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Title: Catherine De Medici
Author: Balzac, Honoré de, 1799-1850
Language: English
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                        Catherine de' Medici


                          Honore de Balzac

                           Translated by

                    Katherine Prescott Wormeley


  To Monsieur le Marquis de Pastoret, Member of the Academie des

  When we think of the enormous number of volumes that have been
  published on the question as to where Hannibal crossed the Alps,
  without our being able to decide to-day whether it was (according
  to Whittaker and Rivaz) by Lyon, Geneva, the Great Saint-Bernard,
  and the valley of Aosta; or (according to Letronne, Follard,
  Saint-Simon and Fortia d'Urbano) by the Isere, Grenoble,
  Saint-Bonnet, Monte Genevra, Fenestrella, and the Susa passage;
  or (according to Larauza) by the Mont Cenis and the Susa; or
  (according to Strabo, Polybius and Lucanus) by the Rhone, Vienne,
  Yenne, and the Dent du Chat; or (according to some intelligent
  minds) by Genoa, La Bochetta, and La Scrivia,--an opinion which I
  share and which Napoleon adopted,--not to speak of the verjuice
  with which the Alpine rocks have been bespattered by other learned
  men,--is it surprising, Monsieur le marquis, to see modern history
  so bemuddled that many important points are still obscure, and the
  most odious calumnies still rest on names that ought to be

  And let me remark, in passing, that Hannibal's crossing has been
  made almost problematical by these very elucidations. For
  instance, Pere Menestrier thinks that the Scoras mentioned by
  Polybius is the Saona; Letronne, Larauza and Schweighauser think
  it is the Isere; Cochard, a learned Lyonnais, calls it the Drome,
  and for all who have eyes to see there are between Scoras and
  Scrivia great geographical and linguistical resemblances,--to say
  nothing of the probability, amounting almost to certainty, that
  the Carthaginian fleet was moored in the Gulf of Spezzia or the
  roadstead of Genoa. I could understand these patient researches if
  there were any doubt as to the battle of Canna; but inasmuch as
  the results of that great battle are known, why blacken paper with
  all these suppositions (which are, as it were, the arabesques of
  hypothesis) while the history most important to the present day,
  that of the Reformation, is full of such obscurities that we are
  ignorant of the real name of the man who navigated a vessel by
  steam to Barcelona at the period when Luther and Calvin were
  inaugurating the insurrection of thought.[*]

  You and I hold, I think, the same opinion, after having made, each
  in his own way, close researches as to the grand and splendid
  figure of Catherine de' Medici. Consequently, I have thought that
  my historical studies upon that queen might properly be dedicated
  to an author who has written so much on the history of the
  Reformation; while at the same time I offer to the character and
  fidelity of a monarchical writer a public homage which may,
  perhaps, be valuable on account of its rarity.

  [*] The name of the man who tried this experiment at Barcelona
  should be given as Salomon de Caux, not Caus. That great man
  has always been unfortunate; even after his death his name is
  mangled. Salomon, whose portrait taken at the age of forty-six
  was discovered by the author of the "Comedy of Human Life" at
  Heidelberg, was born at Caux in Normandy. He was the author of
  a book entitled "The Causes of Moving Forces," in which he
  gave the theory of the expansion and condensation of steam.
  He died in 1635.

                        CATHERINE DE' MEDICI


There is a general cry of paradox when scholars, struck by some
historical error, attempt to correct it; but, for whoever studies
modern history to its depths, it is plain that historians are
privileged liars, who lend their pen to popular beliefs precisely as
the newspapers of the day, or most of them, express the opinions of
their readers.

Historical independence has shown itself much less among lay writers
than among those of the Church. It is from the Benedictines, one of
the glories of France, that the purest light has come to us in the
matter of history,--so long, of course, as the interests of the order
were not involved. About the middle of the eighteenth century great
and learned controversialists, struck by the necessity of correcting
popular errors endorsed by historians, made and published to the world
very remarkable works. Thus Monsieur de Launoy, nicknamed the
"Expeller of Saints," made cruel war upon the saints surreptitiously
smuggled into the Church. Thus the emulators of the Benedictines, the
members (too little recognized) of the Academie des Inscriptions et
Belles-lettres, began on many obscure historical points a series of
monographs, which are admirable for patience, erudition, and logical
consistency. Thus Voltaire, for a mistaken purpose and with ill-judged
passion, frequently cast the light of his mind on historical
prejudices. Diderot undertook in this direction a book (much too long)
on the era of imperial Rome. If it had not been for the French
Revolution, /criticism/ applied to history might then have prepared
the elements of a good and true history of France, the proofs for
which had long been gathered by the Benedictines. Louis XVI., a just
mind, himself translated the English work in which Walpole endeavored
to explain Richard III.,--a work much talked of in the last century.

Why do personages so celebrated as kings and queens, so important as
the generals of armies, become objects of horror or derision? Half the
world hesitates between the famous song on Marlborough and the history
of England, and it also hesitates between history and popular
tradition as to Charles IX. At all epochs when great struggles take
place between the masses and authority, the populace creates for
itself an /ogre-esque/ personage--if it is allowable to coin a word to
convey a just idea. Thus, to take an example in our own time, if it
had not been for the "Memorial of Saint Helena," and the controversies
between the Royalists and the Bonapartists, there was every
probability that the character of Napoleon would have been
misunderstood. A few more Abbe de Pradits, a few more newspaper
articles, and from being an emperor, Napoleon would have turned into
an ogre.

How does error propagate itself? The mystery is accomplished under our
very eyes without our perceiving it. No one suspects how much solidity
the art of printing has given both to the envy which pursues
greatness, and to the popular ridicule which fastens a contrary sense
on a grand historical act. Thus, the name of the Prince de Polignac is
given throughout the length and breadth of France to all bad horses
that require whipping; and who knows how that will affect the opinion
of the future as to the /coup d'Etat/ of the Prince de Polignac
himself? In consequence of a whim of Shakespeare--or perhaps it may
have been a revenge, like that of Beaumarchais on Bergasse (Bergearss)
--Falstaff is, in England, a type of the ridiculous; his very name
provokes laughter; he is the king of clowns. Now, instead of being
enormously pot-bellied, absurdly amorous, vain, drunken, old, and
corrupted, Falstaff was one of the most distinguished men of his time,
a Knight of the Garter, holding a high command in the army. At the
accession of Henry V. Sir John Falstaff was only thirty-four years
old. This general, who distinguished himself at the battle of
Agincourt, and there took prisoner the Duc d'Alencon, captured, in
1420, the town of Montereau, which was vigorously defended. Moreover,
under Henry VI. he defeated ten thousand French troops with fifteen
hundred weary and famished men.

So much for war. Now let us pass to literature, and see our own
Rabelais, a sober man who drank nothing but water, but is held to be,
nevertheless, an extravagant lover of good cheer and a resolute
drinker. A thousand ridiculous stories are told about the author of
one of the finest books in French literature,--"Pantagruel." Aretino,
the friend of Titian, and the Voltaire of his century, has, in our
day, a reputation the exact opposite of his works and of his
character; a reputation which he owes to a grossness of wit in keeping
with the writings of his age, when broad farce was held in honor, and
queens and cardinals wrote tales which would be called, in these days,
licentious. One might go on multiplying such instances indefinitely.

In France, and that, too, during the most serious epoch of modern
history, no woman, unless it be Brunehaut or Fredegonde, has suffered
from popular error so much as Catherine de' Medici; whereas Marie de'
Medici, all of whose actions were prejudicial to France, has escaped
the shame which ought to cover her name. Marie de' Medici wasted the
wealth amassed by Henri IV.; she never purged herself of the charge of
having known of the king's assassination; her /intimate/ was
d'Epernon, who did not ward off Ravaillac's blow, and who was proved
to have known the murderer personally for a long time. Marie's conduct
was such that she forced her son to banish her from France, where she
was encouraging her other son, Gaston, to rebel; and the victory
Richelieu at last won over her (on the Day of the Dupes) was due
solely to the discovery the cardinal made, and imparted to Louis
XIII., of secret documents relating to the death of Henri IV.

Catherine de' Medici, on the contrary, saved the crown of France; she
maintained the royal authority in the midst of circumstances under
which more than one great prince would have succumbed. Having to make
head against factions and ambitions like those of the Guises and the
house of Bourbon, against men such as the two Cardinals of Lorraine,
the two Balafres, and the two Condes, against the queen Jeanne
d'Albret, Henri IV., the Connetable de Montmorency, Calvin, the three
Colignys, Theodore de Beze, she needed to possess and to display the
rare qualities and precious gifts of a statesman under the mocking
fire of the Calvinist press.

Those facts are incontestable. Therefore, to whosoever burrows into
the history of the sixteenth century in France, the figure of
Catherine de' Medici will seem like that of a great king. When calumny
is once dissipated by facts, recovered with difficulty from among the
contradictions of pamphlets and false anecdotes, all explains itself
to the fame of this extraordinary woman, who had none of the
weaknesses of her sex, who lived chaste amid the license of the most
dissolute court in Europe, and who, in spite of her lack of money,
erected noble public buildings, as if to repair the loss caused by the
iconoclasms of the Calvinists, who did as much harm to art as to the
body politic. Hemmed in between the Guises who claimed to be the heirs
of Charlemagne and the factious younger branch who sought to screen
the treachery of the Connetable de Bourbon behind the throne,
Catherine, forced to combat heresy which was seeking to annihilate the
monarchy, without friends, aware of treachery among the leaders of the
Catholic party, foreseeing a republic in the Calvinist party,
Catherine employed the most dangerous but the surest weapon of public
policy,--craft. She resolved to trick and so defeat, successively, the
Guises who were seeking the ruin of the house of Valois, the Bourbons
who sought the crown, and the Reformers (the Radicals of those days)
who dreamed of an impossible republic--like those of our time; who
have, however, nothing to reform. Consequently, so long as she lived,
the Valois kept the throne of France. The great historian of that
time, de Thou, knew well the value of this woman when, on hearing of
her death, he exclaimed: "It is not a woman, it is monarchy itself
that has died!"

Catherine had, in the highest degree, the sense of royalty, and she
defended it with admirable courage and persistency. The reproaches
which Calvinist writers have cast upon her are to her glory; she
incurred them by reason only of her triumphs. Could she, placed as she
was, triumph otherwise than by craft? The whole question lies there.

As for violence, that means is one of the most disputed questions of
public policy; in our time it has been answered on the Place Louis
XV., where they have now set up an Egyptian stone, as if to obliterate
regicide and offer a symbol of the system of materialistic policy
which governs us; it was answered at the Carmes and at the Abbaye;
answered on the steps of Saint-Roch; answered once more by the people
against the king before the Louvre in 1830, as it has since been
answered by Lafayette's best of all possible republics against the
republican insurrection at Saint-Merri and the rue Transnonnain. All
power, legitimate or illegitimate, must defend itself when attacked;
but the strange thing is that where the people are held heroic in
their victory over the nobility, power is called murderous in its duel
with the people. If it succumbs after its appeal to force, power is
then called imbecile. The present government is attempting to save
itself by two laws from the same evil Charles X. tried to escape by
two ordinances; is it not a bitter derision? Is craft permissible in
the hands of power against craft? may it kill those who seek to kill
it? The massacres of the Revolution have replied to the massacres of
Saint-Bartholomew. The people, become king, have done against the king
and the nobility what the king and the nobility did against the
insurgents of the sixteenth century. Therefore the popular historians,
who know very well that in a like case the people will do the same
thing over again, have no excuse for blaming Catherine de' Medici and
Charles IX.

"All power," said Casimir Perier, on learning what power ought to be,
"is a permanent conspiracy." We admire the anti-social maxims put
forth by daring writers; why, then, this disapproval which, in France,
attaches to all social truths when boldly proclaimed? This question
will explain, in itself alone, historical errors. Apply the answer to
the destructive doctrines which flatter popular passions, and to the
conservative doctrines which repress the mad efforts of the people,
and you will find the reason of the unpopularity and also the
popularity of certain personages. Laubardemont and Laffemas were, like
some men of to-day, devoted to the defence of power in which they
believed. Soldiers or judges, they all obeyed royalty. In these days
d'Orthez would be dismissed for having misunderstood the orders of the
ministry, but Charles X. left him governor of a province. The power of
the many is accountable to no one; the power of one is compelled to
render account to its subjects, to the great as well as to the small.

Catherine, like Philip the Second and the Duke of Alba, like the
Guises and Cardinal Granvelle, saw plainly the future that the
Reformation was bringing upon Europe. She and they saw monarchies,
religion, authority shaken. Catherine wrote, from the cabinet of the
kings of France, a sentence of death to that spirit of inquiry which
then began to threaten modern society; a sentence which Louis XIV.
ended by executing. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes was an
unfortunate measure only so far as it caused the irritation of all
Europe against Louis XIV. At another period England, Holland, and the
Holy Roman Empire would not have welcomed banished Frenchmen and
encouraged revolt in France.

Why refuse, in these days, to the majestic adversary of the most
barren of heresies the grandeur she derived from the struggle itself?
Calvinists have written much against the "craftiness" of Charles IX.;
but travel through France, see the ruins of noble churches, estimate
the fearful wounds given by the religionists to the social body, learn
what vengeance they inflicted, and you will ask yourself, as you
deplore the evils of individualism (the disease of our present France,
the germ of which was in the questions of liberty of conscience then
agitated),--you will ask yourself, I say, on which side were the
executioners. There are, unfortunately, as Catherine herself says in
the third division of this Study of her career, "in all ages
hypocritical writers always ready to weep over the fate of two hundred
scoundrels killed necessarily." Caesar, who tried to move the senate to
pity the attempt of Catiline, might perhaps have got the better of
Cicero could he have had an Opposition and its newspapers at his

Another consideration explains the historical and popular disfavor in
which Catherine is held. The Opposition in France has always been
Protestant, because it has had no policy but that of /negation/; it
inherits the theories of Lutherans, Calvinists, and Protestants on the
terrible words "liberty," "tolerance," "progress," and "philosophy."
Two centuries have been employed by the opponents of power in
establishing the doubtful doctrine of the /libre arbitre/,--liberty of
will. Two other centuries were employed in developing the first
corollary of liberty of will, namely, liberty of conscience. Our
century is endeavoring to establish the second, namely, political

Placed between the ground already lost and the ground still to be
defended, Catherine and the Church proclaimed the salutary principle
of modern societies, /una fides, unus dominus/, using their power of
life and death upon the innovators. Though Catherine was vanquished,
succeeding centuries have proved her justification. The product of
liberty of will, religious liberty, and political liberty (not,
observe this, to be confounded with civil liberty) is the France of
to-day. What is the France of 1840? A country occupied exclusively
with material interests,--without patriotism, without conscience;
where power has no vigor; where election, the fruit of liberty of will
and political liberty, lifts to the surface none but commonplace men;
where brute force has now become a necessity against popular violence;
where discussion, spreading into everything, stifles the action of
legislative bodies; where money rules all questions; where
individualism--the dreadful product of the division of property /ad
infinitum/--will suppress the family and devour all, even the nation,
which egoism will some day deliver over to invasion. Men will say,
"Why not the Czar?" just as they said, "Why not the Duc d'Orleans?" We
don't cling to many things even now; but fifty years hence we shall
cling to nothing.

Thus, according to Catherine de' Medici and according to all those who
believe in a well-ordered society, in /social man/, the subject cannot
have liberty of will, ought not to /teach/ the dogma of liberty of
conscience, or demand political liberty. But, as no society can exist
without guarantees granted to the subject against the sovereign, there
results for the subject /liberties/ subject to restriction. Liberty,
no; liberties, yes,--precise and well-defined liberties. That is in
harmony with the nature of things.

It is, assuredly, beyond the reach of human power to prevent the
liberty of thought; and no sovereign can interfere with money. The
great statesmen who were vanquished in the long struggle (it lasted
five centuries) recognized the right of subjects to great liberties;
but they did not admit their right to publish anti-social thoughts,
nor did they admit the indefinite liberty of the subject. To them the
words "subject" and "liberty" were terms that contradicted each other;
just as the theory of citizens being all equal constitutes an
absurdity which nature contradicts at every moment. To recognize the
necessity of a religion, the necessity of authority, and then to leave
to subjects the right to deny religion, attack its worship, oppose the
exercise of power by public expression communicable and communicated
by thought, was an impossibility which the Catholics of the sixteenth
century would not hear of.

Alas! the victory of Calvinism will cost France more in the future
than it has yet cost her; for religious sects and humanitarian,
equality-levelling politics are, to-day, the tail of Calvinism; and,
judging by the mistakes of the present power, its contempt for
intellect, its love for material interests, in which it seeks the
basis of its support (though material interests are the most
treacherous of all supports), we may predict that unless some
providence intervenes, the genius of destruction will again carry the
day over the genius of preservation. The assailants, who have nothing
to lose and all to gain, understand each other thoroughly; whereas
their rich adversaries will not make any sacrifice either of money or
self-love to draw to themselves supporters.

The art of printing came to the aid of the opposition begun by the
Vaudois and the Albigenses. As soon as human thought, instead of
condensing itself, as it was formerly forced to do to remain in
communicable form, took on a multitude of garments and became, as it
were, the people itself, instead of remaining a sort of axiomatic
divinity, there were two multitudes to combat,--the multitude of
ideas, and the multitude of men. The royal power succumbed in that
warfare, and we are now assisting, in France, at its last combination
with elements which render its existence difficult, not to say
impossible. Power is action, and the elective principle is discussion.
There is no policy, no statesmanship possible where discussion is

Therefore we ought to recognize the grandeur of the woman who had the
eyes to see this future and fought it bravely. That the house of
Bourbon was able to succeed to the house of Valois, that it found a
crown preserved to it, was due solely to Catherine de' Medici. Suppose
the second Balafre had lived? No matter how strong the Bearnais was,
it is doubtful whether he could have seized the crown, seeing how
dearly the Duc de Mayenne and the remains of the Guise party sold it
to him. The means employed by Catherine, who certainly had to reproach
herself with the deaths of Francois II. and Charles IX., whose lives
might have been saved in time, were never, it is observable, made the
subject of accusations by either the Calvinists or modern historians.
Though there was no poisoning, as some grave writers have said, there
was other conduct almost as criminal; there is no doubt she hindered
Pare from saving one, and allowed the other to accomplish his own doom
by moral assassination. But the sudden death of Francois II., and that
of Charles IX., were no injury to the Calvinists, and therefore the
causes of these two events remained in their secret sphere, and were
never suspected either by the writers of the people of that day; they
were not divined except by de Thou, l'Hopital, and minds of that
calibre, or by the leaders of the two parties who were coveting or
defending the throne, and believed such means necessary to their end.

Popular songs attacked, strangely enough, Catherine's morals. Every
one knows the anecdote of the soldier who was roasting a goose in the
courtyard of the chateau de Tours during the conference between
Catherine and Henri IV., singing, as he did so, a song in which the
queen was grossly insulted. Henri IV. drew his sword to go out and
kill the man; but Catherine stopped him and contented herself with
calling from the window to her insulter:--

"Eh! but it was Catherine who gave you the goose."

Though the executions at Amboise were attributed to Catherine, and
though the Calvinists made her responsible for all the inevitable
evils of that struggle, it was with her as it was, later, with
Robespierre, who is still waiting to be justly judged. Catherine was,
moreover, rightly punished for her preference for the Duc d'Anjou, to
whose interests the two elder brothers were sacrificed. Henri III.,
like all spoilt children, ended in becoming absolutely indifferent to
his mother, and he plunged voluntarily into the life of debauchery
which made of him what his mother had made of Charles IX., a husband
without sons, a king without heirs. Unhappily the Duc d'Alencon,
Catherine's last male child, had already died, a natural death.

The last words of the great queen were like a summing up of her
lifelong policy, which was, moreover, so plain in its common-sense
that all cabinets are seen under similar circumstances to put it in

"Enough cut off, my son," she said when Henri III. came to her
death-bed to tell her that the great enemy of the crown was dead,
"/now piece together/."

By which she meant that the throne should at once reconcile itself
with the house of Lorraine and make use of it, as the only means of
preventing evil results from the hatred of the Guises,--by holding out
to them the hope of surrounding the king. But the persistent craft and
dissimulation of the woman and the Italian, which she had never failed
to employ, was incompatible with the debauched life of her son.
Catherine de' Medici once dead, the policy of the Valois died also.

Before undertaking to write the history of the manners and morals of
this period in action, the author of this Study has patiently and
minutely examined the principal reigns in the history of France, the
quarrel of the Burgundians and the Armagnacs, that of the Guises and
the Valois, each of which covers a century. His first intention was to
write a picturesque history of France. Three women--Isabella of
Bavaria, Catharine and Marie de' Medici--hold an enormous place in it,
their sway reaching from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century,
ending in Louis XIV. Of these three queens, Catherine is the finer and
more interesting. Hers was virile power, dishonored neither by the
terrible amours of Isabella nor by those, even more terrible, though
less known, of Marie de' Medici. Isabella summoned the English into
France against her son, and loved her brother-in-law, the Duc
d'Orleans. The record of Marie de' Medici is heavier still. Neither
had political genius.

It was in the course of these studies that the writer acquired the
conviction of Catherine's greatness; as he became initiated into the
constantly renewed difficulties of her position, he saw with what
injustice historians--all influenced by Protestants--had treated this
queen. Out of this conviction grew the three sketches which here
follow; in which some erroneous opinions formed upon Catherine, also
upon the persons who surrounded her, and on the events of her time,
are refuted. If this book is placed among the Philosophical Studies,
it is because it shows the Spirit of a Time, and because we may
clearly see in it the influence of thought.

But before entering the political arena, where Catherine will be seen
facing the two great difficulties of her career, it is necessary to
give a succinct account of her preceding life, from the point of view
of impartial criticism, in order to take in as much as possible of
this vast and regal existence up to the moment when the first part of
the present Study begins.

Never was there any period, in any land, in any sovereign family, a
greater contempt for legitimacy than in the famous house of the
Medici. On the subject of power they held the same doctrine now
professed by Russia, namely: to whichever head the crown goes, he is
the true, the legitimate sovereign. Mirabeau had reason to say: "There
has been but one mesalliance in my family,--that of the Medici"; for
in spite of the paid efforts of genealogists, it is certain that the
Medici, before Everardo de' Medici, /gonfaloniero/ of Florence in
1314, were simple Florentine merchants who became very rich. The first
personage in this family who occupies an important place in the
history of the famous Tuscan republic is Silvestro de' Medici,
/gonfaloniero/ in 1378. This Silvestro had two sons, Cosmo and Lorenzo
de' Medici.

From Cosmo are descended Lorenzo the Magnificent, the Duc de Nemours,
the Duc d'Urbino, father of Catherine, Pope Leo X., Pope Clement VII.,
and Alessandro, not Duke of Florence, as historians call him, but Duke
/della citta di Penna/, a title given by Pope Clement VII., as a
half-way station to that of Grand-duke of Tuscany.

From Lorenzo are descended the Florentine Brutus Lorenzino, who killed
Alessandro, Cosmo, the first grand-duke, and all the sovereigns of
Tuscany till 1737, at which period the house became extinct.

But neither of the two branches--the branch Cosmo and the branch
Lorenzo--reigned through their direct and legitimate lines until the
close of the sixteenth century, when the grand-dukes of Tuscany began
to succeed each other peacefully. Alessandro de' Medici, he to whom
the title of Duke /della citta di Penna/ was given, was the son of the
Duke d'Urbino, Catherine's father, by a Moorish slave. For this reason
Lorenzino claimed a double right to kill Alessandro,--as a usurper in
his house, as well as an oppressor of the city. Some historians
believe that Alessandro was the son of Clement VII. The fact that led
to the recognition of this bastard as chief of the republic and head
of the house of the Medici was his marriage with Margaret of Austria,
natural daughter of Charles V.

Francesco de' Medici, husband of Bianca Capello, accepted as his son a
child of poor parents bought by the celebrated Venetian; and, strange
to say, Ferdinando, on succeeding Francesco, maintained the
substituted child in all his rights. That child, called Antonio de'
Medici, was considered during four reigns as belonging to the family;
he won the affection of everybody, rendered important services to the
family, and died universally regretted.

Nearly all the first Medici had natural children, whose careers were
invariably brilliant. For instance, the Cardinal Giulio de' Medici,
afterwards Pope under the name of Clement VII., was the illegitimate
son of Giuliano I. Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici was also a bastard,
and came very near being Pope and the head of the family.

Lorenzo II., the father of Catherine, married in 1518, for his second
wife, Madeleine de la Tour de Boulogne, in Auvergne, and died April
25, 1519, a few days after his wife, who died in giving birth to
Catherine. Catherine was therefore orphaned of father and mother as
soon as she drew breath. Hence the strange adventures of her
childhood, mixed up as they were with the bloody efforts of the
Florentines, then seeking to recover their liberty from the Medici.
The latter, desirous of continuing to reign in Florence, behaved with
such circumspection that Lorenzo, Catherine's father, had taken the
name of Duke d'Urbino.

At Lorenzo's death, the head of the house of the Medici was Pope Leo
X., who sent the illegitimate son of Giuliano, Giulio de' Medici, then
cardinal, to govern Florence. Leo X. was great-uncle to Catherine, and
this Cardinal Giulio, afterward Clement VII., was her uncle by the
left hand.

It was during the siege of Florence, undertaken by the Medici to force
their return there, that the Republican party, not content with having
shut Catherine, then nine years old, into a convent, after robbing her
of all her property, actually proposed, on the suggestion of one named
Batista Cei, to expose her between two battlements on the walls to the
artillery of the Medici. Bernardo Castiglione went further in a
council held to determine how matters should be ended: he was of
opinion that, so far from returning her to the Pope as the latter
requested, she ought to be given to the soldiers for dishonor. This
will show how all popular revolutions resemble each other. Catherine's
subsequent policy, which upheld so firmly the royal power, may well
have been instigated in part by such scenes, of which an Italian girl
of nine years of age was assuredly not ignorant.

The rise of Alessandro de' Medici, to which the bastard Pope Clement
VII. powerfully contributed, was no doubt chiefly caused by the
affection of Charles V. for his famous illegitimate daughter Margaret.
Thus Pope and emperor were prompted by the same sentiment. At this
epoch Venice had the commerce of the world; Rome had its moral
government; Italy still reigned supreme through the poets, the
generals, the statesmen born to her. At no period of the world's
history, in any land, was there ever seen so remarkable, so abundant a
collection of men of genius. There were so many, in fact, that even
the lesser princes were superior men. Italy was crammed with talent,
enterprise, knowledge, science, poesy, wealth, and gallantry, all the
while torn by intestinal warfare and overrun with conquerors
struggling for possession of her finest provinces. When men are so
strong, they do not fear to admit their weaknesses. Hence, no doubt,
this golden age for bastards. We must, moreover, do the illegitimate
children of the house of the Medici the justice to say that they were
ardently devoted to the glory, power, and increase of wealth of that
famous family. Thus as soon as the /Duca della citta di Penna/, son of
the Moorish woman, was installed as tyrant of Florence, he espoused
the interest of Pope Clement VII., and gave a home to the daughter of
Lorenzo II., then eleven years of age.

When we study the march of events and that of men in this curious
sixteenth century, we ought never to forget that public policy had for
its element a perpetual craftiness and a dissimulation which
destroyed, in all characters, the straightforward, upright bearing our
imaginations demand of eminent personages. In this, above all, is
Catherine's absolution. It disposes of the vulgar and foolish
accusations of treachery launched against her by the writers of the
Reformation. This was the great age of that statesmanship the code of
which was written by Macchiavelli as well as by Spinosa, by Hobbes as
well as by Montesquieu,--for the dialogue between Sylla and Eucrates
contains Montesquieu's true thought, which his connection with the
Encyclopedists did not permit him to develop otherwise than as he did.

These principles are to-day the secret law of all cabinets in which
plans for the conquest and maintenance of great power are laid. In
France we blamed Napoleon when he made use of that Italian genius for
craft which was bred in his bone,--though in his case it did not
always succeed. But Charles V., Catherine, Philip II., and Pope Julius
would not have acted otherwise than as he did in the affair of Spain.
History, in the days when Catherine was born, if judged from the point
of view of honesty, would seem an impossible tale. Charles V., obliged
to sustain Catholicism against the attacks of Luther, who threatened
the Throne in threatening the Tiara, allowed the siege of Rome and
held Pope Clement VII. in prison! This same Clement, who had no
bitterer enemy than Charles V., courted him in order to make
Alessandro de' Medici ruler of Florence, and obtained his favorite
daughter for that bastard. No sooner was Alessandro established than
he, conjointly with Clement VII., endeavored to injure Charles V. by
allying himself with Francois I., king of France, by means of
Catherine de' Medici; and both of them promised to assist Francois in
reconquering Italy. Lorenzino de' Medici made himself the companion of
Alessandro's debaucheries for the express purpose of finding an
opportunity to kill him. Filippo Strozzi, one of the great minds of
that day, held this murder in such respect that he swore that his sons
should each marry a daughter of the murderer; and each son religiously
fulfilled his father's oath when they might all have made, under
Catherine's protection, brilliant marriages; for one was the rival of
Doria, the other a marshal of France. Cosmo de' Medici, successor of
Alessandro, with whom he had no relationship, avenged the death of
that tyrant in the cruellest manner, with a persistency lasting twelve
years; during which time his hatred continued keen against the persons
who had, as a matter of fact, given him the power. He was eighteen
years old when called to the sovereignty; his first act was to declare
the rights of Alessandro's legitimate sons null and void,--all the
while avenging their father's death! Charles V. confirmed the
disinheriting of his grandsons, and recognized Cosmo instead of the
son of Alessandro and his daughter Margaret. Cosmo, placed on the
throne by Cardinal Cibo, instantly exiled the latter; and the cardinal
revenged himself by accusing Cosmo (who was the first grand-duke) of
murdering Alessandro's son. Cosmo, as jealous of his power as Charles
V. was of his, abdicated in favor of his son Francesco, after causing
the death of his other son, Garcia, to avenge the death of Cardinal
Giovanni de' Medici, whom Garcia had assassinated. Cosmo the First and
his son Francesco, who ought to have been devoted, body and soul, to
the house of France, the only power on which they might really have
relied, made themselves the lacqueys of Charles V. and Philip II., and
were consequently the secret, base, and perfidious enemies of
Catherine de' Medici, one of the glories of their house.

Such were the leading contradictory and illogical traits, the
treachery, knavery, and black intrigues of a single house, that of the
Medici. From this sketch, we may judge of the other princes of Italy
and Europe. All the envoys of Cosmos I. to the court of France had, in
their secret instructions, an order to poison Strozzi, Catherine's
relation, when he arrived. Charles V. had already assassinated three
of the ambassadors of Francois I.

It was early in the month of October, 1533, that the /Duca della citta
di Penna/ started from Florence for Livorno, accompanied by the sole
heiress of Lorenzo II., namely, Catherine de' Medici. The duke and the
Princess of Florence, for that was the title by which the young girl,
then fourteen years of age, was known, left the city surrounded by a
large retinue of servants, officers, and secretaries, preceded by
armed men, and followed by an escort of cavalry. The young princess
knew nothing as yet of what her fate was to be, except that the Pope
was to have an interview at Livorno with the Duke Alessandro; but her
uncle, Filippo Strozzi, very soon informed her of the future before

Filippo Strozzi had married Clarice de' Medici, half-sister on the
father's side of Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Urbino, father of
Catherine; but this marriage, which was brought about as much to
convert one of the firmest supporters of the popular party to the
cause of the Medici as to facilitate the recall of that family, then
banished from Florence, never shook the stern champion from his
course, though he was persecuted by his own party for making it. In
spite of all apparent changes in his conduct (for this alliance
naturally affected it somewhat) he remained faithful to the popular
party, and declared himself openly against the Medici as soon as he
foresaw their intention to enslave Florence. This great man even
refused the offer of a principality made to him by Leo X.

At the time of which we are now writing Filippo Strozzi was a victim
to the policy of the Medici, so vacillating in its means, so fixed and
inflexible in its object. After sharing the misfortunes and the
captivity of Clement VII. when the latter, surprised by the Colonna,
took refuge in the Castle of Saint-Angelo, Strozzi was delivered up by
Clement as a hostage and taken to Naples. As the Pope, when he got his
liberty, turned savagely on his enemies, Strozzi came very near losing
his life, and was forced to pay an enormous sum to be released from a
prison where he was closely confined. When he found himself at liberty
he had, with an instinct of kindness natural to an honest man, the
simplicity to present himself before Clement VII., who had perhaps
congratulated himself on being well rid of him. The Pope had such good
cause to blush for his own conduct that he received Strozzi extremely

Strozzi thus began, early in life, his apprenticeship in the
misfortunes of an honest man in politics,--a man whose conscience
cannot lend itself to the capriciousness of events; whose actions are
acceptable only to the virtuous; and who is therefore persecuted by
the world,--by the people, for opposing their blind passions; by power
for opposing its usurpations. The life of such great citizens is a
martyrdom, in which they are sustained only by the voice of their
conscience and an heroic sense of social duty, which dictates their
course in all things. There were many such men in the republic of
Florence, all as great as Strozzi, and as able as their adversaries
the Medici, though vanquished by the superior craft and wiliness of
the latter. What could be more worthy of admiration than the conduct
of the chief of the Pazzi at the time of the conspiracy of his house,
when, his commerce being at that time enormous, he settled all his
accounts with Asia, the Levant, and Europe before beginning that great
attempt; so that, if it failed, his correspondents should lose

The history of the establishment of the house of the Medici in the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is a magnificent tale which still
remains to be written, though men of genius have already put their
hands to it. It is not the history of a republic, nor of a society,
nor of any special civilization; it is the history of /statesmen/,
the eternal history of Politics,--that of usurpers, that of conquerors.

As soon as Filippo Strozzi returned to Florence he re-established the
preceding form of government and ousted Ippolito de' Medici, another
bastard, and the very Alessandro with whom, at the later period of
which we are now writing, he was travelling to Livorno. Having
completed this change of government, he became alarmed at the evident
inconstancy of the people of Florence, and, fearing the vengeance of
Clement VII., he went to Lyon to superintend a vast house of business
he owned there, which corresponded with other banking-houses of his
own in Venice, Rome, France, and Spain. Here we find a strange thing.
These men who bore the weight of public affairs and of such a struggle
as that with the Medici (not to speak of contentions with their own
party) found time and strength to bear the burden of a vast business
and all its speculations, also of banks and their complications, which
the multiplicity of coinages and their falsification rendered even
more difficult than it is in our day. The name "banker" comes from the
/banc/ (Anglice, /bench/) upon which the banker sat, and on which he
rang the gold and silver pieces to try their quality. After a time
Filippo found in the death of his wife, whom he adored, a pretext for
renewing his relations with the Republican party, whose secret police
becomes the more terrible in all republics, because every one makes
himself a spy in the name of a liberty which justifies everything.

Filippo returned to Florence at the very moment when that city was
compelled to adopt the yoke of Alessandro; but he had previously gone
to Rome and seen Pope Clement VII., whose affairs were now so
prosperous that his disposition toward Strozzi was much changed. In
the hour of triumph the Medici were so much in need of a man like
Filippo--were it only to smooth the return of Alessandro--that Clement
urged him to take a seat at the Council of the bastard who was about
to oppress the city; and Strozzi consented to accept the diploma of a

But, for the last two years and more, he had seen, like Seneca and
Burrhus, the beginnings of tyranny in his Nero. He felt himself, at
the moment of which we write, an object of so much distrust on the
part of the people and so suspected by the Medici whom he was
constantly resisting, that he was confident of some impending
catastrophe. Consequently, as soon as he heard from Alessandro of the
negotiation for Catherine's marriage with the son of Francois I., the
final arrangements for which were to be made at Livorno, where the
negotiators had appointed to meet, he formed the plan of going to
France, and attaching himself to the fortunes of his niece, who needed
a guardian.

Alessandro, delighted to rid himself of a man so unaccommodating in
the affairs of Florence, furthered a plan which relieved him of one
murder at least, and advised Strozzi to put himself at the head of
Catherine's household. In order to dazzle the eyes of France the
Medici had selected a brilliant suite for her whom they styled, very
unwarrantably, the Princess of Florence, and who also went by the name
of the little Duchess d'Urbino. The cortege, at the head of which rode
Alessandro, Catherine, and Strozzi, was composed of more than a
thousand persons, not including the escort and servants. When the last
of it issued from the gates of Florence the head had passed that first
village beyond the city where they now braid the Tuscan straw hats. It
was beginning to be rumored among the people that Catherine was to
marry a son of Francois I.; but the rumor did not obtain much belief
until the Tuscans beheld with their own eyes this triumphal procession
from Florence to Livorno.

Catherine herself, judging by all the preparations she beheld, began
to suspect that her marriage was in question, and her uncle then
revealed to her the fact that the first ambitious project of his house
had aborted, and that the hand of the dauphin had been refused to her.
Alessandro still hoped that the Duke of Albany would succeed in
changing this decision of the king of France who, willing as he was to
buy the support of the Medici in Italy, would only grant them his
second son, the Duc d'Orleans. This petty blunder lost Italy to
France, and did not prevent Catherine from becoming queen.

The Duke of Albany, son of Alexander Stuart, brother of James III.,
king of Scotland, had married Anne de la Tour de Boulogne, sister of
Madeleine de la Tour de Boulogne, Catherine's mother; he was therefore
her maternal uncle. It was through her mother that Catherine was so
rich and allied to so many great families; for, strangely enough, her
rival, Diane de Poitiers, was also her cousin. Jean de Poitiers,
father of Diane, was son of Jeanne de Boulogne, aunt of the Duchess
d'Urbino. Catherine was also a cousin of Mary Stuart, her

Catherine now learned that her dowry in money was a hundred thousand
ducats. A ducat was a gold piece of the size of an old French louis,
though less thick. (The old louis was worth twenty-four francs--the
present one is worth twenty). The Comtes of Auvergne and Lauraguais
were also made a part of the dowry, and Pope Clement added one hundred
thousand ducats in jewels, precious stones, and other wedding gifts;
to which Alessandro likewise contributed his share.

On arriving at Livorno, Catherine, still so young, must have been
flattered by the extreme magnificence displayed by Pope Clement ("her
uncle in Notre-Dame," then head of the house of the Medici), in order
to outdo the court of France. He had already arrived at Livorno in one
of his galleys, which was lined with crimson satin fringed with gold,
and covered with a tent-like awning in cloth of gold. This galley, the
decoration of which cost twenty thousand ducats, contained several
apartments destined for the bride of Henri of France, all of which
were furnished with the richest treasures of art the Medici could
collect. The rowers, magnificently apparelled, and the crew were under
the command of a prior of the order of the Knights of Rhodes. The
household of the Pope were in three other galleys. The galleys of the
Duke of Albany, anchored near those of Clement VII., added to the size
and dignity of the flotilla.

Duke Alessandro presented the officers of Catherine's household to the
Pope, with whom he had a secret conference, in which, it would appear,
he presented to his Holiness Count Sebastiano Montecuculi, who had
just left, somewhat abruptly, the service of Charles V. and that of
his two generals, Antonio di Leyva and Ferdinando di Gonzago. Was
there between the two bastards, Giulio and Alessandro, a premeditated
intention of making the Duc d'Orleans dauphin? What reward was
promised to Sebastiano Montecuculi, who, before entering the service
of Charles V. had studied medicine? History is silent on that point.
We shall see presently what clouds hang round that fact. The obscurity
is so great that, quite recently, grave and conscientious historians
have admitted Montecuculi's innocence.

Catherine then heard officially from the Pope's own lips of the
alliance reserved for her. The Duke of Albany had been able to do no
more than hold the king of France, and that with difficulty, to his
promise of giving Catherine the hand of his second son, the Duc
d'Orleans. The Pope's impatience was so great, and he was so afraid
that his plans would be thwarted either by some intrigue of the
emperor, or by the refusal of France, or by the grandees of the
kingdom looking with evil eye upon the marriage, that he gave orders
to embark at once, and sailed for Marseille, where he arrived toward
the end of October, 1533.

Notwithstanding its wealth, the house of the Medici was eclipsed on
this occasion by the court of France. To show the lengths to which the
Medici pushed their magnificence, it is enough to say that the "dozen"
put into the bride's purse by the Pope were twelve gold medals of
priceless historical value, which were then unique. But Francois I.,
who loved the display of festivals, distinguished himself on this
occasion. The wedding festivities of Henri de Valois and Catherine de'
Medici lasted thirty-four days.

It is useless to repeat the details, which have been given in all the
histories of Provence and Marseille, as to this celebrated interview
between the Pope and the king of France, which was opened by a jest of
the Duke of Albany as to the duty of keeping fasts,--a jest mentioned
by Brantome and much enjoyed by the court, which shows the tone of the
manners of that day.

Many conjectures have been made as to Catherine's barrenness, which
lasted ten years. Strange calumnies still rest upon this queen, all of
whose actions were fated to be misjudged. It is sufficient to say that
the cause was solely in Henri II. After the difficulty was removed,
Catherine had ten children. The delay was, in one respect, fortunate
for France. If Henri II. had had children by Diane de Poitiers the
politics of the kingdom would have been dangerously complicated. When
the difficulty was removed the Duchesse de Valentinois had reached the
period of a woman's second youth. This matter alone will show that the
true life of Catherine de' Medici is still to be written, and also--as
Napoleon said with profound wisdom--that the history of France should
be either in one volume only, or one thousand.

Here is a contemporaneous and succinct account of the meeting of
Clement VII. and the king of France:

  "His Holiness the Pope, having been conducted to the palace, which
  was, as I have said, prepared beyond the port, every one retired
  to their own quarters till the morrow, when his Holiness was to
  make his entry; the which was made with great sumptuousness and
  magnificence, he being seated in a chair carried on the shoulders
  of two men and wearing his pontifical robes, but not the tiara.
  Pacing before him was a white hackney, bearing the sacrament of
  the altar,--the said hackney being led by reins of white silk held
  by two footmen finely equipped. Next came all the cardinals in
  their robes, on pontifical mules, and Madame la Duchesse d'Urbino
  in great magnificence, accompanied by a vast number of ladies and
  gentlemen, both French and Italian.

  "The Holy Father having arrived in the midst of this company at
  the place appointed for his lodging, every one retired; and all
  this, being well-ordered, took place without disorder or tumult.
  While the Pope was thus making his entry, the king crossed the
  water in a frigate and went to the lodging the Pope had just
  quitted, in order to go the next day and make obeisance to the
  Holy Father as a Most Christian king.

  "The next day the king being prepared set forth for the palace
  where was the Pope, accompanied by the princes of the blood, such
  as Monseigneur le Duc de Vendomois (father of the Vidame de
  Chartres), the Comte de Sainct-Pol, Messieurs de Montpensier and
  la Roche-sur-Yon, the Duc de Nemours (brother of the Duc de
  Savoie) who died in this said place, the Duke of Albany, and many
  others, whether counts, barons, or seigneurs; nearest to the king
  was the Seigneur de Montmorency, his Grand-master.

  "The king, being arrived at the palace, was received by the Pope
  and all the college of cardinals, assembled in consistory, most
  civilly. This done, each retired to the place ordained for him,
  the king taking with him several cardinals to feast them,--among
  them Cardinal de' Medici, nephew of the Pope, a very splendid man
  with a fine retinue.

  "On the morrow those persons chosen by his Holiness and by the
  king began to assemble to discuss the matters for which the
  meeting was made. First, the matter of the Faith was treated of,
  and a bull was put forth repressing heresy and preventing that
  things come to greater combustion than they now are.

  "After this was concluded the marriage of the Duc d'Orleans,
  second son of the king, with Catherine de' Medici, Duchesse
  d'Urbino, niece of his Holiness, under the conditions such, or
  like to those, as were proposed formerly by the Duke of Albany.
  The said espousals were celebrated with great magnificence, and
  our Holy Father himself wedded the pair. The marriage thus
  consummated, the Holy Father held a consistory at which he created
  four cardinals and devoted them to the king,--to wit: Cardinal Le
  Veneur, formerly bishop of Lisieux and grand almoner; the Cardinal
  de Boulogne of the family of la Chambre, brother on the mother's
  side of the Duke of Albany; the Cardinal de Chatillon of the house
  of Coligny, nephew of the Sire de Montmorency, and the Cardinal de

When Strozzi delivered the dowry in presence of the court he noticed
some surprise on the part of the French seigneurs; they even said
aloud that it was little enough for such a mesalliance (what would
they have said in these days?). Cardinal Ippolito replied, saying:--

"You must be ill-informed as to the secrets of your king. His Holiness
has bound himself to give to France three pearls of inestimable value,
namely: Genoa, Milan, and Naples."

The Pope left Sebastiano Montecuculi to present himself to the court
of France, to which the count offered his services, complaining of his
treatment by Antonio di Leyva and Ferdinando di Gonzago, for which
reason his services were accepted. Montecuculi was not made a part of
Catherine's household, which was wholly composed of French men and
women, for, by a law of the monarchy, the execution of which the
Pope saw with great satisfaction, Catherine was naturalized by
letters-patent as a Frenchwoman before the marriage. Montecuculi was
appointed in the first instance to the household of the queen, the
sister of Charles V. After a while he passed into the service of the
dauphin as cup-bearer.

The new Duchesse d'Orleans soon found herself a nullity at the court
of Francois I. Her young husband was in love with Diane de Poitiers,
who certainly, in the matter of birth, could rival Catherine, and was
far more of a great lady than the little Florentine. The daughter of
the Medici was also outdone by Queen Eleonore, sister of Charles V.,
and by Madame d'Etampes, whose marriage with the head of the house of
Brosse made her one of the most powerful and best titled women in
France. Catherine's aunt the Duchess of Albany, the Queen of Navarre,
the Duchesse de Guise, the Duchesse de Vendome, Madame la Connetable
de Montmorency, and other women of like importance, eclipsed by birth
and by their rights, as well as by their power at the most sumptuous
court of France (not excepting that of Louis XIV.), the daughter of
the Florentine grocers, who was richer and more illustrious through
the house of the Tour de Boulogne than by her own family of Medici.

The position of his niece was so bad and difficult that the republican
Filippo Strozzi, wholly incapable of guiding her in the midst of such
conflicting interests, left her after the first year, being recalled
to Italy by the death of Clement VII. Catherine's conduct, when we
remember that she was scarcely fifteen years old, was a model of
prudence. She attached herself closely to the king, her father-in-law;
she left him as little as she could, following him on horseback both
in hunting and in war. Her idolatry for Francois I. saved the house of
the Medici from all suspicion when the dauphin was poisoned. Catherine
was then, and so was her husband, at the headquarters of the king in
Provence; for Charles V. had speedily invaded France and the late
scene of the marriage festivities had become the theatre of a cruel

At the moment when Charles V. was put to flight, leaving the bones of
his army in Provence, the dauphin was returning to Lyon by the Rhone.
He stopped to sleep at Tournon, and, by way of pastime, practised some
violent physical exercises,--which were nearly all the education his
brother and he, in consequence of their detention as hostages, had
ever received. The prince had the imprudence--it being the month of
August, and the weather very hot--to ask for a glass of water, which
Montecuculi, as his cup-bearer, gave to him, with ice in it. The
dauphin died almost immediately. Francois I. adored his son. The
dauphin was, according to all accounts, a charming young man. His
father, in despair, gave the utmost publicity to the proceedings
against Montecuculi, which he placed in the hands of the most able
magistrates of that day. The count, after heroically enduring the
first tortures without confessing anything, finally made admissions by
which he implicated Charles V. and his two generals, Antonio di Leyva
and Ferdinando di Gonzago. No affair was ever more solemnly debated.
Here is what the king did, in the words of an ocular witness:--

  "The king called an assembly at Lyon of all the princes of his
  blood, all the knights of his order, and other great personages of
  the kingdom; also the legal and papal nuncio, the cardinals who
  were at his court, together with the ambassadors of England,
  Scotland, Portugal, Venice, Ferrara, and others; also all the
  princes and noble strangers, both Italian and German, who were
  then residing at his court in great numbers. These all being
  assembled, he caused to be read to them, in presence of each
  other, from beginning to end, the trial of the unhappy man who
  poisoned Monseigneur the late dauphin,--with all the
  interrogatories, confessions, confrontings, and other ceremonies
  usual in criminal trials; he, the king, not being willing that the
  sentence should be executed until all present had given their
  opinion on this heinous and miserable case."

The fidelity, devotion, and cautious skill of the Comte de Montecuculi
may seem extraordinary in our time, when all the world, even ministers
of State, tell everything about the least little event with which they
have to do; but in those days princes could find devoted servants, or
knew how to choose them. Monarchical Moreys existed because in those
days there was /faith/. Never ask devotion of /self-interest/, because
such interest may change; but expect all from sentiments, religious
faith, monarchical faith, patriotic faith. Those three beliefs
produced such men as the Berthereaus of Geneva, the Sydneys and
Straffords of England, the murderers of Thomas a Becket, the Jacques
Coeurs, the Jeanne d'Arcs, the Richelieus, Dantons, Bonchamps,
Talmonts, and also the Clements, Chabots, and others.

The dauphin was poisoned in the same manner, and possibly by the same
drug which afterwards served MADAME under Louis XIV. Pope Clement VII.
had been dead two years; Duke Alessandro, plunged in debauchery,
seemed to have no interest in the elevation of the Duc d'Orleans;
Catherine, then seventeen, and full of admiration for her
father-in-law, was with him at the time; Charles V. alone appeared to
have an interest in his death, for Francois I. was negotiating for his
son an alliance which would assuredly have aggrandized France. The
count's confession was therefore very skilfully based on the passions
and politics of the moment; Charles V. was then flying from France,
leaving his armies buried in Provence with his happiness, his
reputation, and his hopes of dominion. It is to be remarked that if
torture had forced admissions from an innocent man, Francois I. gave
Montecuculi full liberty to speak in presence of an imposing assembly,
and before persons in whose eyes innocence had some chance to triumph.
The king, who wanted the truth, sought it in good faith.

In spite of her now brilliant future, Catherine's situation at court
was not changed by the death of the dauphin. Her barrenness gave
reason to fear a divorce in case her husband should ascend the throne.
The dauphin was under the spell of Diane de Poitiers, who assumed to
rival Madame d'Etampes, the king's mistress. Catherine redoubled in
care and cajolery of her father-in-law, being well aware that her sole
support was in him. The first ten years of Catherine's married life
were years of ever-renewed grief, caused by the failure, one by one,
of her hopes of pregnancy, and the vexations of her rivalry with
Diane. Imagine what must have been the life of a young princess,
watched by a jealous mistress who was supported by a powerful party,
--the Catholic party,--and by the two powerful alliances Diane had
made in marrying one daughter to Robert de la Mark, Duc de Bouillon,
Prince of Sedan, and the other to Claude de Lorraine, Duc d'Aumale.

Catherine, helpless between the party of Madame d'Etampes and the
party of the Senechale (such was Diane's title during the reign of
Francois I.), which divided the court and politics into factions for
these mortal enemies, endeavored to make herself the friend of both
Diane de Poitiers and Madame d'Etampes. She, who was destined to
become so great a queen, played the part of a servant. Thus she served
her apprenticeship in that double-faced policy which was ever the
secret motor of her life. Later, the /queen/ was to stand between
Catholics and Calvinists, just as the /woman/ had stood for ten years
between Madame d'Etampes and Madame de Poitiers. She studied the
contradictions of French politics; she saw Francois I. sustaining
Calvin and the Lutherans in order to embarrass Charles V., and then,
after secretly and patiently protecting the Reformation in Germany,
and tolerating the residence of Calvin at the court of Navarre, he
suddenly turned against it with excessive rigor. Catherine beheld on
the one hand the court, and the women of the court, playing with the
fire of heresy, and on the other, Diane at the head of the Catholic
party with the Guises, solely because the Duchesse d'Etampes supported
Calvin and the Protestants.

Such was the political education of this queen, who saw in the cabinet
of the king of France the same errors committed as in the house of the
Medici. The dauphin opposed his father in everything; he was a bad
son. He forgot the cruel but most vital maxim of royalty, namely, that
thrones need solidarity; and that a son who creates opposition during
the lifetime of his father must follow that father's policy when he
mounts the throne. Spinosa, who was as great a statesman as he was a
philosopher, said--in the case of one king succeeding another by
insurrection or crime,--

  "If the new king desires to secure the safety of his throne and of
  his own life he must show such ardor in avenging the death of his
  predecessor that no one shall feel a desire to commit the same
  crime. But to avenge it /worthily/ it is not enough to shed the
  blood of his subjects, he must approve the axioms of the king he
  replaces, and take the same course in governing."

It was the application of this maxim which gave Florence to the
Medici. Cosmo I. caused to be assassinated at Venice, after eleven
years' sway, the Florentine Brutus, and, as we have already said,
persecuted the Strozzi. It was forgetfulness of this maxim which
ruined Louis XVI. That king was false to every principle of royal
government when he re-established the parliaments suppressed by his
grandfather. Louis XV. saw the matter clearly. The parliaments, and
notably that of Paris, counted for fully half in the troubles which
necessitated the convocation of the States-general. The fault of Louis
XV. was, that in breaking down that barrier which separated the throne
from the people he did not erect a stronger; in other words, that he
did not substitute for parliament a strong constitution of the
provinces. There lay the remedy for the evils of the monarchy; thence
should have come the voting on taxes, the regulation of them, and a
slow approval of reforms that were necessary to the system of

The first act of Henri II. was to give his confidence to the
Connetable de Montmorency, whom his father had enjoined him to leave
in disgrace. The Connetable de Montmorency was, with Diane de
Poitiers, to whom he was closely bound, the master of the State.
Catherine was therefore less happy and less powerful after she became
queen of France than while she was dauphiness. From 1543 she had a
child every year for ten years, and was occupied with maternal cares
during the period covered by the last three years of the reign of
Francois I. and nearly the whole of the reign of Henri II. We may see
in this recurring fecundity the influence of a rival, who was able
thus to rid herself of the legitimate wife,--a barbarity of feminine
policy which must have been one of Catherine's grievances against

Thus set aside from public life, this superior woman passed her time
in observing the self-interests of the court people and of the various
parties which were formed about her. All the Italians who had followed
her were objects of violent suspicion. After the execution of
Montecuculi the Connetable de Montmorency, Diane, and many of the
keenest politicians of the court were filled with suspicion of the
Medici; though Francois I. always repelled it. Consequently, the
Gondi, Strozzi, Ruggieri, Sardini, etc.,--in short, all those who were
called distinctively "the Italians,"--were compelled to employ greater
resources of mind, shrewd policy, and courage, to maintain themselves
at court against the weight of disfavor which pressed upon them.

During her husband's reign Catherine's amiability to Diane de Poitiers
went to such great lengths that intelligent persons must regard it as
proof of that profound dissimulation which men, events, and the
conduct of Henri II. compelled Catherine de' Medici to employ. But
they go too far when they declare that she never claimed her rights as
wife and queen. In the first place, the sense of dignity which
Catherine possessed in the highest degree forbade her claiming what
historians call her rights as a wife. The ten children of the marriage
explain Henri's conduct; and his wife's maternal occupations left him
free to pass his time with Diane de Poitiers. But the king was never
lacking in anything that was due to himself; and he gave Catherine an
"entry" into Paris, to be crowned as queen, which was worthy of all
such pageants that had ever taken place. The archives of the
Parliament, and those of the Cour des Comptes, show that those two
great bodies went to meet her outside of Paris as far as Saint Lazare.
Here is an extract from du Tillet's account of it:--

  "A platform had been erected at Saint-Lazare, on which was a
  throne (du Tillet calls it a /chair de parement/). Catherine took
  her seat upon it, wearing a surcoat, or species of ermine
  short-cloak covered with precious stones, a bodice beneath it with
  the royal mantle, and on her head a crown enriched with pearls and
  diamonds, and held in place by the Marechale de la Mark, her lady
  of honor. Around her /stood/ the princes of the blood, and other
  princes and seigneurs, richly apparelled, also the chancellor of
  France in a robe of gold damask on a background of crimson-red.
  Before the queen, and on the same platform, were seated, in two
  rows, twelve duchesses or countesses, wearing ermine surcoats,
  bodices, robes, and circlets,--that is to say, the coronets of
  duchesses and countesses. These were the Duchesses d'Estouteville,
  Montpensier (elder and younger); the Princesses de la
  Roche-sur-Yon; the Duchesses de Guise, de Nivernois, d'Aumale, de
  Valentinois (Diane de Poitiers), Mademoiselle la batarde legitimee
  de France (the title of the king's daughter, Diane, who was
  Duchesse de Castro-Farnese and afterwards Duchesse de
  Montmorency-Damville), Madame la Connetable, and Mademoiselle de
  Nemours; without mentioning other demoiselles who were not seated.
  The four presidents of the courts of justice, wearing their caps,
  several other members of the court, and the clerk du Tillet, mounted
  the platform, made reverent bows, and the chief judge, Lizet,
  kneeling down, harangued the queen. The chancellor then knelt down
  and answered. The queen made her entry at half-past three o'clock in
  an open litter, having Madame Marguerite de France sitting
  opposite to her, and on either side of the litter the Cardinals of
  Amboise, Chatillon, Boulogne, and de Lenoncourt in their episcopal
  robes. She left her litter at the church of Notre-Dame, where she
  was received by the clergy. After offering her prayer, she was
  conducted by the rue de la Calandre to the palace, where the royal
  supper was served in the great hall. She there appeared, seated at
  the middle of the marble table, beneath a velvet dais strewn with
  golden fleur-de-lis."

We may here put an end to one of those popular beliefs which are
repeated in many writers from Sauval down. It has been said that Henri
II. pushed his neglect of the proprieties so far as to put the
initials of his mistress on the buildings which Catherine advised him
to continue or to begin with so much magnificence. But the double
monogram which can be seen at the Louvre offers a daily denial to
those who are so little clear-sighted as to believe in silly nonsense
which gratuitously insults our kings and queens. The H or Henri and
the two C's of Catherine which back it, appear to represent the two
D's of Diane. The coincidence may have pleased Henri II., but it is
none the less true that the royal monogram contained officially the
initial of the king and that of the queen. This is so true that the
monogram can still be seen on the column of the Halle au Ble, which
was built by Catherine alone. It can also be seen in the crypt of
Saint-Denis, on the tomb which Catherine erected for herself in her
lifetime beside that of Henri II., where her figure is modelled from
nature by the sculptor to whom she sat for it.

On a solemn occasion, when he was starting, March 25, 1552, for his
expedition into Germany, Henri II. declared Catherine regent during
his absence, and also in case of his death. Catherine's most cruel
enemy, the author of "Marvellous Discourses on Catherine the Second's
Behavior" admits that she carried on the government with universal
approval and that the king was satisfied with her administration.
Henri received both money and men at the time he wanted them; and
finally, after the fatal day of Saint-Quentin, Catherine obtained
considerable sums of money from the people of Paris, which she sent to
Compiegne, where the king then was.

In politics, Catherine made immense efforts to obtain a little
influence. She was clever enough to bring the Connetable de
Montmorency, all-powerful under Henri II., to her interests. We all
know the terrible answer that the king made, on being harassed by
Montmorency in her favor. This answer was the result of an attempt by
Catherine to give the king good advice, in the few moments she was
ever alone with him, when she explained the Florentine policy of
pitting the grandees of the kingdom one against another and
establishing the royal authority on their ruins. But Henri II., who
saw things only through the eyes of Diane and the Connetable, was a
truly feudal king and the friend of all the great families of his

After the futile attempt of the Connetable in her favor, which must
have been made in the year 1556, Catherine began to cajole the Guises
for the purpose of detaching them from Diane and opposing them to the
Connetable. Unfortunately, Diane and Montmorency were as vehement
against the Protestants as the Guises. There was therefore not the
same animosity in their struggle as there might have been had the
religious question entered it. Moreover, Diane boldly entered the
lists against the queen's project by coquetting with the Guises and
giving her daughter to the Duc d'Aumale. She even went so far that
certain authors declared she gave more than mere good-will to the
gallant Cardinal de Lorraine; and the lampooners of the time made the
following quatrain on Henri II:

  "Sire, if you're weak and let your will relax
  Till Diane and Lorraine do govern you,
  Pound, knead and mould, re-melt and model you,
  Sire, you are nothing--nothing else than wax."

It is impossible to regard as sincere the signs of grief and the
ostentation of mourning which Catherine showed on the death of Henri
II. The fact that the king was attached by an unalterable passion to
Diane de Poitiers naturally made Catherine play the part of a
neglected wife who adores her husband; but, like all women who act by
their head, she persisted in this dissimulation and never ceased to
speak tenderly of Henri II. In like manner Diane, as we know, wore
mourning all her life for her husband the Senechal de Breze. Her
colors were black and white, and the king was wearing them at the
tournament when he was killed. Catherine, no doubt in imitation of her
rival, wore mourning for Henri II. for the rest of her life. She
showed a consummate perfidy toward Diane de Poitiers, to which
historians have not given due attention. At the king's death the
Duchesse de Valentinois was completely disgraced and shamefully
abandoned by the Connetable, a man who was always below his
reputation. Diane offered her estate and chateau of Chenonceaux to the
queen. Catherine then said, in presence of witnesses:--

"I can never forget that she made the happiness of my dear Henri. I am
ashamed to accept her gift; I wish to give her a domain in place of
it, and I shall offer her that of Chaumont-sur-Loire."

Accordingly, the deed of exchange was signed at Blois in 1559. Diane,
whose sons-in-law were the Duc d'Aumale and the Duc de Bouillon (then
a sovereign prince), kept her wealth, and died in 1566 aged sixty-six.
She was therefore nineteen years older than Henri II. These dates,
taken from her epitaph which was copied from her tomb by the historian
who concerned himself so much about her at the close of the last
century, clear up quite a number of historical difficulties. Some
historians have declared she was forty, others that she was sixteen at
the time of her father's condemnation in 1523; in point of fact she
was then twenty-four. After reading everything for and against her
conduct towards Francois I. we are unable to affirm or to deny
anything. This is one of the passages of history that will ever remain
obscure. We may see by what happens in our own day how history is
falsified at the very moment when events happen.

Catherine, who had founded great hopes on the age of her rival, tried
more than once to overthrow her. It was a dumb, underhand, terrible
struggle. The day came when Catherine believed herself for a moment on
the verge of success. In 1554, Diane, who was ill, begged the king to
go to Saint-Germain and leave her for a short time until she
recovered. This stately coquette did not choose to be seen in the
midst of medical appliances and without the splendors of apparel.
Catherine arranged, as a welcome to her husband, a magnificent ballet,
in which six beautiful young girls were to recite a poem in his honor.
She chose for this function Miss Fleming, a relation of her uncle the
Duke of Albany, the handsomest young woman, some say, that was ever
seen, white and very fair; also one of her own relations, Clarice
Strozzi, a magnificent Italian with superb black hair, and hands that
were of rare beauty; Miss Lewiston, maid of honor to Mary Stuart; Mary
Stuart herself; Madame Elizabeth of France (who was afterwards that
unfortunate Queen of Spain); and Madame Claude. Elizabeth and Claude
were eight and nine years old, Mary Stuart twelve; evidently the queen
intended to bring forward Miss Fleming and Clarice Strozzi and present
them without rivals to the king. The king fell in love with Miss
Fleming, by whom he had a natural son, Henri de Valois, Comte
d'Angouleme, grand-prior of France. But the power and influence of
Diane were not shaken. Like Madame de Pompadour with Louis XV., the
Duchesse de Valentinois forgave all. But what sort of love did this
attempt show in Catherine? Was it love to her husband or love of
power? Women may decide.

A great deal is said in these days of the license of the press; but it
is difficult to imagine the lengths to which it went when printing was
first invented. We know that Aretino, the Voltaire of his time, made
kings and emperors tremble, more especially Charles V.; but the world
does not know so well the audacity and license of pamphlets. The
chateau de Chenonceaux, which we have just mentioned, was given to
Diane, or rather not given, she was implored to accept it to make her
forget one of the most horrible publications ever levelled against a
woman, and which shows the violence of the warfare between herself and
Madame d'Etampes. In 1537, when she was thirty-eight years of age, a
rhymester of Champagne named Jean Voute, published a collection of
Latin verses in which were three epigrams upon her. It is to be
supposed that the poet was sure of protection in high places, for the
pamphlet has a preface in praise of itself, signed by Salmon Macrin,
first valet-de-chambre to the king. Only one passage is quotable from
these epigrams, which are entitled: IN PICTAVIAM, ANAM AULIGAM.

"A painted trap catches no game," says the poet, after telling Diane
that she painted her face and bought her teeth and hair. "You may buy
all that superficially makes a woman, but you can't buy that your
lover wants; for he wants life, and you are dead."

This collection, printed by Simon de Colines, is dedicated to a
bishop!--to Francois Bohier, the brother of the man who, to save his
credit at court and redeem his offence, offered to Diane, on the
accession of Henri II., the chateau de Chenonceaux, built by his
father, Thomas Bohier, a councillor of state under four kings: Louis
XI., Charles VIII., Louis XII., and Francois I. What were the
pamphlets published against Madame de Pompadour and against
Marie-Antoinette compared to these verses, which might have been
written by Martial? Voute must have made a bad end. The estate and
chateau cost Diane nothing more than the forgiveness enjoined by the
gospel. After all, the penalties inflicted on the press, though not
decreed by juries, were somewhat more severe than those of to-day.

The queens of France, on becoming widows, were required to remain in
the king's chamber forty days without other light than that of wax
tapers; they did not leave the room until after the burial of the
king. This inviolable custom was a great annoyance to Catherine, who
feared cabals; and, by chance, she found a means to evade it, thus:
Cardinal de Lorraine, leaving, very early in the morning, the house of
the /belle Romaine/, a celebrated courtesan of the period, who lived
in the rue Culture-Sainte-Catherine, was set upon and maltreated by a
party of libertines. "On which his holiness, being much astonished"
(says Henri Estienne), "gave out that the heretics were preparing
ambushes against him." The court at once removed from Paris to
Saint-Germain, and the queen-mother, declaring that she would not
abandon the king her son, went with him.

The accession of Francois II., the period at which Catherine
confidently believed she could get possession of the regal power, was
a moment of cruel disappointment, after the twenty-six years of misery
she had lived through at the court of France. The Guises laid hands on
power with incredible audacity. The Duc de Guise was placed in command
of the army; the Connetable was dismissed; the cardinal took charge of
the treasury and the clergy.

Catherine now began her political career by a drama which, though it
did not have the dreadful fame of those of later years, was,
nevertheless, most horrible; and it must, undoubtedly, have accustomed
her to the terrible after emotions of her life. While appearing to be
in harmony with the Guises, she endeavored to pave the way for her
ultimate triumph by seeking a support in the house of Bourbon, and the
means she took were as follows: Whether it was that (before the death
of Henri II.), and after fruitlessly attempting violent measures, she
wished to awaken jealousy in order to bring the king back to her; or
whether as she approached middle-age it seemed to her cruel that she
had never known love, certain it is that she showed a strong interest
in a seigneur of the royal blood, Francois de Vendome, son of Louis de
Vendome (the house from which that of the Bourbons sprang), and Vidame
de Chartres, the name under which he is known in history. The secret
hatred which Catherine bore to Diane was revealed in many ways, to
which historians, preoccupied by political interests, have paid no
attention. Catherine's attachment to the vidame proceeded from the
fact that the young man had offered an insult to the favorite. Diane's
greatest ambition was for the honor of an alliance with the royal
family of France. The hand of her second daughter (afterwards Duchesse
d'Aumale) was offered on her behalf to the Vidame de Chartres, who was
kept poor by the far-sighted policy of Francois I. In fact, when the
Vidame de Chartres and the Prince de Conde first came to court,
Francois I. gave them--what? The office of chamberlain, with a paltry
salary of twelve hundred crowns a year, the same that he gave to the
simplest gentlemen. Though Diane de Poitiers offered an immense dowry,
a fine office under the crown, and the favor of the king, the vidame
refused. After which, this Bourbon, already factious, married Jeanne,
daughter of the Baron d'Estissac, by whom he had no children. This act
of pride naturally commended him to Catherine, who greeted him after
that with marked favor and made a devoted friend of him.

Historians have compared the last Duc de Montmorency, beheaded at
Toulouse, to the Vidame de Chartres, in the art of pleasing, in
attainments, accomplishments, and talent. Henri II. showed no
jealousy; he seemed not even to suppose that a queen of France could
fail in her duty, or a Medici forget the honor done to her by a
Valois. But during this time when the queen was, it is said,
coquetting with the Vidame de Chartres, the king, after the birth of
her last child, had virtually abandoned her. This attempt at making
him jealous was to no purpose, for Henri died wearing the colors of
Diane de Poitiers.

At the time of the king's death Catherine was, therefore, on terms of
gallantry with the vidame,--a situation which was quite in conformity
with the manners and morals of a time when love was both so chivalrous
and so licentious that the noblest actions were as natural as the most
blamable; although historians, as usual, have committed the mistake in
this case of taking the exception for the rule.

The four sons of Henri II. of course rendered null the position of the
Bourbons, who were all extremely poor and were now crushed down by the
contempt which the Connetable de Montmorency's treachery brought upon
them, in spite of the fact that the latter had thought best to fly the

The Vidame de Chartres--who was to the first Prince de Conde what
Richelieu was to Mazarin, his father in policy, his model, and, above
all, his master in gallantry--concealed the excessive ambition of his
house beneath an external appearance of light-hearted gaiety. Unable
during the reign of Henri II. to make head against the Guises, the
Montmorencys, the Scottish princes, the cardinals, and the Bouillons,
he distinguished himself by his graceful bearing, his manners, his
wit, which won him the favor of many charming women and the heart of
some for whom he cared nothing. He was one of those privileged beings
whose seductions are irresistible, and who owe to love the power of
maintaining themselves according to their rank. The Bourbons would not
have resented, as did Jarnac, the slander of la Chataigneraie; they
were willing enough to accept the lands and castles of their
mistresses,--witness the Prince de Conde, who accepted the estate of
Saint-Valery from Madame la Marechale de Saint-Andre.

During the first twenty days of mourning after the death of Henri II.
the situation of the vidame suddenly changed. As the object of the
queen mother's regard, and permitted to pay his court to her as court
is paid to a queen, very secretly, he seemed destined to play an
important role, and Catherine did, in fact, resolve to use him. The
vidame received letters from her for the Prince de Conde, in which she
pointed out to the latter the necessity of an alliance against the
Guises. Informed of this intrigue, the Guises entered the queen's
chamber for the purpose of compelling her to issue an order consigning
the vidame to the Bastille, and Catherine, to save herself, was under
the hard necessity of obeying them. After a captivity of some months,
the vidame died on the very day he left prison, which was shortly
before the conspiracy of Amboise. Such was the conclusion of the first
and only amour of Catherine de' Medici. Protestant historians have
said that the queen caused the vidame to be poisoned, to lay the
secret of her gallantries in a tomb!

We have now shown what was the apprenticeship of this woman for the
exercise of her royal power.

                                PART I

                         THE CALVINIST MARTYR



Few persons in the present day know how plain and unpretentious were
the dwellings of the burghers of Paris in the sixteenth century, and
how simple their lives. Perhaps this simplicity of habits and of
thought was the cause of the grandeur of that old bourgeoisie which
was certainly grand, free, and noble,--more so, perhaps, than the
bourgeoisie of the present day. Its history is still to be written; it
requires and it awaits a man of genius. This reflection will doubtless
rise to the lips of every one after reading the almost unknown
incident which forms the basis of this Study and is one of the most
remarkable facts in the history of that bourgeoisie. It will not be
the first time in history that conclusion has preceded facts.

In 1560, the houses of the rue de la Vieille-Pelleterie skirted the
left bank of the Seine, between the pont Notre-Dame and the pont au
Change. A public footpath and the houses then occupied the space
covered by the present roadway. Each house, standing almost in the
river, allowed its dwellers to get down to the water by stone or
wooden stairways, closed and protected by strong iron railings or
wooden gates, clamped with iron. The houses, like those in Venice, had
an entrance on /terra firma/ and a water entrance. At the moment when
the present sketch is published, only one of these houses remains to
recall the old Paris of which we speak, and that is soon to disappear;
it stands at the corner of the Petit-Pont, directly opposite to the
guard-house of the Hotel-Dieu.

Formerly each dwelling presented on the river-side the fantastic
appearance given either by the trade of its occupant and his habits,
or by the originality of the exterior constructions invented by the
proprietors to use or abuse the Seine. The bridges being encumbered
with more mills than the necessities of navigation could allow, the
Seine formed as many enclosed basins as there were bridges. Some of
these basins in the heart of old Paris would have offered precious
scenes and tones of color to painters. What a forest of crossbeams
supported the mills with their huge sails and their wheels! What
strange effects were produced by the piles or props driven into the
water to project the upper floors of the houses above the stream!
Unfortunately, the art of genre painting did not exist in those days,
and that of engraving was in its infancy. We have therefore lost that
curious spectacle, still offered, though in miniature, by certain
provincial towns, where the rivers are overhung with wooden houses,
and where, as at Vendome, the basins, full of water grasses, are
enclosed by immense iron railings, to isolate each proprietor's share
of the stream, which extends from bank to bank.

The name of this street, which has now disappeared from the map,
sufficiently indicates the trade that was carried on in it. In those
days the merchants of each class of commerce, instead of dispersing
themselves about the city, kept together in the same neighborhood and
protected themselves mutually. Associated in corporations which
limited their number, they were still further united into guilds by
the Church. In this way prices were maintained. Also, the masters were
not at the mercy of their workmen, and did not obey their whims as
they do to-day; on the contrary, they made them their children, their
apprentices, took care of them, and taught them the intricacies of the
trade. In order to become a master, a workman had to produce a
masterpiece, which was always dedicated to the saint of his guild.
Will any one dare to say that the absence of competition destroyed the
desire for perfection, or lessened the beauty of products? What say
you, you whose admiration for the masterpieces of past ages has
created the modern trade of the sellers of bric-a-brac?

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the trade of the furrier was
one of the most flourishing industries. The difficulty of obtaining
furs, which, being all brought from the north, required long and
perilous journeys, gave a very high price and value to those products.
Then, as now, high prices led to consumption; for vanity likes to
override obstacles. In France, as in other kingdoms, not only did
royal ordinances restrict the use of furs to the nobility (proved by
the part which ermine plays in the old blazons), but also certain rare
furs, such as /vair/ (which was undoubtedly Siberian sable), could not
be worn by any but kings, dukes, and certain lords clothed with
official powers. A distinction was made between the greater and lesser
/vair/. The very name has been so long disused, that in a vast number
of editions of Perrault's famous tale, Cinderella's slipper, which was
no doubt of /vair/ (the fur), is said to have been made of /verre/
(glass). Lately one of our most distinguished poets was obliged to
establish the true orthography of the word for the instruction of his
brother-feuilletonists in giving an account of the opera of the
"Cenerentola," where the symbolic slipper has been replaced by a ring,
which symbolizes nothing at all.

Naturally the sumptuary laws about the wearing of fur were perpetually
infringed upon, to the great satisfaction of the furriers. The
costliness of stuffs and furs made a garment in those days a durable
thing,--as lasting as the furniture, the armor, and other items of
that strong life of the fifteenth century. A woman of rank, a
seigneur, all rich men, also all the burghers, possessed at the most
two garments for each season, which lasted their lifetime and beyond
it. These garments were bequeathed to their children. Consequently the
clause in the marriage-contract relating to arms and clothes, which in
these days is almost a dead letter because of the small value of
wardrobes that need constant renewing, was then of much importance.
Great costs brought with them solidity. The toilet of a woman
constituted a large capital; it was reckoned among the family
possessions, and was kept in those enormous chests which threaten to
break through the floors of our modern houses. The jewels of a woman
of 1840 would have been the /undress/ ornaments of a great lady in

To-day, the discovery of America, the facilities of transportation,
the ruin of social distinctions which has paved the way for the ruin
of apparent distinctions, has reduced the trade of the furrier to what
it now is,--next to nothing. The article which a furrier sells to-day,
as in former days, for twenty /livres/ has followed the depreciation
of money: formerly the /livre/, which is now worth one franc and is
usually so called, was worth twenty francs. To-day, the lesser
bourgeoisie and the courtesans who edge their capes with sable, are
ignorant than in 1440 an ill-disposed police-officer would have
incontinently arrested them and marched them before the justice at the
Chatelet. Englishwomen, who are so fond of ermine, do not know that in
former times none but queens, duchesses, and chancellors were allowed
to wear that royal fur. There are to-day in France several ennobled
families whose true name is Pelletier or Lepelletier, the origin of
which is evidently derived from some rich furrier's counter, for most
of our burgher's names began in some such way.

This digression will explain, not only the long feud as to precedence
which the guild of drapers maintained for two centuries against the
guild of furriers and also of mercers (each claiming the right to walk
first, as being the most important guild in Paris), but it will also
serve to explain the importance of the Sieur Lecamus, a furrier
honored with the custom of two queens, Catherine de' Medici and Mary
Stuart, also the custom of the parliament,--a man who for twenty years
was the syndic of his corporation, and who lived in the street we have
just described.

The house of Lecamus was one of three which formed the three angles of
the open space at the end of the pont au Change, where nothing now
remains but the tower of the Palais de Justice, which made the fourth
angle. On the corner of this house, which stood at the angle of the
pont au Change and the quai now called the quai aux Fleurs, the
architect had constructed a little shrine for a Madonna, which was
always lighted by wax-tapers and decked with real flowers in summer
and artificial ones in winter. On the side of the house toward the rue
du Pont, as on the side toward the rue de la Vieille-Pelleterie, the
upper story of the house was supported by wooden pillars. All the
houses in this mercantile quarter had an arcade behind these pillars,
where the passers in the street walked under cover on a ground of
trodden mud which kept the place always dirty. In all French towns
these arcades or galleries are called /les piliers/, a general term to
which was added the name of the business transacted under them,--as
"piliers des Halles" (markets), "piliers de la Boucherie" (butchers).

These galleries, a necessity in the Parisian climate, which is so
changeable and so rainy, gave this part of the city a peculiar
character of its own; but they have now disappeared. Not a single
house in the river bank remains, and not more than about a hundred
feet of the old "piliers des Halles," the last that have resisted the
action of time, are left; and before long even that relic of the
sombre labyrinth of old Paris will be demolished. Certainly, the
existence of such old ruins of the middle-ages is incompatible with
the grandeurs of modern Paris. These observations are meant not so
much to regret the destruction of the old town, as to preserve in
words, and by the history of those who lived there, the memory of a
place now turned to dust, and to excuse the following description,
which may be precious to a future age now treading on the heels of our

The walls of this house were of wood covered with slate. The spaces
between the uprights had been filled in, as we may still see in some
provincial towns, with brick, so placed, by reversing their thickness,
as to make a pattern called "Hungarian point." The window-casings and
lintels, also in wood, were richly carved, and so was the corner
pillar where it rose above the shrine of the Madonna, and all the
other pillars in front of the house. Each window, and each main beam
which separated the different storeys, was covered with arabesques of
fantastic personages and animals wreathed with conventional foliage.
On the street side, as on the river side, the house was capped with a
roof looking as if two cards were set up one against the other,--thus
presenting a gable to the street and a gable to the water. This roof,
like the roof of a Swiss chalet, overhung the building so far that on
the second floor there was an outside gallery with a balustrade, on
which the owners of the house could walk under cover and survey the
street, also the river basin between the bridges and the two lines of

These houses on the river bank were very valuable. In those days a
system of drains and fountains was still to be invented; nothing of
the kind as yet existed except the circuit sewer, constructed by
Aubriot, provost of Paris under Charles the Wise, who also built the
Bastille, the pont Saint-Michel and other bridges, and was the first
man of genius who ever thought of the sanitary improvement of Paris.
The houses situated like that of Lecamus took from the river the water
necessary for the purposes of life, and also made the river serve as a
natural drain for rain-water and household refuse. The great works
that the "merchants' provosts" did in this direction are fast
disappearing. Middle-aged persons alone can remember to have seen the
great holes in the rue Montmartre, rue du Temple, etc., down which the
waters poured. Those terrible open jaws were in the olden time of
immense benefit to Paris. Their place will probably be forever marked
by the sudden rise of the paved roadways at the spots where they
opened,--another archaeological detail which will be quite inexplicable
to the historian two centuries hence. One day, about 1816, a little
girl who was carrying a case of diamonds to an actress at the Ambigu,
for her part as queen, was overtaken by a shower and so nearly washed
down the great drainhole in the rue du Temple that she would have
disappeared had it not been for a passer who heard her cries.
Unluckily, she had let go the diamonds, which were, however, recovered
later at a man-hole. This event made a great noise, and gave rise to
many petitions against these engulfers of water and little girls. They
were singular constructions about five feet high, furnished with iron
railings, more or less movable, which often caused the inundation of
the neighboring cellars, whenever the artificial river produced by
sudden rains was arrested in its course by the filth and refuse
collected about these railings, which the owners of the abutting
houses sometimes forgot to open.

The front of this shop of the Sieur Lecamus was all window, formed of
sashes of leaded panes, which made the interior very dark. The furs
were taken for selection to the houses of rich customers. As for those
who came to the shop to buy, the goods were shown to them outside,
between the pillars,--the arcade being, let us remark, encumbered
during the day-time with tables, and clerks sitting on stools, such as
we all remember seeing some fifteen years ago under the "piliers des
Halles." From these outposts, the clerks and apprentices talked,
questioned, answered each other, and called to the passers,--customs
which the great Walter Scott has made use of in his "Fortunes of

The sign, which represented an ermine, hung outside, as we still see
in some village hostelries, from a rich bracket of gilded iron
filagree. Above the ermine, on one side of the sign, were the words:--




On the other side of the sign were the words:--



The words "Madame la Royne-mere" had been lately added. The gilding
was fresh. This addition showed the recent changes produced by the
sudden and violent death of Henri II., which overturned many fortunes
at court and began that of the Guises.

The back-shop opened on the river. In this room usually sat the
respectable proprietor himself and Mademoiselle Lecamus. In those days
the wife of a man who was not noble had no right to the title of dame,
"madame"; but the wives of the burghers of Paris were allowed to use
that of "mademoiselle," in virtue of privileges granted and confirmed
to their husbands by the several kings to whom they had done service.
Between this back-shop and the main shop was the well of a
corkscrew-staircase which gave access to the upper story, where were
the great ware-room and the dwelling-rooms of the old couple, and the
garrets lighted by skylights, where slept the children, the servant-woman,
the apprentices, and the clerks.

This crowding of families, servants, and apprentices, the little space
which each took up in the building where the apprentices all slept in
one large chamber under the roof, explains the enormous population of
Paris then agglomerated on one-tenth of the surface of the present
city; also the queer details of private life in the middle ages; also,
the contrivances of love which, with all due deference to historians,
are found only in the pages of the romance-writers, without whom they
would be lost to the world. At this period very great /seigneurs/,
such, for instance, as Admiral de Coligny, occupied three rooms, and
their suites lived at some neighboring inn. There were not, in those
days, more than fifty private mansions in Paris, and those were fifty
palaces belonging to sovereign princes, or to great vassals, whose way
of living was superior to that of the greatest German rulers, such as
the Duke of Bavaria and the Elector of Saxony.

The kitchen of the Lecamus family was beneath the back-shop and looked
out upon the river. It had a glass door opening upon a sort of iron
balcony, from which the cook drew up water in a bucket, and where the
household washing was done. The back-shop was made the dining-room,
office, and salon of the merchant. In this important room (in all such
houses richly panelled and adorned with some special work of art, and
also a carved chest) the life of the merchant was passed; there the
joyous suppers after the work of the day was over, there the secret
conferences on the political interests of the burghers and of royalty
took place. The formidable corporations of Paris were at that time
able to arm a hundred thousand men. Therefore the opinions of the
merchants were backed by their servants, their clerks, their
apprentices, their workmen. The burghers had a chief in the "provost
of the merchants" who commanded them, and in the Hotel de Ville, a
palace where they possessed the right to assemble. In the famous
"burghers' parlor" their solemn deliberations took place. Had it not
been for the continual sacrifices which by that time made war
intolerable to the corporations, who were weary of their losses and of
the famine, Henri IV., that factionist who became king, might never
perhaps have entered Paris.

Every one can now picture to himself the appearance of this corner of
old Paris, where the bridge and quai still are, where the trees of the
quai aux Fleurs now stand, but where no trace remains of the period of
which we write except the tall and famous tower of the Palais de
Justice, from which the signal was given for the Saint Bartholomew.
Strange circumstance! one of the houses standing at the foot of that
tower then surrounded by wooden shops, that, namely, of Lecamus, was
about to witness the birth of facts which were destined to prepare for
that night of massacre, which was, unhappily, more favorable than
fatal to Calvinism.

At the moment when our history begins, the audacity of the new
religious doctrines was putting all Paris in a ferment. A Scotchman
named Stuart had just assassinated President Minard, the member of the
Parliament to whom public opinion attributed the largest share in the
execution of Councillor Anne du Bourg; who was burned on the place de
Greve after the king's tailor--to whom Henri II. and Diane de Poitiers
had caused the torture of the "question" to be applied in their very
presence. Paris was so closely watched that the archers compelled all
passers along the street to pray before the shrines of the Madonna so
as to discover heretics by their unwillingness or even refusal to do
an act contrary to their beliefs.

The two archers who were stationed at the corner of the Lecamus house
had departed, and Cristophe, son of the furrier, vehemently suspected
of deserting Catholicism, was able to leave the shop without fear of
being made to adore the Virgin. By seven in the evening, in April,
1560, darkness was already falling, and the apprentices, seeing no
signs of customers on either side of the arcade, were beginning to
take in the merchandise exposed as samples beneath the pillars, in
order to close the shop. Christophe Lecamus, an ardent young man about
twenty-two years old, was standing on the sill of the shop-door,
apparently watching the apprentices.

"Monsieur," said one of them, addressing Christophe and pointing to a
man who was walking to and fro under the gallery with an air of
indecision, "perhaps that's a thief or a spy; anyhow, the shabby
wretch can't be an honest man; if he wanted to speak to us he would
come over frankly, instead of sidling along as he does--and what a
face!" continued the apprentice, mimicking the man, "with his nose in
his cloak, his yellow eyes, and that famished look!"

When the stranger thus described caught sight of Christophe alone on
the door-sill, he suddenly left the opposite gallery where he was then
walking, crossed the street rapidly, and came under the arcade in
front of the Lecamus house. There he passed slowly along in front of
the shop, and before the apprentices returned to close the outer
shutters he said to Christophe in a low voice:--

"I am Chaudieu."

Hearing the name of one of the most illustrious ministers and devoted
actors in the terrible drama called "The Reformation," Christophe
quivered as a faithful peasant might have quivered on recognizing his
disguised king.

"Perhaps you would like to see some furs? Though it is almost dark I
will show you some myself," said Christophe, wishing to throw the
apprentices, whom he heard behind him, off the scent.

With a wave of his hand he invited the minister to enter the shop, but
the latter replied that he preferred to converse outside. Christophe
then fetched his cap and followed the disciple of Calvin.

Though banished by an edict, Chaudieu, the secret envoy of Theodore de
Beze and Calvin (who were directing the French Reformation from
Geneva), went and came, risking the cruel punishment to which the
Parliament, in unison with the Church and Royalty, had condemned one
of their number, the celebrated Anne du Bourg, in order to make a
terrible example. Chaudieu, whose brother was a captain and one of
Admiral Coligny's best soldiers, was a powerful auxiliary by whose arm
Calvin shook France at the beginning of the twenty two years of
religious warfare now on the point of breaking out. This minister
was one of the hidden wheels whose movements can best exhibit the
wide-spread action of the Reform.

Chaudieu led Christophe to the water's edge through an underground
passage, which was like that of the Marion tunnel filled up by the
authorities about ten years ago. This passage, which was situated
between the Lecamus house and the one adjoining it, ran under the rue
de la Vieille-Pelleterie, and was called the Pont-aux-Fourreurs. It
was used by the dyers of the City to go to the river and wash their
flax and silks, and other stuffs. A little boat was at the entrance of
it, rowed by a single sailor. In the bow was a man unknown to
Christophe, a man of low stature and very simply dressed. Chaudieu and
Christophe entered the boat, which in a moment was in the middle of
the Seine; the sailor then directed its course beneath one of the
wooden arches of the pont au Change, where he tied up quickly to an
iron ring. As yet, no one had said a word.

"Here we can speak without fear; there are no traitors or spies here,"
said Chaudieu, looking at the two as yet unnamed men. Then, turning an
ardent face to Christophe, "Are you," he said, "full of that devotion
that should animate a martyr? Are you ready to endure all for our
sacred cause? Do you fear the tortures applied to the Councillor du
Bourg, to the king's tailor,--tortures which await the majority of

"I shall confess the gospel," replied Lecamus, simply, looking at the
windows of his father's back-shop.

The family lamp, standing on the table where his father was making up
his books for the day, spoke to him, no doubt, of the joys of family
and the peaceful existence which he now renounced. The vision was
rapid, but complete. His mind took in, at a glance, the burgher
quarter full of its own harmonies, where his happy childhood had been
spent, where lived his promised bride, Babette Lallier, where all
things promised him a sweet and full existence; he saw the past; he
saw the future, and he sacrificed it, or, at any rate, he staked it
all. Such were the men of that day.

"We need ask no more," said the impetuous sailor; "we know him for one
of our /saints/. If the Scotchman had not done the deed he would kill
us that infamous Minard."

"Yes," said Lecamus, "my life belongs to the church; I shall give it
with joy for the triumph of the Reformation, on which I have seriously
reflected. I know that what we do is for the happiness of the peoples.
In two words: Popery drives to celibacy, the Reformation establishes
the family. It is time to rid France of her monks, to restore their
lands to the Crown, who will, sooner or later, sell them to the
burghers. Let us learn to die for our children, and make our families
some day free and prosperous."

The face of the young enthusiast, that of Chaudieu, that of the
sailor, that of the stranger seated in the bow, lighted by the last
gleams of the twilight, formed a picture which ought the more to be
described because the description contains in itself the whole history
of the times--if it is, indeed, true that to certain men it is given
to sum up in their own persons the spirit of their age.

The religious reform undertaken by Luther in Germany, John Knox in
Scotland, Calvin in France, took hold especially of those minds in the
lower classes into which thought had penetrated. The great lords
sustained the movement only to serve interests that were foreign to
the religious cause. To these two classes were added adventurers,
ruined noblemen, younger sons, to whom all troubles were equally
acceptable. But among the artisan and merchant classes the new faith
was sincere and based on calculation. The masses of the poorer people
adhered at once to a religion which gave the ecclesiastical property
to the State, and deprived the dignitaries of the Church of their
enormous revenues. Commerce everywhere reckoned up the profits of this
religious operation, and devoted itself body, soul, and purse, to the

But among the young men of the French bourgeoisie the Protestant
movement found that noble inclination to sacrifices of all kinds which
inspires youth, to which selfishness is, as yet, unknown. Eminent men,
sagacious minds, discerned the Republic in the Reformation; they
desired to establish throughout Europe the government of the United
Provinces, which ended by triumphing over the greatest Power of those
times,--Spain, under Philip the Second, represented in the Low
Countries by the Duke of Alba. Jean Hotoman was then meditating his
famous book, in which this project is put forth,--a book which spread
throughout France the leaven of these ideas, which were stirred up
anew by the Ligue, repressed by Richelieu, then by Louis XIV., always
protected by the younger branches, by the house of Orleans in 1789, as
by the house of Bourbon in 1589. Whoso says "Investigate" says
"Revolt." All revolt is either the cloak that hides a prince, or the
swaddling-clothes of a new mastery. The house of Bourbon, the younger
sons of the Valois, were at work beneath the surface of the

At the moment when the little boat floated beneath the arch of the
pont au Change the question was strangely complicated by the ambitions
of the Guises, who were rivalling the Bourbons. Thus the Crown,
represented by Catherine de' Medici, was able to sustain the struggle
for thirty years by pitting the one house against the other house;
whereas later, the Crown, instead of standing between various jealous
ambitions, found itself without a barrier, face to face with the
people: Richelieu and Louis XIV. had broken down the barrier of the
Nobility; Louis XV. had broken down that of the Parliaments. Alone
before the people, as Louis XVI. was, a king must inevitably succumb.

Christophe Lecamus was a fine representative of the ardent and devoted
portion of the people. His wan face had the sharp hectic tones which
distinguish certain fair complexions; his hair was yellow, of a
coppery shade; his gray-blue eyes were sparkling. In them alone was
his fine soul visible; for his ill-proportioned face did not atone for
its triangular shape by the noble mien of an elevated mind, and his
low forehead indicated only extreme energy. Life seemed to centre in
his chest, which was rather hollow. More nervous than sanguine,
Cristophe's bodily appearance was thin and threadlike, but wiry. His
pointed noise expressed the shrewdness of the people, and his
countenance revealed an intelligence capable of conducting itself well
on a single point of the circumference, without having the faculty of
seeing all around it. His eyes, the arching brows of which, scarcely
covered with a whitish down, projected like an awning, were strongly
circled by a pale-blue band, the skin being white and shining at the
spring of the nose,--a sign which almost always denotes excessive
enthusiasm. Christophe was of the people,--the people who devote
themselves, who fight for their devotions, who let themselves be
inveigled and betrayed; intelligent enough to comprehend and serve an
idea, too upright to turn it to his own account, too noble to sell

Contrasting with this son of Lecamus, Chaudieu, the ardent minister,
with brown hair thinned by vigils, a yellow skin, an eloquent mouth, a
militant brow, with flaming brown eyes, and a short and prominent
chin, embodied well the Christian faith which brought to the
Reformation so many sincere and fanatical pastors, whose courage and
spirit aroused the populations. The aide-de-camp of Calvin and
Theodore de Beze contrasted admirably with the son of the furrier. He
represented the fiery cause of which the effect was seen in

The sailor, an impetuous being, tanned by the open air, accustomed to
dewy nights and burning days, with closed lips, hasty gestures, orange
eyes, ravenous as those of a vulture, and black, frizzled hair, was
the embodiment of an adventurer who risks all in a venture, as a
gambler stakes all on a card. His whole appearance revealed terrific
passions, and an audacity that flinched at nothing. His vigorous
muscles were made to be quiescent as well as to act. His manner was
more audacious than noble. His nose, though thin, turned up and
snuffed battle. He seemed agile and capable. You would have known him
in all ages for the leader of a party. If he were not of the
Reformation, he might have been Pizarro, Fernando Cortez, or Morgan
the Exterminator,--a man of violent action of some kind.

The fourth man, sitting on a thwart wrapped in his cloak, belonged,
evidently, to the highest portion of society. The fineness of his
linen, its cut, the material and scent of his clothing, the style and
skin of his gloves, showed him to be a man of courts, just as his
bearing, his haughtiness, his composure and his all-embracing glance
proved him to be a man of war. The aspect of this personage made a
spectator uneasy in the first place, and then inclined him to respect.
We respect a man who respects himself. Though short and deformed, his
manners instantly redeemed the disadvantages of his figure. The ice
once broken, he showed a lively rapidity of decision, with an
indefinable dash and fire which made him seem affable and winning. He
had the blue eyes and the curved nose of the house of Navarre, and the
Spanish cut of the marked features which were in after days the type
of the Bourbon kings.

In a word, the scene now assumed a startling interest.

"Well," said Chaudieu, as young Lecamus ended his speech, "this
boatman is La Renaudie. And here is Monsiegneur the Prince de Conde,"
he added, motioning to the deformed little man.

Thus these four men represented the faith of the people, the spirit of
the Scriptures, the mailed hand of the soldier, and royalty itself
hidden in that dark shadow of the bridge.

"You shall now know what we expect of you," resumed the minister,
after allowing a short pause for Christophe's astonishment. "In order
that you may make no mistake, we feel obliged to initiate you into the
most important secrets of the Reformation."

The prince and La Renaudie emphasized the minister's speech by a
gesture, the latter having paused to allow the prince to speak, if he
so wished. Like all great men engaged in plotting, whose system it is
to conceal their hand until the decisive moment, the prince kept
silence--but not from cowardice. In these crises he was always the
soul of the conspiracy; recoiling from no danger and ready to risk his
own head; but from a sort of royal dignity he left the explanation of
the enterprise to his minister, and contented himself with studying
the new instrument he was about to use.

"My child," said Chaudieu, in the Huguenot style of address, "we are
about to do battle for the first time with the Roman prostitute. In a
few days either our legions will be dying on the scaffold, or the
Guises will be dead. This is the first call to arms on behalf of our
religion in France, and France will not lay down those arms till they
have conquered. The question, mark you this, concerns the nation, not
the kingdom. The majority of the nobles of the kingdom see plainly
what the Cardinal de Lorraine and his brother are seeking. Under
pretext of defending the Catholic religion, the house of Lorraine
means to claim the crown of France as its patrimony. Relying on the
Church, it has made the Church a formidable ally; the monks are its
support, its acolytes, its spies. It has assumed the post of guardian
to the throne it is seeking to usurp; it protects the house of Valois
which it means to destroy. We have decided to take up arms because the
liberties of the people and the interests of the nobles are equally
threatened. Let us smother at its birth a faction as odious as that of
the Burgundians who formerly put Paris and all France to fire and
sword. It required a Louis XI. to put a stop to the quarrel between
the Burgundians and the Crown; and to-day a prince de Conde is needed
to prevent the house of Lorraine from re-attempting that struggle.
This is not a civil war; it is a duel between the Guises and the
Reformation,--a duel to the death! We will make their heads fall, or
they shall have ours."

"Well said!" cried the prince.

"In this crisis, Christophe," said La Renaudie, "we mean to neglect
nothing which shall strengthen our party,--for there is a party in the
Reformation, the party of thwarted interests, of nobles sacrificed to
the Lorrains, of old captains shamefully treated at Fontainebleau,
from which the cardinal has banished them by setting up gibbets on
which to hang those who ask the king for the cost of their equipment
and their back-pay."

"This, my child," resumed Chaudieu, observing a sort of terror in
Christophe, "this it is which compels us to conquer by arms instead of
conquering by conviction and by martyrdom. The queen-mother is on the
point of entering into our views. Not that she means to abjure; she
has not reached that decision as yet; but she may be forced to it by
our triumph. However that may be, Queen Catherine, humiliated and in
despair at seeing the power she expected to wield on the death of the
king passing into the hands of the Guises, alarmed at the empire of
the young queen, Mary, niece of the Lorrains and their auxiliary,
Queen Catherine is doubtless inclined to lend her support to the
princes and lords who are now about to make an attempt which will
deliver her from the Guises. At this moment, devoted as she may seem
to them, she hates them; she desires their overthrow, and will try to
make use of us against them; but Monseigneur the Prince de Conde
intends to make use of her against all. The queen-mother will,
undoubtedly, consent to all our plans. We shall have the Connetable on
our side; Monseigneur has just been to see him at Chantilly; but he
does not wish to move without an order from his masters. Being the
uncle of Monseigneur, he will not leave him in the lurch; and this
generous prince does not hesitate to fling himself into danger to
force Anne de Montmorency to a decision. All is prepared, and we have
cast our eyes on you as the means of communicating to Queen Catherine
our treaty of alliance, the drafts of edicts, and the bases of the new
government. The court is at Blois. Many of our friends are with it;
but they are to be our future chiefs, and, like Monseigneur," he
added, motioning to the prince, "they must not be suspected. The
queen-mother and our friends are so closely watched that it is
impossible to employ as intermediary any known person of importance;
they would instantly be suspected and kept from communicating with
Madame Catherine. God sends us at this crisis the shepherd David and
his sling to do battle with Goliath of Guise. Your father,
unfortunately for him a good Catholic, is furrier to the two queens.
He is constantly supplying them with garments. Get him to send you on
some errand to the court. You will excite no suspicion, and you cannot
compromise Queen Catherine in any way. All our leaders would lose
their heads if a single imprudent act allowed their connivance with
the queen-mother to be seen. Where a great lord, if discovered, would
give the alarm and destroy our chances, an insignificant man like you
will pass unnoticed. See! The Guises keep the town so full of spies
that we have only the river where we can talk without fear. You are
now, my son, like a sentinel who must die at his post. Remember this:
if you are discovered, we shall all abandon you; we shall even cast,
if necessary, opprobrium and infamy upon you. We shall say that you
are a creature of the Guises, made to play this part to ruin us. You
see therefore that we ask of you a total sacrifice."

"If you perish," said the Prince de Conde, "I pledge my honor as a
noble that your family shall be sacred for the house of Navarre; I
will bear it on my heart and serve it in all things."

"Those words, my prince, suffice," replied Christophe, without
reflecting that the conspirator was a Gascon. "We live in times when
each man, prince or burgher, must do his duty."

"There speaks the true Huguenot. If all our men were like that," said
La Renaudie, laying his hand on Christophe's shoulder, "we should be
conquerors to-morrow."

"Young man," resumed the prince, "I desire to show you that if
Chaudieu preaches, if the nobleman goes armed, the prince fights.
Therefore, in this hot game all stakes are played."

"Now listen to me," said La Renaudie. "I will not give you the papers
until you reach Beaugency; for they must not be risked during the
whole of your journey. You will find me waiting for you there on the
wharf; my face, voice, and clothes will be so changed you cannot
recognize me, but I shall say to you, 'Are you a /guepin/?' and you
will answer, 'Ready to serve.' As to the performance of your mission,
these are the means: You will find a horse at the 'Pinte Fleurie,"
close to Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois. You will there ask for Jean le
Breton, who will take you to the stable and give you one of my ponies
which is known to do thirty leagues in eight hours. Leave by the gate
of Bussy. Breton has a pass for me; use it yourself, and make your way
by skirting the towns. You can thus reach Orleans by daybreak."

"But the horse?" said young Lecamus.

"He will not give out till you reach Orleans," replied La Renaudie.
"Leave him at the entrance of the faubourg Bannier; for the gates are
well guarded, and you must not excite suspicion. It is for you,
friend, to play your part intelligently. You must invent whatever
fable seems to you best to reach the third house to the left on
entering Orleans; it belongs to a certain Tourillon, glove-maker.
Strike three blows on the door, and call out: 'On service from
Messieurs de Guise!' The man will appear to be a rabid Guisist; no one
knows but our four selves that he is one of us. He will give you a
faithful boatman,--another Guisist of his own cut. Go down at once to
the wharf, and embark in a boat painted green and edged with white.
You will doubtless land at Beaugency to-morrow about mid-day. There I
will arrange to find you a boat which will take you to Blois without
running any risk. Our enemies the Guises do not watch the rivers, only
the landings. Thus you will be able to see the queen-mother to-morrow
or the day after."

"Your words are written there," said Christophe, touching his

Chaudieu embraced his child with singular religious effusion; he was
proud of him.

"God keep thee!" he said, pointing to the ruddy light of the sinking
sun, which was touching the old roofs covered with shingles and
sending its gleams slantwise through the forest of piles among which
the water was rippling.

"You belong to the race of the Jacques Bonhomme," said La Renaudie,
pressing Christophe's hand.

"We shall meet again, /monsieur/," said the prince, with a gesture of
infinite grace, in which there was something that seemed almost

With a stroke of his oars La Renaudie put the boat at the lower step
of the stairway which led to the house. Christophe landed, and the
boat disappeared instantly beneath the arches of the pont au Change.


                             THE BURGHERS

Christophe shook the iron railing which closed the stairway on the
river, and called. His mother heard him, opened one of the windows of
the back shop, and asked what he was doing there. Christophe answered
that he was cold and wanted to get in.

"Ha! my master," said the Burgundian maid, "you went out by the
street-door, and you return by the water-gate. Your father will be
fine and angry."

Christophe, bewildered by a confidence which had just brought him into
communication with the Prince de Conde, La Renaudie, and Chaudieu, and
still more moved at the prospect of impending civil war, made no
answer; he ran hastily up from the kitchen to the back shop; but his
mother, a rabid Catholic, could not control her anger.

"I'll wager those three men I saw you talking with are Ref--"

"Hold your tongue, wife!" said the cautious old man with white hair
who was turning over a thick ledger. "You dawdling fellows," he went
on, addressing three journeymen, who had long finished their suppers,
"why don't you go to bed? It is eight o'clock, and you have to be up
at five; besides, you must carry home to-night President de Thou's cap
and mantle. All three of you had better go, and take your sticks and
rapiers; and then, if you meet scamps like yourselves, at least you'll
be in force."

"Are we going to take the ermine surcoat the young queen has ordered
to be sent to the hotel des Soissons? there's an express going from
there to Blois for the queen-mother," said one of the clerks.

"No," said his master, "the queen-mother's bill amounts to three
thousand crowns; it is time to get the money, and I am going to Blois
myself very soon."

"Father, I do not think it right at your age and in these dangerous
times to expose yourself on the high-roads. I am twenty-two years old,
and you ought to employ me on such errands," said Christophe, eyeing
the box which he supposed contained the surcoat.

"Are you glued to your seats?" cried the old man to his apprentices,
who at once jumped up and seized their rapiers, cloaks, and Monsieur
de Thou's furs.

The next day the Parliament was to receive in state, as its president,
this illustrious judge, who, after signing the death warrant of
Councillor du Bourg, was destined before the close of the year to sit
in judgment on the Prince de Conde!

"Here!" said the old man, calling to the maid, "go and ask friend
Lallier if he will come and sup with us and bring the wine; we'll
furnish the victuals. Tell him, above all, to bring his daughter."

Lecamus, the syndic of the guild of furriers, was a handsome old man
of sixty, with white hair, and a broad, open brow. As court furrier
for the last forty years, he had witnessed all the revolutions of the
reign of Francois I. He had seen the arrival at the French court of
the young girl Catherine de' Medici, then scarcely fifteen years of
age. He had observed her giving way before the Duchesse d'Etampes, her
father-in-law's mistress; giving way before the Duchesse de
Valentinois, the mistress of her husband the late king. But the
furrier had brought himself safely through all the chances and changes
by which court merchants were often involved in the disgrace and
overthrow of mistresses. His caution led to his good luck. He
maintained an attitude of extreme humility. Pride had never caught him
in its toils. He made himself so small, so gentle, so compliant, of so
little account at court and before the queens and princesses and
favorites, that this modesty, combined with good-humor, had kept the
royal sign above his door.

Such a policy was, of course, indicative of a shrewd and perspicacious
mind. Humble as Lecamus seemed to the outer world, he was despotic in
his own home; there he was an autocrat. Most respected and honored by
his brother craftsmen, he owed to his long possession of the first
place in the trade much of the consideration that was shown to him. He
was, besides, very willing to do kindnesses to others, and among the
many services he had rendered, none was more striking than the
assistance he had long given to the greatest surgeon of the sixteenth
century, Ambroise Pare, who owed to him the possibility of studying
for his profession. In all the difficulties which came up among the
merchants Lecamus was always conciliating. Thus a general good opinion
of him consolidated his position among his equals; while his borrowed
characteristics kept him steadily in favor with the court.

Not only this, but having intrigued for the honor of being on the
vestry of his parish church, he did what was necessary to bring him
into the odor of sanctity with the rector of Saint-Pierre aux Boeufs,
who looked upon him as one of the men most devoted to the Catholic
religion in Paris. Consequently, at the time of the convocation of the
States-General he was unanimously elected to represent the /tiers
etat/ through the influence of the clergy of Paris,--an influence
which at that period was immense. This old man was, in short, one of
those secretly ambitious souls who will bend for fifty years before
all the world, gliding from office to office, no one exactly knowing
how it came about that he was found securely and peacefully seated at
last where no man, even the boldest, would have had the ambition at
the beginning of life to fancy himself; so great was the distance, so
many the gulfs and the precipices to cross! Lecamus, who had immense
concealed wealth, would not run any risks, and was silently preparing
a brilliant future for his son. Instead of having the personal
ambition which sacrifices the future to the present, he had family
ambition,--a lost sentiment in our time, a sentiment suppressed by the
folly of our laws of inheritance. Lecamus saw himself first president
of the Parliament of Paris in the person of his grandson.

Christophe, godson of the famous historian de Thou, was given a most
solid education; but it had led him to doubt and to the spirit of
examination which was then affecting both the Faculties and the
students of the universities. Christophe was, at the period of which
we are now writing, pursuing his studies for the bar, that first step
toward the magistracy. The old furrier was pretending to some
hesitation as to his son. Sometimes he seemed to wish to make
Christophe his successor; then again he spoke of him as a lawyer; but
in his heart he was ambitious of a place for this son as Councillor of
the Parliament. He wanted to put the Lecamus family on a level with
those old and celebrated burgher families from which came the
Pasquiers, the Moles, the Mirons, the Seguiers, Lamoignon, du Tillet,
Lecoigneux, Lescalopier, Goix, Arnauld, those famous sheriffs and
grand-provosts of the merchants, among whom the throne found such
strong defenders.

Therefore, in order that Christophe might in due course of time
maintain his rank, he wished to marry him to the daughter of the
richest jeweller in the city, his friend Lallier, whose nephew was
destined to present to Henri IV. the keys of Paris. The strongest
desire rooted in the heart of the worthy burgher was to use half of
his fortune and half of that of the jeweller in the purchase of a
large and beautiful seignorial estate, which, in those days, was a
long and very difficult affair. But his shrewd mind knew the age in
which he lived too well to be ignorant of the great movements which
were now in preparation. He saw clearly, and he saw justly, and knew
that the kingdom was about to be divided into two camps. The useless
executions in the Place de l'Estrapade, that of the king's tailor and
the more recent one of the Councillor Anne du Bourg, the actual
connivance of the great lords, and that of the favorite of Francois I.
with the Reformers, were terrible indications. The furrier resolved to
remain, whatever happened, Catholic, royalist, and parliamentarian;
but it suited him, privately, that Christophe should belong to the
Reformation. He knew he was rich enough to ransom his son if
Christophe was too much compromised; and on the other hand if France
became Calvinist his son could save the family in the event of one of
those furious Parisian riots, the memory of which was ever-living with
the bourgeoisie,--riots they were destined to see renewed through four

But these thoughts the old furrier, like Louis XI., did not even say
to himself; his wariness went so far as to deceive his wife and son.
This grave personage had long been the chief man of the richest and
most populous quarter of Paris, that of the centre, under the title of
/quartenier/,--the title and office which became so celebrated some
fifteen months later. Clothed in cloth like all the prudent burghers
who obeyed the sumptuary laws, Sieur Lecamus (he was tenacious of that
title which Charles V. granted to the burghers of Paris, permitting
them also to buy baronial estates and call their wives by the fine
name of /demoiselle/, but not by that of madame) wore neither gold
chains nor silk, but always a good doublet with large tarnished silver
buttons, cloth gaiters mounting to the knee, and leather shoes with
clasps. His shirt, of fine linen, showed, according to the fashion of
the time, in great puffs between his half-opened jacket and his
breeches. Though his large and handsome face received the full light
of the lamp standing on the table, Christophe had no conception of the
thoughts which lay buried beneath the rich and florid Dutch skin of
the old man; but he understood well enough the advantage he himself
had expected to obtain from his affection for pretty Babette Lallier.
So Christophe, with the air of a man who had come to a decision,
smiled bitterly as he heard of the invitation to his promised bride.

When the Burgundian cook and the apprentices had departed on their
several errands, old Lecamus looked at his wife with a glance which
showed the firmness and resolution of his character.

"You will not be satisfied till you have got that boy hanged with your
damned tongue," he said, in a stern voice.

"I would rather see him hanged and saved than living and a Huguenot,"
she answered, gloomily. "To think that a child whom I carried nine
months in my womb should be a bad Catholic, and be doomed to hell for
all eternity!"

She began to weep.

"Old silly," said the furrier; "let him live, if only to convert him.
You said, before the apprentices, a word which may set fire to our
house, and roast us all, like fleas in a straw bed."

The mother crossed herself, and sat down silently.

"Now, then, you," said the old man, with a judicial glance at his son,
"explain to me what you were doing on the river with--come closer,
that I may speak to you," he added, grasping his son by the arm, and
drawing him to him--"with the Prince de Conde," he whispered.
Christophe trembled. "Do you suppose the court furrier does not know
every face that frequents the palace? Think you I am ignorant of what
is going on? Monseigneur the Grand Master has been giving orders to
send troops to Amboise. Withdrawing troops from Paris to send them to
Amboise when the king is at Blois, and making them march through
Chartres and Vendome, instead of going by Orleans--isn't the meaning
of that clear enough? There'll be troubles. If the queens want their
surcoats, they must send for them. The Prince de Conde has perhaps
made up his mind to kill Messieurs de Guise; who, on their side,
expect to rid themselves of him. The prince will use the Huguenots to
protect himself. Why should the son of a furrier get himself into that
fray? When you are married, and when you are councillor to the
Parliament, you will be as prudent as your father. Before belonging to
the new religion, the son of a furrier ought to wait until the rest of
the world belongs to it. I don't condemn the Reformers; it is not my
business to do so; but the court is Catholic, the two queens are
Catholic, the Parliament is Catholic; we must supply them with furs,
and therefore we must be Catholic ourselves. You shall not go out from
here, Christophe; if you do, I will send you to your godfather,
President de Thou, who will keep you night and day blackening paper,
instead of blackening your soul in company with those damned

"Father," said Christophe, leaning upon the back of the old man's
chair, "send me to Blois to carry that surcoat to Queen Mary and get
our money from the queen-mother. If you do not, I am lost; and you
care for your son."

"Lost?" repeated the old man, without showing the least surprise. "If
you stay here you can't be lost; I shall have my eye on you all the

"They will kill me here."


"The most powerful among the Huguenots have cast their eyes on me to
serve them in a certain matter; if I fail to do what I have just
promised to do, they will kill me in open day, here in the street, as
they killed Minard. But if you send me to court on your affairs,
perhaps I can justify myself equally well to both sides. Either I
shall succeed without having run any danger at all, and shall then win
a fine position in the party; or, if the danger turns out very great,
I shall be there simply on your business."

The father rose as if his chair was of red-hot iron.

"Wife," he said, "leave us; and watch that we are left quite alone,
Christophe and I."

When Mademoiselle Lecamus had left them the furrier took his son by a
button and led him to the corner of the room which made the angle of
the bridge.

"Christophe," he said, whispering in his ear as he had done when he
mentioned the name of the Prince of Conde, "be a Huguenot, if you have
that vice; but be so cautiously, in the depths of your soul, and not
in a way to be pointed at as a heretic throughout the quarter. What
you have just confessed to me shows that the leaders have confidence
in you. What are you going to do for them at court?"

"I cannot tell you that," replied Christophe; "for I do not know

"Hum! hum!" muttered the old man, looking at his son, "the scamp means
to hoodwink his father; he'll go far. You are not going to court," he
went on in a low tone, "to carry remittances to Messieurs de Guise or
to the little king our master, or to the little Queen Marie. All those
hearts are Catholic; but I would take my oath the Italian woman has
some spite against the Scotch girl and against the Lorrains. I know
her. She has a desperate desire to put her hand into the dough. The
late king was so afraid of her that he did as the jewellers do, he cut
diamond by diamond, he pitted one woman against another. That caused
Queen Catherine's hatred to the poor Duchesse de Valentinois, from
whom she took the beautiful chateau of Chenonceaux. If it hadn't been
for the Connetable, the duchess might have been strangled. Back, back,
my son; don't put yourself in the hands of that Italian, who has no
passion except in her brain; and that's a bad kind of woman! Yes, what
they are sending you to do at court may give you a very bad headache,"
cried the father, seeing that Christophe was about to reply. "My son,
I have plans for your future which you will not upset by making
yourself useful to Queen Catherine; but, heavens and earth! don't risk
your head. Messieurs de Guise would cut it off as easily as the
Burgundian cuts a turnip, and then those persons who are now employing
you will disown you utterly."

"I know that, father," said Christophe.

"What! are you really so strong, my son? You know it, and are willing
to risk all?"

"Yes, father."

"By the powers above us!" cried the father, pressing his son in his
arms, "we can understand each other; you are worthy of your father. My
child, you'll be the honor of the family, and I see that your old
father can speak plainly with you. But do not be more Huguenot than
Messieurs de Coligny. Never draw your sword; be a pen man; keep to
your future role of lawyer. Now, then, tell me nothing until after you
have succeeded. If I do not hear from you by the fourth day after you
reach Blois, that silence will tell me that you are in some danger.
The old man will go to save the young one. I have not sold furs for
thirty-two years without a good knowledge of the wrong side of court
robes. I have the means of making my way through many doors."

Christophe opened his eyes very wide as he heard his father talking
thus; but he thought there might be some parental trap in it, and he
made no reply further than to say:--

"Well, make out the bill, and write a letter to the queen; I must
start at once, or the greatest misfortunes may happen."

"Start? How?"

"I shall buy a horse. Write at once, in God's name."

"Hey! mother! give your son some money," cried the furrier to his

The mother returned, went to her chest, took out a purse of gold, and
gave it to Christophe, who kissed her with emotion.

"The bill was all ready," said his father; "here it is. I will write
the letter at once."

Christophe took the bill and put it in his pocket.

"But you will sup with us, at any rate," said the old man. "In such a
crisis you ought to exchange rings with Lallier's daughter."

"Very well, I will go and fetch her," said Christophe.

The young man was distrustful of his father's stability in the matter.
The old man's character was not yet fully known to him. He ran up to
his room, dressed himself, took a valise, came downstairs softly and
laid it on a counter in the shop, together with his rapier and cloak.

"What the devil are you doing?" asked his father, hearing him.

Christophe came up to the old man and kissed him on both cheeks.

"I don't want any one to see my preparations for departure, and I have
put them on a counter in the shop," he whispered.

"Here is the letter," said his father.

Christophe took the paper and went out as if to fetch his young

A few moments after his departure the goodman Lallier and his daughter
arrived, preceded by a servant-woman, bearing three bottles of old

"Well, where is Christophe?" said old Lecamus.

"Christophe!" exclaimed Babette. "We have not seen him."

"Ha! ha! my son is a bold scamp! He tricks me as if I had no beard. My
dear crony, what think you he will turn out to be? We live in days
when the children have more sense than their fathers."

"Why, the quarter has long been saying he is in some mischief," said

"Excuse him on that point, crony," said the furrier. "Youth is
foolish; it runs after new things; but Babette will keep him quiet;
she is newer than Calvin."

Babette smiled; she loved Christophe, and was angry when anything was
said against him. She was one of those daughters of the old
bourgeoisie brought up under the eyes of a mother who never left her.
Her bearing was gentle and correct as her face; she always wore
woollen stuffs of gray, harmonious in tone; her chemisette, simply
pleated, contrasted its whiteness against the gown. Her cap of brown
velvet was like an infant's coif, but it was trimmed with a ruche and
lappets of tanned gauze, that is, of a tan color, which came down on
each side of her face. Though fair and white as a true blonde, she
seemed to be shrewd and roguish, all the while trying to hide her
roguishness under the air and manner of a well-trained girl. While the
two servant-women went and came, laying the cloth and placing the
jugs, the great pewter dishes, and the knives and forks, the jeweller
and his daughter, the furrier and his wife, sat before the tall
chimney-piece draped with lambrequins of red serge and black fringes,
and were talking of trifles. Babette asked once or twice where
Christophe could be, and the father and mother of the young Huguenot
gave evasive answers; but when the two families were seated at table,
and the two servants had retired to the kitchen, Lecamus said to his
future daughter-in-law:--

"Christophe has gone to court."

"To Blois! Such a journey as that without bidding me good-bye!" she

"The matter was pressing," said the old mother.

"Crony," said the furrier, resuming a suspended conversation. "We are
going to have troublous times in France. The Reformers are bestirring

"If they triumph, it will only be after a long war, during which
business will be at a standstill," said Lallier, incapable of rising
higher than the commercial sphere.

"My father, who saw the wars between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs
told me that our family would never have come out safely if one of his
grandfathers--his mother's father--had not been a Goix, one of those
famous butchers in the Market who stood by the Burgundians; whereas
the other, the Lecamus, was for the Armagnacs; they seemed ready to
flay each other alive before the world, but they were excellent
friends in the family. So, let us both try to save Christophe; perhaps
the time may come when he will save us."

"You are a shrewd one," said the jeweller.

"No," replied Lecamus. "The burghers ought to think of themselves; the
populace and the nobility are both against them. The Parisian
bourgeoisie alarms everybody except the king, who knows it is his

"You who are so wise and have seen so many things," said Babette,
timidly, "explain to me what the Reformers really want."

"Yes, tell us that, crony," cried the jeweller. "I knew the late
king's tailor, and I held him to be a man of simple life, without
great talent; he was something like you; a man to whom they'd give the
sacrament without confession; and behold! he plunged to the depths of
this new religion,--he! a man whose two ears were worth all of a
hundred thousand crowns apiece. He must have had secrets to reveal to
induce the king and the Duchesse de Valentinois to be present at his

"And terrible secrets, too!" said the furrier. "The Reformation, my
friends," he continued in a low voice, "will give back to the
bourgeoisie the estates of the Church. When the ecclesiastical
privileges are suppressed the Reformers intend to ask that the
/vilain/ shall be imposed on nobles as well as on burghers, and they
mean to insist that the king alone shall be above others--if indeed,
they allow the State to have a king."

"Suppress the Throne!" ejaculated Lallier.

"Hey! crony," said Lecamus, "in the Low Countries the burghers govern
themselves with burgomasters of their own, who elect their own
temporary head."

"God bless me, crony; we ought to do these fine things and yet stay
Catholics," cried the jeweller.

"We are too old, you and I, to see the triumph of the Parisian
bourgeoisie, but it will triumph, I tell you, in times to come as it
did of yore. Ha! the king must rest upon it in order to resist, and we
have always sold him our help dear. The last time, all the burghers
were ennobled, and he gave them permission to buy seignorial estates
and take titles from the land without special letters from the king.
You and I, grandsons of the Goix through our mothers, are not we as
good as any lord?"

These words were so alarming to the jeweller and the two women that
they were followed by a dead silence. The ferments of 1789 were
already tingling in the veins of Lecamus, who was not yet so old but
what he could live to see the bold burghers of the Ligue.

"Are you selling well in spite of these troubles?" said Lallier to
Mademoiselle Lecamus.

"Troubles always do harm," she replied.

"That's one reason why I am so set on making my son a lawyer," said
Lecamus; "for squabbles and law go on forever."

The conversation then turned to commonplace topics, to the great
satisfaction of the jeweller, who was not fond of either political
troubles or audacity of thought.


                         THE CHATEAU DE BLOIS

The banks of the Loire, from Blois to Angers, were the favorite resort
of the last two branches of the royal race which occupied the throne
before the house of Bourbon. That beautiful valley plain so well
deserves the honor bestowed upon it by kings that we must here repeat
what was said of it by one of our most eloquent writers:--

  "There is one province in France which is never sufficiently
  admired. Fragrant as Italy, flowery as the banks of the
  Guadalquivir, beautiful especially in its own characteristics,
  wholly French, having always been French,--unlike in that respect
  to our northern provinces, which have degenerated by contact with
  Germany, and to our southern provinces, which have lived in
  concubinage with Moors, Spaniards, and all other nationalities
  that adjoined them. This pure, chaste, brave, and loyal province
  is Touraine. Historic France is there! Auvergne is Auvergne,
  Languedoc is only Languedoc; but Touraine is France; the most
  national river for Frenchmen is the Loire, which waters Touraine.
  For this reason we ought not to be surprised at the great number
  of historically noble buildings possessed by those departments
  which have taken the name, or derivations of the name, of the
  Loire. At every step we take in this land of enchantment we
  discover a new picture, bordered, it may be, by a river, or a
  tranquil lake reflecting in its liquid depths a castle with
  towers, and woods and sparkling waterfalls. It is quite natural
  that in a region chosen by Royalty for its sojourn, where the
  court was long established, great families and fortunes and
  distinguished men should have settled and built palaces as grand
  as themselves."

But is it not incomprehensible that Royalty did not follow the advice
indirectly given by Louis XI. to place the capital of the kingdom at
Tours? There, without great expense, the Loire might have been made
accessible for the merchant service, and also for vessels-of-war of
light draught. There, too, the seat of government would have been safe
from the dangers of invasion. Had this been done, the northern cities
would not have required such vast sums of money spent to fortify them,
--sums as vast as were those expended on the sumptuous glories of
Versailles. If Louis XIV. had listened to Vauban, who wished to build
his great palace at Mont Louis, between the Loire and the Cher,
perhaps the revolution of 1789 might never have taken place.

These beautiful shores still bear the marks of royal tenderness. The
chateaus of Chambord, Amboise, Blois, Chenonceaux, Chaumont,
Plessis-les-Tours, all those which the mistresses of kings, financiers,
and nobles built at Veretz, Azay-le-Rideau, Usse, Villandri, Valencay,
Chanteloup, Duretal, some of which have disappeared, though most of
them still remain, are admirable relics which remind us of the marvels
of a period that is little understood by the literary sect of the

Among all these chateaus, that of Blois, where the court was then
staying, is one on which the magnificence of the houses of Orleans and
of Valois has placed its brilliant sign-manual,--making it the most
interesting of all for historians, archaeologists, and Catholics. It
was at the time of which we write completely isolated. The town,
enclosed by massive walls supported by towers, lay below the
fortress,--for the chateau served, in fact, as fort and
pleasure-house. Above the town, with its blue-tiled, crowded roofs
extending then, as now, from the river to the crest of the hill which
commands the right bank, lies a triangular plateau, bounded to the
west by a streamlet, which in these days is of no importance, for it
flows beneath the town; but in the fifteenth century, so say
historians, it formed quite a deep ravine, of which there still
remains a sunken road, almost an abyss, between the suburbs of the
town and the chateau.

It was on this plateau, with a double exposure to the north and south,
that the counts of Blois built, in the architecture of the twelfth
century, a castle where the famous Thibault de Tircheur, Thibault le
Vieux, and others held a celebrated court. In those days of pure
fuedality, in which the king was merely /primus inter pares/ (to use
the fine expression of a king of Poland), the counts of Champagne, the
counts of Blois, those of Anjou, the simple barons of Normandie, the
dukes of Bretagne, lived with the splendor of sovereign princes and
gave kings to the proudest kingdoms. The Plantagenets of Anjou, the
Lusignans of Poitou, the Roberts of Normandie, maintained with a bold
hand the royal races, and sometimes simple knights like du Glaicquin
refused the purple, preferring the sword of a connetable.

When the Crown annexed the county of Blois to its domain, Louis XII.,
who had a liking for this residence (perhaps to escape Plessis of
sinister memory), built at the back of the first building another
building, facing east and west, which connected the chateau of the
counts of Blois with the rest of the old structures, of which nothing
now remains but the vast hall in which the States-general were held
under Henri III.

Before he became enamoured of Chambord, Francois I. wished to complete
the chateau of Blois by adding two other wings, which would have made
the structure a perfect square. But Chambord weaned him from Blois,
where he built only one wing, which in his time and that of his
grandchildren was the only inhabited part of the chateau. This third
building erected by Francois I. is more vast and far more decorated
than the Louvre, the chateau of Henri II. It is in the style of
architecture now called Renaissance, and presents the most fantastic
features of that style. Therefore, at a period when a strict and
jealous architecture ruled construction, when the Middle Ages were not
even considered, at a time when literature was not as clearly welded
to art as it is now, La Fontaine said of the chateau de Blois, in his
hearty, good-humored way: "The part that Francois I. built, if looked
at from the outside, pleased me better than all the rest; there I saw
numbers of little galleries, little windows, little balconies, little
ornamentations without order or regularity, and they make up a grand
whole which I like."

The chateau of Blois had, therefore, the merit of representing three
orders of architecture, three epochs, three systems, three dominions.
Perhaps there is no other royal residence that can compare with it in
that respect. This immense structure presents to the eye in one
enclosure, round one courtyard, a complete and perfect image of that
grand presentation of the manners and customs and life of nations
which is called Architecture. At the moment when Christophe was to
visit the court, that part of the adjacent land which in our day is
covered by a fourth palace, built seventy years later (by Gaston, the
rebellious brother of Louis XIII., then exiled to Blois), was an open
space containing pleasure-grounds and hanging gardens, picturesquely
placed among the battlements and unfinished turrets of Francois I.'s

These gardens communicated, by a bridge of a fine, bold construction
(which the old men of Blois may still remember to have seen
demolished) with a pleasure-ground on the other side of the chateau,
which, by the lay of the land, was on the same level. The nobles
attached to the Court of Anne de Bretagne, or those of that province
who came to solicit favors, or to confer with the queen as to the fate
and condition of Brittany, awaited in this pleasure-ground the
opportunity for an audience, either at the queen's rising, or at her
coming out to walk. Consequently, history has given the name of
"Perchoir aux Bretons" to this piece of ground, which, in our day, is
the fruit-garden of a worthy bourgeois, and forms a projection into
the place des Jesuites. The latter place was included in the gardens
of this beautiful royal residence, which had, as we have said, its
upper and its lower gardens. Not far from the place des Jesuites may
still be seen a pavilion built by Catherine de' Medici, where,
according to the historians of Blois, warm mineral baths were placed
for her to use. This detail enables us to trace the very irregular
disposition of the gardens, which went up or down according to the
undulations of the ground, becoming extremely intricate around the
chateau,--a fact which helped to give it strength, and caused, as we
shall see, the discomfiture of the Duc de Guise.

The gardens were reached from the chateau through external and
internal galleries, the most important of which was called the
"Galerie des Cerfs" on account of its decoration. This gallery led to
the magnificent staircase which, no doubt, inspired the famous double
staircase of Chambord. It led, from floor to floor, to all the
apartments of the castle.

Though La Fontaine preferred the chateau of Francois I. to that of
Louis XII., perhaps the naivete of that of the good king will give
true artists more pleasure, while at the same time they admire the
magnificent structure of the knightly king. The elegance of the two
staircases which are placed at each end of the chateau of Louis XII.,
the delicate carving and sculpture, so original in design, which
abound everywhere, the remains of which, though time has done its
worst, still charm the antiquary, all, even to the semi-cloistral
distribution of the apartments, reveals a great simplicity of manners.
Evidently, the /court/ did not yet exist; it had not developed, as it
did under Francois I. and Catherine de' Medici, to the great detriment
of feudal customs. As we admire the galleries, or most of them, the
capitals of the columns, and certain figurines of exquisite delicacy,
it is impossible not to imagine that Michel Columb, that great
sculptor, the Michel-Angelo of Brittany, passed that way for the
pleasure of Queen Anne, whom he afterwards immortalized on the tomb of
her father, the last duke of Brittany.

Whatever La Fontaine may choose to say about the "little galleries"
and the "little ornamentations," nothing can be more grandiose than
the dwelling of the splendid Francois. Thanks to I know not what
indifference, to forgetfulness perhaps, the apartments occupied by
Catherine de' Medici and her son Francois II. present to us to-day the
leading features of that time. The historian can there restore the
tragic scenes of the drama of the Reformation,--a drama in which the
dual struggle of the Guises and of the Bourbons against the Valois was
a series of most complicated acts, the plot of which was here

The chateau of Francois I. completely crushes the artless habitation
of Louis XII. by its imposing masses. On the side of the gardens, that
is, toward the modern place des Jesuites, the castle presents an
elevation nearly double that which it shows on the side of the
courtyard. The ground-floor on this side forms the second floor on the
side of the gardens, where are placed the celebrated galleries. Thus
the first floor above the ground-floor toward the courtyard (where
Queen Catherine was lodged) is the third floor on the garden side, and
the king's apartments were four storeys above the garden, which at the
time of which we write was separated from the base of the castle by a
deep moat. The chateau, already colossal as viewed from the courtyard,
appears gigantic when seen from below, as La Fontaine saw it. He
mentions particularly that he did not enter either the courtyard or
the apartments, and it is to be remarked that from the place des
Jesuites all the details seem small. The balconies on which the
courtiers promenaded; the galleries, marvellously executed; the
sculptured windows, whose embrasures are so deep as to form boudoirs
--for which indeed they served--resemble at that great height the
fantastic decorations which scene-painters give to a fairy palace at
the opera.

But in the courtyard, although the three storeys above the
ground-floor rise as high as the clock-tower of the Tuileries, the
infinite delicacy of the architecture reveals itself to the rapture of
our astonished eyes. This wing of the great building, in which the two
queens, Catherine de' Medici and Mary Stuart, held their sumptuous
court, is divided in the centre by a hexagon tower, in the empty well
of which winds up a spiral staircase,--a Moorish caprice, designed by
giants, made by dwarfs, which gives to this wonderful facade the
effect of a dream. The baluster of this staircase forms a spiral
connecting itself by a square landing to five of the six sides of the
tower, requiring at each landing transversal corbels which are
decorated with arabesque carvings without and within. This bewildering
creation of ingenious and delicate details, of marvels which give
speech to stones, can be compared only to the deeply worked and
crowded carving of the Chinese ivories. Stone is made to look like
lace-work. The flowers, the figures of men and animals clinging to the
structure of the stairway, are multiplied, step by step, until they
crown the tower with a key-stone on which the chisels of the art of
the sixteenth century have contended against the naive cutters of
images who fifty years earlier had carved the key-stones of Louis
XII.'s two stairways.

However dazzled we may be by these recurring forms of indefatigable
labor, we cannot fail to see that money was lacking to Francois I. for
Blois, as it was to Louis XIV. for Versailles. More than one figurine
lifts its delicate head from a block of rough stone behind it; more
than one fantastic flower is merely indicated by chiselled touches on
the abandoned stone, though dampness has since laid its blossoms of
mouldy greenery upon it. On the facade, side by side with the tracery
of one window, another window presents its masses of jagged stone
carved only by the hand of time. Here, to the least artistic and the
least trained eye, is a ravishing contrast between this frontage,
where marvels throng, and the interior frontage of the chateau of
Louis XII., which is composed of a ground-floor of arcades of fairy
lightness supported by tiny columns resting at their base on a
graceful platform, and of two storeys above it, the windows of which
are carved with delightful sobriety. Beneath the arcade is a gallery,
the walls of which are painted in fresco, the ceiling also being
painted; traces can still be found of this magnificence, derived from
Italy, and testifying to the expeditions of our kings, to which the
principality of Milan then belonged.

Opposite to Francois I.'s wing was the chapel of the counts of Blois,
the facade of which is almost in harmony with the architecture of the
later dwelling of Louis XII. No words can picture the majestic
solidity of these three distinct masses of building. In spite of their
nonconformity of style, Royalty, powerful and firm, demonstrating its
dangers by the greatness of its precautions, was a bond, uniting these
three edifices, so different in character, two of which rested against
the vast hall of the States-general, towering high like a church.

Certainly, neither the simplicity nor the strength of the burgher
existence (which were depicted at the beginning of this history) in
which Art was always represented, were lacking to this royal
habitation. Blois was the fruitful and brilliant example to which the
Bourgeoisie and Feudality, Wealth and Nobility, gave such splendid
replies in the towns and in the rural regions. Imagination could not
desire any other sort of dwelling for the prince who reigned over
France in the sixteenth century. The richness of seignorial garments,
the luxury of female adornment, must have harmonized delightfully with
the lace-work of these stones so wonderfully manipulated. From floor
to floor, as the king of France went up the marvellous staircase of
his chateau of Blois, he could see the broad expanse of the beautiful
Loire, which brought him news of all his kingdom as it lay on either
side of the great river, two halves of a State facing each other, and
semi-rivals. If, instead of building Chambord in a barren, gloomy
plain two leagues away, Francois I. had placed it where, seventy years
later, Gaston built his palace, Versailles would never have existed,
and Blois would have become, necessarily, the capital of France.

Four Valois and Catherine de' Medici lavished their wealth on the wing
built by Francois I. at Blois. Who can look at those massive
partition-walls, the spinal column of the castle, in which are sunken
deep alcoves, secret staircases, cabinets, while they themselves
enclose halls as vast as that great council-room, the guardroom, and
the royal chambers, in which, in our day, a regiment of infantry is
comfortably lodged--who can look at all this and not be aware of the
prodigalities of Crown and court? Even if a visitor does not at once
understand how the splendor within must have corresponded with the
splendor without, the remaining vestiges of Catherine de' Medici's
cabinet, where Christophe was about to be introduced, would bear
sufficient testimony to the elegances of Art which peopled these
apartments with animated designs in which salamanders sparkled among
the wreaths, and the palette of the sixteenth century illumined the
darkest corners with its brilliant coloring. In this cabinet an
observer will still find traces of that taste for gilding which
Catherine brought with her from Italy; for the princesses of her house
loved, in the words of the author already quoted, to veneer the
castles of France with the gold earned by their ancestors in commerce,
and to hang out their wealth on the walls of their apartments.

The queen-mother occupied on the first upper floor of the apartments
of Queen Claude of France, wife of Francois I., in which may still be
seen, delicately carved, the double C accompanied by figures, purely
white, of swans and lilies, signifying /candidior candidis/--more
white than the whitest--the motto of the queen whose name began, like
that of Catherine, with a C, and which applied as well to the daughter
of Louis XII. as to the mother of the last Valois; for no suspicion,
in spite of the violence of Calvinist calumny, has tarnished the
fidelity of Catherine de' Medici to Henri II.

The queen-mother, still charged with the care of two young children
(him who was afterward Duc d'Alencon, and Marguerite, the wife of
Henri IV., the sister whom Charles IX. called Margot), had need of the
whole of the first upper floor.

The king, Francois II., and the queen, Mary Stuart, occupied, on the
second floor, the royal apartments which had formerly been those of
Francois I. and were, subsequently, those of Henri III. This floor,
like that taken by the queen-mother, is divided in two parts
throughout its whole length by the famous partition-wall, which is
more than four feet thick, against which rests the enormous walls
which separate the rooms from each other. Thus, on both floors, the
apartments are in two distinct halves. One half, to the south, looking
to the courtyard, served for public receptions and for the transaction
of business; whereas the private apartments were placed, partly to
escape the heat, to the north, overlooking the gardens, on which side
is the splendid facade with its balconies and galleries looking out
upon the open country of the Vendomois, and down upon the "Perchoir
des Bretons" and the moat, the only side of which La Fontaine speaks.

The chateau of Francois I. was, in those days, terminated by an
enormous unfinished tower which was intended to mark the colossal
angle of the building when the succeeding wing was built. Later,
Gaston took down one side of it, in order to build his palace on to
it; but he never finished the work, and the tower remained in ruins.
This royal stronghold served as a prison or dungeon, according to
popular tradition.

As we wander to-day through the halls of this matchless chateau, so
precious to art and to history, what poet would not be haunted by
regrets, and grieved for France, at seeing the arabesques of
Catherine's boudoir /whitewashed/ and almost obliterated, by order of
the quartermaster of the barracks (this royal residence is now a
barrack) at the time of an outbreak of cholera. The panels of
Catherine's boudoir, a room of which we are about to speak, is the
last remaining relic of the rich decorations accumulated by five
artistic kings. Making our way through the labyrinth of chambers,
halls, stairways, towers, we may say to ourselves with solemn
certitude: "Here Mary Stuart cajoled her husband on behalf of the
Guises." "There, the Guises insulted Catherine." "Later, at that very
spot the second Balafre fell beneath the daggers of the avengers of
the Crown." "A century earlier, from this very window, Louis XII. made
signs to his friend Cardinal d'Amboise to come to him." "Here, on this
balcony, d'Epernon, the accomplice of Ravaillac, met Marie de' Medici,
who knew, it was said, of the proposed regicide, and allowed it to be

In the chapel, where the marriage of Henri IV. and Marguerite de
Valois took place, the sole remaining fragment of the chateau of the
counts of Blois, a regiment now makes it shoes. This wonderful
structure, in which so many styles may still be seen, so many great
deeds have been performed, is in a state of dilapidation which
disgraces France. What grief for those who love the great historic
monuments of our country to know that soon those eloquent stones will
be lost to sight and knowledge, like others at the corner of the rue
de la Vieille-Pelleterie; possibly, they will exist nowhere but in
these pages.

It is necessary to remark that, in order to watch the royal court more
closely, the Guises, although they had a house of their own in the
town, which still exists, had obtained permission to occupy the upper
floor above the apartments of Louis XII., the same lodgings afterwards
occupied by the Duchesse de Nemours under the roof.

The young king, Francois II., and his bride Mary Stuart, in love with
each other like the girl and boy of sixteen which they were, had been
abruptly transferred, in the depth of winter, from the chateau de
Saint-Germain, which the Duc de Guise thought liable to attack, to the
fortress which the chateau of Blois then was, being isolated and
protected on three sides by precipices, and admirably defended as to
its entrance. The Guises, uncles of Mary Stuart, had powerful reasons
for not residing in Paris and for keeping the king and court in a
castle the whole exterior surroundings of which could easily be
watched and defended. A struggle was now beginning around the throne,
between the house of Lorraine and the house of Valois, which was
destined to end in this very chateau, twenty-eight years later, namely
in 1588, when Henri III., under the very eyes of his mother, at that
moment deeply humiliated by the Lorrains, heard fall upon the floor of
his own cabinet, the head of the boldest of all the Guises, the second
Balafre, son of that first Balafre by whom Catherine de' Medici was
now being tricked, watched, threatened, and virtually imprisoned.


                           THE QUEEN-MOTHER

This noble chateau of Blois was to Catherine de' Medici the narrowest
of prisons. On the death of her husband, who had always held her in
subjection, she expected to reign; but, on the contrary, she found
herself crushed under the thraldom of strangers, whose polished
manners were really far more brutal than those of jailers. No action
of hers could be done secretly. The women who attended her either had
lovers among the Guises or were watched by Argus eyes. These were
times when passions notably exhibited the strange effects produced in
all ages by the strong antagonism of two powerful conflicting
interests in the State. Gallantry, which served Catherine so well, was
also an auxiliary of the Guises. The Prince de Conde, the first leader
of the Reformation, was a lover of the Marechale de Saint-Andre, whose
husband was the tool of the Grand Master. The cardinal, convinced by
the affair of the Vidame de Chartres, that Catherine was more
unconquered than invulnerable as to love, was paying court to her. The
play of all these passions strangely complicated those of politics,
--making, as it were, a double game of chess, in which both parties
had to watch the head and heart of their opponent, in order to know,
when a crisis came, whether the one would betray the other.

Though she was constantly in presence of the Cardinal de Lorraine or
of Duc Francois de Guise, who both distrusted her, the closest and
ablest enemy of Catherine de' Medici was her daughter-in-law, Queen
Mary, a fair little creature, malicious as a waiting-maid, proud as a
Stuart wearing three crowns, learned as an old pedant, giddy as a
school-girl, as much in love with her husband as a courtesan is with
her lover, devoted to her uncles whom she admired, and delighted to
see the king share (at her instigation) the regard she had for them. A
mother-in-law is always a person whom the daughter-in-law is inclined
not to like; especially when she wears the crown and wishes to retain
it, which Catherine had imprudently made but too well known. Her
former position, when Diane de Poitiers had ruled Henri II., was more
tolerable than this; then at least she received the external honors
that were due to a queen, and the homage of the court. But now the
duke and the cardinal, who had none but their own minions about them,
seemed to take pleasure in abasing her. Catherine, hemmed in on all
sides by their courtiers, received, not only day by day but from hour
to hour, terrible blows to her pride and her self-love; for the Guises
were determined to treat her on the same system of repression which
the late king, her husband, had so long pursued.

The thirty-six years of anguish which were now about to desolate
France may, perhaps, be said to have begun by the scene in which the
son of the furrier of the two queens was sent on the perilous errand
which makes him the chief figure of our present Study. The danger into
which this zealous Reformer was about to fall became imminent the very
morning on which he started from the port of Beaugency for the chateau
de Blois, bearing precious documents which compromised the highest
heads of the nobility, placed in his hands by that wily partisan, the
indefatigable La Renaudie, who met him, as agreed upon, at Beaugency,
having reached that port before him.

While the tow-boat, in which Christophe now embarked floated, impelled
by a light east wind, down the river Loire the famous Cardinal de
Lorraine, and his brother the second Duc de Guise, one of the greatest
warriors of those days, were contemplating, like eagles perched on a
rocky summit, their present situation, and looking prudently about
them before striking the great blow by which they intended to kill the
Reform in France at Amboise,--an attempt renewed twelve years later in
Paris, August 24, 1572, on the feast of Saint-Bartholomew.

During the night three /seigneurs/, who each played a great part in
the twelve years' drama which followed this double plot now laid by
the Guises and also by the Reformers, had arrived at Blois from
different directions, each riding at full speed, and leaving their
horses half-dead at the postern-gate of the chateau, which was guarded
by captains and soldiers absolutely devoted to the Duc de Guise, the
idol of all warriors.

One word about that great man,--a word that must tell, in the first
instance, whence his fortunes took their rise.

His mother was Antoinette de Bourbon, great-aunt of Henri IV. Of what
avail is consanguinity? He was, at this moment, aiming at the head of
his cousin the Prince de Conde. His niece was Mary Stuart. His wife
was Anne, daughter of the Duke of Ferrara. The Grand Connetable de
Montmorency called the Duc de Guise "Monseigneur" as he would the
king,--ending his letter with "Your very humble servant." Guise, Grand
Master of the king's household, replied "Monsieur le connetable," and
signed, as he did for the Parliament, "Your very good friend."

As for the cardinal, called the transalpine pope, and his Holiness, by
Estienne, he had the whole monastic Church of France on his side, and
treated the Holy Father as an equal. Vain of his eloquence, and one of
the greatest theologians of his time, he kept incessant watch over
France and Italy by means of three religious orders who were
absolutely devoted to him, toiling day and night in his service and
serving him as spies and counsellors.

These few words will explain to what heights of power the duke and the
cardinal had attained. In spite of their wealth and the enormous
revenues of their several offices, they were so personally
disinterested, so eagerly carried away on the current of their
statesmanship, and so generous at heart, that they were always in
debt, doubtless after the manner of Caesar. When Henri III. caused the
death of the second Balafre, whose life was a menace to him, the house
of Guise was necessarily ruined. The costs of endeavoring to seize the
crown during a whole century will explain the lowered position of this
great house during the reigns of Louis XIII. and Louis XIV., when the
sudden death of MADAME told all Europe the infamous part which a
Chevalier de Lorraine had debased himself to play.

Calling themselves the heirs of the dispossessed Carolovingians, the
duke and cardinal acted with the utmost insolence towards Catherine
de' Medici, the mother-in-law of their niece. The Duchesse de Guise
spared her no mortification. This duchesse was a d'Este, and Catherine
was a Medici, the daughter of upstart Florentine merchants, whom the
sovereigns of Europe had never yet admitted into their royal
fraternity. Francois I. himself has always considered his son's
marriage with a Medici as a mesalliance, and only consented to it
under the expectation that his second son would never be dauphin.
Hence his fury when his eldest son was poisoned by the Florentine
Montecuculi. The d'Estes refused to recognize the Medici as Italian
princes. Those former merchants were in fact trying to solve the
impossible problem of maintaining a throne in the midst of republican
institutions. The title of grand-duke was only granted very tardily by
Philip the Second, king of Spain, to reward those Medici who bought it
by betraying France their benefactress, and servilely attaching
themselves to the court of Spain, which was at the very time covertly
counteracting them in Italy.

"Flatter none but your enemies," the famous saying of Catherine de'
Medici, seems to have been the political rule of life with that family
of merchant princes, in which great men were never lacking until their
destinies became great, when they fell, before their time, into that
degeneracy in which royal races and noble families are wont to end.

For three generations there had been a great Lorrain warrior and a
great Lorrain churchman; and, what is more singular, the churchmen all
bore a strong resemblance in the face to Ximenes, as did Cardinal
Richelieu in after days. These five great cardinals all had sly, mean,
and yet terrible faces; while the warriors, on the other hand, were of
that type of Basque mountaineer which we see in Henri IV. The two
Balafres, father and son, wounded and scarred in the same manner, lost
something of this type, but not the grace and affability by which, as
much as by their bravery, they won the hearts of the soldiery.

It is not useless to relate how the present Grand Master received his
wound; for it was healed by the heroic measures of a personage of our
drama,--by Ambroise Pare, the man we have already mentioned as under
obligations to Lecamus, syndic of the guild of furriers. At the siege
of Calais the duke had his face pierced through and through by a
lance, the point of which, after entering the cheek just below the
right eye, went through to the neck, below the left eye, and remained,
broken off, in the face. The duke lay dying in his tent in the midst
of universal distress, and he would have died had it not been for the
devotion and prompt courage of Ambroise Pare. "The duke is not dead,
gentlemen," he said to the weeping attendants, "but he soon will die
if I dare not treat him as I would a dead man; and I shall risk doing
so, no matter what it may cost me in the end. See!" And with that he
put his left foot on the duke's breast, took the broken wooden end of
the lance in his fingers, shook and loosened it by degrees in the
wound, and finally succeeded in drawing out the iron head, as if he
were handling a thing and not a man. Though he saved the prince by
this heroic treatment, he could not prevent the horrible scar which
gave the great soldier his nickname,--Le Balafre, the Scarred. This
name descended to the son, and for a similar reason.

Absolutely masters of Francois II., whom his wife ruled through their
mutual and excessive passion, these two great Lorrain princes, the
duke and the cardinal, were masters of France, and had no other enemy
at court than Catherine de' Medici. No great statesmen ever played a
closer or more watchful game.

The mutual position of the ambitious widow of Henri II. and the
ambitious house of Lorraine was pictured, as it were, to the eye by a
scene which took place on the terrace of the chateau de Blois very
early in the morning of the day on which Christophe Lecamus was
destined to arrive there. The queen-mother, who feigned an extreme
attachment to the Guises, had asked to be informed of the news brought
by the three /seigneurs/ coming from three different parts of the
kingdom; but she had the mortification of being courteously dismissed
by the cardinal. She then walked to the parterres which overhung the
Loire, where she was building, under the superintendence of her
astrologer, Ruggieri, an observatory, which is still standing, and
from which the eye may range over the whole landscape of that
delightful valley. The two Lorrain princes were at the other end of
the terrace, facing the Vendomois, which overlooks the upper part of
the town, the perch of the Bretons, and the postern gate of the

Catherine had deceived the two brothers by pretending to a slight
displeasure; for she was in reality very well pleased to have an
opportunity to speak to one of the three young men who had arrived in
such haste. This was a young nobleman named Chiverni, apparently a
tool of the cardinal, in reality a devoted servant of Catherine.
Catherine also counted among her devoted servants two Florentine
nobles, the Gondi; but they were so suspected by the Guises that she
dared not send them on any errand away from the court, where she kept
them, watched, it is true, in all their words and actions, but where
at least they were able to watch and study the Guises and counsel
Catherine. These two Florentines maintained in the interests of the
queen-mother another Italian, Birago,--a clever Piedmontese, who
pretended, with Chiverni, to have abandoned their mistress, and gone
over to the Guises, who encouraged their enterprises and employed them
to watch Catherine.

Chiverni had come from Paris and Ecouen. The last to arrive was
Saint-Andre, who was marshal of France and became so important that
the Guises, whose creature he was, made him the third person in the
triumvirate they formed the following year against Catherine. The
other /seigneur/ who had arrived during the night was Vieilleville,
also a creature of the Guises and a marshal of France, who was
returning from a secret mission known only to the Grand Master, who
had entrusted it to him. As for Saint-Andre, he was in charge of
military measures taken with the object of driving all Reformers under
arms into Amboise; a scheme which now formed the subject of a council
held by the duke and cardinal, Birago, Chiverni, Vieilleville, and
Saint-Andre. As the two Lorrains employed Birago, it is to be supposed
that they relied upon their own powers; for they knew of his
attachment to the queen-mother. At this singular epoch the double part
played by many of the political men of the day was well known to both
parties; they were like cards in the hands of gamblers,--the cleverest
player won the game. During this council the two brothers maintained
the most impenetrable reserve. A conversation which now took place
between Catherine and certain of her friends will explain the object
of this council, held by the Guises in the open air, in the hanging
gardens, at break of day, as if they feared to speak within the walls
of the chateau de Blois.

The queen-mother, under pretence of examining the observatory then in
process of construction, walked in that direction accompanied by the
two Gondis, glancing with a suspicious and inquisitive eye at the
group of enemies who were still standing at the farther end of the
terrace, and from whom Chiverni now detached himself to join the
queen-mother. She was then at the corner of the terrace which looks
down upon the Church of Saint-Nicholas; there, at least, there could
be no danger of the slightest overhearing. The wall of the terrace is
on a level with the towers of the church, and the Guises invariably
held their council at the farther corner of the same terrace at the
base of the great unfinished keep or dungeon,--going and returning
between the Perchoir des Bretons and the gallery by the bridge which
joined them to the gardens. No one was within sight. Chiverni raised
the hand of the queen-mother to kiss it, and as he did so he slipped a
little note from his hand to hers, without being observed by the two
Italians. Catherine turned to the angle of the parapet and read as

  You are powerful enough to hold the balance between the leaders
  and to force them into a struggle as to who shall serve you; your
  house is full of kings, and you have nothing to fear from the
  Lorrains or the Bourbons provided you pit them one against the
  other, for both are striving to snatch the crown from your
  children. Be the mistress and not the servant of your counsellors;
  support them, in turn, one against the other, or the kingdom will
  go from bad to worse, and mighty wars may come of it.


The queen put the letter in the hollow of her corset, resolving to
burn it as soon as she was alone.

"When did you see him?" she asked Chiverni.

"On my way back from visiting the Connetable, at Melun, where I met
him with the Duchesse de Berry, whom he was most impatient to convey
to Savoie, that he might return here and open the eyes of the
chancellor Olivier, who is now completely duped by the Lorrains. As
soon as Monsieur l'Hopital saw the true object of the Guises he
determined to support your interests. That is why he is so anxious to
get here and give you his vote at the councils."

"Is he sincere?" asked Catherine. "You know very well that if the
Lorrains have put him in the council it is that he may help them to

"L'Hopital is a Frenchman who comes of too good a stock not to be
honest and sincere," said Chiverni; "Besides, his note is a
sufficiently strong pledge."

"What answer did the Connetable send to the Guises?"

"He replied that he was the servant of the king and would await his
orders. On receiving that answer the cardinal, to suppress all
resistance, determined to propose the appointment of his brother as
lieutenant-general of the kingdom."

"Have they got as far as that?" exclaimed Catherine, alarmed. "Well,
did Monsieur l'Hopital send me no other message?"

"He told me to say to you, madame, that you alone could stand between
the Crown and the Guises."

"Does he think that I ought to use the Huguenots as a weapon?"

"Ah! madame," cried Chiverni, surprised at such astuteness, "we never
dreamed of casting you into such difficulties."

"Does he know the position I am in?" asked the queen, calmly.

"Very nearly. He thinks you were duped after the death of the king
into accepting that castle on Madame Diane's overthrow. The Guises
consider themselves released toward the queen by having satisfied the

"Yes," said the queen, looking at the two Gondi, "I made a blunder."

"A blunder of the gods," replied Charles de Gondi.

"Gentlemen," said Catherine, "if I go over openly to the Reformers I
shall become the slave of a party."

"Madame," said Chiverni, eagerly, "I approve entirely of your meaning.
You must use them, but not serve them."

"Though your support does, undoubtedly, for the time being lie there,"
said Charles de Gondi, "we must not conceal from ourselves that
success and defeat are both equally perilous."

"I know it," said the queen; "a single false step would be a pretext
on which the Guises would seize at once to get rid of me."

"The niece of a Pope, the mother of four Valois, a queen of France,
the widow of the most ardent persecutor of the Huguenots, an Italian
Catholic, the aunt of Leo X.,--can /she/ ally herself with the
Reformation?" asked Charles de Gondi.

"But," said his brother Albert, "if she seconds the Guises does she
not play into the hands of a usurpation? We have to do with men who
see a crown to seize in the coming struggle between Catholicism and
Reform. It is possible to support the Reformers without abjuring."

"Reflect, madame, that your family, which ought to have been wholly
devoted to the king of France, is at this moment the servant of the
king of Spain; and to-morrow it will be that of the Reformation if the
Reformation could make a king of the Duke of Florence."

"I am certainly disposed to lend a hand, for a time, to the
Huguenots," said Catherine, "if only to revenge myself on that soldier
and that priest and that woman!" As she spoke, she called attention
with her subtile Italian glance to the duke and cardinal, and then to
the second floor of the chateau on which were the apartments of her
son and Mary Stuart. "That trio has taken from my hands the reins of
State, for which I waited long while the old woman filled my place,"
she said gloomily, glancing toward Chenonceaux, the chateau she had
lately exchanged with Diane de Poitiers against that of Chaumont.
"/Ma/," she added in Italian, "it seems that these reforming gentry in
Geneva have not the wit to address themselves to me; and, on my
conscience, I cannot go to them. Not one of you would dare to risk
carrying them a message!" She stamped her foot. "I did hope you would
have met the cripple at Ecouen--/he/ has sense," she said to Chiverni.

"The Prince de Conde was there, madame," said Chiverni, "but he could
not persuade the Connetable to join him. Monsieur de Montmorency wants
to overthrow the Guises, who have sent him into exile, but he will not
encourage heresy."

"What will ever break these individual wills which are forever
thwarting royalty? God's truth!" exclaimed the queen, "the great
nobles must be made to destroy each other, as Louis XI., the greatest
of your kings, did with those of his time. There are four or five
parties now in this kingdom, and the weakest of them is that of my

"The Reformation is an /idea/," said Charles de Gondi; "the parties
that Louis XI. crushed were moved by self-interests only."

"Ideas are behind selfish interests," replied Chiverni. "Under Louis
XI. the idea was the great Fiefs--"

"Make heresy an axe," said Albert de Gondi, "and you will escape the
odium of executions."

"Ah!" cried the queen, "but I am ignorant of the strength and also of
the plans of the Reformers; and I have no safe way of communicating
with them. If I were detected in any manoeuvre of that kind, either by
the queen, who watches me like an infant in a cradle, or by those two
jailers over there, I should be banished from France and sent back to
Florence with a terrible escort, commanded by Guise minions. Thank
you, no, my daughter-in-law!--but I wish /you/ the fate of being a
prisoner in your own home, that you may know what you have made me

"Their plans!" exclaimed Chiverni; "the duke and the cardinal know
what they are, but those two foxes will not divulge them. If you could
induce them to do so, madame, I would sacrifice myself for your sake
and come to an understanding with the Prince de Conde."

"How much of the Guises' own plans have they been forced to reveal to
you?" asked the queen, with a glance at the two brothers.

"Monsieur de Vieilleville and Monsieur de Saint-Andre have just
received fresh orders, the nature of which is concealed from us; but I
think the duke is intending to concentrate his best troops on the left
bank. Within a few days you will all be moved to Amboise. The duke has
been studying the position from this terrace and decides that Blois is
not a propitious spot for his secret schemes. What can he want
better?" added Chiverni, pointing to the precipices which surrounded
the chateau. "There is no place in the world where the court is more
secure from attack than it is here."

"Abdicate or reign," said Albert in a low voice to the queen, who
stood motionless and thoughtful.

A terrible expression of inward rage passed over the fine ivory face
of Catherine de' Medici, who was not yet forty years old, though she
had lived for twenty-six years at the court of France,--without power,
she, who from the moment of her arrival intended to play a leading
part! Then, in her native language, the language of Dante, these
terrible words came slowly from her lips:--

"Nothing so long as that son lives!--His little wife bewitches him,"
she added after a pause.

Catherine's exclamation was inspired by a prophecy which had been made
to her a few days earlier at the chateau de Chaumont on the opposite
bank of the river; where she had been taken by Ruggieri, her
astrologer, to obtain information as to the lives of her four children
from a celebrated female seer, secretly brought there by Nostradamus
(chief among the physicians of that great sixteenth century) who
practised, like the Ruggieri, the Cardans, Paracelsus, and others, the
occult sciences. This woman, whose name and life have eluded history,
foretold one year as the length of Francois's reign.

"Give me your opinion on all this," said Catherine to Chiverni.

"We shall have a battle," replied the prudent courtier. "The king of

"Oh! say the queen," interrupted Catherine.

"True, the queen," said Chiverni, smiling, "the queen has given the
Prince de Conde as leader to the Reformers, and he, in his position of
younger son, can venture all; consequently the cardinal talks of
ordering him here."

"If he comes," cried the queen, "I am saved!"

Thus the leaders of the great movement of the Reformation in France
were justified in hoping for an ally in Catherine de' Medici.

"There is one thing to be considered," said the queen. "The Bourbons
may fool the Huguenots and the Sieurs Calvin and de Beze may fool the
Bourbons, but are we strong enough to fool Huguenots, Bourbons, and
Guises? In presence of three such enemies it is allowable to feel
one's pulse."

"But they have not the king," said Albert de Gondi. "You will always
triumph, having the king on your side."

"/Maladetta Maria/!" muttered Catherine between her teeth.

"The Lorrains are, even now, endeavoring to turn the burghers against
you," remarked Birago.


                              THE COURT

The hope of gaining the crown was not the result of a premeditated
plan in the minds of the restless Guises. Nothing warranted such a
hope or such a plan. Circumstances alone inspired their audacity. The
two cardinals and the two Balafres were four ambitious minds, superior
in talents to all the other politicians who surrounded them. This
family was never really brought low except by Henri IV.; a factionist
himself, trained in the great school of which Catherine and the Guises
were masters,--by whose lessons he had profited but too well.

At this moment the two brothers, the duke and cardinal, were the
arbiters of the greatest revolution attempted in Europe since that of
Henry VIII. in England, which was the direct consequence of the
invention of printing. Adversaries to the Reformation, they meant to
stifle it, power being in their hands. But their opponent, Calvin,
though less famous than Luther, was far the stronger of the two.
Calvin saw government where Luther saw dogma only. While the stout
beer-drinker and amorous German fought with the devil and flung an
inkbottle at his head, the man from Picardy, a sickly celibate, made
plans of campaign, directed battles, armed princes, and roused whole
peoples by sowing republican doctrines in the hearts of the burghers
--recouping his continual defeats in the field by fresh progress in
the mind of the nations.

The Cardinal de Lorraine and the Duc de Guise, like Philip the Second
and the Duke of Alba, knew where and when the monarchy was threatened,
and how close the alliance ought to be between Catholicism and
Royalty. Charles the Fifth, drunk with the wine of Charlemagne's cup,
believing too blindly in the strength of his monarchy, and confident
of sharing the world with Suleiman, did not at first feel the blow at
his head; but no sooner had Cardinal Granvelle made him aware of the
extent of the wound than he abdicated. The Guises had but one scheme,
--that of annihilating heresy at a single blow. This blow they were
now to attempt, for the first time, to strike at Amboise;
failing there they tried it again, twelve years later, at the
Saint-Bartholomew,--on the latter occasion in conjunction with
Catherine de' Medici, enlightened by that time by the flames of a
twelve years' war, enlightened above all by the significant word
"republic," uttered later and printed by the writers of the Reformation,
but already foreseen (as we have said before) by Lecamus, that type of
the Parisian bourgeoisie.

The two Guises, now on the point of striking a murderous blow at the
heart of the French nobility, in order to separate it once for all
from a religious party whose triumph would be its ruin, still stood
together on the terrace, concerting as to the best means of revealing
their coup-d'Etat to the king, while Catherine was talking with her

"Jeanne d'Albret knew what she was about when she declared herself
protectress of the Huguenots! She has a battering-ram in the
Reformation, and she knows how to use it," said the duke, who fathomed
the deep designs of the Queen of Navarre, one of the great minds of
the century.

"Theodore de Beze is now at Nerac," remarked the cardinal, "after
first going to Geneva to take Calvin's orders."

"What men these burghers know how to find!" exclaimed the duke.

"Ah! we have none on our side of the quality of La Renaudie!" cried
the cardinal. "He is a true Catiline."

"Such men always act for their own interests," replied the duke.
"Didn't I fathom La Renaudie? I loaded him with favors; I helped him
to escape when he was condemned by the parliament of Bourgogne; I
brought him back from exile by obtaining a revision of his sentence; I
intended to do far more for him; and all the while he was plotting a
diabolical conspiracy against us! That rascal has united the
Protestants of Germany with the heretics of France by reconciling the
differences that grew up between the dogmas of Luther and those of
Calvin. He has brought the discontented great seigneurs into the party
of the Reformation without obliging them to abjure Catholicism openly.
For the last year he has had thirty captains under him! He is
everywhere at once,--at Lyon, in Languedoc, at Nantes! It was he who
drew up those minutes of a consultation which were hawked about all
Germany, in which the theologians declared that force might be
resorted to in order to withdraw the king from our rule and tutelage;
the paper is now being circulated from town to town. Wherever we look
for him we never find him! And yet I have never done him anything but
good! It comes to this, that we must now either thrash him like a dog,
or try to throw him a golden bridge by which he will cross into our

"Bretagne, Languedoc, in fact the whole kingdom is in league to deal
us a mortal blow," said the cardinal. "After the fete was over
yesterday I spent the rest of the night in reading the reports sent me
by the monks; in which I found that the only persons who have
compromised themselves are poor gentlemen, artisans, as to whom it
doesn't signify whether you hang them or let them live. The Colignys
and Condes do not show their hand as yet, though they hold the threads
of the whole conspiracy."

"Yes," replied the duke, "and, therefore, as soon as that lawyer
Avenelles sold the secret of the plot, I told Braguelonne to let the
conspirators carry it out. They have no suspicion that we know it;
they are so sure of surprising us that the leaders may possibly show
themselves then. My advice is to allow ourselves to be beaten for
forty-eight hours."

"Half an hour would be too much," cried the cardinal, alarmed.

"So this is your courage, is it?" retorted the Balafre.

The cardinal, quite unmoved, replied: "Whether the Prince de Conde is
compromised or not, if we are certain that he is the leader, we should
strike him down at once and secure tranquillity. We need judges rather
than soldiers for this business--and judges are never lacking. Victory
is always more certain in the parliament than on the field, and it
costs less."

"I consent, willingly," said the duke; "but do you think the Prince de
Conde is powerful enough to inspire, himself alone, the audacity of
those who are making this first attack upon us? Isn't there, behind

"The king of Navarre," said the cardinal.

"Pooh! a fool who speaks to me cap in hand!" replied the duke. "The
coquetries of that Florentine woman seem to blind your eyes--"

"Oh! as for that," exclaimed the priest, "if I do play the gallant
with her it is only that I may read to the bottom of her heart."

"She has no heart," said the duke, sharply; "she is even more
ambitious than you and I."

"You are a brave soldier," said the cardinal; "but, believe me, I
distance you in this matter. I have had Catherine watched by Mary
Stuart long before you even suspected her. She has no more religion
than my shoe; if she is not the soul of this plot it is not for want
of will. But we shall now be able to test her on the scene itself, and
find out then how she stands by us. Up to this time, however, I am
certain she has held no communication whatever with the heretics."

"Well, it is time now to reveal the whole plot to the king, and to the
queen-mother, who, you say, knows nothing of it,--that is the sole
proof of her innocence; perhaps the conspirators have waited till the
last moment, expecting to dazzle her with the probabilities of
success. La Renaudie must soon discover by my arrangements that we are
warned. Last night Nemours was to follow detachments of the Reformers
who are pouring in along the cross-roads, and the conspirators will be
forced to attack us at Amboise, which place I intend to let them
enter. Here," added the duke, pointing to three sides of the rock on
which the chateau de Blois is built; "we should have an assault
without any result; the Huguenots could come and go at will. Blois is
an open hall with four entrances; whereas Amboise is a sack with a
single mouth."

"I shall not leave Catherine's side," said the cardinal.

"We have made a blunder," remarked the duke, who was playing with his
dagger, tossing it into the air and catching it by the hilt. "We ought
to have treated her as we did the Reformers,--given her complete
freedom of action and caught her in the act."

The cardinal looked at his brother for an instant and shook his head.

"What does Pardaillan want?" said the duke, observing the approach of
the young nobleman who was later to become celebrated by his encounter
with La Renaudie, in which they both lost their lives.

"Monseigneur, a man sent by the queen's furrier is at the gate, and
says he has an ermine suit to convey to her. Am I to let him enter?"

"Ah! yes,--the ermine coat she spoke of yesterday," returned the
cardinal; "let the shop-fellow pass; she will want the garment for the
voyage down the Loire."

"How did he get here without being stopped until he reached the gate?"
asked the duke.

"I do not know," replied Pardaillan.

"I'll ask to see him when he is with the queen," thought the Balafre.
"Let him wait in the /salle des gardes/," he said aloud. "Is he young,

"Yes, monseigneur; he says he is a son of Lecamus the furrier."

"Lecamus is a good Catholic," remarked the cardinal, who, like his
brother the duke, was endowed with Caesar's memory. "The rector of
Saint-Pierre-aux-Boeufs relies upon him; he is the provost of that

"Nevertheless," said the duke, "make the son talk with the captain of
the Scotch guard," laying an emphasis on the verb which was readily
understood. "Ambroise is in the chateau; he can tell us whether the
fellow is really the son of Lecamus, for the old man did him good
service in times past. Send for Ambroise Pare."

It was at this moment that Queen Catherine went, unattended, toward
the two brothers, who hastened to meet her with their accustomed show
of respect, in which the Italian princess detected constant irony.

"Messieurs," she said, "will you deign to inform me of what is about
to take place? Is the widow of your former master of less importance
in your esteem than the Sieurs Vieilleville, Birago, and Chiverni?"

"Madame," replied the cardinal, in a tone of gallantry, "our duty as
men, taking precedence of that of statecraft, forbids us to alarm the
fair sex by false reports. But this morning there is indeed good
reason to confer with you on the affairs of the country. You must
excuse my brother for having already given orders to the gentlemen you
mention,--orders which were purely military, and therefore did not
concern you; the matters of real importance are still to be decided.
If you are willing, we will now go the /lever/ of the king and queen;
it is nearly time."

"But what is all this, Monsieur le duc?" cried Catherine, pretending
alarm. "Is anything the matter?"

"The Reformation, madame, is no longer a mere heresy; it is a party,
which has taken arms and is coming here to snatch the king away from

Catherine, the cardinal, the duke, and the three gentlemen made their
way to the staircase through the gallery, which was crowded with
courtiers who, being off duty, no longer had the right of entrance to
the royal apartments, and stood in two hedges on either side. Gondi,
who watched them while the queen-mother talked with the Lorraine
princes, whispered in her ear, in good Tuscan, two words which
afterwards became proverbs,--words which are the keynote to one aspect
of her regal character: "Odiate e aspettate"--"Hate and wait."

Pardaillan, who had gone to order the officer of the guard at the gate
of the chateau to let the clerk of the queen's furrier enter, found
Christophe open-mouthed before the portal, staring at the facade built
by the good king Louis XII., on which there was at that time a much
greater number of grotesque carvings than we see there to-day,
--grotesque, that is to say, if we may judge by those that remain to us.
For instance, persons curious in such matters may remark the figurine
of a woman carved on the capital of one of the portal columns, with
her robe caught up to show to a stout monk crouching in the capital of
the corresponding column "that which Brunelle showed to Marphise";
while above this portal stood, at the time of which we write, the
statue of Louis XII. Several of the window-casings of this facade,
carved in the same style, and now, unfortunately, destroyed, amused,
or seemed to amuse Christophe, on whom the arquebusiers of the guard
were raining jests.

"He would like to live there," said the sub-corporal, playing with the
cartridges of his weapon, which were prepared for use in the shape of
little sugar-loaves, and slung to the baldricks of the men.

"Hey, Parisian!" said another; "you never saw the like of that, did

"He recognizes the good King Louis XII.," said a third.

Christophe pretended not to hear, and tried to exaggerate his
amazement, the result being that his silly attitude and his behavior
before the guard proved an excellent passport to the eyes of

"The queen has not yet risen," said the young captain; "come and wait
for her in the /salle des gardes/."

Christophe followed Pardaillan rather slowly. On the way he stopped to
admire the pretty gallery in the form of an arcade, where the
courtiers of Louis XII. awaited the reception-hour when it rained, and
where, at the present moment, were several seigneurs attached to the
Guises; for the staircase (so well preserved to the present day) which
led to their apartments is at the end of this gallery in a tower, the
architecture of which commends itself to the admiration of intelligent

"Well, well! did you come here to study the carving of images?" cried
Pardaillan, as Christophe stopped before the charming sculptures of
the balustrade which unites, or, if you prefer it, separates the
columns of each arcade.

Christophe followed the young officer to the grand staircase, not
without a glance of ecstasy at the semi-Moorish tower. The weather was
fine, and the court was crowded with staff-officers and seigneurs,
talking together in little groups,--their dazzling uniforms and
court-dresses brightening a spot which the marvels of architecture,
then fresh and new, had already made so brilliant.

"Come in here," said Pardaillan, making Lecamus a sign to follow him
through a carved wooden door leading to the second floor, which the
door-keeper opened on recognizing the young officer.

It is easy to imagine Christophe's amazement as he entered the great
/salle des gardes/, then so vast that military necessity has since
divided it by a partition into two chambers. It occupied on the second
floor (that of the king), as did the corresponding hall on the first
floor (that of the queen-mother), one third of the whole front of the
chateau facing the courtyard; and it was lighted by two windows to
right and two to left of the tower in which the famous staircase winds
up. The young captain went to the door of the royal chamber, which
opened upon this vast hall, and told one of the two pages on duty to
inform Madame Dayelles, the queen's bedchamber woman, that the furrier
was in the hall with her surcoat.

On a sign from Pardaillan Christophe placed himself near an officer,
who was seated on a stool at the corner of a fireplace as large as his
father's whole shop, which was at the end of the great hall, opposite
to a precisely similar fireplace at the other end. While talking to
this officer, a lieutenant, he contrived to interest him with an
account of the stagnation of trade. Christophe seemed so thoroughly a
shopkeeper that the officer imparted that conviction to the captain of
the Scotch guard, who came in from the courtyard to question Lecamus,
all the while watching him covertly and narrowly.

However much Christophe Lecamus had been warned, it was impossible for
him to really apprehend the cold ferocity of the interests between
which Chaudieu had slipped him. To an observer of this scene, who had
known the secrets of it as the historian understands it in the light
of to-day, there was indeed cause to tremble for this young man,--the
hope of two families,--thrust between those powerful and pitiless
machines, Catherine and the Guises. But do courageous beings, as a
rule, measure the full extent of their dangers? By the way in which
the port of Blois, the chateau, and the town were guarded, Christophe
was prepared to find spies and traps everywhere; and he therefore
resolved to conceal the importance of his mission and the tension of
his mind under the empty-headed and shopkeeping appearance with which
he presented himself to the eyes of young Pardaillan, the officer of
the guard, and the Scottish captain.

The agitation which, in a royal castle, always attends the hour of the
king's rising, was beginning to show itself. The great lords, whose
horses, pages, or grooms remained in the outer courtyard,--for no one,
except the king and the queens, had the right to enter the inner
courtyard on horseback,--were mounting by groups the magnificent
staircase, and filling by degrees the vast hall, the beams of which
are now stripped of the decorations that then adorned them. Miserable
little red tiles have replaced the ingenious mosaics of the floors;
and the thick walls, then draped with the crown tapestries and glowing
with all the arts of that unique period of the splendors of humanity,
are now denuded and whitewashed! Reformers and Catholics were pressing
in to hear the news and to watch faces, quite as much as to pay their
duty to the king. Francois II.'s excessive love for Mary Stuart, to
which neither the queen-mother nor the Guises made any opposition, and
the politic compliance of Mary Stuart herself, deprived the king of
all regal power. At seventeen years of age he knew nothing of royalty
but its pleasures, or of marriage beyond the indulgence of first
passion. As a matter of fact, all present paid their court to Queen
Mary and to her uncles, the Cardinal de Lorraine and the Duc de Guise,
rather than to the king.

This stir took place before Christophe, who watched the arrival of
each new personage with natural eagerness. A magnificent portiere, on
either side of which stood two pages and two soldiers of the Scotch
guard, then on duty, showed him the entrance to the royal chamber,
--the chamber so fatal to the son of the present Duc de Guise, the
second Balafre, who fell at the foot of the bed now occupied by Mary
Stuart and Francois II. The queen's maids of honor surrounded the
fireplace opposite to that where Christophe was being "talked with" by
the captain of the guard. This second fireplace was considered the
/chimney of honor/. It was built in the thick wall of the Salle de
Conseil, between the door of the royal chamber and that of the
council-hall, so that the maids of honor and the lords in waiting who
had the right to be there were on the direct passage of the king and
queen. The courtiers were certain on this occasion of seeing
Catherine, for her maids of honor, dressed like the rest of the court
ladies, in black, came up the staircase from the queen-mother's
apartment, and took their places, marshalled by the Comtesse de
Fiesque, on the side toward the council-hall and opposite to the maids
of honor of the young queen, led by the Duchesse de Guise, who
occupied the other side of the fireplace on the side of the royal
bedroom. The courtiers left an open space between the ranks of these
young ladies (who all belonged to the first families of the kingdom),
which none but the greatest lords had the right to enter. The Comtesse
de Fiesque and the Duchesse de Guise were, in virtue of their office,
seated in the midst of these noble maids, who were all standing.

The first gentleman who approached the dangerous ranks was the Duc
d'Orleans, the king's brother, who had come down from his apartment on
the third floor, accompanied by Monsieur de Cypierre, his governor.
This young prince, destined before the end of the year to reign under
the title of Charles IX., was only ten years old and extremely timid.
The Duc d'Anjou and the Duc d'Alencon, his younger brothers, also the
Princesse Marguerite, afterwards the wife of Henri IV. (la Reine
Margot), were too young to come to court, and were therefore kept by
their mother in her own apartments. The Duc d'Orleans, richly dressed
after the fashion of the times, in silken trunk-hose, a close-fitting
jacket of cloth of gold embroidered with black flowers, and a little
mantle of embroidered velvet, all black, for he still wore mourning
for his father, bowed to the two ladies of honor and took his place
beside his mother's maids. Already full of antipathy for the adherents
of the house of Guise, he replied coldly to the remarks of the duchess
and leaned his arm on the back of the chair of the Comtesse de
Fiesque. His governor, Monsieur de Cypierre, one of the noblest
characters of that day, stood beside him like a shield. Amyot
(afterwards Bishop of Auxerre and translator of Plutarch), in the
simple soutane of an abbe, also accompanied the young prince, being
his tutor, as he was of the two other princes, whose affection became
so profitable to him.

Between the "chimney of honor" and the other chimney at the end of the
hall, around which were grouped the guards, their captain, a few
courtiers, and Christophe carrying his box of furs, the Chancellor
Olivier, protector and predecessor of l'Hopital, in the robes which
the chancellors of France have always worn, was walking up and down
with the Cardinal de Tournon, who had recently returned from Rome. The
pair were exchanging a few whispered sentences in the midst of great
attention from the lords of the court, massed against the wall which
separated the /salle des gardes/ from the royal bedroom, like a living
tapestry backed by the rich tapestry of art crowded by a thousand
personages. In spite of the present grave events, the court presented
the appearance of all courts in all lands, at all epochs, and in the
midst of the greatest dangers. The courtiers talked of trivial
matters, thinking of serious ones; they jested as they studied faces,
and apparently concerned themselves about love and the marriage of
rich heiresses amid the bloodiest catastrophes.

"What did you think of yesterday's fete?" asked Bourdeilles, seigneur
of Brantome, approaching Mademoiselle de Piennes, one of the
queen-mother's maids of honor.

"Messieurs du Baif et du Bellay were inspired with delightful ideas,"
she replied, indicating the organizers of the fete, who were standing
near. "I thought it all in the worst taste," she added in a low voice.

"You had no part to play in it, I think?" remarked Mademoiselle de
Lewiston from the opposite ranks of Queen Mary's maids.

"What are you reading there, madame?" asked Amyot of the Comtesse de

"'Amadis de Gaule,' by the Seigneur des Essarts, commissary in
ordinary to the king's artillery," she replied.

"A charming work," remarked the beautiful girl who was afterwards so
celebrated under the name of Fosseuse when she was lady of honor to
Queen Marguerite of Navarre.

"The style is a novelty in form," said Amyot. "Do you accept such
barbarisms?" he added, addressing Brantome.

"They please the ladies, you know," said Brantome, crossing over to
the Duchesse de Guise, who held the "Decamerone" in her hand. "Some of
the women of your house must appear in the book, madame," he said. "It
is a pity that the Sieur Boccaccio did not live in our day; he would
have known plenty of ladies to swell his volume--"

"How shrewd that Monsieur de Brantome is," said the beautiful
Mademoiselle de Limueil to the Comtesse de Fiesque; "he came to us
first, but he means to remain in the Guise quarters."

"Hush!" said Madame de Fiesque glancing at the beautiful Limueil.
"Attend to what concerns yourself."

The young girl turned her eyes to the door. She was expecting Sardini,
a noble Italian, with whom the queen-mother, her relative, married her
after an "accident" which happened in the dressing-room of Catherine
de' Medici herself; but which the young lady won the honor of having a
queen as midwife.

"By the holy Alipantin! Mademoiselle Davila seems to me prettier and
prettier every morning," said Monsieur de Robertet, secretary of
State, bowing to the ladies of the queen-mother.

The arrival of the secretary of State made no commotion whatever,
though his office was precisely what that of a minister is in these

"If you really think so, monsieur," said the beauty, "lend me the
squib which was written against the Messieurs de Guise; I know it was
lent to you."

"It is no longer in my possession," replied the secretary, turning
round to bow to the Duchesse de Guise.

"I have it," said the Comte de Grammont to Mademoiselle Davila, "but I
will give it you on one condition only."

"Condition! fie!" exclaimed Madame de Fiesque.

"You don't know what it is," replied Grammont.

"Oh! it is easy to guess," remarked la Limueil.

The Italian custom of calling ladies, as peasants call their wives,
"/la/ Such-a-one" was then the fashion at the court of France.

"You are mistaken," said the count, hastily, "the matter is simply to
give a letter from my cousin de Jarnac to one of the maids on the
other side, Mademoiselle de Matha."

"You must not compromise my young ladies," said the Comtesse de
Fiesque. "I will deliver the letter myself.--Do you know what is
happening in Flanders?" she continued, turning to the Cardinal de
Tournon. "It seems that Monsieur d'Egmont is given to surprises."

"He and the Prince of Orange," remarked Cypierre, with a significant
shrug of his shoulders.

"The Duke of Alba and Cardinal Granvelle are going there, are they
not, monsieur?" said Amyot to the Cardinal de Tournon, who remained
standing, gloomy and anxious between the opposing groups after his
conversation with the chancellor.

"Happily we are at peace; we need only conquer heresy on the stage,"
remarked the young Duc d'Orleans, alluding to a part he had played the
night before,--that of a knight subduing a hydra which bore upon its
foreheads the word "Reformation."

Catherine de' Medici, agreeing in this with her daughter-in-law, had
allowed a theatre to be made of the great hall (afterwards arranged
for the Parliament of Blois), which, as we have already said,
connected the chateau of Francois I. with that of Louis XII.

The cardinal made no answer to Amyot's question, but resumed his walk
through the centre of the hall, talking in low tones with Monsieur de
Robertet and the chancellor. Many persons are ignorant of the
difficulties which secretaries of State (subsequently called
ministers) met with at the first establishment of their office, and
how much trouble the kings of France had in creating it. At this epoch
a secretary of State like Robertet was purely and simply a writer; he
counted for almost nothing among the princes and grandees who decided
the affairs of State. His functions were little more than those of the
superintendent of finances, the chancellor, and the keeper of the
seals. The kings granted seats at the council by letters-patent to
those of their subjects whose advice seemed to them useful in the
management of public affairs. Entrance to the council was given in
this way to a president of the Chamber of Parliament, to a bishop, or
to an untitled favorite. Once admitted to the council, the subject
strengthened his position there by obtaining various crown offices on
which devolved such prerogatives as the sword of a Constable, the
government of provinces, the grand-mastership of artillery, the baton
of a marshal, a leading rank in the army, or the admiralty, or a
captaincy of the galleys, often some office at court, like that of
grand-master of the household, now held, as we have already said, by
the Duc de Guise.

"Do you think that the Duc de Nemours will marry Francoise?" said
Madame de Guise to the tutor of the Duc d'Orleans.

"Ah, madame," he replied, "I know nothing but Latin."

This answer made all who were within hearing of it smile. The
seduction of Francoise de Rohan by the Duc de Nemours was the topic of
all conversations; but, as the duke was cousin to Francois II., and
doubly allied to the house of Valois through his mother, the Guises
regarded him more as the seduced than the seducer. Nevertheless, the
power of the house of Rohan was such that the Duc de Nemours was
obliged, after the death of Francois II., to leave France on
consequence of suits brought against him by the Rohans; which suits
the Guises settled. The duke's marriage with the Duchesse de Guise
after Poltrot's assassination of her husband in 1563, may explain the
question which she put to Amyot, by revealing the rivalry which must
have existed between Mademoiselle de Rohan and the duchess.

"Do see that group of the discontented over there?" said the Comte de
Grammont, motioning toward the Messieurs de Coligny, the Cardinal de
Chatillon, Danville, Thore, Moret, and several other seigneurs
suspected of tampering with the Reformation, who were standing between
two windows on the other side of the fireplace.

"The Huguenots are bestirring themselves," said Cypierre. "We know
that Theodore de Beze has gone to Nerac to induce the Queen of Navarre
to declare for the Reformers--by abjuring publicly," he added, looking
at the /bailli/ of Orleans, who held the office of chancellor to the
Queen of Navarre, and was watching the court attentively.

"She will do it!" said the /bailli/, dryly.

This personage, the Orleans Jacques Coeur, one of the richest burghers
of the day, was named Groslot, and had charge of Jeanne d'Albret's
business with the court of France.

"Do you really think so?" said the chancellor of France, appreciating
the full importance of Groslot's declaration.

"Are you not aware," said the burgher, "that the Queen of Navarre has
nothing of the woman in her except sex? She is wholly for things
virile; her powerful mind turns to the great affairs of State; her
heart is invincible under adversity."

"Monsieur le cardinal," whispered the Chancellor Olivier to Monsieur
de Tournon, who had overheard Groslot, "what do you think of that

"The Queen of Navarre did well in choosing for her chancellor a man
from whom the house of Lorraine borrows money, and who offers his
house to the king, if his Majesty visits Orleans," replied the

The chancellor and the cardinal looked at each other, without
venturing to further communicate their thoughts; but Robertet
expressed them, for he thought it necessary to show more devotion to
the Guises than these great personages, inasmuch as he was smaller
than they.

"It is a great misfortune that the house of Navarre, instead of
abjuring the religion of its fathers, does not abjure the spirit of
vengeance and rebellion which the Connetable de Bourbon breathed into
it," he said aloud. "We shall see the quarrels of the Armagnacs and
the Bourguignons revive in our day."

"No," said Groslot, "there's another Louis XI. in the Cardinal de

"And also in Queen Catherine," replied Robertet.

At this moment Madame Dayelle, the favorite bedchamber woman of Queen
Mary Stuart, crossed the hall, and went toward the royal chamber. Her
passage caused a general commotion.

"We shall soon enter," said Madame de Fisque.

"I don't think so," replied the Duchesse de Guise. "Their Majesties
will come out; a grand council is to be held."



Madame Dayelle glided into the royal chamber after scratching on the
door,--a respectful custom, invented by Catherine de' Medici and
adopted by the court of France.

"How is the weather, my dear Dayelle?" said Queen Mary, showing her
fresh young face out of the bed, and shaking the curtains.

"Ah! madame--"

"What's the matter, my Dayelle? You look as if the archers of the
guard were after you."

"Oh! madame, is the king still asleep?"


"We are to leave the chateau; Monsieur le cardinal requests me to tell
you so, and to ask you to make the king agree to it.

"Do you know why, my good Dayelle?"

"The Reformers want to seize you and carry you off."

"Ah! that new religion does not leave me a minute's peace! I dreamed
last night that I was in prison,--I, who will some day unite the
crowns of the three noblest kingdoms in the world!"

"Therefore it could only be a dream, madame."

"Carry me off! well, 'twould be rather pleasant; but on account of
religion, and by heretics--oh, that would be horrid."

The queen sprang from the bed and placed herself in a large arm-chair
of red velvet before the fireplace, after Dayelle had given her a
dressing-gown of black velvet, which she fastened loosely round her
waist by a silken cord. Dayelle lit the fire, for the mornings are
cool on the banks of the Loire in the month of May.

"My uncles must have received some news during the night?" said the
queen, inquiringly to Dayelle, whom she treated with great

"Messieurs de Guise have been walking together from early morning on
the terrace, so as not to be overheard by any one; and there they
received messengers, who came in hot haste from all the different
points of the kingdom where the Reformers are stirring. Madame la
reine mere was there too, with her Italians, hoping she would be
consulted; but no, she was not admitted to the council."

"She must have been furious."

"All the more because she was so angry yesterday," replied Dayelle.
"They say that when she saw your Majesty appear in that beautiful
dress of woven gold, with the charming veil of tan-colored crape, she
was none too pleased--"

"Leave us, my good Dayelle, the king is waking up. Let no one, even
those who have the little /entrees/, disturb us; an affair of State is
in hand, and my uncles will not disturb us."

"Why! my dear Mary, already out of bed? Is it daylight?" said the
young king, waking up.

"My dear darling, while we were asleep the wicked waked, and now they
are forcing us to leave this delightful place."

"What makes you think of wicked people, my treasure? I am sure we
enjoyed the prettiest fete in the world last night--if it were not for
the Latin words those gentlemen will put into our French."

"Ah!" said Mary, "your language is really in very good taste, and
Rabelais exhibits it finely."

"You are such a learned woman! I am so vexed that I can't sing your
praises in verse. If I were not the king, I would take my brother's
tutor, Amyot, and let him make me as accomplished as Charles."

"You need not envy your brother, who writes verses and shows them to
me, asking for mine in return. You are the best of the four, and will
make as good a king as you are the dearest of lovers. Perhaps that is
why your mother does not like you! But never mind! I, dear heart, will
love you for all the world."

"I have no great merit in loving such a perfect queen," said the
little king. "I don't know what prevented me from kissing you before
the whole court when you danced the /branle/ with the torches last
night! I saw plainly that all the other women were mere servants
compared to you, my beautiful Mary."

"It may be only prose you speak, but it is ravishing speech, dear
darling, for it is love that says those words. And you--you know well,
my beloved, that were you only a poor little page, I should love you
as much as I do now. And yet, there is nothing so sweet as to whisper
to one's self: 'My lover is king!'"

"Oh! the pretty arm! Why must we dress ourselves? I love to pass my
fingers through your silky hair and tangle its blond curls. Ah ca!
sweet one, don't let your women kiss that pretty throat and those
white shoulders any more; don't allow it, I say. It is too much that
the fogs of Scotland ever touched them!"

"Won't you come with me to see my dear country? The Scotch love you;
there are no rebellions /there/!"

"Who rebels in this our kingdom?" said Francois, crossing his
dressing-gown and taking Mary Stuart on his knee.

"Oh! 'tis all very charming, I know that," she said, withdrawing her
cheek from the king; "but it is your business to reign, if you please,
my sweet sire."

"Why talk of reigning? This morning I wish--"

"Why say /wish/ when you have only to will all? That's not the speech
of a king, nor that of a lover.--But no more of love just now; let us
drop it! We have business more important to speak of."

"Oh!" cried the king, "it is long since we have had any business. Is
it amusing?"

"No," said Mary, "not at all; we are to move from Blois."

"I'll wager, darling, you have seen your uncles, who manage so well
that I, at seventeen years of age, am no better than a /roi faineant/.
In fact, I don't know why I have attended any of the councils since
the first. They could manage matters just as well by putting the crown
in my chair; I see only through their eyes, and am forced to consent
to things blindly."

"Oh! monsieur," said the queen, rising from the king's knee with a
little air of indignation, "you said you would never worry me again on
this subject, and that my uncles used the royal power only for the
good of your people. Your people!--they are so nice! They would gobble
you up like a strawberry if you tried to rule them yourself. You want
a warrior, a rough master with mailed hands; whereas you--you are a
darling whom I love as you are; whom I should never love otherwise,
--do you hear me, monsieur?" she added, kissing the forehead of the
lad, who seemed inclined to rebel at her speech, but softened at her

"Oh! how I wish they were not your uncles!" cried Francois II. "I
particularly dislike the cardinal; and when he puts on his wheedling
air and his submissive manner and says to me, bowing: 'Sire, the honor
of the crown and the faith of your fathers forbid your Majesty to
--this and that,' I am sure he is working only for his cursed house
of Lorraine."

"Oh, how well you mimicked him!" cried the queen. "But why don't you
make the Guises inform you of what is going on, so that when you
attain your grand majority you may know how to reign yourself? I am
your wife, and your honor is mine. Trust me! we will reign together,
my darling; but it won't be a bed of roses for us until the day comes
when we have our own wills. There is nothing so difficult for a king
as to reign. Am I a queen, for example? Don't you know that your
mother returns me evil for all the good my uncles do to raise the
splendor of your throne? Hey! what difference between them! My uncles
are great princes, nephews of Charlemagne, filled with ardor and ready
to die for you; whereas this daughter of a doctor or a shopkeeper,
queen of France by accident, scolds like a burgher-woman who can't
manage her own household. She is discontented because she can't set
every one by the ears; and then she looks at me with a sour, pale
face, and says from her pinched lips: 'My daughter, you are a queen; I
am only the second woman in the kingdom' (she is really furious, you
know, my darling), 'but if I were in your place I should not wear
crimson velvet while all the court is in mourning; neither should I
appear in public with my own hair and no jewels, because what is not
becoming in a simple lady is still less becoming in a queen. Also I
should not dance myself, I should content myself with seeing others
dance.'--that is what she says to me--"

"Heavens!" cried the king, "I think I hear her coming. If she were to

"Oh, how you tremble before her. She worries you. Only say so, and we
will send her away. Faith, she's Florentine and we can't help her
tricking you, but when it comes to worrying--"

"For Heaven's sake, Mary, hold your tongue!" said Francois, frightened
and also pleased; "I don't want you to lose her good-will."

"Don't be afraid that she will ever break with /me/, who will some day
wear the three noblest crowns in the world, my dearest little king,"
cried Mary Stuart. "Though she hates me for a thousand reasons she is
always caressing me in the hope of turning me against my uncles."

"Hates you!"

"Yes, my angel; and if I had not proofs of that feeling such as women
only understand, for they alone know its malignity, I would forgive
her perpetual opposition to our dear love, my darling. Is it my fault
that your father could not endure Mademoiselle Medici or that his son
loves me? The truth is, she hates me so much that if you had not put
yourself into a rage, we should each have had our separate chamber at
Saint-Germain, and also here. She pretended it was the custom of the
kings and queens of France. Custom, indeed! it was your father's
custom, and that is easily understood. As for your grandfather,
Francois, the good man set up the custom for the convenience of his
loves. Therefore, I say, take care. And if we have to leave this
place, be sure that we are not separated."

"Leave Blois! Mary, what do you mean? I don't wish to leave this
beautiful chateau, where we can see the Loire and the country all
round us, with a town at our feet and all these pretty gardens. If I
go away it will be to Italy with you, to see St. Peter's, and
Raffaelle's pictures."

"And the orange-trees? Oh! my darling king, if you knew the longing
your Mary has to ramble among the orange-groves in fruit and flower!"

"Let us go, then!" cried the king.

"Go!" exclaimed the grand-master as he entered the room. "Yes, sire,
you must leave Blois. Pardon my boldness in entering your chamber; but
circumstances are stronger than etiquette, and I come to entreat you
to hold a council."

Finding themselves thus surprised, Mary and Francois hastily
separated, and on their faces was the same expression of offended
royal majesty.

"You are too much of a grand-master, Monsieur de Guise," said the
king, though controlling his anger.

"The devil take lovers," murmured the cardinal in Catherine's ear.

"My son," said the queen-mother, appearing behind the cardinal; "it is
a matter concerning your safety and that of your kingdom."

"Heresy wakes while you have slept, sire," said the cardinal.

"Withdraw into the hall," cried the little king, "and then we will
hold a council."

"Madame," said the grand-master to the young queen; "the son of your
furrier has brought some furs, which was just in time for the journey,
for it is probable we shall sail down the Loire. But," he added,
turning to the queen-mother, "he also wishes to speak to you, madame.
While the king dresses, you and Madame la reine had better see and
dismiss him, so that we may not be delayed and harassed by this

"Certainly," said Catherine, thinking to herself, "If he expects to
get rid of me by any such trick he little knows me."

The cardinal and the duke withdrew, leaving the two queens and the
king alone together. As they crossed the /salle des gardes/ to enter
the council-chamber, the grand-master told the usher to bring the
queen's furrier to him. When Christophe saw the usher approaching from
the farther end of the great hall, he took him, on account of his
uniform, for some great personage, and his heart sank within him. But
that sensation, natural as it was at the approach of the critical
moment, grew terrible when the usher, whose movement had attracted the
eyes of all that brilliant assembly upon Christophe, his homely face
and his bundles, said to him:--

"Messeigneurs the Cardinal de Lorraine and the Grand-master wish to
speak to you in the council chamber."

"Can I have been betrayed?" thought the helpless ambassador of the

Christophe followed the usher with lowered eyes, which he did not
raise till he stood in the great council-chamber, the size of which is
almost equal to that of the /salle des gardes/. The two Lorrain
princes were there alone, standing before the magnificent fireplace,
which backs against that in the /salle des gardes/ around which the
ladies of the two queens were grouped.

"You have come from Paris; which route did you take?" said the

"I came by water, monseigneur," replied the reformer.

"How did you enter Blois?" asked the grand-master.

"By the docks, monseigneur."

"Did no one question you?" exclaimed the duke, who was watching the
young man closely.

"No, monseigneur. To the first soldier who looked as if he meant to
stop me I said I came on duty to the two queens, to whom my father was

"What is happening in Paris?" asked the cardinal.

"They are still looking for the murderer of the President Minard."

"Are you not the son of my surgeon's greatest friend?" said the Duc de
Guise, misled by the candor of Christophe's expression after his first
alarm had passed away.

"Yes, monseigneur."

The Grand-master turned aside, abruptly raised the portiere which
concealed the double door of the council-chamber, and showed his face
to the whole assembly, among whom he was searching for the king's
surgeon. Ambroise Pare, standing in a corner, caught a glance which
the duke cast upon him, and immediately advanced. Ambroise, who at
this time was inclined to the reformed religion, eventually adopted
it; but the friendship of the Guises and that of the kings of France
guaranteed him against the evils which overtook his co-religionists.
The duke, who considered himself under obligations for life to
Ambroise Pare, had lately caused him to be appointed chief-surgeon to
the king.

"What is it, monseigneur?" said Ambroise. "Is the king ill? I think it

"Likely? Why?"

"The queen is too pretty," replied the surgeon.

"Ah!" exclaimed the duke in astonishment. "However, that is not the
matter now," he added after a pause. "Ambroise, I want you to see
a friend of yours." So saying he drew him to the door of the
council-room, and showed him Christophe.

"Ha! true, monseigneur," cried the surgeon, extending his hand to the
young furrier. "How is your father, my lad?"

"Very well, Maitre Ambroise," replied Christophe.

"What are you doing at court?" asked the surgeon. "It is not your
business to carry parcels; your father intends you for the law. Do you
want the protection of these two great princes to make you a

"Indeed I do!" said Christophe; "but I am here only in the interests
of my father; and if you could intercede for us, please do so," he
added in a piteous tone; "and ask the Grand Master for an order to pay
certain sums that are due to my father, for he is at his wit's end
just now for money."

The cardinal and the duke glanced at each other and seemed satisfied.

"Now leave us," said the duke to the surgeon, making him a sign. "And
you my friend," turning to Christophe; "do your errand quickly and
return to Paris. My secretary will give you a pass, for it is not
safe, /mordieu/, to be travelling on the high-roads!"

Neither of the brothers formed the slightest suspicion of the grave
importance of Christophe's errand, convinced, as they now were, that
he was really the son of the good Catholic Lecamus, the court furrier,
sent to collect payment for their wares.

"Take him close to the door of the queen's chamber; she will probably
ask for him soon," said the cardinal to the surgeon, motioning to

While the son of the furrier was undergoing this brief examination in
the council-chamber, the king, leaving the queen in company with her
mother-in-law, had passed into his dressing-room, which was entered
through another small room next to the chamber.

Standing in the wide recess of an immense window, Catherine looked at
the gardens, her mind a prey to painful thoughts. She saw that in all
probability one of the greatest captains of the age would be foisted
that very day into the place and power of her son, the king of France,
under the formidable title of lieutenant-general of the kingdom.
Before this peril she stood alone, without power of action, without
defence. She might have been likened to a phantom, as she stood there
in her mourning garments (which she had not quitted since the death of
Henri II.) so motionless was her pallid face in the grasp of her
bitter reflections. Her black eyes floated in that species of
indecision for which great statesmen are so often blamed, though it
comes from the vast extent of the glance with which they embrace all
difficulties,--setting one against the other, and adding up, as it
were, all chances before deciding on a course. Her ears rang, her
blood tingled, and yet she stood there calm and dignified, all the
while measuring in her soul the depths of the political abyss which
lay before her, like the natural depths which rolled away at her feet.
This day was the second of those terrible days (that of the arrest of
the Vidame of Chartres being the first) which she was destined to meet
in so great numbers throughout her regal life; it also witnessed her
last blunder in the school of power. Though the sceptre seemed
escaping from her hands, she wished to seize it; and she did seize it
by a flash of that power of will which was never relaxed by either the
disdain of her father-in-law, Francois I., and his court,--where, in
spite of her rank of dauphiness, she had been of no account,--or the
constant repulses of her husband, Henri II., and the terrible
opposition of her rival, Diane de Poitiers. A man would never have
fathomed this thwarted queen; but the fair-haired Mary--so subtle, so
clever, so girlish, and already so well-trained--examined her out of
the corners of her eyes as she hummed an Italian air and assumed a
careless countenance. Without being able to guess the storms of
repressed ambition which sent the dew of a cold sweat to the forehead
of the Florentine, the pretty Scotch girl, with her wilful, piquant
face, knew very well that the advancement of her uncle the Duc de
Guise to the lieutenant-generalship of the kingdom was filling the
queen-mother with inward rage. Nothing amused her more than to watch
her mother-in-law, in whom she saw only an intriguing woman of low
birth, always ready to avenge herself. The face of the one was grave
and gloomy, and somewhat terrible, by reason of the livid tones which
transform the skin of Italian women to yellow ivory by daylight,
though it recovers its dazzling brilliancy under candlelight; the face
of the other was fair and fresh and gay. At sixteen, Mary Stuart's
skin had that exquisite blond whiteness which made her beauty so
celebrated. Her fresh and piquant face, with its pure lines, shone
with the roguish mischief of childhood, expressed in the regular
eyebrows, the vivacious eyes, and the archness of the pretty mouth.
Already she displayed those feline graces which nothing, not even
captivity nor the sight of her dreadful scaffold, could lessen. The
two queens--one at the dawn, the other in the midsummer of life
--presented at this moment the utmost contrast. Catherine was an
imposing queen, an impenetrable widow, without other passion than that
of power. Mary was a light-hearted, careless bride, making playthings
of her triple crowns. One foreboded great evils,--foreseeing the
assassination of the Guises as the only means of suppressing enemies
who were resolved to rise above the Throne and the Parliament;
foreseeing also the bloodshed of a long and bitter struggle; while
the other little anticipated her own judicial murder. A sudden and
strange reflection calmed the mind of the Italian.

"That sorceress and Ruggiero both declare this reign is coming to an
end; my difficulties will not last long," she thought.

And so, strangely enough, an occult science forgotten in our day--that
of astrology--supported Catherine at this moment, as it did, in fact,
throughout her life; for, as she witnessed the minute fulfilment of
the prophecies of those who practised the art, her belief in it
steadily increased.

"You are very gloomy, madame," said Mary Stuart, taking from the hands
of her waiting-woman, Dayelle, a little cap and placing the point of
it on the parting of her hair, while two wings of rich lace surrounded
the tufts of blond curls which clustered on her temples.

The pencil of many painters have so frequently represented this
head-dress that it is thought to have belonged exclusively to Mary Queen
of Scots; whereas it was really invented by Catherine de' Medici, when
she put on mourning for Henri II. But she never knew how to wear it
with the grace of her daughter-in-law, to whom it was becoming. This
annoyance was not the least among the many which the queen-mother
cherished against the young queen.

"Is the queen reproving me?" said Catherine, turning to Mary.

"I owe you all respect, and should not dare to do so," said the
Scottish queen, maliciously, glancing at Dayelle.

Placed between the rival queens, the favorite waiting-woman stood
rigid as an andiron; a smile of comprehension might have cost her her

"Can I be as gay as you, after losing the late king, and now beholding
my son's kingdom about to burst into flames?"

"Public affairs do not concern women," said Mary Stuart. "Besides, my
uncles are there."

These words were, under the circumstances, like so many poisoned

"Let us look at our furs, madame," replied the Italian, sarcastically;
"that will employ us on our legitimate female affairs while your
uncles decide those of the kingdom."

"Oh! but we will go the Council, madame; we shall be more useful than
you think."

"We!" said Catherine, with an air of astonishment. "But I do not
understand Latin, myself."

"You think me very learned," cried Mary Stuart, laughing, "but I
assure you, madame, I study only to reach the level of the Medici, and
learn how to /cure/ the wounds of the kingdom."

Catherine was silenced by this sharp thrust, which referred to the
origin of the Medici, who were descended, some said, from a doctor of
medicine, others from a rich druggist. She made no direct answer.
Dayelle colored as her mistress looked at her, asking for the applause
that even queens demand from their inferiors if there are no other

"Your charming speeches, madame, will unfortunately cure the wounds of
neither Church nor State," said Catherine at last, with her calm and
cold dignity. "The science of my fathers in that direction gave them
thrones; whereas if you continue to trifle in the midst of danger you
are liable to lose yours."

It was at this moment that Ambroise Pare, the chief surgeon, scratched
softly on the door, and Madame Dayelle, opening it, admitted


                        A DRAMA IN A SURCOAT

The young reformer intended to study Catherine's face, all the while
affecting a natural embarrassment at finding himself in such a place;
but his proceedings were much hastened by the eagerness with which the
younger queen darted to the cartons to see her surcoat.

"Madame," said Christophe, addressing Catherine.

He turned his back on the other queen and on Dayelle, instantly
profiting by the attention the two women were eager to bestow upon the
furs to play a bold stroke.

"What do you want of me?" said Catherine giving him a searching look.

Christophe had put the treaty proposed by the Prince de Conde, the
plan of the Reformers, and the detail of their forces in his bosom
between his shirt and his cloth jacket, folding them, however, within
the bill which Catherine owed to the furrier.

"Madame," he said, "my father is in horrible need of money, and if you
will deign to cast your eyes over your bill," here he unfolded the
paper and put the treaty on the top of it, "you will see that your
Majesty owes him six thousand crowns. Have the goodness to take pity
on us. See, madame!" and he held the treaty out to her. "Read it; the
account dates from the time the late king came to the throne."

Catherine was bewildered by the preamble of the treaty which met her
eye, but she did not lose her head. She folded the paper quickly,
admiring the audacity and presence of mind of the youth, and feeling
sure that after performing such a masterly stroke he would not fail to
understand her. She therefore tapped him on the head with the folded
paper, saying:--

"It is very clumsy of you, my little friend, to present your bill
before the furs. Learn to know women. You must never ask us to pay
until the moment when we are satisfied."

"Is that traditional?" said the young queen, turning to her
mother-in-law, who made no reply.

"Ah, mesdames, pray excuse my father," said Christophe. "If he had not
had such need of money you would not have had your furs at all. The
country is in arms, and there are so many dangers to run in getting
here that nothing but our great distress would have brought me. No one
but me was willing to risk them."

"The lad is new to his business," said Mary Stuart, smiling.

It may not be useless, for the understanding of this trifling, but
very important scene, to remark that a surcoat was, as the name
implies (/sur cotte/), a species of close-fitting spencer which women
wore over their bodies and down to their thighs, defining the figure.
This garment protected the back, chest, and throat from cold. These
surcoats were lined with fur, a band of which, wide or narrow as the
case might be, bordered the outer material. Mary Stuart, as she tried
the garment on, looked at herself in a large Venetian mirror to see
the effect behind, thus leaving her mother-in-law an opportunity to
examine the papers, the bulk of which might have excited the young
queen's suspicions had she noticed it.

"Never tell women of the dangers you have run when you have come out
of them safe and sound," she said, turning to show herself to

"Ah! madame, I have your bill, too," he said, looking at her with
well-played simplicity.

The young queen eyed him, but did not take the paper; and she noticed,
though without at the moment drawing any conclusions, that he had
taken her bill from his pocket, whereas he had carried Queen
Catherine's in his bosom. Neither did she find in the lad's eyes that
glance of admiration which her presence invariably excited in all
beholders. But she was so engrossed by her surcoat that, for the
moment, she did not ask herself the meaning of such indifference.

"Take the bill, Dayelle," she said to her waiting-woman; "give it to
Monsieur de Versailles (Lomenie) and tell him from me to pay it."

"Oh! madame," said Christophe, "if you do not ask the king or
monseigneur the grand-master to sign me an order your gracious word
will have no effect."

"You are rather more eager than becomes a subject, my friend," said
Mary Stuart. "Do you not believe my royal word?"

The king now appeared, in silk stockings and trunk-hose (the breeches
of that period), but without his doublet and mantle; he had, however,
a rich loose coat of velvet edged with minever.

"Who is the wretch who dares to doubt your word?" he said,
overhearing, in spite of his distance, his wife's last words.

The door of the dressing-room was hidden by the royal bed. This room
was afterwards called "the old cabinet," to distinguish it from the
fine cabinet of pictures which Henri III. constructed at the
farther end of the same suite of rooms, next to the hall of the
States-general. It was in the old cabinet that Henri III. hid the
murderers when he sent for the Duc de Guise, while he himself remained
hidden in the new cabinet during the murder, only emerging in time to
see the overbearing subject for whom there were no longer prisons,
tribunals, judges, nor even laws, draw his last breath. Were it not for
these terrible circumstances the historian of to-day could hardly trace
the former occupation of these cabinets, now filled with soldiers. A
quartermaster writes to his mistress on the very spot where the
pensive Catherine once decided on her course between the parties.

"Come with me, my friend," said the queen-mother, "and I will see that
you are paid. Commerce must live, and money is its backbone."

"Go, my lad," cried the young queen, laughing; "my august mother knows
more than I do about commerce."

Catherine was about to leave the room without replying to this last
taunt; but she remembered that her indifference to it might provoke
suspicion, and she answered hastily:--

"But you, my dear, understand the business of love."

Then she descended to her own apartments.

"Put away these furs, Dayelle, and let us go to the Council,
monsieur," said Mary to the young king, enchanted with the opportunity
of deciding in the absence of the queen-mother so important a question
as the lieutenant-generalship of the kingdom.

Mary Stuart took the king's arm. Dayelle went out before them,
whispering to the pages; one of whom (it was young Teligny, who
afterwards perished so miserably during the Saint-Bartholomew) cried

"The king!"

Hearing the words, the two soldiers of the guard presented arms, and
the two pages went forward to the door of the Council-room through the
lane of courtiers and that of the maids of honor of the two queens.
All the members of the Council then grouped themselves about the door
of their chamber, which was not very far from the door to the
staircase. The grand-master, the cardinal, and the chancellor advanced
to meet the young sovereign, who smiled to several of the maids of
honor and replied to the remarks of a few courtiers more privileged
than the rest. But the queen, evidently impatient, drew Francois II.
as quickly as possible toward the Council-chamber. When the sound of
arquebuses, dropping heavily on the floor, had announced the entrance
of the couple, the pages replaced their caps upon their heads, and the
private talk among the courtiers on the gravity of the matters now
about to be discussed began again.

"They sent Chiverni to fetch the Connetable, but he has not come,"
said one.

"There is not a single prince of the blood present," said another.

"The chancellor and Monsieur de Tournon looked anxious," remarked a

"The grand-master sent word to the keeper of the seals to be sure not
to miss this Council; therefore you may be certain they will issue

"Why does the queen-mother stay in her own apartments at such a time?"

"They'll cut out plenty of work for us," remarked Groslot to Cardinal
de Chatillon.

In short, everybody had a word to say. Some went and came, in and out
of the great hall; others hovered about the maids of honor of both
queens, as if it might be possible to catch a few words through a wall
three feet thick or through the double doors draped on each side with
heavy curtains.

Seated at the upper end of a long table covered with blue velvet,
which stood in the middle of the room, the king, near to whom the
young queen was seated in an arm-chair, waited for his mother.
Robertet, the secretary, was mending pens. The two cardinals, the
grand-master, the chancellor, the keeper of the seals, and all the
rest of the council looked at the little king, wondering why he did
not give them the usual order to sit down.

The two Lorrain princes attributed the queen-mother's absence to some
trick of their niece. Incited presently by a significant glance, the
audacious cardinal said to his Majesty:--

"Is it the king's good pleasure to begin the council without waiting
for Madame la reine-mere?"

Francois II., without daring to answer directly, said: "Messieurs, be

The cardinal then explained succinctly the dangers of the situation.
This great political character, who showed extraordinary ability under
these pressing circumstances, led up to the question of the
lieutenancy of the kingdom in the midst of the deepest silence. The
young king doubtless felt the tyranny that was being exercised over
him; he knew that his mother had a deep sense of the rights of the
Crown and was fully aware of the danger that threatened his power; he
therefore replied to a positive question addressed to him by the
cardinal by saying:--

"We will wait for the queen, my mother."

Suddenly enlightened by the queen-mother's delay, Mary Stuart
recalled, in a flash of thought, three circumstances which now
struck her vividly; first, the bulk of the papers presented to her
mother-in-law, which she had noticed, absorbed as she was,--for a woman
who seems to see nothing is often a lynx; next, the place where
Christophe had carried them to keep them separate from hers: "Why so?"
she thought to herself; and thirdly, she remembered the cold,
indifferent glance of the young man, which she suddenly attributed to
the hatred of the Reformers to a niece of the Guises. A voice cried to
her, "He may have been an emissary of the Huguenots!" Obeying, like all
excitable natures, her first impulse, she exclaimed:--

"I will go and fetch my mother myself!"

Then she left the room hurriedly, ran down the staircase, to the
amazement of the courtiers and the ladies of honor, entered her
mother-in-law's apartments, crossed the guard-room, opened the door of
the chamber with the caution of a thief, glided like a shadow over the
carpet, saw no one, and bethought her that she should surely surprise
the queen-mother in that magnificent dressing-room which comes between
the bedroom and the oratory. The arrangement of this oratory, to which
the manners of that period gave a role in private life like that of
the boudoirs of our day, can still be traced.

By an almost inexplicable chance, when we consider the state of
dilapidation into which the Crown has allowed the chateau of Blois to
fall, the admirable woodwork of Catherine's cabinet still exists; and
in those delicately carved panels, persons interested in such things
may still see traces of Italian splendor, and discover the secret
hiding-places employed by the queen-mother. An exact description of
these curious arrangements is necessary in order to give a clear
understanding of what was now to happen. The woodwork of the oratory
then consisted of about a hundred and eighty oblong panels, one
hundred of which still exist, all presenting arabesques of different
designs, evidently suggested by the most beautiful arabesques of
Italy. The wood is live-oak. The red tones, seen through the layer of
whitewash put on to avert cholera (useless precaution!), shows very
plainly that the ground of the panels was formerly gilt. Certain
portions of the design, visible where the wash has fallen away, seem
to show that they once detached themselves from the gilded ground in
colors, either blue, or red, or green. The multitude of these panels
shows an evident intention to foil a search; but even if this could be
doubted, the concierge of the chateau, while devoting the memory of
Catherine to the execration of the humanity of our day, shows at the
base of these panels and close to the floor a rather heavy foot-board,
which can be lifted, and beneath which still remain the ingenious
springs which move the panels. By pressing a knob thus hidden, the
queen was able to open certain panels known to her alone, behind
which, sunk in the wall, were hiding-places, oblong like the panels,
and more or less deep. It is difficult, even in these days of
dilapidation, for the best-trained eye to detect which of those panels
is thus hinged; but when the eye was distracted by colors and gilding,
cleverly used to conceal the joints, we can readily conceive that to
find one or two such panels among two hundred was almost an impossible

At the moment when Mary Stuart laid her hand on the somewhat
complicated lock of the door of this oratory, the queen-mother, who
had just become convinced of the greatness of the Prince de Conde's
plans, had touched the spring hidden beneath the foot-board, and one
of the mysterious panels had turned over on its hinges. Catherine was
in the act of lifting the papers from the table to hide them,
intending after that to secure the safety of the devoted messenger who
had brought them to her, when, hearing the sudden opening of the door,
she at once knew that none but Queen Mary herself would dare thus to
enter without announcement.

"You are lost!" she said to Christophe, perceiving that she could no
longer put away the papers, nor close with sufficient rapidity the
open panel, the secret of which was now betrayed.

Christophe answered her with a glance that was sublime.

"/Povero mio/!" said Catherine, before she looked at her
daughter-in-law. "Treason, madame! I hold the traitors at last,"
she cried. "Send for the duke and the cardinal; and see that that
man," pointing to Christophe, "does not escape."

In an instant the able woman had seen the necessity of sacrificing the
poor youth. She could not hide him; it was impossible to save him.
Eight days earlier it might have been done; but the Guises now knew of
the plot; they must already possess the lists she held in her hand,
and were evidently drawing the Reformers into a trap. Thus, rejoiced
to find in these adversaries the very spirit she desired them to have,
her policy now led her to make a merit of the discovery of their plot.
These horrible calculations were made during the rapid moment while
the young queen was opening the door. Mary Stuart stood dumb for an
instant; the gay look left her eyes, which took on the acuteness that
suspicion gives to the eyes of all, and which, in hers, became
terrible from the suddenness of the change. She glanced from
Christophe to the queen-mother and from the queen-mother back to
Christophe,--her face expressing malignant doubt. Then she seized a
bell, at the sound of which one of the queen-mother's maids of honor
came running in.

"Mademoiselle du Rouet, send for the captain of the guard," said Mary
Stuart to the maid of honor, contrary to all etiquette, which was
necessarily violated under the circumstances.

While the young queen gave this order, Catherine looked intently at
Christophe, as if saying to him, "Courage!"

The Reformer understood, and replied by another glance, which seemed
to say, "Sacrifice me, as /they/ have sacrificed me!"

"Rely on me," said Catherine by a gesture. Then she absorbed herself
in the documents as her daughter-in-law turned to him.

"You belong to the Reformed religion?" inquired Mary Stuart of

"Yes, madame," he answered.

"I was not mistaken," she murmured as she again noticed in the eyes of
the young Reformer the same cold glance in which dislike was hidden
beneath an expression of humility.

Pardaillan suddenly appeared, sent by the two Lorrain princes and by
the king to escort the queens. The captain of the guard called for by
Mary Stuart followed the young officer, who was devoted to the Guises.

"Go and tell the king and the grand-master and the cardinal, from me,
to come here at once, and say that I should not take the liberty of
sending for them if something of the utmost importance had not
occurred. Go, Pardaillan.--As for you, Lewiston, keep guard over
that traitor of a Reformer," she said to the Scotchman in his
mother-tongue, pointing to Christophe.

The young queen and queen-mother maintained a total silence until the
arrival of the king and princes. The moments that elapsed were

Mary Stuart had betrayed to her mother-in-law, in its fullest extent,
the part her uncles were inducing her to play; her constant and
habitual distrust and espionage were now revealed, and her young
conscience told her how dishonoring to a great queen was the work that
she was doing. Catherine, on the other hand, had yielded out of fear;
she was still afraid of being rightly understood, and she trembled for
her future. Both women, one ashamed and angry, the other filled with
hatred and yet calm, went to the embrasure of the window and leaned
against the casing, one to right, the other to left, silent; but their
feelings were expressed in such speaking glances that they averted
their eyes and, with mutual artfulness, gazed through the window at
the sky. These two great and superior women had, at this crisis, no
greater art of behavior than the vulgarest of their sex. Perhaps it is
always thus when circumstances arise which overwhelm the human being.
There is, inevitably, a moment when genius itself feels its littleness
in presence of great catastrophes.

As for Christophe, he was like a man in the act of rolling down a
precipice. Lewiston, the Scotch captain, listened to this silence,
watching the son of the furrier and the two queens with soldierly
curiosity. The entrance of the king and Mary Stuart's two uncles put
an end to the painful situation.



The cardinal went straight to the queen-mother.

"I hold the threads of the conspiracy of the heretics," said
Catherine. "They have sent me this treaty and these documents by the
hands of that child," she added.

During the time that Catherine was explaining matters to the cardinal,
Queen Mary whispered a few words to the grand-master.

"What is all this about?" asked the young king, who was left alone in
the midst of the violent clash of interests.

"The proofs of what I was telling to your Majesty have not been long
in reaching us," said the cardinal, who had grasped the papers.

The Duc de Guise drew his brother aside without caring that
he interrupted him, and said in his ear, "This makes me
lieutenant-general without opposition."

A shrewd glance was the cardinal's only answer; showing his brother
that he fully understood the advantages to be gained from Catherine's
false position.

"Who sent you here?" said the duke to Christophe.

"Chaudieu, the minister," he replied.

"Young man, you lie!" said the soldier, sharply; "it was the Prince de

"The Prince de Conde, monseigneur!" replied Christophe, with a puzzled
look. "I never met him. I am studying law with Monsieur de Thou; I am
his secretary, and he does not know that I belong to the Reformed
religion. I yielded only to the entreaties of the minister."

"Enough!" exclaimed the cardinal. "Call Monsieur de Robertet," he said
to Lewiston, "for this young scamp is slyer than an old statesman; he
has managed to deceive my brother, and me too; an hour ago I would
have given him the sacrament without confession."

"You are not a child, /morbleu/!" cried the duke, "and we'll treat you
as a man."

"The heretics have attempted to beguile your august mother," said the
cardinal, addressing the king, and trying to draw him apart to win him
over to their ends.

"Alas!" said the queen-mother to her son, assuming a reproachful look
and stopping the king at the moment when the cardinal was leading him
into the oratory to subject him to his dangerous eloquence, "you see
the result of the situation in which I am; they think me irritated by
the little influence that I have in public affairs,--I, the mother of
four princes of the house of Valois!"

The young king listened attentively. Mary Stuart, seeing the frown
upon his brow, took his arm and led him away into the recess of the
window, where she cajoled him with sweet speeches in a low voice, no
doubt like those she had used that morning in their chamber. The two
Guises read the documents given up to them by Catherine. Finding that
they contained information which their spies, and Monsieur
Braguelonne, the lieutenant of the Chatelet, had not obtained, they
were inclined to believe in the sincerity of Catherine de' Medici.
Robertet came and received certain secret orders relative to
Christophe. The youthful instrument of the leaders of the Reformation
was then led away by four soldiers of the Scottish guard, who took him
down the stairs and delivered him to Monsieur de Montresor, provost of
the chateau. That terrible personage himself, accompanied by six of
his men, conducted Christophe to the prison in the vaulted cellar of
the tower, now in ruins, which the concierge of the chateau de Blois
shows you with the information that these were the dungeons.

After such an event the Council could be only a formality. The king,
the young queen, the Grand-master, and the cardinal returned to it,
taking with them the vanquished Catherine, who said no word except to
approve the measures proposed by the Guises. In spite of a slight
opposition from the Chancelier Olivier (the only person present who
said one word that expressed the independence to which his office
bound him), the Duc de Guise was appointed lieutenant-general of the
kingdom. Robertet brought the required documents, showing a devotion
which might be called collusion. The king, giving his arm to his
mother, recrossed the /salle des gardes/, announcing to the court as
he passed along that on the following day he should leave Blois for
the chateau of Amboise. The latter residence had been abandoned since
the time when Charles VIII. accidentally killed himself by striking
his head against the casing of a door on which he had ordered
carvings, supposing that he could enter without stooping below the
scaffolding. Catherine, to mask the plans of the Guises, remarked
aloud that they intended to complete the chateau of Amboise for the
Crown at the same time that her own chateau of Chemonceaux was
finished. But no one was the dupe of that pretext, and all present
awaited great events.

After spending about two hours endeavoring to see where he was in the
obscurity of the dungeon, Christophe ended by discovering that the
place was sheathed in rough woodwork, thick enough to make the square
hole into which he was put both healthy and habitable. The door, like
that of a pig-pen, was so low that he stooped almost double on
entering it. Beside this door was a heavy iron grating, opening upon a
sort of corridor, which gave a little light and a little air. This
arrangement, in all respects like that of the dungeons of Venice,
showed plainly that the architecture of the chateau of Blois belonged
to the Venetian school, which during the Middle Ages, sent so many
builders into all parts of Europe. By tapping this species of pit
above the woodwork Christophe discovered that the walls which
separated his cell to right and left from the adjoining ones were made
of brick. Striking one of them to get an idea of its thickness, he was
somewhat surprised to hear return blows given on the other side.

"Who are you?" said his neighbor, speaking to him through the

"I am Christophe Lecamus."

"I," replied the voice, "am Captain Chaudieu, brother of the minister.
I was taken prisoner to-night at Beaugency; but, luckily, there is
nothing against me."

"All is discovered," said Christophe; "you are fortunate to be saved
from the fray."

"We have three thousand men at this moment in the forests of the
Vendomois, all determined men, who mean to abduct the king and the
queen-mother during their journey. Happily La Renaudie was cleverer
than I; he managed to escape. You had only just left us when the Guise
men surprised us--"

"But I don't know La Renaudie."

"Pooh! my brother has told me all about it," said the captain.

Hearing that, Christophe sat down upon his bench and made no further
answer to the pretended captain, for he knew enough of the police to
be aware how necessary it was to act with prudence in a prison. In the
middle of the night he saw the pale light of a lantern in the
corridor, after hearing the ponderous locks of the iron door which
closed the cellar groan as they were turned. The provost himself had
come to fetch Christophe. This attention to a prisoner who had been
left in his dark dungeon for hours without food, struck the poor lad
as singular. One of the provost's men bound his hands with a rope and
held him by the end of it until they reached one of the lower halls of
the chateau of Louis XII., which was evidently the antechamber to the
apartments of some important personage. The provost and his men bade
him sit upon a bench, and the man then bound his feet as he had before
bound his hands. On a sign from Monsieur de Montresor the man left the

"Now listen to me, my friend," said the provost-marshal, toying with
the collar of the Order; for, late as the hour was, he was in full

This little circumstance gave the young man several thoughts; he saw
that all was not over; on the contrary, it was evidently neither to
hang nor yet to condemn him that he was brought here.

"My friend, you may spare yourself cruel torture by telling me all you
know of the understanding between Monsieur le Prince de Conde and
Queen Catherine. Not only will no harm be done to you, but you shall
enter the service of Monseigneur the lieutenant-general of the
kingdom, who likes intelligent men and on whom your honest face has
produced a good impression. The queen-mother is about to be sent back
to Florence, and Monsieur de Conde will no doubt be brought to trial.
Therefore, believe me, humble folks ought to attach themselves to the
great men who are in power. Tell me all; and you will find your profit
in it."

"Alas, monsieur," replied Christophe; "I have nothing to tell. I told
all I know to Messieurs de Guise in the queen's chamber. Chaudieu
persuaded me to put those papers under the eyes of the queen-mother;
assuring me that they concerned the peace of the kingdom."

"You have never seen the Prince de Conde?"


Thereupon Monsieur de Montresor left Christophe and went into the
adjoining room; but the youth was not left long alone. The door
through which he had been brought opened and gave entrance to several
men, who did not close it. Sounds that were far from reassuring were
heard from the courtyard; men were bringing wood and machinery,
evidently intended for the punishment of the Reformer's messenger.
Christophe's anxiety soon had matter for reflection in the
preparations which were made in the hall before his eyes.

Two coarse and ill-dressed serving-men obeyed the orders of a stout,
squat, vigorous man, who cast upon Christophe, as he entered, the
glance of a cannibal upon his victim; he looked him over and
/estimated/ him,--measuring, like a connoisseur, the strength of his
nerves, their power and their endurance. The man was the executioner
of Blois. Coming and going, his assistants brought in a mattress,
several mallets and wooden wedges, also planks and other articles, the
use of which was not plain, nor their look comforting to the poor boy
concerned in these preparations, whose blood now curdled in his veins
from a vague but most terrible apprehension. Two personages entered
the hall at the moment when Monsieur de Montresor reappeared.

"Hey, nothing ready!" cried the provost-marshal, to whom the
new-comers bowed with great respect. "Don't you know," he said,
addressing the stout man and his two assistants, "that Monseigneur the
cardinal thinks you already at work? Doctor," added the provost, turning
to one of the new-comers, "this is the man"; and he pointed to

The doctor went straight to the prisoner, unbound his hands, and
struck him on the breast and back. Science now continued, in a serious
manner, the truculent examination of the executioner's eye. During
this time a servant in the livery of the house of Guise brought in
several arm-chairs, a table, and writing-materials.

"Begin the /proces verbal/," said Monsieur de Montresor, motioning to
the table the second personage, who was dressed in black, and was
evidently a clerk. Then the provost went up to Christophe, and said to
him in a very gentle way: "My friend, the chancellor, having learned
that you refuse to answer me in a satisfactory manner, decrees that
you be put to the question, ordinary and extraordinary."

"Is he in good health, and can he bear it?" said the clerk to the

"Yes," replied the latter, who was one of the physicians of the house
of Lorraine.

"In that case, retire to the next room; we will send for you whenever
we require your advice."

The physician left the hall.

His first terror having passed, Christophe rallied his courage; the
hour of his martyrdom had come. Thenceforth he looked with cold
curiosity at the arrangements that were made by the executioner and
his men. After hastily preparing a bed, the two assistants got ready
certain appliances called /boots/; which consisted of several planks,
between which each leg of the victim was placed. The legs thus placed
were brought close together. The apparatus used by binders to press
their volumes between two boards, which they fasten by cords, will
give an exact idea of the manner in which each leg of the prisoner was
bound. We can imagine the effect produced by the insertion of wooden
wedges, driven in by hammers between the planks of the two bound legs,
--the two sets of planks of course not yielding, being themselves
bound together by ropes. These wedges were driven in on a line with
the knees and the ankles. The choice of these places where there is
little flesh, and where, consequently, the wedge could only be forced
in by crushing the bones, made this form of torture, called the
"question," horribly painful. In the "ordinary question" four wedges
were driven in,--two at the knees, two at the ankles; but in the
"extraordinary question" the number was increased to eight, provided
the doctor certified that the prisoner's vitality was not exhausted.
At the time of which we write the "boots" were also applied in the
same manner to the hands and wrists; but, being pressed for time, the
cardinal, the lieutenant-general, and the chancellor spared Christophe
that additional suffering.

The /proces verbal/ was begun; the provost dictated a few sentences as
he walked up and down with a meditative air, asking Christophe his
name, baptismal name, age, and profession; then he inquired the name
of the person from whom he had received the papers he had given to the

"From the minister Chaudieu," answered Christophe.

"Where did he give them to you?"

"In Paris."

"In giving them to you he must have told you whether the queen-mother
would receive you with pleasure?"

"He told me nothing of that kind," said Christophe. "He merely asked
me to give them to Queen Catherine secretly."

"You must have seen Chaudieu frequently, or he would not have known
that you were going to Blois."

"The minister did not know from me that in carrying furs to the queen
I was also to ask on my father's behalf for the money the queen-mother
owes him; and I did not have time to ask the minister who had told him
of it."

"But these papers, which were given to you without being sealed or
enveloped, contained a treaty between the rebels and Queen Catherine.
You must have seen that they exposed you to the punishment of all
those who assist in a rebellion."


"The persons who persuaded you to this act of high treason must have
promised you rewards and the protection of the queen-mother."

"I did it out of attachment to Chaudieu, the only person whom I saw in
the matter."

"Do you persist in saying you did not see the Prince de Conde?"


"The Prince de Conde did not tell you that the queen-mother was
inclined to enter into his views against the Messieurs de Guise?"

"I did not see him."

"Take care! one of your accomplices, La Renaudie, has been arrested.
Strong as he is, he was not able to bear the 'question,' which will
now be put to you; he confessed at last that both he and the Prince de
Conde had an interview with you. If you wish to escape the torture of
the question, I exhort you to tell me the simple truth. Perhaps you
will thus obtain your full pardon."

Christophe answered that he could not state a thing of which he had no
knowledge, or give himself accomplices when he had none. Hearing these
words, the provost-marshal signed to the executioner and retired
himself to the inner room. At that fatal sign Christophe's brows
contracted, his forehead worked with nervous convulsion, as he
prepared himself to suffer. His hands closed with such violence that
the nails entered the flesh without his feeling them. Three men seized
him, took him to the camp bed and laid him there, letting his legs
hang down. While the executioner fastened him to the rough bedstead
with strong cords, the assistants bound his legs into the "boots."
Presently the cords were tightened, by means of a wrench, without the
pressure causing much pain to the young Reformer. When each leg was
thus held as it were in a vice, the executioner grasped his hammer and
picked up the wedges, looking alternately at the victim and at the

"Do you persist in your denial?" asked the clerk.

"I have told the truth," replied Christophe.

"Very well. Go on," said the clerk, closing his eyes.

The cords were tightened with great force. This was perhaps the most
painful moment of the torture; the flesh being suddenly compressed,
the blood rushed violently toward the breast. The poor boy could not
restrain a dreadful cry and seemed about to faint. The doctor was
called in. After feeling Christophe's pulse, he told the executioner
to wait a quarter of an hour before driving the first wedge in, to let
the action of the blood subside and allow the victim to recover his
full sensitiveness. The clerk suggested, kindly, that if he could not
bear this beginning of sufferings which he could not escape, it would
be better to reveal all at once; but Christophe made no reply except
to say, "The king's tailor! the king's tailor!"

"What do you mean by those words?" asked the clerk.

"Seeing what torture I must bear," said Christophe, slowly, hoping to
gain time to rest, "I call up all my strength, and try to increase it
by thinking of the martyrdom borne by the king's tailor for the holy
cause of the Reformation, when the question was applied to him in
presence of Madame la Duchesse de Valentinois and the king. I shall
try to be worthy of him."

While the physician exhorted the unfortunate lad not to force them to
have recourse to more violent measures, the cardinal and the duke,
impatient to know the result of the interrogations, entered the hall
and themselves asked Christophe to speak the truth, immediately. The
young man repeated the only confession he had allowed himself to make,
which implicated no one but Chaudieu. The princes made a sign, on
which the executioner and his assistant seized their hammers, taking
each a wedge, which then they drove in between the joints, standing
one to right, the other to left of their victim; the executioner's
wedge was driven in at the knees, his assistant's at the ankles.

The eyes of all present fastened on those of Christophe, and he, no
doubt excited by the presence of those great personages, shot forth
such burning glances that they appeared to have all the brilliancy of
flame. As the third and fourth wedges were driven in, a dreadful groan
escaped him. When he saw the executioner take up the wedges for the
"extraordinary question" he said no word and made no sound, but his
eyes took on so terrible a fixity, and he cast upon the two great
princes who were watching him a glance so penetrating, that the duke
and cardinal were forced to drop their eyes. Philippe le Bel met with
the same resistance when the torture of the pendulum was applied in
his presence to the Templars. That punishment consisted in striking
the victim on the breast with one arm of the balance pole with which
money is coined, its end being covered with a pad of leather. One of
the knights thus tortured, looked so intently at the king that
Philippe could not detach his eyes from him. At the third blow the
king left the chamber on hearing the knight summon him to appear
within a year before the judgment-seat of God,--as, in fact, he did.
At the fifth blow, the first of the "extraordinary question,"
Christophe said to the cardinal: "Monseigneur, put an end to my
torture; it is useless."

The cardinal and the duke re-entered the adjoining hall, and
Christophe distinctly heard the following words said by Queen
Catherine: "Go on; after all, he is only a heretic."

She judged it prudent to be more stern to her accomplice than the
executioners themselves.

The sixth and seventh wedges were driven in without a word of
complaint from Christophe. His face shone with extraordinary
brilliancy, due, no doubt, to the excess of strength which his fanatic
devotion gave him. Where else but in the feelings of the soul can we
find the power necessary to bear such sufferings? Finally, he smiled
when he saw the executioner lifting the eighth and last wedge. This
horrible torture had lasted by this time over an hour.

The clerk now went to call the physician that he might decide whether
the eighth wedge could be driven in without endangering the life of the
victim. During this delay the duke returned to look at Christophe.

"/Ventre-de-biche/! you are a fine fellow," he said to him, bending
down to whisper the words. "I love brave men. Enter my service, and
you shall be rich and happy; my favors shall heal those wounded limbs.
I do not propose to you any baseness; I will not ask you to return to
your party and betray its plans,--there are always traitors enough for
that, and the proof is in the prisons of Blois; tell me only on what
terms are the queen-mother and the Prince de Conde?"

"I know nothing about it, monseigneur," replied Christophe Lecamus.

The physician came, examined the victim, and said that he could bear
the eighth wedge.

"Then insert it," said the cardinal. "After all, as the queen says, he
is only a heretic," he added, looking at Christophe with a dreadful

At this moment Catherine came with slow steps from the adjoining
apartment and stood before Christophe, coldly observing him. Instantly
she was the object of the closest attention on the part of the two
brothers, who watched alternately the queen and her accomplice. On
this solemn test the whole future of that ambitious woman depended;
she felt the keenest admiration for Christophe, yet she gazed sternly
at him; she hated the Guises, and she smiled upon them!

"Young man," said the queen, "confess that you have seen the Prince de
Conde, and you will be richly rewarded."

"Ah! what a business this is for you, madame!" cried Christophe,
pitying her.

The queen quivered.

"He insults me!" she exclaimed. "Why do you not hang him?" she cried,
turning to the two brothers, who stood thoughtful.

"What a woman!" said the duke in a glance at his brother, consulting
him by his eye, and leading him to the window.

"I shall stay in France and be revenged upon them," thought the queen.
"Come, make him confess, or let him die!" she said aloud, addressing

The provost-marshal turned away his eyes, the executioners were busy
with the wedges; Catherine was free to cast one glance upon the
martyr, unseen by others, which fell on Christophe like the dew. The
eyes of the great queen seemed to him moist; two tears were in them,
but they did not fall. The wedges were driven; a plank was broken by
the blow. Christophe gave one dreadful cry, after which he was silent;
his face shone,--he believed he was dying.

"Let him die?" said the cardinal, echoing the queen's last words with
a sort of irony; "no, no! don't break that thread," he said to the

The duke and the cardinal consulted together in a low voice.

"What is to be done with him?" asked the executioner.

"Send him to the prison at Orleans," said the duke, addressing
Monsieur de Montresor; "and don't hang him without my order."

The extreme sensitiveness to which Christophe's internal organism had
been brought, increased by a resistance which called into play every
power of the human body, existed to the same degree, in his senses. He
alone heard the following words whispered by the Duc de Guise in the
ear of his brother the cardinal:

"I don't give up all hope of getting the truth out of that little
fellow yet."

When the princes had left the hall the executioners unbound the legs
of their victim roughly and without compassion.

"Did any one ever see a criminal with such strength?" said the chief
executioner to his aids. "The rascal bore that last wedge when he
ought to have died; I've lost the price of his body."

"Unbind me gently; don't make me suffer, friends," said poor
Christophe. "Some day I will reward you--"

"Come, come, show some humanity," said the physician. "Monseigneur
esteems the young man, and told me to look after him."

"I am going to Amboise with my assistants,--take care of him
yourself," said the executioner, brutally. "Besides, here comes the

The executioner departed, leaving Christophe in the hands of the
soft-spoken doctor, who by the aid of Christophe's future jailer,
carried the poor boy to a bed, brought him some broth, helped him
to swallow it, sat down beside him, felt his pulse, and tried to
comfort him.

"You won't die of this," he said. "You ought to feel great inward
comfort, knowing that you have done your duty.--The queen-mother bids
me take care of you," he added in a whisper.

"The queen is very good," said Christophe, whose terrible sufferings
had developed an extraordinary lucidity in his mind, and who, after
enduring such unspeakable sufferings, was determined not to compromise
the results of his devotion. "But she might have spared me much agony
be telling my persecutors herself the secrets that I know nothing
about, instead of urging them on."

Hearing that reply, the doctor took his cap and cloak and left
Christophe, rightly judging that he could worm nothing out of a man of
that stamp. The jailer of Blois now ordered the poor lad to be carried
away on a stretcher by four men, who took him to the prison in the
town, where Christophe immediately fell into the deep sleep which,
they say, comes to most mothers after the terrible pangs of


                        THE TUMULT AT AMBOISE

By moving the court to the chateau of Amboise, the two Lorrain princes
intended to set a trap for the leader of the party of the Reformation,
the Prince de Conde, whom they had made the king summon to his
presence. As vassal of the Crown and prince of the blood, Conde was
bound to obey the summons of his sovereign. Not to come to Amboise
would constitute the crime of treason; but if he came, he put himself
in the power of the Crown. Now, at this moment, as we have seen, the
Crown, the council, the court, and all their powers were solely in the
hands of the Duc de Guise and the Cardinal de Lorraine. The Prince de
Conde showed, at this delicate crisis, a presence of mind and a
decision and willingness which made him the worthy exponent of Jeanne
d'Albret and the valorous general of the Reformers. He travelled at
the rear of the conspirators as far as Vendome, intending to support
them in case of their success. When the first uprising ended by a
brief skirmish, in which the flower of the nobility beguiled by Calvin
perished, the prince arrived, with fifty noblemen, at the chateau of
Amboise on the very day after that fight, which the politic Guises
termed "the Tumult of Amboise." As soon as the duke and cardinal heard
of his coming they sent the Marechal de Saint-Andre with an escort of
a hundred men to meet him. When the prince and his own escort reached
the gates of the chateau the marechal refused entrance to the latter.

"You must enter alone, monseigneur," said the Chancellor Olivier, the
Cardinal de Tournon, and Birago, who were stationed outside of the

"And why?"

"You are suspected of treason," replied the chancellor.

The prince, who saw that his suite were already surrounded by the
troop of the Duc de Nemours, replied tranquilly: "If that is so, I
will go alone to my cousin, and prove to him my innocence."

He dismounted, talked with perfect freedom of mind to Birago, the
Cardinal de Tournon, the chancellor, and the Duc de Nemours, from whom
he asked for particulars of the "tumult."

"Monseigneur," replied the duke, "the rebels had confederates in
Amboise. A captain, named Lanoue, had introduced armed men, who opened
the gate to them, through which they entered and made themselves
masters of the town--"

"That is to say, you opened the mouth of a sack, and they ran into
it," replied the prince, looking at Birago.

"If they had been supported by the attack which Captain Chaudieu,
the preacher's brother, was expected to make before the gate of the
Bon-Hommes, they would have been completely successful," replied the
Duc de Nemours. "But in consequence of the position which the Duc de
Guise ordered me to take up, Captain Chaudieu was obliged to turn my
flank to avoid a fight. So instead of arriving by night, like the rest,
this rebel and his men got there at daybreak, by which time the king's
troops had crushed the invaders of the town."

"And you had a reserve force to recover the gate which had been opened
to them?" said the prince.

"Monsieur le Marechal de Saint-Andre was there with five hundred

The prince gave the highest praise to these military arrangements.

"The lieutenant-general must have been fully aware of the plans of the
Reformers, to have acted as he did," he said in conclusion. "They were
no doubt betrayed."

The prince was treated with increasing harshness. After separating him
from his escort at the gates, the cardinal and the chancellor barred
his way when he reached the staircase which led to the apartments of
the king.

"We are directed by his Majesty, monseigneur, to take you to your own
apartments," they said.

"Am I, then, a prisoner?"

"If that were the king's intention you would not be accompanied by a
prince of the Church, nor by me," replied the chancellor.

These two personages escorted the prince to an apartment, where guards
of honor--so-called--were given him. There he remained, without seeing
any one, for some hours. From his window he looked down upon the Loire
and the meadows of the beautiful valley stretching from Amboise to
Tours. He was reflecting on the situation, and asking himself whether
the Guises would really dare anything against his person, when the
door of his chamber opened and Chicot, the king's fool, formerly a
dependent of his own, entered the room.

"They told me you were in disgrace," said the prince.

"You'd never believe how virtuous the court has become since the death
of Henri II."

"But the king loves a laugh."

"Which king,--Francois II., or Francois de Lorraine?"

"You are not afraid of the duke, if you talk in that way!"

"He wouldn't punish me for it, monseigneur," replied Chicot, laughing.

"To what do I owe the honor of this visit?"

"Hey! Isn't it due to you on your return? I bring you my cap and

"Can I go out?"


"Suppose I do go out, what then?"

"I should say that you had won the game by playing against the rules."

"Chicot, you alarm me. Are you sent here by some one who takes an
interest in me?"

"Yes," said Chicot, nodding. He came nearer to the prince, and made
him understand that they were being watched and overheard.

"What have you to say to me?" asked the Prince de Conde, in a low

"Boldness alone can pull you out of this scrape; the message comes
from the queen-mother," replied the fool, slipping his words into the
ear of the prince.

"Tell those who sent you," replied Conde, "that I should not have
entered this chateau if I had anything to reproach myself with, or to

"I rush to report that lofty answer!" cried the fool.

Two hours later, that is, about one o'clock in the afternoon, before
the king's dinner, the chancellor and Cardinal de Tournon came to
fetch the prince and present him to Francois II. in the great gallery
of the chateau of Amboise, where the councils were held. There, before
the whole court, Conde pretended surprise at the coldness with which
the little king received him, and asked the reason of it.

"You are accused, cousin," said the queen-mother, sternly, "of taking
part in the conspiracy of the Reformers; and you must prove yourself a
faithful subject and a good Catholic, if you do not desire to draw
down upon your house the anger of the king."

Hearing these words said, in the midst of the most profound silence,
by Catherine de' Medici, on whose right arm the king was leaning, the
Duc d'Orleans being on her left side, the Prince de Conde recoiled
three steps, laid his hand on his sword with a proud motion, and
looked at all the persons who surrounded him.

"Those who said that, madame," he cried in an angry voice, "lied in
their throats!"

Then he flung his glove at the king's feet, saying: "Let him who
believes that calumny come forward!"

The whole court trembled as the Duc de Guise was seen to leave his
place; but instead of picking up the glove, he advanced to the
intrepid hunchback.

"If you desire a second in that duel, monseigneur, do me the honor to
accept my services," he said. "I will answer for you; I know that you
will show the Reformers how mistaken they are if they think to have
you for their leader."

The prince was forced to take the hand of the lieutenant-general of
the kingdom. Chicot picked up the glove and returned it to Monsieur de

"Cousin," said the little king, "you must draw your sword only for the
defence of the kingdom. Come and dine."

The Cardinal de Lorraine, surprised at his brother's action, drew him
away to his own apartments. The Prince de Conde, having escaped his
apparent danger, offered his hand to Mary Stuart to lead her to the
dining hall; but all the while that he made her flattering speeches he
pondered in his mind what trap the astute Balafre was setting for him.
In vain he worked his brains, for it was not until Queen Mary herself
betrayed it that he guessed the intention of the Guises.

"'Twould have been a great pity," she said laughing, "if so clever a
head had fallen; you must admit that my uncle has been generous."

"Yes, madame; for my head is only useful on my shoulders, though one
of them is notoriously higher than the other. But is this really your
uncle's generosity? Is he not getting the credit of it rather cheaply?
Do you think it would be so easy to take off the head of a prince of
the blood?"

"All is not over yet," she said. "We shall see what your conduct will
be at the execution of the noblemen, your friends, at which the
Council has decided to make a great public display of severity."

"I shall do," said the prince, "whatever the king does."

"The king, the queen-mother, and myself will be present at the
execution, together with the whole court and the ambassadors--"

"A fete!" said the prince, sarcastically.

"Better than that," said the young queen, "an /act of faith/, an act
of the highest policy. 'Tis a question of forcing the noblemen of
France to submit themselves to the Crown, and compelling them to give
up their tastes for plots and factions--"

"You will not break their belligerent tempers by the show of danger,
madame; you will risk the Crown itself in the attempt," replied the

At the end of the dinner, which was gloomy enough, Queen Mary had the
cruel boldness to turn the conversation openly upon the trial of the
noblemen on the charge of being seized with arms in their hands, and
to speak of the necessity of making a great public show of their

"Madame," said Francois II., "is it not enough for the king of France
to know that so much brave blood is to flow? Must he make a triumph of

"No, sire; but an example," replied Catherine.

"It was the custom of your father and your grandfather to be present
at the burning of heretics," said Mary Stuart.

"The kings who reigned before me did as they thought best, and I
choose to do as I please," said the little king.

"Philip the Second," remarked Catherine, "who is certainly a great
king, lately postponed an /auto da fe/ until he could return from the
Low Countries to Valladolid."

"What do you think, cousin?" said the king to Prince de Conde.

"Sire, you cannot avoid it, and the papal nuncio and all the
ambassadors should be present. I shall go willingly, as these ladies
take part in the fete."

Thus the Prince de Conde, at a glance from Catherine de' Medici,
bravely chose his course.

              *     *     *     *     *

At the moment when the Prince de Conde was entering the chateau
d'Amboise, Lecamus, the furrier of the two queens, was also arriving
from Paris, brought to Amboise by the anxiety into which the news of
the tumult had thrown both his family and that of Lallier. When the
old man presented himself at the gate of the chateau, the captain of
the guard, on hearing that he was the queens' furrier, said:--

"My good man, if you want to be hanged you have only to set foot in
this courtyard."

Hearing these words, the father, in despair, sat down on a stone at a
little distance and waited until some retainer of the two queens or
some servant-woman might pass who would give him news of his son. But
he sat there all day without seeing any one whom he knew, and was
forced at last to go down into the town, where he found, not without
some difficulty, a lodging in a hostelry on the public square where
the executions took place. He was obliged to pay a pound a day to
obtain a room with a window looking on the square. The next day he had
the courage to watch, from his window, the execution of all the
abettors of the rebellion who were condemned to be broken on the wheel
or hanged, as persons of little importance. He was happy indeed not to
see his own son among the victims.

When the execution was over he went into the square and put himself in
the way of the clerk of the court. After giving his name, and slipping
a purse full of crowns into the man's hand, he begged him to look on
the records and see if the name of Christophe Lecamus appeared in
either of the three preceding executions. The clerk, touched by the
manner and the tones of the despairing father, took him to his own
house. After a careful search he was able to give the old man an
absolute assurance that Christophe was not among the persons thus far
executed, nor among those who were to be put to death within a few

"My dear man," said the clerk, "Parliament has taken charge of the
trial of the great lords implicated in the affair, and also that of
the principal leaders. Perhaps your son is detained in the prisons of
the chateau, and he may be brought forth for the magnificent execution
which their Excellencies the Duc de Guise and the Cardinal de Lorraine
are now preparing. The heads of twenty-seven barons, eleven counts,
and seven marquises,--in all, fifty noblemen or leaders of the
Reformers,--are to be cut off. As the justiciary of the county of
Tourine is quite distinct from that of the parliament of Paris, if you
are determined to know about your son, I advise you to go and see the
Chancelier Olivier, who has the management of this great trial under
orders from the lieutenant-general of the kingdom."

The poor old man, acting on this advice, went three times to see the
chancellor, standing in a long queue of persons waiting to ask mercy
for their friends. But as the titled men were made to pass before the
burghers, he was obliged to give up the hope of speaking to the
chancellor, though he saw him several times leave the house to go
either to the chateau or to the committee appointed by the Parliament,
--passing each time between a double hedge of petitioners who were
kept back by the guards to allow him free passage. It was a horrible
scene of anguish and desolation; for among these petitioners were many
women, wives, mothers, daughters, whole families in distress. Old
Lecamus gave much gold to the footmen of the chateau, entreating them
to put certain letters which he wrote into the hand either of Dayelle,
Queen Mary's woman, or into that of the queen-mother; but the footmen
took the poor man's money and carried the letters, according to the
general order of the cardinal, to the provost-marshal. By displaying
such unheard-of cruelty the Guises knew that they incurred great
dangers from revenge, and never did they take such precautions for
their safety as they did while the court was at Amboise; consequently,
neither the greatest of all corrupters, gold, nor the incessant and
active search which the old furrier instituted gave him the slightest
gleam of light on the fate of his son. He went about the little town
with a mournful air, watching the great preparations made by order of
the cardinal for the dreadful show at which the Prince de Conde had
agreed to be present.

Public curiosity was stimulated from Paris to Nantes by the means
adopted on this occasion. The execution was announced from all pulpits
by the rectors of the churches, while at the same time they gave
thanks for the victory of the king over the heretics. Three handsome
balconies, the middle one more sumptuous than the other two, were
built against the terrace of the chateau of Amboise, at the foot of
which the executions were appointed to take place. Around the open
square, stagings were erected, and these were filled with an immense
crowd of people attracted by the wide-spread notoriety given to this
"act of faith." Ten thousand persons camped in the adjoining fields
the night before the day on which the horrible spectacle was appointed
to take place. The roofs on the houses were crowded with spectators,
and windows were let at ten pounds apiece,--an enormous sum in those
days. The poor old father had engaged, as we may well believe, one of
the best places from which the eye could take in the whole of the
terrible scene, where so many men of noble blood were to perish on a
vast scaffold covered with black cloth, erected in the middle of the
open square. Thither, on the morning of the fatal day, they brought
the /chouquet/,--a name given to the block on which the condemned man
laid his head as he knelt before it. After this they brought an
arm-chair draped with black, for the clerk of the Parliament, whose
business it was to call up the condemned noblemen to their death and
read their sentences. The whole square was guarded from early morning
by the Scottish guard and the gendarmes of the king's household, in
order to keep back the crowd which threatened to fill it before the
hour of the execution.

After a solemn mass said at the chateau and in the churches of the
town, the condemned lords, the last of the conspirators who were left
alive, were led out. These gentlemen, some of whom had been put to the
torture, were grouped at the foot of the scaffold and surrounded by
monks, who endeavored to make them abjure the doctrines of Calvin. But
not a single man listened to the words of the priests who had been
appointed for this duty by the Cardinal of Lorraine; among whom the
gentlemen no doubt feared to find spies of the Guises. In order to
avoid the importunity of these antagonists they chanted a psalm, put
into French verse by Clement Marot. Calvin, as we all know, had
ordained that prayers to God should be in the language of each
country, as much from a principle of common sense as in opposition to
the Roman worship. To those in the crowd who pitied these unfortunate
gentlemen it was a moving incident to hear them chant the following
verse at the very moment when the king and court arrived and took
their places:--

  "God be merciful unto us,
    And bless us!
  And show us the light of his countenance,
    And be merciful unto us."

The eyes of all the Reformers turned to their leader, the Prince de
Conde, who was placed intentionally between Queen Mary and the young
Duc d'Orleans. Catherine de' Medici was beside the king, and the rest
of the court were on her left. The papal nuncio stood behind Queen
Mary; the lieutenant-general of the kingdom, the Duc de Guise, was on
horseback below the balcony, with two of the marshals of France and
his staff captains. When the Prince de Conde appeared all the
condemned noblemen who knew him bowed to him, and the brave hunchback
returned their salutation.

"It would be hard," he remarked to the Duc d'Orleans, "not to be civil
to those about to die."

The two other balconies were filled by invited guests, courtiers, and
persons on duty about the court. In short, the whole company of the
chateau de Blois had come to Amboise to assist at this festival of
death, precisely as it passed, a little later, from the pleasures of a
court to the perils of war, with an easy facility, which will always
seem to foreigners one of the main supports of their policy toward

The poor syndic of the furriers of Paris was filled with the keenest
joy at not seeing his son among the fifty-seven gentlemen who were
condemned to die.

At a sign from the Duc de Guise, the clerk seated on the scaffold
cried in a loud voice:--

"Jean-Louis-Alberic, Baron de Raunay, guilty of heresy, of the crime
of /lese-majeste/, and assault with armed hand against the person of
the king."

A tall handsome man mounted the scaffold with a firm step, bowed to
the people and the court, and said:

"That sentence lies. I took arms to deliver the king from his enemies,
the Guises."

He placed his head on the block, and it fell. The Reformers chanted:--

  "Thou, O God! hast proved us;
    Thou hast tried us;
  As silver is tried in the fire,
    So hast thou purified us."

"Robert-Jean-Rene Briquemart, Comte de Villemongis, guilty of the
crime of /lese-majeste/, and of attempts against the person of the
king!" called the clerk.

The count dipped his hands in the blood of the Baron de Raunay, and

"May this blood recoil upon those who are really guilty of those

The Reformers chanted:--

  "Thou broughtest us into the snare;
    Thou laidest afflictions upon our loins;
  Thou hast suffered our enemies
    To ride over us."

"You must admit, monseigneur," said the Prince de Conde to the papal
nuncio, "that if these French gentlemen know how to conspire, they
also know how to die."

"What hatreds, brother!" whispered the Duchesse de Guise to the
Cardinal de Lorraine, "you are drawing down upon the heads of our

"The sight makes me sick," said the young king, turning pale at the
flow of blood.

"Pooh! only rebels!" replied Catherine de' Medici.

The chants went on; the axe still fell. The sublime spectacle of men
singing as they died, and, above all, the impression produced upon the
crowd by the progressive diminution of the chanting voices, superseded
the fear inspired by the Guises.

"Mercy!" cried the people with one voice, when they heard the solitary
chant of the last and most important of the great lords, who was saved
to be the final victim. He alone remained at the foot of the steps by
which the others had mounted the scaffold, and he chanted:--

  "Thou, O God, be merciful unto us,
    And bless us,
  And cause thy face to shine upon us.

"Come, Duc de Nemours," said the Prince de Conde, weary of the part he
was playing; "you who have the credit of the skirmish, and who helped
to make these men prisoners, do you not feel under an obligation to
ask mercy for this one? It is Castelnau, who, they say, received your
word of honor that he should be courteously treated if he

"Do you think I waited till he was here before trying to save him?"
said the Duc de Nemours, stung by the stern reproach.

The clerk called slowly--no doubt he was intentionally slow:--

"Michel-Jean-Louis, Baron de Castelnau-Chalosse, accused and convicted
of the crime of /lese-majeste/, and of attempts against the person of
the king."

"No," said Castelnau, proudly, "it cannot be a crime to oppose the
tyranny and the projected usurpation of the Guises."

The executioner, sick of his task, saw a movement in the king's
gallery, and fumbled with his axe.

"Monsieur le baron," he said, "I do not want to execute you; a
moment's delay may save you."

All the people again cried, "Mercy!"

"Come!" said the king, "mercy for that poor Castelnau, who saved the
life of the Duc d'Orleans."

The cardinal intentionally misunderstood the king's speech.

"Go on," he motioned to the executioner, and the head of Castelnau
fell at the very moment when the king had pronounced his pardon.

"That head, cardinal, goes to your account," said Catherine de'

The day after this dreadful execution the Prince de Conde returned to

The affair produced a great sensation in France and at all the foreign
courts. The torrents of noble blood then shed caused such anguish to
the chancellor Olivier that his honorable mind, perceiving at last the
real end and aim of the Guises disguised under a pretext of defending
religion and the monarchy, felt itself no longer able to make head
against them. Though he was their creature, he was not willing to
sacrifice his duty and the Throne to their ambition; and he withdrew
from his post, suggesting l'Hopital as his rightful successor.
Catherine, hearing of Olivier's suggestion, immediately proposed
Birago, and put much warmth into her request. The cardinal, knowing
nothing of the letter written by l'Hopital to the queen-mother, and
supposing him faithful to the house of Lorraine, pressed his
appointment in opposition to that of Birago, and Catherine allowed
herself to seem vanquished. From the moment that l'Hopital entered
upon his duties he took measures against the Inquisition, which the
Cardinal de Lorraine was desirous of introducing into France; and he
thwarted so successfully all the anti-gallican policy of the Guises,
and proved himself so true a Frenchmen, that in order to subdue him he
was exiled, within three months of his appointment, to his
country-seat of Vignay, near Etampes.

The worthy old Lecamus waited impatiently till the court left Amboise,
being unable to find an opportunity to speak to either of the queens,
and hoping to put himself in their way as the court advanced along the
river-bank on its return to Blois. He disguised himself as a pauper,
at the risk of being taken for a spy, and by means of this travesty,
he mingled with the crowd of beggars which lined the roadway. After
the departure of the Prince de Conde, and the execution of the
leaders, the duke and cardinal thought they had sufficiently silenced
the Reformers to allow the queen-mother a little more freedom. Lecamus
knew that, instead of travelling in a litter, Catherine intended to go
on horseback, /a la planchette/,--such was the name given to a sort of
stirrup invented for or by the queen-mother, who, having hurt her leg
on some occasion, ordered a velvet-covered saddle with a plank on
which she could place both feet by sitting sideways on the horse and
passing one leg through a depression in the saddle. As the
queen-mother had very handsome legs, she was accused of inventing this
method of riding, in order to show them. The old furrier fortunately
found a moment when he could present himself to her sight; but the
instant that the queen recognized him she gave signs of displeasure.

"Go away, my good man, and let no one see you speak to me," she said
with anxiety. "Get yourself elected deputy to the States-general, by
the guild of your trade, and act for me when the Assembly convenes at
Orleans; you shall know whom to trust in the matter of your son."

"Is he living?" asked the old man.

"Alas!" said the queen, "I hope so."

Lecamus was obliged to return to Paris with nothing better than those
doubtful words and the secret of the approaching convocation of the
States-general, thus confided to him by the queen-mother.


                           COSMO RUGGIERO

The Cardinal de Lorraine obtained, within a few days of the events
just related, certain revelations as to the culpability of the court
of Navarre. At Lyon, and at Mouvans in Dauphine, a body of Reformers,
under command of the most enterprising prince of the house of Bourbon
had endeavored to incite the populace to rise. Such audacity, after
the bloody executions at Amboise, astonished the Guises, who (no doubt
to put an end to heresy by means known only to themselves) proposed
the convocation of the States-general at Orleans. Catherine de'
Medici, seeing a chance of support to her policy in a national
representation, joyfully agreed to it. The cardinal, bent on
recovering his prey and degrading the house of Bourbon, convoked the
States for the sole purpose of bringing the Prince de Conde and the
king of Navarre (Antoine de Bourbon, father of Henri IV.) to Orleans,
--intending to make use of Christophe to convict the prince of high
treason if he succeeded in again getting him within the power of the

After two months had passed in the prison at Blois, Christophe was
removed on a litter to a tow-boat, which sailed up the Loire to
Orleans, helped by a westerly wind. He arrived there in the evening
and was taken at once to the celebrated tower of Saint-Aignan. The
poor lad, who did not know what to think of his removal, had plenty of
time to reflect on his conduct and on his future. He remained there
two months, lying on his pallet, unable to move his legs. The bones of
his joints were broken. When he asked for the help of a surgeon of the
town, the jailer replied that the orders were so strict about him that
he dared not allow any one but himself even to bring him food. This
severity, which placed him virtually in solitary confinement, amazed
Christophe. To his mind, he ought either to be hanged or released; for
he was, of course, entirely ignorant of the events at Amboise.

In spite of certain secret advice sent to them by Catherine de'
Medici, the two chiefs of the house of Bourbon resolved to be present
at the States-general, so completely did the autograph letters they
received from the king reassure them; and no sooner had the court
established itself at Orleans than it learned, not without amazement,
from Groslot, chancellor of Navarre, that the Bourbon princes had

Francois II. established himself in the house of the chancellor of
Navarre, who was also /bailli/, in other words, chief justice of the
law courts, at Orleans. This Groslot, whose dual position was one of
the singularities of this period--when Reformers themselves owned
abbeys--Groslot, the Jacques Coeur of Orleans, one of the richest
burghers of the day, did not bequeath his name to the house, for in
after years it was called Le Bailliage, having been, undoubtedly,
purchased either by the heirs of the Crown or by the provinces as the
proper place in which to hold the legal courts. This charming
structure, built by the bourgeoisie of the sixteenth century, which
completes so admirably the history of a period in which king, nobles,
and burghers rivalled each other in the grace, elegance, and richness
of their dwellings (witness Varangeville, the splendid manor-house of
Ango, and the mansion, called that of Hercules, in Paris), exists to
this day, though in a state to fill archaeologists and lovers of the
Middle Ages with despair. It would be difficult, however, to go to
Orleans and not take notice of the Hotel-de-Ville which stands on the
place de l'Estape. This hotel-de-ville, or town-hall, is the former
Bailliage, the mansion of Groslot, the most illustrious house in
Orleans, and the most neglected.

The remains of this old building will still show, to the eyes of an
archaeologist, how magnificent it was at a period when the houses of
the burghers were commonly built of wood rather than stone, a period
when noblemen alone had the right to build /manors/,--a significant
word. Having served as the dwelling of the king at a period when the
court displayed much pomp and luxury, the hotel Groslot must have been
the most splendid house in Orleans. It was here, on the place de
l'Estape, that the Guises and the king reviewed the burgher guard, of
which Monsieur de Cypierre was made the commander during the sojourn
of the king. At this period the cathedral of Sainte-Croix, afterward
completed by Henri IV.,--who chose to give that proof of the sincerity
of his conversion,--was in process of erection, and its neighborhood,
heaped with stones and cumbered with piles of wood, was occupied by
the Guises and their retainers, who were quartered in the bishop's
palace, now destroyed.

The town was under military discipline, and the measures taken by the
Guises proved how little liberty they intended to leave to the
States-general, the members of which flocked into the town, raising the
rents of the poorest lodgings. The court, the burgher militia, the
nobility, and the burghers themselves were all in a state of expectation,
awaiting some /coup-d'Etat/; and they found themselves not mistaken
when the princes of the blood arrived. As the Bourbon princes entered
the king's chamber, the court saw with terror the insolent bearing of
Cardinal de Lorraine. Determined to show his intentions openly, he
remained covered, while the king of Navarre stood before him
bare-headed. Catherine de' Medici lowered her eyes, not to show the
indignation that she felt. Then followed a solemn explanation between
the young king and the two chiefs of the younger branch. It was short,
for that the first words of the Prince de Conde Francois II.
interrupted him, with threatening looks:

"Messieurs, my cousins, I had supposed the affair of Amboise over; I
find it is not so, and you are compelling us to regret the indulgence
which we showed."

"It is not the king so much as the Messieurs de Guise who now address
us," replied the Prince de Conde.

"Adieu, monsieur," cried the little king, crimson with anger. When he
left the king's presence the prince found his way barred in the great
hall by two officers of the Scottish guard. As the captain of the
French guard advanced, the prince drew a letter from his doublet, and
said to him in presence of the whole court:--

"Can you read that paper aloud to me, Monsieur de Maille-Breze?"

"Willingly," said the French captain:--

  "'My cousin, come in all security; I give you my royal word that
  you can do so. If you have need of a safe conduct, this letter
  will serve as one.'"

"Signed?" said the shrewd and courageous hunchback.

"Signed 'Francois,'" said Maille.

"No, no!" exclaimed the prince, "it is signed: 'Your good cousin and
friend, Francois,'--Messieurs," he said to the Scotch guard, "I follow
you to the prison to which you are ordered, on behalf of the king, to
conduct me. There is enough nobility in this hall to understand the

The profound silence which followed these words ought to have
enlightened the Guises, but silence is that to which all princes
listen least.

"Monseigneur," said the Cardinal de Tournon, who was following the
prince, "you know well that since the affair at Amboise you have made
certain attempts both at Lyon and at Mouvans in Dauphine against the
royal authority, of which the king had no knowledge when he wrote to
you in those terms."

"Tricksters!" cried the prince, laughing.

"You have made a public declaration against the Mass and in favor of

"We are masters in Navarre," said the prince.

"You mean to say in Bearn. But you owe homage to the Crown," replied
President de Thou.

"Ha! you here, president?" cried the prince, sarcastically. "Is the
whole Parliament with you?"

So saying, he cast a look of contempt upon the cardinal and left the
hall. He saw plainly enough that they meant to have his head. The
next day, when Messieurs de Thou, de Viole, d'Espesse, the
procureur-general Bourdin, and the chief clerk of the court du Tillet,
entered his presence, he kept them standing, and expressed his regrets
to see them charged with a duty which did not belong to them. Then he
said to the clerk, "Write down what I say," and dictated as follows:--

  "I, Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conde, peer of the kingdom,
  Marquis de Conti, Comte de Soissons, prince of the blood of
  France, do declare that I formally refuse to recognize any
  commission appointed to try me, because, in my quality and in
  virtue of the privilege appertaining to all members of the royal
  house, I can only be accused, tried, and judged by the Parliament
  of peers, both Chambers assembled, the king being seated on his
  bed of justice."

"You ought to know that, gentlemen, better than others," he added;
"and this reply is all that you will get from me. For the rest, I
trust in God and my right."

The magistrates continued to address him notwithstanding his obstinate
silence. The king of Navarre was left at liberty, but closely watched;
his prison was larger than that of the prince, and this was the only
real difference in the position of the two brothers,--the intention
being that their heads should fall together.

Christophe was therefore kept in the strictest solitary confinement by
order of the cardinal and the lieutenant-general of the kingdom, for
no other purpose than to give the judges proof of the culpability of
the Prince de Conde. The letters seized on Lasagne, the prince's
secretary, though intelligible to statesmen, where not sufficiently
plain proof for judges. The cardinal intended to confront the prince
and Christophe by accident; and it was not without intention that the
young Reformer was placed in one of the lower rooms in the tower of
Saint-Aignan, with a window looking on the prison yard. Each time that
Christophe was brought before the magistrates, and subjected to a
close examination, he sheltered himself behind a total and complete
denial, which prolonged his trial until after the opening of the

Old Lecamus, who by that time had got himself elected deputy of the
/tiers-etat/ by the burghers of Paris, arrived at Orleans a few days
after the arrest of the Prince de Conde. This news, which reached him
at Etampes, redoubled his anxiety; for he fully understood--he, who
alone knew of Christophe's interview with the prince under the bridge
near his own house--that his son's fate was closely bound up with that
of the leader of the Reformed party. He therefore determined to study
the dark tangle of interests which were struggling together at court
in order to discover some means of rescuing his son. It was useless to
think of Queen Catherine, who refused to see her furrier. No one about
the court whom he was able to address could give him any satisfactory
information about Christophe; and he fell at last into a state of such
utter despair that he was on the verge of appealing to the cardinal
himself, when he learned that Monsieur de Thou (and this was the great
stain upon that good man's life) had consented to be one of the judges
of the Prince de Conde. The old furrier went at once to see him, and
learned at last that Christophe was still living, though a prisoner.

Tourillon, the glover (to whom La Renaudie sent Christophe on his way
to Blois), had offered a room in his house to the Sieur Lecamus for
the whole time of his stay in Orleans during the sittings of the
States-general. The glover believed the furrier to be, like himself,
secretly attached to the Reformed religion; but he soon saw that a
father who fears for the life of his child pays no heed to shades of
religious opinion, but flings himself prone upon the bosom of God
without caring what insignia men give to Him. The poor old man,
repulsed in all his efforts, wandered like one bewildered through the
streets. Contrary to his expectations, his money availed him nothing;
Monsieur de Thou had warned him that if he bribed any servant of the
house of Guise he would merely lose his money, for the duke and
cardinal allowed nothing that related to Christophe to transpire. De
Thou, whose fame is somewhat tarnished by the part he played at this
crisis, endeavored to give some hope to the poor father; but he
trembled so much himself for the fate of his godson that his attempts
at consolation only alarmed the old man still more. Lecamus roamed the
streets; in three months he had shrunk visibly. His only hope now lay
in the warm friendship which for so many years had bound him to the
Hippocrates of the sixteenth century. Ambroise Pare tried to say a
word to Queen Mary on leaving the chamber of the king, who was then
indisposed; but no sooner had he named Christophe than the daughter of
the Stuarts, nervous at the prospect of her fate should any evil
happen to the king, and believing that the Reformers were attempting
to poison him, cried out:--

"If my uncles had only listened to me, that fanatic would have been
hanged already."

The evening on which this fatal answer was repeated to old Lecamus, by
his friend Pare on the place de l'Estape, he returned home half dead
to his own chamber, refusing to eat any supper. Tourillon, uneasy
about him, went up to his room and found him in tears; the aged eyes
showed the inflamed red lining of their lids, so that the glover
fancied for a moment that he was weeping tears of blood.

"Comfort yourself, father," said the Reformer; "the burghers of
Orleans are furious to see their city treated as though it were taken
by assault, and guarded by the soldiers of Monsieur de Cypierre. If
the life of the Prince de Conde is in any real danger we will soon
demolish the tower of Saint-Aignan; the whole town is on the side of
the Reformers, and it will rise in rebellion; you may be sure of

"But, even if they hang the Guises, it will not give me back my son,"
said the wretched father.

At that instant some one rapped cautiously on Tourillon's outer door,
and the glover went downstairs to open it himself. The night was dark.
In these troublous times the masters of all households took minute
precautions. Tourillon looked through the peep-holes cut in the door,
and saw a stranger, whose accent indicated an Italian. The man, who
was dressed in black, asked to speak with Lecamus on matters of
business, and Tourillon admitted him. When the furrier caught sight of
his visitor he shuddered violently; but the stranger managed, unseen
by Tourillon, to lay his fingers on his lips. Lecamus, understanding
the gesture, said immediately:--

"You have come, I suppose, to offer furs?"

"/Si/," said the Italian, discreetly.

This personage was no other than the famous Ruggiero, astrologer to
the queen-mother. Tourillon went below to his own apartment, feeling
convinced that he was one too many in that of his guest.

"Where can we talk without danger of being overheard?" said the
cautious Florentine.

"We ought to be in the open fields for that," replied Lecamus. "But we
are not allowed to leave the town; you know the severity with which
the gates are guarded. No one can leave Orleans without a pass from
Monsieur de Cypierre," he added,--"not even I, who am a member of the
States-general. Complaint is to be made at to-morrow's session of this
restriction of liberty."

"Work like a mole, but don't let your paws be seen in anything, no
matter what," said the wary Italian. "To-morrow will, no doubt, prove
a decisive day. Judging by my observations, you may, perhaps, recover
your son to-morrow, or the day after."

"May God hear you--you who are thought to traffic with the devil!"

"Come to my place," said the astrologer, smiling. "I live in the tower
of Sieur Touchet de Beauvais, the lieutenant of the Bailliage, whose
daughter the little Duc d'Orleans has taken such a fancy to; it is
there that I observe the planets. I have drawn the girl's horoscope,
and it says that she will become a great lady and be beloved by a
king. The lieutenant, her father, is a clever man; he loves science,
and the queen sent me to lodge with him. He has had the sense to be a
rabid Guisist while awaiting the reign of Charles IX."

The furrier and the astrologer reached the house of the Sieur de
Beauvais without being met or even seen; but, in case Lecamus' visit
should be discovered, the Florentine intended to give a pretext of an
astrological consultation on his son's fate. When they were safely at
the top of the tower, where the astrologer did his work, Lecamus said
to him:--

"Is my son really living?"

"Yes, he still lives," replied Ruggiero; "and the question now is how
to save him. Remember this, seller of skins, I would not give two
farthings for yours if ever in all your life a single syllable should
escape you of what I am about to say."

"That is a useless caution, my friend; I have been furrier to the
court since the time of the late Louis XII.; this is the fourth reign
that I have seen."

"And you may soon see the fifth," remarked Ruggiero.

"What do you know about my son?"

"He has been put to the question."

"Poor boy!" said the old man, raising his eyes to heaven.

"His knees and ankles were a bit injured, but he has won a royal
protection which will extend over his whole life," said the Florentine
hastily, seeing the terror of the poor father. "Your little Christophe
has done a service to our great queen, Catherine. If we manage to pull
him out of the claws of the Guises you will see him some day
councillor to the Parliament. Any man would gladly have his bones
cracked three times over to stand so high in the good graces of this
dear sovereign,--a grand and noble genius, who will triumph in the end
over all obstacles. I have drawn the horoscope of the Duc de Guise; he
will be killed within a year. Well, so Christophe saw the Prince de

"You who read the future ought to know the past," said the furrier.

"My good man, I am not questioning you, I am telling you a fact. Now,
if your son, who will to-morrow be placed in the prince's way as he
passes, should recognize him, or if the prince should recognize your
son, the head of Monsieur de Conde will fall. God knows what will
become of his accomplice! However, don't be alarmed. Neither your son
nor the prince will die; I have drawn their horoscope,--they will
live; but I do not know in what way they will get out of this affair.
Without distrusting the certainty of my calculations, we must do
something to bring about results. To-morrow the prince will receive,
from sure hands, a prayer-book in which we convey the information to
him. God grant that your son be cautious, for him we cannot warn. A
single glance of recognition will cost the prince's life. Therefore,
although the queen-mother has every reason to trust in Christophe's

"They've put it to a cruel test!" cried the furrier.

"Don't speak so! Do you think the queen-mother is on a bed of roses?
She is taking measures as if the Guises had already decided on the
death of the prince, and right she is, the wise and prudent queen! Now
listen to me; she counts on you to help her in all things. You have
some influence with the /tiers-etat/, where you represent the body of
the guilds of Paris, and though the Guisards may promise you to set
your son at liberty, try to fool them and maintain the independence of
the guilds. Demand the queen-mother as regent; the king of Navarre
will publicly accept the proposal at the session of the

"But the king?"

"The king will die," replied Ruggiero; "I have read his horoscope.
What the queen-mother requires you to do for her at the States-general
is a very simple thing; but there is a far greater service which she
asks of you. You helped Ambroise Pare in his studies, you are his

"Ambroise now loves the Duc de Guise more than he loves me; and he is
right, for he owes his place to him. Besides, he is faithful to the
king. Though he inclines to the Reformed religion, he will never do
anything against his duty."

"Curse these honest men!" cried the Florentine. "Ambroise boasted this
evening that he could bring the little king safely through his present
illness (for he is really ill). If the king recovers his health, the
Guises triumph, the princes die, the house of Bourbon becomes extinct,
we shall return to Florence, your son will be hanged, and the Lorrains
will easily get the better of the other sons of France--"

"Great God!" exclaimed Lecamus.

"Don't cry out in that way,--it is like a burgher who knows nothing of
the court,--but go at once to Ambroise and find out from him what he
intends to do to save the king's life. If there is anything decided
on, come back to me at once, and tell me the treatment in which he has
such faith."

"But--" said Lecamus.

"Obey blindly, my dear friend; otherwise you will get your mind

"He is right," thought the furrier. "I had better not know more"; and
he went at once in search of the king's surgeon, who lived at a
hostelry in the place du Martroi.

Catherine de' Medici was at this moment in a political extremity very
much like that in which poor Christophe had seen her at Blois. Though
she had been in a way trained by the struggle, though she had
exercised her lofty intellect by the lessons of that first defeat, her
present situation, while nearly the same, had become more critical,
more perilous than it was at Amboise. Events, like the woman herself,
had magnified. Though she seemed to be in full accordance with the
Guises, Catherine held in her hand the threads of a wisely planned
conspiracy against her terrible associates, and was only awaiting a
propitious moment to throw off the mask. The cardinal had just
obtained the positive certainty that Catherine was deceiving him. Her
subtle Italian spirit felt that the Younger branch was the best
hindrance she could offer to the ambition of the duke and the
cardinal; and (in spite of the advice of the two Gondis, who urged her
to let the Guises wreak their vengeance on the Bourbons) she defeated
the scheme concocted by them with Spain to seize the province of
Bearn, by warning Jeanne d'Albret, queen of Navarre, of that
threatened danger. As this state secret was known only to them and to
the queen-mother, the Guises knew of course who had betrayed it, and
resolved to send her back to Florence. But in order to make themselves
perfectly sure of what they called her treason against the State (the
State being the house of Lorraine), the duke and cardinal confided to
her their intention of getting rid of the king of Navarre. The
precautions instantly taken by Antoine proved conclusively to the two
brothers that the secrets known only to them and the queen-mother had
been divulged by the latter. The cardinal instantly taxed her with
treachery, in presence of Francois II.,--threatening her with an edict
of banishment in case of future indiscretion, which might, as they
said, put the kingdom in danger.

Catherine, who then felt herself in the utmost peril, acted in the
spirit of a great king, giving proof of her high capacity. It must be
added, however, that she was ably seconded by her friends. L'Hopital
managed to send her a note, written in the following terms:--

  "Do not allow a prince of the blood to be put to death by a
  committee; or you will yourself be carried off in some way."

Catherine sent Birago to Vignay to tell the chancellor (l'Hopital) to
come to Orleans at once, in spite of his being in disgrace. Birago
returned the very night of which we are writing, and was now a few
miles from Orleans with l'Hopital, who heartily avowed himself for the
queen-mother. Chiverni, whose fidelity was very justly suspected by
the Guises, had escaped from Orleans and reached Ecouen in ten hours,
by a forced march which almost cost him his life. There he told the
Connetable de Montmorency of the peril of his nephew, the Prince de
Conde, and the audacious hopes of the Guises. The Connetable, furious
at the thought that the prince's life hung upon that of Francois II.,
started for Orleans at once with a hundred noblemen and fifteen
hundred cavalry. In order to take the Messieurs de Guise by surprise
he avoided Paris, and came direct from Ecouen to Corbeil, and from
Corbeil to Pithiviers by the valley of the Essonne.

"Soldier against soldier, we must leave no chances," he said on the
occasion of this bold march.

Anne de Montmorency, who had saved France at the time of the invasion
of Provence by Charles V., and the Duc de Guise, who had stopped the
second invasion by the emperor at Metz, were, in truth, the two great
warriors of France at this period. Catherine had awaited this precise
moment to rouse the inextinguishable hatred of the Connetable, whose
disgrace and banishment were the work of the Guises. The Marquis de
Simeuse, however, who commanded at Gien, being made aware of the large
force approaching under command of the Connetable, jumped on his horse
hoping to reach Orleans in time to warn the duke and cardinal.

Sure that the Connetable would come to the rescue of his nephew, and
full of confidence in the Chancelier l'Hopital's devotion to the royal
cause, the queen-mother revived the hopes and the boldness of the
Reformed party. The Colignys and the friends of the house of Bourbon,
aware of their danger, now made common cause with the adherents of the
queen-mother. A coalition between these opposing interests, attacked
by a common enemy, formed itself silently in the States-general, where
it soon became a question of appointing Catherine as regent in case
the king should die. Catherine, whose faith in astrology was much
greater than her faith in the Church, now dared all against her
oppressors, seeing that her son was ill and apparently dying at the
expiration of the time assigned to his life by the famous sorceress,
whom Nostradamus had brought to her at the chateau of Chaumont.


                            AMBROISE PARE

Some days before the terrible end of the reign of Francois II., the
king insisted on sailing down the Loire, wishing not to be in the town
of Orleans on the day when the Prince de Conde was executed. Having
yielded the head of the prince to the Cardinal de Lorraine, he was
equally in dread of a rebellion among the townspeople and of the
prayers and supplications of the Princesse de Conde. At the moment of
embarkation, one of the cold winds which sweep along the Loire at the
beginning of winter gave him so sharp an ear-ache that he was obliged
to return to his apartments; there he took to his bed, not leaving it
again until he died. In contradiction of the doctors, who, with the
exception of Chapelain, were his enemies, Ambroise Pare insisted that
an abscess was formed in the king's head, and that unless an issue
were given to it, the danger of death would increase daily.
Notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, and the curfew law, which
was sternly enforced in Orleans, at this time practically in a state
of siege, Pare's lamp shone from his window, and he was deep in study,
when Lecamus called to him from below. Recognizing the voice of his
old friend, Pare ordered that he should be admitted.

"You take no rest, Ambroise; while saving the lives of others you are
wasting your own," said the furrier as he entered, looking at the
surgeon, who sat, with opened books and scattered instruments, before
the head of a dead man, lately buried and now disinterred, in which he
had cut an opening.

"It is a matter of saving the king's life."

"Are you sure of doing it, Ambroise?" cried the old man, trembling.

"As sure as I am of my own existence. The king, my old friend, has a
morbid ulcer pressing on his brain, which will presently suffice it if
no vent is given to it, and the danger is imminent. But by boring the
skull I expect to release the pus and clear the head. I have already
performed this operation three times. It was invented by a
Piedmontese; but I have had the honor to perfect it. The first
operation I performed was at the siege of Metz, on Monsieur de Pienne,
whom I cured, who was afterwards all the more intelligent in
consequence. His was an abscess caused by the blow of an arquebuse.
The second was on the head of a pauper, on whom I wanted to prove the
value of the audacious operation Monsieur de Pienne had allowed me to
perform. The third I did in Paris on a gentleman who is now entirely
recovered. Trepanning--that is the name given to the operation--is
very little known. Patients refuse it, partly because of the
imperfection of the instruments; but I have at last improved them. I
am practising now on this skull, that I may be sure of not failing
to-morrow, when I operate on the head of the king."

"You ought indeed to be very sure you are right, for your own head
would be in danger in case--"

"I'd wager my life I can cure him," replied Ambroise, with the
conviction of a man of genius. "Ah! my old friend, where's the danger
of boring into a skull with proper precautions? That is what soldiers
do in battle every day of their lives, without taking any

"My son," said the burgher, boldly, "do you know that to save the king
is to ruin France? Do you know that this instrument of yours will
place the crown of the Valois on the head of the Lorrain who calls
himself the heir of Charlemagne? Do you know that surgery and policy
are at this moment sternly opposed to each other? Yes, the triumph of
your genius will be the death of your religion. If the Guises gain the
regency, the blood of the Reformers will flow like water. Be a greater
citizen than you are a surgeon; oversleep yourself to-morrow morning
and leave a free field to the other doctors who if they cannot cure
the king will cure France."

"I!" exclaimed Pare. "I leave a man to die when I can cure him? No,
no! were I to hang as an abettor of Calvin I shall go early to court.
Do you not feel that the first and only reward I shall ask will be the
life of your Christophe? Surely at such a moment Queen Mary can deny
me nothing."

"Alas! my friend," returned Lecamus, "the little king has refused the
pardon of the Prince de Conde to the princess. Do not kill your
religion by saving the life of a man who ought to die."

"Do not you meddle with God's ordering of the future!" cried Pare.
"Honest men can have but one motto: /Fais ce que dois, advienne que
pourra/!--do thy duty, come what will. That is what I did at the siege
of Calais when I put my foot on the face of the Duc de Guise,--I ran
the risk of being strangled by his friends and his servants; but
to-day I am surgeon to the king; moreover I am of the Reformed
religion; and yet the Guises are my friends. I shall save the king,"
cried the surgeon, with the sacred enthusiasm of a conviction bestowed
by genius, "and God will save France!"

A knock was heard on the street door and presently one of Pare's
servants gave a paper to Lecamus, who read aloud these terrifying

  "A scaffold is being erected at the convent of the Recollets: the
  Prince de Conde will be beheaded there to-morrow."

Ambroise and Lecamus looked at each other with an expression of the
deepest horror.

"I will go and see it for myself," said the furrier.

No sooner was he in the open street than Ruggiero took his arm and
asked by what means Ambroise Pare proposed to save the king. Fearing
some trickery, the old man, instead of answering, replied that he
wished to go and see the scaffold. The astrologer accompanied him to
the place des Recollets, and there, truly enough, they found the
carpenters putting up the horrible framework by torchlight.

"Hey, my friend," said Lecamus to one of the men, "what are you doing
here at this time of night?"

"We are preparing for the hanging of heretics, as the blood-letting at
Amboise didn't cure them," said a young Recollet who was
superintending the work.

"Monseigneur the cardinal is very right," said Ruggiero, prudently;
"but in my country we do better."

"What do you do?" said the young priest.

"We burn them."

Lecamus was forced to lean on the astrologer's arm, for his legs gave
way beneath him; he thought it probable that on the morrow his son
would hang from one of those gibbets. The poor old man was thrust
between two sciences, astrology and surgery, both of which promised
him the life of his son, for whom in all probability that scaffold was
now erecting. In the trouble and distress of his mind, the Florentine
was able to knead him like dough.

"Well, my worthy dealer in minever, what do you say now to the
Lorraine jokes?" whispered Ruggiero.

"Alas! you know I would give my skin if that of my son were safe and

"That is talking like your trade," said the Italian; "but explain to
me the operation which Ambroise means to perform upon the king, and in
return I will promise you the life of your son."

"Faithfully?" exclaimed the old furrier.

"Shall I swear it to you?" said Ruggiero.

Thereupon the poor old man repeated his conversation with Ambroise
Pare to the astrologer, who, the moment that the secret of the great
surgeon was divulged to him, left the poor father abruptly in the
street in utter despair.

"What the devil does he mean, that miscreant?" cried Lecamus, as he
watched Ruggiero hurrying with rapid steps to the place de l'Estape.

Lecamus was ignorant of the terrible scene that was taking place
around the royal bed, where the imminent danger of the king's death
and the consequent loss of power to the Guises had caused the hasty
erection of the scaffold for the Prince de Conde, whose sentence had
been pronounced, as it were by default,--the execution of it being
delayed by the king's illness.

Absolutely no one but the persons on duty were in the halls,
staircases, and courtyard of the royal residence, Le Bailliage. The
crowd of courtiers were flocking to the house of the king of Navarre,
on whom the regency would devolve on the death of the king, according
to the laws of the kingdom. The French nobility, alarmed by the
audacity of the Guises, felt the need of rallying around the chief of
the younger branch, when, ignorant of the queen-mother's Italian
policy, they saw her the apparent slave of the duke and cardinal.
Antoine de Bourbon, faithful to his secret agreement with Catherine,
was bound not to renounce the regency in her favor until the
States-general had declared for it.

The solitude in which the king's house was left had a powerful effect
on the mind of the Duc de Guise when, on his return from an
inspection, made by way of precaution through the city, he found no
one there but the friends who were attached exclusively to his own
fortunes. The chamber in which was the king's bed adjoined the great
hall of the Bailliage. It was at that period panelled in oak. The
ceiling, composed of long, narrow boards carefully joined and painted,
was covered with blue arabesques on a gold ground, a part of which
being torn down about fifty years ago was instantly purchased by a
lover of antiquities. This room, hung with tapestry, the floor being
covered with a carpet, was so dark and gloomy that the torches threw
scarcely any light. The vast four-post bedstead with its silken
curtains was like a tomb. Beside her husband, close to his pillow, sat
Mary Stuart, and near her the Cardinal de Lorraine. Catherine was
seated in a chair at a little distance. The famous Jean Chapelain, the
physician on duty (who was afterwards chief physician to Charles IX.)
was standing before the fireplace. The deepest silence reigned. The
young king, pale and shrunken, lay as if buried in his sheets, his
pinched little face scarcely showing on the pillow. The Duchesse de
Guise, sitting on a stool, attended Queen Mary, while on the other
side, near Catherine, in the recess of a window, Madame de Fiesque
stood watching the gestures and looks of the queen-mother; for she
knew the dangers of her position.

In the hall, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, Monsieur de
Cypierre, governor of the Duc d'Orleans and now appointed governor of
the town, occupied one corner of the fireplace with the two Gondis.
Cardinal de Tournon, who in this crisis espoused the interests of the
queen-mother on finding himself treated as an inferior by the Cardinal
de Lorraine, of whom he was certainly the ecclesiastical equal,
talked in a low voice to the Gondis. The marshals de Vieilleville
and Saint-Andre and the keeper of the seals, who presided at the
States-general, were talking together in a whisper of the dangers to
which the Guises were exposed.

The lieutenant-general of the kingdom crossed the room on his
entrance, casting a rapid glance about him, and bowed to the Duc
d'Orleans whom he saw there.

"Monseigneur," he said, "this will teach you to know men. The Catholic
nobility of the kingdom have gone to pay court to a heretic prince,
believing that the States-general will give the regency to the heirs
of a traitor who long detained in prison your illustrious

Then having said these words, which were destined to plough a furrow
in the heart of the young prince, he passed into the bedroom, where
the king was not so much asleep as plunged in a heavy torpor. The Duc
de Guise was usually able to correct the sinister aspect of his
scarred face by an affable and pleasing manner, but on this occasion,
when he saw the instrument of his power breaking in his very hands, he
was unable to force a smile. The cardinal, whose civil courage was
equal to his brother's military daring, advanced a few steps to meet

"Robertet thinks that little Pinard is sold to the queen-mother," he
whispered, leading the duke into the hall; "they are using him to work
upon the members of the States-general."

"Well, what does it signify if we are betrayed by a secretary when all
else betrays us?" cried the lieutenant-general. "The town is for the
Reformation, and we are on the eve of a revolt. Yes! the /Wasps/ are
discontented"; he continued, giving the Orleans people their nickname;
"and if Pare does not save the king we shall have a terrible uprising.
Before long we shall be forced to besiege Orleans, which is nothing
but a bog of Huguenots."

"I have been watching that Italian woman," said the cardinal, "as she
sits there with absolute insensibility. She is watching and waiting,
God forgive her! for the death of her son; and I ask myself whether we
should not do a wise thing to arrest her at once, and also the king of

"It is already more than we want upon our hands to have the Prince de
Conde in prison," replied the duke.

The sound of a horseman riding in haste to the gate of the Bailliage
echoed through the hall. The duke and cardinal went to the window, and
by the light of the torches which were in the portico the duke
recognized on the rider's hat the famous Lorraine cross, which the
cardinal had lately ordered his partisans to wear. He sent an officer
of the guard, who was stationed in the antechamber, to give entrance
to the new-comer; and went himself, followed by his brother, to meet
him on the landing.

"What is it, my dear Simeuse?" asked the duke, with that charm of
manner which he always displayed to military men, as soon as he
recognized the governor of Gien.

"The Connetable has reached Pithiviers; he left Ecouen with two
thousand cavalry and one hundred nobles."

"With their suites?"

"Yes, monseigneur," replied Simeuse; "in all, two thousand six hundred
men. Some say that Thore is behind them with a body of infantry. If
the Connetable delays awhile, expecting his son, you still have time
to repulse him."

"Is that all you know? Are the reasons of this sudden call to arms
made known?"

"Montmorency talks as little as he writes; go you and meet him,
brother, while I prepare to welcome him with the head of his nephew,"
said the cardinal, giving orders that Robertet be sent to him at once.

"Vieilleville!" cried the duke to the marechal, who came immediately.
"The Connetable has the audacity to come here under arms; if I go to
meet him will you be responsible to hold the town?"

"As soon as you leave it the burghers will fly to arms; and who can
answer for the result of an affair between cavalry and citizens in
these narrow streets?" replied the marechal.

"Monseigneur," said Robertet, rushing hastily up the stairs, "the
Chancelier de l'Hopital is at the gate and asks to enter; are we to
let him in?"

"Yes, open the gate," answered the cardinal. "Connetable and
chancelier together would be dangerous; we must separate them. We have
been boldly tricked by the queen-mother into choosing l'Hopital as

Robertet nodded to a captain of the guard, who awaited an answer at
the foot of the staircase; then he turned round quickly to receive the
orders of the cardinal.

"Monseigneur, I take the liberty," he said, making one last effort,
"to point out that the sentence should be approved by /the king in
council/. If you violate the law on a prince of the blood, it will not
be respected for either a cardinal or a Duc de Guise."

"Pinard has upset your mind, Robertet," said the cardinal, sternly.
"Do you not know that the king signed the order of execution the day
he was about to leave Orleans, in order that the sentence might be
carried out in his absence?"

The lieutenant-general listened to this discussion without a word, but
he took his brother by the arm and led him into a corner of the hall.

"Undoubtedly," he said, "the heirs of Charlemagne have the right to
recover the crown which was usurped from their house by Hugh Capet;
but can they do it? The pear is not yet ripe. Our nephew is dying, and
the whole court has gone over to the king of Navarre."

"The king's heart failed him, or the Bearnais would have been stabbed
before now," said the cardinal; "and we could easily have disposed of
the Valois children."

"We are very ill-placed here," said the duke; "the rebellion of the
town will be supported by the States-general. L'Hopital, whom we
protected while the queen-mother opposed his appointment, is to-day
against us, and yet it is all-important that we should have the
justiciary with us. Catherine has too many supporters at the present
time; we cannot send her back to Italy. Besides, there are still three
Valois princes--"

"She is no longer a mother, she is all queen," said the cardinal. "In
my opinion, this is the moment to make an end of her. Vigor, and more
and more vigor! that's my prescription!" he cried.

So saying, the cardinal returned to the king's chamber, followed by
the duke. The priest went straight to the queen-mother.

"The papers of Lasagne, the secretary of the Prince de Conde, have
been communicated to you, and you now know that the Bourbons are
endeavoring to dethrone your son."

"I know all that," said Catherine.

"Well, then, will you give orders to arrest the king of Navarre?"

"There is," she said with dignity, "a lieutenant-general of the

At this instant Francois II. groaned piteously, complaining aloud of
the terrible pains in his ear. The physician left the fireplace where
he was warming himself, and went to the bedside to examine the king's

"Well, monsieur?" said the Duc de Guise, interrogatively.

"I dare not take upon myself to apply a blister to draw the abscess.
Maitre Ambroise has promised to save the king's life by an operation,
and I might thwart it."

"Let us postpone the treatment till to-morrow morning," said
Catherine, coldly, "and order all the physicians to be present; for we
all know the calumnies to which the death of kings gives rise."

She went to her son and kissed his hand; then she withdrew to her own

"With what composure that audacious daughter of a shop-keeper alluded
to the death of the dauphin, poisoned by Montecuculi, one of her own
Italian followers!" said Mary Stuart.

"Mary!" cried the little king, "my grandfather never doubted her

"Can we prevent that woman from coming here to-morrow?" said the queen
to her uncles in a low voice.

"What will become of us if the king dies?" returned the cardinal, in a
whisper. "Catherine will shovel us all into his grave."

Thus the question was plainly put between Catherine de' Medici and the
house of Lorraine during that fatal night. The arrival of the
Connetable de Montmorency and the Chancelier de l'Hopital were
distinct indications of rebellion; the morning of the next day would
therefore be decisive.


                         DEATH OF FRANCOIS II

On the morrow the queen-mother was the first to enter the king's
chamber. She found no one there but Mary Stuart, pale and weary, who
had passed the night in prayer beside the bed. The Duchesse de Guise
had kept her mistress company, and the maids of honor had taken turns
in relieving one another. The young king slept. Neither the duke nor
the cardinal had yet appeared. The priest, who was bolder than the
soldier, had, it was afterward said, put forth his utmost energy
during the night to induce his brother to make himself king. But, in
face of the assembled States-general, and threatened by a battle with
Montmorency, the Balafre declared the circumstances unfavorable; he
refused, against his brother's utmost urgency, to arrest the king of
Navarre, the queen-mother, l'Hopital, the Cardinal de Tournon, the
Gondis, Ruggiero, and Birago, objecting that such violent measures
would bring on a general rebellion. He postponed the cardinal's scheme
until the fate of Francois II. should be determined.

The deepest silence reigned in the king's chamber. Catherine,
accompanied by Madame de Fiesque, went to the bedside and gazed at her
son with a semblance of grief that was admirably simulated. She put
her handkerchief to her eyes and walked to the window where Madame de
Fiesque brought her a seat. Thence she could see into the courtyard.

It had been agreed between Catherine and the Cardinal de Tournon that
if the Connetable should successfully enter the town the cardinal
would come to the king's house with the two Gondis; if otherwise, he
would come alone. At nine in the morning the duke and cardinal,
followed by their gentlemen, who remained in the hall, entered the
king's bedroom,--the captain on duty having informed them that
Ambroise Pare had arrived, together with Chapelain and three other
physicians, who hated Pare and were all in the queen-mother's

A few moments later and the great hall of the Bailliage presented much
the same aspect as that of the Salle des gardes at Blois on the day
when Christophe was put to the torture and the Duc de Guise was
proclaimed lieutenant-governor of the kingdom,--with the single
exception that whereas love and joy overflowed the royal chamber and
the Guises triumphed, death and mourning now reigned within that
darkened room, and the Guises felt that power was slipping through
their fingers. The maids of honor of the two queens were again in
their separate camps on either side of the fireplace, in which glowed
a monstrous fire. The hall was filled with courtiers. The news--spread
about, no one knew how--of some daring operation contemplated by
Ambroise Pare to save the king's life, had brought back the lords and
gentlemen who had deserted the house the day before. The outer
staircase and courtyard were filled by an anxious crowd. The scaffold
erected during the night for the Prince de Conde opposite to the
convent of the Recollets, had amazed and startled the whole nobility.
All present spoke in a low voice and the talk was the same mixture as
at Blois, of frivolous and serious, light and earnest matters. The
habit of expecting troubles, sudden revolutions, calls to arms,
rebellions, and great events, which marked the long period during
which the house of Valois was slowly being extinguished in spite of
Catherine de' Medici's great efforts to preserve it, took its rise at
this time.

A deep silence prevailed for a certain distance beyond the door of the
king's chamber, which was guarded by two halberdiers, two pages, and
by the captain of the Scotch guard. Antoine de Bourbon, king of
Navarre, held a prisoner in his own house, learned by his present
desertion the hopes of the courtiers who had flocked to him the day
before, and was horrified by the news of the preparations made during
the night for the execution of his brother.

Standing before the fireplace in the great hall of the Bailliage was
one of the greatest and noblest figures of that day,--the Chancelier
de l'Hopital, wearing his crimson robe lined and edged with ermine,
and his cap on his head according to the privilege of his office.
This courageous man, seeing that his benefactors were traitorous and
self-seeking, held firmly to the cause of the kings, represented by the
queen-mother; at the risk of losing his head, he had gone to Rouen to
consult with the Connetable de Montmorency. No one ventured to draw
him from the reverie in which he was plunged. Robertet, the secretary
of State, two marshals of France, Vieilleville, and Saint-Andre, and
the keeper of the seals, were collected in a group before the
chancellor. The courtiers present were not precisely jesting; but
their talk was malicious, especially among those who were not for the

Presently voices were heard to rise in the king's chamber. The two
marshals, Robertet, and the chancellor went nearer to the door; for
not only was the life of the king in question, but, as the whole court
knew well, the chancellor, the queen-mother, and her adherents were in
the utmost danger. A deep silence fell on the whole assembly.

Ambroise Pare had by this time examined the king's head; he thought
the moment propitious for his operation; if it was not performed
suffusion would take place, and Francois II. might die at any moment.
As soon as the duke and cardinal entered the chamber he explained to
all present that in so urgent a case it was necessary to trepan the
head, and he now waited till the king's physician ordered him to
perform the operation.

"Cut the head of my son as though it were a plank!--with that horrible
instrument!" cried Catherine de' Medici. "Maitre Ambroise, I will not
permit it."

The physicians were consulting together; but Catherine spoke in so
loud a voice that her words reached, as she intended they should,
beyond the door.

"But, madame, if there is no other way to save him?" said Mary Stuart,

"Ambroise," cried Catherine; "remember that your head will answer for
the king's life."

"We are opposed to the treatment suggested by Maitre Ambroise," said
the three physicians. "The king can be saved by injecting through the
ear a remedy which will draw the contents of the abscess through that

The Duc de Guise, who was watching Catherine's face, suddenly went up
to her and drew her into the recess of the window.

"Madame," he said, "you wish the death of your son; you are in league
with our enemies, and have been since Blois. This morning the
Counsellor Viole told the son of your furrier that the Prince de
Conde's head was about to be cut off. That young man, who, when the
question was applied, persisted in denying all relations with the
prince, made a sign of farewell to him as he passed before the window
of his dungeon. You saw your unhappy accomplice tortured with royal
insensibility. You are now endeavoring to prevent the recovery of your
eldest son. Your conduct forces us to believe that the death of the
dauphin, which placed the crown on your husband's head was not a
natural one, and that Montecuculi was your--"

"Monsieur le chancilier!" cried Catherine, at a sign from whom Madame
de Fiesque opened both sides of the bedroom door.

The company in the hall then saw the scene that was taking place in
the royal chamber: the livid little king, his face half dead, his eyes
sightless, his lips stammering the word "Mary," as he held the hand of
the weeping queen; the Duchesse de Guise motionless, frightened by
Catherine's daring act; the duke and cardinal, also alarmed, keeping
close to the queen-mother and resolving to have her arrested on the
spot by Maille-Breze; lastly, the tall Ambroise Pare, assisted by the
king's physician, holding his instrument in his hand but not daring to
begin the operation, for which composure and total silence were as
necessary as the consent of the other surgeons.

"Monsieur le chancelier," said Catherine, "the Messieurs de Guise wish
to authorize a strange operation upon the person of the king; Ambroise
Pare is preparing to cut open his head. I, as the king's mother and a
member of the council of the regency,--I protest against what appears
to me a crime of /lese-majeste/. The king's physicians advise an
injection through the ear, which seems to me as efficacious and less
dangerous than the brutal operation proposed by Pare."

When the company in the hall heard these words a smothered murmur rose
from their midst; the cardinal allowed the chancellor to enter the
bedroom and then he closed the door.

"I am lieutenant-general of the kingdom," said the Duc de Guise; "and
I would have you know, Monsieur le chancelier, that Ambroise, the
king's surgeon, answers for his life."

"Ah! if this be the turn that things are taking!" exclaimed Ambroise
Pare. "I know my rights and how I should proceed." He stretched his
arm over the bed. "This bed and the king are mine. I claim to be sole
master of this case and solely responsible. I know the duties of my
office; I shall operate upon the king without the sanction of the

"Save him!" said the cardinal, "and you shall be the richest man in

"Go on!" cried Mary Stuart, pressing the surgeon's hand.

"I cannot prevent it," said the chancellor; "but I shall record the
protest of the queen-mother."

"Robertet!" called the Duc de Guise.

When Robertet entered, the lieutenant-general pointed to the

"I appoint you chancellor of France in the place of that traitor," he
said. "Monsieur de Maille, take Monsieur de l'Hopital and put him in
the prison of the Prince de Conde. As for you, madame," he added,
turning to Catherine; "your protest will not be received; you ought to
be aware that any such protest must be supported by sufficient force.
I act as the faithful subject and loyal servant of king Francois II.,
my master. Go on, Antoine," he added, looking at the surgeon.

"Monsieur de Guise," said l'Hopital; "if you employ violence either
upon the king or upon the chancellor of France, remember that enough
of the nobility of France are in that hall to rise and arrest you as a

"Oh! my lords," cried the great surgeon; "if you continue these
arguments you will soon proclaim Charles IX!--for king Francois is
about to die."

Catherine de' Medici, absolutely impassive, gazed from the window.

"Well, then, we shall employ force to make ourselves masters of this
room," said the cardinal, advancing to the door.

But when he opened it even he was terrified; the whole house was
deserted! The courtiers, certain now of the death of the king, had
gone in a body to the king of Navarre.

"Well, go on, perform your duty," cried Mary Stuart, vehemently, to
Ambroise. "I--and you, duchess," she said to Madame de Guise,--"will
protect you."

"Madame," said Ambroise; "my zeal was carrying me away. The doctors,
with the exception of my friend Chapelain, prefer an injection, and it
is my duty to submit to their wishes. If I had been chief surgeon and
chief physician, which I am not, the king's life would probably have
been saved. Give that to me, gentlemen," he said, stretching out his
hand for the syringe, which he proceeded to fill.

"Good God!" cried Mary Start, "but I order you to--"

"Alas! madame," said Ambroise, "I am under the direction of these

The young queen placed herself between the surgeon, the doctors, and
the other persons present. The chief physician held the king's head,
and Ambroise made the injection into the ear. The duke and the
cardinal watched the proceeding attentively. Robertet and Monsieur de
Maille stood motionless. Madame de Fiesque, at a sign from Catherine,
glided unperceived from the room. A moment later l'Hopital boldly
opened the door of the king's chamber.

"I arrive in good time," said the voice of a man whose hasty steps
echoed through the great hall, and who stood the next moment on the
threshold of the open door. "Ah, messieurs, so you meant to take off
the head of my good nephew, the Prince de Conde? Instead of that, you
have forced the lion from his lair and--here I am!" added the
Connetable de Montmorency. "Ambroise, you shall not plunge your knife
into the head of my king. The first prince of the blood, Antoine de
Bourbon, the Prince de Conde, the queen-mother, the Connetable, and
the chancellor forbid the operation."

To Catherine's great satisfaction, the king of Navarre and the Prince
de Conde now entered the room.

"What does this mean?" said the Duc de Guise, laying his hand on his

"It means that in my capacity as Connetable, I have dismissed the
sentinels of all your posts. /Tete Dieu/! you are not in an enemy's
country, methinks. The king, our master, is in the midst of his loyal
subjects, and the States-general must be suffered to deliberate at
liberty. I come, messieurs, from the States-general. I carried the
protest of my nephew de Conde before that assembly, and three hundred
of those gentlemen have released him. You wish to shed royal blood and
to decimate the nobility of the kingdom, do you? Ha! in future, I defy
you, and all your schemes, Messieurs de Lorraine. If you order the
king's head opened, by this sword which saved France from Charles V.,
I say it shall not be done--"

"All the more," said Ambroise Pare; "because it is now too late; the
suffusion has begun."

"Your reign is over, messieurs," said Catherine to the Guises, seeing
from Pare's face that there was no longer any hope.

"Ah! madame, you have killed your own son," cried Mary Stuart as she
bounded like a lioness from the bed to the window and seized the
queen-mother by the arm, gripping it violently.

"My dear," replied Catherine, giving her daughter-in-law a cold, keen
glance in which she allowed her hatred, repressed for the last six
months, to overflow; "you, to whose inordinate love we owe this death,
you will now go to reign in your Scotland, and you will start
to-morrow. I am regent /de facto/." The three physicians having made
her a sign, "Messieurs," she added, addressing the Guises, "it is
agreed between Monsieur de Bourbon, appointed lieutenant-general of
the kingdom by the States-general, and me that the conduct of the
affairs of the State is our business solely. Come, monsieur le

"The king is dead!" said the Duc de Guise, compelled to perform his
duties as Grand-master.

"Long live King Charles IX.!" cried all the noblemen who had come with
the king of Navarre, the Prince de Conde, and the Connetable.

The ceremonies which follow the death of a king of France were
performed in almost total solitude. When the king-at-arms proclaimed
aloud three times in the hall, "The king is dead!" there were very few
persons present to reply, "Vive le roi!"

The queen-mother, to whom the Comtesse de Fiesque had brought the Duc
d'Orleans, now Charles IX., left the chamber, leading her son by the
hand, and all the remaining courtiers followed her. No one was left in
the house where Francois II. had drawn his last breath, but the duke
and the cardinal, the Duchesse de Guise, Mary Stuart, and Dayelle,
together with the sentries at the door, the pages of the Grand-master,
those of the cardinal, and their private secretaries.

"Vive la France!" cried several Reformers in the street, sounding the
first cry of the opposition.

Robertet, who owed all he was to the duke and cardinal, terrified by
their scheme and its present failure, went over secretly to the
queen-mother, whom the ambassadors of Spain, England, the Empire, and
Poland, hastened to meet on the staircase, brought thither by Cardinal
de Tournon, who had gone to notify them as soon as he had made Queen
Catherine a sign from the courtyard at the moment when she protested
against the operation of Ambroise Pare.

"Well!" said the cardinal to the duke, "so the sons of Louis
d'Outre-mer, the heirs of Charles de Lorraine flinched and lacked

"We should have been exiled to Lorraine," replied the duke. "I declare
to you, Charles, that if the crown lay there before me I would not
stretch out my hand to pick it up. That's for my son to do."

"Will he have, as you have had, the army and Church on his side?"

"He will have something better."


"The people!"

"Ah!" exclaimed Mary Stuart, clasping the stiffened hand of her first
husband, now dead, "there is none but me to weep for this poor boy who
loved me so!"

"How can we patch up matters with the queen-mother?" said the

"Wait till she quarrels with the Huguenots," replied the duchess.

The conflicting interests of the house of Bourbon, of Catherine, of
the Guises, and of the Reformed party produced such confusion in the
town of Orleans that, three days after the king's death, his body,
completely forgotten in the Bailliage and put into a coffin by the
menials of the house, was taken to Saint-Denis in a covered waggon,
accompanied only by the Bishop of Senlis and two gentlemen. When the
pitiable procession reached the little town of Etampes, a servant of
the Chancelier l'Hopital fastened to the waggon this severe
inscription, which history has preserved: "Tanneguy de Chastel, where
art thou? and yet thou wert a Frenchman!"--a stern reproach, which
fell with equal force on Catherine de' Medici, Mary Stuart, and the
Guises. What Frenchman does not know that Tanneguy de Chastel spent
thirty thousand crowns of the coinage of that day (one million of our
francs) at the funeral of Charles VII., the benefactor of his house?

No sooner did the tolling of the bells announce to the town of Orleans
that Francois II. was dead, and the rumor spread that the Connetable
de Montmorency had ordered the flinging open of the gates of the town,
than Tourillon, the glover, rushed up into the garret of his house and
went to a secret hiding-place.

"Good heavens! can he be dead?" he cried.

Hearing the words, a man rose to his feet and answered, "Ready to
serve!"--the password of the Reformers who belonged to Calvin.

This man was Chaudieu, to whom Tourillon now related the events of the
last eight days, during which time he had prudently left the minister
alone in his hiding-place with a twelve-pound loaf of bread for his
sole nourishment.

"Go instantly to the Prince de Conde, brother: ask him to give me a
safe-conduct; and find me a horse," cried the minister. "I must start
at once."

"Write me a line, or he will not receive me."

"Here," said Chaudieu, after writing a few words, "ask for a pass from
the king of Navarre, for I must go to Geneva without a moment's loss
of time."



Two hours later all was ready, and the ardent minister was on his way
to Switzerland, accompanied by a nobleman in the service of the king
of Navarre (of whom Chaudieu pretended to be the secretary), carrying
with him despatches from the Reformers in the Dauphine. This sudden
departure was chiefly in the interests of Catherine de' Medici, who,
in order to gain time to establish her power, had made a bold
proposition to the Reformers which was kept a profound secret. This
strange proceeding explains the understanding so suddenly apparent
between herself and the leaders of the Reform. The wily woman gave, as
a pledge of her good faith, an intimation of her desire to heal all
differences between the two churches by calling an assembly, which
should be neither a council, nor a conclave, nor a synod, but should
be known by some new and distinctive name, if Calvin consented to the
project. When this secret was afterwards divulged (be it remarked in
passing) it led to an alliance between the Duc de Guise and the
Connetable de Montmorency against Catherine and the king of Navarre,
--a strange alliance! known in history as the Triumvirate, the Marechal
de Saint-Andre being the third personage in the purely Catholic
coalition to which this singular proposition for a "colloquy" gave
rise. The secret of Catherine's wily policy was rightly understood by
the Guises; they felt certain that the queen cared nothing for this
mysterious assembly, and was only temporizing with her new allies in
order to secure a period of peace until the majority of Charles IX.;
but none the less did they deceive the Connetable into fearing a
collusion of real interests between the queen and the Bourbons,
--whereas, in reality, Catherine was playing them all one against

The queen had become, as the reader will perceive, extremely powerful
in a very short time. The spirit of discussion and controversy which
now sprang up was singularly favorable to her position. The Catholics
and the Reformers were equally pleased to exhibit their brilliancy one
after another in this tournament of words; for that is what it
actually was, and no more. It is extraordinary that historians have
mistaken one of the wiliest schemes of the great queen for uncertainty
and hesitation! Catherine never went more directly to her own ends
than in just such schemes which appeared to thwart them. The king of
Navarre, quite incapable of understanding her motives, fell into her
plan in all sincerity, and despatched Chaudieu to Calvin, as we have
seen. The minister had risked his life to be secretly in Orleans and
watch events; for he was, while there, in hourly peril of being
discovered and hung as a man under sentence of banishment.

According to the then fashion of travelling, Chaudieu could not reach
Geneva before the month of February, and the negotiations were not
likely to be concluded before the end of March; consequently the
assembly could certainly not take place before the month of May, 1561.
Catherine, meantime, intended to amuse the court and the various
conflicting interests by the coronation of the king, and the
ceremonies of his first "lit de justice," at which l'Hopital and de
Thou recorded the letters-patent by which Charles IX. confided
the administration to his mother in common with the present
lieutenant-general of the kingdom, Antoine de Navarre, the weakest
prince of those days.

Is it not a strange spectacle this of the great kingdom of France
waiting in suspense for the "yes" or "no" of a French burgher,
hitherto an obscure man, living for many years past in Geneva? The
transalpine pope held in check by the pontiff of Geneva! The two
Lorrain princes, lately all-powerful, now paralyzed by the momentary
coalition of the queen-mother and the first prince of the blood with
Calvin! Is not this, I say, one of the most instructive lessons ever
given to kings by history,--a lesson which should teach them to study
men, to seek out genius, and employ it, as did Louis XIV., wherever
God has placed it?

Calvin, whose name was not Calvin but Cauvin, was the son of a cooper
at Noyon in Picardy. The region of his birth explains in some degree
the obstinacy combined with capricious eagerness which distinguished
this arbiter of the destinies of France in the sixteenth century.
Nothing is less known than the nature of this man, who gave birth to
Geneva and to the spirit that emanated from that city. Jean-Jacques
Rousseau, who had very little historical knowledge, has completely
ignored the influence of Calvin on his republic. At first the embryo
Reformer, who lived in one of the humblest houses in the upper town,
near the church of Saint-Pierre, over a carpenter's shop (first
resemblance between him and Robespierre), had no great authority in
Geneva. In fact for a long time his power was malevolently checked by
the Genevese. The town was the residence in those days of a citizen
whose fame, like that of several others, remained unknown to the world
at large and for a time to Geneva itself. This man, Farel, about the
year 1537, detained Calvin in Geneva, pointing out to him that the
place could be made the safe centre of a reformation more active and
thorough than that of Luther. Farel and Calvin regarded Lutheranism as
an incomplete work,--insufficient in itself and without any real grip
upon France. Geneva, midway between France and Italy, and speaking the
French language, was admirably situated for ready communication with
Germany, France, and Italy. Calvin thereupon adopted Geneva as the
site of his moral fortunes; he made it thenceforth the citadel of his

The Council of Geneva, at Farel's entreaty, authorized Calvin in
September, 1538, to give lectures on theology. Calvin left the duties
of the ministry to Farel, his first disciple, and gave himself up
patiently to the work of teaching his doctrine. His authority, which
became so absolute in the last years of his life, was obtained with
difficulty and very slowly. The great agitator met with such serious
obstacles that he was banished for a time from Geneva on account of
the severity of his reform. A party of honest citizens still clung to
their old luxury and their old customs. But, as usually happens, these
good people, fearing ridicule, would not admit the real object of
their efforts, and kept up their warfare against the new doctrines on
points altogether foreign to the real question. Calvin insisted that
/leavened bread/ should be used for the communion, and that all feasts
should be abolished except Sundays. These innovations were disapproved
of at Berne and at Lausanne. Notice was served on the Genevese to
conform to the ritual of Switzerland. Calvin and Farel resisted; their
political opponents used this disobedience to drive them from Geneva,
whence they were, in fact, banished for several years. Later Calvin
returned triumphantly at the demand of his flock. Such persecutions
always become in the end the consecration of a moral power; and, in
this case, Calvin's return was the beginning of his era as prophet. He
then organized his religious Terror, and the executions began. On his
reappearance in the city he was admitted into the ranks of the
Genevese burghers; but even then, after fourteen years' residence, he
was not made a member of the Council. At the time of which we write,
when Catherine sent her envoy to him, this king of ideas had no other
title than that of "pastor of the Church of Geneva." Moreover, Calvin
never in his life received a salary of more than one hundred and fifty
francs in money yearly, fifteen hundred-weight of wheat, and two
barrels of wine. His brother, a tailor, kept a shop close to the place
Saint-Pierre, in a street now occupied by one of the large printing
establishments of Geneva. Such personal disinterestedness, which was
lacking in Voltaire, Newton, and Bacon, but eminent in the lives of
Rabelais, Spinosa, Loyola, Kant, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is indeed
a magnificent frame to those ardent and sublime figures.

The career of Robespierre can alone picture to the minds of the
present day that of Calvin, who, founding his power on the same bases,
was as despotic and as cruel as the lawyer of Arras. It is a
noticeable fact that Picardy (Arras and Noyon) furnished both these
instruments of reformation! Persons who wish to study the motives of
the executions ordered by Calvin will find, all relations considered,
another 1793 in Geneva. Calvin cut off the head of Jacques Gruet "for
having written impious letters, libertine verses, and for working to
overthrow ecclesiastical ordinances." Reflect upon that sentence, and
ask yourselves if the worst tyrants in their saturnalias ever gave
more horribly burlesque reasons for their cruelties. Valentin
Gentilis, condemned to death for "involuntary heresy," escaped
execution only by making a submission far more ignominious than was
ever imposed by the Catholic Church. Seven years before the conference
which was now to take place in Calvin's house on the proposals of the
queen-mother, Michel Servet, /a Frenchman/, travelling through
Switzerland, was arrested at Geneva, tried, condemned, and burned
alive, on Calvin's accusation, for having "attacked the mystery of the
Trinity," in a book which was neither written nor published in Geneva.
Remember the eloquent remonstrance of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose
book, overthrowing the Catholic religion, written in France and
published in Holland, was burned by the hangman, while the author, a
foreigner, was merely banished from the kingdom where he had
endeavored to destroy the fundamental proofs of religion and of
authority. Compare the conduct of our Parliament with that of the
Genevese tyrant. Again: Bolsee was brought to trial for "having other
ideas than those of Calvin on predestination." Consider these things,
and ask yourselves if Fourquier-Tinville did worse. The savage
religious intolerance of Calvin was, morally speaking, more implacable
than the savage political intolerance of Robespierre. On a larger
stage than that of Geneva, Calvin would have shed more blood than did
the terrible apostle of political equality as opposed to Catholic
equality. Three centuries earlier a monk of Picardy drove the whole
West upon the East. Peter the Hermit, Calvin, and Robespierre, each at
an interval of three hundred years and all three from the same region,
were, politically speaking, the Archimedean screws of their age,--at
each epoch a Thought which found its fulcrum in the self-interest of

Calvin was undoubtedly the maker of that melancholy town called
Geneva, where, only ten years ago, a man said, pointing to a
porte-cochere in the upper town, the first ever built there: "By that
door luxury has invaded Geneva." Calvin gave birth, by the sternness
of his doctrines and his executions, to that form of hypocritical
sentiment called "cant."[*] According to those who practice it, good
morals consist in renouncing the arts and the charms of life, in
eating richly but without luxury, in silently amassing money without
enjoying it otherwise than as Calvin enjoyed power--by thought. Calvin
imposed on all the citizens of his adopted town the same gloomy pall
which he spread over his own life. He created in the Consistory a
Calvinistic inquisition, absolutely similar to the revolutionary
tribunal of Robespierre. The Consistory denounced the persons to be
condemned to the Council, and Calvin ruled the Council through the
Consistory, just as Robespierre ruled the Convention through the Club
of the Jacobins. In this way an eminent magistrate of Geneva was
condemned to two months' imprisonment, the loss of all his offices, and
the right of ever obtaining others "because he led a disorderly life
and was intimate with Calvin's enemies." Calvin thus became a
legislator. He created the austere, sober, commonplace, and hideously
sad, but irreproachable manners and customs which characterize Geneva
to the present day,--customs preceding those of England called
Puritanism, which were due to the Cameronians, disciples of Cameron
(a Frenchman deriving his doctrine from Calvin), whom Sir Walter Scott
depicts so admirably. The poverty of a man, a sovereign master, who
negotiated, power to power, with kings, demanding armies and subsidies,
and plunging both hands into their savings laid aside for the
unfortunate, proves that thought, used solely as a means of domination,
gives birth to political misers,--men who enjoy by their brains only,
and, like the Jesuits, want power for power's sake. Pitt, Luther,
Calvin, Robespierre, all those Harpagons of power, died without a
penny. The inventory taken in Calvin's house after his death, which
comprised all his property, even his books, amounted in value, as
history records, to two hundred and fifty francs. That of Luther came
to about the same sum; his widow, the famous Catherine de Bora, was
forced to petition for a pension of five hundred francs, which as
granted to her by an Elector of Germany. Potemkin, Richelieu, Mazarin,
those men of thought and action, all three of whom made or laid the
foundation of empires, each left over three hundred millions behind
them. They had hearts; they loved women and the arts; they built, they
conquered; whereas with the exception of the wife of Luther, the Helen
of that Iliad, all the others had no tenderness, no beating of the heart
for any woman with which to reproach themselves.

[*] /Momerie/.

This brief digression was necessary in order to explain Calvin's
position in Geneva.

During the first days of the month of February in the year 1561, on a
soft, warm evening such as we may sometimes find at that season on
Lake Leman, two horsemen arrived at the Pre-l'Eveque,--thus called
because it was the former country-place of the Bishop of Geneva,
driven from Switzerland about thirty years earlier. These horsemen,
who no doubt knew the laws of Geneva about the closing of the gates
(then a necessity and now very ridiculous) rode in the direction of
the Porte de Rive; but they stopped their horses suddenly on catching
sight of a man, about fifty years of age, leaning on the arm of a
servant-woman, and walking slowly toward the town. This man, who was
rather stout, walked with difficulty, putting one foot after the other
with pain apparently, for he wore round shoes of black velvet, laced
in front.

"It is he!" said Chaudieu to the other horseman, who immediately
dismounted, threw the reins to his companion, and went forward,
opening wide his arms to the man on foot.

The man, who was Jean Calvin, drew back to avoid the embrace, casting
a stern look at his disciple. At fifty years of age Calvin looked as
though he were sixty. Stout and stocky in figure, he seemed shorter
still because the horrible sufferings of stone in the bladder obliged
him to bend almost double as he walked. These pains were complicated
by attacks of gout of the worst kind. Every one trembled before that
face, almost as broad as it was long, on which, in spite of its
roundness, there was as little human-kindness as on that of Henry the
Eighth, whom Calvin greatly resembled. Sufferings which gave him no
respite were manifest in the deep-cut lines starting from each side of
the nose and following the curve of the moustache till they were lost
in the thick gray beard. This face, though red and inflamed like that
of a heavy drinker, showed spots where the skin was yellow. In spite
of the velvet cap, which covered the huge square head, a vast forehead
of noble shape could be seen and admired; beneath it shone two dark
eyes, which must have flashed forth flame in moments of anger. Whether
by reason of his obesity, or because of his thick, short neck, or in
consequence of his vigils and his constant labors, Calvin's head was
sunk between his broad shoulders, which obliged him to wear a fluted
ruff of very small dimensions, on which his face seemed to lie like
the head of John the Baptist on a charger. Between his moustache and
his beard could be seen, like a rose, his small and fresh and eloquent
little mouth, shaped in perfection. The face was divided by a square
nose, remarkable for the flexibility of its entire length, the tip of
which was significantly flat, seeming the more in harmony with the
prodigious power expressed by the form of that imperial head. Though
it might have been difficult to discover on his features any trace of
the weekly headaches which tormented Calvin in the intervals of the
slow fever that consumed him, suffering, ceaselessly resisted by study
and by will, gave to that mask, superficially so florid, a certain
something that was terrible. Perhaps this impression was explainable
by the color of a sort of greasy layer on the skin, due to the
sedentary habits of the toiler, showing evidence of the perpetual
struggle which went on between that valetudinarian temperament and one
of the strongest wills ever known in the history of the human mind.
The mouth, though charming, had an expression of cruelty. Chastity,
necessitated by vast designs, exacted by so many sickly conditions,
was written upon that face. Regrets were there, notwithstanding the
serenity of that all-powerful brow, together with pain in the glance
of those eyes, the calmness of which was terrifying.

Calvin's costume brought into full relief this powerful head. He wore
the well-known cassock of black cloth, fastened round his waist by a
black cloth belt with a brass buckle, which became thenceforth the
distinctive dress of all Calvinist ministers, and was so uninteresting
to the eye that it forced the spectator's attention upon the wearer's

"I suffer too much, Theodore, to embrace you," said Calvin to the
elegant cavalier.

Theodore de Beze, then forty-two years of age and lately admitted, at
Calvin's request, as a Genevese burgher, formed a violent contrast to
the terrible pastor whom he had chosen as his sovereign guide and
ruler. Calvin, like all burghers raised to moral sovereignty, and all
inventors of social systems, was eaten up with jealousy. He abhorred
his disciples; he wanted no equals; he could not bear the slightest
contradiction. Yet there was between him and this graceful cavalier so
marked a difference, Theodore de Beze was gifted with so charming a
personality enhanced by a politeness trained by court life, and Calvin
felt him to be so unlike his other surly janissaries, that the stern
reformer departed in de Beze's case from his usual habits. He never
loved him, for this harsh legislator totally ignored all friendship,
but, not fearing him in the light of a successor, he liked to play
with Theodore as Richelieu played with his cat; he found him supple
and agile. Seeing how admirably de Beze succeeded in all his missions,
he took a fancy to the polished instrument of which he knew himself
the mainspring and the manipulator; so true is it that the sternest of
men cannot do without some semblance of affection. Theodore was
Calvin's spoilt child; the harsh reformer never scolded him; he
forgave him his dissipations, his amours, his fine clothes and his
elegance of language. Perhaps Calvin was not unwilling to show that
the Reformation had a few men of the world to compare with the men of
the court. Theodore de Beze was anxious to introduce a taste for the
arts, for literature, and for poesy into Geneva, and Calvin listened
to his plans without knitting his thick gray eyebrows. Thus the
contrast of character and person between these two celebrated men was
as complete and marked as the difference in their minds.

Calvin acknowledged Chaudieu's very humble salutation by a slight
inclination of the head. Chaudieu slipped the bridles of both horses
through his arms and followed the two great men of the Reformation,
walking to the left, behind de Beze, who was on Calvin's right. The
servant-woman hastened on in advance to prevent the closing of the
Porte de Rive, by informing the captain of the guard that Calvin had
been seized with sudden acute pains.

Theodore de Beze was a native of the canton of Vezelay, which was the
first to enter the Confederation, the curious history of which
transaction has been written by one of the Thierrys. The burgher
spirit of resistance, endemic at Vezelay, no doubt, played its part in
the person of this man, in the great revolt of the Reformers; for de
Beze was undoubtedly one of the most singular personalities of the

"You suffer still?" said Theodore to Calvin.

"A Catholic would say, 'like a lost soul,'" replied the Reformer, with
the bitterness he gave to his slightest remarks. "Ah! I shall not be
here long, my son. What will become of you without me?"

"We shall fight by the light of your books," said Chaudieu.

Calvin smiled; his red face changed to a pleased expression, and he
looked favorably at Chaudieu.

"Well, have you brought me news? Have they massacred many of our
people?" he said smiling, and letting a sarcastic joy shine in his
brown eyes.

"No," said Chaudieu, "all is peaceful."

"So much the worse," cried Calvin; "so much the worse! All
pacification is an evil, if indeed it is not a trap. Our strength lies
in persecution. Where should we be if the Church accepted Reform?"

"But," said Theodore, "that is precisely what the queen-mother appears
to wish."

"She is capable of it," remarked Calvin. "I study that woman--"

"What, at this distance?" cried Chaudieu.

"Is there any distance for the mind?" replied Calvin, sternly, for he
thought the interruption irreverent. "Catherine seeks power, and women
with that in their eye have neither honor nor faith. But what is she
doing now?"

"I bring you a proposal from her to call a species of council,"
replied Theodore de Beze.

"Near Paris?" asked Calvin, hastily.


"Ha! so much the better!" exclaimed the Reformer.

"We are to try to understand each other and draw up some public
agreement which shall unite the two churches."

"Ah! if she would only have the courage to separate the French Church
from the court of Rome, and create a patriarch for France as they did
in the Greek Church!" cried Calvin, his eyes glistening at the idea
thus presented to his mind of a possible throne. "But, my son, can the
niece of a Pope be sincere? She is only trying to gain time."

"She has sent away the Queen of Scots," said Chaudieu.

"One less!" remarked Calvin, as they passed through the Porte de Rive.
"Elizabeth of England will restrain that one for us. Two neighboring
queens will soon be at war with each other. One is handsome, the other
ugly,--a first cause for irritation; besides, there's the question of

He rubbed his hands, and the character of his joy was so evidently
ferocious that de Beze shuddered: he saw the sea of blood his master
was contemplating.

"The Guises have irritated the house of Bourbon," said Theodore after
a pause. "They came to an open rupture at Orleans."

"Ah!" said Calvin, "you would not believe me, my son, when I told you
the last time you started for Nerac that we should end by stirring up
war to the death between the two branches of the house of France? I
have, at least, one court, one king and royal family on my side. My
doctrine is producing its effect upon the masses. The burghers, too,
understand me; they regard as idolators all who go to Mass, who paint
the walls of their churches, and put pictures and statues within them.
Ha! it is far more easy for a people to demolish churches and palaces
than to argue the question of justification by faith, or the real
presence. Luther was an argufier, but I,--I am an army! He was a
reasoner, I am a system. In short, my sons, he was merely a
skirmisher, but I am Tarquin! Yes, /my/ faithful shall destroy
pictures and pull down churches; they shall make mill-stones of
statues to grind the flour of the peoples. There are guilds and
corporations in the States-general--I will have nothing there but
individuals. Corporations resist; they see clear where the masses are
blind. We must join to our doctrine political interests which will
consolidate it, and keep together the /materiel/ of my armies. I have
satisfied the logic of cautious souls and the minds of thinkers by
this bared and naked worship which carries religion into the world of
ideas; I have made the peoples understand the advantages of
suppressing ceremony. It is for you, Theodore, to enlist their
interests; hold to that; go not beyond it. All is said in the way of
doctrine; let no one add one iota. Why does Cameron, that little
Gascon pastor, presume to write of it?"

Calvin, de Beze, and Chaudieu were mounting the steep steps of the
upper town in the midst of a crowd, but the crowd paid not the
slightest attention to the men who were unchaining the mobs of other
cities and preparing them to ravage France.

After this terrible tirade, the three marched on in silence till they
entered the little place Saint-Pierre and turned toward the pastor's
house. On the second story of that house (never noted, and of which in
these days no one is ever told in Geneva, where, it may be remarked,
Calvin has no statue) his lodging consisted of three chambers with
common pine floors and wainscots, at the end of which were the kitchen
and the bedroom of his woman-servant. The entrance, as usually
happened in most of the burgher households of Geneva, was through the
kitchen, which opened into a little room with two windows, serving as
parlor, salon, and dining-room. Calvin's study, where his thought had
wrestled with suffering for the last fourteen years, came next, with
the bedroom beyond it. Four oaken chairs covered with tapestry and
placed around a square table were the sole furniture of the parlor. A
stove of white porcelain, standing in one corner of the room, cast out
a gentle heat. Panels and a wainscot of pine wood left in its natural
state without decoration covered the walls. Thus the nakedness of the
place was in keeping with the sober and simple life of the Reformer.

"Well?" said de Beze as they entered, profiting by a few moments when
Chaudieu left them to put up the horse at a neighboring inn, "what am
I to do? Will you agree to the colloquy?"

"Of course," replied Calvin. "And it is you, my son, who will fight
for us there. Be peremptory, be arbitrary. No one, neither the queen
nor the Guises nor I, wants a pacification; it would not suit us at
all. I have confidence in Duplessis-Mornay; let him play the leading
part. Are we alone?" he added, with a glance of distrust into the
kitchen, where two shirts and a few collars were stretched on a line
to dry. "Go and shut all the doors. Well," he continued when Theodore
had returned, "we must drive the king of Navarre to join the Guises
and the Connetable by advising him to break with Queen Catherine de'
Medici. Let us all get the benefit of that poor creature's weakness.
If he turns against the Italian she will, when she sees herself
deprived of that support, necessarily unite with the Prince de Conde
and Coligny. Perhaps this manoeuvre will so compromise her that she
will be forced to remain on our side."

Theodore de Beze caught the hem of Calvin's cassock and kissed it.

"Oh! my master," he exclaimed, "how great you are!"

"Unfortunately, my dear Theodore, I am dying. If I die without seeing
you again," he added, sinking his voice and speaking in the ear of his
minister of foreign affairs, "remember to strike a great blow by the
hand of some one of our martyrs."

"Another Minard to be killed?"

"Something better than a mere lawyer."

"A king?"

"Still better!--a man who wants to be a king."

"The Duc de Guise!" exclaimed Theodore, with an involuntary gesture.

"Well?" cried Calvin, who thought he saw disappointment or resistance
in the gesture, and did not see at the same moment the entrance of
Chaudieu. "Have we not the right to strike as we are struck?--yes, to
strike in silence and in darkness. May we not return them wound for
wound, and death for death? Would the Catholics hesitate to lay traps
for us and massacre us? Assuredly not. Let us burn their churches!
Forward, my children! And if you have devoted youths--"

"I have," said Chaudieu.

"Use them as engines of war! our cause justifies all means. Le
Balafre, that horrible soldier, is, like me, more than a man; he is a
dynasty, just as I am a system. He is able to annihilate us;
therefore, I say, Death to the Guise!"

"I would rather have a peaceful victory, won by time and reason," said
de Beze.

"Time!" exclaimed Calvin, dashing his chair to the ground, "reason!
Are you mad? Can reason achieve conquests? You know nothing of men,
you who deal with them, idiot! The thing that injures my doctrine, you
triple fool! is the reason that is in it. By the lightning of Saul, by
the sword of Vengeance, thou pumpkin-head, do you not see the vigor
given to my Reform by the massacre at Amboise? Ideas never grow till
they are watered with blood. The slaying of the Duc de Guise will lead
to a horrible persecution, and I pray for it with all my might. Our
reverses are preferable to success. The Reformation has an object to
gain in being attacked; do you hear me, dolt? It cannot hurt us to be
defeated, whereas Catholicism is at an end if we should win but a
single battle. Ha! what are my lieutenants?--rags, wet rags instead of
men! white-haired cravens! baptized apes! O God, grant me ten years
more of life! If I die too soon the cause of true religion is lost in
the hands of such boobies! You are as great a fool as Antoine de
Navarre! Out of my sight! Leave me; I want a better negotiator than
you! You are an ass, a popinjay, a poet! Go and make your elegies and
your acrostics, you trifler! Hence!"

The pains of his body were absolutely overcome by the fire of his
anger; even the gout subsided under this horrible excitement of his
mind. Calvin's face flushed purple, like the sky before a storm. His
vast brow shone. His eyes flamed. He was no longer himself. He gave
way utterly to the species of epileptic motion, full of passion, which
was common with him. But in the very midst of it he was struck by the
attitude of the two witnesses; then, as he caught the words of
Chaudieu saying to de Beze, "The Burning Bush!" he sat down, was
silent, and covered his face with his two hands, the knotted veins of
which were throbbing in spite of their coarse texture.

Some minutes later, still shaken by this storm raised within him by
the continence of his life, he said in a voice of emotion:--

"My sins, which are many, cost me less trouble to subdue, than my
impatience. Oh, savage beast! shall I never vanquish you?" he cried,
beating his breast.

"My dear master," said de Beze, in a tender voice, taking Calvin's
hand and kissing it, "Jupiter thunders, but he knows how to smile."

Calvin looked at his disciple with a softened eye and said:--

"Understand me, my friends."

"I understand that the pastors of peoples bear great burdens," replied
Theodore. "You have a world upon your shoulders."

"I have three martyrs," said Chaudieu, whom the master's outburst had
rendered thoughtful, "on whom we can rely. Stuart, who killed Minard,
is at liberty--"

"You are mistaken," said Calvin, gently, smiling after the manner of
great men who bring fair weather into their faces as though they were
ashamed of the previous storm. "I know human nature; a man may kill
one president, but not two."

"Is it absolutely necessary?" asked de Beze.

"Again!" exclaimed Calvin, his nostrils swelling. "Come, leave me, you
will drive me to fury. Take my decision to the queen. You, Chaudieu,
go your way, and hold your flock together in Paris. God guide you!
Dinah, light my friends to the door."

"Will you not permit me to embrace you?" said Theodore, much moved.
"Who knows what may happen to us on the morrow? We may be seized in
spite of our safe-conduct."

"And yet you want to spare them!" cried Calvin, embracing de Beze.
Then he took Chaudieu's hand and said: "Above all, no Huguenots, no
Reformers, but /Calvinists/! Use no term but Calvinism. Alas! this is
not ambition, for I am dying,--but it is necessary to destroy the
whole of Luther, even to the name of Lutheran and Lutheranism."

"Ah! man divine," cried Chaudieu, "you well deserve such honors."

"Maintain the uniformity of the doctrine; let no one henceforth change
or remark it. We are lost if new sects issue from our bosom."

We will here anticipate the events on which this Study is based, and
close the history of Theodore de Beze, who went to Paris with
Chaudieu. It is to be remarked that Poltrot, who fired at the Duc de
Guise fifteen months later, confessed under torture that he had been
urged to the crime by Theodore de Beze; though he retracted that
avowal during subsequent tortures; so that Bossuet, after weighing all
historical considerations, felt obliged to acquit Beze of instigating
the crime. Since Bossuet's time, however, an apparently futile
dissertation, apropos of a celebrated song, has led a compiler of the
eighteenth century to prove that the verses on the death of the Duc de
Guise, sung by the Huguenots from one end of France to the other, was
the work of Theodore de Beze; and it is also proved that the famous
song on the burial of Marlborough was a plagiarism on it.[*]

[*] One of the most remarkable instances of the transmission of songs
is that of Marlborough. Written in the first instance by a
Huguenot on the death of the Duc de Guise in 1563, it was
preserved in the French army, and appears to have been sung with
variations, suppressions, and additions at the death of all
generals of importance. When the intestine wars were over the song
followed the soldiers into civil life. It was never forgotten
(though the habit of singing it may have lessened), and in 1781,
sixty years after the death of Marlborough, the wet-nurse of the
Dauphin was heard to sing it as she suckled her nursling. When and
why the name of the Duke of Marlborough was substituted for that
of the Duc de Guise has never been ascertained. See "Chansons
Populaires," par Charles Nisard: Paris, Dentu, 1867.--Tr.


                          CATHERINE IN POWER

The day on which Theodore de Beze and Chaudieu arrived in Paris, the
court returned from Rheims, where Charles IX. was crowned. This
ceremony, which Catherine made magnificent with splendid fetes,
enabled her to gather about her the leaders of the various parties.
Having studied all interests and all factions, she found herself with
two alternatives from which to choose; either to rally them all to the
throne, or to pit them one against the other. The Connetable de
Montmorency, supremely Catholic, whose nephew, the Prince de Conde,
was leader of the Reformers, and whose sons were inclined to the new
religion, blamed the alliance of the queen-mother with the
Reformation. The Guises, on their side, were endeavoring to gain over
Antoine de Bourbon, king of Navarre, a weak prince; a manoeuvre which
his wife, Jeanne d'Albret, instructed by de Beze, allowed to succeed.
The difficulties were plain to Catherine, whose dawning power needed a
period of tranquillity. She therefore impatiently awaited Calvin's
reply to the message which the Prince de Conde, the king of Navarre,
Coligny, d'Andelot, and the Cardinal de Chatillon had sent him through
de Beze and Chaudieu. Meantime, however, she was faithful to her
promises as to the Prince de Conde. The chancellor put an end to the
proceedings in which Christophe was involved by referring the affair
to the Parliament of Paris, which at once set aside the judgment of
the committee, declaring it without power to try a prince of the
blood. The Parliament then reopened the trial, at the request of the
Guises and the queen-mother. Lasagne's papers had already been given
to Catherine, who burned them. The giving up of these papers was a
first pledge, uselessly made by the Guises to the queen-mother. The
Parliament, no longer able to take cognizance of those decisive
proofs, reinstated the prince in all his rights, property, and honors.
Christophe, released during the tumult at Orleans on the death of the
king, was acquitted in the first instance, and appointed, in
compensation for his sufferings, solicitor to the Parliament, at the
request of his godfather Monsieur de Thou.

The Triumvirate, that coming coalition of self-interests threatened by
Catherine's first acts, was now forming itself under her very eyes.
Just as in chemistry antagonistic substances separate at the first
shock which jars their enforced union, so in politics the alliance of
opposing interests never lasts. Catherine thoroughly understood that
sooner or later she should return to the Guises and combine with them
and the Connetable to do battle against the Huguenots. The proposed
"colloquy" which tempted the vanity of the orators of all parties, and
offered an imposing spectacle to succeed that of the coronation and
enliven the bloody ground of a religious war which, in point of fact,
had already begun, was as futile in the eyes of the Duc de Guise as in
those of Catherine. The Catholics would, in one sense be worsted; for
the Huguenots, under pretext of conferring, would be able to proclaim
their doctrine, with the sanction of the king and his mother, to the
ears of all France. The Cardinal de Lorraine, flattered by Catherine
into the idea of destroying the heresy by the eloquence of the Church,
persuaded his brother to consent; and thus the queen obtained what was
all-essential to her, six months of peace.

A slight event, occurring at this time, came near compromising the
power which Catherine had so painfully built up. The following scene,
preserved in history, took place, on the very day the envoys returned
from Geneva, in the hotel de Coligny near the Louvre. At his
coronation, Charles IX., who was greatly attached to his tutor Amyot,
appointed him grand-almoner of France. This affection was shared by
his brother the Duc d'Anjou, afterwards Henri III., another of Anjou's
pupils. Catherine heard the news of this appointment from the two
Gondis during the journey from Rheims to Paris. She had counted on
that office in the gift of the Crown to gain a supporter in the Church
with whom to oppose the Cardinal de Lorraine. Her choice had fallen on
the Cardinal de Tournon, in whom she expected to find, as in
l'Hopital, another /crutch/--the word is her own. As soon as she
reached the Louvre she sent for the tutor, and her anger was such, on
seeing the disaster to her policy caused by the ambition of this son
of a shoemaker, that she was betrayed into using the following
extraordinary language, which several memoirs of the day have handed
down to us:--

"What!" she cried, "am I, who compel the Guises, the Colignys, the
Connetables, the house of Navarre, the Prince de Conde, to serve my
ends, am I to be opposed by a priestling like you who are not
satisfied to be bishop of Auxerre?"

Amyot excused himself. He assured the queen that he had asked nothing;
the king of his own will had given him the office of which he, the son
of a poor tailor, felt himself quite unworthy.

"Be assured, /maitre/," replied Catherine (that being the name which
the two kings, Charles IX. and Henri III., gave to the great writer)
"that you will not stand on your feet twenty-four hours hence, unless
you make your pupil change his mind."

Between the death thus threatened and the resignation of the highest
ecclesiastical office in the gift of the crown, the son of the
shoemaker, who had lately become extremely eager after honors, and may
even have coveted a cardinal's hat, thought it prudent to temporize.
He left the court and hid himself in the abbey of Saint-Germain. When
Charles IX. did not see him at his first dinner, he asked where he
was. Some Guisard doubtless told him of what had occurred between
Amyot and the queen-mother.

"Has he been forced to disappear because I made him grand-almoner?"
cried the king.

He thereupon rushed to his mother in the violent wrath of angry
children when their caprices are opposed.

"Madame," he said on entering, "did I not kindly sign the letter you
asked me to send to Parliament, by means of which you govern my
kingdom? Did you not promise that if I did so my will should be yours?
And here, the first favor that I wish to bestow excites your jealousy!
The chancellor talks of declaring my majority at fourteen, three years
from now, and you wish to treat me as a child. By God, I will be king,
and a king as my father and grandfather were kings!"

The tone and manner in which these words were said gave Catherine a
revelation of her son's true character; it was like a blow in the

"He speaks to me thus, he whom I made a king!" she thought.
"Monsieur," she said aloud, "the office of a king, in times like
these, is a very difficult one; you do not yet know the shrewd men
with whom you have to deal. You will never have a safer and more
sincere friend than your mother, or better servants than those who
have been so long attached to her person, without whose services you
might perhaps not even exist to-day. The Guises want both your life
and your throne, be sure of that. If they could sew me into a sack and
fling me into the river," she said, pointing to the Seine, "it would
be done to-night. They know that I am a lioness defending her young,
and that I alone prevent their daring hands from seizing your crown.
To whom--to whose party does your tutor belong? Who are his allies?
What authority has he? What services can he do you? What weight do his
words carry? Instead of finding a prop to sustain your power, you have
cut the ground from under it. The Cardinal de Lorraine is a living
threat to you; he plays the king; he keeps his hat on his head before
the princes of the blood; it was urgently necessary to invest another
cardinal with powers greater than his own. But what have you done? Is
Amyot, that shoemaker, fit only to tie the ribbons of his shoes, is he
capable of making head against the Guise ambition? However, you love
Amyot, you have appointed him; your will must now be done, monsieur.
But before you make such gifts again, I pray you to consult me in
affectionate good faith. Listen to reasons of state; and your own good
sense as a child may perhaps agree with my old experience, when you
really understand the difficulties that lie before you."

"Then I can have my master back again?" cried the king, not listening
to his mother's words, which he considered to be mere reproaches.

"Yes, you shall have him," she replied. "But it is not here, nor that
brutal Cypierre who will teach you how to reign."

"It is for you to do so, my dear mother," said the boy, mollified by
his victory and relaxing the surly and threatening look stamped by
nature upon his countenance.

Catherine sent Gondi to recall the new grand-almoner. When the Italian
discovered the place of Amyot's retreat, and the bishop heard that the
courtier was sent by the queen, he was seized with terror and refused
to leave the abbey. In this extremity Catherine was obliged to write
to him herself, in such terms that he returned to Paris and received
from her own lips the assurance of her protection,--on condition,
however, that he would blindly promote her wishes with Charles IX.

This little domestic tempest over, the queen, now re-established in
the Louvre after an absence of more than a year, held council with her
closest friends as to the proper conduct to pursue with the young king
whom Cypierre had complimented on his firmness.

"What is best to be done?" she said to the two Gondis, Ruggiero,
Birago, and Chiverni who had lately become governor and chancellor to
the Duc d'Anjou.

"Before all else," replied Birago, "get rid of Cypierre. He is not a
courtier; he will never accommodate himself to your ideas, and will
think he does his duty in thwarting you."

"Whom can I trust?" cried the queen.

"One of us," said Birago.

"On my honor!" exclaimed Gondi, "I'll promise you to make the king as
docile as the king of Navarre."

"You allowed the late king to perish to save your other children,"
said Albert de Gondi. "Do, then, as the great signors of
Constantinople do,--divert the anger and amuse the caprices of the
present king. He loves art and poetry and hunting, also a little girl
he saw at Orleans; /there's/ occupation enough for him."

"Will you really be the king's governor?" said Catherine to the ablest
of the Gondis.

"Yes, if you will give me the necessary authority; you may even be
obliged to make me marshal of France and a duke. Cypierre is
altogether too small a man to hold the office. In future, the governor
of a king of France should be of some great dignity, like that of duke
and marshal."

"He is right," said Birago.

"Poet and huntsman," said Catherine in a dreamy tone.

"We will hunt and make love!" cried Gondi.

"Moreover," remarked Chiverni, "you are sure of Amyot, who will always
fear poison in case of disobedience; so that you and he and Gondi can
hold the king in leading-strings."

"Amyot has deeply offended me," said Catherine.

"He does not know what he owes to you; if he did know, you would be in
danger," replied Birago, gravely, emphasizing his words.

"Then, it is agreed," exclaimed Catherine, on whom Birago's reply made
a powerful impression, "that you, Gondi, are to be the king's
governor. My son must consent to do for one of my friends a favor
equal to the one I have just permitted for his knave of a bishop. That
fool has lost the hat; for never, as long as I live, will I consent
that the Pope shall give it to him! How strong we might have been with
Cardinal de Tournon! What a trio with Tournon for grand-almoner, and
l'Hopital, and de Thou! As for the burghers of Paris, I intend to make
my son cajole them; we will get a support there."

Accordingly, Albert de Gondi became a marshal of France and was
created Duc de Retz and governor of the king a few days later.

At the moment when this little private council ended, Cardinal de
Tournon announced to the queen the arrival of the emissaries sent to
Calvin. Admiral Coligny accompanied the party in order that his
presence might ensure them due respect at the Louvre. The queen
gathered the formidable phalanx of her maids of honor about her, and
passed into the reception hall, built by her husband, which no longer
exists in the Louvre of to-day.

At the period of which we write the staircase of the Louvre occupied
the clock tower. Catherine's apartments were in the old buildings
which still exist in the court of the Musee. The present staircase of
the museum was built in what was formerly the /salle des ballets/. The
ballet of those days was a sort of dramatic entertainment performed by
the whole court.

Revolutionary passions gave rise to a most laughable error about
Charles IX., in connection with the Louvre. During the Revolution
hostile opinions as to this king, whose real character was masked,
made a monster of him. Joseph Cheniers tragedy was written under the
influence of certain words scratched on the window of the projecting
wing of the Louvre, looking toward the quay. The words were as
follows: "It was from this window that Charles IX., of execrable
memory, fired upon French citizens." It is well to inform future
historians and all sensible persons that this portion of the Louvre
--called to-day the old Louvre--which projects upon the quay and is
connected with the Louvre by the room called the Apollo gallery (while
the great halls of the Museum connect the Louvre with the Tuileries)
did not exist in the time of Charles IX. The greater part of the space
where the frontage on the quay now stands, and where the Garden of the
Infanta is laid out, was then occupied by the hotel de Bourbon, which
belonged to and was the residence of the house of Navarre. It was
absolutely impossible, therefore, for Charles IX. to fire from the
Louvre of Henri II. upon a boat full of Huguenots crossing the river,
although /at the present time/ the Seine can be seen from its windows.
Even if learned men and libraries did not possess maps of the Louvre
made in the time of Charles IX., on which its then position is clearly
indicated, the building itself refutes the error. All the kings who
co-operated in the work of erecting this enormous mass of buildings
never failed to put their initials or some special monogram on the
parts they had severally built. Now the part we speak of, the
venerable and now blackened wing of the Louvre, projecting on the quay
and overlooking the garden of the Infanta, bears the monograms of
Henri III. and Henri IV., which are totally different from that of
Henri II., who invariably joined his H to the two C's of Catherine,
forming a D,--which, by the bye, has constantly deceived superficial
persons into fancying that the king put the initial of his mistress,
Diane, on great public buildings. Henri IV. united the Louvre with his
own hotel de Bourbon, its garden and dependencies. He was the first to
think of connecting Catherine de' Medici's palace of the Tuileries
with the Louvre by his unfinished galleries, the precious sculptures
of which have been so cruelly neglected. Even if the map of Paris, and
the monograms of Henri III. and Henri IV. did not exist, the
difference of architecture is refutation enough to the calumny. The
vermiculated stone copings of the hotel de la Force mark the
transition between what is called the architecture of the Renaissance
and that of Henri III., Henri IV., and Louis XIII. This archaeological
digression (continuing the sketches of old Paris with which we began
this history) enables us to picture to our minds the then appearance
of this other corner of the old city, of which nothing now remains but
Henri IV.'s addition to the Louvre, with its admirable bas-reliefs,
now being rapidly annihilated.

When the court heard that the queen was about to give an audience to
Theodore de Beze and Chaudieu, presented by Admiral Coligny, all the
courtiers who had the right of entrance to the reception hall,
hastened thither to witness the interview. It was about six o'clock in
the evening; Coligny had just supped, and was using a toothpick as he
came up the staircase of the Louvre between the two Reformers. The
practice of using a toothpick was so inveterate a habit with the
admiral that he was seen to do it on the battle-field while planning a
retreat. "Distrust the admiral's toothpick, the /No/ of the
Connetable, and Catherine's /Yes/," was a court proverb of that day.
After the Saint-Bartholomew the populace made a horrible jest on the
body of Coligny, which hung for three days at Montfaucon, by putting a
grotesque toothpick into his mouth. History has recorded this
atrocious levity. So petty an act done in the midst of that great
catastrophe pictures the Parisian populace, which deserves the
sarcastic jibe of Boileau: "Frenchmen, born /malin/, created the
guillotine." The Parisian of all time cracks jokes and makes lampoons
before, during, and after the most horrible revolutions.

Theodore de Beze wore the dress of a courtier, black silk stockings,
low shoes with straps across the instep, tight breeches, a black silk
doublet with slashed sleeves, and a small black velvet mantle, over
which lay an elegant white fluted ruff. His beard was trimmed to a
moustache and /virgule/ (now called imperial) and he carried a sword
at his side and a cane in his hand. Whosoever knows the galleries of
Versailles or the collections of Odieuvre, knows also his round,
almost jovial face and lively eyes, surmounted by the broad forehead
which characterized the writers and poets of that day. De Beze had,
what served him admirably, an agreeable air and manner. In this he was
a great contrast to Coligny, of austere countenance, and to the sour,
bilious Chaudieu, who chose to wear on this occasion the robe and
bands of a Calvinist minister.

The scenes that happen in our day in the Chamber of Deputies, and
which, no doubt, happened in the Convention, will give an idea of how,
at this court, at this epoch, these men, who six months later were to
fight to the death in a war without quarter, could meet and talk to
each other with courtesy and even laughter. Birago, who was coldly to
advise the Saint-Bartholomew, and Cardinal de Lorraine, who charged
his servant Besme "not to miss the admiral," now advanced to meet
Coligny; Birago saying, with a smile:--

"Well, my dear admiral, so you have really taken upon yourself to
present these gentlemen from Geneva?"

"Perhaps you will call it a crime in /me/," replied the admiral,
jesting, "whereas if you had done it yourself you would make a merit
of it."

"They say that the Sieur Calvin is very ill," remarked the Cardinal de
Lorraine to Theodore de Beze. "I hope no one suspects us of giving him
his broth."

"Ah! monseigneur; it would be too great a risk," replied de Beze,

The Duc de Guise, who was watching Chaudieu, looked fixedly at his
brother and at Birago, who were both taken aback by de Beze's answer.

"Good God!" remarked the cardinal, "heretics are not diplomatic!"

To avoid embarrassment, the queen, who was announced at this moment,
had arranged to remain standing during the audience. She began by
speaking to the Connetable, who had previously remonstrated with her
vehemently on the scandal of receiving messengers from Calvin.

"You see, my dear Connetable," she said, "that I receive them without

"Madame," said the admiral, approaching the queen, "these are two
teachers of the new religion, who have come to an understanding with
Calvin, and who have his instructions as to a conference in which the
churches of France may be able to settle their differences."

"This is Monsieur de Beze, to whom my wife is much attached," said the
king of Navarre, coming forward and taking de Beze by the hand.

"And this is Chaudieu," said the Prince de Conde. "/My friend/ the Duc
de Guise knows the soldier," he added, looking at Le Balafre, "perhaps
he will now like to know the minister."

This gasconade made the whole court laugh, even Catherine.

"Faith!" replied the Duc de Guise, "I am enchanted to see a /gars/ who
knows so well how to choose his men and to employ them in their right
sphere. One of your agents," he said to Chaudieu, "actually endured
the extraordinary question without dying and without confessing a
single thing. I call myself brave; but I don't know that I could have
endured it as he did."

"Hum!" muttered Ambroise, "you did not say a word when I pulled the
javelin out of your face at Calais."

Catherine, standing at the centre of a semicircle of the courtiers and
maids of honor, kept silence. She was observing the two Reformers,
trying to penetrate their minds as, with the shrewd, intelligent
glance of her black eyes, she studied them.

"One seems to be the scabbard, the other the blade," whispered Albert
de Gondi in her ear.

"Well, gentlemen," said Catherine at last, unable to restrain a smile,
"has your master given you permission to unite in a public conference,
at which you will be converted by the arguments of the Fathers of the
Church who are the glory of our State?"

"We have no master but the Lord," said Chaudieu.

"But surely you will allow some little authority to the king of
France?" said Catherine, smiling.

"And much to the queen," said de Beze, bowing low.

"You will find," continued the queen, "that our most submissive
subjects are heretics."

"Ah, madame!" cried Coligny, "we will indeed endeavor to make you a
noble and peaceful kingdom! Europe has profited, alas! by our internal
divisions. For the last fifty years she has had the advantage of
one-half of the French people being against the other half."

"Are we here to sing anthems to the glory of heretics," said the
Connetable, brutally.

"No, but to bring them to repentance," whispered the Cardinal de
Lorraine in his ear; "we want to coax them by a little sugar."

"Do you know what I should have done under the late king?" said the
Connetable, angrily. "I'd have called in the provost and hung those
two knaves, then and there, on the gallows of the Louvre."

"Well, gentlemen, who are the learned men whom you have selected as
our opponents?" inquired the queen, imposing silence on the Connetable
by a look.

"Duplessis-Mornay and Theodore de Beze will speak on our side,"
replied Chaudieu.

"The court will doubtless go to Saint-Germain, and as it would be
improper that this /colloquy/ should take place in a royal residence,
we will have it in the little town of Poissy," said Catherine.

"Shall we be safe there, madame?" asked Chaudieu.

"Ah!" replied the queen, with a sort of naivete, "you will surely know
how to take precautions. The Admiral will arrange all that with my
cousins the Guises and de Montmorency."

"The devil take them!" cried the Connetable, "I'll have nothing to do
with it."

"How do you contrive to give such strength of character to your
converts?" said the queen, leading Chaudieu apart. "The son of my
furrier was actually sublime."

"We have faith," replied Chaudieu.

At this moment the hall presented a scene of animated groups, all
discussing the question of the proposed assembly, to which the few
words said by the queen had already given the name of the "Colloquy of
Poissy." Catherine glanced at Chaudieu and was able to say to him

"Yes, a new faith!"

"Ah, madame, if you were not blinded by your alliance with the court
of Rome, you would see that we are returning to the true doctrines of
Jesus Christ, who, recognizing the equality of souls, bestows upon all
men equal rights on earth."

"Do you think yourself the equal of Calvin?" asked the queen,
shrewdly. "No, no; we are equals only in church. What! would you
unbind the tie of the people to the throne?" she cried. "Then you are
not only heretics, you are revolutionists,--rebels against obedience
to the king as you are against that to the Pope!" So saying, she left
Chaudieu abruptly and returned to Theodore de Beze. "I count on you,
monsieur," she said, "to conduct this colloquy in good faith. Take all
the time you need."

"I had supposed," said Chaudieu to the Prince de Conde, the King of
Navarre, and Admiral Coligny, as they left the hall, "that a great
State matter would be treated more seriously."

"Oh! we know very well what you want," exclaimed the Prince de Conde,
exchanging a sly look with Theodore de Beze.

The prince now left his adherents to attend a rendezvous. This great
leader of a party was also one of the most favored gallants of the
court. The two choice beauties of that day were even then striving
with such desperate eagerness for his affections that one of them, the
Marechale de Saint-Andre, the wife of the future triumvir, gave him
her beautiful estate of Saint-Valery, hoping to win him away from the
Duchesse de Guise, the wife of the man who had tried to take his head
on the scaffold. The duchess, not being able to detach the Duc de
Nemours from Mademoiselle de Rohan, fell in love, /en attendant/, with
the leader of the Reformers.

"What a contrast to Geneva!" said Chaudieu to Theodore de Beze, as
they crossed the little bridge of the Louvre.

"The people here are certainly gayer than the Genevese. I don't see
why they should be so treacherous," replied de Beze.

"To treachery oppose treachery," replied Chaudieu, whispering the
words in his companion's ear. "I have /saints/ in Paris on whom I can
rely, and I intend to make Calvin a prophet. Christophe Lecamus shall
deliver us from our most dangerous enemy."

"The queen-mother, for whom the poor devil endured his torture, has
already, with a high hand, caused him to be appointed solicitor to the
Parliament; and solicitors make better prosecutors than murderers.
Don't you remember how Avenelles betrayed the secrets of our first

"I know Christophe," said Chaudieu, in a positive tone, as he turned
to leave the envoy from Geneva.



A few days after the reception of Calvin's emissaries by the queen,
that is to say, toward the close of the year (for the year then began
at Easter and the present calendar was not adopted until later in the
reign of Charles IX.), Christophe reclined in an easy chair beside the
fire in the large brown hall, dedicated to family life, that
overlooked the river in his father's house, where the present drama
was begun. His feet rested on a stool; his mother and Babette Lallier
had just renewed the compresses, saturated with a solution brought by
Ambroise Pare, who was charged by Catherine de' Medici to take care of
the young man. Once restored to his family, Christophe became the
object of the most devoted care. Babette, authorized by her father,
came very morning and only left the Lecamus household at night.
Christophe, the admiration of the apprentices, gave rise throughout
the quarter to various tales, which invested him with mysterious
poesy. He had borne the worst torture; the celebrated Ambroise Pare
was employing all his skill to cure him. What great deed had he done
to be thus treated? Neither Christophe nor his father said a word on
the subject. Catherine, then all-powerful, was concerned in their
silence as well as the Prince de Conde. The constant visits of Pare,
now chief surgeon of both the king and the house of Guise, whom the
queen-mother and the Lorrains allowed to treat a youth accused of
heresy, strangely complicated an affair through which no one saw
clearly. Moreover, the rector of Saint-Pierre-aux-Boeufs came several
times to visit the son of his church-warden, and these visits made the
causes of Christophe's present condition still more unintelligible to
his neighbors.

The old syndic, who had his plan, gave evasive answers to his
brother-furriers, the merchants of the neighborhood, and to all friends
who spoke to him of his son: "Yes, I am very thankful to have saved him."
--"Well, you know, it won't do to put your finger between the bark and
the tree."--"My son touched fire and came near burning up my house."
--"They took advantage of his youth; we burghers get nothing but shame
and evil by frequenting the grandees."--"This affair decides me to
make a lawyer of Christophe; the practice of law will teach him to
weigh his words and his acts."--"The young queen, who is now in
Scotland, had a great deal to do with it; but then, to be sure, my son
may have been imprudent."--"I have had cruel anxieties."--"All this
may decide me to give up my business; I do not wish ever to go to
court again."--"My son has had enough of the Reformation; it has
cracked all his joints. If it had not been for Ambroise, I don't know
what would have become of me."

Thanks to these ambiguous remarks and to the great discretion of such
conduct, it was generally averred in the neighborhood that Christophe
had seen the error of his ways; everybody thought it natural that the
old syndic should wish to get his son appointed to the Parliament, and
the rector's visits no longer seemed extraordinary. As the neighbors
reflected on the old man's anxieties they no longer thought, as they
would otherwise have done, that his ambition was inordinate. The young
lawyer, who had lain helpless for months on the bed which his family
made up for him in the old hall, was now, for the last week, able to
rise and move about by the aid of crutches. Babette's love and his
mother's tenderness had deeply touched his heart; and they, while they
had him helpless in their hands, lectured him severely on religion.
President de Thou paid his godson a visit during which he showed
himself most fatherly. Christophe, being now a solicitor of the
Parliament, must of course, he said, be Catholic; his oath would bind
him to that; and the president, who assumed not to doubt of his
godson's orthodoxy, ended his remarks by saying with great

"My son, you have been cruelly tried. I am myself ignorant of the
reasons which made the Messieurs de Guise treat you thus; but I advise
you in future to live peacefully, without entering into the troubles
of the times; for the favor of the king and queen will not be shown to
the makers of revolt. You are not important enough to play fast and
loose with the king as the Guises do. If you wish to be some day
counsellor to the Parliament remember that you cannot obtain that
noble office unless by a real and serious attachment to the royal

Nevertheless, neither President de Thou's visit, nor the seductions of
Babette, nor the urgency of his mother, were sufficient to shake the
constancy of the martyr of the Reformation. Christophe held to his
religion all the more because he had suffered for it.

"My father will never let me marry a heretic," whispered Babette in
his ear.

Christophe answered only by tears, which made the young girl silent
and thoughtful.

Old Lecamus maintained his paternal and magisterial dignity; he
observed his son and said little. The stern old man, after recovering
his dear Christophe, was dissatisfied with himself; he repented the
tenderness he had shown for this only son; but he admired him
secretly. At no period of his life did the syndic pull more wires to
reach his ends, for he saw the field ripe for the harvest so painfully
sown, and he wanted to gather the whole of it. Some days before the
morning of which we write, he had had, being alone with Christophe, a
long conversation with him in which he endeavored to discover the
secret reason of the young man's resistance. Christophe, who was not
without ambition, betrayed his faith in the Prince de Conde. The
generous promise of the prince, who, of course, was only exercising
his profession of prince, remained graven on his heart; little did he
think that Conde had sent him, mentally, to the devil in Orleans,
muttering, "A Gascon would have understood me better," when Christophe
called out a touching farewell as the prince passed the window of his

But besides this sentiment of admiration for the prince, Christophe
had also conceived a profound reverence for the great queen, who had
explained to him by a single look the necessity which compelled her to
sacrifice him; and who during his agony had given him an illimitable
promise in a single tear. During the silent months of his weakness, as
he lay there waiting for recovery, he thought over each event at Blois
and at Orleans. He weighed, one might almost say in spite of himself,
the relative worth of these two protections. He floated between the
queen and the prince. He had certainly served Catherine more than he
had served the Reformation, and in a young man both heart and mind
would naturally incline toward the queen; less because she was a queen
than because she was a woman. Under such circumstances a man will
always hope more from a woman than from a man.

"I sacrificed myself for her; what will she do for me?"

This question Christophe put to himself almost involuntarily as he
remembered the tone in which she had said the words, /Povero mio/! It
is difficult to believe how egotistical a man can become when he lies
on a bed of sickness. Everything, even the exclusive devotion of which
he is the object, drives him to think only of himself. By exaggerating
in his own mind the obligation which the Prince de Conde was under to
him he had come to expect that some office would be given to him at
the court of Navarre. Still new to the world of political life, he
forgot its contending interests and the rapid march of events which
control and force the hand of all leaders of parties; he forgot it the
more because he was practically a prisoner in solitary confinement on
his bed in that old brown room. Each party is, necessarily, ungrateful
while the struggle lasts; when it triumphs it has too many persons to
reward not to be ungrateful still. Soldiers submit to this
ingratitude; but their leaders turn against the new master at whose
side they have acted and suffered like equals for so long. Christophe,
who alone remembered his sufferings, felt himself already among the
leaders of the Reformation by the fact of his martyrdom. His father,
that old fox of commerce, so shrewd, so perspicacious, ended by
divining the secret thought of his son; consequently, all his
manoeuvres were now based on the natural expectancy to which Christophe
had yielded himself.

"Wouldn't it be a fine thing," he had said to Babette, in presence of
the family a few days before his interview with his son, "to be the
wife of a counsellor of the Parliament? You would be called /madame/!"

"You are crazy, /compere/," said Lallier. "Where would you get ten
thousand crowns' income from landed property, which a counsellor must
have, according to law; and from whom could you buy the office? No one
but the queen-mother and regent could help your son into Parliament,
and I'm afraid he's too tainted with the new opinions for that."

"What would you pay to see your daughter the wife of a counsellor?"

"Ah! you want to look into my purse, shrewd-head!" said Lallier.

Counsellor to the Parliament! The words worked powerfully in
Christophe's brain.

Sometime after this conversation, one morning when Christophe was
gazing at the river and thinking of the scene which began this
history, of the Prince de Conde, Chaudieu, La Renaudie, of his journey
to Blois,--in short, the whole story of his hopes,--his father came
and sat down beside him, scarcely concealing a joyful thought beneath
a serious manner.

"My son," he said, "after what passed between you and the leaders of
the Tumult of Amboise, they owe you enough to make the care of your
future incumbent on the house of Navarre."

"Yes," replied Christophe.

"Well," continued his father, "I have asked their permission to buy a
legal practice for you in the province of Bearn. Our good friend Pare
undertook to present the letters which I wrote on your behalf to the
Prince de Conde and the queen of Navarre. Here, read the answer of
Monsieur de Pibrac, vice-chancellor of Navarre:--

  To the Sieur Lecamus, /syndic of the guild of furriers/:

  Monseigneur le Prince de Conde desires me to express his regret
  that he cannot do what you ask for his late companion in the tower
  of Saint-Aignan, whom he perfectly remembers, and to whom,
  meanwhile, he offers the place of gendarme in his company; which
  will put your son in the way of making his mark as a man of
  courage, which he is.

  The queen of Navarre awaits an opportunity to reward the Sieur
  Christophe, and will not fail to take advantage of it.

  Upon which, Monsieur le syndic, we pray God to have you in His


At Nerac.
Chancellor of Navarre.

"Nerac, Pibrac, crack!" cried Babette. "There's no confidence to be
placed in Gascons; they think only of themselves."

Old Lecamus looked at his son, smiling scornfully.

"They propose to put on horseback a poor boy whose knees and ankles
were shattered for their sakes!" cried the mother. "What a wicked

"I shall never see you a counsellor of Navarre," said his father.

"I wish I knew what Queen Catherine would do for me, if I made a claim
upon her," said Christophe, cast down by the prince's answer.

"She made you no promise," said the old man, "but I am certain that
/she/ will never mock you like these others; she will remember your
sufferings. Still, how can the queen make a counsellor of the
Parliament out of a protestant burgher?"

"But Christophe has not abjured!" cried Babette. "He can very well
keep his private opinions secret."

"The Prince de Conde would be less disdainful of a counsellor of the
Parliament," said Lallier.

"Well, what say you, Christophe?" urged Babette.

"You are counting without the queen," replied the young lawyer.

A few days after this rather bitter disillusion, an apprentice brought
Christophe the following laconic little missive:--

  Chaudieu wishes to see his son.

"Let him come in!" cried Christophe.

"Oh! my sacred martyr!" said the minister, embracing him; "have you
recovered from your sufferings?"

"Yes, thanks to Pare."

"Thanks rather to God, who gave you the strength to endure the
torture. But what is this I hear? Have you allowed them to make you a
solicitor? Have you taken the oath of fidelity? Surely you will not
recognize that prostitute, the Roman, Catholic, and apostolic Church?"

"My father wished it."

"But ought we not to leave fathers and mothers and wives and children,
all, all, for the sacred cause of Calvinism; nay, must we not suffer
all things? Ah! Christophe, Calvin, the great Calvin, the whole party,
the whole world, the Future counts upon your courage and the grandeur
of your soul. We want your life."

It is a remarkable fact in the mind of man that the most devoted
spirits, even while devoting themselves, build romantic hopes upon
their perilous enterprises. When the prince, the soldier, and the
minister had asked Christophe, under the bridge, to convey to
Catherine the treaty which, if discovered, would in all probability
cost him his life, the lad had relied on his nerve, upon chance, upon
the powers of his mind, and confident in such hopes he bravely, nay,
audaciously put himself between those terrible adversaries, the Guises
and Catherine. During the torture he still kept saying to himself: "I
shall come out of it! it is only pain!" But when this second and
brutal demand, "Die, we want your life," was made upon a boy who was
still almost helpless, scarcely recovered from his late torture, and
clinging all the more to life because he had just seen death so near,
it was impossible for him to launch into further illusions.

Christophe answered quietly:--

"What is it now?"

"To fire a pistol courageously, as Stuart did on Minard."

"On whom?"

"The Duc de Guise."

"A murder?"

"A vengeance. Have you forgotten the hundred gentlemen massacred on
the scaffold at Amboise? A child who saw that butchery, the little
d'Aubigne cried out, 'They have slaughtered France!'"

"You should receive the blows of others and give none; that is the
religion of the gospel," said Christophe. "If you imitate the
Catholics in their cruelty, of what good is it to reform the Church?"

"Oh! Christophe, they have made you a lawyer, and now you argue!" said

"No, my friend," replied the young man, "but parties are ungrateful;
and you will be, both you and yours, nothing more than puppets of the

"Christophe, if you could hear Calvin, you would know how we wear them
like gloves! The Bourbons are the gloves, we are the hand."

"Read that," said Christophe, giving Chaudieu Pibrac's letter
containing the answer of the Prince de Conde.

"Oh! my son; you are ambitious, you can no longer make the sacrifice
of yourself!--I pity you!"

With those fine words Chaudieu turned and left him.

Some days after that scene, the Lallier family and the Lecamus family
were gathered together in honor of the formal betrothal of Christophe
and Babette, in the old brown hall, from which Christophe's bed had
been removed; for he was now able to drag himself about and even mount
the stairs without his crutches. It was nine o'clock in the evening
and the company were awaiting Ambroise Pare. The family notary sat
before a table on which lay various contracts. The furrier was selling
his house and business to his head-clerk, who was to pay down forty
thousand francs for the house and then mortgage it as security for the
payment of the goods, for which, however, he paid twenty thousand
francs on account.

Lecamus was also buying for his son a magnificent stone house, built
by Philibert de l'Orme in the rue Saint-Pierre-aux-Boeufs, which he
gave to Christophe as a marriage portion. He also took two hundred
thousand francs from his own fortune, and Lallier gave as much more,
for the purchase of a fine seignorial manor in Picardy, the price of
which was five hundred thousand francs. As this manor was a tenure
from the Crown it was necessary to obtain letters-patent (called
/rescriptions/) granted by the king, and also to make payment to the
Crown of considerable feudal dues. The marriage had been postponed
until this royal favor was obtained. Though the burghers of Paris had
lately acquired the right to purchase manors, the wisdom of the privy
council had been exercised in putting certain restrictions on the sale
of those estates which were dependencies of the Crown; and the one
which old Lecamus had had in his eye for the last dozen years was
among them. Ambroise was pledged to bring the royal ordinance that
evening; and the old furrier went and came from the hall to the door
in a state of impatience which showed how great his long-repressed
ambition had been. Ambroise at last appeared.

"My old friend!" cried the surgeon, in an agitated manner, with a
glance at the supper table, "let me see your linen. Good. Oh! you must
have wax candles. Quick, quick! get out your best things!"

"Why? what is it all about?" asked the rector of

"The queen-mother and the young king are coming to sup with you,"
replied the surgeon. "They are only waiting for an old counsellor who
agreed to sell his place to Christophe, and with whom Monsieur de Thou
has concluded a bargain. Don't appear to know anything; I have escaped
from the Louvre to warn you."

In a second the whole family were astir; Christophe's mother and
Babette's aunt bustled about with the celerity of housekeepers
suddenly surprised. But in spite of the apparent confusion into which
the news had thrown the entire family, the precautions were promptly
made, with an activity that was nothing short of marvellous.
Christophe, amazed and confounded by such a favor, was speechless,
gazing mechanically at what went on.

"The queen and king here in our house!" said the old mother.

"The queen!" repeated Babette. "What must we say and do?"

In less than an hour all was changed; the hall was decorated; the
supper-table sparkled. Presently the noise of horses sounded in the
street. The light of torches carried by the horsemen of the escort
brought all the burghers of the neighborhood to their windows. The
noise soon subsided and the escort rode away, leaving the queen-mother
and her son, King Charles IX., Charles de Gondi, now Grand-master of
the wardrobe and governor of the king, Monsieur de Thou, Pinard,
secretary of State, the old counsellor, and two pages, under the
arcade before the door.

"My worthy people," said the queen as she entered, "the king, my son,
and I have come to sign the marriage-contract of the son of my
furrier,--but only on condition that he remains a Catholic. A man must
be a Catholic to enter Parliament; he must be a Catholic to own land
which derives from the Crown; he must be a Catholic if he would sit at
the king's table. That is so, is it not, Pinard?"

The secretary of State entered and showed the letters-patent.

"If we are not all Catholics," said the little king, "Pinard will
throw those papers into the fire. But we are all Catholics here, I
think," he continued, casting his somewhat haughty eyes over the

"Yes, sire," replied Christophe, bending his injured knees with
difficulty, and kissing the hand which the king held out to him.

Queen Catherine stretched out her hand to Christophe and, raising him
hastily, drew him aside into a corner, saying in a low voice:--

"Ah ca! my lad, no evasions here. Are you playing above-board now?"

"Yes, madame," he answered, won by the dazzling reward and the honor
done him by the grateful queen.

"Very good. Monsieur Lecamus, the king, my son, and I permit you to
purchase the office of the goodman Groslay, counsellor of the
Parliament, here present. Young man, you will follow, I hope, in the
steps of your predecessor."

De Thou advanced and said: "I will answer for him, madame."

"Very well; draw up the deed, notary," said Pinard.

"Inasmuch as the king our master does us the favor to sign my
daughter's marriage contract," cried Lallier, "I will pay the whole
price of the manor."

"The ladies may sit down," said the young king, graciously: "As a
wedding present to the bride I remit, with my mother's consent, all my
dues and rights in the manor."

Old Lecamus and Lallier fell on their knees and kissed the king's

"/Mordieu/! sire, what quantities of money these burghers have!"
whispered de Gondi in his ear.

The young king laughed.

"As their Highnesses are so kind," said old Lecamus, "will they permit
me to present to them my successor, and ask them to continue to him
the royal patent of furrier to their Majesties?"

"Let us see him," said the king.

Lecamus led forward his successor, who was livid with fear.

"If my mother consents, we will now sit down to table," said the
little king.

Old Lecamus had bethought himself of presenting to the king a silver
goblet which he had bought of Benvenuto Cellini when the latter stayed
in Paris at the hotel de Nesle. This treasure of art had cost the
furrier no less than two thousand crowns.

"Oh! my dear mother, see this beautiful work!" cried the young king,
lifting the goblet by its stem.

"It was made in Florence," replied Catherine.

"Pardon me, madame," said Lecamus, "it was made in Paris by a
Florentine. All that is made in Florence would belong to your Majesty;
that which is made in France is the king's."

"I accept it, my good man," cried Charles IX.; "and it shall
henceforth be my particular drinking cup."

"It is beautiful enough," said the queen, examining the masterpiece,
"to be included among the crown-jewels. Well, Maitre Ambroise," she
whispered in the surgeon's ear, with a glance at Christophe, "have you
taken good care of him? Will he walk again?"

"He will run," replied the surgeon, smiling. "Ah! you have cleverly
made him a renegade."

"Ha!" said the queen, with the levity for which she has been blamed,
though it was only on the surface, "the Church won't stand still for
want of one monk!"

The supper was gay; the queen thought Babette pretty, and, in the
regal manner which was natural to her, she slipped upon the girl's
finger a diamond ring which compensated in value for the goblet
bestowed upon the king. Charles IX., who afterwards became rather too
fond of these invasions of burgher homes, supped with a good appetite.
Then, at a word from his new governor (who, it is said, was instructed
to make him forget the virtuous teachings of Cypierre), he obliged all
the men present to drink so deeply that the queen, observing that the
gaiety was about to become too noisy, rose to leave the room. As she
rose, Christophe, his father, and the two women took torches and
accompanied her to the shop-door. There Christophe ventured to touch
the queen's wide sleeve and to make her a sign that he had something
to say. Catherine stopped, made a gesture to the father and the two
women to leave her, and said, turning to Christophe:

"What is it?"

"It may serve you to know, madame," replied Christophe, whispering in
her ear, "that the Duc de Guise is being followed by assassins."

"You are a loyal subject," said Catherine, smiling, "and I shall never
forget you."

She held out to him her hand, so celebrated for its beauty, first
ungloving it, which was indeed a mark of favor,--so much so that
Christophe, then and there, became altogether royalist as he kissed
that adorable hand.

"So they mean to rid me of that bully without my having a finger in
it," thought she as she replaced her glove.

Then she mounted her mule and returned to the Louvre, attended by her
two pages.

Christophe went back to the supper-table, but was thoughtful and
gloomy even while he drank; the fine, austere face of Ambroise Pare
seemed to reproach him for his apostasy. But subsequent events
justified the manoeuvres of the old syndic. Christophe would certainly
not have escaped the massacre of Saint-Bartholomew; his wealth and his
landed estates would have made him a mark for the murderers. History
has recorded the cruel fate of the wife of Lallier's successor, a
beautiful woman, whose naked body hung by the hair for three days from
one of the buttresses of the Pont au Change. Babette trembled as she
thought that she, too, might have endured the same treatment if
Christophe had continued a Calvinist,--for such became the name of the
Reformers. Calvin's personal ambition was thus gratified, though not
until after his death.

Such was the origin of the celebrated parliamentary house of Lecamus.
Tallemant des Reaux is in error when he states that they came
originally from Picardy. It is only true that the Lecamus family found
it for their interest in after days to date from the time the old
furrier bought their principal estate, which, as we have said, was
situated in Picardy. Christophe's son, who succeeded him under Louis
XIII., was the father of the rich president Lecamus who built, in the
reign of Louis XIV., that magnificent mansion which shares with the
hotel Lambert the admiration of Parisians and foreigners, and was
assuredly one of the finest buildings in Paris. It may still be seen
in the rue Thorigny, though at the beginning of the Revolution it was
pillaged as having belonged to Monsieur de Juigne, the archbishop of
Paris. All the decorations were then destroyed; and the tenants who
lodge there have greatly damaged it; nevertheless this palace, which
is reached through the old house in the rue de la Pelleterie, still
shows the noble results obtained in former days by the spirit of
family. It may be doubted whether modern individualism, brought about
by the equal division of inheritances, will ever raise such noble

                               PART II

                     THE SECRETS OF THE RUGGIERI


                     THE COURT UNDER CHARLES IX.

Between eleven o'clock and midnight toward the end of October, 1573,
two Italians, Florentines and brothers, Albert de Gondi, Duc de Retz
and marshal of France, and Charles de Gondi la Tour, Grand-master of
the robes of Charles IX., were sitting on the roof of a house in the
rue Saint-Honore, at the edge of a gutter. This gutter was one of
those stone channels which in former days were constructed below the
roofs of houses to receive the rain-water, discharging it at regular
intervals through those long gargoyles carved in the shape of
fantastic animals with gaping mouths. In spite of the zeal with which
our present general pulls down and demolishes venerable buildings,
there still existed many of these projecting gutters until, quite
recently, an ordinance of the police as to water-conduits compelled
them to disappear. But even so, a few of these carved gargoyles still
remain, chiefly in the /quartier/ Saint-Antoine, where low rents and
values hinder the building of new storeys under the eaves of the

It certainly seems strange that two personages invested with such
important offices should be playing the part of cats. But whosoever
will burrow into the historic treasures of those days, when personal
interests jostled and thwarted each other around the throne till the
whole political centre of France was like a skein of tangled thread,
will readily understand that the two Florentines were cats indeed, and
very much in their places in a gutter. Their devotion to the person of
the queen-mother, Catherine de' Medici--who had brought them to the
court of France and foisted them into their high offices--compelled
them not to recoil before any of the consequences of their intrusion.
But to explain how and why these courtiers were thus perched, it is
necessary to relate a scene which had taken place an hour earlier not
far from this very gutter, in that beautiful brown room of the Louvre,
all that now remains to us of the apartments of Henri II., in which
after supper the courtiers had been paying court to the two queens,
Catherine de' Medici and Elizabeth of Austria, and to their son and
husband King Charles IX.

In those days the majority of the burghers and great lords supped at
six, or at seven o'clock, but the more refined and elegant supped at
eight or even nine. This repast was the dinner of to-day. Many persons
erroneously believe that etiquette was invented by Louis XIV.; on the
contrary it was introduced into France by Catherine de' Medici, who
made it so severe that the Connetable de Montmorency had more
difficulty in obtaining permission to enter the court of the Louvre on
horseback than in winning his sword; moreover, that unheard-of
distinction was granted to him only on account of his great age.
Etiquette, which was, it is true, slightly relaxed under the first two
Bourbon kings, took an Oriental form under the Great Monarch, for it
was introduced from the Eastern Empire, which derived it from Persia.
In 1573 few persons had the right to enter the courtyard of the Louvre
with their servants and torches (under Louis XIV. the coaches of none
but dukes and peers were allowed to pass under the peristyle);
moreover, the cost of obtaining entrance after supper to the royal
apartments was very heavy. The Marechal de Retz, whom we have just
seen, perched on a gutter, offered on one occasion a thousand crowns
of that day, six thousand francs of our present money, to the usher of
the king's cabinet to be allowed to speak to Henri III. on a day when
he was not on duty. To an historian who knows the truth, it is
laughable to see the well-known picture of the courtyard at Blois, in
which the artist has introduced a courtier on horseback!

On the present occasion, therefore, none but the most eminent
personages in the kingdom were in the royal apartments. The queen,
Elizabeth of Austria, and her mother-in-law, Catherine de' Medici,
were seated together on the left of the fireplace. On the other side
sat the king, buried in an arm-chair, affecting a lethargy consequent
on digestion,--for he had just supped like a prince returned from
hunting; possibly he was seeking to avoid conversation in presence of
so many persons who were spies upon his thoughts. The courtiers stood
erect and uncovered at the end of the room. Some talked in a low
voice; others watched the king, awaiting the bestowal of a look or a
word. Occasionally one was called up by the queen-mother, who talked
with him for a few moments; another risked saying a word to the king,
who replied with either a nod or a brief sentence. A German nobleman,
the Comte de Solern, stood at the corner of the fireplace behind the
young queen, the granddaughter of Charles V., whom he had accompanied
into France. Near to her on a stool sat her lady of honor, the
Comtesse de Fiesque, a Strozzi, and a relation of Catherine de'
Medici. The beautiful Madame de Sauves, a descendant of Jacques Coeur,
mistress of the king of Navarre, then of the king of Poland, and
lastly of the Duc d'Alencon, had been invited to supper; but she stood
like the rest of the court, her husband's rank (that of secretary of
State) giving her no right to be seated. Behind these two ladies stood
the two Gondis, talking to them. They alone of this dismal assembly
were smiling. Albert Gondi, now Duc de Retz, marshal of France, and
gentleman of the bed-chamber, had been deputed to marry the queen by
proxy at Spire. In the first line of courtiers nearest to the king
stood the Marechal de Tavannes, who was present on court business;
Neufville de Villeroy, one of the ablest bankers of the period, who
laid the foundation of the great house of that name; Birago and
Chiverni, gentlemen of the queen-mother, who, knowing her preference
for her son Henri (the brother whom Charles IX. regarded as an enemy),
attached themselves especially to him; then Strozzi, Catherine's
cousin; and finally, a number of great lords, among them the old
Cardinal de Lorraine and his nephew, the young Duc de Guise, who were
held at a distance by the king and his mother. These two leaders of
the Holy Alliance, and later of the League (founded in conjunction
with Spain a few years earlier), affected the submission of servants
who are only waiting an opportunity to make themselves masters.
Catherine and Charles IX. watched each other with close attention.

At this gloomy court, as gloomy as the room in which it was held, each
individual had his or her own reasons for being sad or thoughtful. The
young queen, Elizabeth, was a prey to the tortures of jealousy, and
could ill-disguise them, though she smiled upon her husband, whom she
passionately adored, good and pious woman that she was! Marie Touchet,
the only mistress Charles IX. ever had and to whom he was loyally
faithful, had lately returned from the chateau de Fayet in Dauphine,
whither she had gone to give birth to a child. She brought back to
Charles IX. a son, his only son, Charles de Valois, first Comte
d'Auvergne, and afterward Duc d'Angouleme. The poor queen, in addition
to the mortification of her abandonment, now endured the pang of
knowing that her rival had borne a son to her husband while she had
brought him only a daughter. And these were not her only troubles and
disillusions, for Catherine de' Medici, who had seemed her friend in
the first instance, now, out of policy, favored her betrayal,
preferring to serve the mistress rather than the wife of the king,
--for the following reason.

When Charles IX. openly avowed his passion for Marie Touchet,
Catherine showed favor to the girl in the interests of her own desire
for domination. Marie Touchet, who was very young when brought to
court, came at an age when all the noblest sentiments are predominant.
She loved the king for himself alone. Frightened at the fate to which
ambition had led the Duchesse de Valentinois (better known as Diane de
Poitiers), she dreaded the queen-mother, and greatly preferred her
simple happiness to grandeur. Perhaps she thought that lovers as young
as the king and herself could never struggle successfully against the
queen-mother. As the daughter of Jean Touchet, Sieur de Beauvais and
Quillard, she was born between the burgher class and the lower
nobility; she had none of the inborn ambitions of the Pisseleus and
Saint-Valliers, girls of rank, who battled for their families with the
hidden weapons of love. Marie Touchet, without family or friends,
spared Catherine de' Medici all antagonism with her son's mistress;
the daughter of a great house would have been her rival. Jean Touchet,
the father, one of the finest wits of the time, a man to whom poets
dedicated their works, wanted nothing at court. Marie, a young girl
without connections, intelligent and well-educated, and also simple
and artless, whose desires would probably never be aggressive to the
royal power, suited the queen-mother admirably. In short, she made the
parliament recognize the son to whom Marie Touchet had just given
birth in the month of April, and she allowed him to take the title of
Comte d'Auvergne, assuring Charles IX. that she would leave the boy
her personal property, the counties of Auvergne and Laraguais. At a
later period, Marguerite de Valois, queen of Navarre, contested this
legacy after she was queen of France, and the parliament annulled it.
But later still, Louis XIII., out of respect for the Valois blood,
indemnified the Comte d'Auvergne by the gift of the duchy of

Catherine had already given Marie Touchet, who asked nothing, the
manor of Belleville, an estate close to Vincennes which carried no
title; and thither she went whenever the king hunted and spent the
night at the castle. It was in this gloomy fortress that Charles IX.
passed the greater part of his last years, ending his life there,
according to some historians, as Louis XII. had ended his.

The queen-mother kept close watch upon her son. All the occupations of
his personal life, outside of politics, were reported to her. The king
had begun to look upon his mother as an enemy, but the kind intentions
she expressed toward his son diverted his suspicions for a time.
Catherine's motives in this matter were never understood by Queen
Elizabeth, who, according to Brantome, was one of the gentlest queens
that ever reigned, who never did harm or even gave pain to any one,
"and was careful to read her prayer-book secretly." But this
single-minded princess began at last to see the precipices yawning
around the throne,--a dreadful discovery, which might indeed have made
her quail; it was some such remembrance, no doubt, that led her to say
to one of her ladies, after the death of the king, in reply to a
condolence that she had no son, and could not, therefore, be regent and

"Ah! I thank God that I have no son. I know well what would have
happened. My poor son would have been despoiled and wronged like the
king, my husband, and I should have been the cause of it. God had
mercy on the State; he has done all for the best."

This princess, whose portrait Brantome thinks he draws by saying that
her complexion was as beautiful and delicate as the ladies of her
suite were charming and agreeable, and that her figure was fine though
rather short, was of little account at her own court. Suffering from a
double grief, her saddened attitude added another gloomy tone to a
scene which most young queens, less cruelly injured, might have
enlivened. The pious Elizabeth proved at this crisis that the
qualities which are the shining glory of women in the ordinary ways of
life can be fatal to a sovereign. A princess able to occupy herself
with other things besides her prayer-book might have been a useful
helper to Charles IX., who found no prop to lean on, either in his
wife or in his mistress.

The queen-mother, as she sat there in that brown room, was closely
observing the king, who, during supper, had exhibited a boisterous
good-humor which she felt to be assumed in order to mask some
intention against her. This sudden gaiety contrasted too vividly with
the struggle of mind he endeavored to conceal by his eagerness in
hunting, and by an almost maniacal toil at his forge, where he spent
many hours in hammering iron; and Catherine was not deceived by it.
Without being able even to guess which of the statesmen about the king
was employed to prepare or negotiate it (for Charles IX. contrived to
mislead his mother's spies), Catherine felt no doubt whatever that
some scheme for her overthrow was being planned. The unlooked-for
presence of Tavannes, who arrived at the same time as Strozzi, whom
she herself had summoned, gave her food for thought. Strong in the
strength of her political combination, Catherine was above the reach
of circumstances; but she was powerless against some hidden violence.
As many persons are ignorant of the actual state of public affairs
then so complicated by the various parties that distracted France, the
leaders of which had each their private interests to carry out, it is
necessary to describe, in a few words, the perilous game in which the
queen-mother was now engaged. To show Catherine de' Medici in a new
light is, in fact, the root and stock of our present history.

Two words explain this woman, so curiously interesting to study, a
woman whose influence has left such deep impressions upon France.
Those words are: Power and Astrology. Exclusively ambitious, Catherine
de' Medici had no other passion than that of power. Superstitious and
fatalistic, like so many superior men, she had no sincere belief
except in occult sciences. Unless this double mainspring is known, the
conduct of Catherine de' Medici will remain forever misunderstood. As
we picture her faith in judicial astrology, the light will fall upon
two personages, who are, in fact, the philosophical subjects of this

There lived a man for whom Catherine cared more than for any of her
children; his name was Cosmo Ruggiero. He lived in a house belonging
to her, the hotel de Soissons; she made him her supreme adviser. It
was his duty to tell her whether the stars ratified the advice and
judgment of her ordinary counsellors. Certain remarkable antecedents
warranted the power which Cosmo Ruggiero retained over his mistress to
her last hour. One of the most learned men of the sixteenth century
was physician to Lorenzo de' Medici, Duc d'Urbino, Catherine's father.
This physician was called Ruggiero the Elder (Vecchio Ruggier and
Roger l'Ancien in the French authors who have written on alchemy), to
distinguish him from his two sons, Lorenzo Ruggiero, called the Great
by cabalistic writers, and Cosmo Ruggiero, Catherine's astrologer,
also called Roger by several French historians. In France it was the
custom to pronounce the name in general as Ruggieri. Ruggiero the
elder was so highly valued by the Medici that the two dukes, Cosmo and
Lorenzo, stood godfathers to his two sons. He cast, in concert with
the famous mathematician, Basilio, the horoscope of Catherine's
nativity, in his official capacity as mathematicion, astrologer, and
physician to the house of Medici; three offices which are often

At the period of which we write the occult sciences were studied with
an ardor that may surprise the incredulous minds of our own age, which
is supremely analytical. Perhaps such minds may find in this
historical sketch the dawn, or rather the germ, of the positive
sciences which have flowered in the nineteenth century, though without
the poetic grandeur given to them by the audacious Seekers of the
sixteenth, who, instead of using them solely for mechanical
industries, magnified Art and fertilized Thought by their means. The
protection universally given to occult science by the sovereigns of
those days was justified by the noble creations of many inventors,
who, starting in quest of the Great Work (the so-called philosophers'
stone), attained to astonishing results. At no period were the
sovereigns of the world more eager for the study of these mysteries.
The Fuggers of Augsburg, in whom all modern Luculluses will recognize
their princes, and all bankers their masters, were gifted with powers
of calculation it would be difficult to surpass. Well, those practical
men, who loaned the funds of all Europe to the sovereigns of the
sixteenth century (as deeply in debt as the kings of the present day),
those illustrious guests of Charles V. were sleeping partners in the
crucibles of Paracelsus. At the beginning of the sixteenth century,
Ruggiero the elder was the head of that secret university from which
issued the Cardans, the Nostradamuses, and the Agrippas (all in their
turn physicians of the house of Valois); also the astronomers,
astrologers, and alchemists who surrounded the princes of Christendom
and were more especially welcomed and protected in France by Catherine
de' Medici. In the nativity drawn by Basilio and Ruggiero the elder,
the principal events of Catherine's life were foretold with a
correctness which is quite disheartening for those who deny the power
of occult science. This horoscope predicted the misfortunes which
during the siege of Florence imperilled the beginning of her life;
also her marriage with a son of the king of France, the unexpected
succession of that son to his father's throne, the birth of her
children, their number, and the fact that three of her sons would be
kings in succession, that two of her daughters would be queens, and
that all of them were destined to die without posterity. This
prediction was so fully realized that many historians have assumed
that it was written after the events.

It is well known that Nostradamus took to the chateau de Chaumont,
whither Catherine went after the conspiracy of La Renaudie, a woman
who possessed the faculty of reading the future. Now, during the reign
of Francois II., while the queen had with her her four sons, all young
and in good health, and before the marriage of her daughter Elizabeth
with Philip II., king of Spain, or that of her daughter Marguerite
with Henri de Bourbon, king of Navarre (afterward Henri IV.),
Nostradamus and this woman reiterated the circumstances formerly
predicted in the famous nativity. This woman, who was no doubt gifted
with second sight, and who belonged to the great school of Seekers of
the Great Work, though the particulars of her life and name are lost
to history, stated that the last crowned child would be assassinated.
Having placed the queen-mother in front of a magic mirror, in which
was reflected a wheel on the several spokes of which were the faces of
her children, the sorceress set the wheel revolving, and Catherine
counted the number of revolutions which it made. Each revolution was
for each son one year of his reign. Henri IV. was also put upon the
wheel, which then made twenty-four rounds, and the woman (some
historians have said it was a man) told the frightened queen that
Henri de Bourbon would be king of France and reign that number of
years. From that time forth Catherine de' Medici vowed a mortal hatred
to the man whom she knew would succeed the last of her Valois sons,
who was to die assassinated. Anxious to know what her own death would
be, she was warned to beware of Saint-Germain. Supposing, therefore,
that she would be either put to death or imprisoned in the chateau de
Saint-Germain, she would never so much as put her foot there, although
that residence was far more convenient for her political plans, owing
to its proximity to Paris, than the other castles to which she
retreated with the king during the troubles. When she was taken
suddenly ill, a few days after the murder of the Duc de Guise at
Blois, she asked the name of the bishop who came to assist her. Being
told it was Saint-Germain, she cried out, "I am dead!" and did
actually die on the morrow,--having, moreover, lived the exact number
of years given to her by all her horoscopes.

These predictions, which were known to the Cardinal de Lorraine, who
regarded them as witchcraft, were now in process of realization.
Francois II. had reigned his two revolutions of the wheel, and Charles
IX. was now making his last turn. If Catherine said the strange words
which history has attributed to her when her son Henri started for
Poland,--"You will soon return,"--they must be set down to her faith
in occult science and not to the intention of poisoning Charles IX.

Many other circumstances corroborated Catherine's faith in the occult
sciences. The night before the tournament at which Henri II. was
killed, Catherine saw the fatal blow in a dream. Her astrological
council, then composed of Nostradamus and the two Ruggieri, had
already predicted to her the death of the king. History has recorded
the efforts made by Catherine to persuade her husband not to enter the
lists. The prognostic, and the dream produced by the prognostic, were
verified. The memoirs of the day relate another fact that was no less
singular. The courier who announced the victory of Moncontour arrived
in the night, after riding with such speed that he killed three
horses. The queen-mother was awakened to receive the news, to which
she replied, "I knew it already." In fact, as Brantome relates, she
had told of her son's triumph the evening before, and narrated several
circumstances of the battle. The astrologer of the house of Bourbon
predicted that the youngest of all the princes descended from
Saint-Louis (the son of Antoine de Bourbon) would ascend the throne of
France. This prediction, related by Sully, was accomplished in the
precise terms of the horoscope; which led Henri IV. to say that by
dint of lying these people sometimes hit the truth. However that may
be, if most of the great minds of that epoch believed in this vast
science,--called Magic by the masters of judicial astrology, and
Sorcery by the public,--they were justified in doing so by the
fulfilment of horoscopes.

It was for the use of Cosmo Ruggiero, her mathematician, astronomer,
and astrologer, that Catherine de' Medici erected the tower behind the
Halle aux Bles,--all that now remains of the hotel de Soissons. Cosmo
Ruggiero possessed, like confessors, a mysterious influence, the
possession of which, like them again, sufficed him. He cherished an
ambitious thought superior to all vulgar ambitions. This man, whom
dramatists and romance-writers depict as a juggler, owned the rich
abbey of Saint-Mahe in Lower Brittany, and refused many high
ecclesiastical dignities; the gold which the superstitious passions of
the age poured into his coffers sufficed for his secret enterprise;
and the queen's hand, stretched above his head, preserved every hair
of it from danger.


                       SCHEMES AGAINST SCHEMES

The thirst for power which consumed the queen-mother, her desire for
dominion, was so great that in order to retain it she had, as we have
seen, allied herself to the Guises, those enemies of the throne; to
keep the reins of power, now obtained, within her hands, she was using
every means, even to the sacrifice of her friends and that of her
children. This woman, of whom one of her enemies said at her death,
"It is more than a queen, it is monarchy itself that has died,"--this
woman could not exist without the intrigues of government, as a
gambler can live only by the emotions of play. Although she was an
Italian of the voluptuous race of the Medici, the Calvinists who
calumniated her never accused her of having a lover. A great admirer
of the maxim, "Divide to reign," she had learned the art of
perpetually pitting one force against another. No sooner had she
grasped the reins of power than she was forced to keep up dissensions
in order to neutralize the strength of two rival houses, and thus save
the Crown. Catherine invented the game of political see-saw (since
imitated by all princes who find themselves in a like situation), by
instigating, first the Calvinists against the Guises, and then the
Guises against the Calvinists. Next, after pitting the two religions
against each other in the heart of the nation, Catherine instigated
the Duc d'Anjou against his brother Charles IX. After neutralizing
events by opposing them to one another, she neutralized men, by
holding the thread of all their interests in her hands. But so fearful
a game, which needs the head of a Louis XI. to play it, draws down
inevitably the hatred of all parties upon the player, who condemns
himself forever to the necessity of conquering; for one lost game will
turn every selfish interest into an enemy.

The greater part of the reign of Charles IX. witnessed the triumph of
the domestic policy of this astonishing woman. What adroit persuasion
must Catherine have employed to have obtained the command of the
armies for the Duc d'Anjou under a young and brave king, thirsting for
glory, capable of military achievement, generous, and in presence,
too, of the Connetable de Montmorency. In the eyes of the statesmen of
Europe the Duc d'Anjou had all the honors of the Saint-Bartholomew,
and Charles IX. all the odium. After inspiring the king with a false
and secret jealousy of his brother, she used that passion to wear out
by the intrigues of fraternal jealousy the really noble qualities of
Charles IX. Cypierre, the king's first governor, and Amyot, his first
tutor, had made him so great a man, they had paved the way for so
noble a reign, that the queen-mother began to hate her son as soon as
she found reason to fear the loss of the power she had so slowly and
so painfully obtained. On these general grounds most historians have
believed that Catherine de' Medici felt a preference for Henri III.;
but her conduct at the period of which we are now writing, proves the
absolute indifference of her heart toward all her children.

When the Duc d'Anjou went to reign in Poland Catherine was deprived of
the instrument by which she had worked to keep the king's passions
occupied in domestic intrigues, which neutralized his energy in other
directions. She then set up the conspiracy of La Mole and Coconnas, in
which her youngest son, the Duc d'Alencon (afterwards Duc d'Anjou, on
the accession of Henri III.) took part, lending himself very willingly
to his mother's wishes, and displaying an ambition much encouraged by
his sister Marguerite, then queen of Navarre. This secret conspiracy
had now reached the point to which Catherine sought to bring it. Its
object was to put the young duke and his brother-in-law, the king of
Navarre, at the head of the Calvinists, to seize the person of Charles
IX., and imprison that king without an heir,--leaving the throne to
the Duc d'Alencon, whose intention it was to establish Calvinism as
the religion of France. Calvin, as we have already said, had obtained,
a few days before his death, the reward he had so deeply coveted,--the
Reformation was now called Calvinism in his honor.

If Le Laboureur and other sensible writers had not already proved that
La Mole and Coconnas,--arrested fifty nights after the day on which
our present history begins, and beheaded the following April,--even,
we say, if it had not been made historically clear that these men were
the victims of the queen-mother's policy, the part which Cosmo
Ruggiero took in this affair would go far to show that she secretly
directed their enterprise. Ruggiero, against whom the king had
suspicions, and for whom he cherished a hatred the motives of which we
are about to explain, was included in the prosecution. He admitted
having given to La Mole a wax figure representing the king, which was
pierced through the heart by two needles. This method of casting
spells constituted a crime, which, in those days, was punished by
death. It presents one of the most startling and infernal images of
hatred that humanity could invent; it pictures admirably the magnetic
and terrible working in the occult world of a constant malevolent
desire surrounding the person doomed to death; the effects of which on
the person are exhibited by the figure of wax. The law in those days
thought, and thought justly, that a desire to which an actual form was
given should be regarded as a crime of /lese majeste/. Charles IX.
demanded the death of Ruggiero; Catherine, more powerful than her son,
obtained from the Parliament, through the young counsellor, Lecamus, a
commutation of the sentence, and Cosmo was sent to the galleys. The
following year, on the death of the king, he was pardoned by a decree
of Henri III., who restored his pension, and received him at court.

But, to return now to the moment of which we are writing, Catherine
had, by this time, struck so many blows on the heart of her son that
he was eagerly desirous of casting off her yoke. During the absence of
Marie Touchet, Charles IX., deprived of his usual occupation, had
taken to observing everything about him. He cleverly set traps for the
persons in whom he trusted most, in order to test their fidelity. He
spied on his mother's actions, concealing from her all knowledge of
his own, employing for this deception the evil qualities she had
fostered in him. Consumed by a desire to blot out the horror excited
in France by the Saint-Bartholomew, he busied himself actively in
public affairs; he presided at the Council, and tried to seize the
reins of government by well-laid schemes. Though the queen-mother
endeavored to check these attempts of her son by employing all the
means of influence over his mind which her maternal authority and a
long habit of domineering gave her, his rush into distrust was so
vehement that he went too far at the first bound ever to return from
it. The day on which his mother's speech to the king of Poland was
reported to him, Charles IX., conscious of his failing health,
conceived the most horrible suspicions, and when such thoughts take
possession of the mind of a son and a king nothing can remove them. In
fact, on his deathbed, at the moment when he confided his wife and
daughter to Henri IV., he began to put the latter on his guard against
Catherine, so that she cried out passionately, endeavoring to silence
him, "Do not say that, monsieur!"

Though Charles IX. never ceased to show her the outward respect of
which she was so tenacious that she would never call the kings her
sons anything but "Monsieur," the queen-mother had detected in her
son's manner during the last few months an ill-disguised purpose of
vengeance. But clever indeed must be the man who counted on taking
Catherine unawares. She held ready in her hand at this moment the
conspiracy of the Duke d'Alencon and La Mole, in order to counteract,
by another fraternal struggle, the efforts Charles IX. was making
toward emancipation. But, before employing this means, she wanted to
remove his distrust of her, which would render impossible their future
reconciliation; for was he likely to restore power to the hands of a
mother whom he thought capable of poisoning him? She felt herself at
this moment in such serious danger that she had sent for Strozzi, her
relation and a soldier noted for his promptitude of action. She took
counsel in secret with Birago and the two Gondis, and never did she so
frequently consult her oracle, Cosmo Ruggiero, as at the present

Though the habit of dissimulation, together with advancing age, had
given the queen-mother that well-known abbess face, with its haughty
and macerated mask, expressionless yet full of depth, inscrutable yet
vigilant, remarked by all who have studied her portrait, the courtiers
now observed some clouds on her icy countenance. No sovereign was ever
so imposing as this woman from the day when she succeeded in
restraining the Guises after the death of Francois II. Her black
velvet cap, made with a point upon the forehead (for she never
relinquished her widow's mourning) seemed a species of feminine cowl
around the cold, imperious face, to which, however, she knew how to
give, at the right moment, a seductive Italian charm. Catherine de'
Medici was so well made that she was accused of inventing side-saddles
to show the shape of her legs, which were absolutely perfect. Women
followed her example in this respect throughout Europe, which even
then took its fashions from France. Those who desire to bring this
grand figure before their minds will find that the scene now taking
place in the brown hall of the Louvre presents it in a striking

The two queens, different in spirit, in beauty, in dress, and now
estranged,--one naive and thoughtful, the other thoughtful and gravely
abstracted,--were far too preoccupied to think of giving the order
awaited by the courtiers for the amusements of the evening. The
carefully concealed drama, played for the last six months by the
mother and son was more than suspected by many of the courtiers; but
the Italians were watching it with special anxiety, for Catherine's
failure involved their ruin.

During this evening Charles IX., weary with the day's hunting, looked
to be forty years old. He had reached the last stages of the malady of
which he died, the symptoms of which were such that many reflecting
persons were justified in thinking that he was poisoned. According to
de Thou (the Tacitus of the Valois) the surgeons found suspicious
spots--/ex causa incognita reperti livores/--on his body. Moreover,
his funeral was even more neglected than that of Francois II. The body
was conducted from Saint-Lazare to Saint-Denis by Brantome and a few
archers of the guard under command of the Comte de Solern. This
circumstances, coupled with the supposed hatred of the mother to the
son, may or may not give color to de Thou's supposition, but it proves
how little affection Catherine felt for any of her children,--a want
of feeling which may be explained by her implicit faith in the
predictions of judicial astrology. This woman was unable to feel
affection for the instruments which were destined to fail her. Henri
III. was the last king under whom her reign of power was to last; that
was the sole consideration of her heart and mind.

In these days, however, we can readily believe that Charles IX. died a
natural death. His excesses, his manner of life, the sudden
development of his faculties, his last spasmodic attempt to recover
the reins of power, his desire to live, the abuse of his vital
strength, his final sufferings and last pleasures, all prove to an
impartial mind that he died of consumption, a disease scarcely studied
at that time, and very little understood, the symptoms of which might,
not unnaturally, lead Charles IX. to believe himself poisoned. The
real poison which his mother gave him was in the fatal counsels of the
courtiers whom she placed about him,--men who led him to waste his
intellectual as well as his physical vigor, thus bringing on a malady
which was purely fortuitous and not constitutional. Under these
harrowing circumstances, Charles IX. displayed a gloomy majesty of
demeanor which was not unbecoming to a king. The solemnity of his
secret thoughts was reflected on his face, the olive tones of which he
inherited from his mother. This ivory pallor, so fine by candlelight,
so suited to the expression of melancholy thought, brought out
vigorously the fire of the blue-black eyes, which gazed from their
thick and heavy lids with the keen perception our fancy lends to
kings, their color being a cloak for dissimulation. Those eyes were
terrible,--especially from the movement of their brows, which he could
raise or lower at will on his bald, high forehead. His nose was broad
and long, thick at the end,--the nose of a lion; his ears were large,
his hair sandy, his lips blood-red, like those of all consumptives,
the upper lip thin and sarcastic, the lower one firm, and full enough
to give an impression of the noblest qualities of the heart. The
wrinkles of his brow, the youth of which was killed by dreadful cares,
inspired the strongest interest; remorse, caused by the uselessness of
the Saint-Bartholomew, accounted for some, but there were two others
on that face which would have been eloquent indeed to any student
whose premature genius had led him to divine the principles of modern
physiology. These wrinkles made a deeply indented furrow going from
each cheek-bone to each corner of the mouth, revealing the inward
efforts of an organization wearied by the toil of thought and the
violent excitements of the body. Charles IX. was worn-out. If policy
did not stifle remorse in the breasts of those who sit beneath the
purple, the queen-mother, looking at her own work, would surely have
felt it. Had Catherine foreseen the effect of her intrigues upon her
son, would she have recoiled from them? What a fearful spectacle was
this! A king born vigorous, and now so feeble; a mind powerfully
tempered, shaken by distrust; a man clothed with authority, conscious
of no support; a firm mind brought to the pass of having lost all
confidence in itself! His warlike valor had changed by degrees to
ferocity; his discretion to deceit; the refined and delicate love of a
Valois was now a mere quenchless thirst for pleasure. This perverted
and misjudged great man, with all the many facets of a noble soul
worn-out,--a king without power, a generous heart without a friend,
dragged hither and thither by a thousand conflicting intrigues,
--presented the melancholy spectacle of a youth, only twenty-four
years old, disillusioned of life, distrusting everybody and everything,
now resolving to risk all, even his life, on a last effort. For some
time past he had fully understood his royal mission, his power, his
resources, and the obstacles which his mother opposed to the
pacification of the kingdom; but alas! this light now burned in a
shattered lantern.

Two men, whom Charles IX. loved sufficiently to protect under
circumstances of great danger,--Jean Chapelain, his physician, whom he
saved from the Saint-Bartholomew, and Ambroise Pare, with whom he went
to dine when Pare's enemies were accusing him of intending to poison
the king,--had arrived this evening in haste from the provinces,
recalled by the queen-mother. Both were watching their master
anxiously. A few courtiers spoke to them in a low voice; but the men
of science made guarded answers, carefully concealing the fatal
verdict which was in their minds. Every now and then the king would
raise his heavy eyelids and give his mother a furtive look which he
tried to conceal from those about him. Suddenly he sprang up and stood
before the fireplace.

"Monsieur de Chiverni," he said abruptly, "why do you keep the title
of chancellor of Anjou and Poland? Are you in our service, or in that
of our brother?"

"I am all yours, sire," replied Chiverni, bowing low.

"Then come to me to-morrow; I intend to send you to Spain. Very
strange things are happening at the court of Madrid, gentlemen."

The king looked at his wife and flung himself back into his chair.

"Strange things are happening everywhere," said the Marechal de
Tavannes, one of the friends of the king's youth, in a low voice.

The king rose again and led this companion of his youthful pleasures
apart into the embrasure of the window at the corner of the room,
saying, when they were out of hearing:--

"I want you. Remain here when the others go. I shall know to-night
whether you are for me or against me. Don't look astonished. I am
about to burst my bonds. My mother is the cause of all the evil about
me. Three months hence I shall be king indeed, or dead. Silence, if
you value your life! You will have my secret, you and Solern and
Villeroy only. If it is betrayed, it will be by one of you three.
Don't keep near me; go and pay your court to my mother. Tell her I am
dying, and that you don't regret it, for I am only a poor creature."

The king was leaning on the shoulder of his old favorite, and
pretending to tell him of his ailments, in order to mislead the
inquisitive eyes about him; then, not wishing to make his aversion too
visible, he went up to his wife and mother and talked with them,
calling Birago to their side.

Just then Pinard, one of the secretaries of State, glided like an eel
through the door and along the wall until he reached the queen-mother,
in whose ear he said a few words, to which she replied by an
affirmative sign. The king did not ask his mother the meaning of this
conference, but he returned to his seat and kept silence, darting
terrible looks of anger and suspicion all about him.

This little circumstance seemed of enormous consequence in the eyes of
the courtiers; and, in truth, so marked an exercise of power by the
queen-mother, without reference to the king, was like a drop of water
overflowing the cup. Queen Elizabeth and the Comtesse de Fiesque now
retired, but the king paid no attention to their movements, though the
queen-mother rose and attended her daughter-in-law to the door; after
which the courtiers, understanding that their presence was unwelcome,
took their leave. By ten o'clock no one remained in the hall but a few
intimates,--the two Gondis, Tavannes, Solern, Birago, the king, and
the queen-mother.

The king sat plunged in the blackest melancholy. The silence was
oppressive. Catherine seemed embarrassed. She wished to leave the
room, and waited for the king to escort her to the door; but he still
continued obstinately lost in thought. At last she rose to bid him
good-night, and Charles IX. was forced to do likewise. As she took his
arm and made a few steps toward the door, she bent to his ear and

"Monsieur, I have important things to say to you."

Passing a mirror on her way, she glanced into it and made a sign with
her eyes to the two Gondis, which escaped the king's notice, for he
was at the moment exchanging looks of intelligence with the Comte de
Solern and Villeroy. Tavannes was thoughtful.

"Sire," said the latter, coming out of his reverie, "I think you are
royally ennuyed; don't you ever amuse yourself now? /Vive Dieu/! have
you forgotten the times when we used to vagabondize about the streets
at night?"

"Ah! those were the good old times!" said the king, with a sigh.

"Why not bring them back?" said Birago, glancing significantly at the
Gondis as he took his leave.

"Yes, I always think of those days with pleasure," said Albert de
Gondi, Duc de Retz.

"I'd like to see you on the roofs once more, monsieur le duc,"
remarked Tavannes. "Damned Italian cat! I wish he might break his
neck!" he added in a whisper to the king.

"I don't know which of us two could climb the quickest in these days,"
replied de Gondi; "but one thing I do know, that neither of us fears
to die."

"Well, sire, will you start upon a frolic in the streets to-night, as
you did in the days of your youth?" said the other Gondi, master of
the Wardrobe.

The days of his youth! so at twenty-four years of age the wretched
king seemed no longer young to any one, not even to his flatterers!

Tavannes and his master now reminded each other, like two school-boys,
of certain pranks they had played in Paris, and the evening's
amusement was soon arranged. The two Italians, challenged to climb
roofs, and jump from one to another across alleys and streets, wagered
that they would follow the king wherever he went. They and Tavannes
went off to change their clothes. The Comte de Solern, left alone with
the king, looked at him in amazement. Though the worthy German, filled
with compassion for the hapless position of the king of France, was
honor and fidelity itself, he was certainly not quick of perception.
Charles IX., surrounded by hostile persons, unable to trust any one,
not even his wife (who had been guilty of some indiscretions, unaware
as she was that his mother and his servants were his enemies), had
been fortunate enough to find in Monsieur de Solern a faithful friend
in whom he could place entire confidence. Tavannes and Villeroy were
trusted with only a part of the king's secrets. The Comte de Solern
alone knew the whole of the plan which he was now about to carry out.
This devoted friend was also useful to his master, in possessing a
body of discreet and affectionate followers, who blindly obeyed his
orders. He commanded a detachment of the archers of the guards, and
for the last few days he had been sifting out the men who were
faithfully attached to the king, in order to make a company of tried
men when the need came. The king took thought of everything.

"Why are you surprised, Solern?" he said. "You know very well I need a
pretext to be out to-night. It is true, I have Madame de Belleville,
but this is better; for who knows whether my mother does not hear of
all that goes on at Marie's?"

Monsieur de Solern, who was to follow the king, asked if he might not
take a few of his Germans to patrol the streets, and Charles
consented. About eleven o'clock the king, who was now very gay, set
forth with his three courtiers,--namely, Tavannes and the two Gondis.

"I'll go and take my little Marie by surprise," said Charles IX. to
Tavannes, "as we pass through the rue de l'Autruche." That street
being on the way to the rue Saint-Honore, it would have been strange
indeed for the king to pass the house of his love without stopping.

Looking out for a chance of mischief,--a belated burgher to frighten,
or a watchman to thrash--the king went along with his nose in the air,
watching all the lighted windows to see what was happening, and
striving to hear the conversations. But alas! he found his good city
of Paris in a state of deplorable tranquillity. Suddenly, as he passed
the house of a perfumer named Rene, who supplied the court, the king,
noticing a strong light from a window in the roof, was seized by one
of those apparently hasty inspirations which, to some minds, suggest a
previous intention.

This perfumer was strongly suspected of curing rich uncles who thought
themselves ill. The court laid at his door the famous "Elixir of
Inheritance," and even accused him of poisoning Jeanne d'Albret,
mother of Henri of Navarre, who was buried (in spite of Charles IX.'s
positive order) without her head being opened. For the last two months
the king had sought some way of sending a spy into Rene's laboratory,
where, as he was well aware, Cosmo Ruggiero spent much time. The king
intended, if anything suspicious were discovered, to proceed in the
matter alone, without the assistance of the police or law, with whom,
as he well knew, his mother would counteract him by means of either
corruption or fear.

It is certain that during the sixteenth century, and the years that
preceded and followed it, poisoning was brought to a perfection
unknown to modern chemistry, as history itself will prove. Italy, the
cradle of modern science, was, at this period, the inventor and
mistress of these secrets, many of which are now lost. Hence the
reputation for that crime which weighed for the two following
centuries on Italy. Romance-writers have so greatly abused it that
wherever they have introduced Italians into their tales they have
almost always made them play the part of assassins and poisoners.[*]
If Italy then had the traffic in subtle poisons which some historians
attribute to her, we should remember her supremacy in the art of
toxicology, as we do her pre-eminence in all other human knowledge and
art in which she took the lead in Europe. The crimes of that period
were not her crimes specially. She served the passions of the age,
just as she built magnificent edifices, commanded armies, painted
noble frescos, sang romances, loved queens, delighted kings, devised
ballets and fetes, and ruled all policies. The horrible art of
poisoning reached to such a pitch in Florence that a woman, dividing a
peach with a duke, using a golden fruit-knife with one side of its
blade poisoned, ate one half of the peach herself and killed the duke
with the other half. A pair of perfumed gloves were known to have
infiltrated mortal illness through the pores of the skin. Poison was
instilled into bunches of natural roses, and the fragrance, when
inhaled, gave death. Don John of Austria was poisoned, it was said, by
a pair of boots.

[*] Written sixty-six years ago.--Tr.

Charles IX. had good reason to be curious in the matter; we know
already the dark suspicions and beliefs which now prompted him to
surprise the perfumer Rene at his work.

The old fountain at the corner of the rue de l'Arbre-See, which has
since been rebuilt, offered every facility for the royal vagabonds to
climb upon the roof of a house not far from that of Rene, which the
king wished to visit. Charles, followed by his companions, began to
ramble over the roofs, to the great terror of the burghers awakened by
the tramp of these false thieves, who called to them in saucy
language, listened to their talk, and even pretended to force an
entrance. When the Italians saw the king and Tavannes threading their
way among the roofs of the house next to that of Rene, Albert de Gondi
sat down, declaring that he was tired, and his brother followed his

"So much the better," thought the king, glad to leave his spies behind

Tavannes began to laugh at the two Florentines, left sitting alone in
the midst of deep silence, in a place where they had nought but the
skies above them, and the cats for auditors. But the brothers made use
of their position to exchange thoughts they would not dare to utter on
any other spot in the world,--thoughts inspired by the events of the

"Albert," said the Grand-master to the marechal, "the king will get
the better of the queen-mother; we are doing a foolish thing for our
own interests to stay by those of Catherine. If we go over to the king
now, when he is searching everywhere for support against her and for
able men to serve him, we shall not be driven away like wild beasts
when the queen-mother is banished, imprisoned, or killed."

"You wouldn't get far with such ideas, Charles," replied the marechal,
gravely. "You'd follow the king into the grave, and he won't live
long; he is ruined by excesses. Cosmo Ruggiero predicts his death
within a year."

"The dying boar has often killed the huntsman," said Charles de Gondi.
"This conspiracy of the Duc d'Alencon, the king of Navarre, and the
Prince de Conde, with whom La Mole and Coconnas are negotiating, is
more dangerous than useful. In the first place, the king of Navarre,
whom the queen-mother hoped to catch in the very act, distrusts her,
and declines to run his head into the noose. He means to profit by the
conspiracy without taking any of its risks. Besides, the notion now is
to put the crown on the head of the Duc d'Alencon, who has turned

"/Budelone/! but don't you see that this conspiracy enables the
queen-mother to find out what the Huguenots can do with the Duc
d'Alencon, and what the king can do with the Huguenots?--for the king
is even now negotiating with them; but he'll be finely pilloried
to-morrow, when Catherine reveals to him the counter-conspiracy which
will neutralize all his projects."

"Ah!" exclaimed Charles de Gondi, "by dint of profiting by our advice
she's clever and stronger than we! Well, that's all right."

"All right for the Duc d'Anjou, who prefers to be king of France
rather than king of Poland; I am going now to explain the matter to

"When do you start, Albert?"

"To-morrow. I am ordered to accompany the king of Poland; and I expect
to join him in Venice, where the patricians have taken upon themselves
to amuse and delay him."

"You are prudence itself!"

"/Che bestia/! I swear to you there is not the slightest danger for
either of us in remaining at court. If there were, do you think I
would go away? I should stay by the side of our kind mistress."

"Kind!" exclaimed the Grand-master; "she is a woman to drop all her
instruments the moment she finds them heavy."

"/O coglione/! you pretend to be a soldier, and you fear death! Every
business has its duties, and we have ours in making our fortune. By
attaching ourselves to kings, the source of all temporal power which
protects, elevates, and enriches families, we are forced to give them
as devoted a love as that which burns in the hearts of martyrs toward
heaven. We must suffer in their cause; when they sacrifice us to the
interests of their throne we may perish, for we die as much for
ourselves as for them, but our name and our families perish not.

"You are right as to yourself, Albert; for they have given you the
ancient title and duchy of de Retz."

"Now listen to me," replied his brother. "The queen hopes much from
the cleverness of the Ruggieri; she expects them to bring the king
once more under her control. When Charles refused to use Rene's
perfumes any longer the wary woman knew at once on whom his suspicions
really rested. But who can tell the schemes that are in his mind?
Perhaps he is only hesitating as to what fate he shall give his
mother; he hates her, you know. He said a few words about it to his
wife; she repeated them to Madame de Fiesque, and Madame de Fiesque
told the queen-mother. Since then the king has kept away from his

"The time has come," said Charles de Gondi.

"To do what?" asked the marechal.

"To lay hold of the king's mind," replied the Grand-master, who, if he
was not so much in the queen's confidence as his brother, was by no
means less clear-sighted.

"Charles, I have opened a great career to you," said his brother
gravely. "If you wish to be a duke also, be, as I am, the accomplice
and cat's-paw of our mistress; she is the strongest here, and she will
continue in power. Madame de Sauves is on her side, and the king of
Navarre and the Duc d'Alencon are still for Madame de Sauves.
Catherine holds the pair in a leash under Charles IX., and she will
hold them in future under Henri III. God grant that Henri may not
prove ungrateful."

"How so?"

"His mother is doing too much for him."

"Hush! what noise is that I hear in the rue Saint-Honore?" cried the
Grand-master. "Listen! there is some one at Rene's door! Don't you
hear the footsteps of many men. Can they have arrested the Ruggieri?"

"Ah, /diavolo/! this is prudence indeed. The king has not shown his
usual impetuosity. But where will they imprison them? Let us go down
into the street and see."

The two brothers reached the corner of the rue de l'Autruche just as
the king was entering the house of his mistress, Marie Touchet. By the
light of the torches which the concierge carried, they distinguished
Tavannes and the two Ruggieri.

"Hey, Tavannes!" cried the grand-master, running after the king's
companion, who had turned and was making his way back to the Louvre,
"What happened to you?"

"We fell into a nest of sorcerers and arrested two, compatriots of
yours, who may perhaps be able to explain to the minds of French
gentlemen how you, who are not Frenchmen, have managed to lay hands on
two of the chief offices of the Crown," replied Tavannes, half
jesting, half in earnest.

"But the king?" inquired the Grand-master, who cared little for
Tavanne's enmity.

"He stays with his mistress."

"We reached our present distinction through an absolute devotion to
our masters,--a noble course, my dear Tavannes, which I see that you
also have adopted," replied Albert de Gondi.

The three courtiers walked on in silence. At the moment when they
parted, on meeting their servants who then escorted them, two men
glided swiftly along the walls of the rue de l'Autruche. These men
were the king and the Comte de Solern, who soon reached the banks of
the Seine, at a point where a boat and two rowers, carefully selected
by de Solern, awaited them. In a very few moments they reached the
other shore.

"My mother has not gone to bed," cried the king. "She will see us; we
chose a bad place for the interview."

"She will think it a duel," replied Solern; "and she cannot possibly
distinguish who we are at this distance."

"Well, let her see me!" exclaimed Charles IX. "I am resolved now!"

The king and his confidant sprang ashore and walked quickly in the
direction of the Pre-aux-Clercs. When they reached it the Comte de
Solern, preceding the king, met a man who was evidently on the watch,
and with whom he exchanged a few words; the man then retired to a
distance. Presently two other men, who seemed to be princes by the
marks of respect which the first man paid to them, left the place
where they were evidently hiding behind the broken fence of a field,
and approached the king, to whom they bent the knee. But Charles IX.
raised them before they touched the ground, saying:--

"No ceremony, we are all gentlemen here."

A venerable old man, who might have been taken for the Chancelier de
l'Hopital, had the latter not died in the preceding year, now joined
the three gentlemen, all four walking rapidly so as to reach a spot
where their conference could not be overheard by their attendants. The
Comte de Solern followed at a slight distance to keep watch over the
king. That faithful servant was filled with a distrust not shared by
Charles IX., a man to whom life was now a burden. He was the only
person on the king's side who witnessed this mysterious conference,
which presently became animated.

"Sire," said one of the new-comers, "the Connetable de Montmorency,
the closest friend of the king your father, agreed with the Marechal
de Saint-Andre in declaring that Madame Catherine ought to be sewn up
in a sack and flung into the river. If that had been done then, many
worthy persons would still be alive."

"I have enough executions on my conscience, monsieur," replied the

"But, sire," said the youngest of the four personages, "if you merely
banish her, from the depths of her exile Queen Catherine will continue
to stir up strife, and to find auxiliaries. We have everything to fear
from the Guises, who, for the last nine years, have schemed for a vast
Catholic alliance, in the secret of which your Majesty is not
included; and it threatens your throne. This alliance was invented by
Spain, which will never renounce its project of destroying the
boundary of the Pyrenees. Sire, Calvinism will save France by setting
up a moral barrier between her and a nation which covets the empire of
the world. If the queen-mother is exiled, she will turn for help to
Spain and to the Guises."

"Gentlemen," said the king, "know this, if by your help peace without
distrust is once established, I will take upon myself the duty of
making all subjects tremble. /Tete-Dieu/! it is time indeed for
royalty to assert itself. My mother is right in that, at any rate. You
ought to know that it is to your interest was well as mine, for your
hands, your fortunes depend upon our throne. If religion is
overthrown, the hands you allow to do it will be laid next upon the
throne and then upon you. I no longer care to fight ideas with weapons
that cannot touch them. Let us see now if Protestantism will make
progress when left to itself; above all, I would like to see with whom
and what the spirit of that faction will wrestle. The admiral, God
rest his soul! was not my enemy; he swore to me to restrain the revolt
within spiritual limits, and to leave the ruling of the kingdom to the
monarch, his master, with submissive subjects. Gentlemen, if the
matter be still within your power, set that example now; help your
sovereign to put down a spirit of rebellion which takes tranquillity
from each and all of us. War is depriving us of revenue; it is ruining
the kingdom. I am weary of these constant troubles; so weary, that if
it is absolutely necessary I will sacrifice my mother. Nay, I will go
farther; I will keep an equal number of Protestants and Catholics
about me, and I will hold the axe of Louis XI. above their heads to
force them to be on good terms. If the Messieurs de Guise plot a Holy
Alliance to attack our crown, the executioner shall begin with their
heads. I see the miseries of my people, and I will make short work of
the great lords who care little for consciences,--let them hold what
opinions they like; what I want in future is submissive subjects, who
will work, according to my will, for the prosperity of the State.
Gentlemen, I give you ten days to negotiate with your friends, to
break off your plots, and to return to me who will be your father. If
you refuse you will see great changes. I shall use the mass of the
people, who will rise at my voice against the lords. I will make
myself a king who pacificates his kingdom by striking down those who
are more powerful even than you, and who dare defy him. If the troops
fail me, I have my brother of Spain, on whom I shall call to defend
our menaced thrones, and if I lack a minister to carry out my will, he
can lend me the Duke of Alba."

"But in that case, sire, we should have Germans to oppose to your
Spaniards," said one of his hearers.

"Cousin," replied Charles IX., coldly, "my wife's name is Elizabeth of
Austria; support might fail you on the German side. But, for Heaven's
sake, let us fight, if fight we must, alone, without the help of
foreigners. You are the object of my mother's hatred, and you stand
near enough to me to be my second in the duel I am about to fight with
her; well then, listen to what I now say. You seem to me so worthy of
confidence that I offer you the post of /connetable/; /you/ will not
betray me like the other."

The prince to whom Charles IX. had addressed himself, struck his hand
into that of the king, exclaiming:

"/Ventre-saint-gris/! brother; this is enough to make me forget many
wrongs. But, sire, the head cannot march without the tail, and ours is
a long tail to drag. Give me more than ten days; we want at least a
month to make our friends hear reason. At the end of that time we
shall be masters."

"A month, so be it! My only negotiator will be Villeroy; trust no one
else, no matter what is said to you."

"One month," echoed the other seigneurs, "that is sufficient."

"Gentlemen, we are five," said the king,--"five men of honor. If any
betrayal takes place, we shall know on whom to avenge it."

The three strangers kissed the hand of Charles IX. and took leave of
him with every mark of the utmost respect. As the king recrossed the
Seine, four o'clock was ringing from the clock-tower of the Louvre.
Lights were on in the queen-mother's room; she had not yet gone to

"My mother is still on the watch," said Charles to the Comte de

"She has her forge as you have yours," remarked the German.

"Dear count, what do you think of a king who is reduced to become a
conspirator?" said Charles IX., bitterly, after a pause.

"I think, sire, that if you would allow me to fling that woman into
the river, as your young cousin said, France would soon be at peace."

"What! a parricide in addition to the Saint-Bartholomew, count?" cried
the king. "No, no! I will exile her. Once fallen, my mother will no
longer have either servants or partisans."

"Well, then, sire," replied the Comte de Solern, "give me the order to
arrest her at once and take her out of the kingdom; for to-morrow she
will have forced you to change your mind."

"Come to my forge," said the king, "no one can overhear us there;
besides, I don't want my mother to suspect the capture of the
Ruggieri. If she knows I am in my work-shop she'll suppose nothing,
and we can consult about the proper measures for her arrest."

As the king entered a lower room of the palace, which he used for a
workshop, he called his companion's attention to the forge and his
implements with a laugh.

"I don't believe," he said, "among all the kings that France will ever
have, there'll be another to take pleasure in such work as that. But
when I am really king, I'll forge no swords; they shall all go back
into their scabbards."

"Sire," said the Comte de Solern, "the fatigues of tennis and hunting,
your toil at this forge, and--if I may say it--love, are chariots
which the devil is offering you to get the faster to Saint-Denis."

"Solern," said the king, in a piteous tone, "if you knew the fire they
have put into my soul and body! nothing can quench it. Are you sure of
the men who are guarding the Ruggieri?"

"As sure as of myself."

"Very good; then, during this coming day I shall take my own course.
Think of the proper means of making the arrest, and I will give you my
final orders by five o'clock at Madame de Belleville's."

As the first rays of dawn were struggling with the lights of the
workshop, Charles IX., left alone by the departure of the Comte de
Solern, heard the door of the apartment turn on its hinges, and saw
his mother standing within it in the dim light like a phantom. Though
very nervous and impressible, the king did not quiver, albeit, under
the circumstances in which he then stood, this apparition had a
certain air of mystery and horror.

"Monsieur," she said, "you are killing yourself."

"I am fulfilling my horoscope," he replied with a bitter smile. "But
you, madame, you appear to be as early as I."

"We have both been up all night, monsieur; but with very different
intentions. While you have been conferring with your worst enemies in
the open fields, concealing your acts from your mother, assisted by
Tavannes and the Gondis, with whom you have been scouring the town, I
have been reading despatches which contained the proofs of a
terrible conspiracy in which your brother, the Duc d'Alencon, your
brother-in-law, the king of Navarre, the Prince de Conde, and half the
nobles of your kingdom are taking part. Their purpose is nothing less
than to take the crown from your head and seize your person. Those
gentlemen have already fifty thousand good troops behind them."

"Bah!" exclaimed the king, incredulously.

"Your brother has turned Huguenot," she continued.

"My brother! gone over to the Huguenots!" cried Charles, brandishing
the piece of iron which he held in his hand.

"Yes; the Duc d'Alencon, Huguenot at heart, will soon be one before
the eyes of the world. Your sister, the queen of Navarre, has almost
ceased to love you; she cares more for the Duc d'Alencon; she cares of
Bussy; and she loves that little La Mole."

"What a heart!" exclaimed the king.

"That little La Mole," went on the queen, "wishes to make himself a
great man by giving France a king of his own stripe. He is promised,
they say, the place of connetable."

"Curse that Margot!" cried the king. "This is what comes of her
marriage with a heretic."

"Heretic or not is of no consequence; the trouble is that, in spite of
my advice, you have brought the head of the younger branch too near
the throne by that marriage, and Henri's purpose is now to embroil you
with the rest and make you kill one another. The house of Bourbon is
the enemy of the house of Valois; remember that, monsieur. All younger
branches should be kept in a state of poverty, for they are born
conspirators. It is sheer folly to give them arms when they have none,
or to leave them in possession of arms when they seize them. Let every
younger son be made incapable of doing harm; that is the law of
Crowns; the Sultans of Asia follow it. The proofs of this conspiracy
are in my room upstairs, where I asked you to follow me last evening,
when you bade me good-night; but instead of doing so, it seems you had
other plans. I therefore waited for you. If we do not take the proper
measures immediately you will meet the fate of Charles the Simple
within a month."

"A month!" exclaimed the king, thunderstruck at the coincidence of
that period with the delay asked for by the princes themselves. "'In a
month we shall be masters,'" he added to himself, quoting their words.
"Madame," he said aloud, "what are your proofs?"

"They are unanswerable, monsieur; they come from my daughter
Marguerite. Alarmed herself at the possibilities of such a
combination, her love for the throne of the Valois has proved
stronger, this time, than all her other loves. She asks, as the price
of her revelations that nothing shall be done to La Mole; but the
scoundrel seems to me a dangerous villain whom we had better be rid
of, as well as the Comte de Coconnas, your brother d'Alencon's right
hand. As for the Prince de Conde, he consents to everything, provided
I am thrown into the sea; perhaps that is the wedding present he gives
me in return for the pretty wife I gave him! All this is a serious
matter, monsieur. You talk of horoscopes! I know of the prediction
which gives the throne of the Valois to the Bourbons, and if we do not
take care it will be fulfilled. Do not be angry with your sister; she
has behaved well in this affair. My son," continued the queen, after a
pause, giving a tone of tenderness to her words, "evil persons on the
side of the Guises are trying to sow dissensions between you and me;
and yet we are the only ones in the kingdom whose interests are
absolutely identical. You blame me, I know, for the Saint-Bartholomew;
you accuse me of having forced you into it. Catholicism, monsieur,
must be the bond between France, Spain, and Italy, three countries
which can, by skilful management, secretly planned, be united in
course of time, under the house of Valois. Do not deprive yourself of
such chances by loosing the cord which binds the three kingdoms in the
bonds of a common faith. Why should not the Valois and the Medici
carry out for their own glory the scheme of Charles the Fifth, whose
head failed him? Let us fling off that race of Jeanne la Folle. The
Medici, masters of Florence and of Rome, will force Italy to support
your interests; they will guarantee you advantages by treaties of
commerce and alliance which shall recognize your fiefs in Piedmont,
the Milanais, and Naples, where you have rights. These, monsieur, are
the reasons of the war to the death which we make against the
Huguenots. Why do you force me to repeat these things? Charlemagne was
wrong in advancing toward the north. France is a body whose heart is
on the Gulf of Lyons, and its two arms over Spain and Italy.
Therefore, she must rule the Mediterranean, that basket into which are
poured all the riches of the Orient, now turned to the profit of those
seigneurs of Venice, in the very teeth of Philip II. If the friendship
of the Medici and your rights justify you in hoping for Italy, force,
alliances, or a possible inheritance may give you Spain. Warn the
house of Austria as to this,--that ambitious house to which the
Guelphs sold Italy, and which is even now hankering after Spain.
Though your wife is of that house, humble it! Clasp it so closely that
you will smother it! /There/ are the enemies of your kingdom; thence
comes help to the Reformers. Do not listen to those who find their
profit in causing us to disagree, and who torment your life by making
you believe I am your secret enemy. Have /I/ prevented you from having
heirs? Why has your mistress given you a son, and your wife a
daughter? Why have you not to-day three legitimate heirs to root out
the hopes of these seditious persons? Is it I, monsieur, who am
responsible for such failures? If you had an heir, would the Duc
d'Alencon be now conspiring?"

As she ended these words, Catherine fixed upon her son the magnetic
glance of a bird of prey upon its victim. The daughter of the Medici
became magnificent; her real self shone upon her face, which, like
that of a gambler over the green table, glittered with vast
cupidities. Charles IX. saw no longer the mother of one man, but (as
was said of her) the mother of armies and of empires,--/mater
castrorum/. Catherine had now spread wide the wings of her genius, and
boldly flown to the heights of the Medici and Valois policy, tracing
once more the mighty plans which terrified in earlier days her husband
Henri II., and which, transmitted by the genius of the Medici to
Richelieu, remain in writing among the papers of the house of Bourbon.
But Charles IX., hearing the unusual persuasions his mother was using,
thought that there must be some necessity for them, and he began to
ask himself what could be her motive. He dropped his eyes; he
hesitated; his distrust was not lessened by her studied phrases.
Catherine was amazed at the depths of suspicion she now beheld in her
son's heart.

"Well, monsieur," she said, "do you not understand me? What are we,
you and I, in comparison with the eternity of royal crowns? Do you
suppose me to have other designs than those that ought to actuate all
royal persons who inhabit the sphere where empires are ruled?"

"Madame, I will follow you to your cabinet; we must act--"

"Act!" cried Catherine; "let our enemies alone; let /them/ act; take
them red-handed, and law and justice will deliver you from their
assaults. For God's sake, monsieur, show them good-will."

The queen withdrew; the king remained alone for a few moments, for he
was utterly overwhelmed.

"On which side is the trap?" thought he. "Which of the two--she or
they--deceive me? What is my best policy? /Deus, discerne causam
meam/!" he muttered with tears in his eyes. "Life is a burden to me! I
prefer death, natural or violent, to these perpetual torments!" he
cried presently, bringing down his hammer upon the anvil with such
force that the vaults of the palace trembled.

"My God!" he said, as he went outside and looked up at the sky, "thou
for whose holy religion I struggle, give me the light of thy
countenance that I may penetrate the secrets of my mother's heart
while I question the Ruggieri."


                            MARIE TOUCHET

The little house of Madame de Belleville, where Charles IX. had
deposited his prisoners, was the last but one in the rue de l'Autruche
on the side of the rue Saint-Honore. The street gate, flanked by two
little brick pavilions, seemed very simple in those days, when gates
and their accessories were so elaborately treated. It had two
pilasters of stone cut in facets, and the coping represented a
reclining woman holding a cornucopia. The gate itself, closed by
enormous locks, had a wicket through which to examine those who asked
admittance. In each pavilion lived a porter; for the king's extremely
capricious pleasure required a porter by day and by night. The house
had a little courtyard, paved like those of Venice. At this period,
before carriages were invented, ladies went about on horseback, or in
litters, so that courtyards could be made magnificent without fear of
injury from horses or carriages. This fact is always to be remembered
as an explanation of the narrowness of streets, the small size of
courtyards, and certain other details of the private dwellings of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The house, of one story only above the ground-floor, was capped by a
sculptured frieze, above which rose a roof with four sides, the peak
being flattened to form a platform. Dormer windows were cut in this
roof, with casings and pediments which the chisel of some great artist
had covered with arabesques and dentils; each of the three windows on
the main floor were equally beautiful in stone embroidery, which the
brick of the walls showed off to great advantage. On the ground-floor,
a double portico, very delicately decorated, led to the entrance door,
which was covered with bosses cut with facets in the Venetian manner,
--a style of decoration which was further carried on round the windows
placed to right and left of the door.

A garden, carefully laid out in the fashion of the times and filled
with choice flowers, occupied a space behind the house equal to that
of the courtyard in front. A grape-vine draped its walls. In the
centre of a grass plot rose a silver fir-tree. The flower-borders were
separated from the grass by meandering paths which led to an arbor of
clipped yews at the farther end of the little garden. The walls were
covered with a mosaic of variously colored pebbles, coarse in design,
it is true, but pleasing to the eye from the harmony of its tints with
those of the flower-beds. The house had a carved balcony on the garden
side, above the door, and also on the front toward the courtyard, and
around the middle windows. On both sides of the house the
ornamentation of the principal window, which projected some feet from
the wall, rose to the frieze; so that it formed a little pavilion,
hung there like a lantern. The casings of the other windows were
inlaid on the stone with precious marbles.

In spite of the exquisite taste displayed in the little house, there
was an air of melancholy about it. It was darkened by the buildings
that surrounded it and by the roofs of the hotel d'Alencon which threw
a heavy shadow over both court and garden; moreover, a deep silence
reigned there. But this silence, these half-lights, this solitude,
soothed a royal soul, which could there surrender itself to a single
emotion, as in a cloister where men pray, or in some sheltered home
wherein they love.

It is easy now to imagine the interior charm and choiceness of this
haven, the sole spot in his kingdom where this dying Valois could pour
out his soul, reveal his sufferings, exercise his taste for art, and
give himself up to the poesy he loved,--pleasures denied him by the
cares of a cruel royalty. Here, alone, were his great soul and his
high intrinsic worth appreciated; here he could give himself up, for a
few brief months, the last of his life, to the joys of fatherhood,
--pleasures into which he flung himself with the frenzy that a sense
of his coming and dreadful death impressed on all his actions.

In the afternoon of the day succeeding the night-scene we have just
described, Marie Touchet was finishing her toilet in the oratory,
which was the boudoir of those days. She was arranging the long curls
of her beautiful black hair, blending them with the velvet of a new
coif, and gazing intently into her mirror.

"It is nearly four o'clock; that interminable council must surely be
over," she thought to herself. "Jacob has returned from the Louvre; he
says that everybody he saw was excited about the number of the
councillors summoned and the length of the session. What can have
happened? Is it some misfortune? Good God! surely /he/ knows how
suspense wears out the soul! Perhaps he has gone a-hunting? If he is
happy and amused, it is all right. When I see him gay, I forget all I
have suffered."

She drew her hands round her slender waist as if to smooth some
trifling wrinkle in her gown, turning sideways to see if its folds
fell properly, and as she did so, she caught sight of the king on the
couch behind her. The carpet had so muffled the sound of his steps
that he had slipped in softly without being heard.

"You frightened me!" she said, with a cry of surprise, which was
quickly repressed.

"Were you thinking of me?" said the king.

"When do I not think of you?" she answered, sitting down beside him.

She took off his cap and cloak, passing her hands through his hair as
though she combed it with her fingers. Charles let her do as she
pleased, but made no answer. Surprised at this, Marie knelt down to
study the pale face of her royal master, and then saw the signs of a
dreadful weariness and a more consummate melancholy than any she had
yet consoled. She repressed her tears and kept silence, that she might
not irritate by mistaken words the sorrow which, as yet, she did not
understand. In this she did as tender women do under like
circumstances. She kissed that forehead, seamed with untimely
wrinkles, and those livid cheeks, trying to convey to the worn-out
soul the freshness of hers,--pouring her spirit into the sweet
caresses which met with no response. Presently she raised her head to
the level of the king's, clasping him softly in her arms; then she lay
still, her face hidden on that suffering breast, watching for the
opportune moment to question his dejected mind.

"My Charlot," she said at last, "will you not tell your poor,
distressed Marie the troubles that cloud that precious brow, and
whiten those beautiful red lips?"

"Except Charlemagne," he said in a hollow voice, "all the kings of
France named Charles have ended miserably."

"Pooh!" she said, "look at Charles VIII."

"That poor prince!" exclaimed the king. "In the flower of his age he
struck his head against a low door at the chateau of Amboise, which he
was having decorated, and died in horrible agony. It was his death
which gave the crown to our family."

"Charles VII. reconquered his kingdom."

"Darling, he died" (the king lowered his voice) "of hunger; for he
feared being poisoned by the dauphin, who had already caused the death
of his beautiful Agnes. The father feared his son; to-day the son
dreads his mother!"

"Why drag up the past?" she said hastily, remembering the dreadful
life of Charles VI.

"Ah! sweetest, kings have no need to go to sorcerers to discover their
coming fate; they need only turn to history. I am at this moment
endeavoring to escape the fate of Charles the Simple, who was robbed
of his crown, and died in prison after seven years' captivity."

"Charles V. conquered the English," she cried triumphantly.

"No, not he, but du Guesclin. He himself, poisoned by Charles de
Navarre, dragged out a wretched existence."

"Well, Charles IV., then?"

"He married three times to obtain an heir, in spite of the masculine
beauty of the children of Philippe le Bel. The first house of Valois
ended with him, and the second is about to end in the same way. The
queen has given me only a daughter, and I shall die without leaving
her pregnant; for a long minority would be the greatest curse I could
bequeath to the kingdom. Besides, if I had a son, would he live? The
name of Charles is fatal; Charlemagne exhausted the luck of it. If I
left a son I would tremble at the thought that he would be Charles X."

"Who is it that wants to seize your crown?"

"My brother d'Alencon conspires against it. Enemies are all about me."

"Monsieur," said Marie, with a charming little pout, "do tell me
something gayer."

"Ah! my little jewel, my treasure, don't call me 'monsieur,' even in
jest; you remind me of my mother, who stabs me incessantly with that
title, by which she seems to snatch away my crown. She says 'my son'
to the Duc d'Anjou--I mean the king of Poland."

"Sire," exclaimed Marie, clasping her hands as though she were
praying, "there is a kingdom where you are worshipped. Your Majesty
fills it with his glory, his power; and there the word 'monsieur,'
means 'my beloved lord.'"

She unclasped her hands, and with a pretty gesture pointed to her
heart. The words were so /musiques/ (to use a word of the times which
depicted the melodies of love) that Charles IX. caught her round the
waist with the nervous force that characterized him, and seated her on
his knee, rubbing his forehead gently against the pretty curls so
coquettishly arranged. Marie thought the moment favorable; she
ventured a few kisses, which Charles allowed rather than accepted,
then she said softly:--

"If my servants were not mistaken you were out all night in the
streets, as in the days when you played the pranks of a younger son."

"Yes," replied the king, still lost in his own thoughts.

"Did you fight the watchman and frighten some of the burghers? Who are
the men you brought here and locked up? They must be very criminal, as
you won't allow any communication with them. No girl was ever locked
in as carefully, and they have not had a mouthful to eat since they
came. The Germans whom Solern left to guard them won't let any one go
near the room. Is it a joke you are playing; or is it something

"Yes, you are right," said the king, coming out of his reverie, "last
night I did scour the roofs with Tavannes and the Gondis. I wanted to
try my old follies with the old companions; but my legs were not what
they once were; I did not dare leap the streets; though we did jump
two alleys from one roof to the next. At the second, however, Tavannes
and I, holding on to a chimney, agreed that we couldn't do it again.
If either of us had been alone we couldn't have done it then."

"I'll wager that you sprang first." The king smiled. "I know why you
risk your life in that way."

"And why, you little witch?"

"You are tired of life."

"Ah, sorceress! But I am being hunted down by sorcery," said the king,
resuming his anxious look.

"My sorcery is love," she replied, smiling. "Since the happy day when
you first loved me, have I not always divined your thoughts? And--if
you will let me speak the truth--the thoughts which torture you to-day
are not worthy of a king."

"Am I a king?" he said bitterly.

"Cannot you be one? What did Charles VII. do? He listened to his
mistress, monseigneur, and he reconquered his kingdom, invaded by the
English as yours is now by the enemies of our religion. Your last
/coup d'Etat/ showed you the course you have to follow. Exterminate

"You blamed the Saint-Bartholomew," said Charles, "and now you--"

"That is over," she said; "besides, I agree with Madame Catherine that
it was better to do it yourselves than let the Guises do it."

"Charles VII. had only men to fight; I am face to face with ideas,"
resumed the king. "We can kill men, but we can't kill words! The
Emperor Charles V. gave up the attempt; his son Philip has spent his
strength upon it; we shall all perish, we kings, in that struggle. On
whom can I rely? To right, among the Catholics, I find the Guises, who
are my enemies; to left, the Calvinists, who will never forgive me the
death of my poor old Coligny, nor that bloody day in August; besides,
they want to suppress the throne; and in front of me what have I?--my

"Arrest her; reign alone," said Marie in a low voice, whispering in
his ear.

"I meant to do so yesterday; to-day I no longer intend it. You speak
of it rather coolly."

"Between the daughter of an apothecary and that of a doctor there is
no great difference," replied Touchet, always ready to laugh at the
false origin attributed to her.

The king frowned.

"Marie, don't take such liberties. Catherine de' Medici is my mother,
and you ought to tremble lest--"

"What is it you fear?"

"Poison!" cried the king, beside himself.

"Poor child!" cried Marie, restraining her tears; for the sight of
such strength united to such weakness touched her deeply. "Ah!" she
continued, "you make me hate Madame Catherine, who has been so good to
me; her kindness now seems perfidy. Why is she so kind to me, and bad
to you? During my stay in Dauphine I heard many things about the
beginning of your reign which you concealed from me; it seems to me
that the queen, your mother, is the real cause of all your troubles."

"In what way?" cried the king, deeply interested.

"Women whose souls and whose intentions are pure use virtue wherewith
to rule the men they love; but women who do not seek good rule men
through their evil instincts. Now, the queen made vices out of certain
of your noblest qualities, and she taught you to believe that your
worst inclinations were virtues. Was that the part of a mother? Be a
tyrant like Louis XI.; inspire terror; imitate Philip II.; banish the
Italians; drive out the Guises; confiscate the lands of the
Calvinists. Out of this solitude you will rise a king; you will save
the throne. The moment is propitious; your brother is in Poland."

"We are two children at statecraft," said Charles, bitterly; "we know
nothing except how to love. Alas! my treasure, yesterday I, too,
thought all these things; I dreamed of accomplishing great deeds--bah!
my mother blew down my house of cards! From a distance we see great
questions outlined like the summits of mountains, and it is easy to
say: 'I'll make an end of Calvinism; I'll bring those Guises to task;
I'll separate from the Court of Rome; I'll rely upon my people, upon
the burghers--' ah! yes, from afar it all seems simple enough! but try
to climb those mountains and the higher you go the more the
difficulties appear. Calvinism, in itself, is the last thing the
leaders of that party care for; and the Guises, those rabid Catholics,
would be sorry indeed to see the Calvinists put down. Each side
considers its own interests exclusively, and religious opinions are
but a cloak for insatiable ambition. The party of Charles IX. is the
feeblest of all. That of the king of Navarre, that of the king of
Poland, that of the Duc d'Alencon, that of the Condes, that of the
Guises, that of my mother, are all intriguing one against another, but
they take no account of me, not even in my own council. My mother, in
the midst of so many contending elements, is, nevertheless, the
strongest among them; she has just proved to me the inanity of my
plans. We are surrounded by rebellious subjects who defy the law. The
axe of Louis XI. of which you speak, is lacking to us. Parliament
would not condemn the Guises, nor the king of Navarre, nor the Condes,
nor my brother. No! the courage to assassinate is needed; the throne
will be forced to strike down those insolent men who suppress both law
and justice; but where can we find the faithful arm? The council I
held this morning has disgusted me with everything; treason
everywhere; contending interests all about me. I am tired with the
burden of my crown. I only want to die in peace."

He dropped into a sort of gloomy somnolence.

"Disgusted with everything!" repeated Marie Touchet, sadly; but she
did not disturb the black torpor of her lover.

Charles was the victim of a complete prostration of mind and body,
produced by three things,--the exhaustion of all his faculties,
aggravated by the disheartenment of realizing the extent of an evil;
the recognized impossibility of surmounting his weakness; and the
aspect of difficulties so great that genius itself would dread them.
The king's depression was in proportion to the courage and the
loftiness of ideas to which he had risen during the last few months.
In addition to this, an attack of nervous melancholy, caused by his
malady, had seized him as he left the protracted council which had
taken place in his private cabinet. Marie saw that he was in one of
those crises when the least word, even of love, would be importunate
and painful; so she remained kneeling quietly beside him, her head on
his knee, the king's hand buried in her hair, and he himself
motionless, without a word, without a sigh, as still as Marie herself,
--Charles IX. in the lethargy of impotence, Marie in the stupor of
despair which comes to a loving woman when she perceives the
boundaries at which love ends.

The lovers thus remained, in the deepest silence, during one of those
terrible hours when all reflection wounds, when the clouds of an
inward tempest veil even the memory of happiness. Marie believed that
she herself was partly the cause of this frightful dejection. She
asked herself, not without horror, if the excessive joys and the
violent love which she had never yet found strength to resist, did not
contribute to weaken the mind and body of the king. As she raised her
eyes, bathed in tears, toward her lover, she saw the slow tears
rolling down his pallid cheeks. This mark of the sympathy that united
them so moved the king that he rushed from his depression like a
spurred horse. He took Marie in his arms and placed her on the sofa.

"I will no longer be a king," he cried. "I will be your lover, your
lover only, wholly given up to that happiness. I will die happy, and
not consumed by the cares and miseries of a throne."

The tone of these words, the fire that shone in the half-extinct eyes
of the king, gave Marie a terrible shock instead of happiness; she
blamed her love as an accomplice in the malady of which the king was

"Meanwhile you forget your prisoners," she said, rising abruptly.

"Hey! what care I for them? I give them leave to kill me."

"What! are they murderers?"

"Oh, don't be frightened, little one; we hold them fast. Don't think
of them, but of me. Do you love me?"

"Sire!" she cried.

"Sire!" he repeated, sparks darting from his eyes, so violent was the
rush of his anger at the untimely respect of his mistress. "You are in
league with my mother."

"O God!" cried Marie, looking at the picture above her /prie-dieu/ and
turning toward it to say her prayer, "grant that he comprehend me!"

"Ah!" said the king suspiciously, "you have some wrong to me upon your
conscience!" Then looking at her from between his arms, he plunged his
eyes into hers. "I have heard some talk of the mad passion of a
certain Entragues," he went on wildly. "Ever since their grandfather,
the soldier Balzac, married a viscontessa at Milan that family hold
their heads too high."

Marie looked at the king with so proud an air that he was ashamed. At
that instant the cries of little Charles de Valois, who had just
awakened, were heard in the next room. Marie ran to the door.

"Come in, Bourguignonne!" she said, taking the child from its nurse
and carrying it to the king. "You are more of a child than he," she
cried, half angry, half appeased.

"He is beautiful!" said Charles IX., taking his son in his arms.

"I alone know how like he is to you," said Marie; "already he has your
smile and your gestures."

"So tiny as that!" said the king, laughing at her.

"Oh, I know men don't believe such things; but watch him, my Charlot,
play with him. Look there! See! Am I not right?"

"True!" exclaimed the king, astonished by a motion of the child which
seemed the very miniature of a gesture of his own.

"Ah, the pretty flower!" cried the mother. "Never shall he leave us!
/He/ will never cause me grief."

The king frolicked with his son; he tossed him in his arms, and kissed
him passionately, talking the foolish, unmeaning talk, the pretty,
baby language invented by nurses and mothers. His voice grew
child-like. At last his forehead cleared, joy returned to his saddened
face, and then, as Marie saw that he had forgotten his troubles, she
laid her head upon his shoulder and whispered in his ear:--

"Won't you tell me, Charlot, why you have made me keep murderers in my
house? Who are these men, and what do you mean to do with them? In
short, I want to know what you were doing on the roofs. I hope there
was no woman in the business?"

"Then you love me as much as ever!" cried the king, meeting the clear,
interrogatory glance that women know so well how to cast upon

"You doubted /me/," she replied, as a tear shone on her beautiful

"There are women in my adventure," said the king; "but they are
sorceresses. How far had I told you?"

"You were on the roofs near by--what street was it?"

"Rue Saint-Honore, sweetest," said the king, who seemed to have
recovered himself. Collecting this thoughts, he began to explain to
his mistress what had happened, as if to prepare her for a scene that
was presently to take place in her presence.

"As I was passing through the street last night on a frolic," he said,
"I chanced to see a bright light from the dormer window of the house
occupied by Rene, my mother's glover and perfumer, and once yours. I
have strong doubts about that man and what goes on in his house. If I
am poisoned, the drug will come from there."

"I shall dismiss him to-morrow."

"Ah! so you kept him after I had given him up?" cried the king. "I
thought my life was safe with you," he added gloomily; "but no doubt
death is following me even here."

"But, my dearest, I have only just returned from Dauphine with our
dauphin," she said, smiling, "and Rene has supplied me with nothing
since the death of the Queen of Navarre. Go on; you climbed to the
roof of Rene's house?"


                           THE KING'S TALE

"Yes," returned the king. "In a second I was there, followed by
Tavannes, and then we clambered to a spot where I could see without
being seen the interior of that devil's kitchen, in which I beheld
extraordinary things which inspired me to take certain measures. Did
you ever notice the end of the roof of that cursed perfumer? The
windows toward the street are always closed and dark, except the last,
from which can be seen the hotel de Soissons and the observatory which
my mother built for that astrologer, Cosmo Ruggiero. Under the roof
are lodging-rooms and a gallery which have no windows except on the
courtyard, so that in order to see what was going on within, it was
necessary to go where no man before ever dreamed of climbing,--along
the coping of a high wall which adjoins the roof of Rene's house. The
men who set up in that house the furnaces by which they distil death,
reckoned on the cowardice of Parisians to save them from being
overlooked; but they little thought of Charles de Valois! I crept
along the coping until I came to a window, against the casing of which
I was able to stand up straight with my arm round a carved monkey
which ornamented it."

"What did you see, dear heart?" said Marie, trembling.

"A den, where works of darkness were being done," replied the king.
"The first object on which my eyes lighted was a tall old man seated
in a chair, with a magnificent white beard, like that of old
l'Hopital, and dressed like him in a black velvet robe. On his broad
forehead furrowed deep with wrinkles, on his crown of white hair, on
his calm, attentive face, pale with toil and vigils, fell the
concentrated rays of a lamp from which shone a vivid light. His
attention was divided between an old manuscript, the parchment of
which must have been centuries old, and two lighted furnaces on which
heretical compounds were cooking. Neither the floor nor the ceiling of
the laboratory could be seen, because of the myriads of hanging
skeletons, bodies of animals, dried plants, minerals, and articles of
all kinds that masked the walls; while on the floor were books,
instruments for distilling, chests filled with utensils for magic and
astrology; in one place I saw horoscopes and nativities, phials,
wax-figures under spells, and possibly poisons. Tavannes and I were
fascinated, I do assure you, by the sight of this devil's-arsenal.
Only to see it puts one under a spell, and if I had not been King of
France, I might have been awed by it. 'You can tremble for both of
us,' I whispered to Tavannes. But Tavannes' eyes were already caught
by the most mysterious feature of the scene. On a couch, near the old
man, lay a girl of strangest beauty,--slender and long like a snake,
white as ermine, livid as death, motionless as a statue. Perhaps it
was a woman just taken from her grave, on whom they were trying
experiments, for she seemed to wear a shroud; her eyes were fixed, and
I could not see that she breathed. The old fellow paid no attention to
her. I looked at him so intently that, after a while, his soul seemed
to pass into mine. By dint of studying him, I ended by admiring the
glance of his eye,--so keen, so profound, so bold, in spite of the
chilling power of age. I admired his mouth, mobile with thoughts
emanating from a desire which seemed to be the solitary desire of his
soul, and was stamped upon every line of the face. All things in that
man expressed a hope which nothing discouraged, and nothing could
check. His attitude,--a quivering immovability,--those outlines so
free, carved by a single passion as by the chisel of a sculptor, that
IDEA concentrated on some experiment criminal or scientific, that
seeking Mind in quest of Nature, thwarted by her, bending but never
broken under the weight of its own audacity, which it would not
renounce, threatening creation with the fire it derived from it,--ah!
all that held me in a spell for the time being. I saw before me an old
man who was more of a king than I, for his glance embraced the world
and mastered it. I will forge swords no longer; I will soar above the
abysses of existence, like that man; for his science, methinks, is
true royalty! Yes, I believe in occult science."

"You, the eldest son, the defender of the Holy Catholic, Apostolic,
and Roman Church?" said Marie.


"What happened to you? Go on, go on; I will fear for you, and you will
have courage for me."

"Looking at a clock, the old man rose," continued the king. "He went
out, I don't know where; but I heard the window on the side toward the
rue Saint-Honore open. Soon a brilliant light gleamed out upon the
darkness; then I saw in the observatory of the hotel de Soissons
another light replying to that of the old man, and by it I beheld the
figure of Cosmo Ruggiero on the tower. 'See, they communicate!' I said
to Tavannes, who from that moment thought the matter frightfully
suspicious, and agreed with me that we ought to seize the two men and
search, incontinently, their accursed workshop. But before proceeding
to do so, we wanted to see what was going to happen. After about
fifteen minutes the door opened, and Cosmo Ruggiero, my mother's
counsellor,--the bottomless pit which holds the secrets of the court,
he from whom all women ask help against their husbands and lovers, and
all the men ask help against their unfaithful wives and mistresses, he
who traffics on the future as on the past, receiving pay with both
hands, who sells horoscopes and is supposed to know all things,--that
semi-devil came in, saying to the old man, 'Good-day to you, brother.'
With him he brought a hideous old woman,--toothless, humpbacked,
twisted, bent, like a Chinese image, only worse. She was wrinkled as a
withered apple; her skin was saffron-colored; her chin bit her nose;
her mouth was a mere line scarcely visible; her eyes were like the
black spots on a dice; her forehead emitted bitterness; her hair
escaped in straggling gray locks from a dirty coif; she walked with a
crutch; she smelt of heresy and witchcraft. The sight of her actually
frightened us, Tavannes and me! We didn't think her a natural woman.
God never made a woman so fearful as that. She sat down on a stool
near the pretty snake with whom Tavannes was in love. The two brothers
paid no attention to the old woman nor to the young woman, who
together made a horrible couple,--on the one side life in death, on
the other death in life--"

"Ah! my sweet poet!" cried Marie, kissing the king.

"'Good-day, Cosmo,' replied the old alchemist. And they both looked
into the furnace. 'What strength has the moon to-day?' asked the
elder. 'But, /caro Lorenzo/,' replied my mother's astrologer, 'the
September tides are not yet over; we can learn nothing while that
disorder lasts.' 'What says the East to-night?' 'It discloses in the
air a creative force which returns to earth all that earth takes from
it. The conclusion is that all things here below are the product of a
slow transformation, but that all diversities are the forms of one and
the same substance.' 'That is what my predecessor thought,' replied
Lorenzo. 'This morning Bernard Palissy told me that metals were the
result of compression, and that fire, which divides all, also unites
all; fire has the power to compress as well as to separate. That man
has genius.' Though I was placed where it was impossible for them to
see me, Cosmo said, lifting the hand of the dead girl: 'Some one is
near us! Who is it' 'The king,' she answered. I at once showed myself
and rapped on the window. Ruggiero opened it, and I sprang into that
hellish kitchen, followed by Tavannes. 'Yes, the king,' I said to the
two Florentines, who seemed terrified. 'In spite of your furnaces and
your books, your sciences and your sorceries, you did not foresee my
visit. I am very glad to meet the famous Lorenzo Ruggiero, of whom my
mother speaks mysteriously,' I said, addressing the old man, who rose
and bowed. 'You are in this kingdom without my consent, my good man.
For whom are you working here, you whose ancestors from father to son
have been devoted in heart to the house of Medici? Listen to me! You
dive into so many purses that by this time, if you are grasping men,
you have piled up gold. You are too shrewd and cautious to cast
yourselves imprudently into criminal actions; but, nevertheless, you
are not here in this kitchen without a purpose. Yes, you have some
secret scheme, you who are satisfied neither by gold nor power. Whom
do you serve,--God or the devil? What are you concocting here? I
choose to know the whole truth; I am a man who can hear it and keep
silence about your enterprise, however blamable it maybe. Therefore
you will tell me all, without reserve. If you deceive me you will be
treated severely. Pagans or Christians, Calvinists or Mohammedans, you
have my royal word that you shall leave the kingdom in safety if you
have any misdemeanors to relate. I shall leave you for the rest of the
night and the forenoon of to-morrow to examine your thoughts; for you
are now my prisoners, and you will at once follow me to a place where
you will be guarded carefully.' Before obeying me the two Italians
consulted each other by a subtle glance; then Lorenzo Ruggiero said I
might be assured that no torture could wring their secrets from them;
that in spite of their apparent feebleness neither pain nor human
feelings had any power of them; confidence alone could make their
mouth say what their mind contained. I must not, he said, be surprised
if they treated as equals with a king who recognized God only as above
him, for their thoughts came from God alone. They therefore claimed
from me as much confidence and trust as they should give to me. But
before engaging themselves to answer me without reserve they must
request me to put my left hand into that of the young girl lying
there, and my right into that of the old woman. Not wishing them to
think I was afraid of their sorcery, I held out my hands; Lorenzo took
the right, Cosmo the left, and each placed a hand in that of each
woman, so that I was like Jesus Christ between the two thieves. During
the time that the two witches were examining my hands Cosmo held a
mirror before me and asked me to look into it; his brother, meanwhile,
was talking with the two women in a language unknown to me. Neither
Tavannes nor I could catch the meaning of a single sentence. Before
bringing the men here we put seals on all the outlets of the
laboratory, which Tavannes undertook to guard until such time as, by
my express orders, Bernard Palissy, and Chapelain, my physician, could
be brought there to examine thoroughly the drugs the place contained
and which were evidently made there. In order to keep the Ruggieri
ignorant of this search, and to prevent them from communicating with a
single soul outside, I put the two devils in your lower rooms in
charge of Solern's Germans, who are better than the walls of a jail.
Rene, the perfumer, is kept under guard in his own house by Solern's
equerry, and so are the two witches. Now, my sweetest, inasmuch as I
hold the keys of the whole cabal,--the kings of Thune, the chiefs of
sorcery, the gypsy fortune-tellers, the masters of the future, the
heirs of all past soothsayers,--I intend by their means to read /you/,
to know your heart; and, together, we will find out what is to happen
to us."

"I shall be glad if they can lay my heart bare before you," said
Marie, without the slightest fear.

"I know why sorcerers don't frighten you,--because you are a witch

"Will you have a peach?" she said, offering him some delicious fruit
on a gold plate. "See these grapes, these pears; I went to Vincennes
myself and gathered them for you."

"Yes, I'll eat them; there is no poison there except a philter from
your hands."

"You ought to eat a great deal of fruit, Charles; it would cool your
blood, which you heat by such excitements."

"Must I love you less?"

"Perhaps so," she said. "If the things you love injure you--and I have
feared it--I shall find strength in my heart to refuse them. I adore
Charles more than I love the king; I want the man to live, released
from the tortures that make him grieve."

"Royalty has ruined me."

"Yes," she replied. "If you were only a poor prince, like your
brother-in-law of Navarre, without a penny, possessing only a
miserable little kingdom in Spain where he never sets his foot, and
Bearn in France which doesn't give him revenue enough to feed him, I
should be happy, much happier than if I were really Queen of France."

"But you are more than the Queen of France. She has King Charles for
the sake of the kingdom only; royal marriages are only politics."

Marie smiled and made a pretty little grimace as she said: "Yes, yes,
I know that, sire. And my sonnet, have you written it?"

"Dearest, verses are as difficult to write as treaties of peace; but
you shall have them soon. Ah, me! life is so easy here, I wish I might
never leave you. However, we must send for those Italians and question
them. /Tete-Dieu/! I thought one Ruggiero in the kingdom was one too
many, but it seems there are two. Now listen, my precious; you don't
lack sense, you would make an excellent lieutenant of police, for you
can penetrate things--"

"But, sire, we women suppose all we fear, and we turn what is probable
into truths; that is the whole of our art in a nutshell."

"Well, help me to sound these men. Just now all my plans depend on the
result of their examination. Are they innocent? Are they guilty? My
mother is behind them."

"I hear Jacob's voice in the next room," said Marie.

Jacob was the favorite valet of the king, and the one who accompanied
him on all his private excursions. He now came to ask if it was the
king's good pleasure to speak to the two prisoners. The king made a
sign in the affirmative, and the mistress of the house gave her

"Jacob," she said, "clear the house of everybody, except the nurse and
Monsieur le Dauphin d'Auvergne, who may remain. As for you, stay in
the lower hall; but first, close the windows, draw the curtains of the
salon, and light the candles."

The king's impatience was so great that while these preparations were
being made he sat down upon a raised seat at the corner of a lofty
fireplace of white marble in which a bright fire was blazing, placing
his pretty mistress by his side. His portrait, framed in velvet, was
over the mantle in place of a mirror. Charles IX. rested his elbow on
the arm of the seat as if to watch the two Florentines the better
under cover of his hand.

The shutters closed, and the curtains drawn, Jacob lighted the wax
tapers in a tall candelabrum of chiselled silver, which he placed on
the table where the Florentines were to stand,--an object, by the bye,
which they would readily recognize as the work of their compatriot,
Benvenuto Cellini. The richness of the room, decorated in the taste of
Charles IX., now shone forth. The red-brown of the tapestries showed
to better advantage than by daylight. The various articles of
furniture, delicately made or carved, reflected in their ebony panels
the glow of the fire and the sparkle of the lights. Gilding, soberly
applied, shone here and there like eyes, brightening the brown color
which prevailed in this nest of love.

Jacob presently gave two knocks, and, receiving permission, ushered in
the Italians. Marie Touchet was instantly affected by the grandeur of
Lorenzo's presence, which struck all those who met him, great and
small alike. The silvery whiteness of the old man's beard was
heightened by a robe of black velvet; his brow was like a marble dome.
His austere face, illumined by two black eyes which cast a pointed
flame, conveyed an impression of genius issuing from solitude, and all
the more effective because its power had not been dulled by contact
with men. It was like the steel of a blade that had never been

As for Cosmo Ruggiero, he wore the dress of a courtier of the time.
Marie made a sign to the king to assure him that he had not
exaggerated his description, and to thank him for having shown her
these extraordinary men.

"I would like to have seen the sorceresses, too," she whispered in his


                            THE ALCHEMISTS

Again absorbed in thought, Charles IX. made her no answer; he was idly
flicking crumbs of bread from his doublet and breeches.

"Your science cannot change the heavens or make the sun to shine,
messieurs," he said at last, pointing to the curtains which the gray
atmosphere of Paris darkened.

"Our science can make the skies what we like, sire," replied Lorenzo
Ruggiero. "The weather is always fine for those who work in a
laboratory by the light of a furnace."

"That is true," said the king. "Well, father," he added, using an
expression familiar to him when addressing old men, "explain to us
clearly the object of your studies."

"What will guarantee our safety?"

"The word of a king," replied Charles IX., whose curiosity was keenly
excited by the question.

Lorenzo Ruggiero seemed to hesitate, and Charles IX. cried out: "What
hinders you? We are here alone."

"But is the King of France here?" asked Lorenzo.

Charles reflected an instant, and then answered, "No."

The imposing old man then took a chair, and seated himself. Cosmo,
astonished at this boldness, dared not imitate it.

Charles IX. remarked, with cutting sarcasm: "The king is not here,
monsieur, but a lady is, whose permission it was your duty to await."

"He whom you see before you, madame," said the old man, "is as far
above kings as kings are above their subjects; you will think me
courteous when you know my powers."

Hearing these audacious words, with Italian emphasis, Charles and
Marie looked at each other, and also at Cosmo, who, with his eyes
fixed on his brother, seemed to be asking himself: "How does he intend
to get us out of the danger in which we are?"

In fact, there was but one person present who could understand the
boldness and the art of Lorenzo Ruggiero's first step; and that person
was neither the king nor his young mistress, on whom that great seer
had already flung the spell of his audacity,--it was Cosmo Ruggiero,
his wily brother. Though superior himself to the ablest men at court,
perhaps even to Catherine de' Medici herself, the astrologer always
recognized his brother Lorenzo as his master.

Buried in studious solitude, the old savant weighed and estimated
sovereigns, most of whom were worn out by the perpetual turmoil of
politics, the crises of which at this period came so suddenly and were
so keen, so intense, so unexpected. He knew their ennui, their
lassitude, their disgust with things about them; he knew the ardor
with which they sought what seemed to them new or strange or
fantastic; above all, how they loved to enter some unknown
intellectual region to escape their endless struggle with men and
events. To those who have exhausted statecraft, nothing remains but
the realm of pure thought. Charles the Fifth proved this by his
abdication. Charles IX., who wrote sonnets and forged blades to escape
the exhausting cares of an age in which both throne and king were
threatened, to whom royalty had brought only cares and never
pleasures, was likely to be roused to a high pitch of interest by the
bold denial of his power thus uttered by Lorenzo. Religious doubt was
not surprising in an age when Catholicism was so violently arraigned;
but the upsetting of all religion, given as the basis of a strange,
mysterious art, would surely strike the king's mind, and drag it from
its present preoccupations. The essential thing for the two brothers
was to make the king forget his suspicions by turning his mind to new

The Ruggieri were well aware that their stake in this game was their
own life, and the glances, so humble, and yet so proud, which they
exchanged with the searching, suspicious eyes of Marie and the king,
were a scene in themselves.

"Sire," said Lorenzo Ruggiero, "you have asked me for the truth; but,
to show the truth in all her nakedness, I must also show you and make
you sound the depths of the well from which she comes. I appeal to the
gentleman and the poet to pardon words which the eldest son of the
Church might take for blasphemy,--I believe that God does not concern
himself with human affairs."

Though determined to maintain a kingly composure, Charles IX. could
not repress a motion of surprise.

"Without that conviction I should have no faith whatever in the
miraculous work to which my life is devoted. To do that work I must
have this belief; and if the finger of God guides all things, then--I
am a madman. Therefore, let the king understand, once for all, that
this work means a victory to be won over the present course of Nature.
I am an alchemist, sire. But do not think, as the common-minded do,
that I seek to make gold. The making of gold is not the object but an
incident of our researches; otherwise our toil could not be called the
GREAT WORK. The Great Work is something far loftier than that. If,
therefore, I were forced to admit the presence of God in matter, my
voice must logically command the extinction of furnaces kept burning
throughout the ages. But to deny the direct action of God in the world
is not to deny God; do not make that mistake. We place the Creator of
all things far higher than the sphere to which religions have degraded
Him. Do not accuse of atheism those who look for immortality. Like
Lucifer, we are jealous of our God; and jealousy means love. Though
the doctrine of which I speak is the basis of our work, all our
disciples are not imbued with it. Cosmo," said the old man, pointing
to his brother, "Cosmo is devout; he pays for masses for the repose of
our father's soul, and he goes to hear them. Your mother's astrologer
believes in the divinity of Christ, in the Immaculate Conception, in
Transubstantiation; he believes also in the Pope's indulgences and in
hell, and in a multitude of such things. His hour has not yet come. I
have drawn his horoscope; he will live to be almost a centenarian; he
will live through two more reigns, and he will see two kings of France

"Who are they?" asked the king.

"The last of the Valois and the first of the Bourbons," replied
Lorenzo. "But Cosmo shares my opinion. It is impossible to be an
alchemist and a Catholic, to have faith in the despotism of man over
matter, and also in the sovereignty of the divine."

"Cosmo to die a centenarian!" exclaimed the king, with his terrible
frown of the eyebrows.

"Yes, sire," replied Lorenzo, with authority; "and he will die
peaceably in his bed."

"If you have power to foresee the moment of your death, why are you
ignorant of the outcome of your researches?" asked the king.

Charles IX. smiled as he said this, looking triumphantly at Marie
Touchet. The brothers exchanged a rapid glance of satisfaction.

"He begins to be interested," thought they. "We are saved!"

"Our prognostics depend on the immediate relations which exist at the
time between man and Nature; but our purpose itself is to change those
relations entirely," replied Lorenzo.

The king was thoughtful.

"But, if you are certain of dying you are certain of defeat," he said,
at last.

"Like our predecessors," replied Lorenzo, raising his hand and letting
it fall again with an emphatic and solemn gesture, which presented
visibly the grandeur of his thought. "But your mind has bounded to the
confines of the matter, sire; we must return upon our steps. If you do
not know the ground on which our edifice is built, you may well think
it doomed to crumble with our lives, and so judge the Science
cultivated from century to century by the greatest among men, as the
common herd judge of it."

The king made a sign of assent.

"I think," continued Lorenzo, "that this earth belongs to man; he is
the master of it, and he can appropriate to his use all forces and all
substances. Man is not a creation issuing directly from the hand of
God; but the development of a principle sown broadcast into the
infinite of ether, from which millions of creatures are produced,
--differing beings in different worlds, because the conditions
surrounding life are varied. Yes, sire, the subtle element which we
call /life/ takes its rise beyond the visible worlds; creation divides
that principle according to the centres into which it flows; and all
beings, even the lowest, share it, taking so much as they can take of
it at their own risk and peril. It is for them to protect themselves
from death,--the whole purpose of alchemy lies there, sire. If man,
the most perfect animal on this globe, bore within himself a portion
of the divine, he would not die; but he does die. To solve this
difficulty, Socrates and his school invented the Soul. I, the
successor of so many great and unknown kings, the rulers of this
science, I stand for the ancient theories, not the new. I believe in
the transformations of matter which I see, and not in the possible
eternity of a soul which I do not see. I do not recognize that world
of the soul. If such a world existed, the substances whose magnificent
conjunction produced your body, and are so dazzling in that of Madame,
would not resolve themselves after your death each into its own
element, water to water, fire to fire, metal to metal, just as the
elements of my coal, when burned, return to their primitive molecules.
If you believe that a certain part of us survives, /we/ do not
survive; for all that makes our actual being perishes. Now, it is this
actual being that I am striving to continue beyond the limit assigned
to life; it is our present transformation to which I wish to give a
greater duration. Why! the trees live for centuries, but man lives
only years, though the former are passive, the others active; the
first motionless and speechless, the others gifted with language and
motion. No created thing should be superior in this world to man,
either in power or in duration. Already we are widening our
perceptions, for we look into the stars; therefore we ought to be able
to lengthen the duration of our lives. I place life before power. What
good is power if life escapes us? A wise man should have no other
purpose than to seek, not whether he has some other life within him,
but the secret springs of his actual form, in order that he may
prolong its existence at his will. That is the desire which has
whitened my hair; but I walk boldly in the darkness, marshalling to
the search all those great intellects that share my faith. Life will
some day be ours,--ours to control."

"Ah! but how?" cried the king, rising hastily.

"The first condition of our faith being that the earth belongs to man,
you must grant me that point," said Lorenzo.

"So be it!" said Charles de Valois, already under the spell.

"Then, sire, if we take God out of this world, what remains? Man. Let
us therefore examine our domain. The material world is composed of
elements; these elements are themselves principles; these principles
resolve themselves into an ultimate principle, endowed with motion.
The number THREE is the formula of creation: Matter, Motion, Product."

"Stop!" cried the king, "what proof is there of this?"

"Do you not see the effects?" replied Lorenzo. "We have tried in our
crucibles the acorn which produces the oak, and the embryo from which
grows a man; from this tiny substance results a single principle, to
which some force, some movement must be given. Since there is no
overruling creator, this principle must give to itself the outward
forms which constitute our world--for this phenomenon of life is the
same everywhere. Yes, for metals as for human beings, for plants as
for men, life begins in an imperceptible embryo which develops itself.
A primitive principle exists; let us seize it at the point where it
begins to act upon itself, where it is a unit, where it is a principle
before taking definite form, a cause before being an effect; we must
see it single, without form, susceptible of clothing itself with all
the outward forms we shall see it take. When we are face to face with
this atomic particle, when we shall have caught its movement at the
very instant of motion, /then/ we shall know the law; thenceforth we
are the masters of life, masters who can impose upon that principle
the form we choose,--with gold to win the world, and the power to make
for ourselves centuries of life in which to enjoy it! That is what my
people and I are seeking. All our strength, all our thoughts are
strained in that direction; nothing distracts us from it. One hour
wasted on any other passion is a theft committed against our true
grandeur. Just as you have never found your hounds relinquishing the
hunted animal or failing to be in at the death, so I have never seen
one of my patient disciples diverted from this great quest by the love
of woman or a selfish thought. If an adept seeks power and wealth, the
desire is instigated by our needs; he grasps treasure as a thirsty dog
laps water while he swims a stream, because his crucibles are in need
of a diamond to melt or an ingot of gold to reduce to powder. To each
his own work. One seeks the secret of vegetable nature; he watches the
slow life of plants; he notes the parity of motion among all the
species, and the parity of their nutrition; he finds everywhere the
need of sun and air and water, to fecundate and nourish them. Another
scrutinizes the blood of animals. A third studies the laws of
universal motion and its connection with celestial revolutions. Nearly
all are eager to struggle with the intractable nature of metal, for
while we find many principles in other things, we find all metals like
unto themselves in every particular. Hence a common error as to our
work. Behold these patient, indefatigable athletes, ever vanquished,
yet ever returning to the combat! Humanity, sire, is behind us, as the
huntsman is behind your hounds. She cries to us: 'Make haste! neglect
nothing! sacrifice all, even a man, ye who sacrifice yourselves!
Hasten! hasten! Beat down the arms of DEATH, mine enemy!' Yes, sire,
we are inspired by a hope which involves the happiness of all coming
generations. We have buried many men--and what men!--dying of this
Search. Setting foot in this career we cannot work for ourselves; we
may die without discovering the Secret; and our death is that of those
who do not believe in another life; it is this life that we have
sought, and failed to perpetuate. We are glorious martyrs; we have the
welfare of the race at heart; we have failed but we live again in our
successors. As we go through this existence we discover secrets with
which we endow the liberal and the mechanical arts. From our furnaces
gleam lights which illumine industrial enterprises, and perfect them.
Gunpowder issued from our alembics; nay, we have mastered the
lightning. In our persistent vigils lie political revolutions."

"Can this be true?" cried the king, springing once more from his

"Why not?" said the grand-master of the new Templars. "/Tradidit
mundum disputationibus/! God has given us the earth. Hear this once
more: man is master here below; matter is his; all forces, all means
are at his disposal. Who created us? Motion. What power maintains life
in us? Motion. Why cannot science seize the secret of that motion?
Nothing is lost here below; nothing escapes from our planet to go
elsewhere,--otherwise the stars would stumble over each other; the
waters of the deluge are still with us in their principle, and not a
drop is lost. Around us, above us, beneath us, are to be found the
elements from which have come innumerable hosts of men who have
crowded the earth before and since the deluge. What is the secret of
our struggle? To discover the force that disunites, and then, /then/
we shall discover that which binds. We are the product of a visible
manufacture. When the waters covered the globe men issued from them
who found the elements of their life in the crust of the earth, in the
air, and in the nourishment derived from them. Earth and air possess,
therefore, the principle of human transformations; those
transformations take place under our eyes, by means of that which is
also under our eyes. We are able, therefore, to discover that secret,
--not limiting the effort of the search to one man or to one age, but
devoting humanity in its duration to it. We are engaged, hand to hand,
in a struggle with Matter, into whose secret, I, the grand-master of
our order, seek to penetrate. Christophe Columbus gave a world to the
King of Spain; I seek an ever-living people for the King of France.
Standing on the confines which separate us from a knowledge of
material things, a patient observer of atoms, I destroy forms, I
dissolve the bonds of combinations; I imitate death that I may learn
how to imitate life. I strike incessantly at the door of creation, and
I shall continue so to strike until the day of my death. When I am
dead the knocker will pass into other hands equally persistent with
those of the mighty men who handed it to me. Fabulous and
uncomprehended beings, like Prometheus, Ixion, Adonis, Pan, and
others, who have entered into the religious beliefs of all countries
and all ages, prove to the world that the hopes we now embody were
born with the human races. Chaldea, India, Persia, Egypt, Greece, the
Moors, have transmitted from one to another Magic, the highest of all
the occult sciences, which holds within it, as a precious deposit the
fruits of the studies of each generation. In it lay the tie that bound
the grand and majestic institution of the Templars. Sire, when one of
your predecessors burned the Templars, he burned men only,--their
Secret lived. The reconstruction of the Temple is a vow of an unknown
nation, a race of daring seekers, whose faces are turned to the Orient
of /life/,--all brothers, all inseparable, all united by one idea, and
stamped with the mark of toil. I am the sovereign leader of that
people, sovereign by election, not by birth. I guide them onward to a
knowledge of the essence of life. Grand-master, Red-Cross-bearers,
companions, adepts, we forever follow the imperceptible molecule which
still escapes our eyes. But soon we shall make ourselves eyes more
powerful than those which Nature has given us; we shall attain to a
sight of the primitive atom, the corpuscular element so persistently
sought by the wise and learned of all ages who have preceded us in the
glorious search. Sire, when a man is astride of that abyss, when he
commands bold divers like my disciples, all other human interests are
as nothing. Therefore we are not dangerous. Religious disputes and
political struggles are far away from us; we have passed beyond and
above them. No man takes others by the throat when his whole strength
is given to a struggle with Nature. Besides, in our science results
are perceivable; we can measure effects and predict them; whereas all
things are uncertain and vacillating in the struggles of men and their
selfish interests. We decompose the diamond in our crucibles, and we
shall make diamonds, we shall make gold! We shall impel vessels (as
they have at Barcelona) with fire and a little water! We test the
wind, and we shall make wind; we shall make light; we shall renew the
face of empires with new industries! But we shall never debase
ourselves to mount a throne to be crucified by the peoples!"

In spite of his strong determination not to be taken in by Italian
wiles, the king, together with his gentle mistress, was already caught
and snared by the ambiguous phrases and doublings of this pompous and
humbugging loquacity. The eyes of the two lovers showed how their
minds were dazzled by the mysterious riches of power thus displayed;
they saw, as it were, a series of subterranean caverns filled with
gnomes at their toil. The impatience of their curiosity put to flight
all suspicion.

"But," cried the king, "if this be so, you are great statesmen who can
enlighten us."

"No, sire," said Lorenzo, naively.

"Why not?" asked the king.

"Sire, it is not given to any man to foresee what will happen when
thousands of men are gathered together. We can tell what one man will
do, how long he will live, whether he will be happy or unhappy; but we
cannot tell what a collection of wills may do; and to calculate the
oscillations of their selfish interests is more difficult still, for
interests are men /plus/ things. We can, in solitude, see the future
as a whole, and that is all. The Protestantism that now torments you
will be destroyed in turn by its material consequences, which will
turn to theories in due time. Europe is at the present moment getting
the better of religion; to-morrow it will attack royalty."

"Then the Saint-Bartholomew was a great conception?"

"Yes, sire; for if the people triumph it will have a Saint-Bartholomew
of its own. When religion and royalty are destroyed the people will
attack the nobles; after the nobles, the rich. When Europe has become
a mere troop of men without consistence or stability, because without
leaders, it will fall a prey to brutal conquerors. Twenty times
already has the world seen that sight, and Europe is now preparing to
renew it. Ideas consume the ages as passions consume men. When man is
cured, humanity may possibly cure itself. Science is the essence of
humanity, and we are its pontiffs; whoso concerns himself about the
essence cares little about the individual life."

"To what have you attained, so far?" asked the king.

"We advance slowly; but we lose nothing that we have won."

"Then you are the king of sorcerers?" retorted the king, piqued at
being of no account in the presence of this man.

The majestic grand-master of the Rosicrucians cast a look on Charles
IX. which withered him.

"You are the king of men," he said; "I am the king of ideas. If we
were sorcerers, you would already have burned us. We have had our

"But by what means are you able to cast nativities?" persisted the
king. "How did you know that the man who came to your window last
night was King of France? What power authorized one of you to tell my
mother the fate of her three sons? Can you, grand-master of an art
which claims to mould the world, can you tell me what my mother is
planning at this moment?"

"Yes, sire."

This answer was given before Cosmo could pull his brother's robe to
enjoin silence.

"Do you know why my brother, the King of Poland, has returned?"

"Yes, sire."


"To take your place."

"Our most cruel enemies are our nearest in blood!" exclaimed the king,
violently, rising and walking about the room with hasty steps. "Kings
have neither brothers, nor sons, nor mothers. Coligny was right; my
murderers are not among the Huguenots, but in the Louvre. You are
either imposters or regicides!--Jacob, call Solern."

"Sire," said Marie Touchet, "the Ruggieri have your word as a
gentleman. You wanted to taste of the fruit of the tree of knowledge;
do not complain of its bitterness."

The king smiled, with an expression of bitter self-contempt; he
thought his material royalty petty in presence of the august
intellectual royalty of Lorenzo Ruggiero. Charles IX. knew that he
could scarcely govern France, but this grand-master of Rosicrucians
ruled a submissive and intelligent world.

"Answer me truthfully; I pledge my word as a gentleman that your
answer, in case it confesses dreadful crimes, shall be as if it were
never uttered," resumed the king. "Do you deal with poisons?"

"To discover that which gives life, we must also have full knowledge
of that which kills."

"Do you possess the secret of many poisons?"

"Yes, sire,--in theory, but not in practice. We understand all
poisons, but do not use them."

"Has my mother asked you for any?" said the king, breathlessly.

"Sire," replied Lorenzo, "Queen Catherine is too able a woman to
employ such means. She knows that the sovereign who poisons dies by
poison. The Borgias, also Bianca Capello, Grand Duchess of Tuscany,
are noted examples of the dangers of that miserable resource. All
things are known at courts; there can be no concealment. It may be
possible to kill a poor devil--and what is the good of that?--but to
aim at great men cannot be done secretly. Who shot Coligny? It could
only be you, or the queen-mother, or the Guises. Not a soul is
doubtful of that. Believe me, poison cannot be twice used with
impunity in statecraft. Princes have successors. As for other men, if,
like Luther, they are sovereigns through the power of ideas, their
doctrines are not killed by killing them. The queen is from Florence;
she knows that poison should never be used except as a weapon of
personal revenge. My brother, who has not been parted from her since
her arrival in France, knows the grief that Madame Diane caused your
mother. But she never thought of poisoning her, though she might
easily have done so. What could your father have said? Never had a
woman a better right to do it; and she could have done it with
impunity; but Madame de Valentinois still lives."

"But what of those waxen images?" asked the king.

"Sire," said Cosmo, "these things are so absolutely harmless that we
lend ourselves to the practice to satisfy blind passions, just as
physicians give bread pills to imaginary invalids. A disappointed
woman fancies that by stabbing the heart of a wax-figure she has
brought misfortunes upon the head of the man who has been unfaithful
to her. What harm in that? Besides, it is our revenue."

"The Pope sells indulgences," said Lorenzo Ruggiero, smiling.

"Has my mother practised these spells with waxen images?"

"What good would such harmless means be to one who has the actual
power to do all things?"

"Has Queen Catherine the power to save you at this moment?" inquired
the king, in a threatening manner.

"Sire, we are not in any danger," replied Lorenzo, tranquilly. "I knew
before I came into this house that I should leave it safely, just as I
know that the king will be evilly disposed to my brother Cosmo a few
weeks hence. My brother may run some danger then, but he will escape
it. If the king reigns by the sword, he also reigns by justice," added
the old man, alluding to the famous motto on a medal struck for
Charles IX.

"You know all, and you know that I shall die soon, which is very
well," said the king, hiding his anger under nervous impatience; "but
how will my brother die,--he whom you say is to be Henri III.?"

"By a violent death."

"And the Duc d'Alencon?"

"He will not reign."

"Then Henri de Bourbon will be king of France?"

"Yes, sire."

"How will he die?"

"By a violent death."

"When I am dead what will become of madame?" asked the king, motioning
to Marie Touchet.

"Madame de Belleville will marry, sire."

"You are imposters!" cried Marie Touchet. "Send them away, sire."

"Dearest, the Ruggieri have my word as a gentleman," replied the king,
smiling. "Will madame have children?" he continued.

"Yes, sire; and madame will live to be more than eighty years old."

"Shall I order them to be hanged?" said the king to his mistress. "But
about my son, the Comte d'Auvergne?" he continued, going into the next
room to fetch the child.

"Why did you tell him I should marry?" said Marie to the two brothers,
the moment they were alone.

"Madame," replied Lorenzo, with dignity, "the king bound us to tell
the truth, and we have told it."

"/Is/ that true?" she exclaimed.

"As true as it is that the governor of the city of Orleans is madly in
love with you."

"But I do not love him," she cried.

"That is true, madame," replied Lorenzo; "but your horoscope declares
that you will marry the man who is in love with you at the present

"Can you not lie a little for my sake?" she said smiling; "for if the
king believes your predictions--"

"Is it not also necessary that he should believe our innocence?"
interrupted Cosmo, with a wily glance at the young favorite. "The
precautions taken against us by the king have made us think during the
time we have spent in your charming jail that the occult sciences have
been traduced to him."

"Do not feel uneasy," replied Marie. "I know him; his suspicions are
at an end."

"We are innocent," said the grand-master of the Rosicrucians, proudly.

"So much the better for you," said Marie, "for your laboratory, and
your retorts and phials are now being searched by order of the king."

The brothers looked at each other smiling. Marie Touchet took that
smile for one of innocence, though it really signified: "Poor fools!
can they suppose that if we brew poisons, we do not hide them?"

"Where are the king's searchers?"

"In Rene's laboratory," replied Marie.

Again the brothers glanced at each other with a look which said: "The
hotel de Soissons is inviolable."

The king had so completely forgotten his suspicions that when, as he
took his boy in his arms, Jacob gave him a note from Chapelain, he
opened it with the certainty of finding in his physician's report that
nothing had been discovered in the laboratory but what related
exclusively to alchemy.

"Will he live a happy man?" asked the king, presenting his son to the
two alchemists.

"That is a question which concerns Cosmo," replied Lorenzo, signing
his brother.

Cosmo took the tiny hand of the child, and examined it carefully.

"Monsieur," said Charles IX. to the old man, "if you find it necessary
to deny the existence of the soul in order to believe in the
possibility of your enterprise, will you explain to my why you should
doubt what your power does? Thought, which you seek to nullify, is the
certainty, the torch which lights your researches. Ha! ha! is not that
the motion of a spirit within you, while you deny such motion?" cried
the king, pleased with his argument, and looking triumphantly at his

"Thought," replied Lorenzo Ruggiero, "is the exercise of an inward
sense; just as the faculty of seeing several objects and noticing
their size and color is an effect of sight. It has no connection with
what people choose to call another life. Thought is a faculty which
ceases, with the forces which produced it, when we cease to breathe."

"You are logical," said the king, surprised. "But alchemy must
therefore be an atheistical science.'

"A materialist science, sire, which is a very different thing.
Materialism is the outcome of Indian doctrines, transmitted through
the mysteries of Isis to Chaldea and Egypt, and brought to Greece by
Pythagoras, one of the demigods of humanity. His doctrine of
re-incarnation is the mathematics of materialism, the vital law of its
phases. To each of the different creations which form the terrestrial
creation belongs the power of retarding the movement which sweeps on
the rest."

"Alchemy is the science of sciences!" cried Charles IX.,
enthusiastically. "I want to see you at work."

"Whenever it pleases you, sire; you cannot be more interested than
Madame the Queen-mother."

"Ah! so this is why she cares for you?" exclaimed the king.

"The house of Medici has secretly protected our Search for more than a

"Sire," said Cosmo, "this child will live nearly a hundred years; he
will have trials; nevertheless, he will be happy and honored, because
he has in his veins the blood of the Valois."

"I will go and see you in your laboratory, messieurs," said the king,
his good-humor quite restored. "You may now go."

The brothers bowed to Marie and to the king and then withdrew. They
went down the steps of the portico gravely, without looking or
speaking to each other; neither did they turn their faces to the
windows as they crossed the courtyard, feeling sure that the king's
eye watched them. But as they passed sideways out of the gate into the
street they looked back and saw Charles IX. gazing after them from a
window. When the alchemist and the astrologer were safely in the rue
de l'Autruche, they cast their eyes before and behind them, to see if
they were followed or overheard; then they continued their way to the
moat of the Louvre without uttering a word. Once there, however,
feeling themselves securely alone, Lorenzo said to Cosmo, in the
Tuscan Italian of that day:--

"Affe d'Iddio! how we have fooled him!"

"Much good may it do him; let him make what he can of it!" said Cosmo.
"We have given him a helping hand,--whether the queen pays it back to
us or not."

Some days after this scene, which struck the king's mistress as
forcibly as it did the king, Marie suddenly exclaimed, in one of those
moments when the soul seems, as it were, disengaged from the body in
the plenitude of happiness:--

"Charles, I understand Lorenzo Ruggiero; but did you observe that
Cosmo said nothing?"

"True," said the king, struck by that sudden light. "After all, there
was as much falsehood as truth in what they said. Those Italians are
as supple as the silk they weave."

This suspicion explains the rancor which the king showed against Cosmo
when the trial of La Mole and Coconnas took place a few weeks later.
Finding him one of the agents of that conspiracy, he thought the
Italians had tricked him; for it was proved that his mother's
astrologer was not exclusively concerned with stars, the powder of
projection, and the primitive atom. Lorenzo had by that time left the

In spite of the incredulity which most persons show in these matters,
the events which followed the scene we have narrated confirmed the
predictions of the Ruggieri.

The king died within three months.

Charles de Gondi followed Charles IX. to the grave, as had been
foretold to him jestingly by his brother the Marechal de Retz, a
friend of the Ruggieri, who believed in their predictions.

Marie Touchet married Charles de Balzac, Marquis d'Entragues, the
governor of Orleans, by whom she had two daughters. The most
celebrated of these daughters, the half-sister of the Comte
d'Auvergne, was the mistress of Henri IV., and it was she who
endeavored, at the time of Biron's conspiracy, to put her brother on
the throne of France by driving out the Bourbons.

The Comte d'Auvergne, who became the Duc d'Angouleme, lived into the
reign of Louis XIV. He coined money on his estates and altered the
inscriptions; but Louis XIV. let him do as he pleased, out of respect
for the blood of the Valois.

Cosmo Ruggiero lived till the middle of the reign of Louis XIII.; he
witnessed the fall of the house of the Medici in France, also that of
the Concini. History has taken pains to record that he died an
atheist, that is, a materialist.

The Marquise d'Entragues was over eighty when she died.

The famous Comte de Saint-Germain, who made so much noise under Louis
XIV., was a pupil of Lorenzo and Cosmo Ruggiero. This celebrated
alchemist lived to be one hundred and thirty years old,--an age which
some biographers give to Marion de Lorme. He must have heard from the
Ruggieri the various incidents of the Saint-Bartholomew and of the
reigns of the Valois kings, which he afterwards recounted in the first
person singular, as though he had played a part in them. The Comte de
Saint-Germain was the last of the alchemists who knew how to clearly
explain their science; but he left no writings. The cabalistic
doctrine presented in this Study is that taught by this mysterious

And here, behold a strange thing! Three lives, that of the old man
from whom I have obtained these facts, that of the Comte de
Saint-Germain, and that of Cosmo Ruggiero, suffice to cover the whole
of European history from Francois I. to Napoleon! Only fifty such lives
are needed to reach back to the first known period of the world. "What
are fifty generations for the study of the mysteries of life?" said
the Comte de Saint-Germain.

                               PART III


                              TWO DREAMS

In 1786 Bodard de Saint-James, treasurer of the navy, excited more
attention and gossip as to his luxury than any other financier in
Paris. At this period he was building his famous "Folie" at Neuilly,
and his wife had just bought a set of feathers to crown the tester of
her bed, the price of which had been too great for even the queen to

Bodard owned the magnificent mansion in the place Vendome, which the
/fermier-general/, Dange, had lately been forced to leave. That
celebrated epicurean was now dead, and on the day of his interment his
intimate friend, Monsieur de Bievre, raised a laugh by saying that he
"could now pass through the place Vendome without /danger/." This
allusion to the hellish gambling which went on in the dead man's
house, was his only funeral oration. The house is opposite to the

To end in a few words the history of Bodard,--he became a poor man,
having failed for fourteen millions after the bankruptcy of the Prince
de Guemenee. The stupidity he showed in not anticipating that
"serenissime disaster," to use the expression of Lebrun Pindare, was
the reason why no notice was taken of his misfortunes. He died, like
Bourvalais, Bouret, and so many others, in a garret.

Madame Bodard de Saint-James was ambitious, and professed to receive
none but persons of quality at her house,--an old absurdity which is
ever new. To her thinking, even the parliamentary judges were of small
account; she wished for titled persons in her salons, or at all
events, those who had the right of entrance at court. To say that many
/cordons bleus/ were seen at her house would be false; but it is quite
certain that she managed to obtain the good-will and civilities of
several members of the house of Rohan, as was proved later in the
affair of the too celebrated diamond necklace.

One evening--it was, I think, in August, 1786--I was much surprised to
meet in the salons of this lady, so exacting in the matter of
gentility, two new faces which struck me as belonging to men of
inferior social position. She came to me presently in the embrasure of
a window where I had ensconced myself.

"Tell me," I said to her, with a glance toward one of the new-comers,
"who and what is that queer species? Why do you have that kind of
thing here?"

"He is charming."

"Do you see him through a prism of love, or am I blind?"

"You are not blind," she said, laughing. "The man is as ugly as a
caterpillar; but he has done me the most immense service a woman can
receive from a man."

As I looked at her rather maliciously she hastened to add: "He's a
physician, and he has completely cured me of those odious red blotches
which spoiled my complexion and made me look like a peasant woman."

I shrugged my shoulders with disgust.

"He is a charlatan."

"No," she said, "he is the surgeon of the court pages. He has a fine
intellect, I assure you; in fact, he is a writer, and a very learned

"Heavens! if his style resembles his face!" I said scoffingly. "But
who is the other?"

"What other?"

"That spruce, affected little popinjay over there, who looks as if he
had been drinking verjuice."

"He is a rather well-born man," she replied; "just arrived from some
province, I forget which--oh! from Artois. He is sent here to conclude
an affair in which the Cardinal de Rohan is interested, and his
Eminence in person had just presented him to Monsieur de Saint-James.
It seems they have both chosen my husband as arbitrator. The
provincial didn't show his wisdom in that; but fancy what simpletons
the people who sent him here must be to trust a case to a man of his
sort! He is as meek as a sheep and as timid as a girl. His Eminence is
very kind to him."

"What is the nature of the affair?"

"Oh! a question of three hundred thousand francs."

"Then the man is a lawyer?" I said, with a slight shrug.

"Yes," she replied.

Somewhat confused by this humiliating avowal, Madame Bodard returned
to her place at a faro-table.

All the tables were full. I had nothing to do, no one to speak to, and
I had just lost two thousand crowns to Monsieur de Laval. I flung
myself on a sofa near the fireplace. Presently, if there was ever a
man on earth most utterly astonished it was I, when, on looking up, I
saw, seated on another sofa on the opposite side of the fireplace,
Monsieur de Calonne, the comptroller-general. He seemed to be dozing,
or else he was buried in one of those deep meditations which overtake
statesmen. When I pointed out the famous minister to Beaumarchais, who
happened to come near me at that moment, the father of Figaro
explained the mystery of his presence in that house without uttering a
word. He pointed first at my head, then at Bodard's with a malicious
gesture which consisted in turning to each of us two fingers of his
hand while he kept the others doubled up. My first impulse was to rise
and say something rousing to Calonne; then I paused, first, because I
thought of a trick I could play the statesman, and secondly, because
Beaumarchais caught me familiarly by the hand.

"Why do you do that, monsieur?" I said.

He winked at the comptroller.

"Don't wake him," he said in a low voice. "A man is happy when

"Pray, is sleep a financial scheme?" I whispered.

"Indeed, yes!" said Calonne, who had guessed our words from the mere
motion of our lips. "Would to God we could sleep long, and then the
awakening you are about to see would never happen."

"Monseigneur," said the dramatist, "I must thank you--"

"For what?"

"Monsieur de Mirabeau has started for Berlin. I don't know whether we
might not both have drowned ourselves in that affair of 'les Eaux.'"

"You have too much memory, and too little gratitude," replied the
minister, annoyed at having one of his secrets divulged in my

"Possibly," said Beaumarchais, cut to the quick; "but I have millions
that can balance many a score."

Calonne pretended not to hear.

It was long past midnight when the play ceased. Supper was announced.
There were ten of us at table: Bodard and his wife, Calonne,
Beaumarchais, the two strange men, two pretty women, whose names I
will not give here, a /fermier-general/, Lavoisier, and myself. Out of
thirty guests who were in the salon when I entered it, only these ten
remained. The two /queer species/ did not consent to stay until they
were urged to do so by Madame Bodard, who probably thought she was
paying her obligations to the surgeon by giving him something to eat,
and pleasing her husband (with whom she appeared, I don't precisely
know why, to be coquetting) by inviting the lawyer.

The supper began by being frightfully dull. The two strangers and the
/fermier-general/ oppressed us. I made a sign to Beaumarchais to
intoxicate the son of Esculapius, who sat on his right, giving him to
understand that I would do the same by the lawyer, who was next to me.
As there seemed no other way to amuse ourselves, and it offered a
chance to draw out the two men, who were already sufficiently
singular, Monsieur de Calonne smiled at our project. The ladies
present also shared in the bacchanal conspiracy, and the wine of
Sillery crowned our glasses again and again with its silvery foam. The
surgeon was easily managed; but at the second glass which I offered to
my neighbor the lawyer, he told me with the frigid politeness of a
usurer that he should drink no more.

At this instant Madame de Saint-James chanced to introduce, I scarcely
know how, the topic of the marvellous suppers to the Comte de
Cagliostro, given by the Cardinal de Rohan. My mind was not very
attentive to what the mistress of the house was saying, because I was
watching with extreme curiosity the pinched and livid face of my
little neighbor, whose principal feature was a turned-up and at the
same time pointed nose, which made him, at times, look very like a
weasel. Suddenly his cheeks flushed as he caught the words of a
dispute between Madame de Saint-James and Monsieur de Calonne.

"But I assure you, monsieur," she was saying, with an imperious air,
"that I /saw/ Cleopatra, the queen."

"I can believe it, madame," said my neighbor, "for I myself have
spoken to Catherine de' Medici."

"Oh! oh!" exclaimed Monsieur de Calonne.

The words uttered by the little provincial were said in a voice of
strange sonorousness, if I may be permitted to borrow that expression
from the science of physics. This sudden clearness of intonation,
coming from a man who had hitherto scarcely spoken, and then in a low
and modulated tone, surprised all present exceedingly.

"Why, he is talking!" said the surgeon, who was now in a satisfactory
state of drunkenness, addressing Beaumarchais.

"His neighbor must have pulled his wires," replied the satirist.

My man flushed again as he overheard the words, though they were said
in a low voice.

"And pray, how was the late queen?" asked Calonne, jestingly.

"I will not swear that the person with whom I supped last night at the
house of the Cardinal de Rohan was Catherine de' Medici in person.
That miracle would justly seem impossible to Christians as well as to
philosophers," said the little lawyer, resting the tips of his fingers
on the table, and leaning back in his chair as if preparing to make a
speech. "Nevertheless, I do assert that the woman I saw resembled
Catherine de' Medici as closely as though they were twin-sisters. She
was dressed in a black velvet gown, precisely like that of the queen
in the well-known portrait which belongs to the king; on her head was
the pointed velvet coif, which is characteristic of her; and she had
the wan complexion, and the features we all know well. I could not
help betraying my surprise to his Eminence. The suddenness of the
evocation seemed to me all the more amazing because Monsieur de
Cagliostro had been unable to divine the name of the person with whom
I wished to communicate. I was confounded. The magical spectacle of a
supper, where one of the illustrious women of past times presented
herself, took from me my presence of mind. I listened without daring
to question. When I roused myself about midnight from the spell of
that magic, I was inclined to doubt my senses. But even this great
marvel seemed natural in comparison with the singular hallucination to
which I was presently subjected. I don't know in what words I can
describe to you the state of my senses. But I declare, in the
sincerity of my heart, I no longer wonder that souls have been found
weak enough, or strong enough, to believe in the mysteries of magic
and in the power of demons. For myself, until I am better informed, I
regard as possible the apparitions which Cardan and other
thaumaturgists describe."

These words, said with indescribable eloquence of tone, were of a
nature to rouse the curiosity of all present. We looked at the speaker
and kept silence; our eyes alone betrayed our interest, their pupils
reflecting the light of the wax-candles in the sconces. By dint of
observing this unknown little man, I fancied I could see the pores of
his skin, especially those of his forehead, emitting an inward
sentiment with which he was saturated. This man, apparently so cold
and formal, seemed to contain within him a burning altar, the flames
of which beat down upon us.

"I do not know," he continued, "if the Figure evoked followed me
invisibly, but no sooner had my head touched the pillow in my own
chamber than I saw once more that grand Shade of Catherine rise before
me. I felt myself, instinctively, in a luminous sphere, and my eyes,
fastened upon the queen with intolerable fixity, saw naught but her.
Suddenly, she bent toward me."

At these words the ladies present made a unanimous movement of

"But," continued the lawyer, "I am not sure that I ought to relate
what happened, for though I am inclined to believe it was all a dream,
it concerns grave matters.

"Of religion?" asked Beaumarchais.

"If there is any impropriety," remarked Calonne, "these ladies will
excuse it."

"It relates to the government," replied the lawyer.

"Go on, then," said the minister; "Voltaire, Diderot, and their
fellows have already begun to tutor us on that subject."

Calonne became very attentive, and his neighbor, Madame de Genlis,
rather anxious. The little provincial still hesitated, and
Beaumarchais said to him somewhat roughly:--

"Go on, /maitre/, go on! Don't you know that when the laws allow but
little liberty the people seek their freedom in their morals?"

Thus adjured, the small man told his tale:--

"Whether it was that certain ideas were fermenting in my brain, or
that some strange power impelled me, I said to her: 'Ah! madame, you
committed a very great crime.' 'What crime?' she asked in a grave
voice. 'The crime for which the signal was given from the clock of the
palace on the 24th of August,' I answered. She smiled disdainfully,
and a few deep wrinkles appeared on her pallid cheeks. 'You call that
a crime which was only a misfortune,' she said. 'The enterprise, being
ill-managed, failed; the benefit we expected for France, for Europe,
for the Catholic Church was lost. Impossible to foresee that. Our
orders were ill executed; we did not find as many Montlucs as we
needed. Posterity will not hold us responsible for the failure of
communications, which deprived our work of the unity of movement which
is essential to all great strokes of policy; that was our misfortune!
If on the 25th of August not the shadow of a Huguenot had been left in
France, I should go down to the uttermost posterity as a noble image
of Providence. How many, many times have the clear-sighted souls of
Sixtus the Fifth, Richelieu, Bossuet, reproached me secretly for
having failed in that enterprise after having the boldness to conceive
it! How many and deep regrets for that failure attended my deathbed!
Thirty years after the Saint-Bartholomew the evil it might have cured
was still in existence. That failure caused ten times more blood to
flow in France than if the massacre of August 24th had been completed
on the 26th. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in honor of which
you have struck medals, has cost more tears, more blood, more
money, and killed the prosperity of France far more than three
Saint-Bartholomews. Letellier with his pen gave effect to a decree
which the throne had secretly promulgated since my time; but, though
the vast execution was necessary of the 25th of August, 1572, on the 25th
of August, 1685, it was useless. Under the second son of Henri de Valois
heresy had scarcely conceived an offspring; under the second son of
Henri de Bourbon that teeming mother had cast her spawn over the whole
universe. You accuse me of a crime, and you put up statues to the son
of Anne of Austria! Nevertheless, he and I attempted the same thing;
he succeeded, I failed; but Louis XIV. found the Protestants without
arms, whereas in my reign they had powerful armies, statesmen,
warriors, and all Germany on their side.' At these words, slowly
uttered, I felt an inward shudder pass through me. I fancied I
breathed the fumes of blood from I know not what great mass of
victims. Catherine was magnified. She stood before me like an evil
genius; she sought, it seemed to me, to enter my consciousness and
abide there."

"He dreamed all that," whispered Beaumarchais; "he certainly never
invented it."

"'My reason is bewildered,' I said to the queen. 'You praise yourself
for an act which three generations of men have condemned, stigmatized,
and--' 'Add,' she rejoined, 'that historians have been more unjust
toward me than my contemporaries. None have defended me. I, rich and
all-powerful, am accused of ambition! I am taxed with cruelty,--I who
have but two deaths upon my conscience. Even to impartial minds I am
still a problem. Do you believe that I was actuated by hatred, that
vengeance and fury were the breath of my nostrils?' She smiled with
pity. 'No,' she continued, 'I was cold and calm as reason itself. I
condemned the Huguenots without pity, but without passion; they were
the rotten fruit in my basket and I cast them out. Had I been Queen of
England, I should have treated seditious Catholics in the same way.
The life of our power in those days depended on their being but one
God, one Faith, one Master in the State. Happily for me, I uttered my
justification in one sentence which history is transmitting. When
Birago falsely announced to me the loss of the battle of Dreux, I
answered: "Well then; we will go to the Protestant churches." Did I
hate the reformers? No, I esteemed them much, and I knew them little.
If I felt any aversion to the politicians of my time, it was to that
base Cardinal de Lorraine, and to his brother the shrewd and brutal
soldier who spied upon my every act. They were the real enemies of my
children; they sought to snatch the crown; I saw them daily at work
and they wore me out. If /we/ had not ordered the Saint-Bartholomew,
the Guises would have done the same thing by the help of Rome and the
monks. The League, which was powerful only in consequence of my old
age, would have begun in 1573.' 'But, madame, instead of ordering that
horrible murder (pardon my plainness) why not have employed the vast
resources of your political power in giving to the Reformers those
wise institutions which made the reign of Henri IV. so glorious and so
peaceful?' She smiled again and shrugged her shoulders, the hollow
wrinkles of her pallid face giving her an expression of the bitterest
sarcasm. 'The peoples,' she said, 'need periods of rest after savage
feuds; there lies the secret of that reign. But Henri IV. committed
two irreparable blunders. He ought neither to have abjured
Protestantism, nor, after becoming a Catholic himself, should he have
left France Catholic. He, alone, was in a position to have changed the
whole of France without a jar. Either not a stole, or not a
conventicle--that should have been his motto. To leave two bitter
enemies, two antagonistic principles in a government with nothing to
balance them, that is the crime of kings; it is thus that they sow
revolutions. To God alone belongs the right to keep good and evil
perpetually together in his work. But it may be,' she said
reflectively, 'that that sentence was inscribed on the foundation of
Henri IV.'s policy, and it may have caused his death. It is impossible
that Sully did not cast covetous eyes on the vast wealth of the
clergy,--which the clergy did not possess in peace, for the nobles
robbed them of at least two-thirds of their revenue. Sully, the
Reformer, himself owned abbeys.' She paused, and appeared to reflect.
'But,' she resumed, 'remember you are asking the niece of a Pope to
justify her Catholicism.' She stopped again. 'And yet, after all,' she
added with a gesture of some levity, 'I should have made a good
Calvinist! Do the wise men of your century still think that religion
had anything to do with that struggle, the greatest which Europe has
ever seen?--a vast revolution, retarded by little causes which,
however, will not be prevented from overwhelming the world because I
failed to smother it; a revolution,' she said, giving me a solemn
look, 'which is still advancing, and which you might consummate. Yes,
/you/, who hear me!' I shuddered. 'What! has no one yet understood
that the old interests and the new interests seized Rome and Luther as
mere banners? What! do they not know Louis IX., to escape just such a
struggle, dragged a population a hundredfold more in number than I
destroyed from their homes and left their bones on the sands of Egypt,
for which he was made a saint? while I--But I,' she added, '/failed/.'
She bowed her head and was silent for some moments. I no longer beheld
a queen, but rather one of those ancient druidesses to whom human
lives are sacrificed; who unroll the pages of the future and exhume
the teachings of the past. But soon she uplifted her regal and
majestic form. 'Luther and Calvin,' she said, 'by calling the
attention of the burghers to the abuses of the Roman Church, gave
birth in Europe to a spirit of investigation which was certain to lead
the peoples to examine all things. Examination leads to doubt. Instead
of faith, which is necessary to all societies, those two men drew
after them, in the far distance, a strange philosophy, armed with
hammers, hungry for destruction. Science sprang, sparkling with her
specious lights, from the bosom of heresy. It was far less a question
of reforming a Church than of winning indefinite liberty for man
--which is the death of power. I saw that. The consequence of the
successes won by the religionists in their struggle against the
priesthood (already better armed and more formidable than the Crown)
was the destruction of the monarchical power raised by Louis IX. at
such vast cost upon the ruins of feudality. It involved, in fact,
nothing less than the annihilation of religion and royalty, on the
ruins of which the whole burgher class of Europe meant to stand. The
struggle was therefore war without quarter between the new ideas and
the law,--that is, the old beliefs. The Catholics were the emblem of
the material interests of royalty, of the great lords, and of the
clergy. It was a duel to the death between two giants; unfortunately,
the Saint-Bartholomew proved to be only a wound. Remember this:
because a few drops of blood were spared at that opportune moment,
torrents were compelled to flow at a later period. The intellect which
soars above a nation cannot escape a great misfortune; I mean the
misfortune of finding no equals capable of judging it when it succumbs
beneath the weight of untoward events. My equals are few; fools are in
the majority: that statement explains it all. If my name is execrated
in France, the fault lies with the commonplace minds who form the mass
of all generations. In the great crises through which I passed, the
duty of reigning was not the mere giving of audiences, reviewing of
troops, signing of decrees. I may have committed mistakes, for I was
but a woman. But why was there then no man who rose above his age? The
Duke of Alba had a soul of iron; Philip II. was stupefied by Catholic
belief; Henri IV. was a gambling soldier and a libertine; the Admiral,
a stubborn mule. Louis XI. lived too soon, Richelieu too late.
Virtuous or criminal, guilty or not in the Saint-Bartholomew, I accept
the onus of it; I stand between those two great men,--the visible link
of an unseen chain. The day will come when some paradoxical writer
will ask if the peoples have not bestowed the title of executioner
among their victims. It will not be the first time that humanity has
preferred to immolate a god rather than admit its own guilt. You are
shedding upon two hundred clowns, sacrificed for a purpose, the tears
you refuse to a generation, a century, a world! You forget that
political liberty, the tranquillity of a nation, nay, knowledge
itself, are gifts on which destiny has laid a tax of blood!' 'But,' I
exclaimed, with tears in my eyes, 'will the nations never be happy at
less cost?' 'Truth never leaves her well but to bathe in the blood
which refreshes her,' she replied. 'Christianity, itself the essence
of all truth, since it comes from God, was fed by the blood of
martyrs, which flowed in torrents; and shall it not ever flow? You
will learn this, you who are destined to be one of the builders of the
social edifice founded by the Apostles. So long as you level heads you
will be applauded, but take your trowel in hand, begin to reconstruct,
and your fellows will kill you.' Blood! blood! the word sounded in my
ears like a knell. 'According to you,' I cried, 'Protestantism has the
right to reason as you do!' But Catherine had disappeared, as if some
puff of air had suddenly extinguished the supernatural light which
enabled my mind to see that Figure whose proportions had gradually
become gigantic. And then, without warning, I found within me a
portion of myself which adopted the monstrous doctrine delivered by
the Italian. I woke, weeping, bathed in sweat, at the moment when my
reason told me firmly, in a gentle voice, that neither kings nor
nations had the right to apply such principles, fit only for a world
of atheists."

"How would you save a falling monarchy?" asked Beaumarchais.

"God is present," replied the little lawyer.

"Therefore," remarked Monsieur de Calonne, with the inconceivable
levity which characterized him, "we have the agreeable resource of
believing ourselves the instruments of God, according to the Gospel of

As soon as the ladies discovered that the tale related only to a
conversation between the queen and the lawyer, they had begun to
whisper and to show signs of impatience,--interjecting, now and then,
little phrases through his speech. "How wearisome he is!" "My dear,
when will he finish?" were among those which reached my ear.

When the strange little man had ceased speaking the ladies too were
silent; Monsieur Bodard was sound asleep; the surgeon, half drunk;
Monsieur de Calonne was smiling at the lady next him. Lavoisier,
Beaumarchais, and I alone had listened to the lawyer's dream. The
silence at this moment had something solemn about it. The gleam of the
candles seemed to me magical. A sentiment bound all three of us by
some mysterious tie to that singular little man, who made me, strange
to say, conceive, suddenly, the inexplicable influences of fanaticism.
Nothing less than the hollow, cavernous voice of Beaumarchais's
neighbor, the surgeon, could, I think, have roused me.

"I, too, have dreamed," he said.

I looked at him more attentively, and a feeling of some strange horror
came over me. His livid skin, his features, huge and yet ignoble, gave
an exact idea of what you must allow me to call the /scum/ of the
earth. A few bluish-black spots were scattered over his face, like
bits of mud, and his eyes shot forth an evil gleam. The face seemed,
perhaps, darker, more lowering than it was, because of the white hair
piled like hoarfrost on his head.

"That man must have buried many a patient," I whispered to my neighbor
the lawyer.

"I wouldn't trust him with my dog," he answered.

"I hate him involuntarily."

"For my part, I despise him."

"Perhaps we are unjust," I remarked.

"Ha! to-morrow he may be as famous as Volange the actor."

Monsieur de Calonne here motioned us to look at the surgeon, with a
gesture that seemed to say: "I think he'll be very amusing."

"Did you dream of a queen?" asked Beaumarchais.

"No, I dreamed of a People," replied the surgeon, with an emphasis
which made us laugh. "I was then in charge of a patient whose leg I
was to amputate the next day--"

"Did you find the People in the leg of your patient?" asked Monsieur
de Calonne.

"Precisely," replied the surgeon.

"How amusing!" cried Madame de Genlis.

"I was somewhat surprised," went on the speaker, without noticing the
interruption, and sticking his hands into the gussets of his breeches,
"to hear something talking to me within that leg. I then found I had
the singular faculty of entering the being of my patient. Once within
his skin I saw a marvellous number of little creatures which moved,
and thought, and reasoned. Some of them lived in the body of the man,
others lived in his mind. His ideas were things which were born, and
grew, and died; they were sick and well, and gay, and sad; they all
had special countenances; they fought with each other, or they
embraced each other. Some ideas sprang forth and went to live in the
world of intellect. I began to see that there were two worlds, two
universes,--the visible universe, and the invisible universe; that the
earth had, like man, a body and a soul. Nature illumined herself for
me; I felt her immensity when I saw the oceans of beings who, in
masses and in species, spread everywhere, making one sole and uniform
animated Matter, from the stone of the earth to God. Magnificent
vision! In short, I found a universe within my patient. When I
inserted my knife into his gangrened leg I cut into a million of those
little beings. Oh! you laugh, madame; let me tell you that you are
eaten up by such creatures--"

"No personalities!" interposed Monsieur de Calonne. "Speak for
yourself and for your patient."

"My patient, frightened by the cries of his animalcules, wanted to
stop the operation; but I went on regardless of his remonstrances;
telling him that those evil animals were already gnawing at his bones.
He made a sudden movement of resistance, not understanding that what I
did was for his good, and my knife slipped aside, entered my own body,

"He is stupid," said Lavoisier.

"No, he is drunk," replied Beaumarchais.

"But, gentlemen, my dream has a meaning," cried the surgeon.

"Oh! oh!" exclaimed Bodard, waking up; "my leg is asleep!"

"Your animalcules must be dead," said his wife.

"That man has a vocation," announced my little neighbor, who had
stared imperturbably at the surgeon while he was speaking.

"It is to yours," said the ugly man, "what the action is to the word,
the body to the soul."

But his tongue grew thick, his words were indistinct, and he said no
more. Fortunately for us the conversation took another turn. At the
end of half an hour we had forgotten the surgeon of the king's pages,
who was fast asleep. Rain was falling in torrents as we left the

"The lawyer is no fool," I said to Beaumarchais.

"True, but he is cold and dull. You see, however, that the provinces
are still sending us worthy men who take a serious view of political
theories and the history of France. It is a leaven which will rise."

"Is your carriage here?" asked Madame de Saint-James, addressing me.

"No," I replied, "I did not think that I should need it to-night."

Madame de Saint-James then rang the bell, ordered her own carriage to
be brought round, and said to the little lawyer in a low voice:--

"Monsieur de Robespierre, will you do me the kindness to drop Monsieur
Marat at his own door?--for he is not in a state to go alone."

"With pleasure, madame," replied Monsieur de Robespierre, with his
finical gallantry. "I only wish you had requested me to do something
more difficult."

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Catherine De Medici" ***

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About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.