Arthur Conan Doyle
Part 2 out of 8
year by incredible labour from St. Germain and Fontainebleau. Beyond
this point a small gate led out of the grounds, and it was through it
that the two passed, the elder man puffing and panting with this unusual
"How did you come, uncle?"
"In a caleche."
"Where is it?"
"That is it, beyond the auberge."
"Come, let us make for it."
"And you, Amory, are you coming?"
"My faith, it is time that I came, from what you tell me. There is room
for a man with a sword at his side in this establishment of yours."
"But what would you do?"
"I would have a word with this Captain Dalbert."
"Then I have wronged you, nephew, when I said even now that you were not
whole-hearted towards Israel."
"I know not about Israel," cried De Catinat impatiently. "I only know
that if my Adele chose to worship the thunder like an Abenaqui squaw, or
turned her innocent prayers to the Mitche Manitou, I should like to set
eyes upon the man who would dare to lay a hand upon her. Ha, here comes
our caleche! Whip up, driver, and five livres to you if you pass the
gate of the Invalides within the hour."
It was no light matter to drive fast in an age of springless carriages
and deeply rutted roads, but the driver lashed at his two rough
unclipped horses, and the caleche jolted and clattered upon its way. As
they sped on, with the road-side trees dancing past the narrow windows,
and the white dust streaming behind them, the guardsman drummed his
fingers upon his knees, and fidgeted in his seat with impatience,
shooting an occasional question across at his grim companion.
"When was all this, then?"
"It was yesterday night."
"And where is Adele now?"
"She is at home."
"And this Dalbert?"
"Oh, he is there also!"
"What! you have left her in his power while you came away to
"She is locked in her room."
"Pah! what is a lock?" The young man raved with his hands in the air at
the thought of his own impotence.
"And Pierre is there?"
"He is useless."
"And Amos Green."
"Ah, that is better. He is a man, by the look of him."
"His mother was one of our own folk from Staten Island, near Manhattan.
She was one of those scattered lambs who fled early before the wolves,
when first it was seen that the king's hand waxed heavy upon Israel.
He speaks French, and yet he is neither French to the eye, nor are his
ways like our ways."
"He has chosen an evil time for his visit."
"Some wise purpose may lie hid in it."
"And you have left him in the house?"
"Yes; he was sat with this Dalbert, smoking with him, and telling him
"What guard could he be? He is a stranger in a strange land. You did
ill to leave Adele thus, uncle."
"She is in God's hands, Amory."
"I trust so. Oh, I am on fire to be there!"
He thrust his head through the cloud of dust which rose from the wheels,
and craned his neck to look upon the long curving river and broad-spread
city, which was already visible before them, half hid by a thin blue
haze, through which shot the double tower of Notre Dame, with the high
spire of St. Jacques and a forest of other steeples and minarets, the
monuments of eight hundred years of devotion. Soon, as the road curved
down to the river-bank, the city wall grew nearer and nearer, until they
had passed the southern gate, and were rattling over the stony causeway,
leaving the broad Luxembourg upon their right, and Colbert's last work,
the Invalides, upon their left. A sharp turn brought them on to the
river quays, and crossing over the Pont Neuf, they skirted the stately
Louvre, and plunged into the labyrinth of narrow but important streets
which extended to the northward. The young officer had his head still
thrust out of the window, but his view was obscured by a broad gilded
carriage which lumbered heavily along in front of them. As the road
broadened, however, it swerved to one side, and he was able to catch a
glimpse of the house to which they were making.
It was surrounded on every side by an immense crowd.
A HOUSE OF STRIFE.
The house of the Huguenot merchant was a tall, narrow building standing
at the corner of the Rue St. Martin and the Rue de Biron. It was four
stories in height, grim and grave like its owner, with high peaked roof,
long diamond-paned windows, a frame-work of black wood, with gray
plaster filling the interstices, and five stone steps which led up to
the narrow and sombre door. The upper story was but a warehouse in
which the trader kept his stock, but the second and third were furnished
with balconies edged with stout wooden balustrades. As the uncle and
the nephew sprang out of the caleche, they found themselves upon the
outskirts of a dense crowd of people, who were swaying and tossing with
excitement, their chins all thrown forwards and their gaze directed
upwards. Following their eyes, the young officer saw a sight which left
him standing bereft of every sensation save amazement.
From the upper balcony there was hanging head downwards a man clad in
the bright blue coat and white breeches of one of the king's dragoons.
His hat and wig had dropped off, and his close-cropped head swung slowly
backwards and forwards a good fifty feet above the pavement. His face
was turned towards the street, and was of a deadly whiteness, while his
eyes were screwed up as though he dared not open them upon the horror
which faced them. His voice, however, resounded over the whole place
until the air was filled with his screams for mercy.
Above him, at the corner of the balcony, there stood a young man who
leaned with a bent back over the balustrades, and who held the dangling
dragoon by either ankle. His face, however, was not directed towards
his victim, but was half turned over his shoulder to confront a group of
soldiers who were clustering at the long, open window which led out into
the balcony. His head, as he glanced at them, was poised with a proud
air of defiance, while they surged and oscillated in the opening,
uncertain whether to rush on or to retire.
Suddenly the crowd gave a groan of excitement. The young man had
released his grip upon one of the ankles, and the dragoon hung now by
one only, his other leg flapping helplessly in the air. He grabbed
aimlessly with his hands at the wall and the wood-work behind him, still
yelling at the pitch of his lungs.
"Pull me up, son of the devil, pull me up!" he screamed. "Would you
murder me, then? Help, good people, help!"
"Do you want to come up, captain?" said the strong clear voice of the
young man above him, speaking excellent French, but in an accent which
fell strangely upon the ears of the crowd beneath.
"Yes, sacred name of God, yes!"
"Order off your men, then."
"Away, you dolts, you imbeciles! Do you wish to see me dashed to
pieces? Away, I say! Off with you!"
"That is better," said the youth, when the soldiers had vanished from
the window. He gave a tug at the dragoon's leg as he spoke, which
jerked him up so far that he could twist round and catch hold of the
lower edge of the balcony. "How do you find yourself now?" he asked.
"Hold me, for heaven's sake, hold me!"
"I have you quite secure."
"Then pull me up!"
"Not so fast, captain. You can talk very well where you are."
"Let me up, sir, let me up!"
"All in good time. I fear that it is inconvenient to you to talk with
your heels in the air."
"Ah, you would murder me!"
"On the contrary, I am going to pull you up."
"Heaven bless you!"
"But only on conditions."
"Oh, they are granted! I am slipping!"
"You will leave this house--you and your men. You will not trouble this
old man or this young girl any further. Do you promise?"
"Oh yes; we shall go."
"Word of honour?"
"Certainly. Only pull me up!"
"Not so fast. It may be easier to talk to you like this. I do not know
how the laws are over here. Maybe this sort of thing is not permitted.
You will promise me that I shall have no trouble over the matter."
"None, none. Only pull me up!"
"Very good. Come along!"
He dragged at the dragoon's leg while the other gripped his way up the
balustrade until, amid a buzz of congratulation from the crowd, he
tumbled all in a heap over the rail on to the balcony, where he lay for
a few moments as he had fallen. Then staggering to his feet, without a
glance at his opponent, he rushed, with a bellow of rage, through the
While this little drama had been enacted overhead, the young guardsman
had shaken off his first stupor of amazement, and had pushed his way
through the crowd with such vigour that he and his companion had nearly
reached the bottom of the steps. The uniform of the king's guard was in
itself a passport anywhere, and the face of old Catinat was so well
known in the district that everyone drew back to clear a path for him
towards his house. The door was flung open for them, and an old servant
stood wringing his hands in the dark passage.
"Oh, master! Oh, master!" he cried.
"Such doings, such infamy! They will murder him!"
"This brave monsieur from America. Oh, my God, hark to them now!"
As he spoke, a clatter and shouting which had burst out again upstairs
ended suddenly in a tremendous crash, with volleys of oaths and a
prolonged bumping and smashing, which shook the old house to its
foundations. The soldier and the Huguenot rushed swiftly up the first
flight of stairs, and were about to ascend the second one, from the head
of which the uproar seemed to proceed, when a great eight-day clock came
hurtling down, springing four steps at a time, and ending with a leap
across the landing and a crash against the wall, which left it a
shattered heap of metal wheels and wooden splinters. An instant
afterwards four men, so locked together that they formed but one rolling
bundle, came thudding down amid a _debris_ of splintered stair-rails,
and writhed and struggled upon the landing, staggering up, falling down,
and all breathing together like the wind in a chimney. So twisted and
twined were they that it was hard to pick one from the other, save that
the innermost was clad in black Flemish cloth, while the three who clung
to him were soldiers of the king. Yet so strong and vigorous was the
man whom they tried to hold that as often as he could find his feet he
dragged them after him from end to end of the passage, as a boar might
pull the curs which had fastened on to his haunches. An officer, who
had rushed down at the heels of the brawlers, thrust his hands in to
catch the civilian by the throat, but he whipped them back again with an
oath as the man's strong white teeth met in his left thumb. Clapping
the wound to his mouth, he flashed out his sword and was about to drive
it through the body of his unarmed opponent, when De Catinat sprang
forward and caught him by the wrist.
"You villain, Dalbert!" he cried.
The sudden appearance of one of the king's own bodyguard had a magic
effect upon the brawlers. Dalbert sprang back, with his thumb still in
his mouth, and his sword drooping, scowling darkly at the new-comer.
His long sallow face was distorted with anger, and his small black eyes
blazed with passion and with the hell-fire light of unsatisfied
vengeance. His troopers had released their victim, and stood panting in
a line, while the young man leaned against the wall, brushing the dust
from his black coat, and looking from his rescuer to his antagonists.
"I had a little account to settle with you before, Dalbert," said
De Catinat, unsheathing his rapier.
"I am on the king's errand," snarled the other.
"No doubt. On guard, sir!"
"I am here on duty, I tell you!"
"Very good. Your sword, sir!"
"I have no quarrel with you."
"No?" De Catinat stepped forward and struck him across the face with his
open hand. "It seems to me that you have one now," said he.
"Hell and furies!" screamed the captain. "To your arms, men! _Hola_,
there, from above! Cut down this fellow, and seize your prisoner!
_Hola_! In the king's name!"
At his call a dozen more troopers came hurrying down the stairs, while
the three upon the landing advanced upon their former antagonist.
He slipped by them, however, and caught out of the old merchant's hand
the thick oak stick which he carried.
"I am with you, sir," said he, taking his place beside the guardsman.
"Call off your canaille, and fight me like a gentleman," cried
"A gentleman! Hark to the bourgeois Huguenot, whose family peddles
"You coward! I will write liar on you with my sword-point!"
He sprang forward, and sent in a thrust which might have found its way
to Dalbert's heart had the heavy sabre of a dragoon not descended from
the side and shorn his more delicate weapon short off close to the hilt.
With a shout of triumph, his enemy sprang furiously upon him with his
rapier shortened, but was met by a sharp blow from the cudgel of the
young stranger which sent his weapon tinkling on to the ground. A
trooper, however, on the stair had pulled out a pistol, and clapping it
within a foot of the guardsman's head, was about to settle the combat,
once and forever, when a little old gentleman, who had quietly ascended
from the street, and who had been looking on with an amused and
interested smile at this fiery sequence of events, took a sudden step
forward, and ordered all parties to drop their weapons with a voice so
decided, so stern, and so full of authority, that the sabre points all
clinked down together upon the parquet flooring as though it were a part
of their daily drill.
"Upon my word, gentlemen, upon my word!" said he, looking sternly from
one to the other. He was a very small, dapper man, as thin as a
herring, with projecting teeth and a huge drooping many-curled wig,
which cut off the line of his skinny neck and the slope of his narrow
shoulders. His dress was a long overcoat of mouse-coloured velvet
slashed with gold, beneath which were high leather boots, which, with
his little gold-laced, three-cornered hat, gave a military tinge to his
appearance. In his gait and bearing he had a dainty strut and backward
cock of the head, which, taken with his sharp black eyes, his high thin
features, and his assured manner, would impress a stranger with the
feeling that this was a man of power. And, indeed, in France or out of
it there were few to whom this man's name was not familiar, for in all
France the only figure which loomed up as large as that of the king was
this very little gentleman who stood now, with gold snuff-box in one
hand, and deep-laced handkerchief in the other, upon the landing of the
Huguenot's house. For who was there who did not know the last of the
great French nobles, the bravest of French captains, the beloved Conde,
victor of Recroy and hero of the Fronde? At the sight of his pinched,
sallow face the dragoons and their leader had stood staring, while De
Catinat raised the stump of his sword in a salute.
"Heh, heh!" cried the old soldier, peering at him.
"You were with me on the Rhine--heh? I know your face, captain.
But the household was with Turenne."
"I was in the regiment of Picardy, your Highness. De Catinat is my
"Yes, yes. But you, sir, who the devil are you?"
"Captain Dalbert, your Highness, of the Languedoc Blue Dragoons."
"Heh! I was passing in my carriage, and I saw you standing on your head
in the air. The young man let you up on conditions, as I understood."
"He swore he would go from the house," cried the young stranger.
"Yet when I had let him up, he set his men upon me, and we all came
"My faith, you seem to have left little behind you," said Conde,
smiling, as he glanced at the litter which was strewed all over the
floor. "And so you broke your parole, Captain Dalbert?"
"I could not hold treaty with a Huguenot and an enemy of the king," said
the dragoon sulkily.
"You could hold treaty, it appears, but not keep it. And why did you
let him go, sir, when you had him at such a vantage?"
"I believed his promise."
"You must be of a trusting nature."
"I have been used to deal with Indians."
"Heh! And you think an Indian's word is better than that of an officer
in the king's dragoons?"
"I did not think so an hour ago."
"Hem!" Conde took a large pinch of snuff, and brushed the wandering
grains from his velvet coat with his handkerchief of point.
"You are very strong, monsieur," said he, glancing keenly at the broad
shoulders and arching chest of the young stranger. "You are from
Canada, I presume?"
"I have been there, sir. But I am from New York."
Conde shook his head. "An island?"
"No, sir; a town."
"In what province?"
"The province of New York."
"The chief town, then?"
"Nay; Albany is the chief town."
"And how came you to speak French?"
"My mother was of French blood."
"And how long have you been in Paris?"
"Heh! And you already begin to throw your mother's country-folk out of
"He was annoying a young maid, sir, and I asked him to stop, whereon he
whipped out his sword, and would have slain me had I not closed with
him, upon which he called upon his fellows to aid him. To keep them
off, I swore that I would drop him over if they moved a step. Yet when
I let him go, they set upon me again, and I know not what the end might
have been had this gentleman not stood my friend."
"Hem! You did very well. You are young, but you have resource."
"I was reared in the woods, sir."
"If there are many of your kidney, you may give my friend De Frontenac
some work ere he found this empire of which he talks. But how is this,
Captain Dalbert? What have you to say?"
"The king's orders, your Highness."
"Heh! Did he order you to molest the girl? I have never yet heard that
his Majesty erred by being too _harsh_ with a woman." He gave a little
dry chuckle in his throat, and took another pinch of snuff.
"The orders are, your Highness, to use every means which may drive these
people into the true Church."
"On my word, you look a very fine apostle and a pretty champion for a
holy cause," said Conde, glancing sardonically out of his twinkling
black eyes at the brutal face of the dragoon. "Take your men out of
this, sir, and never venture to set your foot again across this
"But the king's command, your Highness."
"I will tell the king when I see him that I left soldiers and that I
find brigands. Not a word, sir! Away! You take your shame with you,
and you leave your honour behind." He had turned in an instant from the
sneering, strutting old beau to the fierce soldier with set face and eye
of fire. Dalbert shrank back from his baleful gaze, and muttering an
order to his men, they filed off down the stair with clattering feet and
clank of sabres.
"Your Highness," said the old Huguenot, coming forward and throwing open
one of the doors which led from the landing, "you have indeed been a
saviour of Israel and a stumbling-block to the froward this day. Will
you not deign to rest under my roof, and even to take a cup of wine ere
you go onwards?"
Conde raised his thick eyebrows at the scriptural fashion of the
merchant's speech, but he bowed courteously to the invitation, and
entered the chamber, looking around him in surprise and admiration at
its magnificence. With its panelling of dark shining oak, its polished
floor, its stately marble chimney-piece, and its beautifully moulded
ceiling, it was indeed a room which might have graced a palace.
"My carriage waits below," said he, "and I must not delay longer. It is
not often that I leave my castle of Chantilly to come to Paris, and it
was a fortunate chance which made me pass in time to be of service to
honest men. When a house hangs out such a sign as an officer of
dragoons with his heels in the air, it is hard to drive past without a
question. But I fear that as long as you are a Huguenot, there will be
no peace for you in France, monsieur."
"The law is indeed heavy upon us."
"And will be heavier if what I hear from court is correct. I wonder
that you do not fly the country."
"My business and my duty lie here."
"Well, every man knows his own affairs best. Would it not be wise to
bend to the storm, heh?"
The Huguenot gave a gesture of horror.
"Well, well, I meant no harm. And where is this fair maid who has been
the cause of the broil?"
"Where is Adele, Pierre?" asked the merchant of the old servant, who had
carried in the silver tray with a squat flask and tinted Venetian
"I locked her in my room, master."
"And where is she now?"
"I am here, father." The young girl sprang into the room, and threw her
arms round the old merchant's neck. "Oh, I trust these wicked men have
not hurt you, love!"
"No, no, dear child; none of us have been hurt, thanks to his Highness
the Prince of Conde here."
Adele raised her eyes, and quickly drooped them again before the keen
questioning gaze of the old soldier. "May God reward your Highness!"
she stammered. In her confusion the blood rushed to her face, which was
perfect in feature and expression. With her sweet delicate contour, her
large gray eyes, and the sweep of the lustrous hair, setting off with
its rich tint the little shell-like ears and the alabaster whiteness of
the neck and throat, even Conde, who had seen all the beauties of three
courts and of sixty years defile before him, stood staring in admiration
at the Huguenot maiden.
"Heh! On my word, mademoiselle, you make me wish that I could wipe forty
years from my account." He bowed, and sighed in the fashion that was in
vogue when Buckingham came to the wooing of Anne of Austria, and the
dynasty of cardinals was at its height.
"France could ill spare those forty years, your Highness."
"Heh, heh! So quick of tongue too? Your daughter has a courtly wit,
"God forbid, your Highness! She is as pure and good--"
"Nay, that is but a sorry compliment to the court. Surely,
mademoiselle, you would love to go out into the great world, to hear
sweet music, see all that is lovely, and wear all that is costly, rather
than look out ever upon the Rue St. Martin, and bide in this great dark
house until the roses wither upon your cheeks."
"Where my father is, I am happy at his side," said she, putting her two
hands upon his sleeve. "I ask nothing more than I have got."
"And I think it best that you go up to your room again," said the old
merchant shortly, for the prince, in spite of his age, bore an evil name
among women. He had come close to her as he spoke, and had even placed
one yellow hand upon her shrinking arm, while his little dark eyes
twinkled with an ominous light.
"Tut, tut!" said he, as she hastened to obey. "You need not fear for
your little dove. This hawk, at least, is far past the stoop, however
tempting the quarry. But indeed, I can see that she is as good as she
is fair, and one could not say more than that if she were from heaven
direct. My carriage waits, gentlemen, and I wish you all a very good
day!" He inclined his be-wigged head, and strutted off in his dainty,
dandified fashion. From the window De Catinat could see him slip into
the same gilded chariot which had stood in his way as he drove from
"By my faith," said he, turning to the young American, "we all owe
thanks to the prince, but it seems to me, sir, that we are your debtors
even more. You have risked your life for my cousin, and but for your
cudgel, Dalbert would have had his blade through me when he had me at a
vantage. Your hand, sir! These are things which a man cannot forget."
"Ay, you may well thank him, Amory," broke in the old Huguenot, who had
returned after escorting his illustrious guest to the carriage. "He has
been raised up as a champion for the afflicted, and as a helper for
those who are in need. An old man's blessing upon you, Amos Green, for
my own son could not have done for me more than you, a stranger."
But their young visitor appeared to be more embarrassed by their thanks
than by any of his preceding adventures. The blood flushed to his
weather-tanned, clear-cut face, as smooth as that of a boy, and yet
marked by a firmness of lip and a shrewdness in the keen blue eyes
which spoke of a strong and self-reliant nature.
"I have a mother and two sisters over the water," said he diffidently.
"And you honour women for their sake?"
"We always honour women over there. Perhaps it is that we have so few.
Over in these old countries you have not learned what it is to be
without them. I have been away up the lakes for furs, living for months
on end the life of a savage among the wigwams of the Sacs and the Foxes,
foul livers and foul talkers, ever squatting like toads around their
fires. Then when I have come back to Albany where my folk then dwelt,
and have heard my sisters play upon the spinet and sing, and my mother
talk to us of the France of her younger days and of her childhood, and
of all that they had suffered for what they thought was right, then I
have felt what a good woman is, and how, like the sunshine, she draws
out of one's soul all that is purest and best."
"Indeed, the ladies should be very much obliged to monsieur, who is as
eloquent as he is brave," said Adele Catinat, who, standing in the open
door, had listened to the latter part of his remarks.
He had forgotten himself for the instant, and had spoken freely and with
energy. At the sight of the girl, however, he coloured up again, and
cast down his eyes.
"Much of my life has been spent in the woods," said he, "and one speaks
so little there that one comes to forget how to do it. It was for this
that my father wished me to stay some time in France, for he would not
have me grow up a mere trapper and trader."
"And how long do you stop in Paris?" asked the guardsman.
"Until Ephraim Savage comes for me."
"And who is he?"
"The master of the _Golden Rod_."
"And that is your ship?"
"My father's ship. She has been to Bristol, is now at Rouen, and then
must go to Bristol again. When she comes back once more, Ephraim comes
to Paris for me, and it will be time for me to go."
"And how like you Paris?"
The young man smiled. "They told me ere I came that it was a very
lively place, and truly from the little that I have seen this morning, I
think that it is the liveliest place that I have seen."
"By my faith," said De Catinat, "you came down those stairs in a very
lively fashion, four of you together with a Dutch clock as an
_avant-courier_, and a whole train of wood-work at your heels. And you
have not seen the city yet?"
"Only as I journeyed through it yester-evening on my way to this house.
It is a wondrous place, but I was pent in for lack of air as I passed
through it. New York is a great city. There are said to be as many as
three thousand folk living there, and they say that they could send out
four hundred fighting-men, though I can scarce bring myself to believe
it. Yet from all parts of the city one may see something of God's
handiwork--the trees, the green of the grass, and the shine of the sun
upon the bay and the rivers. But here it is stone and wood, and wood
and stone, look where you will. In truth, you must be very hardy people
to keep your health in such a place."
"And to us it is you who seem so hardy, with your life in the forest and
on the river," cried the young girl. "And then the wonder that you can
find your path through those great wildernesses, where there is naught
to guide you."
"Well, there again! I marvel how you can find your way among these
thousands of houses. For myself, I trust that it will be a clear night
"That I may see the stars."
"But you will find no change in them."
"That is it. If I can but see the stars, it will be easy for me to know
how to walk when I would find this house again. In the daytime I can
carry a knife and notch the door-posts as I pass, for it might be hard
to pick up one's trail again, with so many folk ever passing over it."
De Catinat burst out laughing again. "By my faith, you will find Paris
livelier than ever," said he, "if you blaze your way through on the
door-posts as you would on the trees of a forest. But perchance it
would be as well that you should have a guide at first; so, if you have
two horses ready in your stables, uncle, our friend and I might shortly
ride back to Versailles together, for I have a spell of guard again
before many hours are over. Then for some days he might bide with me
there, if he will share a soldier's quarters, and so see more than the
Rue St. Martin can offer. How would that suit you, Monsieur Green?"
"I should be right glad to come out with you, if we may leave all here
"Oh, fear not for that," said the Huguenot. "The order of the Prince of
Conde will be as a shield and a buckler to us for many a day. I will
order Pierre to saddle the horses."
"And I must use the little time I have," said the guardsman, as he
turned away to where Adele waited for him in the window.
THE NEW WORLD AND THE OLD.
The young American was soon ready for the expedition, but De Catinat
lingered until the last possible minute. When at last he was able to
tear himself away, he adjusted his cravat, brushed his brilliant coat,
and looked very critically over the sombre suit of his companion.
"Where got you those?" he asked.
"In New York, ere I left."
"Hem! There is naught amiss with the cloth, and indeed the sombre
colour is the mode, but the cut is strange to our eyes."
"I only know that I wish that I had my fringed hunting tunic and
leggings on once more."
"This hat, now. We do not wear our brims flat like that. See if I
cannot mend it." He took the beaver, and looping up one side of the
brim, he fastened it with a golden brooch taken from his own shirt
front. "There is a martial cock," said he, laughing, "and would do
credit to the King's Own Musketeers. The black broad-cloth and silk
hose will pass, but why have you not a sword at your side?"
"I carry a gun when I ride out."
"_Mon Dieu_, you will be laid by the heels as a bandit!"
"I have a knife, too."
"Worse and worse! Well, we must dispense with the sword, and with the
gun too, I pray! Let me re-tie your cravat. So! Now if you are in the
mood for a ten-mile gallop, I am at your service."
They were indeed a singular contrast as they walked their horses
together through the narrow and crowded causeways of the Parisian
streets. De Catinat, who was the older by five years, with his delicate
small-featured face, his sharply trimmed moustache, his small but
well-set and dainty figure, and his brilliant dress, looked the very
type of the great nation to which he belonged.
His companion, however, large-limbed and strong, turning his bold and
yet thoughtful face from side to side, and eagerly taking in all the
strange, new life amidst which he found himself, was also a type,
unfinished, it is true, but bidding fair to be the higher of the two.
His close yellow hair, blue eyes, and heavy build showed that it was the
blood of his father, rather than that of his mother, which ran in his
veins; and even the sombre coat and swordless belt, if less pleasing to
the eye, were true badges of a race which found its fiercest battles and
its most glorious victories in bending nature to its will upon the seas
and in the waste places of the earth.
"What is yonder great building?" he asked, as they emerged into a
"It is the Louvre, one of the palaces of the king."
"And is he there?"
"Nay; he lives at Versailles."
"What! Fancy that a man should have two such houses!"
"Two! He has many more--St. Germain, Marly, Fontainebleau, Clugny."
"But to what end? A man can but live at one at a time."
"Nay; he can now come or go as the fancy takes him."
"It is a wondrous building. I have seen the Seminary of St. Sulpice at
Montreal, and thought that it was the greatest of all houses, and yet
what is it beside this?"
"You have been to Montreal, then? You remember the fort?"
"Yes, and the Hotel Dieu, and the wooden houses in a row, and eastward
the great mill with the wall; but what do you know of Montreal?"
"I have soldiered there, and at Quebec, too. Why, my friend, you are
not the only man of the woods in Paris, for I give you my word that I
have worn the caribou mocassins, the leather jacket, and the fur cap
with the eagle feather for six months at a stretch, and I care not how
soon I do it again,"
Amos Green's eyes shone with delight at finding that his companion and
he had so much in common, and he plunged into a series of questions
which lasted until they had crossed the river and reached the
south-westerly gate of the city. By the moat and walls long lines of
men were busy at their drill.
"Who are those, then?" he asked, gazing at them with curiosity.
"They are some of the king's soldiers."
"But why so many of them? Do they await some enemy?"
"Nay; we are at peace with all the world. Worse luck!"
"At peace. Why then all these men?"
"That they may be ready."
The young man shook his head in bewilderment. "They might be as ready
in their own homes surely. In our country every man has his musket in
his chimney corner, and is ready enough, yet he does not waste his time
when all is at peace."
"Our king is very great, and he has many enemies."
"And who made the enemies?"
"Why, the king, to be sure."
"Then would it not be better to be without him?"
The guardsman shrugged his epaulettes in despair. "We shall both wind
up in the Bastille or Vincennes at this rate," said he. "You must know
that it is in serving the country that he has made these enemies. It is
but five years since he made a peace at Nimeguen, by which he tore away
sixteen fortresses from the Spanish Lowlands. Then, also, he had laid
his hands upon Strassburg and upon Luxembourg, and has chastised the
Genoans, so that there are many who would fall upon him if they thought
that he was weak."
"And why has he done all this?"
"Because he is a great king, and for the glory of France."
The stranger pondered over this answer for some time as they rode on
between the high, thin poplars, which threw bars across the sunlit road.
"There was a great man in Schenectady once," said he at last. "They are
simple folk up yonder, and they all had great trust in each other. But
after this man came among them they began to miss--one a beaver-skin and
one a bag of ginseng, and one a belt of wampum, until at last old Pete
Hendricks lost his chestnut three-year-old. Then there was a search and
a fuss until they found all that had been lost in the stable of the
new-comer, so we took him, I and some others, and we hung him up on a
tree, without ever thinking what a great man he had been."
De Catinat shot an angry glance at his companion. "Your parable, my
friend, is scarce polite," said he. "If you and I are to travel in
peace you must keep a closer guard upon your tongue."
"I would not give you offence, and it may be that I am wrong," answered
the American, "but I speak as the matter seems to me, and it is the
right of a free man to do that."
De Catinat's frown relaxed as the other turned his earnest blue eyes
upon him. "By my soul, where would the court be if every man did that?"
said he. "But what in the name of heaven is amiss now?"
His companion had hurled himself off his horse, and was stooping low
over the ground, with his eyes bent upon the dust. Then, with quick,
noiseless steps, he zigzagged along the road, ran swiftly across a
grassy bank, and stood peering at the gap of a fence, with his nostrils
dilated, his eyes shining, and his whole face aglow with eagerness.
"The fellow's brain is gone," muttered De Catinat, as he caught at the
bridle of the riderless horse. "The sight of Paris has shaken his wits.
What in the name of the devil ails you, that you should stand glaring
"A deer has passed," whispered the other, pointing down at the grass.
"Its trail lies along there and into the wood. It could not have been
long ago, and there is no slur to the track, so that it was not going
fast. Had we but fetched my gun, we might have followed it, and brought
the old man back a side of venison."
"For God's sake get on your horse again!" cried De Catinat distractedly.
"I fear that some evil will come upon you ere I get you safe to the Rue
St. Martin again!"
"And what is wrong now?" asked Amos Green, swinging himself into the
"Why, man, these woods are the king's preserves and you speak as coolly
of slaying his deer as though you were on the shores of Michigan!"
"Preserves! They are tame deer!" An expression of deep disgust passed
over his face, and spurring his horse, he galloped onwards at such a
pace that De Catinat, after vainly endeavouring to keep up, had to
shriek to him to stop.
"It is not usual in this country to ride so madly along the roads," he
"It is a very strange country," cried the stranger, in perplexity.
"Maybe it would be easier for me to remember what _is_ allowed. It was
but this morning that I took my gun to shoot a pigeon that was flying
over the roofs in yonder street, and old Pierre caught my arm with a
face as though it were the minister that I was aiming at. And then
there is that old man--why, they will not even let him say his prayers."
De Catinat laughed. "You will come to know our ways soon," said he.
"This is a crowded land, and if all men rode and shot as they listed,
much harm would come from it. But let us talk rather of your own
country. You have lived much in the woods from what you tell me."
"I was but ten when first I journeyed with my uncle to Sault la Marie,
where the three great lakes meet, to trade with the Chippewas and the
tribes of the west."
"I know not what La Salle or De Frontenac would have said to that. The
trade in those parts belongs to France."
"We were taken prisoners, and so it was that I came to see Montreal and
afterwards Quebec. In the end we were sent back because they did not
know what they could do with us."
"It was a good journey for a first."
"And ever since I have been trading--first, on the Kennebec with the
Abenaquis, in the great forests of Maine, and with the Micmac
fish-eaters over the Penobscot. Then later with the Iroquois, as far
west as the country of the Senecas. At Albany and Schenectady we stored
our pelts, and so on to New York, where my father shipped them over the
"But he could ill spare you surely?"
"Very ill. But as he was rich, he thought it best that I should learn
some things that are not to be found in the woods. And so he sent me in
the _Golden Rod_, under the care of Ephraim Savage."
"Who is also of New York?"
"Nay; he is the first man that ever was born at Boston."
"I cannot remember the names of all these villages."
"And yet there may come a day when their names shall be as well known
as that of Paris."
De Catinat laughed heartily. "The woods may have given you much, but
not the gift of prophecy, my friend. Well, my heart is often over the
water even as yours is, and I would ask nothing better than to see the
palisades of Point Levi again, even if all the Five Nations were raving
upon the other side of them. But now, if you will look there in the gap
of the trees, you will see the king's new palace."
The two young men pulled up their horses, and looked down at the
wide-spreading building in all the beauty of its dazzling whiteness,
and at the lovely grounds, dotted with fountain and with statue, and
barred with hedge and with walk, stretching away to the dense woods
which clustered round them. It amused De Catinat to watch the swift
play of wonder and admiration which flashed over his companion's
"Well, what do you think of it?" he asked at last.
"I think that God's best work is in America, and man's in Europe."
"Ay, and in all Europe there is no such palace as that, even as there is
no such king as he who dwells within it."
"Can I see him, think you?"
"Who, the king? No, no; I fear that you are scarce made for a court."
"Nay, I should show him all honour."
"How, then? What greeting would you give him?"
"I would shake him respectfully by the hand, and ask as to his health
and that of his family."
"On my word, I think that such a greeting might please him more than the
bent knee and the rounded back, and yet, I think, my son of the woods,
that it were best not to lead you into paths where you would be lost, as
would any of the courtiers if you dropped them in the gorge of the
Saguenay. But _hola_! what comes here? It looks like one of the
carriages of the court."
A white cloud of dust, which had rolled towards them down the road, was
now so near that the glint of gilding and the red coat of the coachman
could be seen breaking out through it. As the two cavaliers reined
their horses aside to leave the roadway clear, the coach rumbled heavily
past them, drawn by two dapple grays, and the Horsemen caught a glimpse,
as it passed, of a beautiful but haughty face which looked out at them.
An instant afterwards a sharp cry had caused the driver to pull up his
horses, and a white hand beckoned to them through the carriage window.
"It is Madame de Montespan, the proudest woman in France," whispered
De Catinat. "She would speak with us, so do as I do."
He touched his horse with the spur, gave a _gambade_ which took him
across to the carriage, and then, sweeping off his hat, he bowed to his
horse's neck; a salute in which he was imitated, though in a somewhat
ungainly fashion, by his companion.
"Ha, captain!" said the lady, with no very pleasant face, "we meet
"Fortune has ever been good to me, madame."
"It was not so this morning."
"You say truly. It gave me a hateful duty to perform."
"And you performed it in a hateful fashion."
"Nay, madame, what could I do more?"
The lady sneered, and her beautiful face turned as bitter as it could
"You thought that I had no more power with the king. You thought that
my day was past. No doubt it seemed to you that you might reap favour
with the new by being the first to cast a slight upon the old."
"You may spare your protestations. I am one who judges by deeds and not
by words. Did you, then, think that my charm had so faded, that any
beauty which I ever have had is so withered?"
"Nay, madame, I were blind to think that."
"Blind as a noontide owl," said Amos Green with emphasis.
Madame de Montespan arched her eyebrows and glanced at her singular
admirer. "Your friend at least speaks that which he really feels," said
she. "At four o'clock to-day we shall see whether others are of the
same mind; and if they are, then it may be ill for those who mistook
what was but a passing shadow for a lasting cloud." She cast another
vindictive glance at the young guardsman, and rattled on once more upon
"Come on!" cried De Catinat curtly, for his companion was staring
open-mouthed after the carriage. "Have you never seen a woman before?"
"Never such a one as that."
"Never one with so railing a tongue, I dare swear," said De Catinat.
"Never one with so lovely a face. And yet there is a lovely face at the
Rue St. Martin also."
"You seem to have a nice taste in beauty, for all your woodland
"Yes, for I have been cut away from women so much that when I stand
before one I feel that she is something tender and sweet and holy."
"You may find dames at the court who are both tender and sweet, but you
will look long, my friend, before you find the holy one. This one would
ruin me if she can, and only because I have done what it was my duty to
do. To keep oneself in this court is like coming down the La Chine
Rapids where there is a rock to right, and a rock to left, and another
perchance in front, and if you so much as graze one, where are you and
your birch canoe? But our rocks are women, and in our canoe we bear all
our worldly fortunes. Now here is another who would sway me over to her
side, and indeed I think it may prove to be the better side too."
They had passed through the gateway of the palace, and the broad
sweeping drive lay in front of them, dotted with carriages and horsemen.
On the gravel walks were many gaily dressed ladies, who strolled among
the flower-beds or watched the fountains with the sunlight glinting upon
their high water sprays. One of these, who had kept her eyes turned
upon the gate, came hastening forward the instant that De Catinat
appeared. It was Mademoiselle Nanon, the _confidante_ of Madame de
"I am so pleased to see you, captain," she cried, "and I have waited so
patiently. Madame would speak with you. The king comes to her at
three, and we have but twenty minutes. I heard that you had gone to
Paris, and so I stationed myself here. Madame has something which she
would ask you."
"Then I will come at once. Ah, De Brissac, it is well met!"
A tall, burly officer was passing in the same uniform which De Catinat
wore. He turned at once, and came smiling towards his comrade.
"Ah, Amory, you have covered a league or two from the dust on your
"We are fresh from Paris. But I am called on business. This is my
friend, Monsieur Amos Green. I leave him in your hands, for he is a
stranger from America, and would fain see all that you can show.
He stays with me at my quarters. And my horse, too, De Brissac.
You can give it to the groom."
Throwing the bridle to his brother officer, and pressing the hand of
Amos Green, De Catinat sprang from his horse, and followed at the top of
his speed in the direction which the young lady had already taken.
THE RISING SUN.
The rooms which were inhabited by the lady who had already taken so
marked a position at the court of France were as humble as were her
fortunes at the time when they were allotted to her, but with that rare
tact and self-restraint which were the leading features in her
remarkable character, she had made no change in her living with the
increase of her prosperity, and forbore from provoking envy and jealousy
by any display of wealth or of power. In a side wing of the palace, far
from the central _salons_, and only to be reached by long corridors and
stairs, were the two or three small chambers upon which the eyes, first
of the court, then of France, and finally of the world, were destined to
be turned. In such rooms had the destitute widow of the poet Scarron
been housed when she had first been brought to court by Madame de
Montespan as the governess of the royal children, and in such rooms she
still dwelt, now that she had added to her maiden Francoise d'Aubigny
the title of Marquise de Maintenon, with the pension and estate which
the king's favour had awarded her. Here it was that every day the king
would lounge, finding in the conversation of a clever and virtuous woman
a charm and a pleasure which none of the professed wits of his sparkling
court had ever been able to give to him, and here, too, the more
sagacious of the courtiers were beginning to understand, was the point,
formerly to be found in the magnificent _salons_ of De Montespan, whence
flowed those impulses and tendencies which were so eagerly studied, and
so keenly followed up by all who wished to keep the favour of the king.
It was a simple creed, that of the court. Were the king pious, then let
all turn to their missals and their rosaries. Were he rakish, then who
so rakish as his devoted followers? But woe to the man who was rakish
when he should be praying, or who pulled a long face when the king wore
a laughing one! And thus it was that keen eyes were ever fixed upon
him, and upon every influence that came near him, so that the wary
courtier, watching the first subtle signs of a coming change, might so
order his conduct as to seem to lead rather than to follow.
The young guardsman had scarce ever exchanged a word with this powerful
lady, for it was her taste to isolate herself, and to appear with the
court only at the hours of devotion. It was therefore with some
feelings both of nervousness and of curiosity that he followed his guide
down the gorgeous corridors, where art and wealth had been strewn with
so lavish a hand. The lady paused in front of the chamber door, and
turned to her companion.
"Madame wishes to speak to you of what occurred this morning," said she.
"I should advise you to say nothing to madame about your creed, for it
is the only thing upon which her heart can be hard." She raised her
finger to emphasise the warning, and tapping at the door, she pushed it
open. "I have brought Captain de Catinat, madame," said she.
"Then let the captain step in." The voice was firm, and yet sweetly
Obeying the command, De Catinat found himself in a room which was no
larger and but little better furnished than that which was allotted to
his own use. Yet, though simple, everything in the chamber was
scrupulously neat and clean, betraying the dainty taste of a refined
woman. The stamped-leather furniture, the La Savonniere carpet, the
pictures of sacred subjects, exquisite from an artist's point of view,
the plain but tasteful curtains, all left an impression half religious
and half feminine but wholly soothing. Indeed, the soft light, the high
white statue of the Virgin in a canopied niche, with a perfumed red lamp
burning before it, and the wooden _prie-dieu_ with the red-edged
prayer-book upon the top of it, made the apartment look more like a
private chapel than a fair lady's boudoir.
On each side of the empty fireplace was a little green-covered
arm-chair, the one for madame and the other reserved for the use of the
king. A small three-legged stool between them was heaped with her
work-basket and her tapestry. On the chair which was furthest from the
door, with her back turned to the light, madame was sitting as the young
officer entered. It was her favourite position, and yet there were few
women of her years who had so little reason to fear the sun, for a
healthy life and active habits had left her with a clear skin and
delicate bloom which any young beauty of the court might have envied.
Her figure was graceful and queenly, her gestures and pose full of a
natural dignity, and her voice, as he had already remarked, most sweet
and melodious. Her face was handsome rather than beautiful, set in a
statuesque classical mould, with broad white forehead, firm, delicately
sensitive mouth, and a pair of large serene gray eyes, earnest and
placid in repose, but capable of reflecting the whole play of her soul,
from the merry gleam of humour to the quick flash of righteous anger.
An elevating serenity was, however, the leading expression of her
features, and in that she presented the strongest contrast to her rival,
whose beautiful face was ever swept by the emotion of the moment, and
who gleamed one hour and shadowed over the next like a corn-field in the
wind. In wit and quickness of tongue it is true that De Montespan had
the advantage, but the strong common-sense and the deeper nature of the
elder woman might prove in the end to be the better weapon. De Catinat,
at the moment, without having time to notice details, was simply
conscious that he was in the presence of a very handsome woman, and that
her large pensive eyes were fixed critically upon him, and seemed to be
reading his thoughts as they had never been read before.
"I think that I have already seen you, sir, have I not?"
"Yes, madame, I have once or twice had the honour of attending upon you
though it may not have been my good fortune to address you."
"My life is so quiet and retired that I fear that much of what is best
and worthiest at the court is unknown to me. It is the curse of such
places that evil flaunts itself before the eye and cannot be overlooked,
while the good retires in its modesty, so that at times we scarce dare
hope that it is there. You have served, monsieur?"
"Yes, madame. In the Lowlands, on the Rhine, and in Canada."
"In Canada! Ah! What nobler ambition could woman have than to be a
member of that sweet sisterhood which was founded by the holy Marie de
l'Incarnation and the sainted Jeanne le Ber at Montreal? It was but the
other day that I had an account of them from Father Godet des Marais.
What joy to be one of such a body, and to turn from the blessed work of
converting the heathen to the even more precious task of nursing back
health and strength into those of God's warriors who have been struck
down in the fight with Satan!"
It was strange to De Catinat, who knew well the sordid and dreadful
existence led by these same sisters, threatened ever with misery,
hunger, and the scalping-knife, to hear this lady at whose feet lay all
the good things of this earth speaking enviously of their lot.
"They are very good women," said he shortly, remembering Mademoiselle
Nanon's warning, and fearing to trench upon the dangerous subject.
"And doubtless you have had the privilege also of seeing the holy Bishop
"Yes, madame, I have seen Bishop Laval."
"And I trust that the Sulpitians still hold their own against the
"I have heard, madame, that the Jesuits are the stronger at Quebec, and
the others at Montreal."
"And who is your own director, monsieur?"
De Catinat felt that the worst had come upon him. "I have none,
"Ah, it is too common to dispense with a director, and yet I know not
how I could guide my steps in the difficult path which I tread if it
were not for mine. Who is your confessor, then?"
"I have none. I am of the Reformed Church, madame."
The lady gave a gesture of horror, and a sudden hardening showed itself
in mouth and eye. "What, in the court itself," she cried, "and in the
neighbourhood of the king's own person!"
De Catinat was lax enough in matters of faith, and held his creed rather
as a family tradition than from any strong conviction, but it hurt his
self-esteem to see himself regarded as though he had confessed to
something that was loathsome and unclean. "You will find, madame," said
he sternly, "that members of my faith have not only stood around the
throne of France, but have even seated themselves upon it."
"God has for His own all-wise purposes permitted it, and none should
know it better than I, whose grandsire, Theodore d'Aubigny, did so much
to place a crown upon the head of the great Henry. But Henry's eyes
were opened ere his end came, and I pray--oh, from my heart I pray--that
yours may be also."
She rose, and throwing herself down upon the _prie-dieu_ sunk her face
in her hands for some few minutes, during which the object of her
devotions stood in some perplexity in the middle of the room, hardly
knowing whether such an attention should be regarded as an insult or as
a favour. A tap at the door brought the lady back to this world again,
and her devoted attendant answered her summons to enter.
"The king is in the Hall of Victories, madame," said she. "He will be
here in five minutes."
"Very well. Stand outside, and let me know when he comes. Now, sir,"
she continued, when they were alone once more, "you gave a note of mine
to the king this morning?"
"I did, madame."
"And, as I understand, Madame de Montespan was refused admittance to the
"She was, madame."
"But she waited for the king in the passage?"
"And wrung from him a promise that he would see her to-day?"
"I would not have you tell me that which it may seem to you a breach of
your duty to tell. But I am fighting now against a terrible foe, and
for a great stake. Do you understand me?"
De Catinat bowed.
"Then what do I mean?"
"I presume that what madame means is that she is fighting for the king's
favour with the lady you mentioned."
"As heaven is my judge, I have no thought of myself. I am fighting with
the devil for the king's soul."
"'Tis the same thing, madame."
The lady smiled. "If the king's body were in peril, I could call on the
aid of his faithful guards, and not less so now, surely, when so much
more is at stake. Tell me, then, at what hour was the king to meet the
marquise in her room?"
"At four, madame."
"I thank you. You have done me a service, and I shall not forget it."
"The king comes, madame," said Mademoiselle Nanon, again protruding her
"Then you must go, captain. Pass through the other room, and so into
the outer passage. And take this. It is Bossuet's statement of the
Catholic faith. It has softened the hearts of others, and may yours.
De Catinat passed out through another door, and as he did so he glanced
back. The lady had her back to him, and her hand was raised to the
mantel-piece. At the instant that he looked she moved her neck, and he
could see what she was doing. She was pushing back the long hand of the
LE ROI S'AMUSE.
Captain de Catinat had hardly vanished through the one door before the
other was thrown open by Mademoiselle Nanon, and the king entered the
room. Madame de Maintenon rose with a pleasant smile and curtsied
deeply, but there was no answering light upon her visitor's face, and he
threw himself down upon the vacant arm-chair with a pouting lip and a
frown upon his forehead.
"Nay, now this is a very bad compliment," she cried, with the gaiety
which she could assume whenever it was necessary to draw the king from
his blacker humours. "My poor little dark room has already cast a
shadow over you."
"Nay; it is Father la Chaise and the Bishop of Meaux who have been after
me all day like two hounds on a stag, with talk of my duty and my
position and my sins, with judgment and hell-fire ever at the end of
"And what would they have your Majesty do?"
"Break the promise which I made when I came upon the throne, and which
my grandfather made before me. They wish me to recall the Edict of
Nantes, and drive the Huguenots from the kingdom."
"Oh, but your Majesty must not trouble your mind about such matters."
"You would not have me do it, madame?"
"Not if it is to be a grief to your Majesty."
"You have, perchance, some soft feeling for the religion of your youth?"
"Nay, sire; I have nothing but hatred for heresy."
"And yet you would not have them thrust out?"
"Bethink you, sire, that the Almighty can Himself incline their hearts
to better things if He is so minded, even as mine was inclined. May you
not leave it in His hands?"
"On my word," said Louis, brightening, "it is well put. I shall see if
Father la Chaise can find an answer to that. It is hard to be
threatened with eternal flames because one will not ruin one's kingdom.
Eternal torment! I have seen the face of a man who had been in the
Bastille, for fifteen years. It was like a dreadful book, with a scar
or a wrinkle to mark every hour of that death in life. But Eternity!"
He shuddered, and his eyes were filled with the horror of his thought.
The higher motives had but little power over his soul, as those about
him had long discovered, but he was ever ready to wince at the image of
the terrors to come.
"Why should you think of such things, sire?" said the lady, in her rich,
soothing voice. "What have you to fear, you who have been the first son
of the Church?"
"You think that I am safe, then?"
"But I have erred, and erred deeply. You have yourself said as much."
"But that is all over, sire. Who is there who is without stain?
You have turned away from temptation. Surely, then, you have earned
"I would that the queen were living once more. She would find me a
"I would that she were, sire."
"And she should know that it was to you that she owed the change.
Oh, Francoise, you are surely my guardian angel, who has taken bodily
form! How can I thank you for what you have done for me?" He leaned
forward and took her hand, but at the touch a sudden fire sprang into
his eyes, and he would have passed his other arm round her had she not
risen hurriedly to avoid the embrace.
"Sire!" said she, with a rigid face and one finger upraised.
"You are right, you are right, Francoise. Sit down, and I will control
myself. Still at the same tapestry, then! My workers at the Gobelins
must look to their laurels." He raised one border of the glossy roll,
while she, having reseated herself, though not without a quick
questioning glance at her companion, took the other end into her lap and
continued her work.
"Yes, sire. It is a hunting scene in your forests at Fontainebleau.
A stag of ten tines, you see, and the hounds in full cry, and a gallant
band of cavaliers and ladies. Has your Majesty ridden to-day?"
"No. How is it, Francoise, that you have such a heart of ice?"
"I would it were so, sire. Perhaps you have hawked, then?"
"No. But surely no man's love has ever stirred you! And yet you have
been a wife."
"A nurse, sire, but never a wife. See the lady in the park! It is
surely mademoiselle. I did not know that she had come up from Choisy."
But the king was not to be distracted from his subject.
"You did not love this Scarron, then?" he persisted. "He was old, I
have heard, and as lame as some of his verses."
"Do not speak lightly of him, sire. I was grateful to him; I honoured
him; I liked him."
"But you did not love him."
"Why should you seek to read the secrets of a woman's heart?"
"You did not love him, Francoise?"
"At least I did my duty towards him."
"Has that nun's heart never yet been touched by love then?"
"Sire, do not question me."
"Has it never--"
"Spare me, sire, I beg of you!"
"But I must ask, for my own peace hangs upon your answer."
"Your words pain me to the soul."
"Have you never, Francoise, felt in your heart some little flicker of
the love which glows in mine?" He rose with his hands outstretched, a
pleading monarch, but she, with half-turned bead, still shrank away from
"Be assured of one thing, sire," said she, "that even if I loved you as
no woman ever loved a man yet, I should rather spring from that window
on to the stone terraces beneath than ever by word or sign confess as
much to you."
"And why, Francoise?"
"Because, sire, it is my highest hope upon earth that I have been chosen
to lift up your mind towards loftier things--that mind the greatness and
nobility of which none know more than I."
"And is my love so base, then?"
"You have wasted too much of your life and of your thoughts upon woman's
love. And now, sire, the years steal on and the day is coming when even
you will be called upon to give an account of your actions, and of the
innermost thoughts of your heart. I would see you spend the time that
is left to you, sire, in building up the Church, in showing a noble
example to your subjects, and in repairing any evil which that example
may have done in the past."
The king sank back into his chair with a groan. "Forever the same,"
said he. "Why, you are worse than Father la Chaise and Bossuet."
"Nay, nay," said she gaily, with the quick tact in which she never
failed. "I have wearied you, when you have stooped to honour my little
room with your presence. That is indeed ingratitude, and it were a just
punishment if you were to leave me in solitude to-morrow, and so cut off
all the light of my day. But tell me, sire, how go the works at Marly?
I am all on fire to know whether the great fountain will work."
"Yes, the fountain plays well, but Mansard has thrown the right wing too
far back. I have made him a good architect, but I have still much to
teach him. I showed him his fault on the plan this morning, and he
promised to amend it."
"And what will the change cost, sire?"
"Some millions of livres, but then the view will be much improved from
the south side. I have taken in another mile of ground in that
direction, for there were a number of poor folk living there, and their
hovels were far from pretty."
"And why have you not ridden to-day, sire?"
"Pah! it brings me no pleasure. There was a time when my blood was
stirred by the blare of the horn and the rush of the hoofs, but now it
is all wearisome to me."
"And hawking too?"
"Yes; I shall hawk no more."
"But, sire, you must have amusement."
"What is so dull as an amusement which has ceased to amuse? I know not
how it is. When I was but a lad, and my mother and I were driven from
place to place, with the Fronde at war with us and Paris in revolt, with
our throne and even our lives in danger, all life seemed to be so
bright, so new, and so full of interest. Now that there is no shadow,
and that my voice is the first in France, as France's is in Europe, all
is dull and lacking in flavour. What use is it to have all pleasure
before me, when it turns to wormwood when it is tasted?"
"True pleasure, sire, lies rather in the inward life, the serene mind,
the easy conscience. And then, as we grow older, is it not natural that
our minds should take a graver bent? We might well reproach ourselves
if it were not so, for it would show that we had not learned the lesson
"It may be so, and yet it is sad and weary when nothing amuses. But who
"It is my companion knocking. What is it, mademoiselle?"
"Monsieur Corneille, to read to the king," said the young lady, opening
"Ah, yes, sire; I know how foolish is a woman's tongue, and so I have
brought a wiser one than mine here to charm you. Monsieur Racine was to
have come, but I hear that he has had a fall from his horse, and he
sends his friend in his place. Shall I admit him?"
"Oh, as you like, madame, as you like," said the king listlessly. At a
sign from Mademoiselle Nanon a little peaky man with a shrewd petulant
face, and long gray hair falling back over his shoulders, entered the
room. He bowed profoundly three times, and then seated himself
nervously on the very edge of the stool, from which the lady had removed
her work-basket. She smiled and nodded to encourage the poet, while the
monarch leaned back in his chair with an air of resignation.
"Shall it be a comedy, or a tragedy, or a burlesque pastoral?" Corneille
"Not the burlesque pastoral," said the king with decision. "Such things
may be played, but cannot be read, since they are for the eye rather
than the ear."
The poet bowed his acquiescence.
"And not the tragedy, monsieur," said Madame de Maintenon, glancing up
from her tapestry. "The king has enough that is serious in his graver
hours, and so I trust that you will use your talent to amuse him."
"Ay, let it be a comedy," said Louis; "I have not had a good laugh since
poor Moliere passed away."
"Ah, your Majesty has indeed a fine taste," cried the courtier poet.
"Had you condescended to turn your own attention to poetry, where should
we all have been then?"
Louis smiled, for no flattery was too gross to please him.
"Even as you have taught our generals war and our builders art, so you
would have set your poor singers a loftier strain. But Mars would
hardly deign to share the humbler laurels of Apollo."
"I have sometimes thought that I had some such power," answered the king
complacently; "though amid my toils and the burdens of state I have had,
as you say, little time for the softer arts."
"But you have encouraged others to do what you could so well have done
yourself, sire. You have brought out poets as the sun brings out
flowers. How many have we not seen--Moliere, Boileau, Racine, one
greater than the other? And the others, too, the smaller ones--Scarron,
so scurrilous and yet so witty--Oh, holy Virgin! what have I said?"
Madame had laid down her tapestry, and was staring in intense
indignation at the poet, who writhed on his stool under the stern rebuke
of those cold gray eyes.
"I think, Monsieur Corneille, that you had better go on with your
reading," said the king dryly.
"Assuredly, sire. Shall I read my play about Darius?"
"And who was Darius?" asked the king, whose education had been so
neglected by the crafty policy of Cardinal Mazarin that he was ignorant
of everything save what had come under his own personal observation.
"Darius was King of Persia, sire."
"And where is Persia?"
"It is a kingdom of Asia."
"Is Darius still king there?"
"Nay, sire; he fought against Alexander the Great."
"Ah, I have heard of Alexander. He was a famous king and general, was
"Like your Majesty, he both ruled wisely and led his armies
"And was King of Persia, you say?"
"No, sire; of Macedonia. It was Darius who was King of Persia."
The king frowned, for the slightest correction was offensive to him.
"You do not seem very clear about the matter, and I confess that it does
not interest me deeply," said he. "Pray turn to something else."
"There is my _Pretended Astrologer_."
"Yes, that will do."
Corneille commenced to read his comedy, while Madame de Maintenon's
white and delicate fingers picked among the many-coloured silks which
she was weaving into her tapestry. From time to time she glanced
across, first at the clock and then at the king, who was leaning back,
with his lace handkerchief thrown over his face. It was twenty minutes
to four now, but she knew that she had put it back half an hour, and
that the true time was ten minutes past.
"Tut! tut!" cried the king suddenly. "There is something amiss there.
The second last line has a limp in it, surely." It was one of his
foibles to pose as a critic, and the wise poet would fall in with his
corrections, however unreasonable they might be.
"Which line, sire? It is indeed an advantage to have one's faults made
"Read the passage again."
"Et si, quand je lui dis le secret de mon ame,
Avec moins de rigueur elle eut traite ma flamme,
Dans ma fayon de vivre, et suivant mon humeur,
Une autre eut bientot le present de mon coeur."
"Yes, the third line has a foot too many. Do you not remark it,
"No; but I fear that I should make a poor critic."
"Your Majesty is perfectly right," said Corneille unblushingly.
"I shall mark the passage, and see that it is corrected."
"I thought that it was wrong. If I do not write myself, you can see
that I have at least got the correct ear. A false quantity jars upon
me. It is the same in music. Although I know little of the matter, I
can tell a discord where Lully himself would miss it. I have often
shown him errors of the sort in his operas, and I have always convinced
him that I was right."
"I can readily believe it, your Majesty." Corneille had picked up his
book again, and was about to resume his reading when there came a sharp
tap at the door.
"It is his Highness the minister, Monsieur de Louvois," said
"Admit him," answered Louis. "Monsieur Corneille, I am obliged to you
for what you have read, and I regret that an affair of state will now
interrupt your comedy. Some other day perhaps I may have the pleasure
of hearing the rest of it." He smiled in the gracious fashion which
made all who came within his personal influence forget his faults and
remember him only as the impersonation of dignity and of courtesy.
The poet, with his book under his arm, slipped out, while the famous
minister, tall, heavily wigged, eagle-nosed, and commanding, came bowing
into the little room. His manner was that of exaggerated politeness,
but his haughty face marked only too plainly his contempt for such a
chamber and for the lady who dwelt there. She was well aware of the
feeling with which he regarded her, but her perfect self-command
prevented her from ever by word or look returning his dislike.
"My apartments are indeed honoured to-day," said she, rising with
outstretched hand. "Can monsieur condescend to a stool, since I have no
fitter seat to offer you in this little doll's house? But perhaps I am
in the way, if you wish to talk of state affairs to the king. I can
easily withdraw into my boudoir."
"No, no, nothing of the kind, madame," cried Louis. "It is my wish that
you should remain here. What is it, Louvois?"
"A messenger arrived from England with despatches, your Majesty,"
answered the minister, his ponderous figure balanced upon the
three-legged stool. "There is very ill feeling there, and there is some
talk of a rising. The letter from Lord Sunderland wished to know
whether, in case the Dutch took the side of the malcontents, the king
might look to France for help. Of course, knowing your Majesty's mind,
I answered unhesitatingly that he might."
"You did what?"
"I answered, sire, that he might."
King Louis flushed with anger, and he caught up the tongs from the grate
with a motion as though he would have struck his minister with them.
Madame sprang from her chair, and laid her hand upon his arm with a
soothing gesture. He threw down the tongs again, but his eyes still
flashed with passion as he turned them upon Louvois.
"How dared you?" he cried.
"How dared you, I say? What! You venture to answer such a message
without consulting me! How often am I to tell you that I am the state--
I alone; that all is to come from me; and that I am answerable to God
only? What are you? My instrument! my tool! And you venture to act
without my authority!"
"I thought that I knew your wishes, sire," stammered Louvois, whose
haughty manner had quite deserted him, and whose face was as white as
the ruffles of his shirt.
"You are not there to think about my wishes, sir. You are there to
consult them and to obey them. Why is it that I have turned away from
my old nobility, and have committed the affairs of my kingdom to men
whose names have never been heard of in the history of France, such men
as Colbert and yourself? I have been blamed for it. There was the Duc
de St. Simon, who said, the last time that he was at the court, that it
was a bourgeois government. So it is. But I wished it to be so,
because I knew that the nobles have a way of thinking for themselves,
and I ask for no thought but mine in the governing of France. But if my
bourgeois are to receive messages and give answers to embassies, then
indeed I am to be pitied. I have marked you of late, Louvois. You have
grown beyond your station. You take too much upon yourself. See to it
that I have not again to complain to you upon this matter."
The humiliated minister sat as one crushed, with his chin sunk upon his
breast. The king muttered and frowned for a few minutes, but the cloud
cleared gradually from his face, for his fits of anger were usually as
short as they were fierce and sudden.
"You will detain that messenger, Louvois," he said at last, in a calm
"And we shall see at the council meeting to-morrow that a fitting reply
be sent to Lord Sunderland. It would be best perhaps not to be too free
with our promises in the matter. These English have ever been a thorn
in our sides. If we could leave them among their own fogs with such a
quarrel as would keep them busy for a few years, then indeed we might
crush this Dutch prince at our leisure. Their last civil war lasted ten
years, and their next may do as much. We could carry our frontier to
the Rhine long ere that. Eh, Louvois?"
"Your armies are ready, sire, on the day that you give the word."
"But war is a costly business. I do not wish to have to sell the court
plate, as we did the other day. How are the public funds?"
"We are not very rich, sire. But there is one way in which money may
very readily be gained. There was some talk this morning about the
Huguenots, and whether they should dwell any longer in this Catholic
kingdom. Now, if they are driven out, and if their property were taken
by the state, then indeed your Majesty would at once become the richest
monarch in Christendom."
"But you were against it this morning, Louvois?"
"I had not had time to think of it, sire."
"You mean that Father la Chaise and the bishop had not had time to get
at you," said Louis sharply. "Ah, Louvois, I have not lived with a
court round me all these years without learning how things are done.
It is a word to him, and so on to another, and so to a third, and so to
the king. When my good fathers of the Church have set themselves to
bring anything to pass, I see traces of them at every turn, as one
traces a mole by the dirt which it has thrown up. But I will not be
moved against my own reason to do wrong to those who, however mistaken
they may be, are still the subjects whom God has given me."
"I would not have you do so, sire," cried Louvois in confusion.
The king's accusation had been so true that he had been unable at the
moment even to protest.
"I know but one person," continued Louis, glancing across at Madame de
Maintenon, "who has no ambitions, who desires neither wealth nor
preferment, and who can therefore never be bribed to sacrifice my
interests. That is why I value that person's opinion so highly."
He smiled at the lady as he spoke, while his minister cast a glance at
her which showed the jealousy which ate into his soul.
"It was my duty to point this out to you, sire, not as a suggestion, but
as a possibility," said he, rising. "I fear that I have already taken
up too much of your Majesty's time, and I shall now withdraw." Bowing
slightly to the lady, and profoundly to the monarch, he walked from the
"Louvois grows intolerable," said the king. "I know not where his
insolence will end. Were it not that he is an excellent servant, I
should have sent him from the court before this. He has his own
opinions upon everything. It was but the other day that he would have
it that I was wrong when I said that one of the windows in the Trianon
was smaller than any of the others. It was the same size, said he.
I brought Le Metre with his measures, and of course the window was, as I
had said, too small. But I see by your clock that it is four o'clock.
I must go."
"My clock, sire, is half an hour slow."
"Half an hour!" The king looked dismayed for an instant, and then began
to laugh. "Nay, in that case," said he, "I had best remain where I am,
for it is too late to go, and I can say with a clear conscience that it
was the clock's fault rather than mine."
"I trust that it was nothing of very great importance, sire," said the
lady, with a look of demure triumph in her eyes.
"By no means."
"No state affair?"
"No, no; it was only that it was the hour at which I had intended to
rebuke the conduct of a presumptuous person. But perhaps it is better
as it is. My absence will in itself convey my message, and in such a
sort that I trust I may never see that person's face more at my court.
But, ah, what is this?"
The door had been flung open, and Madame de Montespan, beautiful and
furious, was standing before them.
AN ECLIPSE AT VERSAILLES.
Madame de Maintenon was a woman who was always full of self-restraint
and of cool resource. She had risen in an instant, with an air as if
she had at last seen the welcome guest for whom she had pined in vain.
With a frank smile of greeting, she advanced with outstretched hand.
"This is indeed a pleasure," said she.
But Madame de Montespan was very angry, so angry that she was evidently
making strong efforts to keep herself within control, and to avoid
breaking into a furious outburst. Her face was very pale, her lips
compressed, and her blue eyes had the set stare and the cold glitter of
a furious woman. So for an instant they faced each other, the one
frowning, the other smiling, two of the most beautiful and queenly women
in France. Then De Montespan, disregarding her rival's outstretched
hand, turned towards the king, who had been looking at her with a
"I fear that I intrude, sire."
"Your entrance, madame, is certainly somewhat abrupt."
"I must crave pardon if it is so. Since this lady has been the
governess of my children I have been in the habit of coming into her
"As far as I am concerned, you are most welcome to do so," said her
rival, with perfect composure.
"I confess that I had not even thought it necessary to ask your
permission, madame," the other answered coldly.
"Then you shall certainly do so in the future, madame," said the king
sternly. "It is my express order to you that every possible respect is
to be shown in every way to this lady."
"Oh, to _this_ lady!" with a wave of her hand in her direction. "Your
Majesty's commands are of course our laws. But I must remember that it
_is_ this lady, for sometimes one may get confused as to which name it
is that your Majesty has picked out for honour. To-day it is
De Maintenon; yesterday it was Fontanges; to-morrow--Ah, well, who can
say who it may be to-morrow?"
She was superb in her pride and her fearlessness as she stood, with her
sparkling blue eyes and her heaving bosom, looking down upon her royal
lover. Angry as he was, his gaze lost something of its sternness as it
rested upon her round full throat and the delicate lines of her shapely
shoulders. There was something very becoming in her passion, in the
defiant pose of her dainty head, and the magnificent scorn with which
she glanced at her rival.
"There is nothing to be gained, madame, by being insolent," said he.
"Nor is it my custom, sire."
"And yet I find your words so."
"Truth is always mistaken for insolence, sire, at the court of France."
"We have had enough of this."
"A very little truth is enough."
"You forget yourself, madame. I beg that you will leave the room."
"I must first remind your Majesty that I was so far honoured as to have
an appointment this afternoon. At four o'clock I had your royal promise
that you would come to me. I cannot doubt that your Majesty will keep
that promise in spite of the fascinations which you may find here."
"I should have come, madame, but the clock, as you may observe, is half
an hour slow, and the time had passed before I was aware of it."
I beg, sire, that you will not let that distress you. I am returning to
my chamber, and five o'clock will suit me as well as four."
"I thank you, madame, but I have not found this interview so pleasant
that I should seek another."
"Then your Majesty will not come?"
"I should prefer not."
"In spite of your promise!"
"You will break your word!"
"Silence, madame; this is intolerable."
"It is indeed intolerable!" cried the angry lady, throwing all
discretion to the winds. "Oh, I am not afraid of you, sire. I have
loved you, but I have never feared you. I leave you here. I leave you
with your conscience and your--your lady confessor. But one word of
truth you shall hear before I go. You have been false to your wife, and
you have been false to your mistress, but it is only now that I find
that you can be false also to your word." She swept him an indignant
courtesy, and glided, with head erect, out of the room.
The king sprang from his chair as if he had been stung. Accustomed as
he was to his gentle little wife, and the even gentler La Valliere, such
language as this had never before intruded itself upon the royal ears.
It was like a physical blow to him. He felt stunned, humiliated,
bewildered, by so unwonted a sensation. What odour was this which
mingled for the first time with the incense amid which he lived?
And then his whole soul rose up in anger at her, at the woman who had
dared to raise her voice against him. That she should be jealous of and
insult another woman, that was excusable. It was, in fact, an indirect
compliment to himself. But that she should turn upon him, as if they
were merely man and woman, instead of monarch and subject, that was too
much. He gave an inarticulate cry of rage, and rushed to the door.
"Sire!" Madame de Maintenon, who had watched keenly the swift play of
his emotions over his expressive face, took two quick steps forward, and
laid her hand upon his arm.
"I will go after her."
"And why, sire?"
To forbid her the court."
"You heard her! It is infamous! I shall go."
"But, sire, could you not write?"
"No, no; I shall see her." He pulled open the door.
"Oh, sire, be firm, then!" It was with an anxious face that she watched
him start off, walking rapidly, with angry gestures, down the corridor.
Then she turned back, and dropping upon her knees on the _prie-dieu_,
bowed her head in prayer for the king, for herself, and for France.
De Catinat, the guardsman, had employed himself in showing his young
friend from over the water all the wonders of the great palace, which
the other had examined keenly, and had criticised or admired with an
independence of judgment and a native correctness of taste natural to a
man whose life had been spent in freedom amid the noblest works of
nature. Grand as were the mighty fountains and the artificial cascades,
they had no overwhelming effect on one who had travelled up from Erie to
Ontario, and had seen the Niagara River hurl itself over its precipice,
nor were the long level swards so very large to eyes which had rested
upon the great plains of the Dakotas. The building itself, however, its
extent, its height, and the beauty of its stone, filled him with
"I must bring Ephraim Savage here," he kept repeating. "He Would never
believe else that there was one house in the world which would weigh
more than all Boston and New York put together."
De Catinat had arranged that the American should remain with his friend
Major de Brissac, as the time had come round for his own second turn of
guard. He had hardly stationed himself in the corridor when he was
astonished to see the King, without escort or attendants, walking
swiftly down the passage. His delicate face was disfigured with anger,
and his mouth was set grimly, like that of a man who had taken a
"Officer of the guard," said he shortly.
"What! You again, Captain de Catinat? You have not been on duty since
Back to Full Books