flesh.
Whether it was the "tone of society" which pervaded my "Florentine
letters," or my noted description of the boudoir of Egeria Mentale, I
could not just now determine; but these, and other humble efforts of mine,
made me known in palaces as a painter of beauty and magnificence; and I
have been in demand, to do for wealth what wealth cannot do for itself,--
namely, make it live a little, or, at least, spread as far, in fame, as
the rings of a stone-plash on a great pond.
I enjoy friendships and regards which would satisfy the most fastidious.
Are not the Denslows enormously rich? Is not Dalton a sovereign of
elegance? It was I who gave the fame of these qualities to the world, in
true colors, not flattered. And _they_ know it, and love me. Honoria
Denslow is the most beautiful and truly charming woman of society. It was
I who first said it; and she is my friend, and loves me. I defy poverty;
the wealth of all the senses is mine, without effort. I desire not to be
one of those who mingle as principals and sufferers; for they are less
causes than effects. As the Florentine in the Inferno saw the souls of
unfortunate lovers borne upon a whirlwind, so have I seen all things fair
and precious,--outpourings of wealth,--all the talents,--all the offerings
of duty and devotion,--angelic graces of person and of soul,--borne and
swept violently around on the circular gale. Wealth is only an enlargement
of the material boundary, and leaves the spirit free to dash to and fro,
and exhaust itself in vain efforts.--But I am philosophizing,--oddly
enough,--when I should describe.
An exquisite little note from Honoria, sent at the last moment, asking me
to be present that evening at a "select" party, which was to open the "new
house,"--the little palace of the Denslows,--lay beside me on the table.
It was within thirty minutes of nine o'clock, the hour I had fixed for
going. A howling winter out of doors, a clear fire glowing in my little
grate. My arm-chair, a magnificent present from Honoria, shaming the
wooden fixtures of the poor room, invited to meditation, and perhaps the
composition of some delicate periods. They formed slowly. Time, it is
said, devours all things; but imagination, in turn, devours time,--and,
indeed, swallowed my half-hour at a gulp. The neighboring church-clock
tolled nine. I was belated, and hurried away.
It was a _reunion_ of only three hundred invitations, selected by my
friend Dalton, the intimate and adviser of Honoria. So happy were their
combinations, scarce a dozen were absent or declined.
At eleven, the guests began to assemble. Introductions were almost
needless. Each person was a recognized member of "society." One-half of
the number were women,--many of them young, beautiful, accomplished,--
heiresses, "charming widows," poetesses of real celebrity, and, rarer
still, of good repute,--wives of millionnaires, flashing in satin and
diamonds. The men, on their side, were of all professions and arts, and of
every grade of celebrity, from senator to merchant,--each distinguished by
some personal attribute or talent; and in all was the gift, so rare, of
manners and conversation. It was a company of undoubted gentlemen, as
truly entitled to respect and admiration as if they stood about a throne.
They were the untitled nobility of Nature, wealth, and genius.
As I stood looking, with placid admiration, from a recess, upon a
brilliant _tableau_ of beautiful women and celebrated men that had
accidentally arranged itself before me, Dalton touched my arm.
"I have seen," said he, "aristocratic and republican _reunions_ of the
purest mode in Paris, the court and the banker's circle of London,
_conversazioni_ at Rome and Florence. Every face in this room is
intelligent, and nearly all either beautiful, remarkable, or commanding.
Observe those five women standing with Denslow and Adonais,--grandeur,
sweetness, grace, form, purity; each has an attribute. It is a rare
assemblage of superior human beings. The world cannot surpass it. And, by
the by, the rooms are superb."
They were, indeed, magnificent: two grand suites, on either side a central
hall of Gothic structure, in white marble, with light, aerial staircases
and gilded balconies. Each suite was a separate miracle: the height, the
breadth, the columnal divisions; the wonderful delicacy of the arches,
upon which rested ceilings frescoed with incomparable art. In one
compartment the arches and caryatides were of black marble; in another, of
snowy Parian; in a third, of wood, exquisitely carved, and joined like one
piece, as if it were a natural growth; vines rising at the bases of the
walls, and spreading under the roof. There was no forced consistency.
Forms suitable only for the support of heavy masses of masonry, or for the
solemn effects of church interiors, were not here introduced. From
straight window-cornices of dark wood, slenderly gilt, but richly carved,
fell cataracts of gleaming satin, softened in effect with laces of rare
The frescoes and panel-work were a study by themselves, uniting the
classic and modern styles in allegorical subjects. The paintings, selected
by the taste of Dalton, to overpower the darkness of the rooms by
intensity of color, were incorporated with the walls. There were but few
mirrors. At the end of each suite, one, of fabulous size, without frame,
made to appear, by a cunning arrangement of dark draperies, like a
transparent portion of the wall itself, extended the magnificence of the
Not a flame nor a jet was anywhere visible. Tinted vases, pendent, or
resting upon pedestals, distributed harmonies and thoughts of light rather
than light itself; and yet all was visible, effulgent. The columns which
separated the apartments seemed to be composed of masses of richly-colored
flames, compelled, by some ingenious alchemy, to assume the form and
office of columns.
In New York, _par excellence_ the city of private gorgeousness and
_petite_ magnificence, nothing had yet been seen equal to the rooms of the
glorious Denslow Palace. Even Dalton, the most capricious and critical of
men, whose nice vision had absorbed the elegancies of European taste,
pronounced them superb. The upholstery and ornamentation were composed
under the direction of celebrated artists. Palmer was consulted on the
marbles. Page (at Rome) advised the cartoons for the frescoes, and gave
laws for the colors and disposition of the draperies. The paintings,
panelled in the walls, were modern, triumphs of the art and genius of the
Until the hour for dancing, prolonged melodies of themes modulated in the
happiest moments of the great composers floated in the perfumed air from a
company of unseen musicians, while the guests moved through the vast
apartments, charmed or exalted by their splendor, or conversed in groups,
every voice subdued and intelligent.
At midnight began the modish music of the dance, and groups of beautiful
girls moved like the atoms of Chladni on the vibrating crystal, with their
partners, to the sound of harps and violins, in pleasing figures or
When supper was served, the ivory fronts of a cabinet of gems divided
itself in the centre,--the two halves revolving upon silver hinges,--and
discovered a hall of great height and dimensions, walled with crimson
damask, supporting pictures of all the masters of modern art. The dome-
like roof of this hall was of marble variously colored, and the floor
tessellated and mosaicked in grotesque and graceful figures of Vesuvian
lavas and painted porcelain.
The tables, couches, chairs, and _vis-a-vis_ in this hall were of plain
pattern and neutral dead colors, not to overpower or fade the pictures on
the walls, or the gold and Parian service of the cedar tables.
But the chief beauty of this unequalled supper-room was an immense bronze
candelabrum, which rose in the centre from a column of black marble. It
was the figure of an Italian elm, slender and of thin foliage, embraced,
almost enveloped, in a vine, which reached out and supported itself in
hanging from all the branches; the twigs bearing fruit, not of grapes, but
of a hundred little spheres of crimson, violet, and golden light, whose
combination produced a soft atmosphere of no certain color.
Neither Honoria, Dalton, nor myself remained long in the gallery. We
retired with a select few, and were served in an antechamber, separated
from the grand reception-room by an arch, through which, by putting aside
a silk curtain, Honoria could see, at a distance, any that entered, as
they passed in from the hall.
My own position was such that I could look over her shoulder and see as
she saw. _Vis-a-vis_ with her, and consequently with myself, was Adonais,
a celebrated author, and person of the _beau monde_. On his left, Dalton,
always mysteriously elegant and dangerously witty. Denslow and Jeffrey
Lethal, the critic, completed our circle. The conversation was easy,
"You are fortunate in having a woman of taste to manage your
entertainments," said Lethal, in answer to a remark of Denslow's,--"but in
bringing these people together she has made a sad blunder."
"And what may that be?" inquired Dalton, mildly.
"Your guests are too well behaved, too fine, and on their guard; there are
no butts, no palpable fools or vulgarians; and, worse, there are many
distinguished, but no one great man,--no social or intellectual sovereign
of the occasion."
Honoria looked inquiringly at Lethal. "Pray, Mr. Lethal, tell me who he
is? I thought there was no such person in America," she added, with a look
of reproachful inquiry at Dalton and myself, as if we should have found
this sovereign and suggested him.
"You are right, my dear queen; Lethal is joking," responded Dalton; "we
are a democracy, and have only a queen of"----
"Water ices," interrupted Lethal; "but, as for the king you seek, as
democracies finally come to that,"----
"Good Heavens!" exclaimed Honoria, raising the curtain, "it must be he
that is coming in."
Honoria frowned slightly, rose, and advanced to meet a new-comer, who had
entered unannounced, and was advancing alone. Dalton followed to support
her. I observed their movements,--Lethal and Adonais using my face as a
mirror of what was passing beyond the curtain.
The masses of level light from the columns on the left seemed to envelope
the stranger, who came toward us from the entrance, as if he had divined
the presence of Honoria in the alcove.
He was about the middle height, Napoleonic in form and bearing, with
features of marble paleness, firm, and sharply defined. His hair and
magnificent Asiatic beard were jetty black, curling, and naturally
disposed. Under his dark and solid brows gleamed large eyes of abysmal
blackness and intensity.
"Is it Lord N----?" whispered Lethal, moved from his habitual coldness by
the astonishment which he read in my face.
"Senator D----, perhaps," suggested Denslow, whose ideas, like his person,
aspired to the senatorial.
"Dumas," hinted Adonais, an admirer of French literature. "I heard he was
"No," I answered, "but certainly in appearance the most noticeable man
living. Let us go out and be introduced."
"Perhaps," said Lethal, "it is the d----."
All rose instantly at the idea, and we went forward, urged by irresistible
As we drew near the stranger, who was conversing with Honoria and Dalton,
a shudder went through me. It was a thrill of the universal Boswell; I
seemed to feel the presence of "the most aristocratic man of the age,"
Honoria introduced me. "My Lord Duke, allow me to present my friend, Mr.
De Vere; Mr. De Vere, the Duke of Rosecouleur."
Was I, then, face to face with, nay, touching the hand of a highness,--and
that highness the monarch of the _ton_? And is this a ducal hand, white as
the albescent down of the eider-duck, which presses mine with a tender
touch, so haughty and so delicately graduated to my standing as "friend"
of the exquisite Honoria? It was too much; I could have wept; my senses
Dalton fell short of himself; for, though his head stooped to none, unless
conventionally, the sudden and unaccountable presence of the Duke of
Rosecouleur annoyed and perplexed him. His own sovereignty was threatened.
Lethal stiffened himself to the ordeal of an introduction; the affair
seemed to exasperate him. Denslow alone, of the men, was in his element.
Pompous and soft, he "cottoned" to the grandeur with the instinct of a
born satellite, and his eyes grew brighter, his body more shining and
rotund, his back more concave. His _bon-vivant_ tones, jolly and
conventional, sounded a pure barytone to the clear soprano of Honoria, in
the harmony of an obsequious welcome.
The Duke of Rosecouleur glanced around him approvingly upon the
apartments. I believed that he had never seen anything more beautiful than
the _petite_ palace of Honoria, or more ravishing than herself. He said
little, in a low voice, and always to one person at a time. His answers
and remarks were simple and well-turned.
Dalton allowed the others to move on, and by a slight sign drew me to him.
"It is unexpected," he said, in a thoughtful manner, looking me full in
"You knew the Duke of Rosecouleur in Europe?"
"At Paris, yes,--and in Italy he was a travel friend; but we heard lately
that he had retired upon his estates in England; and certainly, he is the
last person we looked for here."
"That is a part of the singularity."
"His name was not in the published list of arrivals; but he may have left
England incognito. Is a mistake possible?"
"No! there is but one such man in Europe;--a handsomer or a richer does
"An eye of wonderful depth."
"And his dress and manner."
"Not a shadow of pretence;--the essence of good-breeding founded upon
extensive knowledge, and a thorough sense of position and its advantages;
--in fact, the Napoleon of the parlor."
"But, Dalton," said I, nervously, "no one attends him."
"No,--I thought so at first; but do you see that Mephistophelean figure,
in black, who follows the Duke a few paces behind, and is introduced to no
"Yes. A singular creature, truly!--how thin he is!"
"That shadow that follows his Highness is, in fact, the famous valet, Reve
de Noir,--the prince of servants. The Duke goes nowhere without this man
as a shadow. He asserts that Reve de Noir has no soul; and I believe him.
The face is that of a demon. It is a separate creation, equally wonderful
with the master, but not human. He was condensed out of the atmosphere of
the great world."
As we were speaking, we observed a crowd of distinguished persons
gathered, about and following his Highness, as he moved. He spoke now to
one; now to another. Honoria, fascinated, her beauty every instant
becoming more radiant, just leaned, with the lightest pressure, upon the
Duke's arm. They were promenading through the rooms. The music, soft and
low, continued, but the groups of dancers broke up, the loiterers in the
gallery came in, and as the sun draws his fifty, perhaps his hundreds of
planets, circling around and near him, this noble luminary centred in
himself the attention of all. If they could not speak with him, they could
at least speak of him. If they could not touch his hand, they could pass
before him and give one glance at his eyes. The less aristocratic were
even satisfied for the moment with watching the singular being, Reve de
Noir,--who caught no one's eye, seemed to see no one but his master,--and
yet was not here nor there, nor in any place,--never in the way, a thing
of air, and not tangible, but only black.
At a signal, he would advance and present to his master a perfume, a laced
handkerchief, a rose of rubies, a diamond clasp; of many with whom he
spoke the liberal Duke begged the acceptance of some little token, as an
earnest of his esteem. After interchanging a few words with Jeffrey
Lethal,--who dared not utter a sarcasm, though he chafed visibly under the
restraint,--the Duke's tasteful generosity suggested a seal ring, with an
intaglio head of Swift cut in opal, the mineral emblem of wit, which dulls
in the sunlight of fortune, and recovers its fiery points in the shade of
adversity;--Reve de Noir, with a movement so slight, 'twas like the
flitting of a bat, placed the seal in the hand of the Duke, who, with a
charming and irresistible grace, compelled Lethal to receive it.
To Denslow, Honoria, Dalton, and myself he offered nothing.--Strange?--Not
at all. Was he not the guest, and had not I been presented to him by
Honoria as her "friend?"--a word of pregnant meaning to a Duke of
To Adonais he gave _a lock of hair_ of the great novelist, Dumas, in a
locket of yellow tourmaline,--a stone usually black. Lethal smiled at
this. He felt relieved.
"The Duke," thought he, "must be a humorist."
From my coarse way of describing this, you would suppose that it was a
farcical exhibition of vulgar extravagance, and the Duke a madman or an
impostor; but the effect was different. It was done with grace, and, in
the midst of so much else, it attracted only that side regard, at
intervals, which is sure to surprise and excite awe.
Honoria had almost ceased to converse with us. It was painful to her to
talk with any person. She followed the Duke with her eyes. When, by some
delicate allusion or attention, he let her perceive that she was in his
thoughts, a mantling color overspread her features, and then gave way to
paleness, and a manner which attracted universal remark. It was then
Honoria abdicated that throne of conventional purity which hitherto she
had held undisputed. Women who were plain in her presence outshone
Honoria, by meeting this ducal apparition, that called itself
Rosecouleur,--and which might have been, for aught they knew, a fume of
the Infernal, shaped to deceive us all,--with calm and haughty propriety.
The sensation did not subside. The music of the waltz invited a renewal of
that intoxicating whirl which isolates friends and lovers, in whispering
and sighing pairs, in the midst of a great assemblage. All the world
looked on, when Honoria Denslow placed her hand upon the shoulder of the
Duke of Rosecouleur, and the noble and beautiful forms began silently and
smoothly turning, with a dream-like motion. Soon she lifted her lovely
eyes and steadied their rays upon his. She leaned wholly upon his arm, and
the gloved hands completed the magnetic circle. At the close of the first
waltz, she rested a moment, leaning upon his shoulder, and his hand still
held hers,--a liberty often assumed and permitted, but not to the nobles
and the monarchs of society. She fell farther, and her ideal beauty faded
into a sensuous.
Honoria was lost. Dalton saw it. We retired together to a room apart. He
was dispirited; called for and drank rapidly a bottle of Champagne;--it
"De Vere," said he, "affairs go badly."
"This cursed thing that people call a duke--it kills me."
"Of course you did;--the world saw; the servants saw. Honoria has fallen
to-night. I shall transfer my allegiance."
"A born sycophant;--he thinks it natural that his wife should love a duke,
and a duke love his wife."
"So would you, if you were any other than you are."
"Faugh! it is human nature."
"Not so; would you not as soon strangle this Rosecouleur for making love
to your wife in public, as you would another man?"
"Pooh! I give you up. If you had
simply said, 'Yes,' it would have satisfied me."
Dalton seemed perplexed. He called a servant and sent him with an order
for Nalson, the usher, to come instantly to him.
Nalson appeared, with his white gloves and mahogany face.
"Nalson, you were a servant of the Duke in England?"
"Is the person now in the rooms the Duke of Rosecouleur?"
"I have not seen him, Sir."
"Go immediately, study the man well,--do you hear?--and come to me. Let no
one know your purpose."
I was alarmed. If "the Duke" should prove to be an impostor, we were
In five minutes,--an hour, it seemed,--Nalson stood before us.
"Is it he?" said Dalton, looking fixedly upon the face of the usher.
"Speak the truth; you need not be afraid."
"I cannot tell, Sir."
"Nonsense! go and look again."
"It is of no use, Mr. Dalton; you, who are as well acquainted with the
personal appearance of his Highness as I am, you have been deceived,--if I
"Nalson, do you believe that this person is an impostor?" said Dalton,
pointing at myself.
"Who? Mr. De Vere, Sir?"
"If, then, you know at sight that this gentleman is my friend Mr. De Vere,
why do you hesitate about the other?"
"But the imitation is perfect. And there is Reve de Noir."
"Yes, did Reve de Noir recognize you?"
"I have not caught his eye. You know, Sir, that this Reve is not, and
never was, like other men; he is a devil. One knows, and one does not know
"Were you at the door when the Duke entered?"
"I think not; at least--I cannot tell. When I first saw him, he was in the
room, speaking with Madam Denslow."
"Nalson, you have done wrong; no one should have entered unannounced. Send
the doorkeeper to me."
The doorkeeper came; a gigantic negro, magnificently attired.
"Jupiter, you were at the door when the Duke of Rosecouleur entered?"
"Did the Duke and his man come in a carriage?"
"Yes, Sir,--a hack."
"You may go. They are not devils," said Dalton, musingly, "or they would
not have come in a carriage."
"You seem to have studied the spiritual mode of locomotion," said I.
Dalton frowned. "This is serious, De Vere."
"What mean you?"
"I mean that Denslow is a bankrupt."
"You know what an influence he carries in political circles. The G----rs,
the S----es, and their kind, have more talent, but Denslow enjoys the
secret of popularity."
"Well, I know it."
"In the middle counties, where he owns vast estates, and has been liberal
to debtors and tenants, he carries great favor; both parties respect him
for his ignorance and pomposity, which they mistake for simplicity and
power, as usual. The estates are mortgaged three deep, and will not hold
out a year. The shares of the Millionnaire's Hotel and the Poor Man's Bank
in the B----y are worthless. Denslow's railroad schemes have absorbed the
capital of those concerns."
"But he had three millions."
"Nominally. This palace has actually sunk his income."
"Wisdom, if you will listen."
"I am all attention."
"The use of money is to create and hold power. Denslow was certain of the
popular and county votes; he needed only the aristocratic support, and the
A---- people would have made him Senator."
"Fool, why was he not satisfied with his money?"
"Do you call the farmer fool, because he is not satisfied with the soil,
but wishes to grow wheat thereon? Money is the soil of power. For much
less than a million one may gratify the senses; great fortunes are not for
sensual luxuries, but for those of the soul. To the facts, then. The
advent of this mysterious duke,--whom I doubt,--hailed by Denslow and
Honoria as a piece of wonderful good-fortune, has already shaken him and
ruined the _prestige_ of his wife. They are mad and blind."
"Tell me, in plain prose, the _how_ and the _why_."
"De Vere, you are dull. There are three hundred people in the rooms of the
Denslow Palace; these people are the 'aristocracy.' They control the
sentiments of the 'better class.' Opinion, like dress, descends from them.
They no longer respect Denslow, and their women have seen the weakness of
"Yes, but Denslow still has 'the people.'"
"That is not enough. I have calculated the chances, and mustered all our
available force. We shall have no support among the 'better class,' since
we are disgraced with the 'millionnaires.'"
At this moment Denslow came in.
"Ah! Dalton,--like you! I have been looking for you to show the pictures.
Devil a thing I know about them. The Duke wondered at your absence."
"Where is Honoria?"
"Ill, ill,--fainted. The house is new; smell of new wood and mortar;
deused disagreeable in Honoria. If it had not been for the Duke, she would
have fallen. That's a monstrous clever fellow, that Rosecouleur. Admires
Honoria vastly. Come,--the pictures."
"Mr. John Vanbrugen Denslow, you are an ass!"
The large, smooth, florid millionnaire, dreaming only of senatorial
honors, the shouts of the multitude, and the adoration of a party press,
cowered like a dog under the lash of the "man of society."
"Rather rough,--ha, De Vere? What have _I_ done? Am I an ass because I
know nothing of pictures. Come, Dalton, you are harsh with your old
"Denslow, I have told you a thousand times never to concede position."
"Yes, but this is a duke, man,--a prince!"
"This from you? By Jove, De Vere, I wish you and I could live a hundred
years, to see a republican aristocrat. We are still mere provincials,"
added Dalton, with a sigh.
Denslow perspired with mortification.
"You use me badly,--I tell you, Dalton, this Rosecouleur is a devil.
Condescend to him! be haughty and--what do you call it?--urbane to him! I
defy _you_ to do it, with all your impudence. Why, his valet, that shadow
that glides after him, is too much for me. Try him yourself, man."
"Who, the valet?"
"No, the master,--though I might have said the valet."
"Did I yield in Paris?"
"No, but you were of the embassy, and--and--_no one really knew us_, you
Dalton pressed his lips hard together.
"Come," said he, "De Vere, let us try a fall with this Titan of the
Denslow hastened back to the Duke. I followed Dalton; but as for me, bah!
I am a cipher.
The room in which we were adjoined Honoria's boudoir, from which a secret
passage led down by a spiral to a panel behind hangings; raising these,
one could enter the drawing-room unobserved. Dalton paused midway in the
secret passage, and through a loop or narrow window concealed by
architectural ornaments, and which overlooked the great drawing-rooms,
made a reconnaissance of the field.
Nights of Venice! what a scene was there! The vine-branch chandeliers,
crystal-fruited, which depended from the slender ribs of the ceiling, cast
a rosy dawn of light, deepening the green and crimson of draperies and
carpets, making an air like sunrise in the bowers of a forest. Form and
order were everywhere visible, though unobtrusive. Arch beyond arch, to
fourth apartments, lessening in dimension, with increase of wealth;--
groups of beautiful women, on either hand, seated or half reclined; the
pure or rich hues of their robes blending imperceptibly, or in gorgeous
contrasts, with the soft outlines and colors of their supports; a banquet
for the eyes and the mind; the perfect work of art and culture;--gliding
about and among these, or, with others, springing and revolving in that
monarch of all measures, which blends luxury and purity, until it is
either the one or the other, moved the men.
"That is my work," exclaimed Dalton, unconsciously.
"Not _all_, I think."
"I mean the combinations,--the effect. But see! Honoria will again accept
the Duke's invitation. He is coming to her. Let us prevent it."
He slipped away; and I, remaining at my post of observation, saw him, an
instant later, passing quickly across the floor among the dancers, toward
Honoria. The Duke of Rosecouleur arrived at the same instant before her.
She smiled sorrowfully upon Dalton, and held out her hand in a languid
manner toward the Duke, and again they floated away upon the eddies of the
music. I followed them with eyes fixed in admiration. It was a vision of
the orgies of Olympus,--Zeus and Aphrodite circling to a theme of Chronos.
Had Honoria tasted of the Indian drug, the weed of paradise? Her eyes,
fixed upon the Duke's, shone like molten sapphires. A tress of chestnut
hair, escaping from the diamond coronet, sprang lovingly forward and
twined itself over her white shoulder and still fairer bosom. Tints like
flitting clouds, Titianic, the mystery and despair of art, disclosed to
the intelligent eye the feeling that mastered her spirit and her sense.
Admirable beauty! Unrivalled, unhappy! The Phidian idol of gold and ivory,
into which a demon had entered, overthrown, and the worshippers gazing on
it with a scorn unmixed with pity!