Catherine de' Medici
Honore de Balzac
Part 4 out of 7
method of riding, in order to show them. The old furrier fortunately
found a moment when he could present himself to her sight; but the
instant that the queen recognized him she gave signs of displeasure.
"Go away, my good man, and let no one see you speak to me," she said
with anxiety. "Get yourself elected deputy to the States-general, by
the guild of your trade, and act for me when the Assembly convenes at
Orleans; you shall know whom to trust in the matter of your son."
"Is he living?" asked the old man.
"Alas!" said the queen, "I hope so."
Lecamus was obliged to return to Paris with nothing better than those
doubtful words and the secret of the approaching convocation of the
States-general, thus confided to him by the queen-mother.
The Cardinal de Lorraine obtained, within a few days of the events
just related, certain revelations as to the culpability of the court
of Navarre. At Lyon, and at Mouvans in Dauphine, a body of Reformers,
under command of the most enterprising prince of the house of Bourbon
had endeavored to incite the populace to rise. Such audacity, after
the bloody executions at Amboise, astonished the Guises, who (no doubt
to put an end to heresy by means known only to themselves) proposed
the convocation of the States-general at Orleans. Catherine de'
Medici, seeing a chance of support to her policy in a national
representation, joyfully agreed to it. The cardinal, bent on
recovering his prey and degrading the house of Bourbon, convoked the
States for the sole purpose of bringing the Prince de Conde and the
king of Navarre (Antoine de Bourbon, father of Henri IV.) to Orleans,
--intending to make use of Christophe to convict the prince of high
treason if he succeeded in again getting him within the power of the
After two months had passed in the prison at Blois, Christophe was
removed on a litter to a tow-boat, which sailed up the Loire to
Orleans, helped by a westerly wind. He arrived there in the evening
and was taken at once to the celebrated tower of Saint-Aignan. The
poor lad, who did not know what to think of his removal, had plenty of
time to reflect on his conduct and on his future. He remained there
two months, lying on his pallet, unable to move his legs. The bones of
his joints were broken. When he asked for the help of a surgeon of the
town, the jailer replied that the orders were so strict about him that
he dared not allow any one but himself even to bring him food. This
severity, which placed him virtually in solitary confinement, amazed
Christophe. To his mind, he ought either to be hanged or released; for
he was, of course, entirely ignorant of the events at Amboise.
In spite of certain secret advice sent to them by Catherine de'
Medici, the two chiefs of the house of Bourbon resolved to be present
at the States-general, so completely did the autograph letters they
received from the king reassure them; and no sooner had the court
established itself at Orleans than it learned, not without amazement,
from Groslot, chancellor of Navarre, that the Bourbon princes had
Francois II. established himself in the house of the chancellor of
Navarre, who was also /bailli/, in other words, chief justice of the
law courts, at Orleans. This Groslot, whose dual position was one of
the singularities of this period--when Reformers themselves owned
abbeys--Groslot, the Jacques Coeur of Orleans, one of the richest
burghers of the day, did not bequeath his name to the house, for in
after years it was called Le Bailliage, having been, undoubtedly,
purchased either by the heirs of the Crown or by the provinces as the
proper place in which to hold the legal courts. This charming
structure, built by the bourgeoisie of the sixteenth century, which
completes so admirably the history of a period in which king, nobles,
and burghers rivalled each other in the grace, elegance, and richness
of their dwellings (witness Varangeville, the splendid manor-house of
Ango, and the mansion, called that of Hercules, in Paris), exists to
this day, though in a state to fill archaeologists and lovers of the
Middle Ages with despair. It would be difficult, however, to go to
Orleans and not take notice of the Hotel-de-Ville which stands on the
place de l'Estape. This hotel-de-ville, or town-hall, is the former
Bailliage, the mansion of Groslot, the most illustrious house in
Orleans, and the most neglected.
The remains of this old building will still show, to the eyes of an
archaeologist, how magnificent it was at a period when the houses of
the burghers were commonly built of wood rather than stone, a period
when noblemen alone had the right to build /manors/,--a significant
word. Having served as the dwelling of the king at a period when the
court displayed much pomp and luxury, the hotel Groslot must have been
the most splendid house in Orleans. It was here, on the place de
l'Estape, that the Guises and the king reviewed the burgher guard, of
which Monsieur de Cypierre was made the commander during the sojourn
of the king. At this period the cathedral of Sainte-Croix, afterward
completed by Henri IV.,--who chose to give that proof of the sincerity
of his conversion,--was in process of erection, and its neighborhood,
heaped with stones and cumbered with piles of wood, was occupied by
the Guises and their retainers, who were quartered in the bishop's
palace, now destroyed.
The town was under military discipline, and the measures taken by the
Guises proved how little liberty they intended to leave to the States-
general, the members of which flocked into the town, raising the rents
of the poorest lodgings. The court, the burgher militia, the nobility,
and the burghers themselves were all in a state of expectation,
awaiting some /coup-d'Etat/; and they found themselves not mistaken
when the princes of the blood arrived. As the Bourbon princes entered
the king's chamber, the court saw with terror the insolent bearing of
Cardinal de Lorraine. Determined to show his intentions openly, he
remained covered, while the king of Navarre stood before him bare-
headed. Catherine de' Medici lowered her eyes, not to show the
indignation that she felt. Then followed a solemn explanation between
the young king and the two chiefs of the younger branch. It was short,
for that the first words of the Prince de Conde Francois II.
interrupted him, with threatening looks:
"Messieurs, my cousins, I had supposed the affair of Amboise over; I
find it is not so, and you are compelling us to regret the indulgence
which we showed."
"It is not the king so much as the Messieurs de Guise who now address
us," replied the Prince de Conde.
"Adieu, monsieur," cried the little king, crimson with anger. When he
left the king's presence the prince found his way barred in the great
hall by two officers of the Scottish guard. As the captain of the
French guard advanced, the prince drew a letter from his doublet, and
said to him in presence of the whole court:--
"Can you read that paper aloud to me, Monsieur de Maille-Breze?"
"Willingly," said the French captain:--
"'My cousin, come in all security; I give you my royal word that
you can do so. If you have need of a safe conduct, this letter
will serve as one.'"
"Signed?" said the shrewd and courageous hunchback.
"Signed 'Francois,'" said Maille.
"No, no!" exclaimed the prince, "it is signed: 'Your good cousin and
friend, Francois,'--Messieurs," he said to the Scotch guard, "I follow
you to the prison to which you are ordered, on behalf of the king, to
conduct me. There is enough nobility in this hall to understand the
The profound silence which followed these words ought to have
enlightened the Guises, but silence is that to which all princes
"Monseigneur," said the Cardinal de Tournon, who was following the
prince, "you know well that since the affair at Amboise you have made
certain attempts both at Lyon and at Mouvans in Dauphine against the
royal authority, of which the king had no knowledge when he wrote to
you in those terms."
"Tricksters!" cried the prince, laughing.
"You have made a public declaration against the Mass and in favor of
"We are masters in Navarre," said the prince.
"You mean to say in Bearn. But you owe homage to the Crown," replied
President de Thou.
"Ha! you here, president?" cried the prince, sarcastically. "Is the
whole Parliament with you?"
So saying, he cast a look of contempt upon the cardinal and left the
hall. He saw plainly enough that they meant to have his head. The next
day, when Messieurs de Thou, de Viole, d'Espesse, the procureur-
general Bourdin, and the chief clerk of the court du Tillet, entered
his presence, he kept them standing, and expressed his regrets to see
them charged with a duty which did not belong to them. Then he said to
the clerk, "Write down what I say," and dictated as follows:--
"I, Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conde, peer of the kingdom,
Marquis de Conti, Comte de Soissons, prince of the blood of
France, do declare that I formally refuse to recognize any
commission appointed to try me, because, in my quality and in
virtue of the privilege appertaining to all members of the royal
house, I can only be accused, tried, and judged by the Parliament
of peers, both Chambers assembled, the king being seated on his
bed of justice."
"You ought to know that, gentlemen, better than others," he added;
"and this reply is all that you will get from me. For the rest, I
trust in God and my right."
The magistrates continued to address him notwithstanding his obstinate
silence. The king of Navarre was left at liberty, but closely watched;
his prison was larger than that of the prince, and this was the only
real difference in the position of the two brothers,--the intention
being that their heads should fall together.
Christophe was therefore kept in the strictest solitary confinement by
order of the cardinal and the lieutenant-general of the kingdom, for
no other purpose than to give the judges proof of the culpability of
the Prince de Conde. The letters seized on Lasagne, the prince's
secretary, though intelligible to statesmen, where not sufficiently
plain proof for judges. The cardinal intended to confront the prince
and Christophe by accident; and it was not without intention that the
young Reformer was placed in one of the lower rooms in the tower of
Saint-Aignan, with a window looking on the prison yard. Each time that
Christophe was brought before the magistrates, and subjected to a
close examination, he sheltered himself behind a total and complete
denial, which prolonged his trial until after the opening of the
Old Lecamus, who by that time had got himself elected deputy of the
/tiers-etat/ by the burghers of Paris, arrived at Orleans a few days
after the arrest of the Prince de Conde. This news, which reached him
at Etampes, redoubled his anxiety; for he fully understood--he, who
alone knew of Christophe's interview with the prince under the bridge
near his own house--that his son's fate was closely bound up with that
of the leader of the Reformed party. He therefore determined to study
the dark tangle of interests which were struggling together at court
in order to discover some means of rescuing his son. It was useless to
think of Queen Catherine, who refused to see her furrier. No one about
the court whom he was able to address could give him any satisfactory
information about Christophe; and he fell at last into a state of such
utter despair that he was on the verge of appealing to the cardinal
himself, when he learned that Monsieur de Thou (and this was the great
stain upon that good man's life) had consented to be one of the judges
of the Prince de Conde. The old furrier went at once to see him, and
learned at last that Christophe was still living, though a prisoner.
Tourillon, the glover (to whom La Renaudie sent Christophe on his way
to Blois), had offered a room in his house to the Sieur Lecamus for
the whole time of his stay in Orleans during the sittings of the
States-general. The glover believed the furrier to be, like himself,
secretly attached to the Reformed religion; but he soon saw that a
father who fears for the life of his child pays no heed to shades of
religious opinion, but flings himself prone upon the bosom of God
without caring what insignia men give to Him. The poor old man,
repulsed in all his efforts, wandered like one bewildered through the
streets. Contrary to his expectations, his money availed him nothing;
Monsieur de Thou had warned him that if he bribed any servant of the
house of Guise he would merely lose his money, for the duke and
cardinal allowed nothing that related to Christophe to transpire. De
Thou, whose fame is somewhat tarnished by the part he played at this
crisis, endeavored to give some hope to the poor father; but he
trembled so much himself for the fate of his godson that his attempts
at consolation only alarmed the old man still more. Lecamus roamed the
streets; in three months he had shrunk visibly. His only hope now lay
in the warm friendship which for so many years had bound him to the
Hippocrates of the sixteenth century. Ambroise Pare tried to say a
word to Queen Mary on leaving the chamber of the king, who was then
indisposed; but no sooner had he named Christophe than the daughter of
the Stuarts, nervous at the prospect of her fate should any evil
happen to the king, and believing that the Reformers were attempting
to poison him, cried out:--
"If my uncles had only listened to me, that fanatic would have been
The evening on which this fatal answer was repeated to old Lecamus, by
his friend Pare on the place de l'Estape, he returned home half dead
to his own chamber, refusing to eat any supper. Tourillon, uneasy
about him, went up to his room and found him in tears; the aged eyes
showed the inflamed red lining of their lids, so that the glover
fancied for a moment that he was weeping tears of blood.
"Comfort yourself, father," said the Reformer; "the burghers of
Orleans are furious to see their city treated as though it were taken
by assault, and guarded by the soldiers of Monsieur de Cypierre. If
the life of the Prince de Conde is in any real danger we will soon
demolish the tower of Saint-Aignan; the whole town is on the side of
the Reformers, and it will rise in rebellion; you may be sure of
"But, even if they hang the Guises, it will not give me back my son,"
said the wretched father.
At that instant some one rapped cautiously on Tourillon's outer door,
and the glover went downstairs to open it himself. The night was dark.
In these troublous times the masters of all households took minute
precautions. Tourillon looked through the peep-holes cut in the door,
and saw a stranger, whose accent indicated an Italian. The man, who
was dressed in black, asked to speak with Lecamus on matters of
business, and Tourillon admitted him. When the furrier caught sight of
his visitor he shuddered violently; but the stranger managed, unseen
by Tourillon, to lay his fingers on his lips. Lecamus, understanding
the gesture, said immediately:--
"You have come, I suppose, to offer furs?"
"/Si/," said the Italian, discreetly.
This personage was no other than the famous Ruggiero, astrologer to
the queen-mother. Tourillon went below to his own apartment, feeling
convinced that he was one too many in that of his guest.
"Where can we talk without danger of being overheard?" said the
"We ought to be in the open fields for that," replied Lecamus. "But we
are not allowed to leave the town; you know the severity with which
the gates are guarded. No one can leave Orleans without a pass from
Monsieur de Cypierre," he added,--"not even I, who am a member of the
States-general. Complaint is to be made at to-morrow's session of this
restriction of liberty."
"Work like a mole, but don't let your paws be seen in anything, no
matter what," said the wary Italian. "To-morrow will, no doubt, prove
a decisive day. Judging by my observations, you may, perhaps, recover
your son to-morrow, or the day after."
"May God hear you--you who are thought to traffic with the devil!"
"Come to my place," said the astrologer, smiling. "I live in the tower
of Sieur Touchet de Beauvais, the lieutenant of the Bailliage, whose
daughter the little Duc d'Orleans has taken such a fancy to; it is
there that I observe the planets. I have drawn the girl's horoscope,
and it says that she will become a great lady and be beloved by a
king. The lieutenant, her father, is a clever man; he loves science,
and the queen sent me to lodge with him. He has had the sense to be a
rabid Guisist while awaiting the reign of Charles IX."
The furrier and the astrologer reached the house of the Sieur de
Beauvais without being met or even seen; but, in case Lecamus' visit
should be discovered, the Florentine intended to give a pretext of an
astrological consultation on his son's fate. When they were safely at
the top of the tower, where the astrologer did his work, Lecamus said
"Is my son really living?"
"Yes, he still lives," replied Ruggiero; "and the question now is how
to save him. Remember this, seller of skins, I would not give two
farthings for yours if ever in all your life a single syllable should
escape you of what I am about to say."
"That is a useless caution, my friend; I have been furrier to the
court since the time of the late Louis XII.; this is the fourth reign
that I have seen."
"And you may soon see the fifth," remarked Ruggiero.
"What do you know about my son?"
"He has been put to the question."
"Poor boy!" said the old man, raising his eyes to heaven.
"His knees and ankles were a bit injured, but he has won a royal
protection which will extend over his whole life," said the Florentine
hastily, seeing the terror of the poor father. "Your little Christophe
has done a service to our great queen, Catherine. If we manage to pull
him out of the claws of the Guises you will see him some day
councillor to the Parliament. Any man would gladly have his bones
cracked three times over to stand so high in the good graces of this
dear sovereign,--a grand and noble genius, who will triumph in the end
over all obstacles. I have drawn the horoscope of the Duc de Guise; he
will be killed within a year. Well, so Christophe saw the Prince de
"You who read the future ought to know the past," said the furrier.
"My good man, I am not questioning you, I am telling you a fact. Now,
if your son, who will to-morrow be placed in the prince's way as he
passes, should recognize him, or if the prince should recognize your
son, the head of Monsieur de Conde will fall. God knows what will
become of his accomplice! However, don't be alarmed. Neither your son
nor the prince will die; I have drawn their horoscope,--they will
live; but I do not know in what way they will get out of this affair.
Without distrusting the certainty of my calculations, we must do
something to bring about results. To-morrow the prince will receive,
from sure hands, a prayer-book in which we convey the information to
him. God grant that your son be cautious, for him we cannot warn. A
single glance of recognition will cost the prince's life. Therefore,
although the queen-mother has every reason to trust in Christophe's
"They've put it to a cruel test!" cried the furrier.
"Don't speak so! Do you think the queen-mother is on a bed of roses?
She is taking measures as if the Guises had already decided on the
death of the prince, and right she is, the wise and prudent queen! Now
listen to me; she counts on you to help her in all things. You have
some influence with the /tiers-etat/, where you represent the body of
the guilds of Paris, and though the Guisards may promise you to set
your son at liberty, try to fool them and maintain the independence of
the guilds. Demand the queen-mother as regent; the king of Navarre
will publicly accept the proposal at the session of the States-
"But the king?"
"The king will die," replied Ruggiero; "I have read his horoscope.
What the queen-mother requires you to do for her at the States-general
is a very simple thing; but there is a far greater service which she
asks of you. You helped Ambroise Pare in his studies, you are his
"Ambroise now loves the Duc de Guise more than he loves me; and he is
right, for he owes his place to him. Besides, he is faithful to the
king. Though he inclines to the Reformed religion, he will never do
anything against his duty."
"Curse these honest men!" cried the Florentine. "Ambroise boasted this
evening that he could bring the little king safely through his present
illness (for he is really ill). If the king recovers his health, the
Guises triumph, the princes die, the house of Bourbon becomes extinct,
we shall return to Florence, your son will be hanged, and the Lorrains
will easily get the better of the other sons of France--"
"Great God!" exclaimed Lecamus.
"Don't cry out in that way,--it is like a burgher who knows nothing of
the court,--but go at once to Ambroise and find out from him what he
intends to do to save the king's life. If there is anything decided
on, come back to me at once, and tell me the treatment in which he has
"But--" said Lecamus.
"Obey blindly, my dear friend; otherwise you will get your mind
"He is right," thought the furrier. "I had better not know more"; and
he went at once in search of the king's surgeon, who lived at a
hostelry in the place du Martroi.
Catherine de' Medici was at this moment in a political extremity very
much like that in which poor Christophe had seen her at Blois. Though
she had been in a way trained by the struggle, though she had
exercised her lofty intellect by the lessons of that first defeat, her
present situation, while nearly the same, had become more critical,
more perilous than it was at Amboise. Events, like the woman herself,
had magnified. Though she seemed to be in full accordance with the
Guises, Catherine held in her hand the threads of a wisely planned
conspiracy against her terrible associates, and was only awaiting a
propitious moment to throw off the mask. The cardinal had just
obtained the positive certainty that Catherine was deceiving him. Her
subtle Italian spirit felt that the Younger branch was the best
hindrance she could offer to the ambition of the duke and the
cardinal; and (in spite of the advice of the two Gondis, who urged her
to let the Guises wreak their vengeance on the Bourbons) she defeated
the scheme concocted by them with Spain to seize the province of
Bearn, by warning Jeanne d'Albret, queen of Navarre, of that
threatened danger. As this state secret was known only to them and to
the queen-mother, the Guises knew of course who had betrayed it, and
resolved to send her back to Florence. But in order to make themselves
perfectly sure of what they called her treason against the State (the
State being the house of Lorraine), the duke and cardinal confided to
her their intention of getting rid of the king of Navarre. The
precautions instantly taken by Antoine proved conclusively to the two
brothers that the secrets known only to them and the queen-mother had
been divulged by the latter. The cardinal instantly taxed her with
treachery, in presence of Francois II.,--threatening her with an edict
of banishment in case of future indiscretion, which might, as they
said, put the kingdom in danger.
Catherine, who then felt herself in the utmost peril, acted in the
spirit of a great king, giving proof of her high capacity. It must be
added, however, that she was ably seconded by her friends. L'Hopital
managed to send her a note, written in the following terms:--
"Do not allow a prince of the blood to be put to death by a
committee; or you will yourself be carried off in some way."
Catherine sent Birago to Vignay to tell the chancellor (l'Hopital) to
come to Orleans at once, in spite of his being in disgrace. Birago
returned the very night of which we are writing, and was now a few
miles from Orleans with l'Hopital, who heartily avowed himself for the
queen-mother. Chiverni, whose fidelity was very justly suspected by
the Guises, had escaped from Orleans and reached Ecouen in ten hours,
by a forced march which almost cost him his life. There he told the
Connetable de Montmorency of the peril of his nephew, the Prince de
Conde, and the audacious hopes of the Guises. The Connetable, furious
at the thought that the prince's life hung upon that of Francois II.,
started for Orleans at once with a hundred noblemen and fifteen
hundred cavalry. In order to take the Messieurs de Guise by surprise
he avoided Paris, and came direct from Ecouen to Corbeil, and from
Corbeil to Pithiviers by the valley of the Essonne.
"Soldier against soldier, we must leave no chances," he said on the
occasion of this bold march.
Anne de Montmorency, who had saved France at the time of the invasion
of Provence by Charles V., and the Duc de Guise, who had stopped the
second invasion by the emperor at Metz, were, in truth, the two great
warriors of France at this period. Catherine had awaited this precise
moment to rouse the inextinguishable hatred of the Connetable, whose
disgrace and banishment were the work of the Guises. The Marquis de
Simeuse, however, who commanded at Gien, being made aware of the large
force approaching under command of the Connetable, jumped on his horse
hoping to reach Orleans in time to warn the duke and cardinal.
Sure that the Connetable would come to the rescue of his nephew, and
full of confidence in the Chancelier l'Hopital's devotion to the royal
cause, the queen-mother revived the hopes and the boldness of the
Reformed party. The Colignys and the friends of the house of Bourbon,
aware of their danger, now made common cause with the adherents of the
queen-mother. A coalition between these opposing interests, attacked
by a common enemy, formed itself silently in the States-general, where
it soon became a question of appointing Catherine as regent in case
the king should die. Catherine, whose faith in astrology was much
greater than her faith in the Church, now dared all against her
oppressors, seeing that her son was ill and apparently dying at the
expiration of the time assigned to his life by the famous sorceress,
whom Nostradamus had brought to her at the chateau of Chaumont.
Some days before the terrible end of the reign of Francois II., the
king insisted on sailing down the Loire, wishing not to be in the town
of Orleans on the day when the Prince de Conde was executed. Having
yielded the head of the prince to the Cardinal de Lorraine, he was
equally in dread of a rebellion among the townspeople and of the
prayers and supplications of the Princesse de Conde. At the moment of
embarkation, one of the cold winds which sweep along the Loire at the
beginning of winter gave him so sharp an ear-ache that he was obliged
to return to his apartments; there he took to his bed, not leaving it
again until he died. In contradiction of the doctors, who, with the
exception of Chapelain, were his enemies, Ambroise Pare insisted that
an abscess was formed in the king's head, and that unless an issue
were given to it, the danger of death would increase daily.
Notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, and the curfew law, which
was sternly enforced in Orleans, at this time practically in a state
of siege, Pare's lamp shone from his window, and he was deep in study,
when Lecamus called to him from below. Recognizing the voice of his
old friend, Pare ordered that he should be admitted.
"You take no rest, Ambroise; while saving the lives of others you are
wasting your own," said the furrier as he entered, looking at the
surgeon, who sat, with opened books and scattered instruments, before
the head of a dead man, lately buried and now disinterred, in which he
had cut an opening.
"It is a matter of saving the king's life."
"Are you sure of doing it, Ambroise?" cried the old man, trembling.
"As sure as I am of my own existence. The king, my old friend, has a
morbid ulcer pressing on his brain, which will presently suffice it if
no vent is given to it, and the danger is imminent. But by boring the
skull I expect to release the pus and clear the head. I have already
performed this operation three times. It was invented by a
Piedmontese; but I have had the honor to perfect it. The first
operation I performed was at the siege of Metz, on Monsieur de Pienne,
whom I cured, who was afterwards all the more intelligent in
consequence. His was an abscess caused by the blow of an arquebuse.
The second was on the head of a pauper, on whom I wanted to prove the
value of the audacious operation Monsieur de Pienne had allowed me to
perform. The third I did in Paris on a gentleman who is now entirely
recovered. Trepanning--that is the name given to the operation--is
very little known. Patients refuse it, partly because of the
imperfection of the instruments; but I have at last improved them. I
am practising now on this skull, that I may be sure of not failing
to-morrow, when I operate on the head of the king."
"You ought indeed to be very sure you are right, for your own head
would be in danger in case--"
"I'd wager my life I can cure him," replied Ambroise, with the
conviction of a man of genius. "Ah! my old friend, where's the danger
of boring into a skull with proper precautions? That is what soldiers
do in battle every day of their lives, without taking any
"My son," said the burgher, boldly, "do you know that to save the king
is to ruin France? Do you know that this instrument of yours will
place the crown of the Valois on the head of the Lorrain who calls
himself the heir of Charlemagne? Do you know that surgery and policy
are at this moment sternly opposed to each other? Yes, the triumph of
your genius will be the death of your religion. If the Guises gain the
regency, the blood of the Reformers will flow like water. Be a greater
citizen than you are a surgeon; oversleep yourself to-morrow morning
and leave a free field to the other doctors who if they cannot cure
the king will cure France."
"I!" exclaimed Pare. "I leave a man to die when I can cure him? No,
no! were I to hang as an abettor of Calvin I shall go early to court.
Do you not feel that the first and only reward I shall ask will be the
life of your Christophe? Surely at such a moment Queen Mary can deny
"Alas! my friend," returned Lecamus, "the little king has refused the
pardon of the Prince de Conde to the princess. Do not kill your
religion by saving the life of a man who ought to die."
"Do not you meddle with God's ordering of the future!" cried Pare.
"Honest men can have but one motto: /Fais ce que dois, advienne que
pourra/!--do thy duty, come what will. That is what I did at the siege
of Calais when I put my foot on the face of the Duc de Guise,--I ran
the risk of being strangled by his friends and his servants; but
to-day I am surgeon to the king; moreover I am of the Reformed
religion; and yet the Guises are my friends. I shall save the king,"
cried the surgeon, with the sacred enthusiasm of a conviction bestowed
by genius, "and God will save France!"
A knock was heard on the street door and presently one of Pare's
servants gave a paper to Lecamus, who read aloud these terrifying
"A scaffold is being erected at the convent of the Recollets: the
Prince de Conde will be beheaded there to-morrow."
Ambroise and Lecamus looked at each other with an expression of the
"I will go and see it for myself," said the furrier.
No sooner was he in the open street than Ruggiero took his arm and
asked by what means Ambroise Pare proposed to save the king. Fearing
some trickery, the old man, instead of answering, replied that he
wished to go and see the scaffold. The astrologer accompanied him to
the place des Recollets, and there, truly enough, they found the
carpenters putting up the horrible framework by torchlight.
"Hey, my friend," said Lecamus to one of the men, "what are you doing
here at this time of night?"
"We are preparing for the hanging of heretics, as the blood-letting at
Amboise didn't cure them," said a young Recollet who was
superintending the work.
"Monseigneur the cardinal is very right," said Ruggiero, prudently;
"but in my country we do better."
"What do you do?" said the young priest.
"We burn them."
Lecamus was forced to lean on the astrologer's arm, for his legs gave
way beneath him; he thought it probable that on the morrow his son
would hang from one of those gibbets. The poor old man was thrust
between two sciences, astrology and surgery, both of which promised
him the life of his son, for whom in all probability that scaffold was
now erecting. In the trouble and distress of his mind, the Florentine
was able to knead him like dough.
"Well, my worthy dealer in minever, what do you say now to the
Lorraine jokes?" whispered Ruggiero.
"Alas! you know I would give my skin if that of my son were safe and
"That is talking like your trade," said the Italian; "but explain to
me the operation which Ambroise means to perform upon the king, and in
return I will promise you the life of your son."
"Faithfully?" exclaimed the old furrier.
"Shall I swear it to you?" said Ruggiero.
Thereupon the poor old man repeated his conversation with Ambroise
Pare to the astrologer, who, the moment that the secret of the great
surgeon was divulged to him, left the poor father abruptly in the
street in utter despair.
"What the devil does he mean, that miscreant?" cried Lecamus, as he
watched Ruggiero hurrying with rapid steps to the place de l'Estape.
Lecamus was ignorant of the terrible scene that was taking place
around the royal bed, where the imminent danger of the king's death
and the consequent loss of power to the Guises had caused the hasty
erection of the scaffold for the Prince de Conde, whose sentence had
been pronounced, as it were by default,--the execution of it being
delayed by the king's illness.
Absolutely no one but the persons on duty were in the halls,
staircases, and courtyard of the royal residence, Le Bailliage. The
crowd of courtiers were flocking to the house of the king of Navarre,
on whom the regency would devolve on the death of the king, according
to the laws of the kingdom. The French nobility, alarmed by the
audacity of the Guises, felt the need of rallying around the chief of
the younger branch, when, ignorant of the queen-mother's Italian
policy, they saw her the apparent slave of the duke and cardinal.
Antoine de Bourbon, faithful to his secret agreement with Catherine,
was bound not to renounce the regency in her favor until the States-
general had declared for it.
The solitude in which the king's house was left had a powerful effect
on the mind of the Duc de Guise when, on his return from an
inspection, made by way of precaution through the city, he found no
one there but the friends who were attached exclusively to his own
fortunes. The chamber in which was the king's bed adjoined the great
hall of the Bailliage. It was at that period panelled in oak. The
ceiling, composed of long, narrow boards carefully joined and painted,
was covered with blue arabesques on a gold ground, a part of which
being torn down about fifty years ago was instantly purchased by a
lover of antiquities. This room, hung with tapestry, the floor being
covered with a carpet, was so dark and gloomy that the torches threw
scarcely any light. The vast four-post bedstead with its silken
curtains was like a tomb. Beside her husband, close to his pillow, sat
Mary Stuart, and near her the Cardinal de Lorraine. Catherine was
seated in a chair at a little distance. The famous Jean Chapelain, the
physician on duty (who was afterwards chief physician to Charles IX.)
was standing before the fireplace. The deepest silence reigned. The
young king, pale and shrunken, lay as if buried in his sheets, his
pinched little face scarcely showing on the pillow. The Duchesse de
Guise, sitting on a stool, attended Queen Mary, while on the other
side, near Catherine, in the recess of a window, Madame de Fiesque
stood watching the gestures and looks of the queen-mother; for she
knew the dangers of her position.
In the hall, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, Monsieur de
Cypierre, governor of the Duc d'Orleans and now appointed governor of
the town, occupied one corner of the fireplace with the two Gondis.
Cardinal de Tournon, who in this crisis espoused the interests of the
queen-mother on finding himself treated as an inferior by the Cardinal
de Lorraine, of whom he was certainly the ecclesiastical equal, talked
in a low voice to the Gondis. The marshals de Vieilleville and Saint-
Andre and the keeper of the seals, who presided at the States-general,
were talking together in a whisper of the dangers to which the Guises
The lieutenant-general of the kingdom crossed the room on his
entrance, casting a rapid glance about him, and bowed to the Duc
d'Orleans whom he saw there.
"Monseigneur," he said, "this will teach you to know men. The Catholic
nobility of the kingdom have gone to pay court to a heretic prince,
believing that the States-general will give the regency to the heirs
of a traitor who long detained in prison your illustrious
Then having said these words, which were destined to plough a furrow
in the heart of the young prince, he passed into the bedroom, where
the king was not so much asleep as plunged in a heavy torpor. The Duc
de Guise was usually able to correct the sinister aspect of his
scarred face by an affable and pleasing manner, but on this occasion,
when he saw the instrument of his power breaking in his very hands, he
was unable to force a smile. The cardinal, whose civil courage was
equal to his brother's military daring, advanced a few steps to meet
"Robertet thinks that little Pinard is sold to the queen-mother," he
whispered, leading the duke into the hall; "they are using him to work
upon the members of the States-general."
"Well, what does it signify if we are betrayed by a secretary when all
else betrays us?" cried the lieutenant-general. "The town is for the
Reformation, and we are on the eve of a revolt. Yes! the /Wasps/ are
discontented"; he continued, giving the Orleans people their nickname;
"and if Pare does not save the king we shall have a terrible uprising.
Before long we shall be forced to besiege Orleans, which is nothing
but a bog of Huguenots."
"I have been watching that Italian woman," said the cardinal, "as she
sits there with absolute insensibility. She is watching and waiting,
God forgive her! for the death of her son; and I ask myself whether we
should not do a wise thing to arrest her at once, and also the king of
"It is already more than we want upon our hands to have the Prince de
Conde in prison," replied the duke.
The sound of a horseman riding in haste to the gate of the Bailliage
echoed through the hall. The duke and cardinal went to the window, and
by the light of the torches which were in the portico the duke
recognized on the rider's hat the famous Lorraine cross, which the
cardinal had lately ordered his partisans to wear. He sent an officer
of the guard, who was stationed in the antechamber, to give entrance
to the new-comer; and went himself, followed by his brother, to meet
him on the landing.
"What is it, my dear Simeuse?" asked the duke, with that charm of
manner which he always displayed to military men, as soon as he
recognized the governor of Gien.
"The Connetable has reached Pithiviers; he left Ecouen with two
thousand cavalry and one hundred nobles."
"With their suites?"
"Yes, monseigneur," replied Simeuse; "in all, two thousand six hundred
men. Some say that Thore is behind them with a body of infantry. If
the Connetable delays awhile, expecting his son, you still have time
to repulse him."
"Is that all you know? Are the reasons of this sudden call to arms
"Montmorency talks as little as he writes; go you and meet him,
brother, while I prepare to welcome him with the head of his nephew,"
said the cardinal, giving orders that Robertet be sent to him at once.
"Vieilleville!" cried the duke to the marechal, who came immediately.
"The Connetable has the audacity to come here under arms; if I go to
meet him will you be responsible to hold the town?"
"As soon as you leave it the burghers will fly to arms; and who can
answer for the result of an affair between cavalry and citizens in
these narrow streets?" replied the marechal.
"Monseigneur," said Robertet, rushing hastily up the stairs, "the
Chancelier de l'Hopital is at the gate and asks to enter; are we to
let him in?"
"Yes, open the gate," answered the cardinal. "Connetable and
chancelier together would be dangerous; we must separate them. We have
been boldly tricked by the queen-mother into choosing l'Hopital as
Robertet nodded to a captain of the guard, who awaited an answer at
the foot of the staircase; then he turned round quickly to receive the
orders of the cardinal.
"Monseigneur, I take the liberty," he said, making one last effort,
"to point out that the sentence should be approved by /the king in
council/. If you violate the law on a prince of the blood, it will not
be respected for either a cardinal or a Duc de Guise."
"Pinard has upset your mind, Robertet," said the cardinal, sternly.
"Do you not know that the king signed the order of execution the day
he was about to leave Orleans, in order that the sentence might be
carried out in his absence?"
The lieutenant-general listened to this discussion without a word, but
he took his brother by the arm and led him into a corner of the hall.
"Undoubtedly," he said, "the heirs of Charlemagne have the right to
recover the crown which was usurped from their house by Hugh Capet;
but can they do it? The pear is not yet ripe. Our nephew is dying, and
the whole court has gone over to the king of Navarre."
"The king's heart failed him, or the Bearnais would have been stabbed
before now," said the cardinal; "and we could easily have disposed of
the Valois children."
"We are very ill-placed here," said the duke; "the rebellion of the
town will be supported by the States-general. L'Hopital, whom we
protected while the queen-mother opposed his appointment, is to-day
against us, and yet it is all-important that we should have the
justiciary with us. Catherine has too many supporters at the present
time; we cannot send her back to Italy. Besides, there are still three
"She is no longer a mother, she is all queen," said the cardinal. "In
my opinion, this is the moment to make an end of her. Vigor, and more
and more vigor! that's my prescription!" he cried.
So saying, the cardinal returned to the king's chamber, followed by
the duke. The priest went straight to the queen-mother.
"The papers of Lasagne, the secretary of the Prince de Conde, have
been communicated to you, and you now know that the Bourbons are
endeavoring to dethrone your son."
"I know all that," said Catherine.
"Well, then, will you give orders to arrest the king of Navarre?"
"There is," she said with dignity, "a lieutenant-general of the
At this instant Francois II. groaned piteously, complaining aloud of
the terrible pains in his ear. The physician left the fireplace where
he was warming himself, and went to the bedside to examine the king's
"Well, monsieur?" said the Duc de Guise, interrogatively.
"I dare not take upon myself to apply a blister to draw the abscess.
Maitre Ambroise has promised to save the king's life by an operation,
and I might thwart it."
"Let us postpone the treatment till to-morrow morning," said
Catherine, coldly, "and order all the physicians to be present; for we
all know the calumnies to which the death of kings gives rise."
She went to her son and kissed his hand; then she withdrew to her own
"With what composure that audacious daughter of a shop-keeper alluded
to the death of the dauphin, poisoned by Montecuculi, one of her own
Italian followers!" said Mary Stuart.
"Mary!" cried the little king, "my grandfather never doubted her
"Can we prevent that woman from coming here to-morrow?" said the queen
to her uncles in a low voice.
"What will become of us if the king dies?" returned the cardinal, in a
whisper. "Catherine will shovel us all into his grave."
Thus the question was plainly put between Catherine de' Medici and the
house of Lorraine during that fatal night. The arrival of the
Connetable de Montmorency and the Chancelier de l'Hopital were
distinct indications of rebellion; the morning of the next day would
therefore be decisive.
DEATH OF FRANCOIS II
On the morrow the queen-mother was the first to enter the king's
chamber. She found no one there but Mary Stuart, pale and weary, who
had passed the night in prayer beside the bed. The Duchesse de Guise
had kept her mistress company, and the maids of honor had taken turns
in relieving one another. The young king slept. Neither the duke nor
the cardinal had yet appeared. The priest, who was bolder than the
soldier, had, it was afterward said, put forth his utmost energy
during the night to induce his brother to make himself king. But, in
face of the assembled States-general, and threatened by a battle with
Montmorency, the Balafre declared the circumstances unfavorable; he
refused, against his brother's utmost urgency, to arrest the king of
Navarre, the queen-mother, l'Hopital, the Cardinal de Tournon, the
Gondis, Ruggiero, and Birago, objecting that such violent measures
would bring on a general rebellion. He postponed the cardinal's scheme
until the fate of Francois II. should be determined.
The deepest silence reigned in the king's chamber. Catherine,
accompanied by Madame de Fiesque, went to the bedside and gazed at her
son with a semblance of grief that was admirably simulated. She put
her handkerchief to her eyes and walked to the window where Madame de
Fiesque brought her a seat. Thence she could see into the courtyard.
It had been agreed between Catherine and the Cardinal de Tournon that
if the Connetable should successfully enter the town the cardinal
would come to the king's house with the two Gondis; if otherwise, he
would come alone. At nine in the morning the duke and cardinal,
followed by their gentlemen, who remained in the hall, entered the
king's bedroom,--the captain on duty having informed them that
Ambroise Pare had arrived, together with Chapelain and three other
physicians, who hated Pare and were all in the queen-mother's
A few moments later and the great hall of the Bailliage presented much
the same aspect as that of the Salle des gardes at Blois on the day
when Christophe was put to the torture and the Duc de Guise was
proclaimed lieutenant-governor of the kingdom,--with the single
exception that whereas love and joy overflowed the royal chamber and
the Guises triumphed, death and mourning now reigned within that
darkened room, and the Guises felt that power was slipping through
their fingers. The maids of honor of the two queens were again in
their separate camps on either side of the fireplace, in which glowed
a monstrous fire. The hall was filled with courtiers. The news--spread
about, no one knew how--of some daring operation contemplated by
Ambroise Pare to save the king's life, had brought back the lords and
gentlemen who had deserted the house the day before. The outer
staircase and courtyard were filled by an anxious crowd. The scaffold
erected during the night for the Prince de Conde opposite to the
convent of the Recollets, had amazed and startled the whole nobility.
All present spoke in a low voice and the talk was the same mixture as
at Blois, of frivolous and serious, light and earnest matters. The
habit of expecting troubles, sudden revolutions, calls to arms,
rebellions, and great events, which marked the long period during
which the house of Valois was slowly being extinguished in spite of
Catherine de' Medici's great efforts to preserve it, took its rise at
A deep silence prevailed for a certain distance beyond the door of the
king's chamber, which was guarded by two halberdiers, two pages, and
by the captain of the Scotch guard. Antoine de Bourbon, king of
Navarre, held a prisoner in his own house, learned by his present
desertion the hopes of the courtiers who had flocked to him the day
before, and was horrified by the news of the preparations made during
the night for the execution of his brother.
Standing before the fireplace in the great hall of the Bailliage was
one of the greatest and noblest figures of that day,--the Chancelier
de l'Hopital, wearing his crimson robe lined and edged with ermine,
and his cap on his head according to the privilege of his office. This
courageous man, seeing that his benefactors were traitorous and self-
seeking, held firmly to the cause of the kings, represented by the
queen-mother; at the risk of losing his head, he had gone to Rouen to
consult with the Connetable de Montmorency. No one ventured to draw
him from the reverie in which he was plunged. Robertet, the secretary
of State, two marshals of France, Vieilleville, and Saint-Andre, and
the keeper of the seals, were collected in a group before the
chancellor. The courtiers present were not precisely jesting; but
their talk was malicious, especially among those who were not for the
Presently voices were heard to rise in the king's chamber. The two
marshals, Robertet, and the chancellor went nearer to the door; for
not only was the life of the king in question, but, as the whole court
knew well, the chancellor, the queen-mother, and her adherents were in
the utmost danger. A deep silence fell on the whole assembly.
Ambroise Pare had by this time examined the king's head; he thought
the moment propitious for his operation; if it was not performed
suffusion would take place, and Francois II. might die at any moment.
As soon as the duke and cardinal entered the chamber he explained to
all present that in so urgent a case it was necessary to trepan the
head, and he now waited till the king's physician ordered him to
perform the operation.
"Cut the head of my son as though it were a plank!--with that horrible
instrument!" cried Catherine de' Medici. "Maitre Ambroise, I will not
The physicians were consulting together; but Catherine spoke in so
loud a voice that her words reached, as she intended they should,
beyond the door.
"But, madame, if there is no other way to save him?" said Mary Stuart,
"Ambroise," cried Catherine; "remember that your head will answer for
the king's life."
"We are opposed to the treatment suggested by Maitre Ambroise," said
the three physicians. "The king can be saved by injecting through the
ear a remedy which will draw the contents of the abscess through that
The Duc de Guise, who was watching Catherine's face, suddenly went up
to her and drew her into the recess of the window.
"Madame," he said, "you wish the death of your son; you are in league
with our enemies, and have been since Blois. This morning the
Counsellor Viole told the son of your furrier that the Prince de
Conde's head was about to be cut off. That young man, who, when the
question was applied, persisted in denying all relations with the
prince, made a sign of farewell to him as he passed before the window
of his dungeon. You saw your unhappy accomplice tortured with royal
insensibility. You are now endeavoring to prevent the recovery of your
eldest son. Your conduct forces us to believe that the death of the
dauphin, which placed the crown on your husband's head was not a
natural one, and that Montecuculi was your--"
"Monsieur le chancilier!" cried Catherine, at a sign from whom Madame
de Fiesque opened both sides of the bedroom door.
The company in the hall then saw the scene that was taking place in
the royal chamber: the livid little king, his face half dead, his eyes
sightless, his lips stammering the word "Mary," as he held the hand of
the weeping queen; the Duchesse de Guise motionless, frightened by
Catherine's daring act; the duke and cardinal, also alarmed, keeping
close to the queen-mother and resolving to have her arrested on the
spot by Maille-Breze; lastly, the tall Ambroise Pare, assisted by the
king's physician, holding his instrument in his hand but not daring to
begin the operation, for which composure and total silence were as
necessary as the consent of the other surgeons.
"Monsieur le chancelier," said Catherine, "the Messieurs de Guise wish
to authorize a strange operation upon the person of the king; Ambroise
Pare is preparing to cut open his head. I, as the king's mother and a
member of the council of the regency,--I protest against what appears
to me a crime of /lese-majeste/. The king's physicians advise an
injection through the ear, which seems to me as efficacious and less
dangerous than the brutal operation proposed by Pare."
When the company in the hall heard these words a smothered murmur rose
from their midst; the cardinal allowed the chancellor to enter the
bedroom and then he closed the door.
"I am lieutenant-general of the kingdom," said the Duc de Guise; "and
I would have you know, Monsieur le chancelier, that Ambroise, the
king's surgeon, answers for his life."
"Ah! if this be the turn that things are taking!" exclaimed Ambroise
Pare. "I know my rights and how I should proceed." He stretched his
arm over the bed. "This bed and the king are mine. I claim to be sole
master of this case and solely responsible. I know the duties of my
office; I shall operate upon the king without the sanction of the
"Save him!" said the cardinal, "and you shall be the richest man in
"Go on!" cried Mary Stuart, pressing the surgeon's hand.
"I cannot prevent it," said the chancellor; "but I shall record the
protest of the queen-mother."
"Robertet!" called the Duc de Guise.
When Robertet entered, the lieutenant-general pointed to the
"I appoint you chancellor of France in the place of that traitor," he
said. "Monsieur de Maille, take Monsieur de l'Hopital and put him in
the prison of the Prince de Conde. As for you, madame," he added,
turning to Catherine; "your protest will not be received; you ought to
be aware that any such protest must be supported by sufficient force.
I act as the faithful subject and loyal servant of king Francois II.,
my master. Go on, Antoine," he added, looking at the surgeon.
"Monsieur de Guise," said l'Hopital; "if you employ violence either
upon the king or upon the chancellor of France, remember that enough
of the nobility of France are in that hall to rise and arrest you as a
"Oh! my lords," cried the great surgeon; "if you continue these
arguments you will soon proclaim Charles IX!--for king Francois is
about to die."
Catherine de' Medici, absolutely impassive, gazed from the window.
"Well, then, we shall employ force to make ourselves masters of this
room," said the cardinal, advancing to the door.
But when he opened it even he was terrified; the whole house was
deserted! The courtiers, certain now of the death of the king, had
gone in a body to the king of Navarre.
"Well, go on, perform your duty," cried Mary Stuart, vehemently, to
Ambroise. "I--and you, duchess," she said to Madame de Guise,--"will
"Madame," said Ambroise; "my zeal was carrying me away. The doctors,
with the exception of my friend Chapelain, prefer an injection, and it
is my duty to submit to their wishes. If I had been chief surgeon and
chief physician, which I am not, the king's life would probably have
been saved. Give that to me, gentlemen," he said, stretching out his
hand for the syringe, which he proceeded to fill.
"Good God!" cried Mary Start, "but I order you to--"
"Alas! madame," said Ambroise, "I am under the direction of these
The young queen placed herself between the surgeon, the doctors, and
the other persons present. The chief physician held the king's head,
and Ambroise made the injection into the ear. The duke and the
cardinal watched the proceeding attentively. Robertet and Monsieur de
Maille stood motionless. Madame de Fiesque, at a sign from Catherine,
glided unperceived from the room. A moment later l'Hopital boldly
opened the door of the king's chamber.
"I arrive in good time," said the voice of a man whose hasty steps
echoed through the great hall, and who stood the next moment on the
threshold of the open door. "Ah, messieurs, so you meant to take off
the head of my good nephew, the Prince de Conde? Instead of that, you
have forced the lion from his lair and--here I am!" added the
Connetable de Montmorency. "Ambroise, you shall not plunge your knife
into the head of my king. The first prince of the blood, Antoine de
Bourbon, the Prince de Conde, the queen-mother, the Connetable, and
the chancellor forbid the operation."
To Catherine's great satisfaction, the king of Navarre and the Prince
de Conde now entered the room.
"What does this mean?" said the Duc de Guise, laying his hand on his
"It means that in my capacity as Connetable, I have dismissed the
sentinels of all your posts. /Tete Dieu/! you are not in an enemy's
country, methinks. The king, our master, is in the midst of his loyal
subjects, and the States-general must be suffered to deliberate at
liberty. I come, messieurs, from the States-general. I carried the
protest of my nephew de Conde before that assembly, and three hundred
of those gentlemen have released him. You wish to shed royal blood and
to decimate the nobility of the kingdom, do you? Ha! in future, I defy
you, and all your schemes, Messieurs de Lorraine. If you order the
king's head opened, by this sword which saved France from Charles V.,
I say it shall not be done--"
"All the more," said Ambroise Pare; "because it is now too late; the
suffusion has begun."
"Your reign is over, messieurs," said Catherine to the Guises, seeing
from Pare's face that there was no longer any hope.
"Ah! madame, you have killed your own son," cried Mary Stuart as she
bounded like a lioness from the bed to the window and seized the
queen-mother by the arm, gripping it violently.
"My dear," replied Catherine, giving her daughter-in-law a cold, keen
glance in which she allowed her hatred, repressed for the last six
months, to overflow; "you, to whose inordinate love we owe this death,
you will now go to reign in your Scotland, and you will start
to-morrow. I am regent /de facto/." The three physicians having made
her a sign, "Messieurs," she added, addressing the Guises, "it is
agreed between Monsieur de Bourbon, appointed lieutenant-general of
the kingdom by the States-general, and me that the conduct of the
affairs of the State is our business solely. Come, monsieur le
"The king is dead!" said the Duc de Guise, compelled to perform his
duties as Grand-master.
"Long live King Charles IX.!" cried all the noblemen who had come with
the king of Navarre, the Prince de Conde, and the Connetable.
The ceremonies which follow the death of a king of France were
performed in almost total solitude. When the king-at-arms proclaimed
aloud three times in the hall, "The king is dead!" there were very few
persons present to reply, "Vive le roi!"
The queen-mother, to whom the Comtesse de Fiesque had brought the Duc
d'Orleans, now Charles IX., left the chamber, leading her son by the
hand, and all the remaining courtiers followed her. No one was left in
the house where Francois II. had drawn his last breath, but the duke
and the cardinal, the Duchesse de Guise, Mary Stuart, and Dayelle,
together with the sentries at the door, the pages of the Grand-master,
those of the cardinal, and their private secretaries.
"Vive la France!" cried several Reformers in the street, sounding the
first cry of the opposition.
Robertet, who owed all he was to the duke and cardinal, terrified by
their scheme and its present failure, went over secretly to the queen-
mother, whom the ambassadors of Spain, England, the Empire, and
Poland, hastened to meet on the staircase, brought thither by Cardinal
de Tournon, who had gone to notify them as soon as he had made Queen
Catherine a sign from the courtyard at the moment when she protested
against the operation of Ambroise Pare.
"Well!" said the cardinal to the duke, "so the sons of Louis d'Outre-
mer, the heirs of Charles de Lorraine flinched and lacked courage."
"We should have been exiled to Lorraine," replied the duke. "I declare
to you, Charles, that if the crown lay there before me I would not
stretch out my hand to pick it up. That's for my son to do."
"Will he have, as you have had, the army and Church on his side?"
"He will have something better."
"Ah!" exclaimed Mary Stuart, clasping the stiffened hand of her first
husband, now dead, "there is none but me to weep for this poor boy who
loved me so!"
"How can we patch up matters with the queen-mother?" said the
"Wait till she quarrels with the Huguenots," replied the duchess.
The conflicting interests of the house of Bourbon, of Catherine, of
the Guises, and of the Reformed party produced such confusion in the
town of Orleans that, three days after the king's death, his body,
completely forgotten in the Bailliage and put into a coffin by the
menials of the house, was taken to Saint-Denis in a covered waggon,
accompanied only by the Bishop of Senlis and two gentlemen. When the
pitiable procession reached the little town of Etampes, a servant of
the Chancelier l'Hopital fastened to the waggon this severe
inscription, which history has preserved: "Tanneguy de Chastel, where
art thou? and yet thou wert a Frenchman!"--a stern reproach, which
fell with equal force on Catherine de' Medici, Mary Stuart, and the
Guises. What Frenchman does not know that Tanneguy de Chastel spent
thirty thousand crowns of the coinage of that day (one million of our
francs) at the funeral of Charles VII., the benefactor of his house?
No sooner did the tolling of the bells announce to the town of Orleans
that Francois II. was dead, and the rumor spread that the Connetable
de Montmorency had ordered the flinging open of the gates of the town,
than Tourillon, the glover, rushed up into the garret of his house and
went to a secret hiding-place.
"Good heavens! can he be dead?" he cried.
Hearing the words, a man rose to his feet and answered, "Ready to
serve!"--the password of the Reformers who belonged to Calvin.
This man was Chaudieu, to whom Tourillon now related the events of the
last eight days, during which time he had prudently left the minister
alone in his hiding-place with a twelve-pound loaf of bread for his
"Go instantly to the Prince de Conde, brother: ask him to give me a
safe-conduct; and find me a horse," cried the minister. "I must start
"Write me a line, or he will not receive me."
"Here," said Chaudieu, after writing a few words, "ask for a pass from
the king of Navarre, for I must go to Geneva without a moment's loss
Two hours later all was ready, and the ardent minister was on his way
to Switzerland, accompanied by a nobleman in the service of the king
of Navarre (of whom Chaudieu pretended to be the secretary), carrying
with him despatches from the Reformers in the Dauphine. This sudden
departure was chiefly in the interests of Catherine de' Medici, who,
in order to gain time to establish her power, had made a bold
proposition to the Reformers which was kept a profound secret. This
strange proceeding explains the understanding so suddenly apparent
between herself and the leaders of the Reform. The wily woman gave, as
a pledge of her good faith, an intimation of her desire to heal all
differences between the two churches by calling an assembly, which
should be neither a council, nor a conclave, nor a synod, but should
be known by some new and distinctive name, if Calvin consented to the
project. When this secret was afterwards divulged (be it remarked in
passing) it led to an alliance between the Duc de Guise and the
Connetable de Montmorency against Catherine and the king of Navarre,--
a strange alliance! known in history as the Triumvirate, the Marechal
de Saint-Andre being the third personage in the purely Catholic
coalition to which this singular proposition for a "colloquy" gave
rise. The secret of Catherine's wily policy was rightly understood by
the Guises; they felt certain that the queen cared nothing for this
mysterious assembly, and was only temporizing with her new allies in
order to secure a period of peace until the majority of Charles IX.;
but none the less did they deceive the Connetable into fearing a
collusion of real interests between the queen and the Bourbons,--
whereas, in reality, Catherine was playing them all one against
The queen had become, as the reader will perceive, extremely powerful
in a very short time. The spirit of discussion and controversy which
now sprang up was singularly favorable to her position. The Catholics
and the Reformers were equally pleased to exhibit their brilliancy one
after another in this tournament of words; for that is what it
actually was, and no more. It is extraordinary that historians have
mistaken one of the wiliest schemes of the great queen for uncertainty
and hesitation! Catherine never went more directly to her own ends
than in just such schemes which appeared to thwart them. The king of
Navarre, quite incapable of understanding her motives, fell into her
plan in all sincerity, and despatched Chaudieu to Calvin, as we have
seen. The minister had risked his life to be secretly in Orleans and
watch events; for he was, while there, in hourly peril of being
discovered and hung as a man under sentence of banishment.
According to the then fashion of travelling, Chaudieu could not reach
Geneva before the month of February, and the negotiations were not
likely to be concluded before the end of March; consequently the
assembly could certainly not take place before the month of May, 1561.
Catherine, meantime, intended to amuse the court and the various
conflicting interests by the coronation of the king, and the
ceremonies of his first "lit de justice," at which l'Hopital and de
Thou recorded the letters-patent by which Charles IX. confided the
administration to his mother in common with the present lieutenant-
general of the kingdom, Antoine de Navarre, the weakest prince of
Is it not a strange spectacle this of the great kingdom of France
waiting in suspense for the "yes" or "no" of a French burgher,
hitherto an obscure man, living for many years past in Geneva? The
transalpine pope held in check by the pontiff of Geneva! The two
Lorrain princes, lately all-powerful, now paralyzed by the momentary
coalition of the queen-mother and the first prince of the blood with
Calvin! Is not this, I say, one of the most instructive lessons ever
given to kings by history,--a lesson which should teach them to study
men, to seek out genius, and employ it, as did Louis XIV., wherever
God has placed it?
Calvin, whose name was not Calvin but Cauvin, was the son of a cooper
at Noyon in Picardy. The region of his birth explains in some degree
the obstinacy combined with capricious eagerness which distinguished
this arbiter of the destinies of France in the sixteenth century.
Nothing is less known than the nature of this man, who gave birth to
Geneva and to the spirit that emanated from that city. Jean-Jacques
Rousseau, who had very little historical knowledge, has completely
ignored the influence of Calvin on his republic. At first the embryo
Reformer, who lived in one of the humblest houses in the upper town,
near the church of Saint-Pierre, over a carpenter's shop (first
resemblance between him and Robespierre), had no great authority in
Geneva. In fact for a long time his power was malevolently checked by
the Genevese. The town was the residence in those days of a citizen
whose fame, like that of several others, remained unknown to the world
at large and for a time to Geneva itself. This man, Farel, about the
year 1537, detained Calvin in Geneva, pointing out to him that the
place could be made the safe centre of a reformation more active and
thorough than that of Luther. Farel and Calvin regarded Lutheranism as
an incomplete work,--insufficient in itself and without any real grip
upon France. Geneva, midway between France and Italy, and speaking the
French language, was admirably situated for ready communication with
Germany, France, and Italy. Calvin thereupon adopted Geneva as the
site of his moral fortunes; he made it thenceforth the citadel of his
The Council of Geneva, at Farel's entreaty, authorized Calvin in
September, 1538, to give lectures on theology. Calvin left the duties
of the ministry to Farel, his first disciple, and gave himself up
patiently to the work of teaching his doctrine. His authority, which
became so absolute in the last years of his life, was obtained with
difficulty and very slowly. The great agitator met with such serious
obstacles that he was banished for a time from Geneva on account of
the severity of his reform. A party of honest citizens still clung to
their old luxury and their old customs. But, as usually happens, these
good people, fearing ridicule, would not admit the real object of
their efforts, and kept up their warfare against the new doctrines on
points altogether foreign to the real question. Calvin insisted that
/leavened bread/ should be used for the communion, and that all feasts
should be abolished except Sundays. These innovations were disapproved
of at Berne and at Lausanne. Notice was served on the Genevese to
conform to the ritual of Switzerland. Calvin and Farel resisted; their
political opponents used this disobedience to drive them from Geneva,
whence they were, in fact, banished for several years. Later Calvin
returned triumphantly at the demand of his flock. Such persecutions
always become in the end the consecration of a moral power; and, in
this case, Calvin's return was the beginning of his era as prophet. He
then organized his religious Terror, and the executions began. On his
reappearance in the city he was admitted into the ranks of the
Genevese burghers; but even then, after fourteen years' residence, he
was not made a member of the Council. At the time of which we write,
when Catherine sent her envoy to him, this king of ideas had no other
title than that of "pastor of the Church of Geneva." Moreover, Calvin
never in his life received a salary of more than one hundred and fifty
francs in money yearly, fifteen hundred-weight of wheat, and two
barrels of wine. His brother, a tailor, kept a shop close to the place
Saint-Pierre, in a street now occupied by one of the large printing
establishments of Geneva. Such personal disinterestedness, which was
lacking in Voltaire, Newton, and Bacon, but eminent in the lives of
Rabelais, Spinosa, Loyola, Kant, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is indeed
a magnificent frame to those ardent and sublime figures.
The career of Robespierre can alone picture to the minds of the
present day that of Calvin, who, founding his power on the same bases,
was as despotic and as cruel as the lawyer of Arras. It is a
noticeable fact that Picardy (Arras and Noyon) furnished both these
instruments of reformation! Persons who wish to study the motives of
the executions ordered by Calvin will find, all relations considered,
another 1793 in Geneva. Calvin cut off the head of Jacques Gruet "for
having written impious letters, libertine verses, and for working to
overthrow ecclesiastical ordinances." Reflect upon that sentence, and
ask yourselves if the worst tyrants in their saturnalias ever gave
more horribly burlesque reasons for their cruelties. Valentin
Gentilis, condemned to death for "involuntary heresy," escaped
execution only by making a submission far more ignominious than was
ever imposed by the Catholic Church. Seven years before the conference
which was now to take place in Calvin's house on the proposals of the
queen-mother, Michel Servet, /a Frenchman/, travelling through
Switzerland, was arrested at Geneva, tried, condemned, and burned
alive, on Calvin's accusation, for having "attacked the mystery of the
Trinity," in a book which was neither written nor published in Geneva.
Remember the eloquent remonstrance of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose
book, overthrowing the Catholic religion, written in France and
published in Holland, was burned by the hangman, while the author, a
foreigner, was merely banished from the kingdom where he had
endeavored to destroy the fundamental proofs of religion and of
authority. Compare the conduct of our Parliament with that of the
Genevese tyrant. Again: Bolsee was brought to trial for "having other
ideas than those of Calvin on predestination." Consider these things,
and ask yourselves if Fourquier-Tinville did worse. The savage
religious intolerance of Calvin was, morally speaking, more implacable
than the savage political intolerance of Robespierre. On a larger
stage than that of Geneva, Calvin would have shed more blood than did
the terrible apostle of political equality as opposed to Catholic
equality. Three centuries earlier a monk of Picardy drove the whole
West upon the East. Peter the Hermit, Calvin, and Robespierre, each at
an interval of three hundred years and all three from the same region,
were, politically speaking, the Archimedean screws of their age,--at
each epoch a Thought which found its fulcrum in the self-interest of
Calvin was undoubtedly the maker of that melancholy town called
Geneva, where, only ten years ago, a man said, pointing to a porte-
cochere in the upper town, the first ever built there: "By that door
luxury has invaded Geneva." Calvin gave birth, by the sternness of his
doctrines and his executions, to that form of hypocritical sentiment
called "cant."[*] According to those who practice it, good morals
consist in renouncing the arts and the charms of life, in eating
richly but without luxury, in silently amassing money without enjoying
it otherwise than as Calvin enjoyed power--by thought. Calvin imposed
on all the citizens of his adopted town the same gloomy pall which he
spread over his own life. He created in the Consistory a Calvinistic
inquisition, absolutely similar to the revolutionary tribunal of
Robespierre. The Consistory denounced the persons to be condemned to
the Council, and Calvin ruled the Council through the Consistory, just
as Robespierre ruled the Convention through the Club of the Jacobins.
In this way an eminent magistrate of Geneva was condemned to two
months' imprisonment, the loss of all his offices, and the right of
ever obtaining others "because he led a disorderly life and was
intimate with Calvin's enemies." Calvin thus became a legislator. He
created the austere, sober, commonplace, and hideously sad, but
irreproachable manners and customs which characterize Geneva to the
present day,--customs preceding those of England called Puritanism,
which were due to the Cameronians, disciples of Cameron (a Frenchman
deriving his doctrine from Calvin), whom Sir Walter Scott depicts so
admirably. The poverty of a man, a sovereign master, who negotiated,
power to power, with kings, demanding armies and subsidies, and
plunging both hands into their savings laid aside for the unfortunate,
proves that thought, used solely as a means of domination, gives birth
to political misers,--men who enjoy by their brains only, and, like
the Jesuits, want power for power's sake. Pitt, Luther, Calvin,
Robespierre, all those Harpagons of power, died without a penny. The
inventory taken in Calvin's house after his death, which comprised all
his property, even his books, amounted in value, as history records,
to two hundred and fifty francs. That of Luther came to about the same
sum; his widow, the famous Catherine de Bora, was forced to petition
for a pension of five hundred francs, which as granted to her by an
Elector of Germany. Potemkin, Richelieu, Mazarin, those men of thought
and action, all three of whom made or laid the foundation of empires,
each left over three hundred millions behind them. They had hearts;
they loved women and the arts; they built, they conquered; whereas
with the exception of the wife of Luther, the Helen of that Iliad, all
the others had no tenderness, no beating of the heart for any woman
with which to reproach themselves.
This brief digression was necessary in order to explain Calvin's
position in Geneva.
During the first days of the month of February in the year 1561, on a
soft, warm evening such as we may sometimes find at that season on
Lake Leman, two horsemen arrived at the Pre-l'Eveque,--thus called
because it was the former country-place of the Bishop of Geneva,
driven from Switzerland about thirty years earlier. These horsemen,
who no doubt knew the laws of Geneva about the closing of the gates
(then a necessity and now very ridiculous) rode in the direction of
the Porte de Rive; but they stopped their horses suddenly on catching
sight of a man, about fifty years of age, leaning on the arm of a
servant-woman, and walking slowly toward the town. This man, who was
rather stout, walked with difficulty, putting one foot after the other
with pain apparently, for he wore round shoes of black velvet, laced
"It is he!" said Chaudieu to the other horseman, who immediately
dismounted, threw the reins to his companion, and went forward,
opening wide his arms to the man on foot.
The man, who was Jean Calvin, drew back to avoid the embrace, casting
a stern look at his disciple. At fifty years of age Calvin looked as
though he were sixty. Stout and stocky in figure, he seemed shorter
still because the horrible sufferings of stone in the bladder obliged
him to bend almost double as he walked. These pains were complicated
by attacks of gout of the worst kind. Every one trembled before that
face, almost as broad as it was long, on which, in spite of its
roundness, there was as little human-kindness as on that of Henry the
Eighth, whom Calvin greatly resembled. Sufferings which gave him no
respite were manifest in the deep-cut lines starting from each side of
the nose and following the curve of the moustache till they were lost
in the thick gray beard. This face, though red and inflamed like that
of a heavy drinker, showed spots where the skin was yellow. In spite
of the velvet cap, which covered the huge square head, a vast forehead
of noble shape could be seen and admired; beneath it shone two dark
eyes, which must have flashed forth flame in moments of anger. Whether
by reason of his obesity, or because of his thick, short neck, or in
consequence of his vigils and his constant labors, Calvin's head was
sunk between his broad shoulders, which obliged him to wear a fluted
ruff of very small dimensions, on which his face seemed to lie like
the head of John the Baptist on a charger. Between his moustache and
his beard could be seen, like a rose, his small and fresh and eloquent
little mouth, shaped in perfection. The face was divided by a square
nose, remarkable for the flexibility of its entire length, the tip of
which was significantly flat, seeming the more in harmony with the
prodigious power expressed by the form of that imperial head. Though
it might have been difficult to discover on his features any trace of
the weekly headaches which tormented Calvin in the intervals of the
slow fever that consumed him, suffering, ceaselessly resisted by study
and by will, gave to that mask, superficially so florid, a certain
something that was terrible. Perhaps this impression was explainable
by the color of a sort of greasy layer on the skin, due to the
sedentary habits of the toiler, showing evidence of the perpetual
struggle which went on between that valetudinarian temperament and one
of the strongest wills ever known in the history of the human mind.
The mouth, though charming, had an expression of cruelty. Chastity,
necessitated by vast designs, exacted by so many sickly conditions,
was written upon that face. Regrets were there, notwithstanding the
serenity of that all-powerful brow, together with pain in the glance
of those eyes, the calmness of which was terrifying.
Calvin's costume brought into full relief this powerful head. He wore
the well-known cassock of black cloth, fastened round his waist by a
black cloth belt with a brass buckle, which became thenceforth the
distinctive dress of all Calvinist ministers, and was so uninteresting
to the eye that it forced the spectator's attention upon the wearer's
"I suffer too much, Theodore, to embrace you," said Calvin to the
Theodore de Beze, then forty-two years of age and lately admitted, at
Calvin's request, as a Genevese burgher, formed a violent contrast to
the terrible pastor whom he had chosen as his sovereign guide and
ruler. Calvin, like all burghers raised to moral sovereignty, and all
inventors of social systems, was eaten up with jealousy. He abhorred
his disciples; he wanted no equals; he could not bear the slightest
contradiction. Yet there was between him and this graceful cavalier so
marked a difference, Theodore de Beze was gifted with so charming a
personality enhanced by a politeness trained by court life, and Calvin
felt him to be so unlike his other surly janissaries, that the stern
reformer departed in de Beze's case from his usual habits. He never
loved him, for this harsh legislator totally ignored all friendship,
but, not fearing him in the light of a successor, he liked to play
with Theodore as Richelieu played with his cat; he found him supple
and agile. Seeing how admirably de Beze succeeded in all his missions,
he took a fancy to the polished instrument of which he knew himself
the mainspring and the manipulator; so true is it that the sternest of
men cannot do without some semblance of affection. Theodore was
Calvin's spoilt child; the harsh reformer never scolded him; he
forgave him his dissipations, his amours, his fine clothes and his
elegance of language. Perhaps Calvin was not unwilling to show that
the Reformation had a few men of the world to compare with the men of
the court. Theodore de Beze was anxious to introduce a taste for the
arts, for literature, and for poesy into Geneva, and Calvin listened
to his plans without knitting his thick gray eyebrows. Thus the
contrast of character and person between these two celebrated men was
as complete and marked as the difference in their minds.
Calvin acknowledged Chaudieu's very humble salutation by a slight
inclination of the head. Chaudieu slipped the bridles of both horses
through his arms and followed the two great men of the Reformation,
walking to the left, behind de Beze, who was on Calvin's right. The
servant-woman hastened on in advance to prevent the closing of the
Porte de Rive, by informing the captain of the guard that Calvin had
been seized with sudden acute pains.
Theodore de Beze was a native of the canton of Vezelay, which was the
first to enter the Confederation, the curious history of which
transaction has been written by one of the Thierrys. The burgher
spirit of resistance, endemic at Vezelay, no doubt, played its part in
the person of this man, in the great revolt of the Reformers; for de
Beze was undoubtedly one of the most singular personalities of the
"You suffer still?" said Theodore to Calvin.
"A Catholic would say, 'like a lost soul,'" replied the Reformer, with
the bitterness he gave to his slightest remarks. "Ah! I shall not be
here long, my son. What will become of you without me?"
"We shall fight by the light of your books," said Chaudieu.
Calvin smiled; his red face changed to a pleased expression, and he
looked favorably at Chaudieu.
"Well, have you brought me news? Have they massacred many of our
people?" he said smiling, and letting a sarcastic joy shine in his
"No," said Chaudieu, "all is peaceful."
"So much the worse," cried Calvin; "so much the worse! All
pacification is an evil, if indeed it is not a trap. Our strength lies
in persecution. Where should we be if the Church accepted Reform?"
"But," said Theodore, "that is precisely what the queen-mother appears
"She is capable of it," remarked Calvin. "I study that woman--"
"What, at this distance?" cried Chaudieu.
"Is there any distance for the mind?" replied Calvin, sternly, for he
thought the interruption irreverent. "Catherine seeks power, and women
with that in their eye have neither honor nor faith. But what is she
"I bring you a proposal from her to call a species of council,"
replied Theodore de Beze.
"Near Paris?" asked Calvin, hastily.
"Ha! so much the better!" exclaimed the Reformer.
"We are to try to understand each other and draw up some public
agreement which shall unite the two churches."
"Ah! if she would only have the courage to separate the French Church
from the court of Rome, and create a patriarch for France as they did
in the Greek Church!" cried Calvin, his eyes glistening at the idea
thus presented to his mind of a possible throne. "But, my son, can the
niece of a Pope be sincere? She is only trying to gain time."
"She has sent away the Queen of Scots," said Chaudieu.
"One less!" remarked Calvin, as they passed through the Porte de Rive.
"Elizabeth of England will restrain that one for us. Two neighboring
queens will soon be at war with each other. One is handsome, the other
ugly,--a first cause for irritation; besides, there's the question of
He rubbed his hands, and the character of his joy was so evidently
ferocious that de Beze shuddered: he saw the sea of blood his master
"The Guises have irritated the house of Bourbon," said Theodore after
a pause. "They came to an open rupture at Orleans."
"Ah!" said Calvin, "you would not believe me, my son, when I told you
the last time you started for Nerac that we should end by stirring up
war to the death between the two branches of the house of France? I
have, at least, one court, one king and royal family on my side. My
doctrine is producing its effect upon the masses. The burghers, too,
understand me; they regard as idolators all who go to Mass, who paint
the walls of their churches, and put pictures and statues within them.
Ha! it is far more easy for a people to demolish churches and palaces
than to argue the question of justification by faith, or the real
presence. Luther was an argufier, but I,--I am an army! He was a
reasoner, I am a system. In short, my sons, he was merely a
skirmisher, but I am Tarquin! Yes, /my/ faithful shall destroy
pictures and pull down churches; they shall make mill-stones of
statues to grind the flour of the peoples. There are guilds and
corporations in the States-general--I will have nothing there but
individuals. Corporations resist; they see clear where the masses are
blind. We must join to our doctrine political interests which will
consolidate it, and keep together the /materiel/ of my armies. I have
satisfied the logic of cautious souls and the minds of thinkers by
this bared and naked worship which carries religion into the world of
ideas; I have made the peoples understand the advantages of
suppressing ceremony. It is for you, Theodore, to enlist their
interests; hold to that; go not beyond it. All is said in the way of
doctrine; let no one add one iota. Why does Cameron, that little
Gascon pastor, presume to write of it?"
Calvin, de Beze, and Chaudieu were mounting the steep steps of the
upper town in the midst of a crowd, but the crowd paid not the
slightest attention to the men who were unchaining the mobs of other
cities and preparing them to ravage France.
After this terrible tirade, the three marched on in silence till they
entered the little place Saint-Pierre and turned toward the pastor's
house. On the second story of that house (never noted, and of which in
these days no one is ever told in Geneva, where, it may be remarked,
Calvin has no statue) his lodging consisted of three chambers with
common pine floors and wainscots, at the end of which were the kitchen
and the bedroom of his woman-servant. The entrance, as usually
happened in most of the burgher households of Geneva, was through the
kitchen, which opened into a little room with two windows, serving as
parlor, salon, and dining-room. Calvin's study, where his thought had
wrestled with suffering for the last fourteen years, came next, with
the bedroom beyond it. Four oaken chairs covered with tapestry and
placed around a square table were the sole furniture of the parlor. A
stove of white porcelain, standing in one corner of the room, cast out
a gentle heat. Panels and a wainscot of pine wood left in its natural
state without decoration covered the walls. Thus the nakedness of the
place was in keeping with the sober and simple life of the Reformer.
"Well?" said de Beze as they entered, profiting by a few moments when
Chaudieu left them to put up the horse at a neighboring inn, "what am
I to do? Will you agree to the colloquy?"
"Of course," replied Calvin. "And it is you, my son, who will fight
for us there. Be peremptory, be arbitrary. No one, neither the queen
nor the Guises nor I, wants a pacification; it would not suit us at
all. I have confidence in Duplessis-Mornay; let him play the leading
part. Are we alone?" he added, with a glance of distrust into the
kitchen, where two shirts and a few collars were stretched on a line
to dry. "Go and shut all the doors. Well," he continued when Theodore
had returned, "we must drive the king of Navarre to join the Guises
and the Connetable by advising him to break with Queen Catherine de'
Medici. Let us all get the benefit of that poor creature's weakness.
If he turns against the Italian she will, when she sees herself
deprived of that support, necessarily unite with the Prince de Conde
and Coligny. Perhaps this manoeuvre will so compromise her that she
will be forced to remain on our side."
Theodore de Beze caught the hem of Calvin's cassock and kissed it.
"Oh! my master," he exclaimed, "how great you are!"
"Unfortunately, my dear Theodore, I am dying. If I die without seeing
you again," he added, sinking his voice and speaking in the ear of his
minister of foreign affairs, "remember to strike a great blow by the
hand of some one of our martyrs."
"Another Minard to be killed?"
"Something better than a mere lawyer."
"Still better!--a man who wants to be a king."
"The Duc de Guise!" exclaimed Theodore, with an involuntary gesture.
"Well?" cried Calvin, who thought he saw disappointment or resistance
in the gesture, and did not see at the same moment the entrance of
Chaudieu. "Have we not the right to strike as we are struck?--yes, to
strike in silence and in darkness. May we not return them wound for
wound, and death for death? Would the Catholics hesitate to lay traps
for us and massacre us? Assuredly not. Let us burn their churches!
Forward, my children! And if you have devoted youths--"
"I have," said Chaudieu.
"Use them as engines of war! our cause justifies all means. Le
Balafre, that horrible soldier, is, like me, more than a man; he is a
dynasty, just as I am a system. He is able to annihilate us;
therefore, I say, Death to the Guise!"
"I would rather have a peaceful victory, won by time and reason," said
"Time!" exclaimed Calvin, dashing his chair to the ground, "reason!
Are you mad? Can reason achieve conquests? You know nothing of men,
you who deal with them, idiot! The thing that injures my doctrine, you
triple fool! is the reason that is in it. By the lightning of Saul, by
the sword of Vengeance, thou pumpkin-head, do you not see the vigor
given to my Reform by the massacre at Amboise? Ideas never grow till
they are watered with blood. The slaying of the Duc de Guise will lead
to a horrible persecution, and I pray for it with all my might. Our
reverses are preferable to success. The Reformation has an object to
gain in being attacked; do you hear me, dolt? It cannot hurt us to be
defeated, whereas Catholicism is at an end if we should win but a
single battle. Ha! what are my lieutenants?--rags, wet rags instead of
men! white-haired cravens! baptized apes! O God, grant me ten years
more of life! If I die too soon the cause of true religion is lost in
the hands of such boobies! You are as great a fool as Antoine de
Navarre! Out of my sight! Leave me; I want a better negotiator than
you! You are an ass, a popinjay, a poet! Go and make your elegies and
your acrostics, you trifler! Hence!"
The pains of his body were absolutely overcome by the fire of his
anger; even the gout subsided under this horrible excitement of his
mind. Calvin's face flushed purple, like the sky before a storm. His
vast brow shone. His eyes flamed. He was no longer himself. He gave
way utterly to the species of epileptic motion, full of passion, which
was common with him. But in the very midst of it he was struck by the
attitude of the two witnesses; then, as he caught the words of
Chaudieu saying to de Beze, "The Burning Bush!" he sat down, was
silent, and covered his face with his two hands, the knotted veins of
which were throbbing in spite of their coarse texture.
Some minutes later, still shaken by this storm raised within him by
the continence of his life, he said in a voice of emotion:--
"My sins, which are many, cost me less trouble to subdue, than my
impatience. Oh, savage beast! shall I never vanquish you?" he cried,
beating his breast.
"My dear master," said de Beze, in a tender voice, taking Calvin's
hand and kissing it, "Jupiter thunders, but he knows how to smile."
Calvin looked at his disciple with a softened eye and said:--
"Understand me, my friends."
"I understand that the pastors of peoples bear great burdens," replied
Theodore. "You have a world upon your shoulders."
"I have three martyrs," said Chaudieu, whom the master's outburst had
rendered thoughtful, "on whom we can rely. Stuart, who killed Minard,
is at liberty--"
"You are mistaken," said Calvin, gently, smiling after the manner of
great men who bring fair weather into their faces as though they were
ashamed of the previous storm. "I know human nature; a man may kill
one president, but not two."
"Is it absolutely necessary?" asked de Beze.
"Again!" exclaimed Calvin, his nostrils swelling. "Come, leave me, you
will drive me to fury. Take my decision to the queen. You, Chaudieu,
go your way, and hold your flock together in Paris. God guide you!
Dinah, light my friends to the door."
"Will you not permit me to embrace you?" said Theodore, much moved.
"Who knows what may happen to us on the morrow? We may be seized in
spite of our safe-conduct."
"And yet you want to spare them!" cried Calvin, embracing de Beze.
Then he took Chaudieu's hand and said: "Above all, no Huguenots, no
Reformers, but /Calvinists/! Use no term but Calvinism. Alas! this is
not ambition, for I am dying,--but it is necessary to destroy the
whole of Luther, even to the name of Lutheran and Lutheranism."
"Ah! man divine," cried Chaudieu, "you well deserve such honors."
"Maintain the uniformity of the doctrine; let no one henceforth change
or remark it. We are lost if new sects issue from our bosom."
We will here anticipate the events on which this Study is based, and
close the history of Theodore de Beze, who went to Paris with
Chaudieu. It is to be remarked that Poltrot, who fired at the Duc de
Guise fifteen months later, confessed under torture that he had been
urged to the crime by Theodore de Beze; though he retracted that
avowal during subsequent tortures; so that Bossuet, after weighing all
historical considerations, felt obliged to acquit Beze of instigating
the crime. Since Bossuet's time, however, an apparently futile
dissertation, apropos of a celebrated song, has led a compiler of the
eighteenth century to prove that the verses on the death of the Duc de
Guise, sung by the Huguenots from one end of France to the other, was
the work of Theodore de Beze; and it is also proved that the famous
song on the burial of Marlborough was a plagiarism on it.[*]
[*] One of the most remarkable instances of the transmission of songs
is that of Marlborough. Written in the first instance by a
Huguenot on the death of the Duc de Guise in 1563, it was
preserved in the French army, and appears to have been sung with
variations, suppressions, and additions at the death of all
generals of importance. When the intestine wars were over the song
followed the soldiers into civil life. It was never forgotten
(though the habit of singing it may have lessened), and in 1781,
sixty years after the death of Marlborough, the wet-nurse of the
Dauphin was heard to sing it as she suckled her nursling. When and
why the name of the Duke of Marlborough was substituted for that
of the Duc de Guise has never been ascertained. See "Chansons
Populaires," par Charles Nisard: Paris, Dentu, 1867.--Tr.
CATHERINE IN POWER
The day on which Theodore de Beze and Chaudieu arrived in Paris, the
court returned from Rheims, where Charles IX. was crowned. This
ceremony, which Catherine made magnificent with splendid fetes,
enabled her to gather about her the leaders of the various parties.
Having studied all interests and all factions, she found herself with
two alternatives from which to choose; either to rally them all to the
throne, or to pit them one against the other. The Connetable de
Montmorency, supremely Catholic, whose nephew, the Prince de Conde,
was leader of the Reformers, and whose sons were inclined to the new
religion, blamed the alliance of the queen-mother with the
Reformation. The Guises, on their side, were endeavoring to gain over
Antoine de Bourbon, king of Navarre, a weak prince; a manoeuvre which
his wife, Jeanne d'Albret, instructed by de Beze, allowed to succeed.
The difficulties were plain to Catherine, whose dawning power needed a
period of tranquillity. She therefore impatiently awaited Calvin's
reply to the message which the Prince de Conde, the king of Navarre,
Coligny, d'Andelot, and the Cardinal de Chatillon had sent him through
de Beze and Chaudieu. Meantime, however, she was faithful to her
promises as to the Prince de Conde. The chancellor put an end to the
proceedings in which Christophe was involved by referring the affair
to the Parliament of Paris, which at once set aside the judgment of
the committee, declaring it without power to try a prince of the
blood. The Parliament then reopened the trial, at the request of the
Guises and the queen-mother. Lasagne's papers had already been given
to Catherine, who burned them. The giving up of these papers was a
first pledge, uselessly made by the Guises to the queen-mother. The
Parliament, no longer able to take cognizance of those decisive
proofs, reinstated the prince in all his rights, property, and honors.
Christophe, released during the tumult at Orleans on the death of the
king, was acquitted in the first instance, and appointed, in
compensation for his sufferings, solicitor to the Parliament, at the
request of his godfather Monsieur de Thou.
The Triumvirate, that coming coalition of self-interests threatened by
Catherine's first acts, was now forming itself under her very eyes.
Just as in chemistry antagonistic substances separate at the first
shock which jars their enforced union, so in politics the alliance of
opposing interests never lasts. Catherine thoroughly understood that
sooner or later she should return to the Guises and combine with them
and the Connetable to do battle against the Huguenots. The proposed
"colloquy" which tempted the vanity of the orators of all parties, and
offered an imposing spectacle to succeed that of the coronation and
enliven the bloody ground of a religious war which, in point of fact,
had already begun, was as futile in the eyes of the Duc de Guise as in
those of Catherine. The Catholics would, in one sense be worsted; for
the Huguenots, under pretext of conferring, would be able to proclaim
their doctrine, with the sanction of the king and his mother, to the
ears of all France. The Cardinal de Lorraine, flattered by Catherine
into the idea of destroying the heresy by the eloquence of the Church,
persuaded his brother to consent; and thus the queen obtained what was
all-essential to her, six months of peace.
A slight event, occurring at this time, came near compromising the
power which Catherine had so painfully built up. The following scene,
preserved in history, took place, on the very day the envoys returned
from Geneva, in the hotel de Coligny near the Louvre. At his
coronation, Charles IX., who was greatly attached to his tutor Amyot,
appointed him grand-almoner of France. This affection was shared by
his brother the Duc d'Anjou, afterwards Henri III., another of Anjou's
pupils. Catherine heard the news of this appointment from the two
Gondis during the journey from Rheims to Paris. She had counted on
that office in the gift of the Crown to gain a supporter in the Church
with whom to oppose the Cardinal de Lorraine. Her choice had fallen on
the Cardinal de Tournon, in whom she expected to find, as in
l'Hopital, another /crutch/--the word is her own. As soon as she
reached the Louvre she sent for the tutor, and her anger was such, on
seeing the disaster to her policy caused by the ambition of this son
of a shoemaker, that she was betrayed into using the following
extraordinary language, which several memoirs of the day have handed
down to us:--
"What!" she cried, "am I, who compel the Guises, the Colignys, the
Connetables, the house of Navarre, the Prince de Conde, to serve my
ends, am I to be opposed by a priestling like you who are not
satisfied to be bishop of Auxerre?"
Amyot excused himself. He assured the queen that he had asked nothing;
the king of his own will had given him the office of which he, the son
of a poor tailor, felt himself quite unworthy.
"Be assured, /maitre/," replied Catherine (that being the name which
the two kings, Charles IX. and Henri III., gave to the great writer)
"that you will not stand on your feet twenty-four hours hence, unless
you make your pupil change his mind."
Between the death thus threatened and the resignation of the highest
ecclesiastical office in the gift of the crown, the son of the
shoemaker, who had lately become extremely eager after honors, and may
even have coveted a cardinal's hat, thought it prudent to temporize.
He left the court and hid himself in the abbey of Saint-Germain. When
Charles IX. did not see him at his first dinner, he asked where he
was. Some Guisard doubtless told him of what had occurred between
Amyot and the queen-mother.
"Has he been forced to disappear because I made him grand-almoner?"
cried the king.
He thereupon rushed to his mother in the violent wrath of angry
children when their caprices are opposed.
"Madame," he said on entering, "did I not kindly sign the letter you
asked me to send to Parliament, by means of which you govern my
kingdom? Did you not promise that if I did so my will should be yours?
And here, the first favor that I wish to bestow excites your jealousy!
The chancellor talks of declaring my majority at fourteen, three years
from now, and you wish to treat me as a child. By God, I will be king,
and a king as my father and grandfather were kings!"
The tone and manner in which these words were said gave Catherine a
revelation of her son's true character; it was like a blow in the
"He speaks to me thus, he whom I made a king!" she thought.
"Monsieur," she said aloud, "the office of a king, in times like
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