Cinq Mars, entire
Alfred de Vigny
Part 3 out of 8
armies, the Cardinal de la Vallette has commanded gloriously in the
"And has just made a very fine retreat," said the Marechal, laying a
slight emphasis upon the word.
The minister continued, without noticing this little outburst of
professional jealousy, and raising his voice, said:
"God has shown that He did not scorn to send the spirit of victory upon
his Levites, for the Duc de Weimar did not more powerfully aid in the
conquest of Lorraine than did this pious Cardinal, and never was a naval
army better commanded than by our Archbishop of Bordeaux at Rochelle."
It was well known that at this very time the minister was incensed
against this prelate, whose haughtiness was so overbearing, and whose
impertinent ebullitions were so frequent as to have involved him in two
very disagreeable affairs at Bordeaux. Four years before, the Duc
d'Epernon, then governor of Guyenne, followed by all his train and by his
troops, meeting him among his clergy in a procession, had called him an
insolent fellow, and given him two smart blows with his cane; whereupon
the Archbishop had excommunicated him. And again, recently, despite this
lesson, he had quarrelled with the Marechal de Vitry, from whom he had
received "twenty blows with a cane or stick, which you please," wrote the
Cardinal Duke to the Cardinal de la Vallette, "and I think he would like
to excommunicate all France." In fact, he did excommunicate the
Marechal's baton, remembering that in the former case the Pope had
obliged the Duc d'Epernon to ask his pardon; but M. Vitry, who had caused
the Marechal d'Ancre to be assassinated, stood too high at court for
that, and the Archbishop, in addition to his beating, got well scolded by
M. d'Estrees thought, therefore, sagely that there might be some irony in
the Cardinal's manner of referring to the warlike talents of the
Archbishop, and he answered, with perfect sang-froid:
"It is true, my lord, no one can say that it was upon the sea he was
His Eminence could not restrain a smile at this; but seeing that the
electrical effect of that smile had created others in the hall, as well
as whisperings and conjectures, he immediately resumed his gravity, and
familiarly taking the Marechal's arm, said:
"Come, Monsieur l'Ambassadeur, you are ready at repartee. With you I
should not fear Cardinal Albornos, or all the Borgias in the world--no,
nor all the efforts of their Spain with the Holy Father."
Then, raising his voice, and looking around, as if addressing himself to
the silent, and, so to speak, captive assembly, he continued:
"I hope that we shall no more be reproached, as formerly, for having
formed an alliance with one of the greatest men of our day; but as
Gustavus Adolphus is dead, the Catholic King will no longer have any
pretext for soliciting the excommunication of the most Christian King.
How say you, my dear lord?" addressing himself to the Cardinal de la
Vallette, who now approached, fortunately without having heard the late
allusion to himself. "Monsieur d'Estrees, remain near our chair; we have
still many things to say to you, and you are not one too many in our
conversations, for we have no secrets. Our policy is frank and open to
all men; the interest of his Majesty and of the State--nothing more."
The Marechal made a profound bow, fell back behind the chair of the
minister, and gave place to the Cardinal de la Vallette, who, incessantly
bowing and flattering and swearing devotion and entire obedience to the
Cardinal, as if to expiate the obduracy of his father, the Duc d'Epernon,
received in return a few vague words, to no meaning or purpose, the
Cardinal all the while looking toward the door, to see who should follow.
He had even the mortification to find himself abruptly interrupted by the
minister, who cried at the most flattering period of his honeyed
"Ah! is that you at last, my dear Fabert? How I have longed to see you,
to talk of the siege!"
The General, with a brusque and awkward manner, saluted the Cardinal-
Generalissimo, and presented to him the officers who had come from the
camp with him. He talked some time of the operations of the siege, and
the Cardinal seemed to be paying him court now, in order to prepare him
afterward for receiving his orders even on the field of battle; he spoke
to the officers who accompanied him, calling them by their names, and
questioning them about the camp.
They all stood aside to make way for the Duc d'Angouleme--that Valois,
who, having struggled against Henri IV, now prostrated himself before
Richelieu. He solicited a command, having been only third in rank at the
siege of Rochelle. After him came young Mazarin, ever supple and
insinuating, but already confident in his fortune.
The Duc d'Halluin came after them; the Cardinal broke off the compliments
he was addressing to the others, to utter, in a loud voice:
"Monsieur le Duc, I inform you with pleasure that the King has made you a
marshal of France; you will sign yourself Schomberg, will you not, at
Leucate, delivered, as we hope, by you? But pardon me, here is Monsieur
de Montauron, who has doubtless something important to communicate."
"Oh, no, my lord, I would only say that the poor young man whom you
deigned to consider in your service is dying of hunger."
"Pshaw! at such a moment to speak of things like this! Your little
Corneille will not write anything good; we have only seen 'Le Cid' and
'Les Horaces' as yet. Let him work, let him work! it is known that he
is in my service, and that is disagreeable. However, since you interest
yourself in the matter, I give him a pension of five hundred crowns on my
The Chancellor of the Exchequer retired, charmed with the liberality of
the minister, and went home to receive with great affability the
dedication of Cinna, wherein the great Corneille compares his soul to
that of Augustus, and thanks him for having given alms 'a quelques
The Cardinal, annoyed by this importunity, rose, observing that the day
was advancing, and that it was time to set out to visit the King.
At this moment, and as the greatest noblemen present were offering their
arms to aid him in walking, a man in the robe of a referendary advanced
toward him, saluting him with a complacent and confident smile which
astonished all the people there, accustomed to the great world, seeming
to say: "We have secret affairs together; you shall see how agreeable he
makes himself to me. I am at home in his cabinet." His heavy and
awkward manner, however, betrayed a very inferior being; it was
Richelieu knit his brows when he saw him, and cast a glance at Joseph;
then, turning toward those who surrounded him, he said, with bitter
"Is there some criminal about us to be apprehended?"
Then, turning his back upon the discomfited Laubardemont, the Cardinal
left him redder than his robe, and, preceded by the crowd of personages
who were to escort him in carriages or on horseback, he descended the
great staircase of the palace.
All the people and the authorities of Narbonne viewed this royal
departure with amazement.
The Cardinal entered alone a spacious square litter, in which he was to
travel to Perpignan, his infirmities not permitting him to go in a coach,
or to perform the journey on horseback. This kind of moving chamber
contained a bed, a table, and a small chair for the page who wrote or
read for him. This machine, covered with purple damask, was carried by
eighteen men, who were relieved at intervals of a league; they were
selected among his guards, and always performed this service of honor
with uncovered heads, however hot or wet the weather might be. The Duc
d'Angouleme, the Marechals de Schomberg and d'Estrees, Fabert, and other
dignitaries were on horseback beside the litter; after them, among the
most prominent were the Cardinal de la Vallette and Mazarin, with
Chavigny, and the Marechal de Vitry, anxious to avoid the Bastille, with
which it was said he was threatened.
Two coaches followed for the Cardinal's secretaries, physicians, and
confessor; then eight others, each with four horses, for his gentlemen,
and twenty-four mules for his luggage. Two hundred musketeers on foot
marched close behind him, and his company of men-at-arms of the guard and
his light-horse, all gentlemen, rode before and behind him on splendid
Such was the equipage in which the prime minister proceeded to Perpignan;
the size of the litter often made it necessary to enlarge the roads, and
knock down the walls of some of the towns and villages on the way, into
which it could not otherwise enter, "so that," say the authors and
manuscripts of the time, full of a sincere admiration for all this
luxury--"so that he seemed a conqueror entering by the breach. "We have
sought in vain with great care in these documents, for any account of
proprietors or inhabitants of these dwellings so making room for his
passage who shared in this admiration; but we have been unable to find
any mention of such.
The pompous cortege of the Cardinal halted at the beginning of the camp.
All the armed troops were drawn up in the finest order; and amid the
sound of cannon and the music of each regiment the litter traversed a
long line of cavalry and infantry, formed from the outermost tent to that
of the minister, pitched at some distance from the royal quarters, and
which its purple covering distinguished at a distance. Each general of
division obtained a nod or a word from the Cardinal, who at length
reaching his tent and, dismissing his train, shut himself in, waiting for
the time to present himself to the King. But, before him, every person
of his escort had repaired thither individually, and, without entering
the royal abode, had remained in the long galleries covered with striped
stuff, and arranged as became avenues leading to the Prince. The
courtiers walking in groups, saluted one another and shook hands,
regarding each other haughtily, according to their connections or the
lords to whom they belonged. Others whispered together, and showed signs
of astonishment, pleasure, or anger, which showed that something
extraordinary had taken place. Among a thousand others, one singular
dialogue occurred in a corner of the principal gallery.
"May I ask, Monsieur l'Abbe, why you look at me so fixedly?"
"Parbleu! Monsieur de Launay, it is because I'm curious to see what you
will do. All the world abandons your Cardinal-Duke since your journey
into Touraine; if you do not believe it, go and ask the people of
Monsieur or of the Queen. You are behind-hand ten minutes by the watch
with the Cardinal de la Vallette, who has just shaken hands with
Rochefort and the gentlemen of the late Comte de Soissons, whom I shall
regret as long as I live."
"Monsieur de Gondi, I understand you; is it a challenge with which you
"Yes, Monsieur le Comte," answered the young Abbe, saluting him with all
the gravity of the time; "I sought an occasion to challenge you in the
name of Monsieur d'Attichi, my friend, with whom you had something to do
"Monsieur l'Abbe, I am at your command. I will seek my seconds; do you
"On horseback, with sword and pistol, I suppose?" added Gondi, with the
air of a man arranging a party of pleasure, lightly brushing the sleeve
of his cassock.
"If you please," replied the other. And they separated for a time,
saluting one another with the greatest politeness, and with profound
A brilliant crowd of gentlemen circulated around them in the gallery.
They mingled with it to procure friends for the occasion. All the
elegance of the costumes of the day was displayed by the court that
morning-small cloaks of every color, in velvet or in satin, embroidered
with gold or silver; crosses of St. Michael and of the Holy Ghost; the
ruffs, the sweeping hat-plumes, the gold shoulder-knots, the chains by
which the long swords hung: all glittered and sparkled, yet not so
brilliantly as did the fiery glances of those warlike youths, or their
sprightly conversation, or their intellectual laughter. Amid the
assembly grave personages and great lords passed on, followed by their
The little Abbe de Gondi, who was very shortsighted, made his way through
the crowd, knitting his brows and half shutting his eyes, that he might
see the better, and twisting his moustache, for ecclesiastics wore them
in those days. He looked closely at every one in order to recognize his
friends, and at last stopped before a young man, very tall and dressed in
black from head to foot; his sword, even, was of quite dark, bronzed
steel. He was talking with a captain of the guards, when the Abbe de
Gondi took him aside.
"Monsieur de Thou," said he, "I need you as my second in an hour, on
horseback, with sword and pistol, if you will do me that honor."
"Monsieur, you know I am entirely at your service on all occasions.
Where shall we meet?"
"In front of the Spanish bastion, if you please."
"Pardon me for returning to a conversation that greatly interests me.
I will be punctual at the rendezvous."
And De Thou quitted him to rejoin the Captain. He had said all this in
the gentlest of voices with unalterable coolness, and even with somewhat
of an abstracted manner.
The little Abbe squeezed his hand with warm satisfaction, and continued
He did not so easily effect an agreement with the young lords to whom he
addressed himself; for they knew him better than did De Thou, and when
they saw him coming they tried to avoid him, or laughed at him openly,
and would not promise to serve him.
"Ah, Abbe! there you are hunting again; I'll swear it's a second you
want," said the Duc de Beaufort.
"And I wager," added M. de la Rochefoucauld, "that it's against one of
the Cardinal-Duke's people."
"You are both right, gentlemen; but since when have you laughed at
affairs of honor?"
"The saints forbid I should," said M. de Beaufort. "Men of the sword
like us ever reverence tierce, quarte, and octave; but as for the folds
of the cassock, I know nothing of them."
"Pardieu! Monsieur, you know well enough that it does not embarrass my
wrist, as I will prove to him who chooses; as to the gown itself, I
should like to throw it into the gutter."
"Is it to tear it that you fight so often?" asked La Rochefoucauld.
"But remember, my dear Abbe, that you yourself are within it."
Gondi turned to look at the clock, wishing to lose no more time in such
sorry jests; but he had no better success elsewhere. Having stopped two
gentlemen in the service of the young Queen, whom he thought ill-affected
toward the Cardinal, and consequently glad to measure weapons with his
creatures, one of them said to him very gravely:
"Monsieur de Gondi, you know what has just happened; the King has said
aloud, 'Whether our imperious Cardinal wishes it or not, the widow of
Henri le Grand shall no longer remain in exile.' Imperious! the King
never before said anything so strong as that, Monsieur l'Abbe, mark that.
Imperious! it is open disgrace. Certainly no one will dare to speak to
him; no doubt he will quit the court this very day."
"I have heard this, Monsieur, but I have an affair--"
"It is lucky for you he stopped short in the middle of your career."
"An affair of honor--"
"Whereas Mazarin is quite a friend of yours."
"But will you, or will you not, listen to me?"
"Yes, a friend indeed! your adventures are always uppermost in his
thoughts. Your fine duel with Monsieur de Coutenan about the pretty
little pin-maker,--he even spoke of it to the King. Adieu, my dear
Abbe, we are in great haste; adieu, adieu!" And, taking his friend's
arm, the young mocker, without listening to another word, walked rapidly
down the gallery and disappeared in the throng.
The poor Abbe was much mortified at being able to get only one second,
and was watching sadly the passing of the hour and of the crowd, when he
perceived a young gentleman whom he did not know, seated at a table,
leaning on his elbow with a pensive air; he wore mourning which indicated
no connection with any great house or party, and appeared to await,
without any impatience, the time for attending the King, looking with a
heedless air at those who surrounded him, and seeming not to notice or to
know any of them.
Gondi looked at him a moment, and accosted him without hesitation:
"Monsieur, I have not the honor of your acquaintance, but a fencing-party
can never be unpleasant to a man of honor; and if you will be my second,
in a quarter of an hour we shall be on the ground. I am Paul de Gondi;
and I have challenged Monsieur de Launay, one of the Cardinal's clique,
but in other respects a very gallant fellow."
The unknown, apparently not at all surprised at this address, replied,
without changing his attitude: "And who are his seconds?"
"Faith, I don't know; but what matters it who serves him? We stand no
worse with our friends for having exchanged a thrust with them."
The stranger smiled nonchalantly, paused for an instant to pass his hand
through his long chestnut hair, and then said, looking idly at a large,
round watch which hung at his waist:
"Well, Monsieur, as I have nothing better to do, and as I have no friends
here, I am with you; it will pass the time as well as anything else."
And, taking his large, black-plumed hat from the table, he followed the
warlike Abbe, who went quickly before him, often running back to hasten
him on, like a child running before his father, or a puppy that goes
backward and forward twenty times before it gets to the end of a street.
Meanwhile, two ushers, attired in the royal livery, opened the great
curtains which separated the gallery from the King's tent, and silence
reigned. The courtiers began to enter slowly, and in succession, the
temporary dwelling of the Prince. He received them all gracefully, and
was the first to meet the view of each person introduced.
Before a very small table surrounded with gilt armchairs stood Louis
XIII, encircled by the great officers of the crown. His dress was very
elegant: a kind of fawn-colored vest, with open sleeves, ornamented with
shoulder-knots and blue ribbons, covered him down to the waist. Wide
breeches reached to the knee, and the yellow-and-red striped stuff of
which they were made was ornamented below with blue ribbons. His riding-
boots, reaching hardly more than three inches above the ankle, were
turned over, showing so lavish a lining of lace that they seemed to hold
it as a vase holds flowers. A small mantle of blue velvet, on which was
embroidered the cross of the Holy Ghost, covered the King's left arm,
which rested on the hilt of his sword.
His head was uncovered, and his pale and noble face was distinctly
visible, lighted by the sun, which penetrated through the top of the
tent. The small, pointed beard then worn augmented the appearance of
thinness in his face, while it added to its melancholy expression. By
his lofty brow, his classic profile, his aquiline nose, he was at once
recognized as a prince of the great race of Bourbon. He had all the
characteristic traits of his ancestors except their penetrating glance;
his eyes seemed red from weeping, and veiled with a perpetual drowsiness;
and the weakness of his vision gave him a somewhat vacant look.
He called around him, and was attentive to, the greatest enemies of the
Cardinal, whom he expected every moment; and, balancing himself with one
foot over the other, an hereditary habit of his family, he spoke quickly,
but pausing from time to time to make a gracious inclination of the head,
or a gesture of the hand, to those who passed before him with low
The court had been thus paying its respects to the King for two hours
before the Cardinal appeared; the whole court stood in close ranks behind
the Prince, and in the long galleries which extended from his tent.
Already longer intervals elapsed between the names of the courtiers who
"Shall we not see our cousin the Cardinal?" said the King, turning, and
looking at Montresor, one of Monsieur's gentlemen, as if to encourage him
"He is said to be very ill just now, Sire," was the answer.
"And yet I do not see how any but your Majesty can cure him," said the
Duc de Beaufort.
"We cure nothing but the king's evil," replied Louis; "and the complaints
of the Cardinal are always so mysterious that we own we can not
The Prince thus essayed to brave his minister, gaining strength in jests,
the better to break his yoke, insupportable, but so difficult to remove.
He almost thought he had succeeded in this, and, sustained by the joyous
air surrounding him, he already privately congratulated himself on having
been able to assume the supreme empire, and for the moment enjoyed all
the power of which he fancied himself possessed. An involuntary
agitation in the depth of his heart had warned him indeed that, the hour
passed, all the burden of the State would fall upon himself alone; but he
talked in order to divert the troublesome thought, and, concealing from
himself the doubt he had of his own inability to reign, he set his
imagination to work upon the result of his enterprises, thus forcing
himself to forget the tedious roads which had led to them. Rapid phrases
succeeded one another on his lips.
"We shall soon take Perpignan," he said to Fabert, who stood at some
"Well, Cardinal, Lorraine is ours," he added to La Vallette. Then,
touching Mazarin's arm:
"It is not so difficult to manage a State as is supposed, eh?"
The Italian, who was not so sure of the Cardinal's disgrace as most of
the courtiers, answered, without compromising himself:
"Ah, Sire, the late successes of your Majesty at home and abroad prove
your sagacity in choosing your instruments and in directing them, and--"
But the Duc de Beaufort, interrupting him with that self-confidence,
that loud voice and overbearing air, which subsequently procured him the
surname of Important, cried out, vehemently:
"Pardieu! Sire, it needs only to will. A nation is driven like a horse,
with spur and bridle; and as we are all good horsemen, your Majesty has
only to choose among us."
This fine sally had not time to take effect, for two ushers cried,
simultaneously, "His Eminence!"
The King's face flushed involuntarily, as if he had been surprised en
flagrant delit. But immediately gaining confidence, he assumed an air of
resolute haughtiness, which was not lost upon the minister.
The latter, attired in all the pomp of a cardinal, leaning upon two young
pages, and followed by his captain of the guards and more than five
hundred gentlemen attached to his house, advanced toward the King slowly
and pausing at each step, as if forced to it by his sufferings, but in
reality to observe the faces before him. A glance sufficed.
His suite remained at the entrance of the royal tent; of all those within
it, not one was bold enough to salute him, or to look toward him. Even
La Vallette feigned to be occupied in a conversation with Montresor; and
the King, who desired to give him an unfavorable reception, greeted him
lightly and continued a private conversation in a low voice with the Duc
The Cardinal was therefore forced, after the first salute, to stop and
pass to the side of the crowd of courtiers, as if he wished to mingle
with them, but in reality to test them more closely; they all recoiled as
at the sight of a leper. Fabert alone advanced toward him with the
frank, brusque air habitual with him, and, making use of the terms
belonging to his profession, said:
"Well, my lord, you make a breach in the midst of them like a cannon-
ball; I ask pardon in their name."
"And you stand firm before me as before the enemy," said the Cardinal;
"you will have no cause to regret it in the end, my dear Fabert."
Mazarin also approached the Cardinal, but with caution, and, giving to
his mobile features an expression of profound sadness, made him five or
six very low bows, turning his back to the group gathered around the
King, so that in the latter quarter they might be taken for those cold
and hasty salutations which are made to a person one desires to be rid
of, and, on the part of the Duke, for tokens of respect, blended with a
discreet and silent sorrow.
The minister, ever calm, smiled disdainfully; and, assuming that firm
look and that air of grandeur which he always wore in the hour of danger,
he again leaned upon his pages, and, without waiting for a word or a
glance from his sovereign, he suddenly resolved upon his line of conduct,
and walked directly toward him, traversing the whole length of the tent.
No one had lost sight of him, although all affected not to observe him.
Every one now became silent, even those who were conversing with the
King. All the courtiers bent forward to see and to hear.
Louis XIII turned toward him in astonishment, and, all presence of mind
totally failing him, remained motionless and waited with an icy glance-
his sole force, but a force very effectual in a prince.
The Cardinal, on coming close to the monarch, did not bow; and, without
changing his attitude, with his eyes lowered and his hands placed on the
shoulders of the two boys half bending, he said:
"Sire, I come to implore your Majesty at length to grant me the
retirement for which I have long sighed. My health is failing; I feel
that my life will soon be ended. Eternity approaches me, and before
rendering an account to the eternal King, I would render one to my
earthly sovereign. It is eighteen years, Sire, since you placed in my
hands a weak and divided kingdom; I return it to you united and powerful.
Your enemies are overthrown and humiliated. My work is accomplished.
I ask your Majesty's permission to retire to Citeaux, of which I am
abbot, and where I may end my days in prayer and meditation."
The King, irritated by some haughty expressions in this address, showed
none of the signs of weakness which the Cardinal had expected, and which
he had always seen in him when he had threatened to resign the management
of affairs. On the contrary, feeling that he had the eyes of the whole
court upon him, Louis looked upon him with the air of a king, and coldly
"We thank you, then, for your services, Monsieur le Cardinal, and wish
you the repose you desire."
Richelieu was deeply moved, but no indication of his anger appeared upon
his countenance. "Such was the coldness with which you left Montmorency
to die," he said to himself; "but you shall not escape me thus." He then
continued aloud, bowing at the same time:
"The only recompense I ask for my services is that your Majesty will
deign to accept from me, as a gift, the Palais-Cardinal I have erected
at my own expense in Paris."
The King, astonished, bowed his assent. A murmur of surprise for a
moment agitated the attentive court.
"I also throw myself at your Majesty's feet, to beg that you will grant
me the revocation of an act of rigor, which I solicited (I publicly
confess it), and which I perhaps regarded too hastily beneficial to the
repose of the State. Yes, when I was of this world, I was too forgetful
of my early sentiments of personal respect and attachment, in my
eagerness for the public welfare; but now that I already enjoy the
enlightenment of solitude, I see that I have done wrong, and I repent."
The attention of the spectators was redoubled, and the uneasiness of the
King became visible.
"Yes, there is one person, Sire, whom I have always loved, despite her
wrong toward you, and the banishment which the affairs of the kingdom
forced me to bring about for her; a person to whom I have owed much, and
who should be very dear to you, notwithstanding her armed attempts
against you; a person, in a word, whom I implore you to recall from
exile--the Queen Marie de Medicis, your mother!"
The King uttered an involuntary exclamation, so little did he expect to
hear that name. A repressed agitation suddenly appeared upon every face.
All waited in silence the King's reply. Louis XIII looked for a long
time at his old minister without speaking, and this look decided the fate
of France; in that instant he called to mind all the indefatigable
services of Richelieu, his unbounded devotion, his wonderful capacity,
and was surprised at himself for having wished to part with him. He felt
deeply affected at this request, which had probed for the exact cause of
his anger at the bottom of his heart, and uprooted it, thus taking from
his hands the only weapon he had against his old servant. Filial love
brought words of pardon to his lips and tears into his eyes. Rejoicing
to grant what he desired most of all things in the world, he extended his
hands to the Duke with all the nobleness and kindliness of a Bourbon.
The Cardinal bowed and respectfully kissed it; and his heart, which
should have burst with remorse, only swelled in the joy of a haughty
The King, deeply touched, abandoning his hand to him, turned gracefully
toward his court and said, with a trembling voice:
"We often deceive ourselves, gentlemen, and especially in our knowledge
of so great a politician as this."
"I hope he will never leave us, since his heart is as good as his head."
Cardinal de la Vallette instantly seized the sleeve of the King's mantle,
and kissed it with all the ardor of a lover, and the young Mazarin did
much the same with Richelieu himself, assuming, with admirable Italian
suppleness, an expression radiant with joy and tenderness. Two streams
of flatterers hastened, one toward the King, the other toward the
minister; the former group, not less adroit than the second, although
less direct, addressed to the Prince thanks which could be heard by the
minister, and burned at the feet of the one incense which was intended
for the other. As for Richelieu, bowing and smiling to right and left,
he stepped forward and stood at the right hand of the King as his natural
place. A stranger entering would rather have thought, indeed, that it
was the King who was on the Cardinal's left hand. The Marechal
d'Estrees, all the ambassadors, the Duc d'Angouleme, the Due d'Halluin
(Schomberg), the Marechal de Chatillon, and all the great officers of the
crown surrounded him, each waiting impatiently for the compliments of the
others to be finished, in order to pay his own, fearing lest some one
else should anticipate him with the flattering epigram he had just
improvised, or the phrase of adulation he was inventing.
As for Fabert, he had retired to a corner of the tent, and seemed to have
paid no particular attention to the scene. He was chatting with
Montresor and the gentlemen of Monsieur, all sworn enemies of the
Cardinal, because, out of the throng he avoided, he had found none but
these to speak to. This conduct would have seemed extremely tactless in
one less known; but although he lived in the midst of the court, he was
ever ignorant of its intrigues. It was said of him that he returned from
a battle he had gained, like the King's hunting-horse, leaving the dogs
to caress their master and divide the quarry, without seeking even to
remember the part he had had in the triumph.
The storm, then, seemed entirely appeased, and to the violent agitations
of the morning succeeded a gentle calm. A respectful murmur, varied with
pleasant laughter and protestations of attachment, was all that was heard
in the tent. The voice of the Cardinal arose from time to time: "The
poor Queen! We shall, then, soon again see her! I never had dared to
hope for such happiness while I lived!" The King listened to him with
full confidence, and made no attempt to conceal his satisfaction. "It
was assuredly an idea sent to him from on high," he said; "this good
Cardinal, against whom they had so incensed me, was thinking only of the
union of my family. Since the birth of the Dauphin I have not tasted
greater joy than at this moment. The protection of the Holy Virgin is
manifested over our kingdom."
At this moment, a captain of the guards came up and whispered in the
"A courier from Cologne?" said the King; "let him wait in my cabinet."
Then, unable to restrain his impatience, "I will go! I will go!" he
said, and entered alone a small, square tent attached to the larger one.
In it he saw a young courier holding a black portfolio, and the curtains
closed upon the King.
The Cardinal, left sole master of the court, concentrated all its homage;
but it was observed that he no longer received it with his former
presence of mind. He inquired frequently what time it was, and exhibited
an anxiety which was not assumed; his hard, unquiet glances turned toward
the smaller tent. It suddenly opened; the King appeared alone, and
stopped on the threshold. He was paler than usual, and trembled in every
limb; he held in his hand a large letter with five black seals.
"Gentlemen," said he, in a loud but broken voice, "the Queen has just
died at Cologne; and I perhaps am not the first to hear of it," he added,
casting a severe look toward the impassible Cardinal, "but God knows all!
To horse in an hour, and attack the lines! Marechals, follow me." And
he turned his back abruptly, and reentered his cabinet with them.
The court retired after the minister, who, without giving any sign of
sorrow or annoyance, went forth as gravely as he had entered, but now a
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Doubt, the greatest misery of love
Never interfered in what did not concern him
So strongly does force impose upon men
The usual remarks prompted by imbecility on such occasions
By ALFRED DE VIGNY
There are moments in our life when we long ardently for strong excitement
to drown our petty griefs--times when the soul, like the lion in the
fable, wearied with the continual attacks of the gnat, earnestly desires
a mightier enemy and real danger. Cinq-Mars found himself in this
condition of mind, which always results from a morbid sensibility in the
organic constitution and a perpetual agitation of the heart. Weary of
continually turning over in his mind a combination of the events which he
desired, and of those which he dreaded; weary of calculating his chances
to the best of his power; of summoning to his assistance all that his
education had taught him concerning the lives of illustrious men, in
order to compare it with his present situation; oppressed by his regrets,
his dreams, predictions, fancies, and all that imaginary world in which
he had lived during his solitary journey-he breathed freely upon finding
himself thrown into a real world almost as full of agitation; and the
realizing of two actual dangers restored circulation to his blood, and
youth to his whole being.
Since the nocturnal scene at the inn near Loudun, he had not been able to
resume sufficient empire over his mind to occupy himself with anything
save his cherished though sad reflections; and consumption was already
threatening him, when happily he arrived at the camp of Perpignan, and
happily also had the opportunity of accepting the proposition of the Abbe
de Gondi--for the reader has no doubt recognized Cinq-Mars in the person
of that young stranger in mourning, so careless and so melancholy, whom
the duellist in the cassock invited to be his second.
He had ordered his tent to be pitched as a volunteer in the street of the
camp assigned to the young noblemen who were to be presented to the King
and were to serve as aides-de-camp to the Generals; he soon repaired
thither, and was quickly armed, horsed, and cuirassed, according to the
custom of the time, and set out alone for the Spanish bastion, the place
of rendezvous. He was the first arrival, and found that a small plot of
turf, hidden among the works of the besieged place, had been well chosen
by the little Abbe for his homicidal purposes; for besides the
probability that no one would have suspected officers of engaging in a
duel immediately beneath the town which they were attacking, the body of
the bastion separated them from the French camp, and would conceal them
like an immense screen. It was wise to take these precautions, for at
that time it cost a man his head to give himself the satisfaction of
risking his body.
While waiting for his friends and his adversaries, Cinq-Mars had time to
examine the southern side of Perpignan, before which he stood. He had
heard that these works were not those which were to be attacked, and he
tried in vain to account for the besieger's projects. Between this
southern face of the town, the mountains of Albere, and the Col du
Perthus, there might have been advantageous lines of attack, and redoubts
against the accessible point; but not a single soldier was stationed
there. All the forces seemed directed upon the north of Perpignan, upon
the most difficult side, against a brick fort called the Castillet, which
surmounted the gate of Notre-Dame. He discovered that a piece of ground,
apparently marshy, but in reality very solid, led up to the very foot of
the Spanish bastion; that this post was guarded with true Castilian
negligence, although its sole strength lay entirely in its defenders;
for its battlements, almost in ruin, were furnished with four pieces of
cannon of enormous calibre, embedded in the turf, and thus rendered
immovable, and impossible to be directed against a troop advancing
rapidly to the foot of the wall.
It was easy to see that these enormous pieces had discouraged the
besiegers from attacking this point, and had kept the besieged from any
idea of addition to its means of defence. Thus, on the one side, the
vedettes and advanced posts were at a distance, and on the other, the
sentinels were few and ill supported. A young Spaniard, carrying a long
gun, with its rest suspended at his side and the burning match in his
right hand, who was walking with nonchalance upon the rampart, stopped to
look at Cinq-Mars, who was riding about the ditches and moats.
"Senor caballero," he cried, "are you going to take the bastion by
yourself on horseback, like Don Quixote--Quixada de la Mancha?"
At the same time he detached from his side the iron rest, planted it in
the ground, and supported upon it the barrel of his gun in order to take
aim, when a grave and older Spaniard, enveloped in a dirty brown cloak,
said to him in his own tongue:
"'Ambrosio de demonio', do you not know that it is forbidden to throw
away powder uselessly, before sallies or attacks are made, merely to have
the pleasure of killing a boy not worth your match? It was in this very
place that Charles the Fifth threw the sleeping sentinel into the ditch
and drowned him. Do your duty, or I shall follow his example."
Ambrosio replaced the gun upon his shoulder, the rest at his side, and
continued his walk upon the rampart.
Cinq-Mars had been little alarmed at this menacing gesture, contenting
himself with tightening the reins of his horse and bringing the spurs
close to his sides, knowing that with a single leap of the nimble animal
he should be carried behind the wall of a hut which stood near by, and
should thus be sheltered from the Spanish fusil before the operation of
the fork and match could be completed. He knew, too, that a tacit
convention between the two armies prohibited marksmen from firing upon
the sentinels; each party would have regarded it as assassination. The
soldier who had thus prepared to attack Cinq-Mars must have been ignorant
of this understanding. Young D'Effiat, therefore, made no visible
movement; and when the sentinel had resumed his walk upon the rampart,
he again betook himself to his ride upon the turf, and presently saw five
cavaliers directing their course toward him. The first two, who came on
at full gallop, did not salute him, but, stopping close to him, leaped to
the ground, and he found himself in the arms of the Counsellor de Thou,
who embraced him tenderly, while the little Abbe de Gondi, laughing
"Behold another Orestes recovering his Pylades, and at the moment of
immolating a rascal who is not of the family of the King of kings, I
"What! is it you, my dear Cinq-Mars?" cried De Thou; "and I knew not of
your arrival in the camp! Yes, it is indeed you; I recognize you,
although you are very pale. Have you been ill, my dear friend? I have
often written to you; for my boyish friendship has always remained in my
"And I," answered Henri d'Effiat, "I have been very culpable toward you;
but I will relate to you all the causes of my neglect. I can speak of
them, but I was ashamed to write them. But how good you are! Your
friendship has never relaxed."
"I knew you too well," replied De Thou; "I knew that there could be no
real coldness between us, and that my soul had its echo in yours."
With these words they embraced once more, their eyes moist with those
sweet tears which so seldom flow in one's life, but with which it seems,
nevertheless, the heart is always charged, so much relief do they give in
This moment was short; and during these few words, Gondi had been pulling
them by their cloaks, saying:
"To horse! to horse, gentlemen! Pardieu! you will have time enough to
embrace, if you are so affectionate; but do not delay. Let our first
thought be to have done with our good friends who will soon arrive. We
are in a fine position, with those three villains there before us, the
archers close by, and the Spaniards up yonder! We shall be under three
He was still speaking, when De Launay, finding himself at about sixty
paces from his opponents, with his seconds, who were chosen from his own
friends rather than from among the partisans of the Cardinal, put his
horse to a canter, advanced gracefully toward his young adversaries, and
gravely saluted them.
"Gentlemen, I think that we shall do well to select our men, and to take
the field; for there is talk of attacking the lines, and I must be at my
"We are ready, Monsieur," said Cinq-Mars; "and as for selecting
opponents, I shall be very glad to become yours, for I have not forgotten
the Marechal de Bassompierre and the wood of Chaumont. You know my
opinion concerning your insolent visit to my mother."
"You are very young, Monsieur. In regard to Madame, your mother,
I fulfilled the duties of a man of the world; toward the Marechal,
those of a captain of the guard; here, those of a gentleman toward
Monsieur l'Abbe, who has challenged me; afterward I shall have that honor
"If I permit you," said the Abbe, who was already on horseback.
They took sixty paces of ground--all that was afforded them by the extent
of the meadow that enclosed them. The Abbe de Gondi was stationed
between De Thou and his friend, who sat nearest the ramparts, upon which
two Spanish officers and a score of soldiers stood, as in a balcony, to
witness this duel of six persons--a spectacle common enough to them.
They showed the same signs of joy as at their bullfights, and laughed
with that savage and bitter laugh which their temperament derives from
their admixture of Arab blood.
At a sign from Gondi, the six horses set off at full gallop, and met,
without coming in contact, in the middle of the arena; at that instant,
six pistol-shots were heard almost together, and the smoke covered the
When it dispersed, of the six cavaliers and six horses but three men and
three animals were on their legs. Cinq-Mars was on horseback, giving his
hand to his adversary, as calm as himself; at the other end of the field,
De Thou stood by his opponent, whose horse he had killed, and whom he was
helping to rise. As for Gondi and De Launay, neither was to be seen.
Cinq-Mars, looking about for them anxiously, perceived the Abbe's horse,
which, caracoling and curvetting, was dragging after him the future
cardinal, whose foot was caught in the stirrup, and who was swearing as
if he had never studied anything but the language of the camp. His nose
and hands were stained and bloody with his fall and with his efforts to
seize the grass; and he was regarding with considerable dissatisfaction
his horse, which in spite of himself he irritated with his spurs, making
its way to the trench, filled with water, which surrounded the bastion,
when, happily, Cinq-Mars, passing between the edge of the swamp and the
animal, seized its bridle and stopped its career.
"Well, my dear Abbe, I see that no great harm has come to you, for you
speak with decided energy."
"Corbleu!" cried Gondi, wiping the dust out of his eyes, "to fire a
pistol in the face of that giant I had to lean forward and rise in my
stirrups, and thus I lost my balance; but I fancy that he is down, too."
"You are right, sir," said De Thou, coming up; "there is his horse
swimming in the ditch with its master, whose brains are blown out. We
must think now of escaping."
"Escaping! That, gentlemen, will be rather difficult," said the
adversary of Cinq-Mars, approaching. "Hark! there is the cannon-shot,
the signal for the attack. I did not expect it would have been given so
soon. If we return we shall meet the Swiss and the foot-soldiers, who
are marching in this direction."
"Monsieur de Fontrailles says well," said De Thou; "but if we do not
return, here are these Spaniards, who are running to arms, and whose
balls we shall presently have whistling about our heads."
"Well, let us hold a council," said Gondi; "summon Monsieur de Montresor,
who is uselessly occupied in searching for the body of poor De Launay.
You have not wounded him, Monsieur De Thou?"
"No, Monsieur l'Abbe; not every one has so good an aim as you," said
Montresor, bitterly, limping from his fall. "We shall not have time to
continue with the sword."
"As to continuing, I will not consent to it, gentlemen," said
Fontrailles; "Monsieur de Cinq-Mars has behaved too nobly toward me.
My pistol went off too soon, and his was at my very cheek--I feel the
coldness of it now--but he had the generosity to withdraw it and fire in
the air. I shall not forget it; and I am his in life and in death."
"We must think of other things now," interrupted Cinq-Mars; "a ball has
just whistled past my ear. The attack has begun on all sides; and we are
surrounded by friends and by enemies."
In fact, the cannonading was general; the citadel, the town, and the army
were covered with smoke. The bastion before them as yet was unassailed,
and its guards seemed less eager to defend it than to observe the fate of
the other fortifications.
"I believe that the enemy has made a sally," said Montresor, "for the
smoke has cleared from the plain, and I see masses of cavalry charging
under the protection of the battery."
"Gentlemen," said Cinq-Mars, who had not ceased to observe the walls,
"there is a very decided part which we could take, an important share in
this--we might enter this ill-guarded bastion."
"An excellent idea, Monsieur," said Fontrailles; "but we are but five
against at least thirty, and are in plain sight and easily counted."
"Faith, the idea is not bad," said Gondi; "it is better to be shot up
there than hanged down here, as we shall be if we are found, for De
Launay must be already missed by his company, and all the court knows of
"Parbleu! gentlemen," said Montresor, "help is coming to us."
A numerous troop of horse, in great disorder, advanced toward them at
full gallop; their red uniform made them visible from afar. It seemed to
be their intention to halt on the very ground on which were our
embarrassed duellists, for hardly had the first cavalier reached it when
cries of "Halt!" were repeated and prolonged by the voices of the chiefs
who were mingled with their cavaliers.
"Let us go to them; these are the men-at-arms of the King's guard," said
Fontrailles. "I recognize them by their black cockades. I see also many
of the light-horse with them; let us mingle in the disorder, for I fancy
they are 'ramenes'."
This is a polite phrase signifying in military language "put to rout."
All five advanced toward the noisy and animated troops, and found that
this conjecture was right. But instead of the consternation which one
might expect in such a case, they found nothing but a youthful and
rattling gayety, and heard only bursts of laughter from the two
"Ah, pardieu! Cahuzac," said one, "your horse runs better than mine; I
suppose you have exercised it in the King's hunts!"
"Ah, I see, 'twas that we might be the sooner rallied that you arrived
here first," answered the other.
"I think the Marquis de Coislin must be mad, to make four hundred of us
charge eight Spanish regiments."
"Ha! ha! Locmaria, your plume is a fine ornament; it looks like a
weeping willow. If we follow that, it will be to our burial."
"Gentlemen, I said to you before," angrily replied the young officer,
"that I was sure that Capuchin Joseph, who meddles in everything, was
mistaken in telling us to charge, upon the part of the Cardinal. But
would you have been satisfied if those who have the honor of commanding
you had refused to charge?"
"No, no, no!" answered all the young men, at the same time forming
themselves quickly into ranks.
"I said," interposed the old Marquis de Coislin, who, despite his white
head, had all the fire of youth in his eyes, "that if you were commanded
to mount to the assault on horseback, you would do it."
"Bravo! bravo!" cried all the men-at-arms, clapping their hands.
"Well, Monsieur le Marquis," said Cinq-Mars, approaching, "here is an
opportunity to execute what you have promised. I am only a volunteer;
but an instant ago these gentlemen and I examined this bastion, and I
believe that it is possible to take it."
"Monsieur, we must first examine the ditch to see--"
At this moment a ball from the rampart of which they were speaking struck
in the head the horse of the old captain, laying it low.
"Locmaria, De Mouy, take the command, and to the assault!" cried the two
noble companies, believing their leader dead.
"Stop a moment, gentlemen," said old Coislin, rising, "I will lead you,
if you please. Guide us, Monsieur volunteer, for the Spaniards invite us
to this ball, and we must reply politely."
Hardly had the old man mounted another horse, which one of his men
brought him, and drawn his sword, when, without awaiting his order, all
these ardent youths, preceded by Cinq-Mars and his friends, whose horses
were urged on by the squadrons behind, had thrown themselves into the
morass, wherein, to their great astonishment and to that of the
Spaniards, who had counted too much upon its depth, the horses were in
the water only up to their hams; and in spite of a discharge of grape-
shot from the two largest pieces, all reached pell-mell a strip of land
at the foot of the half-ruined ramparts. In the ardor of the rush, Cinq-
Mars and Fontrailles, with the young Locmaria, forced their horses upon
the rampart itself; but a brisk fusillade killed the three animals, which
rolled over their masters.
"Dismount all, gentlemen!" cried old Coislin; "forward with pistol and
sword! Abandon your horses!"
All obeyed instantly, and threw themselves in a mass upon the breach.
Meantime, De Thou, whose coolness never quitted him any more than his
friendship, had not lost sight of the young Henri, and had received him
in his arms when his horse fell. He helped him to rise, restored to him
his sword, which he had dropped, and said to him, with the greatest
calmness, notwithstanding the balls which rained on all sides:
"My friend, do I not appear very ridiculous amid all this skirmish, in my
costume of Counsellor in Parliament?"
"Parbleu!" said Montresor, advancing, "here's the Abbe, who quite
And, in fact, little Gondi, pushing on among the light horsemen, was
shouting, at the top of his voice: "Three duels and an assault. I hope
to get rid of my cassock at last!"
Saying this, he cut and thrust at a tall Spaniard.
The defence was not long. The Castilian soldiers were no match for the
French officers, and not one of them had time or courage to recharge his
"Gentlemen, we will relate this to our mistresses in Paris," said
Locmaria, throwing his hat into the air; and Cinq-Mars, De Thou, Coislin,
De Mouy, Londigny, officers of the red companies, and all the young
noblemen, with swords in their right hands and pistols in their left,
dashing, pushing, and doing each other by their eagerness as much harm as
they did the enemy, finally rushed upon the platform of the bastion, as
water poured from a vase, of which the opening is too small, leaps out in
Disdaining to occupy themselves with the vanquished soldiers, who cast
themselves at their feet, they left them to look about the fort, without
even disarming them, and began to examine their conquest, like schoolboys
in vacation, laughing with all their hearts, as if they were at a
A Spanish officer, enveloped in his brown cloak, watched them with a
"What demons are these, Ambrosio?" said he to a soldier. "I never have
met with any such before in France. If Louis XIII has an entire army
thus composed, it is very good of him not to conquer all Europe."
"Oh, I do not believe they are very numerous; they must be some poor
adventurers, who have nothing to lose and all to gain by pillage."
"You are right," said the officer; "I will try to persuade one of them to
let me escape."
And slowly approaching, he accosted a young light-horseman, of about
eighteen, who was sitting apart from his comrades upon the parapet. He
had the pink-and-white complexion of a young girl; his delicate hand held
an embroidered handkerchief, with which he wiped his forehead and his
golden locks He was consulting a large, round watch set with rubies,
suspended from his girdle by a knot of ribbons.
The astonished Spaniard paused. Had he not seen this youth overthrow his
soldiers, he would not have believed him capable of anything beyond
singing a romance, reclined upon a couch. But, filled with the
suggestion of Ambrosio, he thought that he might have stolen these
objects of luxury in the pillage of the apartments of a woman; so, going
abruptly up to him, he said:
"Hombre! I am an officer; will you restore me to liberty, that I may
once more see my country?"
The young Frenchman looked at him with the gentle expression of his age,
and, thinking of his own family, he said:
"Monsieur, I will present you to the Marquis de Coislin, who will, I
doubt not, grant your request; is your family of Castile or of Aragon?"
"Your Coislin will ask the permission of somebody else, and will make me
wait a year. I will give you four thousand ducats if you will let me
That gentle face, those girlish features, became infused with the purple
of fury; those blue eyes shot forth lightning; and, exclaiming, "Money to
me! away, fool!" the young man gave the Spaniard a ringing box on the
ear. The latter, without hesitating, drew a long poniard from his
breast, and, seizing the arm of the Frenchman, thought to plunge it
easily into his heart; but, nimble and vigorous, the youth caught him by
the right arm, and, lifting it with force above his head, sent it back
with the weapon it held upon the head of the Spaniard, who was furious
"Eh! eh! Softly, Olivier!" cried his comrades, running from all
directions; "there are Spaniards enough on the ground already."
And they disarmed the hostile officer.
"What shall we do with this lunatic?" said one.
"I should not like to have him for my valet-dechambre," returned
"He deserves to be hanged," said a third; "but, faith, gentlemen, we
don't know how to hang. Let us send him to that battalion of Swiss which
is now passing across the plain."
And the calm and sombre Spaniard, enveloping himself anew in his cloak,
began the march of his own accord, followed by Ambrosio, to join the
battalion, pushed by the shoulders and urged on by five or six of these
Meantime, the first troop of the besiegers, astonished at their success,
had followed it out to the end; Cinq-Mars, so advised by the aged
Coislin, had made with him the circuit of the bastion, and found to their
vexation that it was completely separated from the city, and that they
could not follow up their advantage. They, therefore, returned slowly to
the platform, talking by the way, to rejoin De Thou and the Abbe de
Gondi, whom they found laughing with the young light-horsemen.
"We have Religion and justice with us, gentlemen; we could not fail to
"No doubt, for they fought as hard as we."
There was silence at the approach of Cinq-Mars, and they remained for an
instant whispering and asking his name; then all surrounded him, and took
his hand with delight.
"Gentlemen, you are right," said their old captain; "he is, as our
fathers used to say, the best doer of the day. He is a volunteer, who is
to be presented today to the King by the Cardinal."
"By the Cardinal! We will present him ourselves. Ah, do not let him be
a Cardinalist; he is too good a fellow for that!" exclaimed all the
young men, with vivacity.
"Monsieur, I will undertake to disgust you with him," said Olivier
d'Entraigues, approaching Cinq-Mars, "for I have been his page. Rather
serve in the red companies; come, you will have good comrades there."
The old Marquis saved Cinq-Mars the embarrassment of replying, by
ordering the trumpets to sound and rally his brilliant companies.
The cannon was no longer heard, and a soldier announced that the King and
the Cardinal were traversing the lines to examine the results of the day.
He made all the horses pass through the breach, which was tolerably wide,
and ranged the two companies of cavalry in battle array, upon a spot
where it seemed impossible that any but infantry could penetrate.
Cardinal Richelieu had said to himself, "To soften the first paroxysm of
the royal grief, to open a source of emotions which shall turn from its
sorrow this wavering soul, let this city be besieged; I consent. Let
Louis go; I will allow him to strike a few poor soldiers with the blows
which he wishes, but dares not, to inflict upon me. Let his anger drown
itself in this obscure blood; I agree. But this caprice of glory shall
not derange my fixed designs; this city shall not fall yet. It shall not
become French forever until two years have past; it shall come into my
nets only on the day upon which I have fixed in my own mind. Thunder,
bombs, and cannons; meditate upon your operations, skilful captains;
hasten, young warriors. I shall silence your noise, I shall dissipate
your projects, and make your efforts abortive; all shall end in vain
smoke, for I shall conduct in order to mislead you."
This is the substance of what passed in the bald head of the Cardinal
before the attack of which we have witnessed a part. He was stationed on
horseback, upon one of the mountains of Salces, north of the city; from
this point he could see the plain of Roussillon before him, sloping to
the Mediterranean. Perpignan, with its ramparts of brick, its bastions,
its citadel, and its spire, formed upon this plain an oval and sombre
mass on its broad and verdant meadows; the vast mountains surrounded it,
and the valley, like an enormous bow curved from north to south, while,
stretching its white line in the east, the sea looked like its silver
cord. On his right rose that immense mountain called the Canigou, whose
sides send forth two rivers into the plain below. The French line
extended to the foot of this western barrier. A crowd of generals and of
great lords were on horseback behind the minister, but at twenty paces'
distance and profoundly silent.
Cardinal Richelieu had at first followed slowly the line of operations,
but had later returned and stationed himself upon this height, whence his
eye and his thought hovered over the destinies of besiegers and besieged.
The whole army had its eyes upon him, and could see him from every point.
All looked upon him as their immediate chief, and awaited his gesture
before they acted. France had bent beneath his yoke a long time; and
admiration of him shielded all his actions to which another would have
been often subjected. At this moment, for instance, no one thought of
smiling, or even of feeling surprised, that the cuirass should clothe the
priest; and the severity of his character and aspect suppressed every
thought of ironical comparisons or injurious conjectures. This day the
Cardinal appeared in a costume entirely martial: he wore a reddish-brown
coat, embroidered with gold, a water-colored cuirass, a sword at his
side, pistols at his saddle-bow, and he had a plumed hat; but this he
seldom put on his head, which was still covered with the red cap. Two
pages were behind him; one carried his gauntlets, the other his casque,
and the captain of his guards was at his side.
As the King had recently named him generalissimo of his troops, it was to
him that the generals sent for their orders; but he, knowing only too
well the secret motives of his master's present anger, affected to refer
to that Prince all who sought a decision from his own mouth. It happened
as he had foreseen; for he regulated and calculated the movements of that
heart as those of a watch, and could have told with precision through
what sensations it had passed. Louis XIII came and placed himself at his
side; but he came as a pupil, forced to acknowledge that his master is in
the right. His air was haughty and dissatisfied, his language brusque
and dry. The Cardinal remained impassible. It was remarked that the
King, in consulting him, employed the words of command, thus reconciling
his weakness and his power of place, his irresolution and his pride, his
ignorance and his pretensions, while his minister dictated laws to him in
a tone of the most profound obedience.
"I will have them attack immediately, Cardinal," said the Prince on
coming up; "that is to say," he added, with a careless air, "when all
your preparations are made, and you have fixed upon the hour with our
"Sire, if I might venture to express my judgment, I should be glad did
your Majesty think proper to begin the attack in a quarter of an hour,
for that will give time enough to advance the third line."
"Yes, yes; you are right, Monsieur le Cardinal! I think so, too. I will
go and give my orders myself; I wish to do everything myself. Schomberg,
Schomberg! in a quarter of an hour I wish to hear the signal-gun; I
And Schomberg, taking the command of the right wing, gave the order, and
the signal was made.
The batteries, arranged long since by the Marechal de la Meilleraie,
began to batter a breach, but slowly, because the artillerymen felt that
they had been directed to attack two impregnable points; and because,
with their experience, and above all with the common sense and quick
perception of French soldiers, any one of them could at once have
indicated the point against which the attack should have been directed.
The King was surprised at the slowness of the firing.
"La Meilleraie," said he, impatiently, "these batteries do not play well;
your cannoneers are asleep."
The principal artillery officers were present as well as the Marechal;
but no one answered a syllable. They had looked toward the Cardinal, who
remained as immovable as an equestrian statue, and they imitated his
example. The answer must have been that the fault was not with the
soldiers, but with him who had ordered this false disposition of the
batteries; and this was Richelieu himself, who, pretending to believe
them more useful in that position, had stopped the remarks of the chiefs.
The King, astonished at this silence, and, fearing that he had committed
some gross military blunder by his question, blushed slightly, and,
approaching the group of princes who had accompanied him, said, in order
to reassure himself:
"D'Angouleme, Beaufort, this is very tiresome, is it not? We stand here
Charles de Valois drew near and said:
"It seems to me, Sire, that they are not employing here the machines of
the engineer Pompee-Targon."
"Parbleu!" said the Duc de Beaufort, regarding Richelieu fixedly, "that
is because we were more eager to take Rochelle than Perpignan at the time
that Italian came. Here we have not an engine ready, not a mine, not a
petard beneath these walls; and the Marechal de la Meilleraie told me
this morning that he had proposed to bring some with which to open the
breach. It was neither the Castillet, nor the six great bastions which
surround it, nor the half-moon, we should have attacked. If we go on in
this way, the great stone arm of the citadel will show us its fist a long
The Cardinal, still motionless, said not a single word; he only made a
sign to Fabert, who left the group in attendance, and ranged his horse
behind that of Richelieu, close to the captain of his guards.
The Duc de la Rochefoucauld, drawing near the King, said:
"I believe, Sire, that our inactivity makes the enemy insolent, for look!
here is a numerous sally, directing itself straight toward your Majesty;
and the regiments of Biron and De Ponts fall back after firing."
"Well!" said the King, drawing his sword, "let us charge and force those
villains back again. Bring on the cavalry with me, D'Angouleme. Where
is it, Cardinal?"
"Behind that hill, Sire, there are in column six regiments of dragoons,
and the carabineers of La Roque; below you are my men-at-arms and my
light horse, whom I pray your Majesty to employ, for those of your
Majesty's guard are ill guided by the Marquis de Coislin, who is ever too
zealous. Joseph, go tell him to return."
He whispered to the Capuchin, who had accompanied him, huddled up in
military attire, which he wore awkwardly, and who immediately advanced
into the plain.
In the mean time, the compact columns of the old Spanish infantry issued
from the gate of Notre-Dame like a dark and moving forest, while from
another gate proceeded the heavy cavalry, which drew up on the plain.
The French army, in battle array at the foot of the hill where the King
stood, behind fortifications of earth, behind redoubts and fascines of
turf, perceived with alarm the men-at-arms and the light horse pressed
between these two forces, ten times their superior in numbers.
"Sound the charge!" cried Louis XIII; "or my old Coislin is lost."
And he descended the hill, with all his suite as ardent as himself; but
before he reached the plain and was at the head of his musketeers, the
two companies had taken their course, dashing off with the rapidity of
lightning, and to the cry of "Vive le Roi!" They fell upon the long
column of the enemy's cavalry like two vultures upon a serpent; and,
making a large and bloody gap, they passed beyond, and rallied behind the
Spanish bastion, leaving the enemy's cavalry so astonished that they
thought only of re-forming their own ranks, and not of pursuing.
The French army uttered a burst of applause; the King paused in
amazement. He looked around him, and saw a burning desire for attack in
all eyes; the valor of his race shone in his own. He paused yet another
instant in suspense, listening, intoxicated, to the roar of the cannon,
inhaling the odor of the powder; he seemed to receive another life, and
to become once more a Bourbon. All-who looked on him felt as if they
were commanded by another man, when, raising his sword and his eyes
toward the sun, he cried:
"Follow me, brave friends! here I am King of France!"
His cavalry, deploying, dashed off with an ardor which devoured space,
and, raising billows of dust from the ground, which trembled beneath
them, they were in an instant mingled with the Spanish cavalry, and both
were swallowed up in an immense and fluctuating cloud.
"Now! now!" cried the Cardinal, in a voice of thunder, from his
elevation, "now remove the guns from their useless position! Fabert,
give your orders; let them be all directed upon the infantry which slowly
approaches to surround the King. Haste! save the King!"
Immediately the Cardinal's suite, until then sitting erect as so many
statues, were in motion. The generals gave their orders; the aides-de-
camp galloped off into the plain, where, leaping over the ditches,
barriers, and palisades, they arrived at their destination as soon as the
thought that directed them and the glance that followed them.
Suddenly the few and interrupted flashes which had shone from the
discouraged batteries became a continual and immense flame, leaving no
room for the smoke, which rose to the sky in an infinite number of light
and floating wreaths; the volleys of cannon, which had seemed like far
and feeble echoes, changed into a formidable thunder whose roll was as
rapid as that of drums beating the charge; while from three opposite
points large red flashes from fiery mouths fell upon the dark columns
which issued from the besieged city.
Meantime, without changing his position, but with ardent eyes and
imperative gestures, Richelieu ceased not to multiply his orders, casting
upon those who received them a look which implied a sentence of death if
he was not instantly obeyed.
"The King has overthrown the cavalry; but the foot still resist. Our
batteries have only killed, they have not conquered. Forward with three
regiments of infantry instantly, Gassion, La Meilleraie, and
Lesdiguieres! Take the enemy's columns in flank. Order the rest of the
army to cease from the attack, and to remain motionless throughout the
whole line. Bring paper! I will write myself to Schomberg."
A page alighted and advanced, holding a pencil and paper. The minister,
supported by four men of his suite, also alighted, but with difficulty,
uttering a cry, wrested from him by pain; but he conquered it by an
effort, and seated himself upon the carriage of a cannon. The page
presented his shoulder as a desk; and the Cardinal hastily penned that
order which contemporary manuscripts have transmitted to us, and which
might well be imitated by the diplomatists of our day, who are, it seems,
more desirous to maintain themselves in perfect balance between two ideas
than to seek those combinations which decide the destinies of the world,
regarding the clear and obvious dictates of true genius as beneath their
"M. le Marechal, do not risk anything, and reflect before you
attack. When you are thus told that the King desires you not to
risk anything, you are not to understand that his Majesty forbids
you to fight at all; but his intention is that you do not engage in
a general battle unless it be with a notable hope of gain from the
advantage which a favorable situation may present, the
responsibility of the battle naturally falling upon you."
These orders given, the old minister, still seated upon the gun-carriage,
his arms resting upon the touch-hole, and his chin upon his arms, in the
attitude of one who adjusts and points a cannon, continued in silence to
watch the battle, like an old wolf, which, sated with victims and torpid
with age, contemplates in the plain the ravages of a lion among a herd of
cattle, which he himself dares not attack. From time to time his eye
brightens; the smell of blood rejoices him, and he laps his burning
tongue over his toothless jaw.
On that day, it was remarked by his servants--or, in other words, by all
surrounding him--that from the time of his rising until night he took no
nourishment, and so fixed all the application of his soul on the events
which he had to conduct that he triumphed over his physical pains,
seeming, by forgetting, to have destroyed them. It was this power of
attention, this continual presence of mind, that raised him almost to
genius. He would have attained it quite, had he not lacked native
elevation of soul and generous sensibility of heart.
Everything happened upon the field of battle as he had wished, fortune
attending him there as well as in the cabinet. Louis XIII claimed with
eager hand the victory which his minister had procured for him; he had
contributed himself, however, only that grandeur which consists in
The cannon had ceased to roar when the broken columns of infantry fell
back into Perpignan; the remainder had met the same fate, was already
within the walls, and on the plain no living man was to be seen, save the
glittering squadrons of the King, who followed him, forming ranks as they
He returned at a slow walk, and contemplated with satisfaction the
battlefield swept clear of enemies; he passed haughtily under the very
fire of the Spanish guns, which, whether from lack of skill, or by a
secret agreement with the Prime Minister, or from very shame to kill a
king of France, only sent after him a few balls, which, passing two feet
above his head, fell in front of the lines, and merely served to increase
the royal reputation for courage.
At every step, however, that he took toward the spot where Richelieu
awaited him, the King's countenance changed and visibly fell; he lost all
the flush of combat; the noble sweat of triumph dried upon his brow. As
he approached, his usual pallor returned to his face, as if having the
right to sit alone on a royal head; his look lost its fleeting fire, and
at last, when he joined the Cardinal, a profound melancholy entirely
possessed him. He found the minister as he had left him, on horseback;
the latter, still coldly respectful, bowed, and after a few words of
compliment, placed himself near Louis to traverse the lines and examine
the results of the day, while the princes and great lords, riding at some
distance before and behind, formed a crowd around them.
The wily minister was careful not to say a word or to make a gesture that
could suggest the idea that he had had the slightest share in the events
of the day; and it was remarkable that of all those who came to hand in
their reports, there was not one who did not seem to divine his thoughts,
and exercise care not to compromise his occult power by open obedience.
All reports were made to the King. The Cardinal then traversed, by the
side of the Prince, the right of the camp, which had not been under his
view from the height where he had remained; and he saw with satisfaction
that Schomberg, who knew him well, had acted precisely as his master had
directed, bringing into action only a few of the light troops, and
fighting just enough not to incur reproach for inaction, and not enough
to obtain any distinct result. This line of conduct charmed the
minister, and did not displease the King, whose vanity cherished the idea
of having been the sole conqueror that day. He even wished to persuade
himself, and to have it supposed, that all the efforts of Schomberg had
been fruitless, saying to him that he was not angry with him, that he had
himself just had proof that the enemy before him was less despicable than
had been supposed.
"To show you that you have lost nothing in our estimation," he added, "we
name you a knight of our order, and we give you public and private access
to our person."
The Cardinal affectionately pressed his hand as he passed him, and the
Marechal, astonished at this deluge of favors, followed the Prince with
his bent head, like a culprit, recalling, to console himself, all the
brilliant actions of his career which had remained unnoticed, and
mentally attributing to them these unmerited rewards to reconcile them to
The King was about to retrace his steps, when the Due de Beaufort, with
an astonished air, exclaimed:
"But, Sire, have I still the powder in my eyes, or have I been sun-
struck? It appears to me that I see upon yonder bastion several
cavaliers in red uniforms who greatly resemble your light horse whom we
thought to be killed."
The Cardinal knitted his brows.
"Impossible, Monsieur," he said; "the imprudence of Monsieur de Coislin
has destroyed his Majesty's men-at-arms and those cavaliers. It is for
that reason I ventured just now to say to the King that if the useless
corps were suppressed, it might be very advantageous from a military
point of view."
"Pardieu! your Eminence will pardon me," answered the Duc de Beaufort;
"but I do not deceive myself, and there are seven or eight of them
driving prisoners before them."
"Well! let us go to the point," said the King; "if I find my old Coislin
there I shall be very glad."
With great caution, the horses of the King and his suite passed across
the marsh, and with infinite astonishment their riders saw on the
ramparts the two red companies in battle array as on parade.
"Vive Dieu!" cried Louis; "I think that not one of them is missing!
Well, Marquis, you keep your word--you take walls on horseback."
"In my opinion, this point was ill chosen," said Richelieu, with disdain;
"it in no way advances the taking of Perpignan, and must have cost many
"Faith, you are right," said the King, for the first time since the
intelligence of the Queen's death addressing the Cardinal without
dryness; "I regret the blood which must have been spilled here."
"Only two of own young men have been wounded in the attack, Sire," said
old Coislin; "and we have gained new companions-in-arms, in the
volunteers who guided us."
"Who are they?" said the Prince.
"Three of them have modestly retired, Sire; but the youngest, whom you
see, was the first who proposed the assault, and the first to venture his
person in making it. The two companies claim the honor of presenting him
to your Majesty."
Cinq-Mars, who was on horseback behind the old captain, took off his hat
and showed his pale face, his large, dark eyes, and his long, chestnut
"Those features remind me of some one," said the King; "what say you,
The latter, who had already cast a penetrating glance at the newcomer,
"Unless I am mistaken, this young man is--"
"Henri d'Effiat," said the volunteer, bowing.
"Sire, it is the same whom I had announced to your Majesty, and who was
to have been presented to you by me; the second son of the Marechal."
"Ah!" said Louis, warmly," I am glad to see the son of my old friend
presented by this bastion. It is a suitable introduction, my boy, for
one bearing your name. You will follow us to the camp, where we have
much to say to you. But what! you here, Monsieur de Thou? Whom have
you come to judge?"
"Sire," answered Coislin, "he has condemned to death, without judging,
sundry Spaniards, for he was the second to enter the place."
"I struck no one, Monsieur," interrupted De Thou reddening; "it is not my
business. Herein I have no merit; I merely accompanied my friend,
Monsieur de Cinq-Mars."
"We approve your modesty as well as your bravery, and we shall not forget
this. Cardinal, is there not some presidency vacant?"
Richelieu did not like De Thou. And as the sources of his dislike were
always mysterious, it was difficult to guess the cause of this animosity;
it revealed itself in a cruel word that escaped him. The motive was a
passage in the history of the President De Thou--the father of the young
man now in question--wherein he stigmatized, in the eyes of posterity, a
granduncle of the Cardinal, an apostate monk, sullied with every human
Richelieu, bending to Joseph's ear, whispered:
"You see that man; his father put my name into his history. Well, I will
put his into mine." And, truly enough, he subsequently wrote it in
blood. At this moment, to avoid answering the King, he feigned not to
have heard his question, and to be wholly intent upon the merit of Cinq-
Mars and the desire to see him well placed at court.
"I promised you beforehand to make him a captain in my guards," said the
Prince; "let him be nominated to-morrow. I would know more of him, and
raise him to a higher fortune, if he pleases me. Let us now retire; the
sun has set, and we are far from our army. Tell my two good companies to
The minister, after repeating the order, omitting the implied praise,
placed himself on the King's right hand, and the whole court quitted the
bastion, now confided to the care of the Swiss, and returned to the camp.
The two red companies defiled slowly through the breach which they had
effected with such promptitude; their countenances were grave and silent.
Cinq-Mars went up to his friend.
"These are heroes but ill recompensed," said he; "not a favor, not a
"I, on the other hand," said the simple De Thou "I, who came here against
my will--receive one. Such are courts, such is life; but above us is the
true judge, whom men can not blind."
"This will not prevent us from meeting death tomorrow, if necessary,"
said the young Olivier, laughing.
In order to appear before the King, Cinq-Mars had been compelled to mount
the charger of one of the light horse, wounded in the affair, having lost
his own at the foot of the rampart. As the two companies were marching
out, he felt some one touch his shoulder, and, turning round, saw old
Grandchamp leading a very beautiful gray horse.
"Will Monsieur le Marquis mount a horse of his own?" said he. "I have
put on the saddle and housings of velvet embroidered in gold that
remained in the trench. Alas, when I think that a Spaniard might have
taken it, or even a Frenchman! For just now there are so many people who
take all they find, as if it were their own; and then, as the proverb
says, 'What falls in the ditch is for the soldier.' They might also have
taken the four hundred gold crowns that Monsieur le Marquis, be it said
without reproach, forgot to take out of the holsters. And the pistols!
Oh, what pistols! I bought them in Germany; and here they are as good as
ever, and with their locks perfect. It was quite enough to kill the poor
little black horse, that was born in England as sure as I was at Tours in
Touraine, without also exposing these valuables to pass into the hands of
While making this lamentation, the worthy man finished saddling the gray
horse. The column was long enough filing out to give him time to pay
scrupulous attention to the length of the stirrups and of the bands, all
the while continuing his harangue.
"I beg your pardon, Monsieur, for being somewhat slow about this; but I
sprained my arm slightly in lifting Monsieur de Thou, who himself raised
Monsieur le Marquis during the grand scuffle."
"How camest thou there at all, stupid?" said Cinq-Mars. "That is not
thy business. I told thee to remain in the camp."
"Oh, as to remaining in the camp, that is out of the question. I can't
stay there; when I hear a musket-shot, I should be ill did I not see the
flash. As for my business, that is to take care of your horses, and you
are on them. Monsieur, think you I should not have saved, had I been
able, the life of the poor black horse down there in the trench? Ah, how
I loved him!--a horse that gained three races in his time--a time too
short for those who loved him as I loved him! He never would take his
corn but from his dear Grandchamp; and then he would caress me with his
head. The end of my left ear that he carried away one day--poor fellow!
--proves it, for it was not out of ill-will he bit it off; quite the
contrary. You should have heard how he neighed with rage when any one
else came near him; that was the reason why he broke Jean's leg. Good
creature, I loved him so!
"When he fell I held him on one side with one hand and M. de Locmaria
with the other. I thought at first that both he and that gentleman would
recover; but unhappily only one of them returned to life, and that was he
whom I least knew. You seem to be laughing at what I say about your
horse, Monsieur; you forget that in times of war the horse is the soul of
the cavalier. Yes, Monsieur, his soul; for what is it that intimidates
the infantry? It is the horse! It certainly is not the man, who, once
seated, is little more than a bundle of hay. Who is it that performs the
fine deeds that men admire? The horse. There are times when his master,
who a moment before would rather have been far away, finds himself
victorious and rewarded for his horse's valor, while the poor beast gets
nothing but blows. Who is it gains the prize in the race? The horse,
that sups hardly better than usual, while the master pockets the gold,
and is envied by his friends and admired by all the lords as if he had
run himself. Who is it that hunts the roebuck, yet puts but a morsel in
his own mouth? Again, the horse; sometimes the horse is even eaten
himself, poor animal! I remember in a campaign with Monsieur le
Marechal, it happened that-- But what is the matter, Monsieur, you grow
"Bind up my leg with something--a handkerchief, a strap, or what you
will. I feel a burning pain there; I know not what."
"Your boot is cut, Monsieur. It may be some ball; however, lead is the
friend of man."
"It is no friend of mine, at all events."
"Ah, who loves, chastens! Lead must not be ill spoken of!
What is that--"
While occupied in binding his master's leg below the knee, the worthy
Grandchamp was about to hold forth in praise of lead as absurdly as he
had in praise of the horse, when he was forced, as well as Cinq-Mars, to
hear a warm and clamorous dispute among some Swiss soldiers who had
remained behind the other troops. They were talking with much
gesticulation, and seemed busied with two men among a group of about
D'Effiat, still holding out his leg to his servant, and leaning on the
saddle of his horse, tried, by listening attentively, to understand the
subject of the colloquy; but he knew nothing of German, and could not
comprehend the dispute. Grandchamp, who, still holding the boot, had
also been listening very seriously, suddenly burst into loud laughter,
holding his sides in a manner not usual with him.
"Ha, ha, ha! Monsieur, here are two sergeants disputing which they ought
to hang of the two Spaniards there; for your red comrades did not take
the trouble to tell them. One of the Swiss says that it's the officer,
the other that it's the soldier; a third has just made a proposition for
meeting the difficulty."
"And what does he say?"
"He suggests that they hang them both."
"Stop! stop!" cried Cinq-Mars to the soldiers, attempting to walk; but
his leg would not support him.
"Put me on my horse, Grandchamp."
"Monsieur, you forget your wound."
"Do as I command, and then mount thyself."
The old servant grumblingly obeyed, and then galloped off, in fulfilment
of another imperative order, to stop the Swiss, who were just about to
hang their two prisoners to a tree, or to let them hang themselves; for
the officer, with the sang-froid of his nation, had himself passed the
running noose of a rope around his own neck, and, without being told, had
ascended a small ladder placed against the tree, in order to tie the
other end of the rope to one of its branches. The soldier, with the same
calm indifference, was looking on at the Swiss disputing around him,
while holding the ladder.
Cinq-Mars arrived in time to save them, gave his name to the Swiss
sergeant, and, employing Grandchamp as interpreter, said that the two
prisoners were his, and that he would take them to his tent; that he was
a captain in the guards, and would be responsible for them. The German,
ever exact in discipline, made no reply; the only resistance was on the
part of the prisoner. The officer, still on the top of the ladder,
turned round, and speaking thence as from a pulpit, said, with a sardonic
"I should much like to know what you do here? Who told you I wished to
"I do not ask to know anything about that," said Cinq-Mars; "it matters
not to me what becomes of you afterward. All I propose now is to prevent
an act which seems to me unjust and cruel. You may kill yourself
afterward, if you like."
"Well said," returned the ferocious Spaniard; "you please me. I thought
at first you meant to affect the generous in order to oblige me to be
grateful, which is a thing I detest. Well, I consent to come down; but I
shall hate you as much as ever, for you are a Frenchman. Nor do I thank
you, for you only discharge a debt you owe me, since it was I who this
morning kept you from being shot by this young soldier while he was
taking aim at you; and he is a man who never missed a chamois in the
mountains of Leon."
"Be it as you will," said Cinq-Mars; "come down."
It was his character ever to assume with others the mien they wore toward
him; and the rudeness of the Spaniard made him as hard as iron toward
"A proud rascal that, Monsieur," said Grandchamp; "in your place Monsieur
le Marechal would certainly have left him on his ladder. Come, Louis,
Etienne, Germain, escort Monsieur's prisoners--a fine acquisition, truly!
If they bring you any luck, I shall be very much surprised."
Cinq-Mars, suffering from the motion of his horse, rode only at the pace
of his prisoners on foot, and was accordingly at a distance behind the
red companies, who followed close upon the King. He meditated on his way
what it could be that the Prince desired to say to him. A ray of hope
presented to his mind the figure of Marie de Mantua in the distance; and
for a moment his thoughts were calmed. But all his future lay in that
brief sentence--"to please the King"; and he began to reflect upon all
the bitterness in which his task might involve him.
At that moment he saw approaching his friend, De Thou, who, anxious at
his remaining behind, had sought him in the plain, eager to aid him if
"It is late, my friend; night approaches. You have delayed long; I
feared for you. Whom have you here? What has detained you? The King
will soon be asking for you."
Such were the rapid inquiries of the young counsellor, whose anxiety,
more than the battle itself, had made him lose his accustomed serenity.
"I was slightly wounded; I bring a prisoner, and I was thinking of the
King. What can he want me for, my friend? What must I do if he proposes
to place me about his person? I must please him; and at this thought--
shall I own it?--I am tempted to fly. But I trust that I shall not have
that fatal honor. 'To please,' how humiliating the word! 'to obey'
quite the opposite! A soldier runs the chance of death, and there's an
end. But in what base compliances, what sacrifices of himself, what
compositions with his conscience, what degradation of his own thought,
may not a courtier be involved! Ah, De Thou, my dear De Thou! I am not
made for the court; I feel it, though I have seen it but for a moment.
There is in my temperament a certain savageness, which education has
polished only on the surface. At a distance, I thought myself adapted to
live in this all-powerful world; I even desired it, led by a cherished
hope of my heart. But I shuddered at the first step; I shuddered at the
mere sight of the Cardinal. The recollection of the last of his crimes,
at which I was present, kept me from addressing him. He horrifies me;
I never can endure to be near him. The King's favor, too, has that about
it which dismays me, as if I knew it would be fatal to me."
"I am glad to perceive this apprehension in you; it may be most
salutary," said De Thou, as they rode on. "You are about to enter into
contact with power. Before, you did not even conceive it; now you will
touch it with your very hand. You will see what it is, and what hand
hurls the lightning. Heaven grant that that lightning may never strike
you! You will probably be present in those councils which regulate the
destiny of nations; you will see, you will perchance originate, those
caprices whence are born sanguinary wars, conquests, and treaties; you
will hold in your hand the drop of water which swells into mighty
torrents. It is only from high places that men can judge of human
affairs; you must look from the mountaintop ere you can appreciate the
littleness of those things which from below appear to us great."
"Ah, were I on those heights, I should at least learn the lesson you
speak of; but this Cardinal, this man to whom I must be under obligation,
this man whom I know too well by his works--what will he be to me?"
"A friend, a protector, no doubt," answered De Thou.
"Death were a thousand times preferable to his friendship! I hate his
whole being, even his very name; he spills the blood of men with the
cross of the Redeemer!"
"What horrors are you saying, my friend? You will ruin yourself if you
reveal your sentiments respecting the Cardinal to the King."
"Never mind; in the midst of these tortuous ways, I desire to take a new
one, the right line. My whole opinion, the opinion of a just man, shall
be unveiled to the King himself, if he interrogate me, even should it
cost me my head. I have at last seen this King, who has been described
to me as so weak; I have seen him, and his aspect has touched me to the
heart in spite of myself. Certainly, he is very unfortunate, but he can
not be cruel; he will listen to the truth."
"Yes; but he will not dare to make it triumph," answered the sage De
Thou. "Beware of this warmth of heart, which often draws you by sudden
and dangerous movements. Do not attack a colossus like Richelieu without
having measured him."
"That is just like my tutor, the Abbe Quillet. My dear and prudent
friend, neither the one nor the other of you know me; you do not know how
weary I am of myself, and whither I have cast my gaze. I must mount or
"What! already ambitious?" exclaimed De Thou, with extreme surprise.
His friend inclined his head upon his hands, abandoning the reins of his
horse, and did not answer.
"What! has this selfish passion of a riper age obtained possession of you
at twenty, Henri? Ambition is the saddest of all hopes."
"And yet it possesses me entirely at present, for I see only by means of
it, and by it my whole heart is penetrated."
"Ah, Cinq-Mars, I no longer recognize you! how different you were
formerly! I do not conceal from you that you appear to me to have
degenerated. In those walks of our childhood, when the life, and, above
all, the death of Socrates, caused tears of admiration and envy to flow
from our eyes; when, raising ourselves to the ideal of the highest
virtue, we wished that those illustrious sorrows, those sublime
misfortunes, which create great men, might in the future come upon us;
when we constructed for ourselves imaginary occasions of sacrifices and
devotion--if the voice of a man had pronounced, between us two, the
single world, 'ambition,' we should have believed that we were touching a
De Thou spoke with the heat of enthusiasm and of reproach. Cinq-Mars
went on without answering, and still with his face in his hands. After
an instant of silence he removed them, and allowed his eyes to be seen,
full of generous tears. He pressed the hand of his friend warmly, and
said to him, with a penetrating accent:
"Monsieur de Thou, you have recalled to me the most beautiful thoughts of
my earliest youth. Do not believe that I have fallen; I am consumed by a
secret hope which I can not confide even to you. I despise, as much as
you, the ambition which will seem to possess me. All the world will
believe in it; but what do I care for the world? As for you, noble
friend, promise me that you will not cease to esteem me, whatever you may
see me do. I swear that my thoughts are as pure as heaven itself!"
"Well," said De Thou, "I swear by heaven that I believe you blindly; you
give me back my life!"
They shook hands again with effusion of heart, and then perceived that
they had arrived almost before the tent of the King.
Day was nearly over; but one might have believed that a softer day was
rising, for the moon issued from the sea in all her splendor. The
transparent sky of the south showed not a single cloud, and it seemed
like a veil of pale blue sown with silver spangles; the air, still hot,
was agitated only by the rare passage of breezes from the Mediterranean;
and all sounds had ceased upon the earth. The fatigued army reposed
beneath their tents, the line of which was marked by the fires, and the
besieged city seemed oppressed by the same slumber; upon its ramparts
nothing was to be seen but the arms of the sentinels, which shone in the
rays of the moon, or the wandering fire of the night-rounds. Nothing was
to be heard but the gloomy and prolonged cries of its guards, who warned
one another not to sleep.
It was only around the King that all things waked, but at a great
distance from him. This Prince had dismissed all his suite; he walked
alone before his tent, and, pausing sometimes to contemplate the beauty
of the heavens, he appeared plunged in melancholy meditation. No one
dared to interrupt him; and those of the nobility who had remained in the
royal quarters had gathered about the Cardinal, who, at twenty paces from
the King, was seated upon a little hillock of turf, fashioned into a seat
by the soldiers. There he wiped his pale forehead, fatigued with the
cares of the day and with the unaccustomed weight of a suit of armor; he
bade adieu, in a few hurried but always attentive and polite words, to
those who came to salute him as they retired. No one was near him now
except Joseph, who was talking with Laubardemont. The Cardinal was
looking at the King, to see whether, before reentering, this Prince would
not speak to him, when the sound of the horses of Cinq-Mars was heard.
The Cardinal's guards questioned him, and allowed him to advance without
followers, and only with De Thou.
"You are come too late, young man, to speak with the King," said the
Cardinal-Duke with a sharp voice. "One can not make his Majesty wait."
The two friends were about to retire, when the voice of Louis XIII
himself made itself heard. This Prince was at that moment in one of
those false positions which constituted the misfortune of his whole life.
Profoundly irritated against his minister, but not concealing from
himself that he owed the success of the day to him, desiring, moreover,
to announce to him his intention to quit the army and to raise the siege
of Perpignan, he was torn between the desire of speaking to the Cardinal
and the fear lest his anger might be weakened. The minister, upon his
part, dared not be the first to speak, being uncertain as to the thoughts
which occupied his master, and fearing to choose his time ill, but yet
not able to decide upon retiring. Both found themselves precisely in the
position of two lovers who have quarrelled and desire to have an
explanation, when the King, seized with joy the first opportunity of
extricating himself. The chance was fatal to the minister. See upon
what trifles depend those destinies which are called great.
"Is it not Monsieur de Cinq-Mars?" said the King, in a loud voice.
"Let him approach; I am waiting for him."
Young D'Effiat approached on horseback, and at some paces from the King
desired to set foot to earth; but hardly had his leg touched the ground
when he dropped upon his knees.
"Pardon, Sire!" said he, "I believe that I am wounded;" and the blood
issued violently from his boot.
De Thou had seen him fall, and had approached to sustain him. Richelieu
seized this opportunity of advancing also, with dissembled eagerness.
"Remove this spectacle from the eyes of the King," said he. "You see
very well that this young man is dying."
"Not at all," said Louis, himself supporting him; "a king of France knows
how to see a man die, and has no fear of the blood which flows for him.
This young man interests me. Let him be carried into my tent, and let my
doctors attend him. If his wound is not serious, he shall come with me
to Paris, for the siege is suspended, Monsieur le Cardinal. Such is my
desire; other affairs call me to the centre of the kingdom. I will leave
you here to command in my absence. This is what I desired to say to
With these words the King went abruptly into his tent, preceded by his
pages and his officers, carrying flambeaux.
The royal pavilion was closed, and Cinq-Mars was borne in by De Thou and
his people, while the Duc de Richelieu, motionless and stupefied, still
regarded the spot where this scene had passed. He appeared thunder-
struck, and incapable of seeing or hearing those who observed him.
Laubardemont, still intimidated by his ill reception of the preceding
day, dared not speak a word to him, and Joseph hardly recognized in him
his former master. For an instant he regretted having given himself to
him, and fancied that his star was waning; but, reflecting that he was
hated by all men and had no resource save in Richelieu, he seized him by
the arm, and, shaking him roughly, said to him in a low voice, but
"Come, come, Monseigneur, you are chickenhearted; come with us."
And, appearing to sustain him by the elbow, but in fact drawing him in
spite of himself, with the aid of Laubardemont, he made him enter his
tent, as a schoolmaster forces a schoolboy to rest, fearing the effects
of the evening mist upon him.
The prematurely aged man slowly obeyed the wishes of his two parasites,
and the purple of the pavilion dropped upon him.
O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!
The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight,
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